Actions

Work Header

survivor

Chapter Text

Izuku stepped off the helicopter and onto the empty, endless, grassy plain of the Philippine island of Luzon. The sun was shining bright overhead, and it was so hot outside that Izuku could already feel sweat pooling in the small of his back, but he didn’t care much about that. All that mattered was that he was here , competing for a million dollars. At the end of thirty-nine days, he could be a million dollars richer than he was now. He could buy his mother a brand new house and a brand new car. He could pay off his school debt. He wouldn’t have to worry about anything at all for a very, very long time.

He only had to beat the other seventeen contestants who were standing around him. He didn’t know if he had what it took to actually get to the end, but he knew for sure that there was no way he’d get there if he didn’t believe himself that he could. So he had to tell himself that he was stronger, smarter, and more durable than anybody else here, even if it was far from true.

There were five others who had ridden on the helicopter with him, though none of them had been permitted to speak to each other during the duration of the ride. It was obvious that they would be his teammates, though; they all had the same teal-colored Survivor bandanas, marking them as belonging to the same tribe. He couldn’t say he was disappointed by who he was surrounded with, either. They all seemed relatively fit and capable. At least, none of them struck him as incompetent, which he figured was as good as he could hope for, considering he hadn’t had the chance to speak to anybody yet.

There were two other groups of six already gathered on separate mats; one of the groups had orange bandanas, and the other had purple ones.

And then there was Toshinori Yagi himself, standing in front of all eighteen of them, looking even more brilliant in person than he looked on television. And, okay, Izuku knew it was stupid, to have such high opinions of the host of a television show, but he’d always found something so irresistibly charming and charismatic about the man that he’d been watching for ten years now that he couldn’t help but feel more than a bit awestruck at seeing him person.

“Welcome to Survivor ,” Toshinori spoke once everyone was efficiently gathered, which garnered a generous smattering of applause and cheers from all the contestants. Izuku was beaming as he clapped his hands together, excitement rolling off of him in waves. He couldn’t wait to get started, to play this game that he’d been watching on television for so long. He knew it would be hard and extremely difficult, but that didn’t tamper his excitement one bit. If anything, it only kindled that flame within him even brighter. Izuku was never one to turn away from a challenge.

“You’ve been divided into three tribes based on three of the qualities it takes to succeed in this game,” Toshinori continued after everyone’s excitement had quieted. “Brawns, brains, and beauty.”

Izuku already felt a grin splitting across his face at this new information. If the tribes were split based on those characteristics, then Izuku was fairly sure he knew which group he had been placed in. It wasn’t like he wasn’t attractive, and he knew for a fact he was strong, but the quality that he used most in his life was definitely his intelligence. He supposed being in a group of people who were smart by nature was a good group to be in.

Toshinori pointed to a man standing in the crowd of purple bandanas. “Man in the black. What’s your name?”

“Yuga,” the man answered with what Izuku thought was a slight French accent. He had blonde hair, fine, pretty features, and sparkling eyes.

“Yuga,” Toshinori repeated. “Just looking at the mixture here, if you had to choose, what would you say you guys are: the beauty, the brains, or the brawn?”

“Well, looking at us, I’m pretty sure we’re the beauty,” he said in his accented voice, with an infectious smile and a wink. That got some laughter from those in his group, and Izuku found himself chuckling as well. It was true; everybody on the purple team was definitely beautiful.

“Let’s go down here to the end,” Toshinori continued, pointing to a member of Izuku’s own group, one of the bigger guys who was standing behind Izuku. “Guy in the back, in the green. If they’re beauty, where do you think you fit in?”

The man being addressed looked to be quite muscular, but his polo shirt, glasses, and haircut definitely cast a nerdy look to his otherwise athletic build. “I would say that we’re the brains,” the man answered with a smile in his voice.

“Based on what?” Toshinori asked.

“Based on all of them looking extremely physical,” the man said with a gesture towards the orange group, which generated laughter from those being indicated.

“That leaves the group in the middle,” Toshinori said, turning his attention to the last group. “You guys must be brawn.” He pointed to a member of the six assembled on the orange mat. “Guy in the gray, what’s your name?”

“Katsuki,” the man said, and when Izuku turned to look, he saw that the man in question had a shock of ash-blond hair, a pair of deep red eyes, and hard features that looked almost as mean as his voice sounded.

Something about the way he looked made Izuku’s heart stutter in his chest and his mouth go slightly dry. Which was stupid and didn’t make any sense whatsoever. So Izuku ignored that feeling and pushed it away. The guy wasn’t even on the same team as him; it was no use developing a schoolgirl crush on somebody who he’d likely never see - at least, not until the merge. If they both even made it that far. And besides, Izuku wasn’t here to develop feelings for anyone, and that was that. He was here to win a million dollars.

But still, Izuku had to force his gaze away from the muscles that the man so obviously sported and the smirk on his face that was as devillish as it was captivating.

“Does that feel right to you?” Toshinori’s voice brought Izuku back into the present moment. “Would you accept that?”

“I’ll gladly accept that,” Katsuki answered with a twist to his mouth that Izuku found way too attractive for his own good.

And, honestly, when did Izuku start to even think about strangers in such a way before? He’d never had thoughts like this about people he didn’t know. He didn’t understand what about Katsuki made Izuku feel so utterly enthralled.

“What is it you like about being part of the brawn tribe?” Toshinori asked, the question still directed at the man called Katsuki.

“Well, we’re gonna kill the beauties, and we’re gonna kill the nerds,” Katsuki said, which caused the others on his team to laugh good-naturedly, even if it wasn’t entirely clear that Katsuki meant this as a joke.

Toshinori smiled as well. “This season is gonna test your ability to draw on different parts of brawn, brains, and beauty while you adapt in this game, moment by moment, starting right now. We’re gonna choose a leader from each tribe. You’ve not had a chance to talk. Really, all you can do is size each other up by looking at each other. We’ll start down here on the end with beauty.” He gestured towards the group. “Figure it out. Who do you want to represent your tribe?”

The members of the beauty tribe turned inward for a few seconds, only long enough to make their decision.

“Guy on the end, looks like it’s you,” Toshinori said when a few of the others gestured vaguely towards the man standing at the end with hair that was half solid red and half white. “What’s your name?”

“Shoto,” the man said, not looking particularly thrilled at being delegated the leader of his team.

“Shoto, how does it feel, moments into this game, you’ve been selected as the guy to represent the beauty tribe?”

“If I’m the one that sticks out, then I’ll step up and do it,” Shoto said.

Toshinori nodded at Shoto’s words and then turned his attention to the orange group. “Let’s go here in the middle to the brawn.”

Once again, the members of the group turned into each other to discuss for a couple of quick seconds. When they finished, Toshinori prompted, “Who’s it gonna be?”

They all pointed to a muscular man with red hair. “Kirishima.”

“Kirishima, in the front. Man in the yellow, what’s your name?” Toshinori asked.

“Ojiro,” the man answered obediently.

“Ojiro, why Kirishima?”

“He seems the type of person who can hold us all together, who can get things done,” Ojiro answered, glancing at Kirishima and giving him an encouraging smile.

“Alright, let’s get down to the third tribe,” Toshinori said, wasting no time in continuing along on the itinerary. “Who’s gonna represent the brain tribe?”

Now it was Izuku’s team’s turn to discuss the question for several seconds.

A cute girl with light brown hair and big brown eyes began the conversation by announcing, “I think you look the smartest,” speaking directly to the man who had spoken to Toshinori earlier in the day.

“I don’t know that I’m the smartest, but if you choose me to represent this tribe, I will not disappoint you,” he said formally, his face and voice intense as he said the words.

The rest of the group nodded their assent and turned back to Toshinori, allowing the man to step forward a little to make it clear who their choice was.

“What’s your name?” Toshinori asked.

“Tenya.”

“Okay. Man on the end, what’s your name?”

“Tokoyami,” the indicated man answered. Tokoyami struck Izuku as intense but smart in a quiet kind of way.

“Tokoyami, why Tenya?”

“He’s well-spoken and seems to be the best fit for a confident leader.”

Izuku was inclined to agree with this sentiment. Out of everyone on their team, based on first appearances, Tenya seemed to be the most capable of remaining calm in difficult circumstances, and he definitely looked smart, not to mention his obvious strength on top of that. He seemed to have the full package of charisma, intelligence, and the muscle power needed to lead a team to victory. Izuku didn’t want to sound overconfident or anything, but he could already see his tribe doing well in the challenges.

But then he glanced at the brawn tribe again and second-guessed this assessment. They all were strong, after all. No doubt they’d be tough to beat in the physical challenges. And even though being pretty wasn’t a talent in itself, the members of that team looked to be honest competitors as well, with a good number of them sporting decent muscle mass of their own.

Still, Izuku couldn’t find it in himself to be particularly worried, not when they had only been standing there for less than an hour. It was too soon to be worried.

“Alright, so, we have our three leaders,” Toshinori said, yanking Izuku out of his thoughts. “Now the game’s gonna get a little tougher. The leaders of each group are now going to decide who is the weakest from their group.”

Izuku felt his stomach drop at the words. He risked a nervous glance at the other members of his group. He had to admit, he wasn’t feeling too hot about his prospects. He was small in stature, and the muscles he had indicating his strength weren’t entirely visible with his clothes on. By all appearances, he could very well be the perceived weakest member. His nerves began to kick in in earnest now.

“If you had to get rid of somebody,” Toshinori continued, who do you get rid of? Suddenly, being the leader is not the position that you want to be in. Shoto, we’re gonna start with you.”

Izuku turned his head, straining to see the group farthest from Izuku’s own.

“In the beginning, this game is all physical challenges, so if I had to choose someone, I’d have to choose Kyoka.”

Based on the reaction of the girl in the front with the purple hair, Izuku guessed that that would be Kyoka. She didn’t look weak, necessarily, but she didn’t look particularly athletic, either. It was like Izuku feared; they would be picked off based on their physicality. He prayed that Tenya wouldn’t choose him. Maybe he’d choose the cute girl who had nominated Tenya as the leader in the first place. Or maybe he’d choose the other girl, with the big eyes and the green hair.

“Kyoka,” Toshinori said. “Wow. Take a step over here, Kyoka.” Toshinori pointed to the space in between where he was standing in front of them all and where they were standing on their mats. “That must not feel great to be chosen as the weakest right from the start.”

Kyoka shook her head as she made her way over to where Toshinori indicated. “No, it doesn’t.”

“Let’s go to the brawn tribe now,” Toshinori continued. “Kirishima, based on first impressions, who do you dump from this tribe?”

Kirishima was rubbing at the back of his neck, as though being thrust into this position so suddenly stressed him out. Izuku didn’t really blame him; he would have hated to make a decision like this. But more than that, he would have hated to be on the receiving end of such a decision. “This really sucks. Everyone here is giving me good vibes; I don’t want to have to get rid of anybody, honestly. But if I have to, I would have to go with the girl with the pink hair.”

“Pink hair, what’s your name?” Toshinori asked as the girl picked up her bag and began to walk to the aforementioned location.

“Mina,” the girl said.

“Mina, you all agreed pretty quickly on Kirishima as a leader, and he’s the one who ultimately put you out.”

“That’s fine,” Mina said quickly. “I mean, I’m the only girl on a team of muscular guys. I kind of figured it would be me. It still sucks, though.”

“Alright, we need one more,” Toshinori said, addressing Tenya and the brain tribe. “Down to the Brain Tribe. Tenya, you were selected as the leader of this group. Are you used to making decisions like this, Tenya?”

“No, sir,” Tenya said from behind Izuku. “I like to think of myself as a leader, but I don’t normally have to cast people out. I like to bring everyone together, not the other way around.” He took a deep breath. Izuku felt his heart thumping painfully in his chest. He had to resist the urge to squeeze his eyes shut and pray that he wouldn’t be chosen. “If I have to choose though, I’d have to choose her, and I hope that there’s no hard feelings.”

At the word “her,” Izuku’s eyes sprang open.

He was safe. Tenya hadn’t chosen him.

He looked around to see who Tenya had chosen, though, and saw that it was, in fact, the girl with the green hair.

“What’s your name?” Toshinori asked.

“Tsuyu,” the girl said.

“Tsuyu. Tenya, what did you base your choice on?”

“I think the same as everyone else,” Tenya answered. “The challenges are usually very physical in the beginning, and my primary goal as leader is to ensure that we win as many challenges as possible.”

“Alright. Tsuyu, take a spot over here next to Mina.”

Tsuyu picked up her bag and made her way over to the other two girls who had been cast out so early in the game.

Knowing Survivor , though, Izuku sincerely doubted that they would actually be leaving the game; not three people, not on the first day.

“This is how fast Survivor changes,” Toshinori said. “If this had been a tribal council, all three of you - Kyoka, Mina, Tsuyu - would be out of this game. Fortunately for you, it’s not tribal council, you’re not out of the game, and you’re not even out of your tribe. But you’re not gonna go back to camp with them. You’re gonna get on the chopper. You’re gonna fly ahead. You will land at camp early, and you will make a decision on behalf of the tribe that just voted you out. Now it’s the three tribes that are worried, wondering ‘What did we just do?’ Grab your bags, get on the chopper, and good luck.”

The remaining fifteen contestants stood in relative silence as they watched the three walk onto the helicopter and fly away. Izuku was still glad that he hadn’t been chosen by Tenya to leave the game so early, yet now he was also slightly envious that it hadn’t been him. His feelings wouldn’t have been too hurt about it, as he expected to be chosen, anyway, and he could tell Tenya was a nice guy who didn’t want to have to choose anybody. And if it had been him instead of Tsuyu, he wouldn’t have to walk all the way to camp, and, on top of that, he would have been given the chance to make some kind of decision that had the potential to be game-changing.

He tried to shrug away these thoughts. The fact of it was, moments ago, he’d been praying to not be chosen. He was incredibly relieved that Tenya thought he was strong enough to remain on the team at all.

“Alright, for the rest of you, I have maps to your new home,” Toshinori said, pulling out small rolled parchments of paper from his pocket. He walked up to the beauty tribe, saying, “Beauty tribe, you are Solana.” He handed them a map and then walked to the orange tribe. “Brawn, you are Aparre.” Then he made his way to the brain tribe and handed the map to Izuku himself. Izuku took the map with a wide smile, his worries instantly falling away at seeing Toshinori so close, reminding him once again that this was real - he was really here, in the Philippines, competing on Survivor for no less than one million dollars. “Brains, you are Luzon,” Toshinori told them after Izuku had taken the map. Then he walked back to where he had been previously standing in front of everybody. “The good news is, you have great weather on day one. Grab your stuff, and head to your new camp. Get started on building shelter; it could be a wet season. Good luck.”

With that, Izuku unbound the map that he was holding and unrolled it. It was an incredibly easy map to decipher, and Tenya decided to take the lead, walking side-by-side with Izuku.

During their walk to the camp, they all made their formal introductions to each other. Izuku discovered that the cute girl with brown hair was named Ochako, and the last member on their team who had not been introduced was Koji, who admitted to being extremely quiet by nature.

Once they arrived to the camp, Tsuyu was there, and she seemed to have already started on collecting materials for a fire pit and a shelter. When she saw them approaching, she immediately abandoned what she was doing to meet them halfway, a small smile on her face.

Ochako rushed forward and hugged Tsuyu, exclaiming as she did so, “I’m so happy you didn’t actually have to leave!”

Ochako’s enthusiasm was infectious; Tsuyu’s smile grew at the words, and Izuku felt a smile forming himself. Tenya walked up to Tsuyu and gave her a hug of his own. When they broke apart, he said, “I’m really sorry, Tsuyu; I didn’t want to have to do that.”

“I totally understand,” Tsuyu said, smiling at him so sincerely that Izuku believed full-heartedly that she harbored no ill feelings towards Tenya for making the decision he was forced to made. “I’m still here, so I’ll just have to prove you wrong.”

“I hope you do,” Tenya said, the relief evident in both his voice and the relaxation of his shoulders at her words.

“So, what choice did you have to make?” Ochako asked excitedly, peering around, as if for clues.

“I was given a clue to the immunity idol,” she admitted.

The immunity idol. The words sparked excitement deep in Izuku’s chest. He was a huge fan of the game, and hearing the words spoken aloud, for real , made the game feel that much more real. He just couldn’t get over the fact that he was actually doing this thing, that the key elements in the game were here, right in front of him. Like the hidden immunity idol, which, once found, granted you safety from being voted out at tribal council.

“Really?” Izuku asked in a wondrous voice. “Did you find it?”

“Not exactly,” Tsuyu said. “I had the choice of taking the clue or getting an extra bag of rice for the whole team, and I chose the rice.”

Everyone broke out in cheers and grins at this information. Food was scarce in Survivor ; they had to carefully ration it and make it stretch over the course of thirty-nine days. The fact that Tsuyu chose to get the entire team an extra bag of rice instead of being selfish and claiming a clue to the hidden immunity idol for herself was incredibly selfless, and it definitely gave everyone positive opinions of her. Izuku wondered if this decision was, in part, a strategic move to convince people not to vote her out, should they be sent to tribal council. Izuku didn’t necessarily think it was the best decision; any smart person would have chosen to search for the immunity idol and lied about the choice they were faced with. This was a million dollars, after all. Everyone had to look out for themselves, not for their teammates.

Yet Izuku knew that had he been faced with that choice, he would have made the same decision.

“I also got some stuff together to build the shelter,” Tsuyu said, turning and leading them towards where all of her materials were gathered. “I got some bamboo sticks and palm fronds, and I found a bunch of big rocks we can use for the fire pit.”

“Awesome,” Ochako exclaimed, dropping her bag and moving to examine the materials. “Does anyone know how to build a shelter?”

“I’ve never built one before, but I have a few ideas about how we can do it,” Izuku offered.

“So do I,” Tenya said, dropping his bag as well.

So for the next several hours, their team worked diligently to put together a shelter, cutting up bamboo sticks and braiding palm fronds and digging holes. It was hard, laborious work, and Izuku was sweating a decent amount by the time they were close to being finished. In the end, though, their shelter stood sturdy, and it was large enough to fit all six of them easily.

The shelter wasn’t where they had any issues. Their trouble began with the fire.

Fire was a necessity in the game of Survivor . Without fire, they couldn’t boil water, so they had no source of drinking water, and they also couldn’t cook any of their food. Fire was something that they needed sooner rather than later, if they had any hopes of being successful in this game.

And yet none of them were able to get a fire started.

Izuku had been at it for about forty-five minutes, trying his hardest to get a flame going, when Ochako sat in the sand next to him and laid a hand on his shoulder. “Hey, why don’t you take a break?”

Izuku was frustrated enough that he threw down the sticks he was rubbing together to cast a forlorn gaze at Ochako. “Why can’t I do this?”

“None of us can do it, either,” Ochako pointed out with a small, reassuring smile. “Hey, I bet the other tribes aren’t having any more luck than us. At least we got a decent shelter put together.”

“You’re probably right,” Izuku conceded, sitting back on his palms.

“And no one will be able to say you didn’t try. You and Tokoyami have tried harder than anyone else to get a fire going. It’s just not going to happen tonight.”

Izuku nodded. “Alright. But we have a challenge tomorrow, and it would be best if we were well-hydrated and well-fed.”

“Well, we can try later, then, can’t we?” Ochako stood, brushing the dirt off of her bare legs. “You want to go for a swim before it gets too dark? It’s awful hot; we should go cool down while we can.”

“Yeah, sure,” Izuku said easily, standing up and following Ochako down to the beach. He stripped off his shirt and waded behind Ochako into the water, embracing the coolness of the water on his skin. He hadn’t even completely realized precisely how hot and sweaty he was. The water helped to cool him down, and it felt as though all of his worries concerning the fire and the upcoming challenge were evaporating the longer he stood in the water.

“Izuku!” Ochako exclaimed when she turned around and looked at him in the water.

“What?” Izuku asked with alarm, immediately jumping around in the water, thinking there was something swimming around ready to bite one of his feet off. Okay, so he hadn’t really had a lot of experience in the wilderness, and being on an island that was largely untouched when it came to modern technology and civilization made him kind of jumpy. It wasn’t like he was scared of wild animals or bugs or nature or anything of that sort, but the thought of carnivorous aquatic life roaming around his ankles was enough to make him tread with due caution.

Ochako began to giggle. “There’s nothing in the water, silly. It’s just - you have a lot more muscles than you look like you’d have. I was surprised, that’s all.”

“Oh.” Izuku looked down at himself and flushed slightly. “Yeah, honestly, I thought when Tenya had to choose someone to get rid of, he was going to choose me. Because, you know, I don’t really look like much.”

“Really? I thought he was going to choose me. For the same reason.” She smiled shyly and shrugged. “I hope I don’t disappoint anyone in the challenge. I’m kind of nervous, honestly. I mean, I’m excited, don’t get me wrong, but I’m nervous.”

Izuku brightened at Ochako’s candid admission. He felt himself liking her more and more by the second. “I feel exactly the same.” He cupped his hands full of water and splashed it across his face, the back of his neck. “I don’t think I’m going to be awful or anything, but - I mean, I’m still nervous, you know? I just don’t want to let anyone down.”

“Exactly,” Ochako said as she splashed a bit in the water. “That would suck, if we lost the first challenge, huh?”

Izuku shook his head. “That’s not going to happen. Don’t think that way.”

“If it does, though, I won’t vote for you.”

Oh.

Oh .

Izuku hadn’t thought that anybody would approach him with an alliance so quickly into the game, but, he had to admit, he was not upset by this sudden development at all. Ochako was not only a nice girl, but she was incredibly easy to talk to, he got along with her well, and she carried with her a positive energy and personality that were impossible to ignore. She was exactly the type of person Izuku wanted to be allied with in this game.

He knew it was too early in the game to try and be strategic and sneaky, but there was absolutely nothing wrong with forming a strong alliance on day one. If they remained loyal to each other first and foremost, then they could very well make it far in the game, just by sticking out for each other.

“Okay, yeah,” Izuku agreed with a smile. “I won’t vote for you, either.”

That got Ochako’s bright grin to grow even brighter. “Great.”

This was it. This was the real start of his Survivor game. Allying himself with Ochako, agreeing to stick up for each other to keep the other safe and get each other further in the game -

He was really here. He was really doing it.

And, at the end of thirty-nine days, if he played it all the right way, he’d be one million dollars richer. He only hoped he had what it took to get there.

Chapter Text

“Come on in, guys!”

At Toshinori’s call, Izuku and the rest of his tribe walked from where they had been waiting for their cue to their teal-colored mat. Following them was the beauty tribe, who took their places on their purple mat, and then the brawn, who stood at the end on their orange mat. Everyone peered around, trying to size up their competition for today’s challenge. There was an undercurrent of excitement running through everybody from all the tribes, but Izuku knew that soon, one team’s excitement would be replaced with bitter disappointment at their failure and the knowledge that they would have to vote out one of their own at tribal council.

Two days in, and Izuku noticed that a good number of people had already discarded their clothing in favor of their swimsuits or undergarments in order to escape heat of the island. Izuku himself was clad in his swim trunks and a tank top instead of the t-shirt and shorts he had been wearing yesterday. The heat wasn’t stifling, but it was enough to make him sweat without doing much of anything.

Izuku saw the man with the red and white hair from yesterday on the beauty team, examining the course set up before them for their challenge instead of looking around at the others. And further down, Izuku saw the man who had been called Katsuki, who looked slightly irritable, though Izuku couldn’t imagine at what. Or maybe that was just his face. He couldn’t really tell.

Izuku dragged his attention away from the other groups for long enough to get a look at the challenge laid out before them. There were three different zig-zagged lanes - one teal, one purple, and one orange, for each team - with three towers and chests at spaced intervals. Beyond that, there was a wall of sorts with openings in it, and further still, there was a large circular-shaped structure.

“You guys ready to get to your first immunity challenge?” Toshinori asked, which brought all of Izuku’s - and everyone else’s - attention back to him. There were cheers of affirmation and applause from the groups to indicate their readiness, signaling Toshinori to continue. “For today’s challenge, you’re gonna maneuver a cart through an obstacle course. At each tower, you’ll retrieve a key. Use it to unlock a chest, put the chest on the cart, and continue on. Once you’ve collected all three chests, you must disassemble your cart, slide it through a barricade, put it back together, and get to the finish, where two people will use the pieces inside the chests to solve a giant dragon puzzle. Want to know what you’re playing for?”

At this, there was more enthusiastic applause.

Next to Toshinori, there was a covered pedestal and a covered table. Now, Toshinori pulled the cover off of the pedestal, to reveal two separate statues - one was slightly larger than the other and was colored red, taking the shape of a dancing animal, something that looked to be a cross between a bear and a dog. The smaller one was the same shape, only it was blue instead of red.

“Immunity,” Toshinori announced, gesturing towards the newly-uncovered immunity idol statues.

Izuku was grinning at the novelty of it all. He still couldn’t entirely wrap his head around the fact that he was really here, despite all the evidence in front of him. Seeing an immunity idol in person was almost too good to be true. He felt positively awestruck.

“This is what you covet in this game,” Toshinori continued. “If you have immunity, you cannot be voted out. The first two tribes to finish win immunity and are safe from tribal council. Losers, somebody will be the first person voted out of Survivor. That is a distinction nobody wants. In addition, you’re playing for reward.” Now, Toshinori made his way to the table and pulled off the cover, revealing a basket full of various different types of wood and fire-building materials. “First tribe to finish - a fire-making kit.”

Izuku’s breath caught at the sight of this reward. His tribe still hadn’t managed to get a fire going, so winning an entire kit for fire-making would be a good help, so far as eating and drinking went. Izuku hadn’t had anything of substance to eat or drink since he got here yesterday, and neither had his teammates, and he could already feel his body reacting to this unusual deprivation. He could only imagine what would happen if they went much longer like this.

“If you don’t have fire, this will ensure that you get it,” Toshinori said. “If you can’t get fire with this, it’s on you. The second tribe to finish also gets fire, in the form of flint.” As he said this, he pulled out a small gray rectangle from his pocket, displaying it to the contestants. “It’s a little more difficult, but this will get you there. Losers, nothing. I’ll give you a minute to strategize, and we’ll get started.”

With that, the three teams turned inwards towards each other to discuss how they wanted to proceed with the challenge.

“Who wants to retrieve the keys from the towers?” Tenya asked.

“I’ll do it,” Tsuyu volunteered.

“Do you want to unlock the chests?” Tenya asked, directing the question at Koji.

Koji nodded his assent with a smile and thumbs-up.

“I can do the puzzle,” Izuku offered, eager to prove himself worthy in some part of the challenge.

“I can help him,” Tokoyami said.

“Alright, great,” Tenya said. “Izuku and Ochako, you two can carry the cart from the front; Tsuyu will bring up the rear, since she’s getting the keys. The rest of us will carry it from the middle. Does that sound good to everyone?”

They all nodded their approval of this strategy. When they were ready, they approached their teal cart and stood in their positions, waiting for everyone else to be ready.

“Alright, here we go,” Toshinori called once everyone had assumed their starting positions. “For immunity and reward in the form of fire, Survivors ready? Go!”

At Toshinori’s word, Izuku and Ochako began to run forward, lifting up their cart with them as they went. There were barrels positioned at random points in their lanes, and Izuku rushed ahead to push the first one in their path aside. Once that was cleared, they continued on to the first tower, where Tsuyu climbed to reach for the key. She had to use a long stick to knock the key ring off of the end of the tower. When the key was off and began to fall, Koji grabbed the key as it was falling and began to unlock the chains on the chest. Ochako and Tsuyu lifted up the chest and placed it on the cart.

Izuku rushed forward to move another barrel out of the way and then went back to grab the front of the cart, continuing to pull it forward with Ochako. They got to the second tower, where they repeated what they had done at the first one. Izuku heard Toshinori calling out the statuses of the teams, and he saw that everybody was at the same tower, then he refocused his attention on the task at hand.

Koji was struggling with the chains on the chest, which set them back a little bit. Izuku heard Toshinori calling out that the brawn tribe had already gotten their third key, and the beauty tribe was on their way to the third, while they were still working on the chains of their first one. So they were in last place, but it wasn’t lost yet. They still had plenty of time to catch up.

They finally got the chains undone and moved on to their last tower, which they got through a lot quicker than the second one, though they were still in the rear of the pack. Now they had to take apart their cart and get it through the wall barricade, which they were all struggling on, for some reason. Tenya was shouting encouragement and instructions at them, which wasn’t really helping all that much. Izuku was trying to focus on taking apart the cart, but everyone seemed to be trying to do separate things at once without consulting each other, which was setting them even farther behind because no one really knew what they were doing with the pieces.

“Let’s get these through first,” Tenya suggested, gesturing to the chests.

Izuku thought it would have made more sense to get the cart through first, but he wasn’t about to argue about their plan of action now, when they were already behind, so he and Tokoyami climbed over the wall and onto the other side to receive the pieces as they came through.

Koji, Ochako, Tenya, and Tsuyu pushed the chests through, and then they had the pieces of their cart through, though it took a lot longer than Izuku felt it should have. He didn’t understand why they seemed to be working so poorly right now. Maybe it was because they hadn’t strategized enough about exactly how to go about this entire thing. Or maybe they were all just nervous, and it was showing in their performance. Maybe they were just hungry and tired and dehydrated.

Most likely, it was a combination of all three.

Finally, all their pieces were through, and they began to reassemble their cart and place their chests on top of it. When that was done, they had to go through one last obstacle course. Izuku could see that the other two tribes had already started on their puzzles, which made him even more nervous. They were so far behind, and he couldn’t even recall exactly how they had gotten there.

In the final obstacle course, Koji and Tenya took the lead to move logs and rocks out of the way so that they could get the cart smoothly through and to the end. Finally, they got there, and they began to open their chests to get to the puzzle pieces that were inside. Izuku and Tokoyami ran to the circular puzzle structure, carrying puzzle pieces with them so that they could start on this thing. Hopefully, they could make up enough time while putting together the puzzle that they wouldn’t lose the entire challenge, though their prospects were looking rather grim. The other two tribes already had half of their puzzles completed.

Izuku and Tokoyami wasted no time getting started, though. Immediately, they began to make connections with the pieces and the structure, and they put the blocks in as quickly as they possibly could while also staying accurate.

Izuku could hear Toshinori’s voice in the background, continuing to call out the current status of the challenge, but he did his best to block this noise out. It would be no use getting distracted and worried by hearing how well the other teams were doing as compared to them. The best Izuku could do now was focus on what was in front of him and try his hardest to come back from their slow start.

It wasn’t very long at all when Izuku heard cheers and shouts coming from the beauty tribe next to them, and then he heard Toshinori shouting, “Beauty - Solana Tribe - wins immunity and the fire-making kit!” And then, only seconds later, more cheering, followed by, “Brawn finishes! Brawn wins immunity and fire in the form of flint!”

Izuku heard Tokoyami swear next to him. Feeling quite disheartened himself, Izuku threw down the puzzle piece he was holding and let out a long sigh, covering his sweating face with his hands. He peered over at the other two tribes as they were celebrating, feeling increasingly envious. The man on the beauty tribe with the red and white hair was being hugged by a woman with black hair pulled back into a ponytail. Katsuki on the brawn tribe was smiling, however reluctantly, while the man that Izuku remembered was named Kirishima slung a victorious arm over his shoulder with a huge smile.

Izuku’s chest ached with the jealousy of the whole thing.

His first challenge - and he had failed.

And now he could possibly be going home, after only two days of playing the game that he admired so much.

“The brain tribe was not even close to finishing,” Toshinori announced. “Luzon will be the first tribe at tribal council, will lose the first tribe member.”

As Izuku and Tokoyami made their way back to their teammates, who all wore similar expressions of defeat, he heard Tsuyu swear under her breath. Ochako ran a distressed hand through her hair. Tenya looked positively crestfallen. Koji was kicking at the sand with a foot.

One of them would be going home. If it wasn’t Izuku, it could be Ochako, who he had formed an alliance with. It was going to be one of them, and Izuku would have to write down one of their names to vote out, and he had absolutely no idea how he was going to do that. He didn’t want to see any of them going home, not yet.

But as long as it wasn’t him, that was all that was important. It could be anybody, as long as it wasn’t him.

Because Izuku was going to win this thing. He couldn’t be the first one to go home.

After everyone had settled down from their victories, they were all regathered onto their starting mats so that Toshinori could hand out the rewards.

“Solana, congratulations, immunity is yours,” Toshinori said, picking up the larger of the two immunity idols and walking it over to the beauty tribe, where the girl Izuku remembered as Kyoka took it with a huge smile on her face. “No tribal council tonight. Appare, congratulations.” Now he walked the smaller blue immunity idol over to the brawn tribe, where the girl with the pink hair named Mina grabbed it. “No tribal council tonight.” He walked back to the table that had the fire-making kit sitting on top of it. “Solana, grab your fire-making kit. Congratulations. Take your stuff; head back to camp.”

The man with the half-red and half-white hair approached the table to grab the large basket, and then the beauty tribe left the clearing.

“Appare, fire, in the form of flint,” Toshinori said, pulling the small flint out of his pocket. “Here you go, Kirishima,” he said as he tossed the flint through the air.

Kirishima caught the flint easily and stuck it into his own pocket. “Thank you, sir!”

“Take your stuff, and head back to camp,” Toshinori instructed. “Enjoy your night off. Good luck getting a fire going.”

Izuku watched them go forlornly. Not only had his team lost and were thus being sent to tribal council to send someone home, but they also received no fire. Which meant they still had nothing to eat or drink for another day. Izuku could already feel his energy failing as a result, just from the thought of it.

Once only their tribe remained, Toshinori said, “Alright, Luzon, somebody from your group will be the first person voted out of Survivor. Grab your stuff, and head back to camp. I’ll see you tomorrow night at tribal council.”

With that, they all began the silent, defeated trek back to their camp, all of their thoughts regarding their upcoming tribal council weighing heavily on their minds.

--

“What are you thinking?”

Izuku snapped out of his thoughts to regard Ochako. They had been trying desperately to get a fire going ever since they got back from the challenge, and, again, they had both failed, which meant they still hadn’t secured any food or drinking water. Izuku could see Tsuyu and Tokoyami in the water from where he was now lying in their shelter, and he had no idea where Tenya or Koji had gone off to.

Izuku gave Ochako a wan smile. “I was thinking how much we sucked at the challenge.”

Ochako winced. “Yeah. Not our finest moments today.”

Izuku hummed his agreement. He was lying on his back, his legs hanging off the edge of the shelter, and Ochako was sitting up, gnawing her lower lip in what Izuku presumed to be worry. He pushed himself into an upright position and laid a comforting hand on her shoulder, opening his mouth to offer her some comfort, but before he had the chance to, she began speaking again.

“I mean, we’re supposed to be smart, but we sucked. And the worst part of it is, I can’t even figure out where we did so bad. We just didn’t do good.”

“Yeah,” Izuku agreed weakly. “Now we know to do better next time, though.”

Ochako turned to face him, her brows raised. “You don’t think either of us will go home?”

Izuku blinked at her, taken aback. “Do you think either of us will go home?”

She shrugged. “I haven’t talked to anyone about the vote yet. And no one’s approached me about it. For all I know, I could be the target.”

“Well. We have until tomorrow night to figure it out, so we have time to ask around.” He fell silent for a heartbeat before asking her, “Who do you want to vote out?”

“Well… Honestly, I was thinking of Koji.”

Izuku wasn’t surprised by this, as he had been thinking the same thing. “Why Koji?”

“He hasn’t really talked to any of us very much,” Ochako explained. “I don’t know what he’s thinking or where his head’s at, which scares me.”

Izuku nodded. “I can talk to Tenya and see if he would be okay with that. Could you talk to Tokoyami? Or Tsuyu?”

“I don’t know about Tokoyami, but I know Tsuyu likes me enough that I can probably get her to vote with us.” She sounded confident in this assessment, which was great news for Izuku. If he and Ochako could control this vote, then there was nothing to worry about.

“I’ll go find Tenya and talk to him,” Izuku said, grateful to have something to do other than wallow in disappointment at his failure at both the challenge and his ability to start a fire.

“I’ll talk to Tsuyu when she’s alone,” Ochako said, lying back on the shelter and shielding her eyes from the sun with her arm. “Let me know how it goes with Tenya.”

Izuku nodded and walked off, in search for Tenya. He wasn’t around the camp, and he wasn’t at the beach, so Izuku went into the forest surrounding their camp to try to find him. Eventually, Izuku saw him near a waterfall that was about ten minutes away from the camp, stripped down to his swim shorts and shirtless, soaking wet.

Immediately, Izuku knew what he was doing. He’d been a fan of Survivor for long enough to know that when people were poking around in unusual places, they were searching for the hidden immunity idol.

So Tenya’s playing this game hard, to already be looking for an idol, Izuku thought to himself. He wasn’t yet sure if Tenya being sneaky like this was good or bad for his own game. He supposed it depended on whether or not Tenya agreed to work with him and Ochako, and whether or not he was loyal to them.

“Hey,” Tenya called out in greeting when he saw Izuku, assuming an inconspicuous pose, as if he had just been enjoying the scenery. “What are you doing out here?”

“Looking for you, actually.” Izuku approached Tenya with a smile. “Found the idol?”

Tenya began to splutter and stammer in response, attempting at playing dumb but not quite succeeding. “What - why, I am sure I have no idea what you’re talking about. I just - the waterfall is secluded, and I -” He cut himself off with a woeful sigh. “You’ve caught me.”

Izuku laughed at Tenya’s distraught over being discovered. “It’s alright. I don’t blame you, considering we’re going to tribal and all.” He narrowed his eyes at Tenya. “You didn’t find it, did you? Because if you did, I’d be obligated to vote for you, if only to get you to play it so you can’t use it later on, when it’d be inconvenient for me.” He was only half-joking.

Tenya’s eyes brightened at Izuku’s words, despite the threat that lay in them. “You must be a Survivor superfan, too!” he exclaimed, making his way over the rocks separating them. “I thought I was the only one. And, no, I didn’t find the idol.”

Izuku nodded. “I believe you.”

“What can I do for you? What sent you looking for me? Or did you have the same suspicion as me that the hidden idol would be in this area?”

“No, I actually wanted to figure out where your head was regarding the vote tomorrow. Do you have any ideas?”

Tenya looked thoughtful. “Not particularly. There’s no one I want to vote out more than anybody else, I mean. What were you thinking?”

“Well, Ochako and I were thinking of Koji, just because he’s so quiet that we don’t really know what to make of him. We wanted you to know if you’d vote with us.”

Tenya nodded. “As long as it’s not me, I’m okay with it,” he said with a laugh. Then he looked at Izuku with a narrow, assessing eye. “You and Ochako, huh?”

“And you,” Izuku said quickly, catching onto Tenya’s meaning. Izuku and Ochako were already allied, and Izuku had to admit that adding Tenya to their alliance would be a benefit to all of them, so long as they all stayed loyal to each other. “If that’s something you’d want.”

“Absolutely!”

Izuku was beaming as he made his way back to the camp, Tenya abandoning his task of looking for the idol for the moment to join Izuku in his trek.

So maybe they didn’t have fire or food or drinking water yet, but Izuku had what he hoped was a solid - and lasting - alliance of three, which could take them to the merge, as long as they all stuck together.

They would be going to tribal council tomorrow night, but Izuku rested easy that night, confident that it wouldn’t be him, Ochako, or Tenya going home.

Chapter Text

“I’ve got some bad news,” Ochako said by way of greeting, approaching Izuku and Tenya, where they had been, once again, desperately trying to start a fire. The good news was, by the end of the night, they would be guaranteed fire, as Toshinori always awarded the losing tribe with flint after the conclusion of tribal council. The bad news was, they would have to wait until the end of the night for the flint, and by now, they were all extremely hungry and thirsty. Izuku’s throat felt incredibly dry, and even the thought of safe drinking water was enough to make his mouth water (hypothetically, of course). He had by now gotten used to the uncomfortable ache of hunger sitting in the pit of his stomach.

Tenya had taken off his glasses and was trying to orchestrate a flame from the sun’s beams refracting off of the lenses, but even this method was producing zero successful results. Izuku couldn’t for the life of him understand why they were having so much trouble creating a fire. In previous seasons of Survivor , teams were almost always able to make a fire, with or without flint.

Izuku welcomed Ochako’s arrival, even if she was the bearer of bad news, with much gratitude. Any excuse to put the feeling of failure at bay for a few moments. “What’s wrong?” he asked her.

“I talked to Tsuyu,” she said, kneeling on her knees in the dirt next to Izuku. “She said that Koji and Tokoyami are planning on voting for Tenya.”

At this, Tenya looked up sharply, the fire temporarily forgotten. “ Me ?”

“Well, it has to be one of us,” Izuku supplied hurriedly, pushing away the worry that was beginning to crawl through his veins. He needed Tenya to survive this first vote. If Tenya survived, then Tenya, Ochako, and himself would hold the majority on their tribe, and they would be able to control all the votes until a merge happened, as long as they stayed loyal to the alliance. If Tenya was voted out, however, he and Ochako would become easy targets for Koji and Tokoyami. “What did Tsuyu say? Is she going to vote with them?”

“She said she doesn’t know yet,” Ochako answered, her brows drawn together in worry. “Koji and Tokoyami approached her with an alliance, apparently, which isn’t so good for us. If they vote out Tenya, and we vote out Koji, it’ll be a tie.”

“And if there’s a tie, it could come down to drawing rocks,” Izuku muttered to himself, staring down at the ground as all the possibilities ran through his mind. So far, he got the impression that Ochako and Tenya would remain loyal to their alliance. The three of them could make it to the merge - but that would only happen if the three of them stayed until the merge actually came. But if Koji, Tokoyami, and Tsuyu all voted for Tenya, then there would be a tie. And if there was a tie, there would be a revote, one that Koji and Tenya would not be permitted to take part in. If everyone else stuck to their original votes, then it would result in another tie, with Izuku and Ochako voting for Koji again, and Tokoyami and Tsuyu voting for Tenya again. At which point, Toshinori would declare the vote to be deadlocked, and they would all have an open discussion, trying to unanimously decide on who to send home - Koji or Tenya. If a unanimous decision couldn’t be reached, then the two contestants who had been tied - again, Koji or Tenya - would become immune, and everyone else - Izuku, Ochako, Tokoyami, and Tsuyu - would have to draw rocks, and whichever one of them drew the odd-colored rock would have to go home.

Potentially, Izuku could be going home tonight, if it came down to drawing rocks.

But it was way too early in the game for that, Izuku thought. Nobody would risk their entire Survivor game on the first vote. If the revote was tied, most likely, Izuku, Ochako, Tokoyami, and Tsuyu would agree to send home either Koji or Tenya. If he really had to, he knew he would send Tenya home before he would agree to drawing rocks. Yeah, they had entered into an alliance, but it was only the third day. Izuku would rather send him home than risk his life in this game so early on.

“Izuku?”

Izuku looked up at Ochako, who had spoken his name, and Tenya, who was looking at him with a slightly concerned expression on his face.

Belatedly, Izuku realized that he had been muttering furiously to himself. He laughed, slightly embarrassed. “Sorry. Bad habit.”

Ochako waved away Izuku’s apology. “I think we’ll be okay,” she said, directing the words mostly at Tenya. “Tsuyu said she doesn’t know how she’s going to vote yet, which means that even though Koji and Tokoyami invited her into an alliance, she hasn’t made up her mind yet.”

“Which means that even if she does vote with them, she could switch her vote during a revote,” Izuku said. “As long as she realizes the danger of two tie votes in a row.”

Ochako nodded in what Izuku supposed was meant to be a reassuring way, a sweet smile on her face. Tenya, for his part, looked thoroughly distressed by all this information and the fact that his name was being thrown out to be voted out.

Izuku didn’t blame him. If he was in Tenya’s position, he’d feel a great amount of concern for himself.

“I can go talk to Tsuyu,” Izuku offered, already standing. He could see Tsuyu in the water, where she seemed to spend a lot of time.

“Good idea,” Ochako said.

“Should I talk to her?” Tenya asked, his voice full of worry. “If she’s thinking of voting me out, maybe I should talk to her. I mean - I did choose to send her home, on the first day. Maybe she’s still holding that grudge against me.” He made as if to stand up, to follow Izuku down to the water and to Tsuyu.

“Let me talk to her first,” Izuku said. “If she says anything about you, I’ll let you know, so that you can decide what you want to say to her.”

Tenya looked as though he might protest, but then he nodded and sat back down, lifting his glasses from the ground and attempting, half-heartedly, to start a fire again.

Izuku walked to where Tsuyu was wading in the water, stripping off his shirt and tossing it in the beach’s sand as he did so. Tsuyu smiled at him when she saw him coming.

“Hey, Izuku,” she called to him.

“Hey,” he said, smiling his most charming smile.

“What’s going on?”

“Nothing, really. We still can’t get a fire started,” he reported, grimacing as he said the words. “We’ve been trying all afternoon.”

Tsuyu winced in sympathy at their defeat at the hands of the elements. “At least we’ll get fire after tribal council,” she said by way of condolence.

“Yeah, you’re right. I can’t wait to get a fire started. I’m starving.” He paused for a few seconds before segueing into the real reason he came to the water. “Speaking of tribal council, what are you thinking of doing for the vote?”

Tsuyu shrugged. “Honestly, I still don’t know. Ochako told me about how you guys are voting for Koji, but, like I told her, they asked me to vote with them. And since you three seem to be allied already, it might be in my best interest to vote with them.”

Izuku pressed his lips together. “Yes, but if you three stick together, and if we stick together, it’s going to come down to drawing rocks.”

“If the revote is tied, I’ll say to vote out Koji.”

“It would have to be unanimous, though. Would Tokoyami agree to that?”

“I think he would agree to that over drawing rocks,” Tsuyu said. “He doesn’t want to go home yet. I don’t think he’d take that chance.”

Izuku nodded and ran a hand through his hair, sighing as he did so.

“It’s not that I have anything against any of you,” Tsuyu said in response to his apparent distress. “It would just make me nervous, moving forward, knowing that you three are solid.”

“No, I understand,” Izuku said and smiled. “I just wish you would vote with us. Just think about it, okay?”

Tsuyu nodded and gave Izuku a small smile before Izuku walked out of the water. He returned to their camp and sat on the edge of their shelter, telling Ochako and Tenya what Tsuyu had just told him. Tenya went to go make his case to Tsuyu, likely pleading with her to not vote for him and force a revote and a possible rock draw, even though, in his case, a rock draw wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, since he would become immune.

But then two of his allies risked the chance of going home, which would definitely not be ideal for him, now or in the long run.

Later, Izuku found Tokoyami to talk to him about the upcoming vote. “There’s no chance you would change your vote?” Izuku asked him.

Tokoyami shook his head. “It’s obvious you three are allied. One of you has to go now.”

“Are you willing to draw rocks on that?”

Tokoyami was silent for several moments before admitting, “No. But that doesn’t mean I won’t try. I don’t want anyone to say about me that I went home because I didn’t try to take out an alliance.”

Izuku nodded. He understood that. Nobody wanted to go home, only to be accused of not even trying to stay.

“Okay, I respect that,” Izuku said. “Thanks for being honest.”

As Izuku walked back to camp with Tokoyami, they began to hear thunder rumbling in the distance. Toshinori had been right; it was going to be a wet season. It was only the third day, and a thunderstorm was already rolling in. A stormy breeze began to come in from the water, making Izuku’s already-unruly hair tumble around his face so that he had to continuously push it away with annoyance.

By the time they all grabbed their bags and began to make their way to tribal council, the wind had picked up in earnest, and the rain had just started. The longer they walked, though, the more than rain began to come down, and the time intervals between thunder claps and lightning strikes was becoming smaller and smaller. Which was just great. Now, when they got back to camp, they’d have to try to sleep through the noise and the wet, and they probably wouldn’t even be able to get a fire going, after finally receiving flint, due to the weather.

Despite his apprehension at having to attend the first tribal council, Izuku still felt completely awestruck as he went. They were walking over the wooden bridge now that led to the council room every season, lined with fire torches, and then they entered the room, a big fire pit situated in the middle, with Toshinori standing at the far end, watching them enter. At least the council room was roofed, Izuku thought. It was likely going to be the driest they would get all night, and he couldn’t say the same for the other tribes, he thought with some grim amount of satisfaction.

They all took their seats on the low stools that were arranged for them. Izuku sat at the left side of the lower row of benches, Tenya next to him and Tokoyami next to him, and behind them were Koji, Ochako, and Tsuyu, from right to left.

“Behind each of you is a torch,” Toshinori said as greeting. “Go ahead and grab a torch and approach the flame. Dip it in, and get fire.”

At this, they all stood obediently, grabbing the big torches behind them that would become theirs for the remainder of the game. They each approached the fire pit in turns, lighting their torches with the fire before taking their seats again.

“This is part of the ritual of tribal council,” Toshinori was saying, “because in this game, fire represents your life. And when your fire’s gone, so are you. That’s gonna be the case for one of you tonight.” After everyone was situated and sitting comfortably, Toshinori said, “So let’s talk about the first few days. Tenya, you’re already shaking your head.”

“Yes. As you witnessed, we didn’t do our best in the challenge yesterday. It sucked.”

“You guys fell so far behind the other tribes. Why do you think that is?”

“Honestly, I think we were unprepared. I think we all thought we were these smart people, that we had this in the bag, but the challenges in this game are different from the challenges we face in real life. Our smarts in our every-day lives don’t equate to our smarts in this game.”

Izuku nodded his agreement to these words.

“Izuku, you agree?” Toshinori asked.

Ignoring the way he felt his nerves bunch up at being addressed by the man he had been obsessed with growing up, he nodded and sat up straighter. “I think it’s also that we’re all smart, but when we’re thrown in with five other people who are as smart as or smarter than you, we kind of start to second-guess ourselves around each other.”

“You second-guessed yourself during the challenge?”

“There were a couple times when I feel like maybe I should’ve spoken up during the challenge, but I didn’t because I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes, and I didn’t want to question the way we were doing certain things only to slow us down, if that makes sense.”

“Ochako, do you think it’s poor teamwork that set you behind?” Toshinori asked.

“I don’t think it’s poor teamwork,” Ochako said. “I think we work together fine. I think it’s figuring out how to put all our skills to the best use to produce the best results in challenges that we need to work on.”

“Tokoyami. You worried about the vote tonight?”

“Not for myself, no.”

“Not for yourself? What do you mean by that?”

“I mean I’m worried about how the outcome of the vote tonight will affect my game in the future.”

“You have a good idea of who’s going home tonight?” Toshinori asked.

“I have an idea, yes.”

“Koji. You have an idea about who’s going home?”

Koji nodded.

“Does everyone have an idea about who’s going home?”

There were murmured affirmations and nods among all six of them.

“It’s most likely going to be one of two people, Toshinori, and I think we all know who those two people are," Tenya spoke up.

“Who are they?” Toshinori asked.

“It’s either going to be Koji or me,” Tenya said.

“Tokoyami, you said you’re worried about how the outcome of the vote will affect your game in the future.”

“Yes, sir. If Koji goes home tonight, there’s an alliance of three that will dominate this tribe until the merge.”

“Who’s the alliance of three?”

“Izuku, Ochako, and Tenya.”

Izuku felt his nerves prick up at the mention of their alliance. It wasn’t as though the alliance was a secret; they hadn’t gone to lengths to be inconspicuous, though now, Izuku was realizing, perhaps they should have.

“So you, Koji, and Tsuyu are on the outs?”

“That’s correct.”

“So you want to get Tenya out to break up the alliance.”

“Yes,” Tokoyami answered. “If he stays, then Koji, Tsuyu, and myself will be the first three voted out of this tribe.”

“Tsuyu, why Tenya? Why not Izuku or Ochako?”

“I think Tenya’s very smart,” Tsuyu said. “I think he’s a huge fan of this show, and so I think he’ll be very smart when it comes to playing the game.”

“Tenya’s a strong guy. You’re not worried about your performance in challenges failing, if you vote him out?”

“No,” Tsuyu said. “Izuku’s strong. Ochako’s strong. Tenya’s strong, but he’s not the only one on this tribe who’s strong.”

“Izuku, why Koji?” Toshinori asked.

“Koji’s very quiet,” Izuku answered. “I haven’t spoken more than three words to him in three days. I don’t know what kind of game he’s playing or what his strategy is like. That worries me.”

The thunder outside the council room boomed once, loudly, and Izuku could hear the rain beginning to come down even harder than before in the silence that followed his words.

“Let’s talk about the early moments, right out of the gate,” Toshinori said. “Tenya, you have to choose the weakest person on this tribe, and you pick Tsuyu.”

“That was not a position I wanted to be in,” Tenya said quickly, and he turned behind him to face Tsuyu. “I know we discussed it earlier, but I just want to reiterate that that was nothing personal at all.”

Tsuyu nodded her acknowledgment.

Tenya turned back to Toshinori. “I think what everyone else sitting here realizes is that if they had to be in my position, they would have had to choose someone, too. I don’t think there’s any ill feelings between myself and Tsuyu.”

“So, Tsuyu, how did it feel for you to be cast out on day one of the game?” Toshinori asked.

“It sucked. No one wanted to be chosen as the weakest, and no one wanted to be cast out so early. Tenya and I have talked about it, though, and he’s right, there’s no hard feelings between us.”

“And you’re not worried about being voted out tonight?”

“No. Not tonight.”

“Ochako, is Tsuyu okay in her confidence?”

“Yes,” Ochako answered immediately.

“Tsuyu’s not going anywhere?”

“No, sir.”

“So, Tenya, as we get closer to the vote, what if it’s you? What if you’re the first out?”

“It would be awful,” Tenya answered. “I came here to play this game, and I came to play hard and for a long time yet. But I honestly feel like even though it’s my name being mentioned, I’m not going to be going home.”

Izuku cast a sideways look at Tenya.

“You’re not?”

“No, sir.”

“Izuku, Tenya says he’s not going home. Why?”

Izuku searched his mind furiously, trying to think of the best way to answer this question, and then deciding the truth would suit him fine. It wasn’t something that everyone hadn’t already discussed, anyway. “Tenya says he’s not going home because Ochako, Tenya, and I are all voting for Koji. It’s likely that Koji, Tokoyami, and Tsuyu are voting for Tenya. If there’s a tie, there’s gonna be a revote, and Ochako, Tenya, and I aren’t switching our votes.”

“Wow,” Toshinori said. “So you three are solid? No one’s going to change your vote?”

“That’s right.”

“So you’re basically saying it’s up to either Tokoyami or Tsuyu to change their vote.”

“Yes.”

“And you do understand that if neither of them change their vote, either, you’ll have to unanimously send either Koji or Tenya home, and if you fail to do that, you, Ochako, Tokoyami, and Tsuyu will draw rocks?”

“I understand that.”

“So you’re saying that, either way, Tenya’s not going anywhere.”

“Exactly,” Izuku said, even though this wasn’t entirely true. If Tokoyami and Tsuyu absolutely refused to budge in sending Koji home, Izuku could convince Ochako to send home Tenya. He would hate to do it, but his alliance was to Ochako first and foremost, and if he had to send home Tenya to save himself on the very first tribal council meeting of the season, then he would do it.

“Wow,” Toshinori repeated, just as another boom of thunder resounded through the council room. “So, Ochako, clearly, this is a big vote.”

“Yeah, absolutely. Regardless of whether we go down to rocks or not, it’s a big vote, and we have to move forward thinking about the future of our tribe, and who would suit the tribe as a whole better to get us to the merge.”

“Alright,” Toshinori said to that. “It is time to vote. Tokoyami, you’re up.”

And so they took their turns walking over the wooden bridge behind Toshinori, past the fire pit and into a secluded area where a black marker and a piece of parchment paper was waiting for them to write down their vote for the night. After Tokoyami, Tenya went to vote, then it was Izuku’s turn. Izuku wrote down Koji’s name, then folded the paper and placed it into the urn that held all the votes for the night. He took his seat when he was done voting, and then Koji, Ochako, and Tsuyu voted.

After Tsuyu returned and took the seat she had vacated, Toshinori said, “I’ll go tally the votes.” He walked off to grab the urn. When he returned, he placed the urn atop his podium. “If anybody has a hidden immunity idol and you wanna play it, now would be the time to do so.”

Toshinori allowed several moments of silence to pass so that someone could speak up, should they wish to play an idol.

“Alright,” Toshinori said when nobody said anything. “Once the votes are read, the decision is final. The person voted out will be asked to leave the tribal council area immediately. I’ll read the votes.” With that, Toshinori removed the lid of the urn.

Another explosive bout of thunder erupted, foreboding. Izuku had to resist the urge to fidget nervously, praying that there would be no need for a revote at all.

Toshinori pulled out the first piece of paper and unfolded it, displaying it to the tribe. “First vote: Koji.” He pulled out the second piece of paper. “Tenya.” The third. “Koji.” The fourth. “Tenya. We’re tied: two votes Koji, two votes Tenya.” He pulled out the fifth piece of paper. “Koji. That’s three votes Koji, two votes Tenya. One vote left.” Toshinori removed the final piece of paper and unfolded it. “First person voted out of Survivor ,” he said, and flipped over the paper for everyone to see. “Koji. You need to bring me your torch.”

Izuku nearly sagged with relief. He turned around and gave Tsuyu and smile that he hoped showed all his gratitude in it.

Koji stood wordlessly and grabbed his torch from the back of the room, making his way over to Toshinori and sticking it in the small hole that was made for it.

“Koji, the tribe has spoken,” Toshinori said, and he snuffed out Koji’s torch, extinguishing the fire. “Time for you to go.”

Koji glanced back at Tokoyami and gave him a small thumbs-up before wordlessly exiting the tribal council area.

After Koji was out of earshot, Toshinori said, “Well, hopefully, tonight’s vote will point this tribe in the direction it needs to go because you’ve got to get it together quickly. The good news about tribal: you do get fire, in the form of flint.” Toshinori pulled the flint out of his pocket and tossed it to Izuku.

Izuku caught the flint with a huge relieved smile on his face, his whole body already feeling lighter at the idea of finally, finally getting a fire started. He didn’t care if he’d stay up all night trying to get it lit in this weather; he was going to do it.

He also felt lighter, knowing that Tenya was still here, that Tsuyu had voted with them after all.

Even though they had lost their challenge and, as such, a member of their tribe, the tribal council as a whole had been relatively successful.

“Grab your torches, and head back to camp,” Toshinori said. “Goodnight.”

And with that, they all made their way back to their camp in the rain, all of them making the trek silently in the aftermath of the tribal council.

Chapter Text

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.”

“Really?”

“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.

“Hey, guys!”

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.

Chapter Text

“Come on in, guys!”

Izuku heard Toshinori’s call, but this week, they would be the last team to enter the challenge area, since they had been the losers at the last challenge. The beauty tribe entered first, followed by the brawn, and then, finally, Izuku’s tribe.

“Brawns and beauty, getting your first look at the new brain tribe,” Toshinori said as they made their way to their mat. Izuku felt all eyes on them, trying to figure out who the first person who had been voted out was. “Koji was voted out for the first tribal council,” Toshinori announced.

Izuku had small murmurations coming from the other tribes at this news, though he couldn’t for the life of him imagine what they could be saying about this decision.

Izuku studied the course that was set up for them today. It was, evidently, going to be a water challenge - there were three wooden structures that looked like cages set up in the ocean and a wooden platform extending from the shore of the beach and outwards into the water. On the beach itself, though, there was another raised wooden platform with three tables on it, which Izuku guessed contained another puzzle.

“Alright, you guys ready to get to today’s immunity challenge?” Toshinori asked, which garnered affirmatives from everybody standing ready. “First thing’s first, I’ll take back the idols,” he said, approaching the brawn tribe and grabbing the smaller blue idol from Mina, and then going to the beauty tribe and retrieving the bigger red one from the man with the half-red and half-white hair. After he had both of them, he walked back to the front of the three groups and replaced them on the podium that had been previously been standing empty. “Once again, immunity is back up for grabs,” Toshinori said, resting his hand atop the statues.

Izuku was grinning at the prospect of getting his hands on one of the statues. They would win one of the immunity idols today; they had to. They couldn’t lose the first two challenges back-to-back.

“For today’s challenge, each tribe will swim out to a large bamboo cage. You’ll climb up and over the wall, jump into the water, where you will find four large fish traps. You must then untie the cage door, push the traps through, and swim them back to shore, where one tribe member will use the pieces inside to solve a very complicated fish puzzle. The first two tribes to finish win immunity and are safe from the vote. Losers go to tribal council, where somebody will be the second person voted out of Survivor . In addition, you are playing for reward. Wanna know what you’re playing for?”

Izuku nodded and clapped his hands together in encouragement. He was feeling much more confident today, now that his tribe had eaten and gotten water.

Toshinori pulled the cover off of the table that was sitting next to the podium that held the immunity idols. “First tribe to finish wins a large fish kit. Everything you need to get a lot of fish. You have nets, you have worms, lures, and if you have any luck with the fish, a few things to help you cook it up. A pan, some oil, some salt and pepper.”

Izuku looked at Ochako, who was grinning wildly at the sight of all these goods. They had made do with cooking the fish Tsuyu had caught last night by descaling and deboning them to the best of their ability before boiling it in the pot of hot water. He could only imagine how much better the fish would taste cooked on a pan over olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper.

“Second tribe to finish wins a slightly smaller fish reward,” Toshinori continued, pulling another cover off the table and revealing a much more modest set of objects. “Lures, weights, and fishing line,” Toshinori listed off. “For the losers, nothing but a date at tribal council with me where you will vote somebody out.” Toshinori turned his attention to the brawn tribe. “Brawn, you have one extra member, who are you going to sit out?”

The tribe turned towards each other to discuss who would be sitting out of the challenge. When they turned back to Toshinori, a blond man who Izuku hadn’t really noticed before said, “Mina.”

“Mina, gonna sit this one out,” Toshinori reiterated, then he moved his attention to the beauty tribe. “Beauty tribe, you’re sitting somebody out. Who’s it gonna be?”

Now it was the beauty tribe’s turn to turn inward and discuss amongst themselves. When they were finished deciding, the girl named Kyoka said, “Denki.”

“Alright, Mina and Denki, take a spot on the sit-out bench,” Toshinori said, pointing to the indicated bench that was located just behind the puzzle platforms.

Izuku watched as the two took their spots on the benches. Denki was someone Izuku hadn’t heard by name before; he had blond hair with a black streak through the bangs, a handsome face, and a generally amiable aura.

“Everybody else, I’ll give you a minute to strategize, then we’ll get started,” Toshinori said.

Izuku’s tribe decided on Tokoyami to do the puzzle; for the cage part of the challenge, they would all untie knots at the same time, and when it came time to bring the fish traps to the shore, they decided that Tokoyami and Tsuyu would push the traps out of the cage, for Izuku, Ochako, and Tenya to pull the bulk of the traps back to shore, with Tokoyami and Tsuyu helping wherever they were needed.

When all the teams had decided on their strategy and stripped down to their swimming attire with goggles for the water hanging around their necks, they all took their starting positions on their respective mats.

The platform that extended from the shore and into the water was for Toshinori, to move around and commentate on the challenge for the viewers at home. He was standing at the end of that platform now, and he called out to them, “Here we go, for immunity and reward, Survivors ready? Go!”

Everyone ran from their platform, onto the sand, and into the water as quickly as possible. Izuku would be the first to admit that he didn’t think his skills in the water were the strongest, but he was a capable swimmer, if not particularly strong at it.

As low of an opinion of his swimming ability that Izuku had, he was still the third person to the cage, bested only by Tenya, who was fast no matter what terrain he was on, and Tsuyu, who seemed to have some kind of affinity with the water. Ochako arrived after him, and Tokoyami brought up the rear. Tokoyami, evidently, was not a skilled swimmer at all. While they were waiting for Tokoyami, both the brawn and the beauty tribes received the signal from Toshinori to begin climbing over their cage, since all members of their tribe had to have actually reached the cage before they could climb over it.

Tokoyami finally arrived, and Toshinori shouted out, “Go, brain!”

Ochako and Tsuyu easily climbed up and over the cage, landing in the water below. Izuku and Tenya were close behind, and Tokoyami wasn’t far behind them, either.

After all five of them were in the water of the cage, Izuku shook his wet hair out of his face and put on his goggles, diving underwater to start untying the series of knots that held the door to the cage shut. Everyone else on his team was under the water as well, working vigorously to get the knots loose. Izuku got a few undone before he had to break the surface of the water to catch some air. Tsuyu seemed to get knot after knot undone without ever once needing to catch her breath.

They got their door off pretty quickly, and then Tokoyami and Tsuyu disappeared under the water to get the fish traps out of the cage, and Izuku, Ochako, and Tenya exited the cage altogether to receive the incoming traps.

When Tokoyami and Tsuyu handed Izuku a trap, he was shocked at how heavy the thing was. He knew it was going to be heavy, but he hadn’t expected quite this much weight. Nevertheless, he held out his hand for another one. When he had one in each hand, he began the swim back to the shore of the beach, Ochako and Tenya each carrying one as well. Tokoyami and Tsuyu took one of Izuku’s traps so that Izuku only had to carry one while they carried the other, which was a great relief to Izuku, making it that much easier to get to the shore faster.

They finally reached the shore, and Izuku noticed that the other two tribes were still in the water with the fish traps. They were ahead by a good amount. They could really win this thing.

After they reached their mat, they began to untie the fish traps to get the bags of puzzle pieces out. They climbed the steps to the puzzle table and dumped the pieces out for Tokoyami, where Tokoyami immediately began to work on the puzzle.

For the first time, Izuku had a moment to tune into what Toshinori was saying in the background.

“A huge time advantage for the brain tribe,” he announced as the rest of the tribe stepped back to allow Tokoyami room to work on the puzzle.

A slight drizzle began to fall from the sky, a warning of heavier rain that was likely to come, but that didn’t matter to Izuku right now. As long as they won this challenge, nothing else mattered.

“The brawn tribe is now back with all four fish traps,” Toshinori said in the background.

Izuku turned to see that the brawn tribe was, in fact, coming upon the beach now, their traps in hand. He turned his attention back to Tokoyami, shouting his encouragement at the other man while also keeping an ear open to stay updated on how the other tribes were faring.

“The beauty’s inability is giving the brawn a chance to stay in this,” Toshinori said. “Tokoyami is already working for the brain tribe; the brawn is hustling to get these pieces out. A couple of people are bleeding. Katsuki’s finger is clipped pretty well, and Rikido’s cut.”

Izuku looked over at the brawn tribe in interest at this, wondering how not only one but two people had managed to get injured to the point of bloodshed in this challenge. Hearing Katsuki’s name also caught his attention; he’d been so caught up in his own tribe that he hadn’t even thought about Katsuki since the last time he’d seen him, but hearing his name now made Izuku want to seek him out, to see what he looked like on day five of Survivor , soaking wet from the water, lean from hunger, and, apparently, bleeding from a finger.

Izuku saw Katsuki’s flash of ashy blond hair arranging the puzzle pieces. Evidently, he would be the one doing the puzzle for the brawn tribe, which Izuku found more than mildly interesting. If Katsuki was chosen to put together the puzzle, then that likely meant that he had more to him than just muscle.

With a good amount of effort, Izuku detached his attention from the man and focused again on his own tribe. He had to remind himself that he wasn’t here to become captivated by someone who wasn’t even on his tribe. Katsuki was none of his concern; what was important was the people surrounding him now, the people he was working with now, not someone he wanted to see more of in the future.

“It is Katsuki solving the puzzle for the brawn tribe, which now has blood all over it,” Toshinori announced, “and Tokoyami solving the puzzle for the brain tribe. Tokoyami is still looking for that first piece.”

And there went their lead, Izuku thought bitterly. All of them had wanted to do the puzzle, thinking they were all better than the other at puzzle-solving; Tokoyami likely wanted to prove himself worthy of staying on the tribe in the face of Izuku’s alliance with Ochako and Tenya, and, in order to show that he was valuable, wished to do the puzzle to get the win for the tribe. Everyone else, likely seeing that this was the case, had graciously and confidently handed the reins to Tokoyami.

Yet Tokoyami still hadn’t put in a single piece.

“There’s a big advantage right now for brains and brawn because beauty is still in the water,” Toshinori said. And then, several moments later, “Katsuki with the first piece for the brawn tribe,” and only seconds after this, “Tokoyami with his first piece.”

Izuku clapped encouragingly at this development, and Tenya shouted at Tokoyami that he could do it, that they were still in the challenge.

“Katsuki with his second piece,” Toshinori called out.

Izuku glanced over at Katsuki again, bent over the puzzle, his entire face concentrating on the task at hand. His fingers were moving deftly over the puzzle table in front of him, as if trying to figure out where the pieces would go by touch alone. His brows were drawn together, his lips curled back in what looked like a silent snarl, as if the puzzle had angered him somehow.

“Beauty tribe still working to get these puzzle pieces back,” Toshinori said, calling out to where they had just begun to climb onto the shore of the beach, “Keep digging! You are still in this!” Turning his attention back to the puzzles, Toshinori said, “Katsuki with his third piece. Tokoyami is still struggling.”

Izuku ran a hand through his wet hair, letting his eyes shutter closed. It was so frustrating, that they had been so far ahead, and now they were losing so much time, and there was absolutely nothing Izuku could do about it but watch and pray that they wouldn’t lose for the second challenge in a row.

“Katsuki with his fourth piece,” Toshinori called. “Tokoyami with one; the beauty tribe is trying to get in this. Katsuki with his fifth piece.”

“You can still do this, Tokoyami,” Ochako called out, even though there was definite doubt in her voice about whether or not he could, actually, do this. The beauty tribe had just untied all their pieces, and the girl with the black hair whose name Izuku still didn’t know began to try putting some pieces in. “Don’t get freaked out; you can do this.”

“Katsuki with his sixth piece,” Toshinori called out. “He has two pieces left. Brain still in trouble, Tokoyami with just one piece. Katsuki with the seventh piece. One piece left for the brawn tribe.”

Only seconds after this last announcement, Izuku heard victorious cheers and shouts coming from the end of the platform, where the brawn tribe had been working. He turned to see Katsuki turn towards his tribe, raising his arms victoriously in the air, a triumphant smirk on his face.

“Brawn tribe wins immunity and reward!” Toshinori called out as the rest of the tribe moved to give Katsuki pats and hugs of congratulations. Mina rushed over from where she had been sitting on the bench and threw her arms around Katsuki. Katsuki struck Izuku as someone who didn’t particularly like to be embraced, but he allowed it to happen, regardless, likely too wound up in the fact that he had just won immunity for his tribe to care much about whether or not someone hugged him. “We’re looking for one more tribe,” Toshinori called, making his way to Izuku’s end of the platform to get a better view of the beauty and brain tribes. “You are both still in this.”

Izuku tried to peer over Tokoyami’s shoulder, to get a sense of what, exactly, he was doing wrong. The puzzle did look relatively complicated, with moving cogs that spun to form different shapes that the puzzle pieces would have to fit into. Regardless, Izuku didn’t think there was any reason it should take this long to figure it out, not when Katsuki from the brawn tribe had already finished the entire puzzle and Tokoyami only had one piece in.

“Tokoyami has had a lot of time in this puzzle and has only one piece to show for it,” Toshinori said unnecessarily, as if he had read Izuku’s mind and wanted to rub salt in the wound. The bitter taste of defeat was already curling in his mouth, working its way down his throat to settle in his stomach.

He didn’t want to lose again . He didn’t want to have to stress out about another impending tribal council. Yet his stomach was clenched uneasily, already prepared for the failure.

“Momo has her first piece for the beauty tribe,” Toshinori said.

Izuku glanced over at the beauty tribe’s table now, where the girl with the black hair, Momo, was already pounding a second piece into the board.

“Momo with her second piece. The beauty tribe is now in the lead.”

Izuku heard Tsuyu swear under his breath. Izuku was inclined to do the same, only he didn’t really have it in him to do much of anything except bury his face in his hands, as if by not witnessing it, their defeat wouldn’t happen at all.

“Momo with her third piece,” Toshinori announced, and then, only seconds later, “Momo with the fourth piece for the beauty tribe. She’s starting to pull away now.”

Izuku lifted his face from his hands and shook his head, continuing to watch Tokoyami work, to no apparent effect.

“You would think this is where the brain tribe would do well,” Toshinori called out. “Momo with the fifth piece for the beauty tribe.”

Tokoyami finally placed another piece in the puzzle.

“Tokoyami with his second piece now. Beauty with their sixth piece. Momo has two pieces left; Tokoyami only has two pieces completed. Momo with her seventh piece; one piece left. Tokoyami can feel it coming.”

The beauty tribe erupted into delighted cheers and shouts, and Izuku knew it was over.

“Beauty wins immunity and reward,” Toshinori called. “They are safe from tribal council.”

Izuku watched in utter defeat and disappointment as the beauty tribe piled onto Momo, hugging her and offering her their most gracious congratulations. Denki ran from the bench to his tribe to wrap Momo in a fierce hug.

“For the second time in a row, brains will vote somebody out,” Toshinori said. He grabbed the big red immunity idol and walked it over to the brawn tribe, handing it off to Mina. “Brawn tribe, congratulations. No tribal council for you tonight.” He returned to grab the smaller blue immunity idol and walked this one to the beauty tribe, giving it to Yuga. “Beauty tribe, I don’t know how you pulled it out, but you did. Immunity for the beauty tribe.”

Toshinori stepped back so that he was facing all three tribes evenly. He turned his attention to the brain tribe, where Tokoyami was standing looking positively defeated, his arms crossed his his chest, his gaze fixed on the ground at his feet, chewing on his lip dejectedly.

“Tokoyami, your body language says it all. What are you feeling right now?” Toshinori asked.

“I feel like I let my tribe down,” Tokoyami answered. “I thought I would be able to do the puzzle, but I failed.”

“Alright, brawn tribe, grab your huge fishing reward,” Toshinori said, turning back to the brawn tribe. “Head back to camp, and enjoy the night off.”

The blond man who had spoken before the challenge started grabbed the contents of their reward, and they left the challenge area, on their way back to their camp.

“Beauty tribe, come get your fishing reward. Grab your stuff, head back to camp, and enjoy the night off.”

Denki rushed forward to grab their much-smaller but still very useful reward, a huge smile plastered onto his face. They left the challenge area, leaving the brain tribe standing there alone in their defeated silence.

Toshinori turned his attention towards the five of them. “Alright, brain tribe, for the second time, tribal council where somebody will be voted out of this game. Grab your stuff, head back to camp. I’ll see you tomorrow night at tribal.”

For the second time in a row, Izuku and the rest of his tribe made their way back to camp in complete silence, the weight of their defeat weighing heavily on everyone’s minds.

Izuku couldn’t for the life of him comprehend where they had gone wrong. He didn’t understand why Tokoyami couldn’t get the puzzle, and, more than that, he didn’t understand why they continuously did so bad at challenges when their tribe as a whole worked together well and got along fairly well. Especially after they had gotten food and drink into them, Izuku had expected that they would have dominated at this challenge - and they did, until the end. Until Tokoyami had utterly failed at the puzzle.

If Izuku had been torn before about whether he wanted to send home Tokoyami or Tsuyu, there was no question in his mind now. He had absolutely nothing personal against Tokoyami; he liked him, in fact. But he was the sole reason they had lost the challenge today, and Izuku simply could not think of a reason to keep him over Tsuyu.

Except, of course, for the possibility of him having an idol.

Maybe he’d have a talk with Tokoyami later and try to make him think that he was safe, that Tsuyu was the target, so that he wouldn’t play his idol at tribal council, if he had one.

He’d have to do something, to ensure that his alliance was safe, and that Tsuyu was safe, due to Ochako’s decision on promising her safety at their next tribal council. Izuku wished Ochako hadn’t have done that, but he would still try to honor that decision for her on her behalf.

--

The rain continued through the night, though it was a light rain, nothing like the explosive thunderstorm of two days before. Still, it was difficult for Izuku to sleep, with water dripping into the shelter.

Eventually, he rolled out of the shelter to grab his water canteen. He drank a generous amount before capping it and putting it back with the rest of his belongings.

He made to go back to his shelter, but before he got that far, he saw Tokoyami getting out of the shelter, gesturing towards Izuku to follow him into the surrounding woods.

Izuku followed Tokoyami dutifully, his eyes still heavy with sleep. He rubbed his knuckles over his eyelids, trying to make himself more alert so that he could have a two-sided conversation with Tokoyami.

Once they were far enough from the camp, Tokoyami said, “I’m assuming I’m the vote for tomorrow.”

Izuku didn’t falter in his steps. “Why do you think its you?”

“Because Ochako likes Tsuyu. I don’t see her writing down Tsuyu’s name.”

Izuku hummed noncommittally. There wasn’t much he could say to that because it was true, and Tokoyami knew it was true. Izuku didn’t want to offer false comfort or hope if he didn’t have to.

“Is there anything I can do to change your mind?” Tokoyami asked.

Izuku pressed his lips together. “I’m not betraying my alliance.”

“I’m not saying betray your alliance. I’m saying vote out Tsuyu.”

“Ochako isn’t going to go for that,” Izuku said.

“She doesn’t have to. You, me, and Tenya could vote out Tsuyu.”

Izuku’s steps did falter then as he gave Tokoyami and narrow eye. “Not voting with Ochako would be betraying her. This early in the game, I’m not putting my alliance at stake.”

“Are you sure you’re all as tight as you think you are?”

Izuku opened his mouth to say yes, of course we’re as tight as we think we are, but then he snapped his mouth shut. It was never smart to get that confident in this game, especially when it came to trusting other people. Sure, they had all voted together in the last vote, but that didn’t mean that either of them wouldn’t flip on each other now or in the future to further their own game. Izuku would remain loyal to them as long as they remained loyal to him - but would they remain loyal to him?

He thought that Ochako would for sure, but he wasn’t so sure about Tenya. Someone could get into Tenya’s ear, tell him that Izuku and Ochako were tighter than he was with either of them, and cast doubt in Tenya’s mind about whether or not they were with him at all.

“Think about it,” Tokoyami said, and with that, their conversation was ended, neither of them having anything else to say to each other as they silently made their way back to their shelter. Tokoyami had made his proposition, and now Izuku felt sufficiently uneasy about his position in this game. Not that he particularly thought that’d he be going home tomorrow night, but now he was worried that somebody might actually flip, which he hadn’t even considered before now.

He’d have to have a conversation with Ochako and Tenya tomorrow before they went to tribal council to make sure they were all on the same page.

He hoped they were all still on the same page.

Chapter Text

“You don’t think Tenya’s going to vote for one of us, do you?”

Ochako, quite frankly, looked startled by this question, as if the thought had never crossed her mind until Izuku spoke the words. Her brows furrowed, and she tilted her head to the side, considering. “No, I think he’s going to stay loyal to us,” she said eventually. “He doesn’t seem like the type to betray us. Why? What’s going on in that head of yours?”

Izuku smiled weakly at her. “He’s been talking a lot to Tokoyami today. I’m just paranoid, I guess.”

“I honestly don’t think there’s anything to be worried about, but I can ask Tsuyu what Tokoyami’s thinking. She might tell me.”

“That’s a good idea,” Izuku said. “I’m gonna talk to Tenya, too, make sure his head’s in the right place.”

With that, Izuku and Ochako went their separate ways, to seek out their separate people. If they could rely on Tenya to vote out Tokoyami, then there would be no issue regarding the upcoming tribal council tonight. But if Tokoyami was successful in planting doubt into Tenya’s mind… Izuku wouldn’t put it past him to flip on their alliance, if he thought that it would win him the million dollars in the long run. Tenya seemed like a man of his word, but there was a million dollars at stake, and this was a game. People always acted differently in the game of Survivor than they did in real life, in order to secure the million dollars for themselves.

Izuku genuinely liked Tenya, though, and he wanted to work with both him and Ochako into the merge. The three of them together made a formidable team, he thought. They were all relatively strong and smart; he could see them all doing well in individual challenges, when the time came for those, and they would all employ the best strategies to get forward in the game. As long as they stuck together, Izuku could very well see them getting to the end. He knew that much confidence was dangerous, but he thought it nonetheless.

He just needed to reassure Tenya of all this, to make him understand that their alliance was solid, that nothing would penetrate it so long as they stuck by each other.

Izuku found Tenya in the forest, picking coconuts out of trees, clad in his swim shorts and nothing else. When he saw Izuku, he climbed down off the tree he was on with a smile. “What’s going on?” he asked in greeting.

“I just wanted to see what you were thinking,” Izuku said, eyeing Tenya impressively. Tenya was always doing something for their tribe, whether it was finding dry firewood and tinder, collecting coconuts, boiling water, filling their canteens - you know it, and Tenya was likely doing it. He liked to keep himself busy, and Izuku had the idea that Tenya enjoyed the sense of being useful to their tribe.

“We’re voting Tokoyami, right?” Tenya asked, wiping sweat off his forehead with the back of a hand.

“That’s the plan,” Izuku confirmed. “Are you okay with that?”

“As long as it’s not me, I’m okay with it,” he said with a laugh.

Izuku grabbed a few of the coconuts lying on the ground so that he could help walk them back to camp with Tenya. “You and me and Ochako could get really far, if we stay loyal to each other,” Izuku said, finding no real way to segue into this conversation.

Out of the corner of his eye, Izuku could see Tenya nodding. “Yeah. I think we’re strong together.”

“You have no intentions of flipping on us, right? Now or later?”

“Of course not,” Tenya said. “No matter what anyone says, I’ve given you two my word.”

No matter what anyone says ? Izuku didn’t like the sound of that. “Has Tokoyami said something? He’s approached you?”

Again, Izuku saw Tenya nodding. And then he admitted reluctantly, as if it pained him to do so, “He wants to vote you out.”

Izuku stopped walking then, turning so that he could face Tenya. He didn’t know why he was so surprised by this information or why it made his blood run cold in his veins. It had to be one of them - it had been Tenya at the last tribal council, so why not him? Only the thought of him being anybody’s target hadn’t fully formed in his mind, and, as such, it was still slightly incomprehensible. He couldn’t imagine somebody writing his name down, or Toshinori turning around that piece of paper and seeing his name written on it.

Even knowing that his alliance with Ochako and Tenya was solid, it still made him incredibly nervous, for his name to be thrown out at all.

“Well, he said either you or Ochako,” Tenya amended, “but he made it clear that he’d rather get you out. He thinks you’re stronger than Ochako, and he thinks that in the long run, you’ll get farther than Ochako in the game.”

Izuku swallowed with some difficulty. “And he thought you would agree to vote me out?”

“Well, not without arguing his case,” Tenya said practically.

“And what case was that?” Izuku was almost too afraid to ask this question, as if that once Tenya repeated it, he would think it over more and convince himself that perhaps it was in his best interest to vote against Izuku and Ochako, after all. But he needed to hear it; he needed to know what Tokoyami was saying, what reasons he was giving for wanting to vote out Izuku, and what he could have possibly said to Tenya that he thought would possibly change his mind.

Tenya looked uneasy as well, as if he didn’t really want to repeat the words that Tokoyami had said to Izuku’s face. “He said that in our alliance, I’m number three.”

“Tenya, that’s not true,” Izuku said immediately, willing Tenya to believe it. Even though it was kind of true. Izuku didn’t want to rank his alliance or anything, but at the end of the day, Izuku had allied himself with Ochako first. He would take Ochako to the end with him over Tenya. He would try his damnedest to get both of them there, but if it came right down to it and he had to make a choice, he’d choose Ochako.

That didn’t mean he wanted Tenya to think it was true. If Tenya thought this was true, then it would definitely be in his best interest to vote one of them out while he still had the opportunity to do so.

Tenya waved away Izuku’s protestations, though. “Tokoyami’s only saying what he needs to say to try to get the votes he needs. Don’t worry, Izuku. I’m not voting you out.”

Izuku nodded and tried to swallow his nerves.

For the first time since arriving on this island, Izuku’s love for the game, his constant feeling of awe at being here, his sense of being in some kind of dream - it all began to dwindle as the harsh reality hit him.

It wasn’t the hunger or the dehydration or the physicality of the challenges or the constant defeat.

It was the notion that his name would be written down tonight at tribal council.

He was really here , playing the game, and, as such, he was in just as much danger as anybody else here. He could be the second person voted out of this game.

His life in this game was just as precarious as anyone else’s, and he couldn’t keep relying on his general likability and his unwarranted confidence to get him to the end. He had to work to get there. For the next thirty-three days, he would have to fight tooth and nail to stay in this game.

As much as the idea excited him, it also made him incredibly, irrevocably nervous.

As the sky began to darken, the five of them lit their torches and began the walk to the tribal council area in silence, watching as the colors of the sky faded gradually from a purplish-blue to a dark, oppressing black.

They filed into the tribal council area, putting their torches in the allocated holders behind their stools, before taking their seats, facing Toshinori. Izuku sat in the back row, Tenya next to him, and then Ochako at the end, whereas Tsuyu and Tokoyami sat in the two stools in front.

Toshinori had been standing as they walked in, but after they all took their seats silently, Toshinori, too, sat down.

“Tribal council number two,” he said into the silence. “Ochako, what happened after the challenge?”

“Honestly, it’s been kind of quiet,” Ochako said. “We got back to camp, and we all felt awful for losing the second challenge in a row, and there was just kind of a sense of defeat. None of us really spoke a lot; no one was really scrambling.”

“You agree with that, Tokoyami?”

“Yeah. I think we all felt defeated, and we all know the reason why we lost the challenge.”

“So everyone’s blaming you?” Toshinori asked.

“No one came out and blamed me, but it was my fault, and I take responsibility for that.”

“Izuku, is the challenge from yesterday going to influence the vote at all?”

“Not necessarily,” Izuku said, trying to choose his words carefully. “I don’t think the outcome of the challenge affected the way the vote is going to go tonight.”

Before Toshinori could ask another question, Tokoyami said, “Which is to say that I was the next target before the challenge, and I’m still the target after it.”

“So, Tokoyami,” Toshinori said, “you’re pretty sure it’s you tonight?”

Tokoyami nodded. “I’m about eighty percent sure that it’s me.”

“No one approached you with any deals or any other names?”

“No one approached me, no.”

“So at the last tribal council, I was told there was an alliance of Izuku, Ochako, and Tenya. Tsuyu, where do you fall in this? There’s an alliance of three that had control of the last vote and, by the sound of it, has control of this vote, and then there’s Tokoyami, who’s desperate for some kind of lifeline.”

“There’s not really anything I can do, in either case,” Tsuyu said. “I’m just one person. I can vote the way Tokoyami wants me to vote, and we’re still outnumbered.”

“And next time this tribe is at tribal council, it’s going to be Tsuyu voted out,” Tokoyami said. “She knows it as well as I do. We both see that this alliance of three is going to stick together.”

“So what do you do, with the knowledge that they’re not breaking up?” Toshinori asked.

“I’ve talked to Tsuyu about it, and I’ve talked to Tenya about it,” Tokoyami said. “I think the smart thing to do would be to vote out Izuku tonight.”

Izuku felt himself stiffen at Tokoyami’s words. Even with the knowledge that Tenya had given him earlier, that Tokoyami wanted to vote him out, it was another thing completely to hear Tokoyami said it so bluntly, in the middle of tribal council for the entire tribe to hear his case.

“Wow,” Toshinori said. “Just like that. Tokoyami, why Izuku?”

“Izuku is strong, smart, strategic, likable - if he gets to the merge, he would beat Ochako, and he would beat Tenya. If Izuku gets to the merge, I don’t see him going anywhere for a long time. And in an alliance of three, there’s always going to be someone on the bottom.”

“And you think that person is Tenya?”

“I know that person is Tenya,” Tokoyami said. “Izuku and Ochako are inseparable. If either of them had to choose between the other and Tenya, they wouldn’t choose Tenya.”

“Tenya,” Toshinori said, directing his attention to the man in question, “do you think this is true, or do you think Tokoyami’s just desperate to stay in the game?”

Tenya didn’t answer right away. Izuku looked at him to see that his mouth was working, as if he was trying to decide on what words to let come out. “I think Tokoyami’s desperate to stay in the game, and he’s trying to say whatever he can to turn the votes in his favor.”

But Izuku could hear the doubt in his words. Tokoyami was getting to him, making him fear his position in this game.

“Izuku, how does it feel to be singled out by Tokoyami?”

“Like Tenya said, I think he’s just desperate to do what he can to stay in the game.”

“So you’re not worried?”

“No, I’m worried,” Izuku said with a small, nervous chuckle. “Hearing that your name is being thrown out is worrying, and then hearing Tokoyami make his case against me at tribal council, right before the vote, is even more worrying still. But I trust my alliance.”

“So, Ochako, it’s either going to be Izuku or Tokoyami tonight,” Toshinori said.

“Apparently so,” Ochako said.

“Tokoyami’s argument for wanting Izuku gone is focusing on the post-merge aspect of the game. Do you think that’s a valid reason for wanting him gone?”

“Yeah, but we have to get to the merge first,” Ochako said. “We can’t worry about what’s going to happen after the merge if none of us even make it there because our team can’t win in challenges.”

“So you think it’s more important to vote out Tokoyami because he’s been weaker in challenges?”

“Yes.”

“You guys all seem very calm and collected for being the only team sent to tribal council so far,” Toshinori said. “Tsuyu, is it a facade, or are you all really pretty level-headed in the face of two defeats in a row?”

“I don’t think it’s level-headedness so much as helplessness,” Tsuyu said. “There’s nothing I can do; there’s nothing Tokoyami can do. There’s an alliance of three that’s pretty confident in its position, and then there’s me and Tokoyami on the outs, and we can’t really do anything to change that.”

“Alright, does anyone else have anything to say before we vote?” Toshinori asked, looking around at the five of them.

“Yeah,” Tokoyami said. “I just want everyone here to really think about their position in this game and on this tribe and think about how far in the game they want to get and whether or not where they are now is enough to get them there.”

Tokoyami’s words were met with silence. Toshinori allowed a few beats to pass for in case anyone else wanted to say anything. Izuku thought of speaking up, of reassuring Tenya once again that he had nothing to worry about so far as their alliance was concerned, but he thought better of it. Speaking up now wouldn’t do anything except show everyone that Izuku really was uncertain about the outcome of the vote tonight, that he was doubting his alliance with Tenya. He needed to show Tenya that he really did have faith in their alliance. Tenya knew how Izuku felt; they had talked about it already, and there was no need for Izuku to elaborate further in front of the entire tribe and Toshinori, all because of Tokoyami’s desperation.

“Okay, it is time to vote,” Toshinori said. “Izuku, you’re up.”

Izuku stood and made his way across the small bridge and into the voting chamber, where he uncapped the black marker and wrote down Tokoyami’s name on the provided parchment. He folded the paper and took the lid of the urn so that he could stick his vote into it, and then he made his way back and took his seat again. He watched as Tenya, Ochako, Tokoyami, and Tsuyu made their way and voted in turn, praying that this vote would turn out the way he was hoping it would.

After Tsuyu returned and had taken her seat, Toshinori said, “I’ll go tally the votes.” He walked across the bridge to retrieve the urn, and then he carried it back to the podium that he was standing at. “If anybody has a hidden immunity idol and you want to play it, now would be the time to do so.”

Nobody moved or said anything in the few seconds of silence that followed.

“Okay, once the votes are read, the decision is final. The person voted out will be asked to leave the tribal council area immediately. I’ll read the votes.” Toshinori removed the lid of the urn and pulled out the first piece of paper, unfolding it and turning it over for everyone to see. “First vote: Tokoyami.” He pulled out a second piece of paper and revealed it to them. “Izuku. One vote Tokoyami, one vote Izuku.”

Izuku swallowed as his stomach began to bunch together with nerves. He sent up a silent prayer that he wouldn’t be the one going home tonight.

Toshinori pulled out the third piece of paper. “Tokoyami. That’s two votes Tokoyami, one vote Izuku.” He unfolded the fourth vote. “Izuku. We’re tied. Two votes Tokoyami, two votes Izuku, one vote left.”

Izuku suddenly wished that he was sitting next to Ochako so that he could squeeze her hand out of reassurance. He was pretty sure it wasn’t going to be him going home, but he didn’t know for certain, not after Tokoyami had plead his case to Tenya. Izuku cast a sideways glance at Tenya out of the corner of his eye, to try to see if he could read what he was thinking on his face, but Tenya was staring straight ahead at Toshinori, the fire from the fire pit lighting the planes of his face, reflecting off of his glasses. There was no telling what he was thinking just by looking at him.

Toshinori pulled out the final piece of paper and unfolded it. “The second person voted out of Survivor ,” he said, and then he turned the paper around for everyone to see while simultaneously announcing, “Tokoyami.”

Izuku felt the relief flood his body immediately, his tension disappearing, to be replaced with gracious relief. He sent a thankful smile to Tenya, all of his doubts dissipating as quickly as they had come. Tenya smiled back at him, giving him a small nod of acknowledgment.

Tokoyami stood silently, grabbing his bag as he did so. He went behind the five still sitting to grab his torch from its placeholder, and then he carried it over to where Toshinori was standing.

“Tokoyami, your tribe has spoken,” Toshinori said, and then he extinguished the flame on Tokoyami’s torch. “Time for you to go.”

Tokoyami didn’t glance back at them before he walked out of the tribal council area.

After he was out of earshot, Toshinori said, “Well, this is the calmest tribe I’ve ever seen. If there’s anything good that came out of this night’s tribal, it’s that you all know exactly where you stand in this game. Now you just have to learn how to play it. Grab your torches, and head back to camp. Goodnight.”

They walked back to their camp silently, thinking about what Toshinori had said.

You all know exactly where you stand in this game. Now you just have to learn how to play it .

Obviously, he meant that they had to learn how to win at challenges, but Izuku wondered if he also meant something more than that, if he was somehow speaking to the fact that there hadn’t been a lot of strategizing thus far from their tribe due to the alliance between Izuku, Ochako, and Tenya. Maybe he was speaking to Tsuyu, in some degree, telling her that she needed to figure out how to get herself out of the bottom of the tribe.

Regardless of what he meant by the words, Izuku was safe for another few days, at least, and now he knew that he could depend on Ochako and Tenya, as long as nothing got in between them, and that was all he could ask for right now.

--

Izuku had fallen asleep for about ten minutes before he was woken up by the rain.

It had come back, and with a vengeance. It was raining even harder than before. The fire that had been burning through the evening was completely gone; there was no chance for it to remain standing, even with the small shelter that Tenya had built around it to shield it from the downpour. Water was leaking into the shelter, getting all of them wet and waking all of them up. Izuku wrapped himself in his hoodie and tried to go back to sleep, but it was useless. The noise was too much, and the water was too much, and he ended up staying awake throughout most of the night. Everyone ended up staying awake throughout most of the night, all squished together into the driest part of the shelter, curling around each other shamelessly to try to stay as dry and warm as possible.

But they were all of them awake in their miserable, exhausted silence. The thunder and lightning wouldn’t ease up, and the longer they lay there trying to sleep, the less sleep they actually got.

Izuku felt positively waterlogged. His fingers were wrinkled with wetness, and his hair was plastered to his forehead. There wasn’t a single part of him that was dry.

And no matter how hard he tried, he wasn’t able to get more than a couple of minutes of sleep the entire night.

As much as he loved the game of Survivor , it was the most miserable night of his life.

Chapter Text

Izuku had lost all track of time through the night. The only thoughts in his mind were about how cold, tired, wet, and miserable he was. His hands had turned a startling shade of white due to the amount of time he’d been soaking in rainwater, and they were so gnarled with wrinkles that he could barely even recognize them as his own hands. His feet were the same. Every part of his body was wet and uncomfortable.

The weather, along with the fact that they had just come back from their second tribal council last night, was doing serious damage to the team morale. In addition to the rain, the wind had picked up, chilling them even further. Everybody was equally as miserable as the other, and nobody felt much like getting out of the shelter and doing anything at all, content to wallow in their misery.

After several hours, though, Izuku was itching with the need to do something . The sun was up in earnest now, even if it was hidden behind dark clouds. He decided that he should make himself useful in some way, even if his bones were aching, even if he was cold and utterly exhausted, both physically and mentally. He clearly wasn’t about to get any sleep in either case, so he might as well do something that could help the tribe as a whole.

He began to find more palm fronds to put over their shelter, hoping that adding layers would keep more water out. Eventually, the others began to help, collecting any and all materials they could find that would aid in protecting the shelter and, consequently, their bodies. They needed to finally pull out a win, and none of them would be able to do that if their bodies were suffering from the repercussions of a combination of not enough rest and too much wet. They all seemed to realize this as well, which was why everyone began to help.

After a couple hours of collecting materials and building up their shelter some more, Izuku could notice the difference. While not waterproof, there were definitely spots that were drier than they had been before. There was more space that was relatively dry from them to lay out on so that they weren’t all squished together uncomfortably whenever they tried to get some sleep. It was nowhere near perfect, but it was definitely an improvement.

It was Ochako who had the idea of raising their morale and improving their mood by playing a game.

“The weather sucks, and we’re going to feel the effects of it regardless of if we’re sitting around doing nothing or trying to have a good time,” she rationalized. “So we might as well try to have a good time and make the best of a bad situation.”

Despite how bone-tired Izuku was, he couldn’t really find it in himself to disagree with her, especially since he know there was still absolutely no way he’d be able to get a wink of sleep in their current conditions. The rain was still coming down generously, but the wind began to gradually die down as the day went on, so Ochako’s idea was that they could play a simple, crude game of bowling.

Tenya and Izuku got to work at building their makeshift bowling pins, cutting bamboo sticks until they were a decent size and then finding a place in the sand where they could stick them where they wouldn’t be too hard to knock down. Ochako and Tsuyu gathered a few different coconuts that they could use as bowling balls.

After they had their faux-bowling pins set up properly, Izuku grabbed one of the coconuts and stood facing the bamboo sticks, lifting the coconut to eye level, as though they would help him aim better. In reality, Izuku wasn’t a great bowler. He wasn’t awful at it, but he wasn’t necessarily good , either. Add to that that it was raining, he was tired, and the equipment were crude imitations of what they were supposed to be, and he was positive his performance in this game would be disastrous.

He took a few steps forward, tossed the coconut - and watched as the ball veered completely off course by a sudden gust of wind, thereby not hitting anything at all. He heard the scattered laughter from the others in the background, and he dropped his head in defeat at this, even though it really wasn’t his fault that the wind had acted up. Ochako rushed forward and handed him another coconut.

“It’s okay; you can do this,” she said in between giggles.

Izuku took the coconut ball from her and aimed once again, concentrating on the ten bamboo stick pins lined up in the distance. He took a few steps forward and released the ball -

And, once again, his coconut veered completely off course, though this time, it wasn’t due to the wind but due to the uneven terrain that sent the coconut bouncing wildly instead of rolling smoothly down the sand.

At least that was what Izuku told himself as he walked, defeated, to where the others were standing on the sidelines. With a grand score of zero, Izuku watched Ochako take position where he had previously been standing, raising a coconut of her own and taking aim. Ochako had better luck than he did at this game, though not by much. On her first throw, she got down two pins, and on her second, she hit a third one. Tenya did even better than his predecessors, knocking down three pins on his first turn and one on his second, for a grand total of four pins. And finally, Tsuyu took her turn, knocking down two pins on her first turn, and hitting nothing on her second roll, which Izuku took immense satisfaction in. He couldn’t be the only one to hit nothing.

At the end of their game, when all their scores were tallied, it was Ochako who had gotten the most pins down, followed by Tsuyu, Tenya, and then, in last place, was Izuku - although, in his defense, he did end up hitting pins, to get a total score of thirty-one pins down throughout their ten rounds.

The rain was still coming down at the conclusion of their game, but it wasn’t as bad as it had been earlier, so Izuku and Ochako decided to try to get as much sleep as they could. Tenya had wandered off, saying something about looking for dry wood for a fire, though Izuku thought this was highly unlikely, and Tsuyu disappeared as well, though where to, Izuku had no idea.

Izuku curled into himself in the shelter, turning onto his side so that he was facing Ochako, who was equally as wet and cold. Noticing Izuku’s attention on her, she turned onto her side as well so that they were face-to-face.

“Do you think Tsuyu found an idol?” Izuku asked without preamble.

“I think that’s what she’s trying to do now, honestly,” Ochako said. “Do you think we should be looking for it, too?”

“Probably,” Izuku admitted, though he made no move to get up. “What if she finds it and we go to another tribal council?”

Ochako looked distinctly uneasy by this thought. “Then one of us will be going home, I guess.”

That didn’t sit well with Izuku, especially after last night’s tribal council, in which Tokoyami basically pronounced Izuku as the biggest potential threat on their tribe. If Tsuyu had the hidden immunity idol and played it, should they be sent to another tribal council, then it was basically Tsuyu’s decision on who to send home, since her vote would be the only one that would matter, knowing that Izuku, Ochako, and Tenya would all vote for her.

“We need to make the merge, Ochako,” Izuku said. “If me, you, and Tenya can make it to the merge, we can get so far in this game.”

Ochako nodded her agreement. “After Tsuyu gets back, I’ll go and try to find the idol myself. It’s got to be somewhere near the waterfall.”

Ochako was most likely right. There was nowhere else at camp that really stuck out, and the hidden immunity idols were always hidden somewhere that was distinctive, so that people could find it, even without clues to tell them where it was, if they knew anything about the history of the game.

“If we do make it to the merge,” Ochako said, “who from the other teams do you think you’d want to work with? Has anybody stood out to you?”

Izuku’s mind immediately went to Katsuki, though he wasn’t entirely sure Ochako would be as willing to work with somebody who exuded… anger and meanness the way he did. As intrigued as Izuku was by Katsuki’s mannerisms, he wasn’t even sure that Katsuki would want to work with him, somebody who was as different from Katsuki as a person could possibly be, by all appearances. Maybe Katsuki had a solid alliance of his own. Or maybe Katsuki would be voted out, if his tribe went to tribal council. There was no guarantee that they would be able to work together at all.

But that wasn’t what Ochako asked. She asked who stood out to him, who he’d be interested in working with, should they get to the merge. He owed her the truth. The moment he started lying to her was the moment their alliance would weaken.

“Katsuki from the brawn tribe,” Izuku admitted. “He’s strong, probably smart-”

“The one who always looks like he wants to murder somebody?” Ochako asked, eyebrows raised. “He looks like he would pick you up and snap your neck if you even tried talking to him.”

Izuku laughed at this very true assessment. “Yeah, but there’s something about him that I’m drawn to, and if I have the opportunity to work with him, I would want to take it.”

Ochako gave Izuku a knowing look, lowering her lashes and waggling her brows suggestively.

“Not like that!” Izuku quickly spluttered, even as his blood rushed to his face, betraying his words. He rolled so that he was lying on his back, to keep his traitorous expression out of Ochako’s eyesight. Okay, so maybe Izuku did think the other man was attractive. And maybe the undercurrent of danger that followed Katsuki made Izuku even more interested. But that had nothing to do with the game, and Izuku was here for the game , not anything else. “I just mean I think he would be someone good to have on our side is all.”

Ochako hummed to herself, letting the subject drop for now. “Anybody else?”

“I think - maybe the guy with the red and white hair? I don’t know his name, but the one on the beauty tribe?”

“Yeah, I was thinking of him, too,” Ochako said. “I’ve noticed him in the challenges a couple times, and he always performs well.”

It was then that both Izuku and Ochako spotted Tsuyu returning to camp. Ochako made to leave the shelter so that she could see if she had any luck in finding the hidden idol. Izuku considered letting her go on her own, but then he decided he wanted to go with her and try his hand at finding the idol as well. Sleep was still elusive to him, and he figured that two people searching the water surrounding the waterfall would be better than one.

Izuku opted to search the land and the rocks that formed the waterfall whereas Ochako ventured into the water itself, searching for anything that could possibly hold a hidden immunity idol to it. He wasn’t sure how long they had been searching for, but after what felt like a long time, they both decided to call it quits. If an idol had been there, it obviously wasn’t there anymore. Either that, or they just couldn’t find it.

The fact that they were returning to camp empty-handed did not sit very well with Izuku. It made him incredibly nervous, thinking that there was a good possibility that Tsuyu had found the idol. If Tsuyu found the idol, and if they went to tribal council again… There was a fair chance that it could be Izuku going home. He thought that Ochako was safe from being voted out at Tsuyu’s hands - the two girls seemed to get along with each other and enjoy each other’s company so much that Izuku would worry about them forming some kind of alliance, if he didn’t trust Ochako as much as he did.

There was only one thing Izuku could do to ensure that he remained safe at the next vote. He had to approach Tsuyu with some kind of deal, something that he could offer her that would prove useful to her in the future, something that would make her want to keep him.

If Tsuyu didn’t vote for Izuku or Ochako, though, then that only left Tenya, and Izuku definitely did not want Tenya going home anytime soon, either. He wanted their alliance of three to remain for as long as possible.

But if Tsuya was in possession of a hidden idol, and if they went to another tribal council, then one of them was guaranteed to go home in place of her.

And, at the end of the day, it was better if Tenya went home than him.

Izuku tried to shake these thoughts from his head for the moment. All of this was purely speculation. He didn’t know if Tsuyu had an idol, and he didn’t know that they would go to another tribal council. He didn’t know anything for sure. He was just thinking too much, as he was prone to do.

He spent the rest of the day lying in the shelter with the others as the rain continued to fall. At some point in the evening, the rain turned into something of a drizzle, and the thunder and lightning disappeared completely. And, finally, it was possible for all of them to sleep.

Chapter Text

“Come on in, guys!”

Once again, Izuku’s tribe had to wait to enter last, since they had lost the last challenge. The brawn tribe entered the challenge area first at Toshinori’s call, followed by the beauty tribe, and then, finally, the brain tribe.

Izuku scanned the challenge set-up for today. For each tribe, there was a raised platform extending into the ocean with a bucket on it, followed by two pedestals in the sand of the beach, and then a small staircase with three-steps was set furthest inland with another bucket at the top of the steps. There was what looked like a balancing beam leading from the staircase to a barrel, which was within reaching distance of a huge plastic container balanced on the end of seesaw. On the other end of the seesaw was a metallic ball and another barrel, and then, a little further down the beach, sitting on the edge of the forest, was what looked like a large circular vertical maze.

“Brawn and beauty tribe,” Toshinori was saying as Izuku’s tribe entered the clearing, “getting your first look at the new brain tribe. Tokoyami voted out as the last tribal council.” After Toshinori allowed an appropriate amount of time for reactions to this news, he said, “Alright, you guys ready to get to today’s immunity challenge?”

As always, there were spoken affirmations from all around.

“First things first, I’ll take back the idols.” Toshinori walked over to the beauty tribe, where he took the idol from the man Izuku remembered as Yuga. “Thank you,” he said, before making his way to the brawn tribe and taking the idol from Mina. “Thank you,” he repeated, then he made his way back to stand in front of them all, placing both idols side-by-side once again on the provided pedestal.

Izuku also noticed the large table that was covered, and he began to wonder what the reward for today would be. Historically, there was always a Survivor challenge pretty early on that provided comfort, like blankets and pillows and a hammock. And if it was comfort, then there would also be a tarp included.

The idea of securing a tarp for their shelter was almost too good to comprehend. A tarp would make their shelter nearly impervious to the rain, would guarantee them a dry place to sleep. They desperately needed a tarp at their camp. Izuku didn’t care about getting any other comfort - even though it would be nice - so long as he could get his hands on a tarp.

Toshinori faced everyone and continued to speak again. “Once again, immunity is back up for grabs. For today’s challenge, you’re gonna use a bucket to scoop water from the ocean. You’ll then work together, passing the water from tribe mate to tribe mate and into a container. When the container fills, it will drop, releasing a ball. Two tribe mates will then use that ball to solve a vertical maze. The first two tribes to finish win immunity.” He placed his hand atop the immunity idols as he said this for emphasis. “You’re safe from the vote. Losers go to tribal council, where the third person will be voted out of Survivor . In addition, you’re playing for a reward. Want you know what you’re playing for?”

A chorus of “yes”’s came from everyone all around.

“Given the weather, this will help a lot. The first tribe to finish gets comfort and shelter,” he said as he pulled the covering off of the table to reveal a huge pile of blankets and pillows, along with the unmistakable sight of a tarp.

Izuku couldn’t help making a noise in the back of his throat at the sight of such luxuries. Sleeping on nothing but bamboo sticks for eight nights straight was definitely taking a toll on everybody’s bodies. Ochako reached out and clutched at Izuku’s hand, and when Izuku glanced at her, he saw that she had a huge smile on her face and a sparkle in her eyes that spoke to just how badly she wanted this reward.

“You have blankets, pillows, a mosquito net, and a  tarp to keep you dry,” Toshinori was saying. “No matter what condition your shelter is in, a tarp will improve it. Second tribe to finish gets no comfort but shelter, in the form of a tarp.” As he said this, he pulled off another smaller covering off of a smaller table, revealing another tarp. “There’s a lot at stake in this challenge.” He pointed to the brawn tribe. “Brawn, you have two extra members. Who are you gonna sit out?”

The brawn tribe all turned towards each other to discuss who they would sit out, given the challenge. When they turned back to face Toshinori, a man with black hair and a plain-looking face said, “Toshinori, me and Rikido are sitting out.”

“Alright, Hanta and Rikido are sitting out for the brawn tribe,” Toshinori said before turning to the beauty tribe. “For the beauty tribe, you’re sitting out two people. Who’s it gonna be?”

Now it was the beauty tribe’s turn to discuss who would sit out. When they turned back, Yuga said, “I’m sitting out, Toshinori.”

“Me, too,” the girl named Kyoka said.

“Kyoka and Yuga are gonna sit this one out,” Toshinori announced. “Sit-outs, take a spot on the bench. Everybody else, I’ll give you a minute to strategize, then we’ll get started.”

Izuku, Ochako, Tenya, and Tsuyu turned to each other to discuss how they would work through the challenge, who would stand where and do what. In the end, it was decided that Tsuyu would be the one to scoop the water from the ocean; Ochako would stand on the first pedestal on the beach, where she would catch the bucket thrown by Tsuyu; Ochako would then throw the bucket to Izuku, who would be standing on the second pedestal; and Izuku would toss the water to Tenya, who would have to catch it in his own bucket before walking up the steps on the small staircase and filling the container with whatever water made its way through all four of them. They also decided on Izuku and Tenya solving the vertical maze together.

When they took their respective places in their lane of the course, Izuku looked around to see who was situated where. The beauty tribe was in the middle lane, in between Izuku’s team and the brawn tribe. He saw that Denki was positioned to scoop the water out of the ocean, and he would toss it to Momo, who would toss it to the man with the half-red and half-white hair, who would toss it to a large, muscular man with white hair. Further down the course, for the brawn tribe, Izuku could see that Mina was standing by the water, and she would toss her bucket to a muscular blond man, who would toss it to the man Izuku remembered as Kirishima, who would toss it to Katsuki.

When Toshinori deduced that everybody was in position and ready to begin, he called out, “Here we go. For immunity and reward, Survivors ready? Go!”

Immediately, Izuku’s attention was wholly focused on his own team. He couldn’t worry about what anybody else was doing; they couldn’t lose a third challenge in a row. They had to win this one. To do that, they all had to be completely focused on the challenge at hand.

Tsuyu scooped up water and tossed the bucket to Ochako. Ochako caught the bucket and spun to toss it to Izuku, who caught it and then spun in turn to toss the remaining water from his bucket into the bucket that Tenya was holding at the ready. As soon as the water was out of Izuku’s bucket, he turned back to Ochako to throw his now-empty bucket back at her so that she could throw it back to Tsuyu, to start the process over again.

He tuned into Toshinori’s commentary whenever he had the chance to, while he was waiting for the bucket to pass into his hands.

“Out of the gate, it is the beauty tribe in the lead,” he called out. “Brawn right behind them, and the brain tribe in last, as usual.”

Izuku pressed his lips together as he caught another bucket full of water, a generous amount sloshing its way out of the bucket and onto his person. By this point, he, along with everyone else on his tribe, was soaking wet. He threw his bucket back to Ochako, desperate to get moving, to get out of last place.

“That does it for the beauty tribe!” Toshinori shouted. “Start working on the maze now!”

Izuku swore under his breath. The beauty tribe had already finished, and they were just about halfway done filling up their container.

“It is now between brawn and brain for that second spot,” Toshinori was saying in the background. “Katsuki with another bucket of water - and that’ll do it for the brawn tribe! They’re a-go; start working on the maze, brawn tribe! Keep moving, brain tribe!”

After several more tosses from everybody, there was finally enough water in the bucket that it dropped, sending their ball down to the other end.

“Brain tribe, start working on the maze!” Toshinori called, and he didn’t have to tell them twice.

Izuku and Tenya quickly ran to the vertical maze, Tenya grabbing the ball as he went, Ochako and Tsuyu following close behind them. Tenya ran up to the maze, placing the ball in the middle of it, and ran back to the spot where they had to stand, behind a small barrier so that they wouldn’t get any closer to it.

The way the circular maze worked was that they had to each grab a rope, and when either of them pulled it a certain way, it would rotate the maze either to the left or to the right, which was how they would get the ball to move. They had to get the ball out from the middle of the maze and to the edges, where there was a single small opening for the ball to get through.

Izuku took up the rope on the left side, and Tenya grabbed it from the right. They didn’t really communicate at first, just trying to get a feel for how the maze worked, how hard they had to pull on the rope, how fast the ball would maneuver itself through the openings.

“It’s Izuku and Tenya working on the maze from the brain tribe, Shoji and Shoto from the beauty tribe, and Katsuki and Ojiro from the brawn tribe, who are getting very close now.” A few seconds later, the distinctive sound of victorious cheers broke out from where the brawn tribe had been working on their puzzle, followed by Toshinori announcing, “Brawn wins immunity and reward! We’re looking for one more tribe!”

“We need to get it all the way over,” Tenya said to Izuku, yanking hard on his rope. “I’m gonna pull, and you let go so that we can get it where it needs to go.”

Izuku nodded, holding his rope tight, waiting for Tenya’s signal to let go of the rope, his eyes narrowed in concentration.

“Okay, now!” Tenya shouted, and Izuku let his rope fall from his hands so that Tenya could yank again, sending their ball to the other side of the maze, skipping over several holes due to the momentum of it, and, finally, knocking it against a dead end. Izuku lifted up his rope and tugged gently at it so that the ball would fall through the hole at the end, putting it closer to the edge of the maze, where they needed it to go.

“Another big move by the brain tribe,” Toshinori called out. “The beauty tribe is now struggling. This is the closest the brain tribe has been to finishing. It would be a huge comeback”

And they were so close . They only needed a couple more tricky maneuvers, a few more hard pulls, and they would be there. Something like hope lighted in Izuku’s chest and in the pit of his stomach, but he tried not to get too excited, not yet. It wasn’t over; they could still lose it all, if they lost their focus for even a second.

“Right there, right there,” Izuku muttered, not nearly loud enough for Tenya to hear him, but Tenya saw it, too. Without saying much to each other, they both seemed to understand exactly what the other’s intended movements were, as if they shared a single brain for this particular maze, anticipating and reacting to each other’s moves to get the ball closer and closer to the finish.

Tenya released some of his rope; Izuku pulled on it. The ball fell through yet another hole.

There was only one more hole to get through, and it was the last one.

Izuku pulled on his rope gently.

The ball fell through, into their bucket at the end, releasing a giant teal-colored flag that declared the word “immunity” on it.

“That’ll do it!” Toshinori called out, but whatever else he had to say was drowned out by their shouts and yells and cheers of triumph. Izuku and Tenya turned to each other and embraced through their victorious shouts, and they were soon tackled by Ochako and Tsuyu as well, all of them hugging each other in the face of their first win.

The relief of winning was nearly overwhelming. Despite himself, Izuku could feel his face heat up with the threat of tears. He was so happy at finally, finally winning a challenge that he could hardly believe it.

After two consecutive weeks of the stress of going to tribal council, of constantly worrying about going home, of defeat - winning was a much-needed respite. Winning was a boost of confidence, an ember of hope.

And, on top of all that, they won a tarp.

They would be able to sleep in a dry shelter .

Izuku felt as though his heart would burst from the sheer joy and relief that was coursing through his body.

They were all smiles and relieved emotions as they finally calmed themselves down enough to stand still and quietly so that Toshinori could wrap up the challenge.

After everybody was settled down and the sit-outs from the other tribes had rejoined their teams on their mats, Toshinori picked up the larger red immunity idol and walked it over to the brawn tribe. “Brawn tribe, congratulations. Immunity again. No tribal council and a nice reward.” He handed the idol off to the blond man, who Izuku now knew as Ojiro. He walked back over to the pedestal containing the immunity idols and grabbed the smaller one, facing the brain tribe now, who all positively lit up at his attention, under the circumstances. “Brain tribe, you’ve been waiting a while for this - your first taste of immunity.”

The four of them clapped their hands together, their victory still fueling them, as Toshinori approached them, handing the statue to Izuku, who took several steps forward to meet him and grab it from him. He couldn’t wait to feel the wait of the thing in his hands. He almost hugged the statue to his body, as if to convince himself that it was solid, that it was real, that they had finally actually won a challenge. He nearly skipped back to the others as the surreal happiness coursed through his body.

“It was well-earned,” Toshinori continued as he walked back to the now-empty pedestal to stand in front of all of them once more. “And also a tarp to go along with it.” He directed his attention back to the brawn tribe. “Brawn tribe, come get your reward. Head back to camp; enjoy another night free of tribal council.”

Rikido rushed over to their reward, still situated on the table, and grabbed about half of the blankets and pillows, and Hanta grabbed the other half before they left the clearing, making their way back to their camp.

“Brain tribe, come grab your tarp, and head back to camp. I’ll miss you at tribal council.”

Tenya rushed forward and grabbed the tarp from the table, and then the four of them left the challenge area, to make their way back to their camp, leaving the beauty tribe in the clearing with Toshinori.

And, god , did it feel good to leave another tribe behind.

Somebody else would be voted out of the game tomorrow night, but Izuku would rest easy, with the guarantee that it would not be him.

--

The first thing they did when they got back to camp was put their tarp up. Tenya, easily the tallest of them all, laid the thing over their flimsy palm frond roof, securing it with the ties that were attached to it.

The day today had come with beautiful weather, with no rain in sight, but that didn’t mean that a storm wouldn’t be coming again soon, and they were all entirely grateful to have some extra cover for their shelter.

More than that, they were riding on a wave of tremendous relief, high from their victory. Izuku couldn’t wipe the smile from his face.

Sure, the brawn tribe hadn’t lost a challenge yet, and the beauty tribe had won every challenge until today, but that only meant that their inevitable demise would be that much more devastating.

And the fact that Izuku and the rest of his tribe had lost every challenge thus far made their win today that much more glorious.

Not that he wanted to make a habit of losing again. He liked lying in the rain-protected shelter with the knowledge that he was completely, one-hundred-percent safe from being voted out tonight. There were only a handful of days where he would have that feeling, and he would savor it while he could.

Just because they were safe tomorrow night didn’t mean the game stopped, though. And there was still the definite possibility that Tsuyu had a hidden immunity idol, and there was still the definite possibility that they could lose the next immunity challenge and get sent right back to tribal council. And Tsuyu would play her idol, and either he or one of his alliance would be sent home.

Izuku knew he had to talk to Tsuyu before any of that transpired.

He could allow himself a single evening to relax, though. There was no harm done in that.

Chapter Text

It was incredibly nice to stay at camp with the knowledge that the beauty tribe was at tribal council at this very moment, likely arguing and scrambling over who to vote out.

Izuku found himself wondering a few times who they would vote out. When they entered the next challenge, who would be missing?

There was Denki, who Izuku noticed was always in a good mood, when he had the time to spare him his attention. When he competed in challenges, he usually did a fair job of it.

Then there was Kyoka, the girl who had been cast out by Shoto on the first day. She also seemed capable in challenges, though he wasn’t sure if she was very likable or not, if she got along with the rest of her team.

Izuku thought that the girl called Momo would be safe. She seemed smart and strong in challenges, and she had a magnetic aura about her. She just seemed like the type of person that people would want to keep around. But then again, in this game, that could very well be a reason to vote her out.

Shoji was definitely the strongest, physically, on the beauty tribe, and Izuku was wondering if that would be enough to save him from being voted out. Aside from his physical abilities, Izuku hadn’t really noticed anything else about him.

Izuku thought that Shoto was likely the one on the tribe that everybody was trying to ally with. He was beautiful, smart, strong, and confident in his abilities. At least, that was what Izuku had noticed when he watched him during the challenges. He also appeared relatively level-headed and calm during challenges, never panicking or losing his composure.

Yuga was something of a mystery to Izuku. He couldn’t figure out what, exactly, he provided for his tribe. He didn’t exceed in challenges, and he was the one who would lose his cool before anybody else. If Izuku had to place bets, without being given any context on the relationships between the members of the tribe itself, he’d guess that it was going to be Yuga going home tonight.

Whoever it was, Izuku couldn’t say it’d be a great loss. It was one more person gone, and he was that much closer to winning the idol.

He was startled out of his thoughts by Tsuyu’s sudden appearance beside him in the shelter. She had been down at the water with Ochako and Tenya. Izuku had joined them earlier, but then he decided to collect more firewood since their pile was quickly dwindling, and after that, he’d decided to lie down in the shelter for a bit. He had put his teal-colored bandana over his face to block out the sun’s rays, but when he heard the creaking of the shelter next to him, signifying a new weight being added to it, he peeled it away from his eyes to see that Tsuyu had sat down next to him, staring out at the ocean’s horizon. Ochako and Tenya were still in the water, talking and likely attempting to wash their bodies to the best of their abilities without the use of soap or any other cleaning agents.

Izuku replaced his bandana over his eyes. “How are you feeling, Tsuyu?” he asked.

“I feel fine, knowing I don’t have to scramble trying to save myself tonight,” she answered rather bluntly.

Izuku lifted his bandana again and left it lying on his forehead so that he could look at her through their conversation. “If it makes you feel any better, I don’t want to vote you out at all. I’m honestly hoping we can make it to the merge without going to tribal council again so we can all stay.”

Tsuyu made a noncommittal humming noise.

Izuku gave her a narrow eye. “Not that I think you’d actually tell me if you did, but you don’t have an idol, do you?”

Tsuyu huffed out a laugh. “Don’t worry. If I have one and I use it, it won’t be you that I want to go home.”

If I have one and I use it . It wasn’t a confirmation, but it wasn’t a denial, either. If she did have one, she didn’t want Izuku to know about it.

And yet she said she wouldn’t vote for him, if it came to her playing one at another tribal council before the merge.

“Who would you want to send home?” Izuku ventured to ask.

“Tenya.”

Izuku felt his stomach drop. Obviously, if it wasn’t him, it would have to be Ochako or Tenya, but just hearing that she was seriously considering voting out Tenya made Izuku nervous. He didn’t want to see Tenya going, not anytime soon. He neeed Tenya for his alliance of three to stay strong. Without him, it’d only be Izuku and Ochako, and an alliance of two wasn’t nearly powerful enough to guarantee survival through the merge. Not that an alliance of three would guarantee survival, but it’d give Izuku a lot more confidence with the extra number, entering the merge.

Izuku tried to keep a straight face as he spoke to Tsuyu, though. He couldn’t let his emotions show so easily on his face in this game as he did in real life. A lot of this game revolved around keeping reactions and emotions carefully locked away, to appear neutral in all situations.

“Why Tenya?” Izuku asked carefully, trying to make his voice sound merely curious. If it was Tenya instead of him, he didn’t want to come off as ungrateful at Tsuyu’s decision to save him in this game, but he would be lying if he said he didn’t want to hear Tsuyu’s strategic reasoning behind this.

“I like Ochako,” Tsuyu admitted. “I want to work with her in this game, and to do that, I also have to work with you, since you two seem to be a package deal.”

Izuku blinked. He had not been expecting that. “So… you want an alliance with Ochako and myself?”

There was a wry twist to Tsuyu’s mouth as she said, “For lack of better options.”

Izuku’s lips curled despite himself.

“Listen, if we make it to the merge, I’ll stay loyal to you and Ochako both,” Tsuyu continued. “Obviously, we didn’t start off on the best footing. You gravitated towards Ochako and Tenya instead of me and the others. But if we make it to the merge together, I swear to you, I’ll stay loyal to you both.”

Izuku thought this over. She sounded sincere enough, which eased a little bit of Izuku’s worry, but it didn’t get rid of it completely. She could just be issuing empty promises, trying to save her own ass, possibly even making a deal with Izuku, trying to sway him from voting off her and voting for Tenya instead.

If that was the case, she could stop her argument right there. Even if Tsuyu made a worthwhile argument, Izuku, at the end of the day, was loyal to his word. He’d told Tenya he wouldn’t vote for him, and he meant that. As long as Tenya didn’t break his promise, then Izuku wouldn’t break his, either.

“Why would you want to work with me all of a sudden?”

“Like I said, I don’t really have any other options,” Tsuyu answered. She looked back to the ocean, as if to make sure Ochako and Tenya were still in the water, and then turned her attention back to Izuku. “If we go to another tribal council and you and Ochako vote for TEnya, I’ll give you my word that I’ll stay loyal to you guys through the rest of the game. I swear on my life.”

“What happens if you play the idol and we don’t vote out Tenya?”

“For your sake, I hope you do vote for Tenya because I’m going to write your name down. Call it collateral.”

Izuku felt his heart still in his chest.

If Izuku, Ochako, and Tenya all voted for Tsuyu and she had the idol, then that would nullify all the votes against Tsuyu - which would be every vote except for Tsuyu’s.

And Tsuyu was threatening to write down Izuku’s name.

It was as much of a survivor blackmail as he’d ever heard.

The choice was basically to turn against his own alliance, thereby blindsiding Tenya - or risk getting voted out himself.

So, in reality, it wasn’t much of a choice at all. He would vote out Tenya, if he needed to, in order to save himself.

Only… the threat of Tsuyu having an idol was just that. A threat. He wasn’t certain she had the idol at all. She wouldn’t show it to him, wouldn’t prove it to him in any way - she hadn’t even confirmed it when he had asked. He had no idea if she had the idol or not.

“Why should I want to work with you in the future, given that you’re forcing me to turn against my alliance?” Izuku asked.

“You don’t have to,” Tsuyu said logically. “But the option is there, and the fact is that i will stay loyal to you.”

Izuku had to admit, however grudgingly, that it was a good plan, on Tsuyu’s part. To implant fear in Izuku, to try and force his hand in voting out Tenya with the insinuation that she would play the idol and write down his name, which would, in turn, send him home.

A very good plan and a sound strategy, indeed, if a positively desperate one.

But it still stood to question whether or not she was telling the truth or whether her entire argument for staying in the game was nothing more than empty threats rooted in inciting fear and paranoia on Izuku’s part.

Either way, it was working. Izuku felt thoroughly anxious now, regarding his current position in his tribe.

“I’ll have to think about it,” Izuku muttered as his thoughts raced through his mind chaotically, bouncing off the walls of his skull without mercy.

All he knew for sure was that he had to speak to Ochako.

--

Later, when the night had fallen and he heard the sounds of Tenya’s and Tsuyu’s labored breathing, indicating that they were deep into sleep, Izuku snuck out of the shelter to tend the fire, sending a glance in Ochako’s direction and inclining his head slightly, praying that she was awake and that she saw his gesture.

Apparently, she had, because only minutes after he had begun poking at the fire with some sticks, she joined him, sitting down and hugging her knees to her chest in the sand.

“What’s going on?” she whispered, careful to keep her voice pitched low so as to not wake anybody.

“Has Tsuyu said anything to you about the next tribal council?”

A small crease appeared between Ochako’s brows. “No, why?”

Izuku pressed his lips together as he thought about the best way to phrase this. “She didn’t tell me for sure that she has an idol, but she heavily implied that she might.”

Ochako looked slightly startled by this, her eyes going wider by just a fraction. “Really?”

Izuku nodded grimly. “She told me that if you and I don’t vote for Tenya, she’s going to write my name down and play her idol so that I go home.”

At this, Ochako rocked back slightly, the astonishment clear on her face. “Are you serious?”

Again, Izuku nodded grimly, rearranging a few of the sticks on the fire sullenly.

“Do you believe her?” Ochako asked.

Izuku shrugged. “She didn’t show me anything. She didn’t even commit to telling me that she had it. But I think her whole plan was to instill paranoia into me, and it definitely worked.”

Ochako reached out and touched Izuku’s arm in what was supposed to be a soothing gesture, but Izuku felt numb to the contact. “Don’t start getting paranoid now,” Ochako said in a voice that Izuku thought was way too calm, given the situation, but that calmness helped to quiet his still-racing thoughts. In this game, Ochako was his constant, his rock, and it felt good to hear her soothing reassurances, even if they weren’t entirely helpful. “There’s no way of knowing we’ll even go to another tribal council before a merge or even a tribe-switch. And, like you said, there’s no way of knowing if what she said is true.”

“She said she likes you, and she wants to work with you,” Izuku said. “Do you think you could talk to her and see what she says? You don’t have to do it anytime soon, just before we go to our next tribal council?”

“Of course I will,” Ochako said sincerely. “I’m going to look after you, Izuku; you know that. If she wants to play with me, I’ll let her know there’s no way I’m going to do that if she writes down your name.”

Izuku threw the sticks he was holding into the fire, watching with no small amount of satisfaction as they burned, and ran his hands over his face in distress. It was true, that his name had been mentioned before, that his name had been written down at previous tribal councils, but the feeling then was absolutely nothing compared to this feeling now. Previously, he had been pretty sure that he wasn’t going home, and his nerves were rooted solely in the fact that his name was mentioned at all.

Now, though, there was a very good, very real chance that it could be him getting sent home, if things played out the way Tsuyu threatened, and that was positively terrifying. It was easily the most terrifying prospect he had faced in this game so far.

When he finally crawled back into the shelter to try to get some sleep, he found that sleep would not come easily at all to him.

Chapter Text

“Come on in, guys!”

For the first time, Izuku’s team wasn’t the last one to enter the challenge area. When they got in, Izuku looked around to see what they would be working with today.

There were three tall towers, one for each team, and a long obstacle course laid out before it that would have to be navigated through. Being a Survivor fan, Izuku immediately recognized the layout of the challenge for what it was. It was the blindfold challenge, where somebody would have to call out directions from atop the tower to the other tribe mates, who were all blindfolded, to navigate through the course and collect items along the way.

Next to Toshinori was something covered that was rectangular-shaped, and, judging by the faint cluck ing noises issuing from within, Izuku could only guess what the reward for today’s challenge would be.

After they had entered the clearing, the brawn tribe filed in, and, after them, the beauty tribe, now short a member.

“Brains and brawn tribe getting your first look at the new beauty tribe,” Toshinori said as Izuku craned his neck in his eagerness to see who the first person not on his tribe was to be voted out. “Shoji voted out at the last tribal council.”

Izuku exchanged a quick, surprised glance with Ochako. He hadn’t really thought that they would vote out the person who, by all appearances, was the strongest of the tribe physically. But then, Izuku had no idea what life was like on the beauty tribe. There could have been any number of factors to influence that particular vote.

Once the beauty tribe had taken their place on their mat, Toshinori asked, “Are you guys ready to get to today’s reward challenge?” At everyone’s affirmation, Toshinori continued, “For today’s challenge, one person will be your caller; the rest of the tribe will be blindfolded. Using only verbal commands, the caller will direct a pair of blindfolded members to collect five items. Each time you get an item, you got to bring it back and hoist it up to the caller. Once you’ve collected all five items, the caller will send you out for one final tribe flag. The first two tribes to get their flag up to the caller win reward. Normally, I’d ask you if you want to know what you’re playing for, but I think you’ve been listening to it.”

Izuku smiled at this appreciatively.

“Do you want to see what you’re playing for?”

Izuku added his voice to the wave of “yes”’s that came from all fifteen of them.

Toshinori pulled the cloth off the chicken coop to reveal no less than four chickens. “First tribe to finish gets three egg-laying hens and a rooster.” He bent down to pick up another object, raising it up for all to see. “Second tribe to finish gets a dozen eggs,” he declared, holding the little basket up. “It’s not as much, but it’s not bad. The third tribe to finish gets nothing.” He turned his attention to the brawn tribe. “Brawn, you have two extra members; you’re sitting two people out, keeping in mind you cannot sit out the same people in back-to-back challenges.”

The brawn tribe, as usual, turned in to discuss who would be sitting out. When they turned back to Toshinori, it was Mina and, to Izuku’s surprise, Katsuki who raised their hands, indicating that they were the ones who would be sitting out for the challenge. Izuku was surprised because Katsuki hadn’t struck Izuku as the type of person who wanted to sit out at any challenges, ever, but he supposed it made sense, if he wanted to compete in the much more important immunity challenge. And perhaps Katsuki wasn’t good at giving directions. Or following them. That would not surprise Izuku, given his first impression of Katsuki as someone aggressive and relatively mean-spirited.

“Katsuki and Mina are going to sit this one out,” Toshinori announced. He turned his attention to the beauty tribe. “Beauty, you have one extra member.”

“I’ll sit out,” Denki said.

“Denki going to sit out for the beauty tribe,” Toshinori reiterated. “Everybody else, I’ll give you a minute to strategize, and we’ll get started.”

Izuku, Ochako, Tenya, and Tsuyu all gathered towards each other to discuss how to best complete this challenge. Tenya volunteered to be the caller, which nobody had a problem with, given that the rest of them were relatively soft-spoken. Izuku and Ochako would be the blindfolded pair, since they had good communication skills and teamwork ability, and Tsuyu would be the one to hoist the items up to Tenya.

Izuku and Ochako were both attached at the waist with a rope that only measured a couple of feet, and they were told to wrap their Survivor bandanas around their eyes to obscure their vision. Before Izuku did this, he took a look at the other two tribes to see who was doing what for them and noticed that Kirishima was standing atop the tower for the brawn tribe, whereas Shoto was standing atop the tower for the beauty tribe. It was Kyoka and Momo attached at the hip for the beauty tribe with Yuga hoisting the items up to Shoto, and Hanta and Ojiro were blindfolded for the brawn tribe with Rikido hoisting the items up to Kirishima.

Izuku secured the bandana over his face at Toshinori’s instruction. He reached out to Ochako, and they held onto each other’s hand to keep them close to each other and, hopefully, aid in their ability to walk together.

“Alright, here we go,” Toshinori called out. “For rewards, Survivors ready? Go!”

Izuku and Ochako began walking forward immediately, listening for Tenya’s voice to direct them on where, specifically, to go. It was kind of difficult to hear him, given that there were three loud voices shouting all at once, but Izuku tried his hardest to block out all other noises except for Tenya’s voice.

Izuku hated the sensation of being blindfolded and, therefore, relatively helpless. He couldn’t really do anything without Tenya’s instruction, and he hated not being able to see where he was going.

“To the left!” Tenya shouted, and Izuku, who was standing to the left of Ochako, tugged on Ochako’s hand to pull her further to the left as they continued to walk forward. “Keep going straight! Five more paces! Right there! Ochako, it’s at your feet!”

Ochako let go of Izuku’s hand, and Izuku could feel her bending over to grab the item in question. “Grab onto my shirt,” Ochako said, and Izuku did as she asked with no hesitation, curling a hand into the back of her shirt so that she could carry her item in two hands and lead them back to their tower.

“Turn around!” Tenya shouted. “Keep going straight! Keep going!”

They walked back to where they had started, and when Ochako reached the wooden beam surrounding the area with the hoisting platform, Tenya shouted out, “Throw it!” Izuku felt Ochako throw it, and then Tenya shouted, “You got it! Tsuyu, pull it up!”

Izuku and Ochako waited for further instruction while Tenya focused on getting the first item up to him. Once he had it, he shouted out to Izuku and Ochako, “Go back out, guys! Keep going straight! To your left!”

And so it continued, Izuku and Ochako following Tenya’s instructions to the best of their abilities. The further out they went, the more difficult it was to hear Tenya’s shouted directions. Izuku and Ochako both bumped into a fair share of obstacles, collecting a good amount of bruises along the way, but they both soldiered through it, trying their hardest to ignore the pain in favor of getting all their items back to Tenya before the others tribes did.

Finally, they had all five of their items, and they were sent back out to look for their flag, which was situated at the end of the obstacle course. Izuku was the one to find the flag, and he wrapped his hands around it triumphantly, shouting to Ochako that he had it. As they began to make their way back, Izuku heard Toshinori shout, “Shoto has the flag; beauty wins reward!”

Izuku and Ochako tried to hurry back to their tower so that they could get their flag to Tenya, but Izuku heard Toshinori calling out in the background that the brawn tribe was right there with their flag as well, that they were neck-in-neck in this challenge.

Izuku and Ochako reached their platform and tossed the flag onto it, and Tsuyu had to straighten it up a bit before raising it up to Tenya. They had just begun to raise their flag up to Tenya when they heard Toshinori shouting out, “Brawn finished second and gets a dozen eggs! The brain tribe loses when they had it in their grasp. That’s why you never give up in this game.”

Izuku tore the bandana off of his face as the familiar feeling of defeat washed over him. He looked over to Ochako, who looked to be just as crestfallen as he himself was, throwing her sweaty bandana down into the dirt.

Tenya came down from the tower and joined the rest of their tribe, his own feelings of failure clear in his face and the way he carried himself.

“It’s alright,” Ochako said to Tenya, giving him a small, sweet smile. “We did our best. We were really close.”

After all the tribes had reconvened on their mats and were standing at attention for Toshinori to carry on with the handing out of the rewards, Toshinori said, “Beauty tribe, great communication, huge effort, big reward. Three egg-laying hens, one rooster. Come get your reward, grab your stuff, head back to camp, and enjoy.”

They watched as Denki and Yuga picked up the chicken coop and left the challenge area to make their way back to their camp.

“Brawn tribe, grab your stuff, head back to camp, and enjoy your eggs.”

Mina grabbed the basket of eggs, and then they, too, left the clearing, leaving behind Izuku’s tribe in last place, once again.

“Brain tribe, massive blown opportunity. Ochako, how does it feel?”

Ochako shrugged. “I think we were expecting to pull another win out, so it’s a bit frustrating and a bit disappointing, but we gave it our best shot.”

“Brain tribe, I’ve got nothing for you. Grab your stuff, and head back to camp.”

With the bitter taste of defeat in their mouths, they did just that. Izuku prayed that they wouldn’t lose the immunity challenge tomorrow, that they wouldn’t start again on their path of continued defeat.

Chapter Text

For the challenge the next day, they had to take a boat out onto the water to get to where they were competing. They’d had water challenges before, but this was their first challenge that was this deep into the ocean, and the only person on Izuku’s tribe who was a strong swimmer was Tsuyu. Izuku and Tenya could manage, but Ochako wasn’t very strong in the water, so immediately, Izuku was worried about their odds in this challenge. He had no idea who from the other tribes were strong swimmers, though, or if there were any at all, so maybe they still had a chance at winning this.

In the water, a few yards away from the platform they were standing on, was a single basket and a ball, so Izuku knew that the challenge would be, in some capacity, a basketball challenge. Which worried Izuku even more because as far as he knew, nobody on his team was particularly skilled at basketball. Izuku was decent at aiming and shooting balls, but he was no expert at it. He thought maybe Tenya would be good at it, but he had his doubts about Ochako’s and Tsuyu’s abilities.

Toshinori was standing on a separate platform to the side of the challenge course so that he could see what was going on at any given moment. “Alright, are you guys ready to get to today’s immunity challenge? First things first, walk the idols over and toss them to me.”

Izuku watched Mina throw her team’s idol from where she stood on the platform to Toshinori. Tenya walked to the end of the platform, to where the brawn tribe was standing, in order to toss the immunity to Toshinori, before making his way back to his side of the platform.

“Once again, immunity is back up for grabs,” Toshinori said with a hand on the two statues standing side-by-side. “For today’s challenge, you’re going to dive down and release a buoy. Once you have it, you’ll bring it back, then the next person goes. Once you collected all five buoys, you will throw those buoys into your basket. The first two tribes to get all five buoys in their basket wins immunity, is safe from the vote. Losers go to tribal council where somebody will be the fourth person voted out of this game.” He pointed to the brawn tribe. “Brawn, you have two extra members. Who are you gonna sit out? Keep in mind you cannot sit out the same people in back-to-back challenges.”

Kirishima and Rikido raised their hands, indicating that they were going to be the sit-outs in this challenge.

“Kirishima and Rikido are going to sit this one out,” Toshinori announced. He pointed at the beauty tribe. “Beauty, you have on extra member. Who’s it gonna be?”

Yuga raised his hand and said, “Me.”

“Yuga is gonna sit this one out. Alright, everybody else, I’ll give you a minute to strategize, and we’ll get started.”

When they turned towards each other to discuss the challenge, it was decided that Tsuyu would be the one to dive down to the deepest buoys, and she would be the one to substitute in for anybody else who had trouble getting a buoy, since she was easily the strongest in the water out of anyone. They decided that Ochako and Tenya would throw the balls; Ochako, apparently, was decent at aiming and throwing, and Izuku had more faith in her abilities if she came forward and volunteered for the position than in his own, so he and Tsuyu would get back into the water and retrieve the balls for Ochako and Tenya.

Ochako positioned the goggles onto her face, deciding that she’d be the first one in the water to get the buoy that was three feet under the surface.

When the other tribes stood ready, Toshinori called out, “Alright, for immunity, Survivors ready? Go!”

Ochako dived into the water to get the challenge started while the rest of them cheered her on encouragingly.

“That first buoy is three feet into the water. This will be the easiest,” Toshinori was saying in the background. “Shoto is up first for the beauty tribe.”

Izuku glanced to the left to see the red and white head swimming back to the platform with a buoy in hand.

“Katsuki is up for the brawn tribe,” Toshinori said. “Ochako is still working. She can’t get it. Kyoka is in the water for the beauty tribe. Hanta is in the water for the brawn tribe.”

Izuku sent a nervous glance to the other tribes, who already had their second person in the water, before turning his attetion back to Ochako, who was just resurfacing.

“Kyoka is up with the second buoy for the beauty tribe. Ochako can’t get it.”

“It’s okay; come back,” Tenya called out to Ochako, and Ochako didn’t have to be told twice. She began to swim back to the platform, and when she hauled herself up and onto it and tagged at Izuku’s hand, Izuku didn’t even grab the goggles from her to protect his eyes from the salty ocean water before he launched himself into the water to get the first buoy up.

He swam out to where the buoys were and then took a deep breath before plunging into the water so that he could undo the hooks for the first buoy. Within a few seconds, he had it freed, and he swam back to the surface with it, swimming back to the platform. He tossed the ball up onto the platform, where Tsuyu grabbed it and put it into their basket. Once Izuku had hauled himself up onto the platform, he tagged Tenya in, and he dove into the water to try to get the second buoy.

Izuku pushed his wet hair out of his eyes and tried to tune into what Toshinori was saying to get his bearings on where the other tribes were, in regards to their position in this challenge.

“It’s Mina now that is struggling,” Toshinori called out as Tenya dived into the water for Izuku’s tribe.

Izuku glanced down at the brawn tribe, where Mina was above the surface, getting air into her lungs.

“Momo is heading in the water now, going for that fourth buoy for the beauty tribe,” Toshinori said.

Tenya resurfaced from the water without a buoy, and he began to swim back in order to tap in Tsuyu.

“Tenya comes back empty-handed,” Toshinori announced. “Tsuyu is gonna try to get something going.”

They watched as Tsuyu placed the goggles over her eyes and dived into the water with no hesitation, swimming down to release their second buoy.

“Momo is back with that fourth buoy for the beauty tribe. Hanta is coming up empty-handed for the brawn tribe, allowing the brain tribe to get back into this”

For the first time, the brawn tribe was seeming to fall behind in a challenge. Izuku thought that they had a chance of sending the brawn tribe to tribal council tonight, if Tsuyu could get all the buoys in a quick amount of time.

Tsuyu came up with the second buoy fairly quickly, causing the rest of Izuku’s tribe to cheer her on wholeheartedly, no one more than Izuku, whose life in this game would be in jeopardy if they were sent to tribal council, if Tsuyu really had a hidden immunity idol.

“Tsuyu comes up with the second buoy for the brain tribe,” Toshinori called. “Shoto is going in for that fifth and final buoy.”

“Izuku, you want to try again?” Tsuyu called out when she got closer to the platform. “If you get the third one, I’ll get the rest.”

“I’ll try,” Izuku said with as much confidence as he could muster, given his subpar swimming skills. If Tsuyu thought her chance of getting the rest of them would be improved if she only had to get two more instead of three, Izuku didn’t mind at all going back in.

Tsuyu climbed atop the platform and tapped Izuku into the game. This time, Izuku took the goggles since he was going down deeper and would be in the water for longer before launching himself off of the platform, diving deep into the water. This one was nine feet down. All Izuku had to do was keep calm, hold his breath, and hope for the best.

He swam down to the third buoy and tried to it unhooked, but he hadn’t taken a deep enough breath before going under, and he already felt relatively weak-bodied from lack of sufficient nutrition and sleep, and he couldn’t get the buoy unhooked quick enough before his vision began to blur slightly, so he had no option but to swim back up without a buoy.

Izuku didn’t want to waste more time than necessary attempting to get the buoy again when he knew that Tsuyu would be able to retrieve all three of the remaining buoys quickly, so he swam back to the platform and hauled himself up and onto it, tagging Tsuyu back in.

Tsuyu dived into the water again, and, once more, Izuku tried to figure out where the other two tribes were standing. He glanced over and saw that the beauty tribe had already started throwing their balls into their basket, that Momo and Shoto were shooting the baskets while Denki and Kyoka took to the water to retriever whatever balls didn’t land. He had no idea how far into the competition the brawn tribe was, but he noticed that they hadn’t started shooting yet, so Izuku assumed that they still had a chance at winning the challenge over them.

“Ojiro has the third buoy; Tsuyu has the third buoy,” Toshinori called out as Tsuyu’s head popped out of the water to swim the third buoy to the platform. In order for her to get back into the water to retrieve the fourth buoy, she had to re-climb the platform and then dive back into the water. “They’re neck-in-neck. It is Momo and Shoto throwing balls - and Shoto scores the first one.”

Izuku sent a glance at the beauty tribe in the midst of shouting encouraging remarks to Tsuyu as she jumped into the water yet again.

“Tsuyu is back in the water for the brain tribe,” Toshinori said. “Shoto scores his second point for the beauty tribe. Katsuki now has to get down twelve feet for that fourth buoy.”

Tsuyu came out of the water with the fourth buoy and swam it back to the platform.

“Tsuyu is back again with another buoy,” Toshinori announced as Tsuyu jumped back into the water again. “Tsuyu is single-handedly keeping the brain tribe in this. Jeremiah scores the third buoy for the beauty tribe. Katsuki comes up with the fourth buoy for the brawn tribe.”

Tsuyu came out of the water with the fifth and final buoy, which elicited raucous cheers from Izuku and the rest of his tribe. Izuku gripped Ochako’s arm in his excitement, and she placed her hand over his, squeezing it once. When Izuku looked at her, he saw that there was a huge smile on her face.

Even if Tsuyu had a plan for tribal council, it was evident that that was still a place she’d rather not be. She was hustling hard in this challenge, trying her best to win it for all of them so that they wouldn’t have to go through tribal council again.

“From fifteen feet down, Tsuyu is up with the fifth and final buoy for the brain tribe,” Toshinori called out. “Shoto with the fourth.”

Izuku glanced once again at the beauty tribe, where Shoto was preparing to throw his fifth ball, sent it flying through the air - and right into their basket.

“There it is!” Toshinori said. “Beauty tribe wins immunity, is safe from tribal council! We’re looking for one more tribe!”

Izuku and Ochako reached out to help Tsuyu up onto the platform, and as soon as she was up, Izuku jumped back into the water. Tsuyu, after sitting for a few moments to catch her breath, followed Izuku’s lead, getting into the water yet again in order for Ochako and Tenya to start throwing the balls into their net.

Ochako took the first few balls, throwing them out for the net. She missed the first few, so Izuku grabbed them and brought them back to Ochako, allowing Tsuyu a few moments to rest, as much as she could, in the water, given that she had just put so much energy and effort into releasing all five of their buoys as quickly as possible.

Ochako threw another ball, and this one got into the net, which caused Izuku and the rest to shout and cheer encouragingly at her and Tenya both. Izuku heard Toshinori’s voice in the background, continuing to comment on the game, but now that his attention was wholly focused elsewhere, he wasn’t able to spare Toshinori a second thought.

After a few more throws, Ochako made her second buoy into the basket. At this point, Tsuyu was fully participating in the challenge once again, grabbing the buoys that fell closest to her and sending them back to Ochako and Tenya.

They continued on like that for several minutes, with Ochako throwing the buoys and missing, the buoy going in and right back out a few times. Finally, she scored her third buoy. They were over halfway there. Izuku could taste their oncoming victory.

But then he spared a glance at the brawn tribe and saw that they had four of their balls in already, that they had done it while Izuku wasn’t even paying attention.

Izuku swore under his breath and issued more encouraging remarks towards Ochako, trying to fuel her into scoring their next two buoys as quickly as possible.

Then Izuku heard the heartbreaking sound of the brawn tribe’s victorious cheers, and he knew it was lost even before he heard Toshinori announcing it.

Izuku shut his eyes as the familiar feeling of utter defeat crashed into him, filling his entire body. This was the one time that Izuku really did not want to be sent to tribal council, with threats lingering over his head and tough decisions to be made, but it seemed that Survivor had other things in plan for him.

He swam back to the platform with Tsuyu so that Toshinori could close out this godforsaken challenge. Everyone regathered on their platforms, the sit-outs rejoining them, and then Toshinori faced them all, directing his attention first to the beauty tribe.

“Here you go, Kyoka,” Toshinori said, throwing the larger of the two immunity idols over to the beauty tribe, where Kyoka, who was standing the closest to Toshinori, easily caught it. “Brawn tribe,” he said, and then picked up the smaller idol and tossed it to the brawn tribe’s platform, where Mina caught it out of the air. “No tribal council for the brawn tribe.” Toshinori turned his attention now to the brain tribe, where everyone was standing around, feeling like complete failures. “Brain tribe, big effort, but you came up short. I’ll see you at tribal council once again where one of you will be the fourth person voted out of this game. I’ll see you at tribal council tomorrow night.”

--

“Good job, Tsuyu,” Izuku said later, when they arrived back at camp.

“Yeah, Tsuyu, you killed it,” Ochako agreed, setting her stuff down and making to sit in the shelter. “We had no chance at that without you.”

Tsuyu shrugged, taking a seat beside Ochako. “I did what I could. We still lost.”

Izuku was able to meet Tenya’s eye as he was standing over the fire and gestured with his chin towards the woods. Tenya caught his meaning immediately and said, “I’m going to get more firewood. It looks like we’re getting pretty low.”

“I’ll go with you,” Izuku muttered, and they made for the woods, leaving Ochako and Tsuyu sitting in the shelter.

Once they got far enough away from camp that there was no chance of being overheard, Izuku stopped walking, and so did Tenya, looking at Izuku expectantly. “What’s going on?”

“Tsuyu is telling me to vote you out,” Izuku said without preamble. He had to tell Tenya what was going on as quickly as possible so that they could have plenty of time to figure out how to best deal with the situation.

Tenya’s brows furrowed. “Why would she do that?”

“She insinuated that she might have an idol and that she’s going to write my name down.” Izuku paused for several moments to let the gravity of that statement settle in.

Tenya looked to be turning that over in his head a few times. “So if we all vote for Tsuyu, and she plays the idol, and she votes for you…”

“I’ll be going home,” Izuku concluded. “Exactly. She’s saying that unless Ochako and I vote for you, then I’m going home.”

Tenya pressed his lips together as he thought this over. “So what are you gonna do?”

“I don’t know yet. I don’t know that she really has the idol. I just wanted to let you know what was being said.”

“Thank you for that,” Tenya said, now worrying his bottom lip between his teeth. “What does Ochako think about all of this?”

“She’s not sure that Tsuyu has the idol at all, and she’s going to try to find out what she can.”

Tenya nodded slowly. “Alright, well. Just let me know something before we go to tribal council tomorrow so I don’t walk in clueless.”

“Absolutely, of course,” Izuku assured him.

They picked up a generous amount of firewood before making their way back to camp, and Izuku felt slightly better, having told Tenya about what was going on, but he still felt horrible about the fact that he might possibly have to vote out Tenya tomorrow night, someone who Izuku was pretty sure would remain loyal to him.

He had a lot to think about before tribal council tomorrow night.

Chapter Text

Izuku’s anxiety the next day went positively through the roof. He was incredibly nervous about tonight’s tribal council, and he could tell that Tenya was, too, given his uncharacteristically antsy movements. He waa bouncing from one end of the beach to the other, constantly looking for something to do, something to keep his mind occupied while he awaited the time to leave for tribal council. Izuku had told Tenya he would speak with him about what the plan was before they left, and he meant it. He just had to wait for Ochako to get done speaking with Tsuyu first.

Ochako did approach him, although it was dangerously close to time to leave for tribal, much too close for comfort. He was gathering all of his belongings, all of his pieces of clothing and other miscellaneous items, and shoving them into his bag. He had to be prepared to go home tonight, regardless what news Ochako brought him regarding Tsuyu and the idol.

She knelt down next to him in the dirt and said in a low voice, “I don’t think Tsuyu has the idol.”

“What makes you say that?” he asked as casually as he could manage, though he was certain his voice made it clear just how nervous he was.

“She told me she had it, but she wouldn’t show it to me,” Ochako said. “She said I just had to believe her. But I don’t see what the advantage would be, for her to keep me from seeing it. In my mind, if she has it, there’s no reason for her not to show me.”

“So you want to just stick to the original plan and vote out Tsuyu?”

Ochako nodded. “I think we’ll be fine.”

That’s easy for you to say, when you’re not the one being threatened , Izuku thought, but he refrained from saying it. There was no point in snapping at Ochako for her optimism about the upcoming tribal council.

Izuku took a deep, steadying breath. “How sure are you about this?”

“I’m, like, seventy-five percent sure.”

He blinked at her. “Seventy-five? That’s it?”

She shrugged sheepishly, almost apologetically. “Maybe eighty?”

Izuku huffed out a sigh and ran his fingers through his hair, sitting back on his palms in the dirt. “Ochako, I’m really nervous I’m going to get voted out tonight.”

Ochako chewed on her bottom lip for a few seconds. “Listen. If you’re really worried and so you still want to vote out Tenya, I’ll vote with you. I want the three of us to stay together, and I don’t really want to do that, but I’ll do whatever you feel most comfortable with.”

“I appreciate that,” Izuku said sincerely with a small smile. “But I’m going to trust you on this. Unless something shifty happens at tribal council, then I’ll vote out Tsuyu.” He would still bring his bag, though, for in case it was him, after all. He stood then, brushing the dirt off his legs. “I’ll go talk it over with Tenya.”

After spending a few minutes reassuring Tenya that he would be safe tonight, that they would vote out Tsuyu, it was time for them to leave. They grabbed their torches and made their walk to the tribal council area. Once they got there and filed into their seats, Izuku sat at the very end, closest to their entrance and exit, since he brought up the rear of the group. Tenya sat next to him, and Ochako was next to him, with Tsuyu sitting the furthest away from Izuku. Izuku had half-hoped that Tsuyu would be closer to him so he could get a better read on her throughout the tribal council, but he supposed it wouldn’t be too difficult to get a read on her with only four people sitting there, anyway.

After all four of them had taken their seats on their stools, Toshinori took his seat to the front of them as well. “Welcome back, guys.”

He was met with silence, not one of them eager to get this ball rolling, not one of them feeling good in any way at being here yet again.

“So, Tenya, where do you fit into this group in terms of responsibility for losses?” Toshinori asked.

“Honestly, I think that we’re all equally responsible for the losses that we’ve had,” Tenya said in response. “It’s so strange because, as as a tribe, as people, we all get along very well. There’s cohesion, and there’s communication, and there’s honesty. Yet we do not mesh well together at all when it comes to challenges. I think we all try our best every day, though.”

“Tsuyu, does that ring true to you, that this tribe is full of cohesion and communication and honesty?”

“Yeah. I might be at the bottom of this tribe, but everybody has been very upfront and honest about it. No one’s trying to lie to me and tell me that I’m safe tonight. And, had we not lost so many challenges, I feel like I would have eventually worked with these three as well. Unfortunately, that’s not the way things played out.”

“How does that feel for you, knowing for a certainty that you’re at the bottom?” Toshinori asked.

“It doesn’t feel good,” Tsuyu said with a small laugh. “But it’s been like this for me since the beginning. I was cast out by Tenya on the very first day. I started on the outs, and it’s there that I have stayed.”

“Tenya, there’s only four of you left. After tonight, there will be three. If you guys keep going at the rate you’re going, none of you will be here at the end. Tenya, how can any of you expect to outlast fifteen other people when you can barely survive to day twelve?”

Tenya let out a little chuckle at the question. “Yeah, I mean, that’s fair. But I think that what’s going to keep us in the game is the loyalty that we have to each other, especially once this turns into an individual game instead of a team one.”

“Izuku, Tenya’s mentioning a ‘we.’ Do you know who that ‘we’ is? Because it’s obviously not all four of you.”

“Yeah, it’s the same as it was last time we saw you, Toshinori, sir. The ‘we’ that Tenya is referring to is the alliance between him, Ochako, and myself.”

“So it’s safe to assume that Tsuyu is going home tonight?”

“If everything goes the way it’s planned, yes,” Izuku said carefully.

Toshinori looked distinctly amused at Izuku’s answer. “If it’s three against one, it seems like a pretty cut-and-clear plan to me.”

“The fear is that Tsuyu has an idol,” Izuku said bluntly. “Any of us could be going home tonight, if that’s true.”

“So you’re worried?”

“I’m terrified,” Izuku said with a laugh, trying to allow some of the tension he was feeling to escape his body through that sound. “We don’t know for sure that Tsuyu has the idol, but the possibility is there, and it terrifies me to think I could be going home tonight if she plays the idol.”

“Ochako, are you worried?”

“I don’t want to say I’m not worried because I know I should always be worried in this game,” Ochako said. “But my name is the only one that hasn’t been brought up. So, no, I’m not really worried for myself, but I’m definitely worried for my alliance.”

“Tsuyu, tell me about this possible idol.”

“I’ve been purposefully vague about it to ramp up the paranoia,” Tsuyu said matter-of-factly. “I don’t like to cause paranoia or chaos, but I’m here to win a million dollars. So basically what I’ve been saying is, yes, I might have the idol. Yes, I will play it tonight if I have it. No, I will not show it to you. By keeping it a mystery, I feel like it has scared people more than had I just taken it out and showed them outright.”

Tsuyu was, of course, right. Had Tsuyu taken the idol out and shown Izuku that she had it for sure, Izuku would have instantly made the decision to vote out Tenya to save himself. But the fact that Tsuyu was deliberately being vague about it, that she was leaving the choice up to Izuku, whether to believe her and flip on his alliance or call her on her bluff and vote her out, risking his own game in the process, made Izuku that much more nervous about the whole situation.

Izuku had to hand it to her. It was incredibly smart. It was a great strategy and a great last-attempt desperate gameplay, one that Izuku had to admire. Tsuyu was proving that she did, in fact, belong on the brain tribe.

But that was just what it was, Izuku thought. A strategy. A last-attempt, desperate gameplay.

He hadn’t been sure before, but after hearing Tsuyu speak, it was the only thing that made sense. Why else would she want to instill fear? Why else would she rely on paranoia instead of power? It had to be because she really didn’t have the idol at all.

Izuku leaned over Tenya to catch Ochako’s eye. She nodded at him once, confirming that she had picked up on the same thing.

They were in agreement, then.

“Izuku, you and Ochako just shared a significant look,” Toshinori observed.

Izuku nodded. “Yeah. I think we’ve heard what we needed to hear to make our final decision.”

“Ochako, that’s what that look meant?”

“Yes,” Ochako confirmed. “We knew coming here what we wanted to do, and now I think we’ve heard everything to reinforce that.”

“Izuku, you look noticeably less nervous than you did a few seconds ago.”

“Oh, I’m still nervous,” Izuku said. “I’d be an idiot not to be.”

“But something changed.”

“Yes, something changed, and I feel a little more confident now.”

“Tsuyu, what’s that like, to hear that the people who want to vote you out are feeling confident now?”

“It doesn’t feel good,” she said on a laugh, echoing her earlier response to another question he’d asked her. “But they don’t know whether or not I have an idol. I’m not sure they’re in any position to feel confident right now.”

“Alright, does anybody have anything else to add?” Toshinori asked. When nobody spoke, he said, “Alright, it is time to vote. Ochako, you’re up.”

Ochako stood up obediently and made her way across the bridge and to the urn sitting on the other side, where Izuku knew she was writing down Tsuyu’s name. When she returned, Tsuyu was sent to vote, followed by Tenya, and, finally, by Izuku.

Izuku wrote down Tsuyu’s name carefully, praying that he wasn’t making a million dollar mistake in doing so.

He placed his folded piece of parchment into the urn when he was done and then made his way back to his seat. After he was situated back on his seat and everyone had their attention on Toshinori, Toshinori said, “I’ll go tally the votes.”

He walked to retrieve the urn and then came back to the group of four, the closed urn sitting in front of him on the podium.

“If anybody has a hidden immunity idol and you want to play it, now would be the time to do so.”

All eyes went to Tsuyu expectantly, waiting for her to either pull an idol out of her bag and play it or not.

After a considerable amount of time passed without Tsuyu saying anything, Izuku felt himself physically sag in relief.

Tsuyu didn’t have the idol, and she wasn’t playing it, and Izuku was not going home tonight.

“Alright,” Toshinori said, “once the votes are read, the decision is final. The person voted out will be asked to leave the tribal council area immediately. I’ll read the votes.” He removed the lid of the urn and pulled out the first piece of parchment, unfolding it and turning it around at the same time as he said, “First vote: Tsuyu.” He removed a second piece of paper and read out, “Izuku.”

Izuku’s heart jumped the way it always did when it was his name written down on the paper, but he quickly dismissed it. He knew that Ochako and Tenya voted out Tsuyu as well. He had absolute faith in his alliance, and there was absolutely no chance that he was the one going home tonight.

Toshinori took out the third piece of paper, unfolded it, turned it around, and said, “Tsuyu. That’s two votes Tsuyu, one vote Izuku, one vote left.” He pulled out the fourth and final vote, unfolded it, and announced, “Fourth person voted out of Survivor : Tsuyu,” at the same time that he turned the condemning piece of parchment over for everyone else to see.

Izuku glanced over at Tenya, who was smiling back at Izuku and nodding his head in triumph.

“Tsuyu, you need to bring me your torch,” Toshinori said.

Tsuyu stood from where she was sitting and grabbed her torch from behind them all. “Good luck, guys,” she said to them before making her way over to Toshinori, where she placed her torch in the holder and waited for it to be snuffed out.

“Good game, Tsuyu,” Izuku called to her softly but sincerely.

“Tsuyu, the tribe has spoken,” Toshinori said, and then he put the fire of her torch out. “It’s time for you to go.”

They all sat in triumphant silence as they watched Tsuyu walk out of the tribal council area. Once she was out of earshot, Toshinori addressed the three remaining members of their tribe once again.

“Well, hopefully this vote will make this tribe as strong as it needs to be to start to making something happen because you desperately need something to change,” he said as his parting remark. “Grab your torches; head back to camp. Goodnight.”

--

When they got back to camp, Izuku immediately sank into the shelter with relief weighing heavy on his bones.

“I’m so happy to still be here,” he said to no one in particular but more for the sake of saying it.

“Something’s got to be happening soon,” Tenya said, sitting down heavily in the shelter beside him while Ochako tended the fire.

“What do you mean?” Izuku asked, turning his head in Tenya’s direction inquiringly.

“Not the merge, obviously. It’s too early for that. But there’s only three of us left. We’ll probably be switching tribes or something and soon.”

Izuku thought this over. He knew it had to be coming, and he was excited for it - excited to be on a new team that might possibly actually win challenges. Yet he was nervous that he would be on a team without Ochako or Tenya, to play the game by himself, to lose his biggest and only allies, to be forced to build new relationships with complete strangers on day thirteen. And no matter how they were mixed up, Izuku, Ochako, and Tenya would be in the minority on any tribe. There were only three of them, while there were five people left from the beauty tribe and six people left from the brawn tribe. The other tribes would have the numbers in any circumstance, which made Izuku nervous. He’d go from being in a solid alliance of three to being on the bottom of whatever tribe he ended up on.

But that was just part of the game, and Izuku was more than prepared to make his argument for whatever people he ended up surrounded by. He would fight tooth and nail to stay in this game as long as possible.

Tenya was right. Something would be happening soon - likely, something would be happening within the next couple of days. And, as was Izuku’s norm, he was both completely thrilled and entirely anxious to move on to the next part of the game.

Chapter Text

They were all up early the next morning, all of them getting into the routine of waking up when the sun rose. Whatever else Izuku could say about competing on Survivor , he could say with complete confidence that the competition was doing wonders for his circadian rhythm.

Izuku had decided to see to cooking breakfast that morning, which consisted of the usual meal of rice cooked in a pot of boiling water. With Tsuyu gone, there was now no hope of them getting any extra protein the way they had been when she’d caught fish for them.

It was alright, though. Izuku didn’t need the extra protein. All he needed was to fill his stomach with something, and the rice was sufficient enough for that.

Or so he thought, until Ochako returned from collecting their tree mail - the communication system utilized between the production team of the show and the contestants, giving them hints as to what their next challenge would be, as well as what the reward would be.

She had opened up the rolled-up piece of parchment paper to read what was written there with a huge, confident smile on her face. “‘You’re craving the taste of sweet victory,’” she read, “‘at least that is how it’s seeming. To be denied this flavor sensation, you’ll be dragged away kicking and screaming.’” When she finished, her smile had grown impossibly wider at the implications of the message. She raised her eyes to Izuku and Tenya, who both read her thoughts immediately.

“Food challenge,” Tenya stated, a smile growing on his own features.

Izuku’s stomach issued a sudden loud rumble, and he would have felt embarrassed by this abrupt borborygmi, but he knew that Ochako and Tenya weren’t paying any attention to his intestinal movements, likely too preoccupied by their own. They were all so hungry and so tired of eating nothing but plain rice for twelve days straight. Izuku knew that no matter what kind of food they were playing for, he’d throw himself into the challenge to gain the reward, and he knew that Ochako and Tenya would do the same. The three of them would remain stronger than ever as a team, in the face of relentless defeat - at least, that’s what they were all telling themselves, hoping beyond hope that it was true.

They all ate generous portions of rice that morning in the hopes that it would lend them extra strength. They desperately needed to win a challenge, and they were doing literally everything in their power to ensure that it happened.

It was finally time to actually go to the challenge and compete, which Izuku was immensely grateful for. He was full of nervous anticipation, and he wanted nothing more than to get there, compete, and bring home a win for their tribe.

For the third time, when they heard Toshinori call out, “Come on in, guys!” from the clearing where the challenge was being conducted, Izuku’s tribe had to wait for the other two teams to file in first before they were allowed to enter. When they did shuffle in behind everyone else, Toshinori said, “Brawn and beauty tribe getting your first look at the new brain tribe. Tsuyu was voted out at the last tribal council.”

Toshinori allowed a dramatic pause for this information to sit and for everyone to settle onto their respective mats, setting down their bags and getting a look at the challenge layout for today. It was the simplest challenge layout Izuku had seen yet; there was orange and purple tape in the sand, creating a long, rectangular border, and on the far side of the rectangle were two poles, one orange and one purple.

Given that there was nothing teal-colored anywhere, Izuku had a pretty good feeling about what was coming up, and he had to restrain himself from hopping on his feet in his excitement. He was terrified to lose Ochako or Tenya - or, worse, both of them - to a tribe swap, but as a long-time super fan of Survivor , he was thrilled to be a part of it. As a fan, it was thrilling to be a part of anything that moved him to the next stage of the game, and that was, essentially, what was happening. A tribe swap indicated a turning point in the game, and that meant that his entire game was about to change.

Sure enough, the next words out of Toshinori’s mouth were, “Alright, everybody, drop your buffs.”

At those words alone, Ochako, who was standing next to Izuku, reached out and clutched at his hand, as if willing him to stay with her, to stay on the same tribe as her to continue playing the game together. Izuku couldn’t help but return the sentiment. He wanted at least one person on his tribe who he knew he could trust implicitly.

“Brains, brawn, and beauty is no more,” Toshinori continued amidst the gasps, groans, and mutters of everyone gathered.

Izuku had his teal-colored bandana wrapped around his neck today, but at Toshinori’s order, he obediently removed it by pulling it over his head and then dropping it in the sand in front of him. Ochako and Tenya did the same, removing the article from wherever on their body they had been wearing it today and abandoning it to the beach.

“We’re going to form two new tribes,” Toshinori said.

Izuku figured as much from the dual color scheme, but now that he really thought about it, it was a pretty big change. Not only would he be mixed up with completely new people, but there were still fourteen people left, which meant that they would be divided into two tribes of seven. Izuku had gotten used to a small tribe that got smaller by the day. The dynamic of a large tribe with new personalities would be completely different than his small tribe of three or four.

Toshinori pulled out a shallow basket that contained fourteen brand-new buffs, wrapped up in a plain, tan-colored cloth so that the color of the new bandanas would be unapparent to them as they picked a new one at random.

“Everyone’s going to take a covered buff. Don’t open it yet. Choose whichever one you want.” Toshinori walked the basket over to Izuku’s tribe first, where Tenya had the first pick, since he had been standing the closest to Toshinori’s starting position. Ochako picked one up after Tenya, and then Izuku chose one before Toshinori moved on to the beauty tribe and then, finally, the brawn tribe.

Izuku reached out once more to grab at Ochako’s hand, sending up a silent prayer that they would remain on the same tribe.

When Toshinori resumed his position at the head of them all, he said “We’re drawing for two new tribes: Appari and Solana. So you’re looking for either orange or purple. Everybody, open your little package and see what buff you have.”

Izuku’s stomach was in tangles as he untied the thin string that bound the cloth to the buff with fingers that were shaking only slightly.

He got the string untied and opened up the cloth to reveal an orange buff, indicating that he would be a part of the new Appari tribe.

His heart dropped into his stomach when he glanced to the side and saw that both Ochako and Tenya had purple buffs.

He was being separated from the only two people he knew and trusted in this game until the merge - if they all even made it that far.

“A lot of the beauty tribe is sticking together,” Toshinori observed. “A good amount of the brawn tribe is sticking together. Take your spots on your new mats. Get to know your new tribe.”  

With that, Izuku was forced to part with Ochako and Tenya. He wrapped Ochako up in a big hug and whispered fiercely into her ear, “You better do whatever you have to to make it to the merge.”

She nodded against his shoulder. “Back at you.”

They parted ways, and then it was Izuku and Tenya sharing an embrace. “The three of us need to get to the end together,” Tenya told Izuku, and Izuku only had time to nod his agreement before he had to remove himself to his new tribe, his heart beating erratically in his chest as he made his way over to the orange mat on the far end.

Toshinori allowed them several moments to introduce themselves formally to their new tribe mates and exchange other pleasantries. On Izuku’s new tribe from the original brawn tribe was Hanta and Katsuki. Izuku didn’t really have an opinion on Hanta, not having seen much of him during the previous challenges enough for him to particularly stand out, but Katsuki was a different story. Izuku had noticed - and had been oddly affected - by Katsuki’s appearance from the very first day. He had noticed Katsuki in every single challenge thus far. He had been wanting to work with Katsuki, should they come to the merge.

It appeared that his chance to work with Katsuki arrived even sooner than expected, only Izuku didn’t know if this was a blessing or a curse.

When Izuku had tried to introduce himself to Katsuki, he was met with a scowl and a forced utterance of his own name, as if he was completely displeased by this turn of events. Which, really, Izuku couldn’t blame him. The brawn tribe had never lost a challenge. They were on a winning streak, and now their team had just been disbanded, and now Katsuki only had one other person on this new team from his original tribe.

From the beauty tribe, Izuku had Kyoka, Momo, Shoto, and Yuga. It was extremely disconcerting to have four members of the beauty tribe on this new tribe because that gave them an automatic advantage, as they possessed the numbers in the case of a vote at tribal council. All four of them could band together and pick off Izuku, Hanta, and Katsuki one by one, if they chose to do so. But Izuku didn’t know how the relations among the four of them were, and he had to hope that they weren’t closely allied, or else he was in big trouble.

Kyoka and Yuga were two that Izuku hadn’t taken particular notice of, much like Hanta, but he had definitely noticed Momo and Shoto in challenges. Momo seemed to be incredibly intelligent, whereas Shoto seemed to be both smart and strong in challenges. Shoto was another one who Izuku had told Ochako he wanted to work with - and now they were both on his tribe.

He wondered if it would be at all possible for him to form an alliance with both Katsuki and Shoto or if he was only letting his fanboy Survivor imagination run wild.

All in all, he got the impression that his tribe would be strong in both mental and physical challenges. He couldn’t really complain about the results of this random selection, aside from the fact that he was without both Ochako and Tenya.

After everyone had settled down from their introductions, Toshonori said, “Alright, we have our two new tribes. Appari is Hanta, Izuku, Katsuki, Kyoka, Momo, Shoto, and Yuga. The new Solana tribe is Denki, Kirishima, Ojiro, Mina, Ochako, Rikido, and Tenya.”

Izuku lifted his new orange buff to his nose and breathed in the scent of clean cotton before putting this back around his neck where the teal one had been just moments before.

“Denki,” Toshinori called out. “You’re the only one of your tribe to stay. What do you make of this new tribe?”

Izuku leaned over to look at Denki on the other tribe, the only member of the beauty tribe to remain there.

“It’s definitely scary. I definitely feel like I’m on the outs now. But I’m excited to play with these guys,” Denki answered with a smile on his face and a clap to Tenya’s back, who smiled good-naturedly at Denki’s response.

“Izuku, you’re in the same boat,” Toshinori said. “You’re the only member of the brain tribe on this new tribe. You’re starting over fresh.”

“Yes, sir. I agree with Denki. It’s scary, but it’s also exciting because my last tribe wasn’t doing so well, and I’m positive that this change will do some good.”

“Katsuki,” Toshinori continued, “your entire tribe has just left you, except for Hanta. What do you do now?”

Katsuki made a noise almost like a scoff from where he stood somewhere behind Izuku. “I said it on day one, and I’ll say it again. We’re going to kill the beauties, and we’re going to kill the nerds. It doesn’t matter if there’s only two of us.”

Well. That was definitely not promising.

“Ochako,” Toshinori said, moving on from Katsuki’s remarks and refocusing his attention on the other tribe, “what does this do to the game?”

“It definitely changes the dynamics of the game that we’ve been playing with for the past twelve days,” Ochako answered. “We have to figure out if we’re going to stick to our old alliances or form new ones, and we have to figure out a way to get in with these people who are strangers. It makes the game a little bit more difficult.”

With this, Toshinori was done questioning them for the moment and was ready, instead, to move on to the challenge for the day. “Alright, shall we get to our first reward challenge as new tribes?”

Toshinori’s rhetorical question was met with scattered applause and mutters of affirmation.

“For today’s challenge, one person is going to hold onto a pole. On my go, two members from the other tribe will attempt to remove them from that pole and drag them to the finish line. The first tribe to get the tribe member from the other tribe across the finish line scores a point. First to two wins the reward. Want to know what you’re playing for?”

There was much more enthusiasm in these affirmations than in the previous ones.

“It is big, it is beautiful, and you’re going to love it,” Toshinori said, making his way over to the covered table and removing the cloth from it to reveal what their reward was.

As soon as the cover was gone, Izuku felt his face split into a huge grin at the prospect of winning all of that . There were four plates piled high with pastries of all kinds, and, behind that, was something a lot more enticing than the pastries.

Coffee .

He could only imagine the difference in performance among anybody who had some caffeine in them, given the irregular and often erratic hours they slept on this island, given the elements.

“Coffee, doughnuts, chocolate chip cookies, blueberry pastries, cinnamon rolls, brownies,” Toshinori listed off. “It is a great way to celebrate the first victory of a new tribe. I’ll give you a moment to strategize, and we’ll get started.”

With that, Izuku’s new tribe all turned together to discuss the strategy for the challenge. It felt so strange, to stand there and talk about how to play out the challenge with these complete strangers, with people who Izuku didn’t know their personalities or how their minds worked or what roles they were used to being delegated in the challenges.

Shoto’s approach to strategizing was very democratic. “Who wants to attack the other team, and who wants to hang onto the pole?”

“I want to attack,” Katsuki said immediately, a grin twisting his face at the prospect of being able to lay his hands on somebody else.

Izuku swallowed. “I can hang onto the pole,” he offered, not feeling very inclined to pull at other people and possibly cause accidental injury. “I’m strong, so I think I’ll be hard to pull off.”

“I think I will be stronger on the pole than attacking,” Yuga chimed in, and nobody disagreed with him on this, unsure as to the extent of his strength.

After a few more minutes of discussion, they had a lineup that they thought would guarantee them victory. It was decided that Izuku would hang onto the pole first, followed by Yuga, and then Momo. Izuku walked over to the orange-colored pole and stood by it, awaiting further instructions. It was Denki from the other tribe that took his position in front of the purple pole, indicating that he would be the one to hang on to it for the first round. He gave Izuku an encouraging thumbs-up and a smile in a show of sportsmanship, and Izuku returned the gesture, all the while thinking, I’m stronger than him. I can beat him in this.

Hanta and Momo would be the first ones attacking for Izuku’s new Appari tribe, and when Izuku glanced over to get a look at who would be attacking for the Solana tribe, his mouth went dry.

It was just his luck that Ochako and Tenya would be the first pair attacking for the opposite tribe. He could see in their faces, even from this distance, that they were thinking the same thing of him, that he would choose to be the first one on the pole.

They were on separate tribes now. Izuku would be fighting against them, for however long it took until they got to the merge. Once they did merge, they’d hopefully retain their initial alliance to each other, but until then, Izuku had to win for his own tribe without giving thought to Ochako and Tenya.

And, besides, Izuku knew he was stronger than both of them. Working alongside them, competing on a tribe with them in challenges for thirteen days made Izuku sure of this. He was positive he’d be able to keep himself on the pole longer than Denki.

Izuku took his seat in the sand and wrapped his legs and arms around the pole in front of him, crossing his legs so that they were hugging the pole and locking his hands together as well. He was sturdy on the pole, and he knew it. In his peripherals, he saw Denki taking his starting position as well.

“First round,” Toshinori called out when everyone had taken their positions, “attacking for Appari is Hanta and Momo. They’re going to be trying to get Denki off of that pole and across the line. Attacking for Solana is Ochako and Tenya. They will be attempting to remove Izuku. We are playing to two, so here we go. Survivors ready? Go!”

Immediately, Izuku held tighter to the pole in preparation for the attack that was to come. Izuku shut his eyes and concentrated on nothing but staying locked on the pole.

Ochako and Tenya grabbed his arms in their attempt to break his grip on the pole, but Izuku only tightened his hold in response to this. He wouldn’t allow them to budge him even an inch, if he had anything to say about it.

“They have Denki’s arms free,” Izuku heard Toshinori call out. “Hanta is sitting on top of Denki while Momo works on his legs. Izuku is hanging on.”

Izuku heard the shouts from his tribe, congratulating him for hanging on thus far and encouraging him to continue to do what he was doing. His arms were beginning to ache from both to strain of holding on so tightly as well as from the fact that Ochako and Tenya were doing everything in their power to pry him off, regardless of how much it may hurt Izuku.

“It’s a battle between the former brain tribe, right out of the gate, and Ochako and Tenya cannot budge Izuku. He’s got a good grip.” After a few more minutes of struggling, Toshinori called out, “Momo has Denki’s legs free. Hanta and Momo have Denki free from the post. Now they just have to get her back, but Denki’s grabbing back on again!”

Izuku could hear the sounds of struggle coming from the other pole, and he wished he could open his eyes and see what, exactly, was happening, but he didn’t want to risk losing his concentration, so he refrained and tried to block out whatever was going on over there. He had to prove to his tribe that he was strong, that he was worthy of keeping around, or else he would likely be the first one they would try to vote out, considering that he was the only member of the brain tribe there and had no one to stick out for him.

“It’s getting very physical between Denki, Hanta, and Momo,” Toshinori commentated.

And then Izuku lost his grip for only a split second, but that was all it took for Ochako and Tenya to seize the opportunity to rip his arms off of the pole. He heard Tenya muttering encouragement to Ochako as they got his arms free, and try as he might, Izuku could not muster enough strength to fight both of them off at the same time and regain his grip on the pole.

He swore under his breath as Toshinori called out in the distance, “Ochako and Tenya now have both arms off that pole for Izuku.”

Izuku dug in harder, pulling against Ochako and Tenya as much as he could. He couldn’t get his arms back onto the pole at the moment, but he could prevent them from getting any further than that. He pushed his chest flush against the pole, setting his head against the side of it, making it impossible for them to restrain his upper body without first letting go of his arms, which would give him the only opening he needed to wrap them back around the pole and reestablish his grip.

“Hanta and Momo have Denki now free of that post, but he is still digging in that sand,” Toshinori called. “Denki is making it very difficult for Hanta and Momo. It’s a great first battle. Hanta and Momo are slowly working Denki to that finish line, but he is putting up a big, big effort. Denki is back on his feet - and back down again.”

The fact that there was so much struggle between those three was great news for Izuku because Izuku still was not budging from his spot. If they already had Denki on his way towards the finish line, then they were well on their way to winning this first battle.

As if reading Izuku’s train of thought, Toshinori called out, “Izuku is locked in. Ochako and Tenya cannot get him off of that post. Hanta and Momo are getting closer and closer to getting Denki across that line.” And then, a few seconds later, “There it is! Appari scores the first point!”

As soon as Toshinori announced it, Ochako and Tenya gave up their assault, and Izuku disentangled himself entirely from the post. He glanced at his former tribe mates and gave them a huge smile. “Nice try, guys,” he said, and he meant it.

They smiled weakly back at him in return, likely not feeling too great in the face of their defeat at Izuku’s hands. Izuku didn’t blame them, but he’d be lying is he said he felt bad.

He clapped along with the rest of his tribe as he made his way back to his mat, rolling out his shoulders and massaging his arms as he did so. Ochako and Tenya had really done a number on him. He would likely feel sore for a few hours.

Hanta and Momo gave him their ecstatic congratulations as they joined Izuku on the journey back to their mat. Kyoka, Shoto, and Yuga gave him enthusiastic congratulations as well, and Katsuki, however reluctantly, joined in on the praise. He was wearing a scowl, though he was looking at Izuku now with an almost appraising look, as if he hadn’t realized before now that Izuku really was a strong competitor. And Izuku couldn’t really blame Katsuki, if he thought that he was weak, considering that he’d been on a tribe with a losing streak before.

Still, it felt entirely gratifying to be given so much praise, and he flushed slightly under Katsuki’s gaze.

Everyone took their positions for the second match. Yuga would be on the pole for their tribe, with Kyoka and Shoto attacking. Shoto was attacking for both the second and the third rounds, if they had to go to a third round, which had infuriated Katsuki, as Katsuki wanted to be the one to give it a go twice. The only argument against this was that Kyoka and Shoto had better teamwork skills, since they’d been on a tribe together before, and that could be the difference between scoring a point and not. Katsuki had made it very clear that he thought this reasoning was “bullshit” - that was his exact word - but had conceded to the rest of the tribe when it became apparent that Shoto had the support of half of the tribe.

“Next round,” Toshinori announced when everybody was in their places. “Attacking for Appari is Kyoka and Shoto. They’re going to be attempting to remove Ojiro from the post. Attacking for Solana, it’s Mina and Rikido. They’ll be attempting to remove Yuga from his post. Appari leads one to nothing. We’re playing to two. Here we go. Survivors ready? Go!”

Izuku watched the two pairs race forward to the poles. After only seconds of working at it, Mina and Rikido had Yuga’s arms and legs both free of the post.

“Mina and Rikido are going in right away,” Toshinori called out as Yuga was removed completely from his pole.

Mina and Rikido then literally began to drag Yuga to the finish line as if he weighed nothing at all. Yuga, to his credit, looked as though he was trying to gain some kind of purchase, trying to fight back in some way, but he simply was unable to fight against Mina and Rikido.

“Yuga is completely unmatched,” Toshinori said. “It doesn’t seem fair. Rikido is dragging him. Yuga is quickly off the pole. He’s kicking, but it’s not going to do any good.”

Within a matter of seconds, Mina and Rikido had succeeded in getting Yuga across the finish line.

“There it is,” Toshinori called. “Solana scores. We are tied one to one.”

Katsuki scoffed beside Izuku, and when Izuku risked a glance at the other man, he saw that he was wearing a scowl on his face.

Yuga walked back to them, covered in sand, and Katsuki stepped away from the mat to take his place in the course for the third round.

Momo was the one sitting on the pole for the third round, with Katsuki and Shoto attacking. Izuku, after proving to be so successful in the first round at sticking onto the pole, had offered to do it again in place of Momo, but Momo said that she wanted to give it her best shot, so Izuku put his complete confidence in her abilities to win the challenge for them.

After everyone had gotten into position, Toshinori announced, “Final round. Each tribe has put up their strongest competitors. It will be Kirishima on the post for Solana. Attacking will be Katsuki and Shoto. On the post for Appari is Momo, and attacking Momo is Denki and Rikido. The winner of this scores reward. Here we go. Survivors ready? Go!”

Both attacking pairs rushed out to the poles to try to pry their person off. Both Momo and Kirishima seemed solid on the posts.

“This is it,” Toshinori called. “Take everything you have to hold on or to remove, depending on your role.”

After a few seconds, Izuku saw, to his complete dismay, that Denki and Rikido were making progress on Momo.

“Denki has both of Momo’s arms off. Rikido has her legs off.”

At the same time, Katsuki and Shoto had succeeded in getting Kirishima’s arms off the pole. Izuku shouted his encouragement along with the rest of his tribe, praying that they could get this win. He could use some caffeine and some food other than rice. More than that, he could desperately use a win.

“Katsuki and Shoto have Kirishima’s arms off. Katsuki is trying to get his legs now. Katsuki and Shoto are making a little bit of progress, but Kirishima has his feet locked in.”

By now, Denki and Rikido had gotten Momo completely off the pole and had begun to process of dragging her back to the finish line. It was slow moving, but it was moving.

“Momo is fighting hard against Denki and Rikido,” Toshinori said. “They’re dragging her, but she’s making it tough. Katsuki is trying to separate those feet from Kirishima. Shoto is sitting on top of Kirishima.”

And he was - Shoto was sitting on top of him with his full weight to prevent him from regaining a hold on the pole with his arms. If only Momo could keep fighting for a little bit longer, there was a chance that they could still win this reward.

“Rikido is now trying to lift Momo, but Momo is fighting back. She is not giving up.”

Momo was trying to crawl in the opposite direction, to get back to her pole. Denki had an arm wrapped around her middle to prevent her too much movement, and Rikido was attempting to grab her ankle to drag her to the finish line, but Momo was really digging in hard, putting up her best effort to give Katsuki and Shoto a chance.

“Momo is giving Katsuki and Shoto a lot of time on Kirishima, and it’s working.”

This was true. When Izuku looked, he saw that Katsuki had finally succeeded in getting Kirishima’s feet free of the post and was now attempting to drag him through the sand.

“Katsuki now has Kirishima’s feet free,” Toshinori said. “Rikido is pulling Momo again.”

Momo was trying her hardest to fight back, but with Denki restraining her upper body and Rikido dragging her by an ankle, there wasn’t a whole lot she could do to fight back, and they began to inch closer and closer to the finish line.

“Very close to reward. Solana could win it.” A few seconds later, and Toshinori called out, “And they do! Solana wins reward!”

Izuku felt his chest fill up with that familiar feeling of disappointment. On the down side of things, they hadn’t won their first challenge as a new team. But on the up side, the only point they had scored in this challenge was thanks to Izuku, so maybe that could be used as incentive to get into an alliance with somebody.

“Huge physical effort from everybody,” Toshinori said as everyone made their way back to their mats. Once everyone had taken their places, Toshinori said, “Solana, congratulations. Grab your reward, and head back to camp. Enjoy it.”

Izuku watched as everyone on the tribe grabbed something off of the table, whether it was the coffee or the pastries or the jars of sugar. Izuku felt so jealous that he hadn’t won this reward, but at the same time, he felt incredibly happy that Ochako and Tenya had. They deserved it, after so many days of defeat.

“Alright, Appari, I’ve got nothing for you,” Toshinori said after the Solana tribe had left the clearing. “Grab your stuff, and head back to camp.”

One thing Izuku knew for sure, as they made their way back to the Appari camp. The brawn tribe had won the comfort challenge, and they had won the fishing kit challenge, so Izuku being relocated to the Appari camp would be a monumental upgrade from his own camp, which consisted solely of a tarp to show for their wins. There would be pillows and blankets and fishing lines and salt and pepper and pans at this new camp. It would feel like a resort, compared to his old camp.

Hanta, being the friendlier of the two original Appari members, took the lead into the camp. Upon arrival, he smiled at everyone and said, “Make yourselves at home, guys. This is your new camp.” He set his bag down on the ground and gestured around. “It’s kind of a mess right now, but, you know, here’s our shelter.” The shelter was kind of a mess, with piles of blankets and pillows thrown about and articles of scattered all around, but nobody was complaining. To all the newcomers, this was so much more comfort than they’d seen in the past twelve days. “All of our fishing stuff is down by the water. We still have some eggs left from our last reward challenge, and I think we can cook those up tomorrow morning before the immunity challenge, so that we win that one.”

After Hanta’s brief tour and explanation of the camp and where everything was, everyone settled down and sat around the camp to introduce themselves further and more in-depth than they were able to do at the challenge today. Everyone seemed really nice and easy-going - with the exception of Katsuki, of course.

Izuku wasn’t deterred by Katsuki’s behavior in the least, though. He knew that he could find an opening to working with him and Hanta, since there were only two of them. The beauty tribe had four people, so they had the numbers, which meant that Hanta and Katsuki must have been hoping to work with Izuku too, if they wanted any chance at all at staying in the game.

“I’m going to go wash off in the water,” Izuku declared about an hour later.

“Me, too,” Yuga said, following Izuku down to the water.

It felt good to wash off all the sand from today’s challenge from his body, and the cool water felt refreshing against his heated skin.

Yuga was covered in even more sand than Izuku was, since he had been dragged from the pole to the finish line in the challenge. There wasn’t an inch of him that was free from the stuff.

They spent the first few minutes genuinely washing off, trying to feel as close to clean as they could, on this island.

And then Yuga surprised Izuku by saying, “I want to work with you.”

Izuku raised his brows, and his eyes widened. He had not been expecting the beauty tribe to turn on each other so quickly. “Really? You four aren’t strong?”

Yuga darted a nervous glance at the beach, as if to ensure that no one would overhear him. “They think we are. But, between me and you, I know I’m at the bottom of their alliance.”

This was an interesting turn of events, and it was happening a lot quicker than Izuku had expected.

“Momo and Shoto are tight,” Yuga continued. “Kyoka and Momo are tight. Denki and Kyoka are tight. But no one’s tight with me.”

Izuku made a humming noise. “So you want to work with me and the brawn tribe, to get the numbers?”

Yuga nodded. “I just wanted to talk to you now, for in case we lose the challenge tomorrow. And-”

“Hey, nerd!”

Izuku startled at the shouted voice that had interrupted Yuga’s proposition. He turned to see none other than Katsuki approaching them, wearing nothing but his swim shorts, revealing a chest and abdomen that were toned and positively glowing in the sun and water.

Again, Izuku felt himself flushing at being the subject of Katsuki’s attention.

Katsuki was scowling at Yuga, and Yuga seemed rather distressed by Katsuki’s sudden appearance, despite his claim that he wanted to work with them. That was just the kind of effect Katsuki had on people, though.

“M-me?” Izuku stuttered, quite flustered.

“Who else? You see any other nerds around here?” Katsuki had reached Izuku and Yuga by now, and he turned a murderous look onto Yuga.

Izuku understood immediately that Katsuki was trying to scare Yuga away so that he could talk to Izuku alone. Izuku, as much as he did want the chance to talk to Katsuki alone, thought that now would not be the best time for that, if he wanted to prove to Yuga that he would work with him, so he said hurriedly, “Yuga was just saying how he wanted to work with us, so it’s a good thing you’re here.”

Katsuki’s murderous gaze now latched onto Izuku, his eyes narrowing. “Why would I want to work with a nerd and a weakling?”

“Because the beauty tribe will pick us off otherwise,” Izuku replied, trying his best to keep his voice from wavering. He had absolutely no right to feel this nervous. None at all. “They have the numbers, and Yuga is breaking out and saying he’s willing to work with me, you, and Hanta to vote out of them.”

Katsuki’s scowl deepened. He sent another glance to Yuga before saying to Izuku, “I want to talk to you alone. Then I’ll make my decision.”

Izuku resisted the urge to roll his eyes heavenward. He sent an apologetic glance to Yuga, with the silent promise to speak to him later about the possibilities of working together after he was done speaking with Katsuki.

Yuga, understanding the unspoken message, nodded and made his way back to the shore, leaving Izuku alone with Katsuki.

“I don’t want to work with that fucking weakling,” Katsuki said as soon as Yuga was out of earshot.

Izuku raised his brows at Katsuki. He really was quite unpleasant to talk to, what with his constant insults and his dirty mouth.

Unpleasant to talk to, but quite pleasant to look at.

Izuku smacked himself mentally for thinking that. That had nothing to do with anything, and he knew it, and he had to stop getting so flustered and nervous around Katsuki just because he was attractive and strong and smart.

He did, however, need to play this game with Katsuki, at least temporarily, so he had to learn how to maneuver around Katsuki’s less-favorable qualities in order to further his game.

“But you want to work with me?” Izuku asked carefully, peering up at Katsuki, who was several inches taller than him, squinting his eyes against the sun.

Katsuki scowled, as if the thought wasn’t one that he liked. “Obviously, Hanta and I don’t have the numbers that the beauty tribe has, so we have no choice but to try to work with you.”

“Even if I work with you, we still don’t have the numbers. We need Yuga,” Izuku insisted. “If Yuga is telling the truth, that he wants to flip on the beauty tribe, then working with him will be the difference between one of them going home or one of us.”

“Don’t fucking talk to me like I don’t know how to play this game,” Katsuki snapped. “Just because I’m strong doesn’t mean I’m stupid. I know this game as well as your nerdy ass does, so don’t act like I don’t.”

Izuku was, quite frankly, taken aback by this. He blinked several times at Katsuki before he could even try to formulate a response to this. “I didn’t - that’s not what I meant. You just said you don’t want to work with him, so I-”

“Just because I don’t want to doesn’t mean I won’t,” Katsuki snarled. He gave Izuku a narrow eye. “I only trust one person in this game completely, and he’s not on this tribe, so as far as I’m concerned, I’m playing this game by myself right now.”

There was the opening Izuku needed to get in with Katsuki.
“Me, too,” he blurted. “I only trust one person completely, and they’re on the other tribe, too. So you and I are in the exact same position.” He hesitated before adding, “You and I could trust each other the same way. That way, when we merge, we already have an alliance of four.”

Katsuki was nodding absentmindedly, stroking the stubble on his chin in thoughtfulness. After twelve days, nearly every male out here had some kind of facial hair growing. Not Izuku, though. It took longer than that for him to grow facial hair of any kind, which he was rather thankful for. He didn’t want to deal with that itch and heat on his face for the entire game.


“Who’s your person?” Katsuki asked eventually.

“Ochako, the girl,” Izuku said. “She’s loyal to me one-hundred percent. What about yours?”

“Kirishima,” Katsuki said. “The redhead. We had an alliance with Hanta and Mina, too, but I don’t trust them as much as I trust Kirishima.”

“But if all you make it to the merge, you can still conceivably work together, which puts us in an even better position. I also have Tenya.”

Katsuki seemed to recollect himself and returned to scowling down at Izuku. “I’ll think about it. I don’t trust anybody out here, and don’t think you’re an exception.”

“If you and I swear to trust each other, we could make it far in this game,” Izuku continued, trying to get Katsuki to see that this could work, if only they put their trust in each other. “We could have an alliance of seven at the merge, an alliance that you and I control.”

Katsuki clenched his jaw tight. “I said I’ll think about it.”

And with that, he walked away from Izuku, leaving him there to think about the possibilities of where his game could go.

He had been expecting the worst, coming into this tribe. He had expected that the beauty tribe would be unbreakable, that he would be automatically at the bottom for being the lone member of the brain tribe, that nobody would want to work with him, and even if they did, it would only be Hanta and Katsuki, which was not enough to vote the beauty tribe out.

But there were cracks in the beauty trie. Yuga wanted to work with Izuku, and Katsuki wanted to work with Izuku, at least for now, until he decided if he trusted Izuku enough to work with him further into the game.

And it sounded like Izuku would likely not be the first one on this new tribe to get sent home.

It was a lot more than Izuku had expected, but it was all he could’ve asked for.

Chapter Text

“Come on in, guys!”

Izuku filed into the challenge area for today with the rest of his tribe, following behind Solana. As always, the first thing Izuku did was glance around at the challenge course that was set up for them today. There was a huge pencil-shaped log for both the tribes with handles attached to it at one end of the course and, at the farther end, a table that looked like the log was to be set into it, followed by what looked like a gong a little further distance away. In between this table and the log, though, there were two wall-like barricades made of thick, sturdy pieces of wood.

After everybody had taken their places on the mats of their new tribe, Toshinori said, “Alright, are you guys ready to get to today’s immunity challenge? First things first, I’ll take back the idols.” He made his way over to Izuku’s new tribe first, taking the idol from Katsuki, who had carried it into the challenge today. Then he made his way over to Solana and grabbed their smaller idol from Denki.

After he had retrieved both of the idols, Toshinori made his way back to the podium at the front of them all and placed both the idols on it, putting his hand on top of them, as he always did, for emphasis as he spoke. “Once again, immunity is back up for grabs. From this point forward, we’re only playing for one immunity idol.” Toshinori lifted the smaller blue statue and placed it on the ground behind the podium. “We’ll get rid of the small little brother and keep the big one. For today’s challenge, each tribe will use one large log to smash through two walls. You’ll then maneuver the log through a table maze. The first tribe to get their log through the maze and bang the gong wins immunity and is safe from the vote. Losers, tribal council where somebody will be the fifth person voted out of Survivor . This challenge runs six on six, meaning each tribe will sit one person out.” He directed his attention to Solana. “Solana,” he prompted.

“I’m going to sit out,” Mina offered.

“Mina will sit out for Solana.” He turned now to Izuku’s tribe. “Who’s it going to be, Appari?”

They only needed a few seconds to make their decision as well. Yuga raised his hand in silent answer to Toshinori’s question.

“Yuga, you’re going to take a spot on the bench,” Toshinori said. “Everybody else, I’ll give you a minute to strategize, and we’ll get started.”

Izuku, Hanta, Katsuki, Kyoka, Momo, and Shoto all turned together to decide how to best complete this particular challenge.

Katsuki, as usual, thought that his plan of action was the best. “Shoto and I will take the front of the log, since we’re the strongest. Izuku and Momo will take the weight in the back to support us, and Hanta and Kyoka will support the middle. When we get to the maze, Izuku and Momo will move to the front of the line, Shoto and I to the middle, and Hanta and Kyoka to the end.”

“I think Izuku and I should take the front of the log,” Shoto said. “He proved how strong he is in the last challenge.”

The glare that Katsuki turned on Shoto was positively murderous.

And then, to Izuku’s complete horror, Katsuki turned the glare onto Izuku . As if he had something to do with this suggestion.

He raised his hands in a peace-making gesture, plastering a nervous smile onto his face. “It’s whatever you guys think is best. Really. I’m in no place to try to show off.”

“That’s right,” Katsuki snarled. “You aren’t .” He turned his angry glare back to Shoto. “Just because he could hold on to a fucking pole doesn’t mean he’s stronger than me. I’m stronger than all of you combined, so don’t fucking forget it.”

Izuku was, quite frankly, appalled that Katsuki was speaking to the entire group in such a manner. Yeah, he had spoken with Izuku much like this yesterday, but Izuku had figured it was only the stress of being forced to switch tribes and then losing his first challenge. He hadn’t spoken with Katsuki at all after their ocean conversation, the other preferring to wander off into the forest by himself or with Hanta, while Izuku had made himself productive by collecting firewood, filling up their water canteens, and the like before retiring to sleep relatively early.

He was kind of shocked that Katsuki was bold enough to talk this way to every single member of his tribe. It was incredibly bold - and incredibly stupid.

As much as Survivor was about strength - both mental and physical - it was also extremely important to build up a social game, to make relationships and connections with people, to create alliances and loyalties. After the two tribes merged into one, every person who was voted out as a merged tribe would become the member of the “jury.” The members of this jury would then vote for who they wanted to win the game, out of the last three people remaining. Therefore, it was important to build good relationships with the people who you were stranded on this island with.

If Katsuki spoke this way to everybody, he had no chance in hell at winning this game. In fact, Izuku wouldn’t be surprised if he was one of the first people voted off, when he finally made it to a tribal council. The kind of behavior that he was currently displaying was not at all pleasant to be around, and a lot of these people would likely want to send him home based solely on the fact that nobody would want to be around him for another day.

Izuku would have to speak with him about that. If they were to work together, he had to ensure Katsuki stayed in the game, which he couldn’t very well do if he pissed everybody off enough that they all voted him out. And maybe if Izuku proved to Katsuki that he was trying to help him by pointing out these flaws in his game, it’d bring him a step closer to trusting him as an alliance…

Izuku, in the wake of Katsuki’s harsh words, was in no hurry to speak up and incite further verbal attacks. Shoto, in much the same fashion that Izuku had done - but with much less nervous flailing - raised his hands, as if in surrender. “Insulting you was not my intention. I just don’t think we should underestimate Izuku, and I think he might be stronger bearing the weight in the front.”

Katsuki scoffed. “Yeah, right. No fucking way.”

Izuku didn’t miss the way Kyoka and Momo glanced at each other nervously in an inconspicuous way so as to not incite reaction from Katsuki. Neither of them were going to speak against him, evidently.

Izuku gulped. Katsuki was already digging a grave for himself.

He decided that he was the only one in a position to diffuse the situation before it escalated further, so he issued another nervous laugh and rubbed the back of his neck self-consciously. “Hey, it’s not big deal, really. I’ll take the back. I don’t mind.”

And so it was settled. In the end, Katsuki got his way. Izuku really didn’t mind taking the back, though he appreciated Shoto’s sticking up for him. The strength would need to be focused on the front in order to break those walls down, and Izuku wouldn’t deny his own strength, but he didn’t necessarily want the pressure of the challenge on him, either. He didn’t mind lending support for now. He could wait until the individual challenges during the merge to show off his own strength.

They all stood on their orange-colored mat when they were done strategizing. The other team was already standing there, and Izuku, when he looked over at them, managed to catch Tenya’s eye. He gave him an enthusiastic thumbs-up, and Tenya returned the gesture, which made Izuku smile. He wished Ochako had been looking in his direction, too, but she was standing too far away from him to see, and her attention was elsewhere.

Toshinori’s voice refocused Izuku on the challenge at hand. “Alright, here we go, for immunity. Survivors ready? Go!”

Izuku’s team ran out to their orange log and picked it up by the handles at their respective positions. Izuku had to admit, it was heavier than he’d expected, but it was not unbearable. They ran out to the first wall, and, collectively, as a team, they began to pull the log back and then ram it forward, into the wall, with a startling force.

The wall was the difficult part. It was a lot tougher to break through than Izuku had expected, but both Katsuki and Shoto were making decent time on it, hitting it over and over again, breaking the pieces of wood as quickly as possible.

It took several minutes, but they eventually got their wall down, and then they raced to the second wall. By the time they got there, Izuku could tell that everybody was feeling the challenge’s effects on their bodies already. The log was heavy, and the walls were strong and so hard to smash through, and everybody was putting as much strength as they physically could into getting the walls down. Izuku’s arms were tired, and he could tell that Katsuki and Shoto’s bodies were reacting, too, because their movements in bringing down the second wall were slower and less coordinated than they had been when they got down the first once.

Izuku was tempted to glance over at the other tribe and see how well they were doing with the challenge, but he knew that if he did, he’d only get distracted, and he really had to focus on this challenge right now. He did not want to go to tribal council again.

They finally smashed in the second wall enough for them all to squeeze through the fragments. When they were all through, they raced their log to the table maze.

The log had been designed with grooves in it, and the way the table maze worked was that they had to slide the log into the table, which had a peg that fit into the grooves of the log hanging above the table. Using this peg, they had to turn the log either to the left or to the right, trying to find the correct path that would get them to push the log forward further, until they had the entire log through.

Once at the table, they had to remove the handles from the log before sliding it in. Izuku and Momo quickly raced to the front and began to slide the log until it connected with the peg. Then they began to work on the maze together.

“Move it to the left,” Momo called out, Katsuki and Shoto following her shouted orders, turning the log the way she said. “Right. Left.”

“Move it back,” Izuku said, allowing Momo to direct the log along so that he could analyze the paths of the maze and decide whether or not they were going down the right path.

It started off as mostly Izuku and Momo doing the maze work, but Katsuki and Shoto quickly joined in, shouting along with them, and then Kyoka began to give orders as well, noticing pitfalls from the back before anybody else did. Hanta, for his part, stayed relatively quiet, recognizing his strengths and pushing the log whichever way he was told to.

The closer they got to finishing the maze, the more frantic their shouted orders became, but it was soon clear that they were now on the right path. A few more moments and they had their log completely freed from the table.

Hanta and Kyoka rushed forward to grab the log from the front when it was freed from the maze, and everyone else followed suit, grabbing it from wherever they could get ahold of it and running it to the gong, where they all but smashed the log against the gong -

“Appari wins immunity!” Toshinori shouted out, and they all dropped the log at pretty much the same exact time in order to issue forth their victorious cries.

Izuku embraced Hanta and then Momo enthusiastically as they cheered for their first win as a new tribe. Yuga ran over to them from where he had been sitting on his bench and gave Izuku a hug as well, and then Izuku found himself being smothered by Kyoka and Shoto as well.

Everybody except for Katsuki. Although Katsuki was smiling, which Izuku took as a good sign. It was kind of a terrifying smile - the kind of smile a warlord would wear after crushing an enemy in battle, perhaps - but it was a smile, nonetheless. He was clapping Hanta on the back, and he wasn’t shrinking away from congratulatory hugs or back-claps as well, which Izuku found rather surprising, but, again, it was a good sign. Baby steps.

Izuku wasn’t eager to push his luck, though. He decided that it would be in his best interest to smile encouragingly at Katsuki and let that be the extent to his congratulations to the other.

After both teams settled back on their mats and Toshinori took his spot in front of them all again, he picked up the immunity idol from the podium and looked at Izuku’s tribe. “Appari, who wants it?”

“Give it to Izuku,” Shoto said, inclining his head towards Izuku.

Izuku smiled graciously at Shoto. He had only seen an immunity idol once so far. Out of the four tribal councils thus far in the game, Izuku had attended three of them. Receiving immunity at this point was like a blessing from the Survivor gods, so Izuku was not going to deny the chance to hold the statue in his hands while he could.

He took the idol from Toshinori and nearly hugged it to his chest in his enthusiasm, smiling beatifically all the while.

“Immunity for Aparri, no tribal council, which is a huge change of pace for Izuku. Grab your stuff, head back to camp, and enjoy the night off.”

Izuku sent a quick, worried glance over his shoulder at Solana, where he could make out Ochako and Tenya’s defeated figures standing among the tribe. A huge change of pace for Izuku, yes - but not for Ochako and Tenya. They would be sent to yet another tribal council, and they stood the chance of being voted out tonight.

Anxiety bloomed in Izuku’s chest all at once. They could possibly be going home tonight, and there was absolutely nothing he could do to stop it. He couldn’t even try to do anything. He was stuck here, on a completely different tribe, with no chance of swaying any opinion or outcome on the other tribe.

He felt completely helpless.

As they walked back to their camp, Izuku ran some quick facts through his mind.

On the Solana tribe, the brawn tribe had the numbers, with four people from the previous brawn tribe residing there now - Kirishima, Mina, Ojiro, and Rikido. But Katsuki had mentioned to Izuku that he had previously been working with Kirishima and Mina. He had not mentioned Ojiro or Rikido at all. Perhaps there was an opening in there for Ochako and Tenya to get in, then, with either of the pairs.

Katsuki was allied with Kirishima and Mina, but Izuku wasn’t - at least, not yet. So Izuku didn’t really care much if Ochako and Tenya ended up getting in with Ojiro and Rikido instead of Kirishima and Mina. As long as they had the numbers, Izuku didn’t really care. He just didn’t want it to be them going home, and he hoped they would do whatever it took in order to ensure that it wouldn’t be either of them.

There was also Denki, though, and he had nobody on that tribe. He was the only beauty member on Solana, so that made him an easy target. Perhaps he would be the one to go. Perhaps Izuku was worrying for nothing.

Of course, there was never nothing to worry about in this game.

--

Since they were not going to tribal council tonight, Izuku had not expected anybody to talk any strategy with him.

He was surprised, then, when Shoto approached him and asked him to walk on the beach with him. It could have just been a friendly outing, but something about the way Shoto made the suggestion made him think otherwise.

Sure enough, after they were far enough away from everybody else and had exhausted their topics of small talk and their post-congratulations on the challenge, Shoto asked, “Where do you stand with Hanta and Katsuki?”

Izuku was, by nature, an honest person. He hated lying. Especially to people like Shoto, who seemed like a genuinely good guy, even if he was a bit awkward around others. But, coming into this game, Izuku had accepted that he would have to do it. He’d have to lie to get further in this game. He’d have to bend his morality within the context of this game, within reason, or else he wouldn’t win.

So it was with a little difficulty that he said, “I haven’t talked strategy with them at all, if that’s what you mean.”

Shoto nodded. “Would you be willing to work with us?”

“‘Us,’ as in?”

“As in me, Kyoka, Momo, and Yuga.”

Ah . So Shoto had no idea that Yuga was trying to make a move against them.

“You guys are going to try to get rid of Hanta and Katsuki, if we go to a tribal council?”

“Mostly Katsuki,” Shoto admitted with a small, awkward laugh. “I mean, none of us really like him. He’s obnoxious and loud and mean, and there’s no reason to keep that around. He’ll definitely be the first to go.”

That was not surprising at all. It was just as Izuku had predicted.

Although, admittedly, to Izuku, it made sense to keep Katsuki around, even if he wasn’t trying to build an alliance with him. For one thing, if everyone wanted to get Katsuki out every single week, that would take the attention off of Izuku.

For another thing, if Izuku and Katsuki got to the final three together, Izuku would definitely be able to get more votes from the jury than Katsuki. Already, it was evident that people disliked Katsuki and disliked his attitude and behavior enough to want to get rid of him. Nobody would vote for him to win the game, if everyone disliked him so much.

There was only one thing about this proposal that Izuku didn’t quite understand.

“You four have the numbers,” Izuku pointed out hesitantly. “You don’t need me to vote with you.”

“No, but I was thinking you’d want to play with us, moving forward. Me, you, Kyoka, Momo, and Yuga could make a solid final five. We have strength, smarts, and the social skills to make it there together.”

Izuku nodded, pretending like he was considering this. And, honestly, it wasn’t a bad plan to consider.

But Izuku had to look further in the game than the final five. He had to look at the final three. He had to look at winning. Which he would not do, if he went along with the remnants of the beauty tribe. When they came to the merge, it was more than likely that Denki would rejoin the beauty tribe’s alliance, if he was still around for it. That would turn their alliance of five into an alliance of six, with Izuku firmly at the bottom of the alliance. Yuga had confided in him that Shoto was tight with Momo, and Momo was tight with Kyoka, and Kyoka was tight with Denki, so there was little chance of any of them turning on each other and keeping Izuku.

Izuku thought he had a better chance allying with Hanta and Katsuki, where he would at least have a fighting chance. He could bring in Ochako and Tenya, and Katsuki could bring in Kirishima and Mina. And Katsuki had even admitted to not trusting anyone other than Kirishima, which meant he would likely be willing to vote off Hanta or Mina, if it came down to it.

It would take a lot of work and a lot of sweet-talking, but Izuku was confident in his abilities to gain Katsuki’s trust and alliance in this game. He just had to figure out the best way to approach the other man.

“Yeah, that sounds like a good plan,” Izuku said to Shoto, shooting him a small smile. “Just let me know if anything changes.”

--

The rain started again in the evening.

As miserable as the rain made Izuku, he was significantly more comfortable here, in Appari, than he had been at his previous camp. There were blankets, and there was a tarp, and there were pillows. It went wonders to keeping them dry.

Everybody was squeezed together in the shelter. It was just Izuku’s luck that both Kyoka and Momo had fallen asleep, sharing a blanket, about half an hour ago. Shoto was still awake, but he was situated far enough away from them that between the distance and the noise of the downpour, Izuku felt confident whispering to Katsuki unheard, who was sitting sullenly a few feet away from him.

Izuku tried to scoot closer to Katsuki as inconspicuously as possible. Katsuki wasn’t wearing a blanket, not wanting to share one with anybody, but it was cold out, the temperature having dropped significantly with the rainfall and the sun sinking below the horizon. He had to have been cold.

“Take some of my blanket,” Izuku offered, throwing a corner of his blanket over Katsuki’s legs before he had the chance to deny Izuku.

Katsuki practically flinched away from Izuku and nearly ripped the blanket off of his legs. “I don’t need any of your fucking blanket,” he snarled.

Izuku resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Okay, so maybe this would be harder than he expected.

“Just take it,” Izuku insisted. “I know you’re cold. And I need to tell you something.” He kept his voice low, darting glances at Shoto as he spoke, to make sure that he wasn’t attracting his attention. Shoto was staring out the shelter, though, his back to them, and gave no indication that he heard Izuku’s whisperings.

Katsuki narrowed his eyes. “Why the fuck do I need to share your blanket for you to tell me anything?”

“Because I have to tell you quietly,” Izuku explained as patiently as he could manage. “So just get close to me and pretend like you’re sharing the blanket with me for long enough for us to talk real quick.”

Katsuki was still staring at Izuku with skeptical eyes, like he thought Izuku was laying out some kind of trap for him, or like Izuku had gone crazy and was suddenly speaking a different language.

Finally, though, Katsuki conceded, though he grumbled something under his breath that Izuku did not hear and did not particularly want to hear. Whatever insulting things Katsuki said about him, he’d be glad not to be in earshot of it, thank you very much.

The intimacy of sharing a blanket with Katsuki was almost overwhelming. Suddenly, their legs were brushing together underneath the blanket. Suddenly, they were pressed shoulder-to-shoulder. Suddenly, Izuku hardly had to lean over at all to whisper into Katsuki’s ear.

His heart was beating too quickly, and he hoped Katsuki couldn’t feel it through their contact. It was embarrassing for him to get so completely flustered at their proximity. What was wrong with him? It was like he’d never been close to somebody else before, like he’d never shared a bed or a blanket with anybody before, given the way he was acting.

Well, he hadn’t ever shared a blanket with anybody like Katsuki before, that was for sure. He’d never even really met someone like Katsuki before - someone so disarmingly handsome, so devoted to winning, so blunt and harsh, so aggressive in behavior, so uninterested in other people.

If Izuku had ever been asked to describe someone who he thought was the complete opposite of himself, he would have described someone who fit Katsuki’s description exactly, down to their coloring - Izuku’s slightly tanned skin to Katsuki’s paler skin; Izuku’s dark green hair to Katsuki’s ash blond; Izuku’s bright green eyes to Katsuki’s blood red. Izuku’s delicate features to Katsuki’s harsh ones; Izuku’s soft freckles to Katsuki’s cruel mouth. Both in appearance and in mannerisms, they were on opposite ends of the spectrum.

Which was probably why Izuku was so intrigued by him. He even admired him, for all his despicable qualities. He admired somebody who could be so upfront about his feelings, so brutally honest in his observations, so confident in himself. Izuku had never possessed any of those qualities himself.

He was somebody he’d never imagine himself acquainting with outside of this game.

But in this game, Katsuki might be exactly what he needed.

Izuku turned his head to the side to whisper into Katsuki’s ear, “I need to trust that you won’t react too strongly if I tell you something.”

Katsuki whipped his head around to face Izuku, which he must have realized, too late, was not a good idea because with the way that Izuku was leaning in to whisper into his ear, when Katsuki turned his head to the side, they were nearly nose-to-nose.

Izuku’s breath caught in his throat.

Katsuki’s eyes widened, as if completely taken aback by their sudden closeness, and then he frowned down at Izuku and turned again so that he wasn’t looking at Izuku. “What the fuck do you have to say to me that can’t wait?” Katsuki practically growled, low-voiced enough that nobody but Izuku heard it.

Well. Technically, it could wait. Only Izuku thought that if he told Katsuki tomorrow or the next day or the day after that what Shoto had said, then he was afraid Katsuki would think that he waited so long to tell him because he was actually considering Shoto’s plan. Whereas if Izuku told him now, basically right away, it would be clear that Izuku was not lying in his intentions with Katsuki. Maybe it would gain him some trust, prove to him that he was willing to work with Katsuki going forward.

“The beauties want to take you out, if we go to a tribal,” Izuku admitted as quietly as he possibly could, ignoring the way his voice shook a little. For what ? He told himself it was because he was nervous about being overheard. It had absolutely nothing to do with their proximity. None at all.

Izuku saw an immediate change in Katsuki’s countenance at this. He didn’t move a muscle, but his entire body seemed to stiffen, a muscle in his jaw jumping as he registered this information.

“They’re already planning to take me out?” Katsuki asked, the anger clear in his voice, as if it was taking him everything he had not to explode.

Maybe Izuku made a mistake in not waiting until tomorrow to talk to Katsuki, after all.

“That’s what Shoto told me,” Izuku said quickly. “He said you’re too unpleasant to keep around.”

Katsuki snorted at this, as if in amusement. “What the fuck do you mean by that?”

Izuku blinked at Katsuki several times. Was he seriously not aware of the way that he acted? Or was this just a rhetorical question? Izuku couldn’t be sure. “Well… for one thing, you yell at everybody all the time. And, today in the challenge, for example. You wouldn’t let Shoto suggest a change to your plan.”

“We won the fucking challenge because of my plan.”

Katsuki’s voice was rising slightly now, so Izuku had to motion to him to quiet down, which, in turn, seemed to infuriate Katsuki more. However, he seemed to understand Izuku’s implications, and he also understood that it’d be better for the both of them if he kept his voice down.

“I know,” Izuku whispered, trying to cajole Katsuki in whatever way he could. “I know, but the way you spoke to him wasn’t… the best way to speak to someone. You just come off as kind of standoffish. And superior. And mean.”

“You’re just too fucking soft, stupid nerd,” Katsuki said. “And those fucking beauties are too soft, too. That’s why I’ll fucking destroy them in this game.”

“You won’t destroy anyone if they vote you out,” Izuku pointed out calmly. “Listen, I’m telling you this because I want to work with you, and I want to vote them off and go further with you , not them. I could vote with them if I wanted to, but I’m not going to. So please don’t take what I’m saying the wrong way, but would it kill you to just try to be… a little nicer?”

Again, Katsuki’s jaw feathered, as if the very idea irritated the hell out of him.

Katsuki remained silent for several heartbeats, but then he said, in a low, menacing voice, “You better not fucking vote me out, damn nerd.”

And then he laid down, curled onto his side, as if to try to get some sleep while he still could.

He remained under Izuku’s blanket, though, and the fact that he was curled so closely to Izuku made it increasingly difficult for Izuku to even think about lying down next to him and falling asleep.

Instead, his mind was on Ochako and Tenya, who were sitting at tribal council right now, hopefully safe from the vote.

Chapter Text

“Come on in, guys!”

Izuku walked into the challenge are with the rest of his tribe, scanning the scene before him. The challenge today had a large wooden circle to constitute as a boundary of some sort, and inside the circle, there was an orange statue and a purple statue.

Izuku’s heart was in his throat as he waited for the other tribe to enter. He almost didn’t even want to look, terrified that he would watch the tribe walk in and either Ochako or Tenya would be gone. He did end up craning his neck to get a good look at the entering tribe, though -

And, to his immense relief, Ochako and Tenya were both still among them. He didn’t bother trying to hide the giant smile that was making its way onto his face as he scanned the remaining faces, trying to figure out who they had voted out.

There was Ochako, Tenya, Kirishima, Mina, Denki -

There was no Ojiro.

And there was also no Rikido.

Confusion swept over Izuku, and he could hear the muttered questions from the rest of his tribe, too, particularly from Hanta and Katsuki, who had, apparently, just lost two members of the brawn tribe instead of one and were trying to make sense of why this was.

Toshinori answered everybody’s unspoken question. “Ojiro was voted out at last night’s tribal council. Hours later, Rikido had to be medically removed from the game due to health concerns.”

“Oh, no,” Izuku muttered, sympathy for Rikido swelling up inside of him. It always was hard, for somebody to be forced out of the game because of medical or health-related issues. It was the worst way to go because it had nothing to do with the game or personal choice. Rikido must have felt terrible, having to leave the game for his own health, not because he wanted to.

At the same time, though, it brought Izuku that much closer to winning. Two people had just left the game, and he hadn’t had to do anything for it to happen. This game went suddenly from fourteen people to twelve people, and his chances of winning got fractionally better every time another person was sent home. He couldn’t really complain about it, at the end of the day, even if he did feel bad for Rikido.

“Momo, you can hardly contain yourself,” Toshinori observed.

“Yeah,” she said from somewhere behind Izuku. “It’s crazy. Two people are gone, just like that. It sucks that someone had to be medically evacuated, but it’s a game, and we’re all closer to winning now.”

“Izuku, you’re nodding. You’re smiling. This is a good thing?” Toshinori asked.

“I’m just happy to see my old brain tribe mates still here,” Izuku admitted, glancing over at Ochako and Tenya, who were smiling brilliantly back at Izuku.

“Katsuki, I’m surprised with the emotion. Where is that coming from?”

Izuku looked over at where Katsuki was standing and noticed that there was, in fact, emotion clear on his face. Only that emotion was anger.

“Nobody should have to leave this game unless they’re voted out,” Katsuki practically growled. “I don’t think anybody should be celebrating that Rikido had to be removed from the game.”

Izuku’s smile fell a little, feeling like Katsuki’s comment was, at least in part, directed at him. But this was a game, for a million dollars, no less. Of course Izuku would be happy that he was closer to winning. Of course he was happy that his alliance was still here. And Katsuki should be happy, too, considering that his alliance of Kirishima and Mina remained

Katsuki didn’t see it that way, though.

With that, Toshinori said, “Just like that, the Solana tribe is now down to five members. Appari is at seven, and the game has changed once again. You guys ready to get to today’s reward challenge? For today’s challenge, you’re going to square off one-on-one. You’ll each be holding an idol. Your job is to knock their idol off before they knock off yours. Every time you do, you score a point for your tribe. First to four wins reward. Want to know what you’re playing for?” After minimal prompting, he continued, “Two members from the winning tribe will follow the losing tribe back to their beach and perform a camp raid. This is your opportunity to better your life and inflict a lot of pain on the other tribe. Appari, you have two extra members; you’re sitting two people out. You cannot sit out the same people out in back-to-back challenges. Who are you gonna sit out?”

They turned together to discuss who would sit out for this challenge. In the end, they decided that Yuga and Kyoka would sit out. Izuku thought it’d be better to let Yuga play in this challenge, that way he could sit out in the immunity challenge, which they needed to win more. Izuku was willing to sit out in Yuga’s place, but Yuga had insisted on sitting out in this particular challenge. Kyoka’s only reason for sitting out was that she wanted to play in the immunity challenge for sure.

“Kyoka and Yuga, take a spot on the bench,” Toshinori said, gesturing towards the bench in question. “Everybody else, I’ll give you a minute to strategize, and we’ll get started.”

This challenge didn’t really require a whole lot of strategizing. All they had to do was figure out a lineup, which didn’t really matter all that much, so there were no arguments before the challenge this time.

When both teams were satisfied with their lineups and were standing ready on their mats, Toshinori called out, “Here we go. First round. Shoto heading out versus Tenya.”

Both Shoto and Tenya took their spots inside the wooden circle, balancing their statue on the top of a base that they were holding onto.

“It’s very simple,” Toshinori continued as the two men grabbed their statues and placed them on top of the base. “You knock their idol off before they knock off yours, and you score a point. We’re playing to four. Here we go. Survivors ready? Go!”

Shoto and Tenya approached each other cautiously, both making sure to keep their statues a careful distance away, well out of the other’s reach. They would jump a few inches forward, reach out an arm, try to fake the other one out, trying to get a feel for the challenge as well as for their competitor. Izuku was rooting for Shoto, obviously, because he wanted to win this challenge, but he couldn’t help but watch Tenya closely as well, hoping he at least put up a good fight.

“This is a showdown,” Toshinori said in the background. “Who will make the big move first?”

Shoto began to advance on Tenya, and Tenya, in his attempts to evade the other, began backing away.

“Shoto is getting closer, taunting Tenya now.”

And then Shoto tossed his own idol high into the air recklessly, jumping forward as he did so and knocking off Tenya’s idol, and, sure enough, Tenya’s idol hit the ground a lot quicker than Shoto’s had, tossed as high as it had been.

“Shoto goes for it and succeeds!” Toshinori called. “Appari scores and leads, one to nothing!”

As Shoto made his way back to their group, everyone congratulated him heartily.

Izuku was next in the ring for his tribe, so he made his way in and picked up the idol, placing it on the circular base that he had to keep it balanced on. The girl Mina was who he was battling against.

“Next round, it is Mina for Solana taking on Izuku for Appari,” Toshinori said. “Survivors ready? Go!”

Izuku met Mina about halfway through the ring, both of them watching each other carefully, cautiously. Mina was somebody that Izuku had never played with before, had never even really noticed much of in challenges. He had no idea what her style was when it came to game play or challenges, so he had no idea what to expect of her. She was strong, that was for sure, but that was about the extent of Izuku’s knowledge where she concerned. She must have an immense well of patience, Izuku reflected, if she had formed an alliance with Katsuki.

Izuku reached out his arm, trying to get closer to Mina and her statue, but every time he did so, Mina smacked at his hand sharply. He was hoping he could get Mina going enough that she’d lose her balance and drop her statue, but when this strategy proved futile, Izuku rushed forward to hit off her statue -

Only in doing so, Izuku’s own statue dropped, and it hit the sand before Mina’s did.

He heard the Solana tribe cheering victoriously at their win and Izuku’s loss.

“Izuku with a big move, but it falls short,” Toshinori called out. “Mina scores for Solana. We are tied, one to one.”

Izuku made his way back to his team and muttered his apologies, but no one really seemed all that upset with his failure. They still had time to win it, after all.

“Next round, it’s Katsuki taking on Ochako.”

Izuku’s head snapped up at that, watching as Ochako took the ring on the opposite side of Katsuki. Out of everybody Ochako had to go up against, Katsuki was the last person he would have wanted for her. Izuku was afraid he’d be too aggressive, that he’d somehow hurt her. Not that Izuku thought he was the type of person that went around purposefully hurting people. But he did seem like the type of person who was capable of taking things too far without even realizing it.

Ochako looked a little nervous herself as she stared down at Katsuki’s scowling face across the ring, but she composed herself beautifully, standing at her full height and making herself appear as strong and capable as she could manage.

“Here we go,” Toshinori said. “Survivors ready? Go!”

Katsuki wasted no time in approaching Ochako, getting as close to her as he possibly could, while Ochako remained more on the defensive, watching Katsuki with a shrewd eye and trying to determine his movements before he made them in order to best combat them.

“Katsuki is going right after Ochako,” Toshinori said. “Very aggressive.”

Katsuki kept leaping forward in his attempts to knock off Ochako’s idol, almost completely abandoning his own idol in the process. Izuku watched anxiously as his idol gave the indications of toppling over, but it never did, not even as he ruthlessly assaulted Ochako.

Ochako, for her part, was putting up a good fight, holding her idol well out of Katsuki’s reach and smacking at his hand and his arm to try to deter him from his current route of action.

“Katsuki can’t get to it; Ochako is holding him off.”

Ochako shoved hard at Katsuki’s chest, which succeeded in sending Katsuki a few paces back - but in the process, Ochako had lost balance of her own statue, and it fell into the sand.

“Katsuki does it,” Toshinori announced as Izuku’s tribe clapped for Katsuki, giving him the same congratulations they’d given Shoto. “Appari scores and leads: Appari, two; Solana, one. Next round.”

Momo stepped into the ring for Izuku’s tribe, and Kirishima stepped in for the Solana tribe.

“Momo taking on Kirishima,” Toshinori said as Momo and Kirishima took their places and readied themselves for the battle. “Appari leads, two to one. We’re playing to four. Survivors ready? Go!”

Momo and Kirishima approached each other quickly, both of them trying to knock down the other’s idols. Very quickly, though, Kirishima got Momo off-balance, and her idol toppled over and into the sand.

“Solana scores!” Toshinori called. “We are tied two to two. Next round: Hanta taking on Denki.”

Denki and Hanta replaced Kirishima and Momo in the ring to face each other down.

“Here we go. It’s two to two; we’re playing to four. Survivors ready? Go!”

Denki and Hanta charged at each other without any build up, both of them reaching out aggressively, trying to hit off the other’s idol -

“Denki is going right after it; Hanta is going right after it,” Toshinori called out, and no sooner had he said this than Denki had reached out and knocked Hanta’s idol off, making it hit the ground only a second before Denki’s own idol fell. “Hanta’s drops first. Solana scores and leads, three to two. We’re back to the top - a rematch from our first round.”

At those words, it was Shoto and Tenya retaking their places in the ring. Izuku felt good about their chances in this match, considering that Shoto had scored the point against Tenya earlier. At the same time, now Tenya knew what kind of moves to watch out for from Shoto.

“This could be it,” Toshinori said as they took their places. “Tenya could win it for Solana. Shoto has to win in order to keep Appari in this. Shoto won the first time. Here we go. Survivors ready? Go!”

Tenya walked right up to Shoto this time and then stood still as a statue, allowing Shoto to make all the moves, Tenya choosing instead to wait and watch and see what Shoto would do before acting himself. Shoto reached out a few times and tried to knock off the idol, to no avail.

“Tenya walks right at Shoto. Shoto with a long reach, but Tenya is not budging.”

When Shoto got too close to Tenya for comfort, Tenya pushed at Shoto’s chest, sending him back a couple of inches. Shoto took a second to regain his composure, to ensure that he wasn’t off-balance now.

Again, Tenya pushed Shoto backwards, this time sending him back farther than before. Still, though, Shoto kept his idol on the base.

“Big move by Tenya, but Shoto holds tight,” Toshinori said. “Shoto is not backing down. It’s another showdown between these two.”

For several minutes, the two men did nothing but circle each other, studying, waiting for an opening, neither of them willing to make a risky move for nothing.

Shoto reached out and tried to smack at Tenya’s arm, the one that was balancing the idol, which gave Tenya all the opening he needed to charge forward and knock Shoto’s idol off, causing it to land in the sand.

“Tenya went for it and got it! Solana wins reward!” Toshinori shouted as the Solana tribe shouted their victorious cheers in the background.

“Damn,” Izuku muttered to himself, already dreading the impacts this reward challenge would have on their tribe.

Solana could take their comfort. Or their food. Or their fishing gear. It would cost them a lot, and Izuku was only just getting used to the comforts that the Appari camp afforded him. Just like that, it would be taken away from him, and he would return to living in conditions that were similar to what he’d been living in at Luzon.

After both Shoto and Tenya were back on their mats, and after Solana had calmed down enough from their celebration, Toshinori said, “Solana, congratulations. You’re going to select two people right now that will leave and go back with Appari to their camp. Who’s it going to be?”

Unsurprisingly, it was Kirishima and Mina who stepped forward. Being from the Appari tribe originally, they knew the camp better than anybody else, and they stood the biggest chance of claiming the items that would hurt Appari the most.

“Kirishima and Mina,” Toshinori stated, drawng a small, rolled-up piece of parchment out of his pocket. “Okay, this is a note. Keep it sealed until you get to their beach, then you two read it together, away from them. It’ll tell you what to do. Alright?”

“Yes, sir,” Kirishima said, while Mina nodded her assent.

“Kirishima, Mina, join this tribe.”

Kirishima and Mina picked up their belongings and made their way to stand with the Appari tribe.

“So, Kirishima, you have an idea - a very good idea - of what Appari has,” Toshinori said.

“I know Appari inside and out. That’s why I’m going,” Kirishima confirmed with a huge, excited smile on his face.

“Alright, Denki, Ochako, Tenya, grab your stuff, head back to camp, and await the return of your tribe mates with their take.”

They watched as the three remaining members of the Solana tribe walked away, making their way back to their own cmap.

Izuku was glad, at least, that if he didn’t get to partake in the comfort afforded him by living at Appari, then Ochako and Tenya would be able to receive that same comfort now that they won this challenge.

Toshinori turned his attention back to their tribe once Solana had departed. “Alright, guys. Grab your stuff. Head out. This should make for an interesting afternoon.”

With that, Izuku picked up his stuff along with everybody else and began the long trek back to their camp.

Once they arrived, Hanta, once again, played the role of welcome wagon, welcoming Kirishima and Mina back to their old home. Izuku cast a sidelong glance at Katsuki, who looked eager to speak with Kirishima, likely to ask what happened at the tribal council, why Ojiro was sent home, why Rikido had to be evacuated from the game. He refrained, though, likely realizing the dangers of speaking with his former tribe mates in front of his new tribe, recognizing how that would appear to everybody else. Katsuki was smart enough to realize that was a bad move and so refrained from doing anything of that nature.

But Izuku sympathized with him tremendously. If it had been Ochako and Tenya who had come in place of Kirishima and Mina, he knew he would have to restrain himself to keep from talking to them, asking them what happened, if they formed new alliances with anybody, if they thought they’d be safe until the merge.

“Well, Toshinori gave us this note, so we’re going to go down by the water and read it,” Mina announced, turning away from everyone and pulling Kirishima along with her.

Once they were properly out of earshot, Izuku groaned and put his face in his hands. “This sucks,” he declared.

Katsuki scoffed. “They can take whatever the fuck they want.”

Izuku glanced at Katsuki. His face was scrunched up in annoyance, demonstrating that, despite his words, he didn’t want to lose anything they had, either. Everything they possessed did wonders to enable them to compete better in challenges, from their food supply to their comfort items to their fishing gear. Everything allowed them a higher chance of being well-rested and well-fed, and Izuku thought that it would be a harsh blow to lose any of it. Especially Hanta and Katsuki, who had been living in this comfort the entire time.

Everyone stood around in a sullen silence, waiting for Kirishima and Mina to return and do their damage to the camp.

When they finally did return, Kirishima addressed them by saying, “So we had the choice of taking two of three things, and we’re going to take your comfort and your fishing kit.”

Izuku groaned for the second time. Let Katsuki think what he wanted about him and his desire for whatever luxuries they had out here.

Mina went down to the water to grab the fishing stuff, while Kirishima went the to shelter and began to collect the blankets and pillows they had. Izuku noticed Katsuki walking over to Kirishima and whispering something into his ear, to which Kirishima nodded in reply. Before Kirishima went to join Mina and go back to their own camp, he gave Katsuki a quick embrace, and then they left.

Izuku laid down in their now-bare shelter and tried to take a quick nap, but he couldn’t find any sleep. Eventually, he got up and tended to the fire instead. He didn’t see anybody around the camp. In the distance, he saw Kyoka, Momo, Shoto, and Yuga in the water, but Izuku had no idea where either Hanta or Katsuki were.

Hanta and Katsuki returned from wherever they had been after Izuku had been sitting at the fire for about ten minutes. Noticing Izuku there, Katsuki sent a glance to the water, as if to ensure the entire beauty tribe was still there, before he and Hanta sat down at the edge of their shelter, facing Izuku.

“You’re sure Yuga’s willing to vote with us?” Katsuki asked in a hard voice.

Izuku nodded. “Obviously, he can’t let them know that he’s going to flip on them,” he said as an explanation as to why Yuga is spending more time with his beauty tribe members than with them.

“Who does Yuga want to get out?” Hanta asked.

Izuku shrugged. “I have no idea, but I’m going to suggest Shoto, if we have to go to tribal council. He’s strong, smart, and likable, and I think he’ll get to the end, if we don’t vote him out now.”

“Do you think any of them have an idol?”

“I don’t know,” Izuku admitted. “Which is another reason why we need to keep this quiet. If they catch on that we might vote out one of them, they’ll play their idol at tribal council.”

Hanta and Katsuki shared a look. It was a distinctive look, in which there were unsaid words being spoken. Izuku watched this interaction with interest. Hanta widened his eyes at Katsuki and inclined his head several times in Izuku’s direction, but Katsuki shook his head, his face lined with irritation and anger both. They seemed to be silently arguing about something.

Hanta, evidently losing the argument, gave up and turned his attention back to Izuku.

One thing was definitely clear, then. Even if Hanta was completely willing to work with and trust Izuku, Katsuki still didn’t.

Izuku sighed and went back to poking at the fire with his stick, not willing to push his luck where Katsuki was concerned. Not yet.

He had to figure out a way to prove to Katsuki that he could be trusted.

Somehow, he knew that that was going to be a lot harder than it sounded.

Chapter Text

“Come on in, guys!”

Izuku and the rest of his tribe entered the challenge area for today, and Izuku took in the extravagant setup for their immunity challenge. It was the most complicated-looking course Izuku had seen throughout their recent challenges, and it stretched far enough out that Izuku couldn’t even observe the whole thing. All he could see was a pile of large sticks resting in front of some kind of wooden cage with two levels to it. Beyond that, he couldn’t really make out what the challenge would be.

In order to face Toshinori, they all had to turn their backs on the challenge course. Toshinori was standing in front of a field of empty grass, the empty pedestal for the immunity idol next to him. “Are you guys ready to get to today’s immunity challenge? First things first. Kyoka, I will take it back.” As he said the words, he approached Kyoka from Izuku’s tribe, who had been cradling the immunity idol in between her hands. She gave it back to him reluctantly, and then he went back to the pedestal in front of them all and placed the idol atop it. “Once again, immunity is back up for grabs. For today’s challenge, you will use wooden poles to build a staircase. You’ll race through a bamboo maze, then down a slide. One person will maneuver a key through a rope obstacle. They’ll use the key to unlock the machete. They’ll use the machete to release puzzle pieces. Two tribe members will then use those pieces to solve a puzzle, which will reveal three numbers to a combination lock. The first tribe to solve their combination lock and raise their flag wins immunity and is safe from the vote. Losers, you know the drill. Tribal council, where somebody will be voted out of this game.”

Well. This challenge was a rather complex one with a lot of different components to it and a lot of team involvement. It wasn’t simply knocking a statue into the sand or pulling somebody off a pole. It was more complicated than that, and Izuku was both thrilled and nervous at the amount of different factors that would go into winning this challenge.

“Appari, you have two extra people,” Toshinori said to Izuku’s tribe. “Who are you going to sit out? You cannot sit out the same people in back-to-back challenges.”

Kyoka and Yuga couldn’t sit out, and Izuku had a very strong feeling that Katsuki wouldn’t be willing to sit out of a challenge, which left the possibilities narrowed down to Hanta, Izuku, Momo, and Shoto. They whispered quickly to each other to make their decision. When they reached it, they turned back to Toshinori, and Hanta raised his hand and announced, “I’ll sit out.”

Momo raised her hand as well, indicating that she would be the second person sitting out.

“Hanta and Momo are going to sit this one out,” Toshinori reiterated. “Take a seat on the sit-out bench. Everybody else, I’ll give you a minute to strategize, then we’ll get started.”

After Hanta and Momo had left to take their sets on the indicated bench, Izuku, Katsuki, Kyoka, Shoto, and Yuga turned to each other to discuss who would be doing what.

“Why don’t you and I do the puzzle, Izuku?” Shoto began, but as soon as the words left his mouth, Katsuki sent the other man a scowl.

“I’ll do the puzzle,” he said forcefully.

Shoto blinked at Katsuki. “I was thinking you could do the key-”

I’ll do the puzzle ,” Katsuki repeated, enunciating every syllable very clearly. “You can do the fucking key.”

Izuku had to bite his tongue to keep from saying anything and getting himself involved in an argument of any kind. He didn’t really think it was a good idea for Katsuki to participate in a puzzle in which he had to work with somebody else to put it together at all, given his poor teamwork and communication skills, but he wasn’t about to speak up and inflame Katsuki’s already-volatile attitude.

He thought Shoto had the right idea, though. If Katsuki had done the portion of the challenge with the key rope, then he could contribute significantly to the challenge without having to work closely with anybody else. Izuku and Shoto, both of whom were markedly better at teamwork than Katsuki was, could do the puzzle together.

But Katsuki, as always, had different plans that he insisted were better.

“I’m smarter than you, anyway,” Katsuki was saying to Shoto. “Why do you think I’ve never lost a puzzle challenge before?”

So, begrudgingly, they decided that Izuku and Katsuki would complete the puzzle together, while Shoto did the key-rope portion.

One thing was for certain. Izuku couldn’t wait until they got to the merge because then nobody would have to worry about working with Katsuki in important challenges anymore.

And then Izuku realized, with a small start, that he was thinking of making it to the merge as an inevitable. Up until now, he had always thought in terms of if . If he made it to the merge. If he got to the individual portion of the game.

But now, somehow, he was thinking about when he got there instead.

It wasn’t that he was getting comfortable or over-confident or anything. But, upon further reflection, he realized that he was fairly certain in his ability to last through a few more days, a few more tribal councils. He was quite sure that he could get to the merge, at the very least.

This realization sent a jolt of excited nerves coursing through his body.

But then he had no more time to think on it because it was time for their challenge to start.

“Alright, here we go,” Toshinori called out. “For immunity, survivors ready? Go!”

The five members of Izuku’s tribe ran out to the pile of large sticks that they were to use to construct their staircase. All the sticks were different sizes, and they had to be set into corresponding holes in a platform that was in front of the bamboo maze cage. It took a few minutes of rearranging the sticks to get them in the right order, but then they had it. They walked up the wobbly sticks and made their way through the bamboo maze. Katsuki took the lead on this so that they didn’t make any wrong turns, combining his intelligence with his athleticism to launch his body down openings and crawl through narrow spaces, to climb up the bamboo walls without finding a dead end. He lead them through without a single problem, which Izuku found himself impressed by. He knew Katsuki was smart, but he was able to direct them through without a single misstep, and seemingly without a second thought about where they were going.

They were back at the top of the maze, where they had to slide down a slide composed of more bamboo sticks. First, though, there was a rope that was blocking the way, and Katsuki got to untying that knot quickly so that they could all slide down. Once Katsuki had the knot undone, they all went down the slide as quickly as they could, and then they were to the rope maze section of the challenge.

Shoto emerged from the group to work on the key while everyone else lingered behind, waiting for him to finish to move on to the next part of the challenge. Izuku took this moment to look to the side, where he saw that the other tribe was at exactly the same spot in the challenge as they were. Kirishima was the one getting the key out of the tangle of ropes for their tribe.

Both Kirishima and Shoto were making decent time on this section of the challenge, moving quickly without getting tangled up in the ropes.

“Once you’re through, you’ll release that key, and you can unlock the machete,” Toshinori called out. “Shoto has released his key. Unlock that machete!”

Izuku’s heart jumped at this small lead, but Kirishima was right on Shoto’s heels, though, releasing his own key less than thirty seconds after Shoto had gotten his.

“Kirishima is right behind him,” Toshinori called out. “Shoto’s released the machete; Kirishima now has released his key.”

Shoto began to use the machete to whack at a piece of wood, and, once it was cut all the way through, their tribe’s bundle of puzzle pieces fell from a wooden structure at the next section of the challenge.

“Shoto has the pieces free. Everybody through now! Kirishima is still working on that lock.”

Izuku and Katsuki ran ahead of everyone else so that they could take the lead on the puzzle, as they had previously agreed on. Izuku and Katsuki gathered the fallen planks of wood that served as their puzzle pieces and then brought them over to the large horizontal structure that they had to fit the planks into.

“We have to build it from the bottom to the top,” Izuku muttered as Katsuki rifled through the pieces, trying to make sense of them. “We could lay them out on the ground to be sure we have it right, and then we can place them into the puzzle-”

It was evident Katsuki wasn’t listening to Izuku, though, as he began placing pieces into the structure without much method to the order at all.

“The first number’s a four. Look for a four,” Katsuki barked at Izuku as he placed another piece into the frame.

Izuku opened his mouth to argue with Katsuki, but he figured now was really not the time to start a conversation about how Katsuki needed to work on his teamwork and communication skills. If Katsuki thought he was on the right track to completing the puzzle, Izuku supposed it didn’t really matter how they got there. So he began doing as Katsuki said, rummaging through their pile of pieces until he found what looked like the top of a four and handed it off to Katsuki.

When they put together the second number was when things began to go downhill and fast.

“Katsuki, that’s not right,” Izuku said, moving forward to remove a couple of the pieces that Katsuki had just placed into the puzzle.

“What the fuck do you mean, it’s not right?” Katsuki snarled, taking a step back to look at the number he had created. It was meant to be a twenty-nine, only the lines on the two didn’t quite match up all the way.

“It’s not lined up right,” Izuku said, tugging the pieces out of the frame, all the while very aware of Katsuki’s seething at being corrected behind him.

Izuku removed the entirety of the number twenty-nine and took the lead in earnest now, trying to shove in new pieces to make a number that made sense.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Katsuki snapped at Izuku. “We’re falling behind now.”

Izuku glanced to the other tribe for a brief second to see that, sure enough, Ochako and Tenya were at the top of their puzzle while Izuku and Katsuki were still at the bottom of theirs.

“It’s a sixty-seven,” Izuku muttered to himself after getting a look at the other tribe’s puzzle, praying for just enough time to find the correct pieces and put them together to give them a chance at winning this thing still.

But a few moments later, Ochako and Tenya ran ahead to the chest containing the combination lock, and then, only seconds after that, their flag was drawn up, revealing that they had beaten Izuku and Katsuki at the puzzle and, therefore, at the entire challenge, that they were the winners of immunity for today.

Izuku threw down the piece he was holding in his hand, feeling utterly defeated. He ran his hands through his hair in distress as he looked at Katsuki, who was positively fuming at their defeat.

It wasn’t like it was Izuku’s fault, though. He’d had a plan for the puzzle, and Katsuki had completely disregarded it. If anything, it was Katsuki’s fault they had lost this challenge when they had the lead in the puzzle to begin with.

And Katsuki was the one who’d insisted on doing the puzzle, too, when everybody else was ready to let Shoto do it.

It was Izuku who should have been fuming over their loss, not Katsuki.

At least one good thing came out of them losing the immunity challenge: he knew for sure it wouldn’t be Ochako or Tenya going home tonight, and Izuku was feeling pretty good about his position in his tribe right now as well, so they were all one day closer to making it to the merge together.

“Solana wins immunity,” Toshinori announced amidst the victorious cheers and shouts coming from the Solana tribe.

Once everyone had settled and the two tribes regrouped on their maps, Toshinori walked the immunity idol over to Solana, handing the thing off to Denki.

“Solana, congratulations,” Toshinori said before making his way back to the front of the two groups. “No tribal council for Solana. Grab your stuff. Head back to camp. Enjoy the night off.”

Izuku watched as the Solana tribe left the challenge area, worrying his bottom lip between his teeth all the time.

After Solana was out of earshot, Toshinori turned back to the rest of them and said, “Appari, somebody from this group is going home. Grab your stuff. Head back to camp. I’ll see you at tribal tonight.”

--

They only had a few hours until they had to go to tribal council, and Izuku was well aware that he was something of a swing vote for the vote tonight, so he had anticipated to have multiple conversations in rapid succession.

Yuga approached him first, as he was cooling off in the water after the challenge.

“I think it would be best to vote out Kyoka,” he stated simply.

Izuku raised a brow. “Why Kyoka?” He had been expecting for Yuga to choose Momo or Shoto, since they both seemed to be stronger in challenges, as well as smarter. Down the line, they would be the bigger threats to compete against.

“Kyoka is close to Denki,” Yuga explained. “Momo and Shoto weren’t really close to Denki - only Kyoka. So if the merge is soon, then Kyoka will have Denki as another number, as well as whatever alliance Denki has created on that tribe, as well as Momo and Shoto.”

Izuku thought through this logic. It honestly made a lot of sense to vote off Kyoka, if she could build an alliance with a lot of people who would proceed to pick off everyone else one by one, especially since the beauty tribe now had the most members remaining in the game.

And Shoto had expressed that he wanted to work with Izuku. If Izuku kept both Momo and Shoto in the game, perhaps the possibility of creating a kind of alliance with them wouldn’t be entirely shot, even if he did vote off Kyoka now. He could still use them, later on in the game.

Izuku nodded slowly. “Okay. I’ll talk to Hanta and Katsuki about it.”

Yuga beamed at him.

Izuku remained in the water for another half hour before deciding that he should, in fact, alert Hanta and Katsuki to the plan.

In his quest to seek them out, though, he was rebounded by Momo and Shoto.

“We want to vote out Katsuki,” Shoto declared. “Are you okay with that?”

“Why Katsuki?” Izuku inquired, perfectly mirroring the question he’d asked Yuga when Yuga had told him of his plan to vote out Kyoka. He might as well gather whatever information he could so that he could relay it back to Katsuki. This could be his chance to prove to them that he would remain loyal to them, that he could be trusted to work with.

“He’s unpredictable,” Momo explained. “He sucks at communicating during challenges, and he’s always yelling about something. It brings everyone else down.”

“The whole reason we lost the challenge today was because of Katsuki,” Shoto chimed in. “If you and I had done the puzzle like I originally said, then we would’ve worked together better and had a better shot at winning. But Katsuki’s insufferable when it comes to things like that.”

Izuku chewed on the inside of his cheek. If Katsuki kept on acting the way he was, then it would be a challenge to keep him safe from week to week.

But Izuku nodded all the same, keeping up with his charade of an alliance with the beauty tribe. “As long as it’s not me, I’m fine with it,” he said with a small smile.

Momo and Shoto seemingly reassured, they bounded off to alert Kyoka to the plan to vote out Katsuki.

Izuku wasted no time in finding Hanta and Katsuki, who were the people Izuku felt the most personal incentive in working with. He felt like Hanta and Katsuki - despite the latter’s very obvious flaws - were more likely to remain loyal to Izuku than anybody on the beauty tribe. Momo and Shoto seemed reliable enough, but Izuku hadn’t spoken any strategy with Kyoka at all and, as such, had no idea where her head was at, in addition to getting the impression that she didn’t really have a desire to work with him. Yuga had already proved that he was wishy-washy when it came to loyalty, since he was the first one to flip on his previous tribe mates, and there was no guarantee that he wouldn’t do the same to Izuku when it suited him.

Meanwhile, Katsuki, despite his reservations about forming a solid alliance with Izuku and his reluctance to fully trust him, had been honest in his admissions regarding his tribe’s previous relationships - that he was closest to Kirishima but that he was also allied with Hanta and Mina. He was honest with Izuku when he told him that he didn’t trust him yet. He made it very clear that he was cautious with his loyalties, but that only meant that when he was loyal to someone, he was loyal to a fault. Which was what Izuku needed.

If he voted with Hanta and Katsuki tonight, despite the fact that it’d be a lot easier to just go with the majority, maybe he could finally win the pair over and convince them that he was someone who could be trusted and depended on, someone to build a lasting alliance with.

The three of them wandered into the forest surrounding the camp under the guise of looking for firewood in order to get some semblance of privacy. Once they were far enough away from the camp that there was little chance of being interrupted, they stopped walking and faced each other to discuss the upcoming vote.

“Momo and Shoto approached me and told me that they’re voting out you,” Izuku blurted immediately, wanting to get that out in the open before they made any other moves.

Me ?” Katsuki didn’t sound surprised, exactly. More, he sounded pissed off that anyone would dare to write down his name and try to send him home. “Why the fuck would they want to vote me out?”

“Well… to be fair, the three of us were their only options-”

“And out of the three of us, they chose me ?” Katsuki snorted, as if this was the most ludicrous thing he’d ever heard in his life.

And ,” Izuku said pointedly, trying quite nobly to ignore Katsuki’s expostulating, “they want to work with me, so that really only leaves you two. And they blame you for losing the challenge today.” Izuku said this last bit in a rush so that the words ran together, knowing full well that this would inflame Katsuki’s anger even further and hoping that if he said it quickly enough, Katsuki wouldn’t even hear it.

The deepening of Katsuki’s scowl and frown demonstrated that Katsuki had, in fact, heard every word. “I wasn’t the only one working on that puzzle,” Katsuki spat, giving Izuku a pointed glare.

“I know,” Izuku hurried to add in an effort to placate Katsuki, even though, in this regard, he was inclined to side with Momo and Shoto. It was kind of Katsuki’s fault, but Izuku didn’t think that was enough of a reason to vote Katsuki off.

“You were the one who suggested that you do the puzzle, dude,” Hanta said, rubbing the back of his neck as he eyed Katsuki warily. “I’m not saying you lost the challenge for us, but I can see why they would blame it on you. You’re the easy out for them.”

“I’m not a fucking easy out-”

“Dude, I’m sorry, but you absolutely are.” Hanta seemed to struggle to keep a straight face as the words came out. “If you have this shitty attitude the entire time we’re out here, you’re always going to be the easy out.”

“What shitty attitude?” Katsuki barked at Hanta, the steam practically coming out of his ears.

Izuku didn’t like the direction this line of questioning way going, so he figured now would be the best time to let them in on Yuga’s plan. “Yuga said to vote out Kyoka. He said he’ll vote with us, if we vote out Kyoka.”

Hanta and Katsuki both blinked at Izuku.

Then Hanta nodded and smiled, though the smile was kind of nervous. “Kyoka. Got it. As long as it’s not us.” And then he nudged Katsuki none too subtly.

Katsuki grunted something under his breath that Izuku didn’t quite make out but that he figured was an affirmation.

Nodding to himself, Izuku made to leave and get back to camp to get his stuff together for the tribal council tonight.

Before he did so, though, Hanta dropped a hand onto Izuku’s shoulder and looked him in the eye and said, “If everything works out tonight, then we seriously owe you one.”

Izuku felt his chest flutter a bit as he cast his eyes to Katsuki, who was staring down at the dirt of the ground with his characteristic scowl on his face, seemingly deep in thought.

It felt like everything was falling into place, exactly the way Izuku wanted it to.

--

When they arrived at tribal council later that night, Izuku took his spot at the far end of the bottom row, Hanta sitting next to him. Katsuki sat at the other end of the bottom row, Kyoka separating him from Hanta. Shoto, Yuga, and Momo sat in the back row.

Izuku would be lying if he said he wasn’t nervous about this tribal council. It was the first one that he’d attended with this tribe, and he definitely didn’t feel as comfortable sitting here, with them, as he did with Ochako and Tenya. He was also slightly worried about what Katsuki would say - if he would let his temper get the best of him. This was Katsuki’s first tribal council ever, and Izuku had absolutely no idea how he was going to compose himself.

Toshinori was standing at the front of all of them, as usual. Once everyone had entered and taken their seats, he said by way of greeting, “Hanta and Katsuki, there are torches waiting for you. Grab it, dip it in the flame, and get fire. This is part of the ritual of tribal council because in this game, fire represents your life. When your fire is gone, so are you.”

As he said the words, Hanta and Katsuki did as they were told, grabbing the unused torches and lighting them with the big fire in the fire pit in the center of the room. They resituated themselves before Toshinori began the council in earnest.

“Alright, so, Yuga, just looking from the outside, you could make the assumption that the four former beauty tribe are together and that Hanta, Izuku, and Katsuki are on the outs.”

“That’s a pretty accurate assumption,” Yuga said.

“Hanta, the beauty tribe is tight?”

“Yeah, they seem pretty tight to me,” Hanta said, “but it’s important to remember that in an alliance of four people, there’s always going to be an order, and someone’s always going to be on the bottom. And I think there’s a clear number four in their alliance.”

“Izuku, you see a clear number four in the beauty alliance?”

Izuku’s heart leapt, as it always did when he was addressed so casually by Toshinori, even as he said, “I do. Is that enough to be able to sway one of them onto our side? I don’t know. But I do definitely see a number four.” He obviously wanted to downplay it; he didn’t want Momo and Shoto to figure out that Yuga likely flipping on them tonight.

“Momo, both Hanta and Izuku say that one of you are clearly on the bottom. How does that sit with you?”

Momo hesitated for only a second before saying, “I don’t see any of us as being on the bottom, Toshinori. I think that we’re all equal. We all contribute equally to challenges; we all contribute equally around camp; and, most importantly, I think we’re all loyal to each other. So I don’t really see where this ‘number four’ nonsense is coming from.”

Izuku, quite frankly, thought it was unfair to say they all contributed equally when it was apparent that Momo and Shoto did more than Kyoka or Yuga did.

“Kyoka,” Toshinori said, “Momo says there is no number four, but looking at it logistically, there’s got to be a number four. There’s got to be a pecking order.”

“Yeah, I mean, I think there will have to be, eventually. I think that’s a problem that we’ll have to worry about in the future, though. Obviously, four people can’t make it to the end. But that’s not something that we should be concerned about right now. Right now, the beauty tribe has to worry about sticking together, and staying loyal to each other, or else none of us will make it far at all. And we have the numbers right now, and there’s a merge coming up soon, so talking about a pecking order is absurd.”

“So the beauty tribe is safe tonight?”

“As long as everyone sticks to the plan and doesn’t get paranoid, then, yes, we should all be safe tonight,” Kyoka answered.

“Yuga, you feel like you’re in a good spot tonight?”

“I do. I have a pretty good idea about who both sides are voting for tonight, and it’s not me on either account.”

Izuku had to physically restrain himself from wincing at Yuga’s answer.

Apparently, Shoto didn’t restrain his reaction to Yuga’s declaration at all. Izuku didn’t see what kind of face Shoto pulled, since he was sitting behind him, but Toshinori said, “Shoto, there was a big reaction from you.”

“Well, yeah, because this is the first that I’m hearing about Yuga knowing who the other side is voting for.” There was a hint of wary irritation in Shoto’s voice. “He didn’t care to share that information with the rest of us.”

“I didn’t know I had to,” Yuga said, effectively digging himself into a deeper hole.

“If you’re in an alliance with us, then I would expect you to tell us who they’re voting for, unless you have a reason not to,” Shoto retorted.

In the silence that followed this little back-and-forth, Toshinori said, “Wow. Katsuki, is this good news for you?”

Izuku held his breath, praying that Izuku would be more competent than Yuga was when it came to answering Toshinori’s questions.

“You see that the beauties aren’t really as tight as they think they are, so it’s great news for me,” Katsuki said, opting to keep his answer quite ambiguous. Izuku found himself nodding along to Katuski’s words.

“How important is it to you, Momo, that the beauty tribe sticks together?”

“I think it’s very important because, like Kyoka said, we do have the numbers. There’s only one of us on the other tribe right now, and I don’t know if he’s created new alliances or not, but I’m willing to bet that when the merge comes, we’ll stick together, and then we can take out everybody else. It’s the only logical thing for us, as a group, as an alliance, moving forward. If one of of us decides to break off and do their own thing, then that changes the entire game, and I’m not sure it would be for the better for any of us.”

Momo’s answer made it very clear, at least, that if Izuku accepted the offer of an alliance with the beauty tribe, Izuku would be the one on the bottom from the start. From the way she spoke of it, it was obvious that she and Shoto wanted the beauty tribe to stick as closely together as possible.

“Katsuki, Momo brings up a good point. You don’t know what’s going on at the other tribe. The people you were previously close to might have formed whole new alliances,” Toshinori said.

“Right. That’s how the game is played. We can’t sit around and think about the hypothetical alliances we’ll create at the merge or the numbers we might have at the merge when we don’t even know that any of our old alliances are still going to be loyal to us. That’s stupid.”

“So, who’s in trouble tonight, Hanta? What are you feeling?”

“I don’t even know what to think. I mean, obviously myself, Izuku, and Katsuki are in trouble, since we’re on the outs. We don’t have the numbers. But there are cracks in the beauty alliance, and what we’re hoping is that those cracks are enough to keep us here. Because there is a bottom, no matter what any of them say, no matter what the future of their numbers are. There is a bottom, and I think that bottom knows who he or she is.”

“Momo, do you feel safe tonight?” Toshinori asked.

After a slight pause, she said, “I did until I came here. I mean, if it’s true that one of the beauties is flipping on us, then that shifts the power dramatically. All of a sudden, the beauty tribe is sitting ducks, and Hanta, Izuku, and Katsuki have the power.”

“Shoto, do you feel safe tonight?”

“I did until I came here,” he said with a small laugh, mimicking Momo’s answer. “I’m sitting here, trying to discern which one of us might be flipping, trying to figure out which one of us thinks they’re on the bottom. But for Yuga to say he knows who the other side is voting out and the fact that he didn’t tell us about it makes me think that he thought he was on the bottom, so he probably flipped, and it’s probably going to be me, Kyoka, or Momo voted out. And if that’s the case, then I just want to say to Yuga that the beauties have all intentions of sticking together. If you flip, there’s no guarantee that any of them will keep you safe.”

“Hanta, you’re smiling. What’s going on?”

“It’s just funny that the beauty tribe was so confident tonight that they didn’t really consider the possibility of someone flipping, and now it looks like they’re getting kind of scared for the first time. Which, like Katsuki said, is great news for those of us who thought we were the targets. “

“Everyone right now is talking about their old alliances with their old tribes. Has there been no attempt to making one cohesive alliance with the seven of you?”

“No, there’s been absolutely no attempt,” Hanta said.

“Shoto, you’re nodding your head affirmatively, like you agree.”

“I do agree. There’s been no attempts from the brawn tribe to strike an alliance with us, and there’s been no attempts from us to strike an alliance with them. I think we all want to stick with our old alliances more than we want to form new ones. Being on this tribe is kind of just like waiting for the merge so we can be with our whole alliance again.”

“Izuku, you’re not from brawn or beauty. Where do you fall in Shoto’s assessment?”

Izuku chose his words carefully. “Well, obviously I’m by myself out here right now, which I thought would make me the first one to be voted out. But both the beauty tribe and the brawn tribe have actually approached me, so it comes down to who do I trust more? Who do I feel more comfortable with? Who do I want to live with for the next twenty-three days? It’s a big decision, and if I make the wrong one, then I could be going home next.”

“So, Katsuki, how big of a vote is it tonight?”

“It’s big because it’ll make everything very clear in regards to who is really allied with who and who we all think we can trust personally.”

Izuku pressed his lips together to keep from smiling at the implications at Katsuki’s words. If he proved to them that he was trustworthy tonight, he may be worthy of Katsuki’s personal trust in the future.

“Alright, it is time to vote. Shoto, you’re up,” Toshinori said, and so the process began.

Shoto went across the bridge to vote first, then Kyoka, Hanta, and Katsuki went before it was Izuku’s turn. Izuku picked up the black marker and wrote down Kyoka’s name in big, clear letters and then placed the parchment in the urn, folded in half. After Izuku returned to his seat, Yuga went to vote, then Momo.

After Momo reclaimed her own seat, Toshinori said, “I’ll go tally the votes.” He left the seven of them to sit there in their silence as he retrieved the urn and brought it back to them, setting it on the podium in front of him. He laid his hands on it. “If anybody has a hidden immunity idol and you want to play it, now would be the time to do so.”

There had been absolutely no talk of the possibility of anybody having a hidden immunity idol, so Izuku wasn’t surprised at all when nobody said anything.

“Alright, once the votes are read, the decision is final. The person voted out will be asked to leave the tribal council area immediately. I’ll read the votes.” Toshinori drew out the first piece of paper and unfolded it, read the name written on it, and then turned it over for everybody else to see. “First vote: Katsuki.” He took out the second paper. “Kyoka.” The third. “Katsuki. Two votes Katsuki, one vote Kyoka.” The fourth. “Kyoka. That’s two votes Katsuki, two votes Kyoka.” The fifth. “Katsuki. Three votes Katsuki, two votes Kyoka.” The sixth. “Kyoka. That’s three votes Katsuki, three votes Kyoka, one vote left.”

This was the moment of truth. This would reveal if Yuga was true to his word, if he had voted with Izuku and Hanta and Katsuki or if he had stuck with his beauty alliance, after all. Izuku crossed his fingers and shut his eyes to send up a brief prayer. He had never been one for superstitions or prayers, but he figured now would be a good a time as any to start.

Toshinori pulled the seventh and final piece of paper out of the urn, unfolded it, read the name written there, and said, at the same time as he turned the paper over to reveal the name to everyone else, “Sixth person voted out of Survivor : Kyoka. Kyoka, you need to bring me your torch.”

Izuku released a breath he had been completely unaware he’d even been holding. He cast a glance over to Hanta, who was beaming away, and then, further down, Izuku could see that Katsuki was grinning as well, even though he had received nearly half of the votes tonight.

Kyoka looked positively blindsided. It sent a pang of guilt clanging through Izuku’s chest.

But he had to remind himself that this was a game, that a million dollars was at stake. This was what they had all signed up for. He couldn’t let one person’s hurt feelings and ruined chances at the prize money feel him this guilty - not when there were still ten other people left that he had to vote out still.

Kyoka grabbed her torch from behind everyone and then made her way up to where Toshinori was standing. She placed her torch in the slot for it.

“Kyoka, the tribe has spoken,” Toshinori said, and he lifted up the flame extinguisher and closed it over Kyoka’s torch, snuffing the first out. “It’s time for you to go.”

Kyoka turned back to the group and said, “Good luck,” the words very clearly directed at Momo and Shoto alone, before she left the tribal council area.

Once she was well out of earshot, Toshinori said, “Well, a couple things are clear from tonight’s vote. It was a big vote and a blindside, and it definitely drew lines in the alliances. The lingering question as you head back to camp: did you make the right decision? Grab your torches; head back to camp. Goodnight.”

All the way back to camp, Izuku couldn’t help but feel the excited giddiness coursing through his body.

He was really out here, making moves, executing blindsides. He was sure he could get Hanta and Katsuki onto his side now that he proved himself. And he was sure that the merge would be coming up any day now, when he would be reunited with Ochako and Tenya.

He was feeling rather good about his position in this game right now, and nothing, not even his lingering guilt, could put a damper on that.

When they got back to camp, though, the effects of the vote tonight already began to show

When Izuku had been on the brain tribe, the aftermath of the votes were never a big deal. Izuku, Ochako, and Tenya had had control over the votes, and everybody else on their tribe knew it, so there wasn’t a whole lot of distrust or especially upset feelings going around.

It was completely different, to be surrounded by people you didn’t entirely trust, to deal with how tribal council played out, by how the voting turned out.

It was the first time Izuku had had to deal with the aftermath of a complete and total blindside.

The first thing Izuku was aware of upon their arrival back at camp was Hanta ushering Katsuki quickly away from their shelter and towards the beach. Izuku was tempted to follow them, to figure out what was going on at that end, but it was more important for him to tie his ends with the beauty tribe first.

“Good job, Yuga,” Shoto murmured as he settled himself in front of their fire pit and began the work of kindling their fire for the night.

Momo settled herself into the shelter, and Yuga stood off to the side, in between Izuku and Shoto, as if uncertain what he was supposed to do or say after pulling off Kyoka’s blindside.

“I thought you wanted to work with us, Izuku,” Momo said from where she was sitting in the shelter. Her voice didn’t sound accusatory, though, just matter-of-fact.

Izuku was never one to enjoy being in the spotlight, and he could feel both Momo’s and Shoto’s attention on him, waiting for him to provide some sort of satisfactory answer to Momo’s unspoken question. Shoto had started the fire in earnest, and the flames provided the only light that Izuku had to see by, casting everyone in a dull orange glow.

“I considered it,” Izuku finally answered, which was honest enough. “When this other option was presented to me, I thought it’d better serve my own personal game to vote with them than with you guys. It has nothing to do with any of you personally.”

“I know that,” Momo said. “It is just a game, after all. But it still hurts, to see someone that I trusted so much leave without even thinking it was going to happen.”

Izuku chewed on his lower lip, that guilt that he’d felt following tribal council coming back now.

Momo was right - it was just a game. And Izuku meant it when he said that nothing was personal. But these were still real people that they were playing with, real people with real lives outside of this game, all of them here for the common purpose of winning the million dollars. They all signed up for this; they all knew exactly what to expect coming into this. But at the same time, they did have real feelings and real sensitivities, and those personal feelings could easily influence the way that the game was played, regardless of if that was the intention or not.

“I’m sorry,” he ended up saying. Not for voting Kyoka out, but for causing Momo or Shoto any unintentional ill feelings.

“And why would you flip on us?” Shoto asked, directing this question at Yuga, who was still standing silently off to the side.

“Because I know I’m at the bottom of the beauty alliance,” Yuga answered simply.

“There was no bottom,” Shoto countered, the irritation clear in his voice. “I don’t know where you got that idea. We were all going to stay loyal to each other - all of us.”

“So why were you trying to bring Izuku into the alliance?”

This was actually a rather good point, and it was one that Izuku had been thinking on ever since tribal council, when they kept insisting that the beauty tribe was tight. If they were so tight, then what did they need Izuku for?

“Because we needed more numbers,” Shoto said.

“So if I had voted with you guys, I would have been at the bottom of the alliance,” Izuku muttered. “Which is why I didn’t vote with you guys.”

“An alliance is an alliance,” Momo said. “There is no bottom; everyone is equal in an alliance.”

“Until we have to start voting each other off,” Yuga said. “I didn’t want to be sixth place. I want to win.”

“You’re definitely not going to be sixth place now, that’s for sure,” Shoto murmured.

Now that the heat was effectively off of Izuku, he decided to make his getaway. He slipped away into the darkness to walk down to the beach, where Hanta and Katsuki had gone not too long ago.

It was a lot darker down by the beach, with the only light being the moon and the stars overhead, and it took Izuku’s eyes a couple of minutes to adjust enough to make out the shapes of Hanta and Katsuki, both sitting close to the water. Izuku’s stomach was knotted up as he approached them. He didn’t want to interrupt anything, but he figured that this was his alliance right now, so he had to make sure that everything was okay.

“Hey,” he said quietly once he was close enough for them to hear him, so that they were aware of his presence before he was right on top of them.

Hanta looked over his shoulder and gave Izuku a small smile, gesturing him over to sit with them. Katsuki didn’t acknowledge Izuku at all, but he didn’t tell him to go away or snarl at him, which Izuku took as a good sign.

Izuku sat down next to Hanta, much too nervous to try and get close to Katsuki right now. “Is everything okay?”

“Yeah, I just knew Katsuki would be pissed coming back to camp, since he got votes. I didn’t want him to yell at anyone or make a scene.”

“I wasn’t gonna make a fucking scene,” Katsuki spat out.

Hanta ignored this and instead said to Izuku, “Thanks for voting with us, dude. Really. I can’t speak for Katsuki, but I trust you, and I think we should keep working with you, going forward.”

“I trust you guys, too. Both of you,” Izuku said pointedly. “Your alliance and my alliance can join together, once we get to the merge, and now we have Yuga, too.”

“I don’t fucking trust Yuga,” Katsuki said, shooting Izuku a glare. “Just because he voted with us tonight doesn’t mean he won’t flip again.”

“You’re right,” Izuku hurried to say. “But with or without Yuga, we still have a solid alliance when the merge comes. We just have to trust each other.”

All three of them sat there in silence for a few moments, unsure what to say to break the silence.

Katsuki surprised Izuku by saying, “Hanta, I want to talk to Izuku alone for a minute.”

Hanta nodded easily at this, pushing himself up onto his feet and sending Izuku a smile and a thumbs-up before leaving them sitting on the beach by themselves, the space that Hanta had just vacated separating them.

Katsuki didn’t say anything right away, didn’t tell Izuku why he wanted to be alone with him. Izuku’s heart was pounding in his chest, half-fearful and half-hopeful about what Katsuki could possibly want to say to him.

And then there was the nerves that was sparking all through Izuku’s body at the sudden intimacy of the situation. He tried to ignore it, but he couldn’t help but notice that they were alone on a beach at night, under cover of darkness, away from any listening ears of searching eyes. He knew it was inappropriate to feel that way, under the circumstances. But he couldn’t deny his continuous attraction to Katsuki, couldn’t deny the way he was drawn to Katsuki’s dangerous and volatile personality, so very different from Izuku’s own.

That wasn’t what he was here for, though, and that certainly wasn’t what Katsuki was here for, which was just as well. He didn’t need distractions. He needed to win the million dollars.

Finally, Katsuki broke the silence. “I don’t trust Hanta.”

This surprised Izuku enough that he whipped his head around to look at Katsuki with wide eyes. “You don’t?”

Katsuki scoffed and ran a hand over his face. “I don’t trust any of them. The only person I trust is Kirishima, and he’s the only one I want in this alliance.”

Izuku’s heartbeat continued to thump almost audibly in his chest.

He didn’t know what he did to earn it, but evidently, Katsuki trusted Izuku enough to tell him this, to tell him that he didn’t trust Hanta, that he didn’t trust anyone he was allegedly in an alliance with except for Kirishima. No matter how grudging it was, Katsuki appeared to be accepting Izuku’s offer of an alliance post-merge.

“Well…” Izuku hedged, trying to think of what to say to this. He ran a hand through his hair and grimaced at the feel of it. So many days without shampoo to wash his hair was making it greasy, and his scalp was beginning to itch. It was also starting to get long enough that it was bothersome; he’d have to find something to tie it back with, soon, with how much it was getting into his face. Maybe one of the girls would have an extra hair tie. “Why don’t you trust any of them, exactly?”

Katsuki scowled. “Because they’re all fucking idiots. I know Ojiro and Rikido were planning on voting me out, if we ever went to a tribal council. Hanta and Mina said they were with me and Kirishima, but I don’t think that was true.”

“Hanta seems like he’s with you,” Izuku put in weakly. Truthfully, Izuku liked Hanta. He seemed trustworthy and honest and friendly and loyal, which was exactly the kind of person Izuku wanted to be allied with.

“Yeah, now that it’s convenient for him.” Katsuki snorted. “We’re the only members from the brawn tribe on this team. He didn’t have any other options.”

Izuku realized, for the first time, the effects of the brawn tribe never having gone to tribal council before they switched teams. None of them really knew who was allied with who - none of them had been subjected to tribal council as the brawn tribe, and, as such, all they based their loyalties off of was their words.

“Kirishima trusts Hanta and Mina?” Izuku ventured to ask.

“He was doubtful about whether they were being honest with us or not, but he trusted them more than I did.”

Izuku nodded to himself. “Well, when we get to the merge, we’ll only have the numbers if we bring in Hanta and Mina. If it’s only you and Kirishima and my alliance, that’s only five people.”

“I fucking know that,” Katsuki snapped.

A heavy silence descended upon them, Katsuki apparently having nothing else to say and Izuku not wanting to say anything that would change Katsuki’s mind about wanting to work with him.

Eventually, though, Izuku decided to be the one to speak first, saying quietly, “So what, exactly, are you telling me all of this for?”

This was the wrong thing to ask because Izuku saw the way Katsuki’s shoulders immediately tensed up, the way his scowl deepened. He turned a burning glare onto Izuku, and Izuku had to look away to keep from being the subject of that glare.

“I’m telling you all of this, you fucking idiot, because I’ve decided to fucking trust you, which is what you fucking wanted, isn’t it?” He wasn’t quite shouting, but his voice was raising enough that Izuku cast a nervous glance backwards towards their camp to see if anybody was close enough to overhear him.

Izuku looked at Katsuki again and opened his mouth to speak, but Katsuki wasn’t done.

“As much as I fucking hate to compliment someone as annoying as you, you’ve proved that you’re strong in challenges, and you’re smart, and you’re not a fucking idiot when it comes to playing this game. This doesn’t mean I like you or anything, but I’m giving you my word that I’ll be loyal to you if you’re loyal to me. But if you fucking break my trust in any way, I swear to you, I’ll fucking find a way to get back at you.”

Izuku swallowed at the threat but nodded nonetheless, trying his hardest to not look ruffled by this speech. “I’ll be loyal to you.”

Katsuki let his heated gaze rest on Izuku for several more moments, as if studying him, before he wordlessly shoved himself off of the beach and made his way back to camp.

Izuku didn’t really know what to make of this. He was happy that he had Katsuki - and, presumably, Kirishima - but now he didn’t really have Hanta or Mina as part of his alliance, if Katsuki got his way. Which he always did.

So now Izuku was in the minority alliance.

But - that wasn’t exactly true. As far as Izuku could tell, the only other actual alliance was the one between Denki, Momo, and Shoto - and possibly Yuga, if Yuga decided to flip back with his old alliance. Hanta and Mina would be on their own, unless they created a new alliance or struck up a deal with the beauty tribe.

Izuku just didn’t know. He didn’t know how anything would play out.

He would have to wait until they got to the merge to see what would really happen, where lines would be drawn, and who, exactly, would be in what alliances.

Chapter Text

Izuku woke up with the sun the next morning. Since there was no way of formally telling time on this island, Izuku couldn’t be sure exactly what the time was at any given moment, but he had gotten quite used to the telltale differences in the air that marked the change of the hour - the position of the sun in the sky, the different birds that were calling, the times that different insects and other small animals began to emerge. So if he had to guess the time that he woke up that morning, he’d say it was just shy of six.

He had procured a hair tie from Momo last night before falling asleep, so his curly green hair was bound at the base of his neck, which did wonders at preventing the sweat from collecting in excess in that area. He hadn’t realized how much of a burden his thick, too-long hair would be in the continuous and unforgiving heat of the island, and it was growing longer every day. He couldn’t wait to get his hair cut. He was half-tempted to give in and whack it off with a machete or one of their knives, but he knew he would live to deeply regret that decision if he did so.

He began to make the fire when he woke up. Everyone else was still sleeping soundly, either in the shelter or in their makeshift beds in the sand surrounding the shelter. The shelter was big enough to fit all of them, but there wasn’t exactly much wiggle room, and a few people - namely Izuku, Katsuki, and Shoto - had chosen to curl up in their respective spots in the sand each night - weather permitting - while the others sprawled out in the shelter. Thankfully, Katsuki and Shoto weren’t lying too close to their fire pit, so Izuku could safely kindle their fire.

Izuku wasn’t exactly skilled at starting the fire, even with the help of the flint. He could get it going, had done so on several occasions, but it wasn’t his area of expertise. Katsuki was the one who was always able to get a fire going within seconds, unfailingly, seemingly without exerting any kind of effort at all. Shoto was also good at starting the fires quickly. But the rest of them, while they could manage, weren’t quick or particularly skilled in that ability.

Eventually, the flames began to stick, and so Izuku filled their pot with water and put rice on to boil to constitute for their breakfast. He wanted to go and check the tree mail for the day, but it was an unspoken custom that they would wait for everybody else to wake up before reading whatever mail they had gotten.

It didn’t take everyone else very long at all to rouse themselves, though. Living in the outdoors, away from civilization, for so long did wonders in synching up everyone’s circadian rhythms, and everyone tended to rise not too long after the sun.

Izuku scooped equal rice portions into six bowls and handed out the food to everyone. The mood this morning was still wrought with tension, emanating off of Momo and Shoto, still upset over their blindside last night, but the prospect of food seemed to quell their hurt feelings for the moment, and they began their morning ritual of inquiring as to how everybody slept and making other general small talk.

Momo and Shoto were the ones who went to check the tree mail, in the end, leaving Izuku, Hanta, Katsuki, and Yuga at the camp to await the news of their upcoming challenge.

When they returned with a single piece of sealed parchment in Shoto’s hands, they all gathered around the pair, their eagerness and curiosity causing them to abandon their spots around the campfire and to instead stand around Shoto as he broke the seal and began to read what it said.

“‘You may want to tidy up camp a bit and make some room,’” he read, a smile on his face as he read the words.

Izuku felt a smile on his own face at the implications of just that single sentence. His heart was thundering in his chest. He could hardly contain himself from bouncing on the balls of his feet.

“‘You’ll be having guests from the Solana tribe arriving shortly,’” Shoto continued amidst the excited expostulating coming from everybody else, “‘and some of them may be staying here for the next twenty-two days.’”

And just like that, all the negative feelings and all the foul moods fell away, to be replaced with feelings of excitement, victory, relief, and a sense of camaraderie, however brief that might be.

They all began to hug each other, all of them smiling, all of them congratulating each other - because there was nothing else that paper could mean.

This was the merge.

They had all made it to the merge. After sixteen days, they had survived a combined total of seven tribal councils, had lasted through thirteen challenges, had lived through questionable alliances and lies and truths and separations - and now, they were finally getting to the individual part of the game.

There were no more teams.

Now, it was everybody for themselves.

And they were all ready for the real game to begin.

Even Katsuki was smiling that half-feral smile of his, and when Izuku put his arms around the other’s waist for a casual embrace, he didn’t try to push Izuku away or make any comment about it. Instead, he put his own arms around Izuku’s shoulders and shared the sentiments that everybody else was passing around.

As excited as they were about the merge, though, they were more excited still about what the merge meant for everyone: food . Every year, the merge was celebrated with a feast of sorts, in which foods that they hadn’t eaten in the past two weeks were provided for them. Izuku’s mouth was already watering in anticipation of the possibilities.

And then they had to wait for the arrival of their old tribe mates. Izuku couldn’t wait to see Ochako and Tenya again. Anxious anticipation made it hard for him to sit still for very long, and he found himself trying to occupy his time with whatever menial tasks he could think to do - from collecting firewood to organizing their collection of utensils and bowls and plates to fixing any odd ends on their shelter to adding more rocks to the perimeter of their fire pit. Anything to keep himself busy, he did.

He was aware of Katsuki watching his every move, his smoldering gaze burning into Izuku’s back constantly. He knew Katsuki was probably thinking that Izuku was a world-class weirdo, with all of his fidgeting and muttering and organizing. If Izuku had ventured to look at Katsuki’s face while he watched him, he was sure he’d see a mixture of confusion and disdain in that assessing gaze.

As such, Izuku refrained from looking in Katsuki’s direction at all.

Hanta was on the same page as Izuku, though not in quite a neurotic way as him. He was plainly trying to keep busy in a casual way to make the time pass. Momo and Shoto sat by the fire and talked while they waited, and Yuga sat in the shelter with Katsuki, though on opposite sides, making it clear that they were not there together for the enjoyment of the other’s presence but rather for lack of better options.

Finally, while Izuku was pulling their boat further up onto their beach, he glanced up and saw a moving speck in the distance. He straightened, shading his eyes from the sun overhead with his hand, and squinted to try to get a better look at the approaching object.

Within a few moments, Izuku could make out the shape as a large rowboat as it got closer and closer to their beach. And then he saw the distinctive shapes of five people on the boat, all of them waving their arms at Izuku.

“Guys, they’re coming!” Izuku shouted in the direction of their camp, and, within moments, Izuku was joined on the beach by the others, all of them smiling broadly and waving at the incoming boat.

“We come bearing gifts!” Denki shouted from the boat, once they were close enough to be heard.

“Is it food?” Hanta shouted back, wasting no time in getting to the bottom of their feast.

“And what we stole from you!” Kirishima shouted back with an obvious smile in his voice, referring to the comfort and the fishing items they took when they performed the raid on their camp. They would have their blankets and pillows back, Izuku realized, the joyous warmth at the prospect of the merge and food stretching even wider to encompass their lost comfort as well.

Izuku, Katsuki, and Shoto approached the boat as it pushed onto their shore to grab the items in question from the Solana tribe members, moving it from hand to hand to get everything onto their beach as quickly as possible.

It took them about ten minutes to move everything, and once this task was done, the Solana members disembarked their boat and began, in very rapid succession, to hug and say brief introductions or greetings to each other.

Denki was the first person who approached Izuku, introducing himself and giving Izuku a quick hug. Then Kirishima introduced himself to Izuku, and Izuku - totally irrationally - felt himself getting nervous around this man, with the knowledge that the plan was to ally himself with him. As such, he wanted to make a good first impression, but all he had time to squeak out was his own name before he was faced with the next member of the Solana tribe.m

Mina hugged Izuku excitedly with a big smile on her face, giving him her name, and he gave her his in return.

And then Izuku was faced with Ochako, who was positively beaming as she wrapped her arms so tightly around his neck that she nearly choked off his air supply, but he didn’t complain, wrapping his arms around her waist and holding her just as tight to him.

It was so strange, how he had only met Ochako sixteen days ago, how he had only spent twelve of those days with her, and yet having her with him again was an immense relief, as if he had known her for years, and her return provided Izuku with all the comfort he needed.

He supposed that was just another effect of being stranded in the middle of nowhere with seventeen strangers. The only person he could say he trusted without an inch of doubt was Ochako. He had formed an alliance - and, more than that, a bond - with Ochako on the very first day, and, as such, he had formed a strong attachment to her, almost as if she was a sister to him. Without anybody he knew from outside of this game to provide him with any stability, Ochako had become that for him, and so seeing her again made him feel so much more at home.

“I missed you so much,” Ochako practically squealed into his ear. “I have so much to tell you.”

“Me, too,” Izuku murmured, pulling away from her and smiling brilliantly.

And then she was being pushed to the side so that Tenya could envelop Izuku, smushing him against his broad chest so tightly that Izuku couldn’t even move his arms to return to embrace.

“Izuku! It’s so good to see you again!” he exclaimed, squeezing Izuku even harder.

Izuku politely dislocated himself from Tenya’s grip and gave him a genuine smile.

And then he realized that it really must have been good to see him again. They didn’t know who had been voted out last night; they probably thought that Izuku was a likely candidate to get sent home, since he had no previous relationships on this new tribe. They had probably been worried all through the night that Izuku would be the one voted off.

Evidently, everyone else caught up to the aftermath of last night’s tribal council as well because in the next moment, Denki said, “I see Kyoka’s gone.” There was a question in the statement, one with a slight edge to it.

“Let’s settle down and get into the food,” Hanta said good-naturedly, “and we can talk about it.”

Nobody was about to say no to eating an actual meal for the first time in over two weeks, so, without further argument, everyone laid out the picnic blanket that had been provided for them and laid the numerous baskets of food over it. Izuku’s mouth was watering as he viewed the assortment. There was a basket full of bread; a basket full of sandwich meats and cheeses; a basket full of condiments, including mayonnaise and guacamole; a basket full of fruits, including grapes, kiwis, mangoes, and apples; a basket full of a selection of different lettuces; and a basket full of salad toppings. In addition to this, there were two  glass bottles full of different juices - one apple and one grape - one glass bottle of rum, and no less than two bottles of wine.

Izuku opted for a glass of apple juice and created a fruit salad for himself before moving on to assembling a sandwich composed of provolone cheese, honey ham, guacamole, mayonnaise, lettuce, and tomato.

When Izuku took his first bite of his sandwich, he could have sworn he was in heaven. Really. It didn’t matter what was in it - eating something other than rice and the rare fish for the first time in sixteen days was positively blissful . He was pretty sure he ate his sandwich in record time before diving right back in and making a second one.

He had just started on his fruit salad when Kirishima grabbed the chest that had been provided with the food. In everyone’s eagerness to eat, they had completely disregarded the chest, but now, without further ado, Kirishima undid the clasps on in and pushed open the lid to reveal eleven brand new buffs for their new tribe, these ones all black. At the sight of these new buffs, everyone made small awed sounds, as if still not quite believing they’d all made it to the merge, that their two tribes were now combined.

Kirishima passed the chest around so that everyone could grab their new buffs. Receiving a new, clean buff was almost as good as receiving the food, if Izuku was being honest. Every single item of clothing that they had at this point were dirty as hell, and putting a clean piece of cloth to his face and smelling the fresh scent of it and feeling the softness of it was a welcome respite.

He discarded his orange buff, which had been tied around his wrist, and secured the black one in its place.

After everyone had taken their new buffs, Momo, who held the now-empty chest in her hands, plucked a piece of paper out of the chest and unfolded it, reading the words there aloud for everyone to hear. “‘Congratulations. Your tribes are merged.’” There was scattered applause and more whoops or triumph at hearing the official confirmation of what they all already knew this feast and the buffs meant. “‘Enjoy the feast provided. You have earned it. Hidden idols are still in play, and another idol with different powers is hidden somewhere near your camp.’”

Even though Izuku knew that there were hidden idols and that surely, by day seventeen, at least one person - though likely more - had one in their possession, he had yet to hear anything about them. He had absolutely no idea who had one and who didn’t. And now there was the addition of an idol with “different powers,” which definitely made Izuku nervous. He didn’t know what kind of different powers this idol could contain - all he knew for sure was that he didn’t want it anybody’s hands other than his, Katsuki’s, Ochako’s, or Tenya’s. They were the only people that Izuku could say he trusted completely, but even Katsuki made him nervous still. He had confided in Izuku, had told him he’d decided to trust him, but he was still unpredictable and volatile, and that worried Izuku.

“Different powers, huh?” Ochako said, a little nervously. “I wonder what that could be.”

The conversation lingered on the possibilities of this idol with different powers for only a few moments before Denki returned to his earlier question regarding Kyoka’s absence in their tribe. Shoto filled him in on what happened, how Yuga had flipped on the beauty alliance to send Kyoka home, how the others had voted for Katsuki. This matter being explained and settled, they moved on to much more genial topics, such as everyone’s hometowns, which was an interesting and enlightening conversation. Izuku obviously knew where Ochako and Tenya were from - Ochako came from Colorado, and Tenya had recently moved from Oregon to Texas, of all places - but beyond that, he had never had that discussion with anybody else. He was surprised to find that of everyone, Hanta was the closest to him, hailing from Chesapeake, Virginia. Denki was also quite close, residing in New Jersey. Everyone else was much farther. Yuga was from Colorado, like Ochako; Katsuki was from Tampa, Florida; Kirishima was from North Carolina; Mina was from Nevada; Momo came from California; and Shoto was from Missouri. Izuku, having been born and raised in and around the nation’s capital, had never ventured farther than a few hours away from his home, so he took immense pleasure in hearing the stories of the other’s home states that were so foreign to him. He was even coaxed into drinking a glass of wine, and by the time the sun began to set, Izuku’s entire body felt warm, and there was a pleasant tingling sensation in his fingers.

By the time everybody was done socializing around their picnic and when all the food that they hadn’t eaten was stored away for later consumption, Izuku immediately noticed that people began to break off into small groups. Izuku figured this was as good a time as any to find Ochako and Tenya and figure out what had happened on the Solana tribe over the past six days.

He found them walking on the beach, and he jogged to catch up with them. They smiled when they saw him and readily accepted him into conversation.

“We were so worried you would get voted out last night,” Ochako said. “When we saw you on the beach today, we were so relieved. You have no idea.”

Izuku smiled brightly at them. “I do have an idea, actually. Remember, you guys went to the first tribal council. I don’t think I breathed at all until I saw you were both safe.” His smile faded as he began to segue into the more serious part of their conversation. “So the three of us are still good?”

“Absolutely,” Ochako assured him. “Unless you’ve made other plans?”

Izuku shook his head negatively before filling him in on the tentative alliance he had created with Hanta and Katsuki, as well as Yuga’s involvement in the tribal council last night, how he had been the one to approach Izuku with the idea of voting out Kyoka.

Then it was their turn to tell him what had transpired at Solana. “So, basically, at the first tribal council, we voted off Ojiro,” Ochako said. “Me, Tenya, Denki, Mina, and Kirishima all agreed on voting him off. It was Kirishima and Mina’s idea, actually, which surprised us, since they were part of the same tribe, but since there were four of them on our tribe and only three of us who weren’t previously on the brawn tribe, we didn’t really have any other options.”

“Apparently, Kirishima and Mina had been wanting to vote out Ojiro and Rikido for a while, but they were never sent to tribal council before,” Tenya said, taking up the story. “They said that Ojiro and Rikido were big threats. So we decided to vote out Ojiro first, and then when we got back to camp, Rikido was complaining that he felt ill.”

“And we could see that Rikido wasn’t feeling too good for several days at this point,” Ochako continued. “He had some kind of sugar deficiency, he said, and it was evident he wasn’t getting the kind of nutrients he needed. Anyway, he ended up having a seizure.”

Izuku was sure the shock showed on his face at this. He hadn’t expected something like that. Obviously, he knew Rikido had been medically evacuated, and he hadn’t been given any further details than that, but this seemed a particularly awful way to go.

“Yeah,” Tenya agreed gravely. “It wasn’t ideal in any way, for him to go in such a manner, but, at the end of the day, it did bring us closer to our goal, which was to vote him off.”

“Okay,” Izuku said slowly, allowing this information to settle. “So, what about alliances? Have you guys made any deals with anybody over there?”

Ochako and Tenya exchanged a quick glance before Ochako admitted, “Well, see, that’s the thing that’s going to make this part of the game difficult. Basically, the five of us who are left from the Solana tribe all agreed that we’d stay in an alliance when the merge came.”

Izuku gave Ochako a narrow eye, his heart sinking like a stone into the pit of his stomach. “You agreed to that?”

“Well, we couldn’t very well say no to them,” Tenya hurried to add. “If we did, it would’ve made us seem suspect. But, rest assured, Ochako and I have had extensive conversations, and we both agree that it’s in our best interests to stay loyal to you. We gave you our word, and the three of us are going to keep working together.”

Izuku nodded, chewing on his bottom lip as he thought this through. “So what happens at tribal council? Are you going to vote with them or with me?”

“With you,” Ochako said. “But we don’t need them to know that before the vote. If they think we’re still with them, they’ll tell us who they’re planning on voting for, and then we can let you know.”

“Are Kirishima and Mina really loyal to this alliance of five, do you think? Because Katsuki was hoping that the former brawn and the former beauty could form an alliance.”

“I have no idea, honestly. We didn’t really talk about it.”

Izuku nodded to himself again. He’d have to talk to Katsuki about all of this, then, to see where Kirishima’s head was at, if they were still thinking about moving forward with their alliance with Kirishima or if they would have to cast Kirishima out of it.

Tomorrow. He could have that talk with Katsuki tomorrow. The information he was getting from Ochako and Tenya alone was enough to make him feel dizzy. Or maybe that was just the effect of the wine he had drunk at the feast.

Either way, one thing was definitely for certain. The dynamics of the game had shifted dramatically, alliances were changing, and the future of Izuku’s game from this point onward was entirely uncertain.

He had never felt so nervous in his life, which was really a testament to his mounting anxiety.

The only way he could ensure his safety for sure was by winning the first individual immunity challenge. He had a feeling that everybody was underestimating him, since he was so timid and on the smaller side, but he would be giving everything his all. He came out here to win a million dollars, after all. He wasn’t the backstabbing, cut-throat type, but he would have to bend at least a few of his morals if he wanted to have even the slightest chance of winning this game.

That night, he slept fitfully, even with the added comfort of blankets and pillows.

Chapter Text

Izuku had a plan.

His plan, however, required a few certain things to happen.

First, he needed to be awake as soon as the sun rose the next morning. Second, he needed to make sure Katsuki was awake as early as he was. Only this would be a little bit difficult because Katsuki had a habit of being the last one awake on any given day. He was the type of person who could sleep in any environment, at any time, in any conditions. Which meant that Izuku had to somehow mechanize for Katsuki to wake up earlier than usual without waking up anybody else in the process.

Izuku was thankful that Katsuki chose, generally, to sleep outside the shelter. He was curled up under one of their newly-returned blankets, sharing it with Mina and Kirishima. Luckily for Izuku, Katsuki was at the end of the blanket. So as Izuku sleepily stumbled up in the morning to make his way down to the beach, feigning more clumsiness than was strictly necessary, he made sure to issue a hard kick to one of Katsuki’s exposed legs, sticking out from the end of the blanket.

Katsuki immediately jerked awake with a loud groan of protest, glaring up at Izuku through his messy hair and his squinted eyes, still full of sleep.

Izuku tried to make his face the perfect mask of innocence. “I’m so sorry!” he whispered as loudly as he could without disturbing anyone else’s sleep. “I didn’t mean to-”

Katsuki promptly rolled back over and buried his face under the blanket, as if to go back to sleep.

Well. That would just not do.

He prodded Katsuki’s leg with his toe again, this time deliberately, and no mistaking it.

Katsuki rolled back onto his back to glare at Izuku in earnest this time through half-slitted eyes. “What the fuck do you want?” He kept his voice quiet, too, so as to not wake anybody up, but that didn’t dilute the amount of venom that was present there.

“Well - I was going to maybe go fishing, since I’m up early, and now that you’re up, I was wondering if you’d come along.”

That was part two of his plan. To isolate Katsuki and himself on a boat in the middle of the ocean so that there was absolutely no chance of anybody overhearing or interrupting their conversation. And if they went out under the guise of fishing because they were the first two up in the morning, then the speculation of them talking about the game wouldn’t be quite as prominent. Especially if they came back with a fish or two.

Katsuki glared at Izuku for several silent moments, as if trying to make up his mind about whether he wanted to go back to sleep or join Izuku in his fishing venture. Eventually, he must have come to the decision that sleep was now firmly out of his grasp because he pushed himself up, however grudgingly.

Izuku tried to ignore the fact that he was shirtless. He really did. If his gaze lingered a little bit too long on Katsuki’s toned body, then it was just because it was there . And because he was concerned for how much weight Katsuki seemed to have lost over the past sixteen days. That was it. Really.

Thankfully, Katsuki threw on a shirt before wordlessly making his way to the boat stationed on their shore. Izuku followed and began to pile all the fishing supplies inside the boat while Katsuki worked on pushing the boat out into the water.

“Get in the boat,” Katsuki ordered, his voice still thick with sleep. “I’ll push you out.”

Izuku nodded, hopping into the boat without argument and watching as Katsuki pushed the boat into the water, the way the muscles of his arms moved as he did so -

Izuku had to stop with those observations and that line of thinking. Immediately.

Katsuki hopped into the boat once it was far enough away from the shore that they would be able to maneuver it without catching on the sandy shore. Together, they began to row the boat out.

Izuku would be the first to admit that he knew very, very little about fishing. He was a city boy. He was born and raised in Washington, D.C. The closest he ever got to a body of water was the Georgetown Waterfront, which was not anything spectacular when it came to natural and large bodies of water with big, wild fish swimming around.

Katsuki also came from a city, Izuku had learned yesterday, though his city was in Florida, and Izuku knew enough about geography to know that Tampa was close to several bodies of water. It was much more likely that Katsuki had gone fishing in his life than Izuku.

Sure enough, Katsuki was able to string and cast out their crude version of a fishing pole with much more expertise than Izuku managed. Izuku learned by observation, though, so he tried to replicate Katsuki’s movements exactly.

Katsuki gave Izuku an unimpressed gaze on his first attempt at throwing the line into the ocean.

“Did you even put bait on your hook?”

Izuku flushed. “I thought they were already baited.”

Katsuki scoffed and rolled his eyes, reaching forward to the little box sitting in between them that contained the collection of worms and other miscellaneous insects that they had collected throughout the days. He grabbed the hook at the end of Izuku’s line and skewered a worm on the end of it. “Have you ever skipped stones?”

Izuku blinked at Katsuki, the question coming so far out of left field that he was sure he must have heard him wrong. “Um - yes. Why?”

“Cast out your line the same way,” Katsuki instructed, settling back onto his end of the boat.

Izuku did as Katsuki said, and though his line cast out better this time, it definitely still wasn’t as smooth or as effortless as Katsuki made it seem.

“If you feel a tug on your line, jerk your pole backward and up and then start pulling the line towards you.”

After Katsuki’s instructions, they were enveloped by silence. Or as silent as it could get, in the middle of an ocean. There were the sounds of the waves rolling around them, of the insects buzzing in the air, of the birds chirping. But it was a peaceful, content kind of quiet, filled with all the noises of nature and nothing else as they sat and waited for a bite on their lines.

Eventually, Katsuki broke the silence by saying, “So you just brought me out here for a fishing date?”

Despite the rough, monotonous way he said it, Izuku felt himself flushing at the word “date.” Which was just ridiculous. Izuku didn’t even know how he had allowed his mind to get this deep in the gutter. Katsuki obviously didn’t mean anything by it, and Izuku would be a fool to read into it.

“Well - I wanted to make sure we were still good. Since we merged and all.”

“I gave you my word,” Katsuki said, and that was that.

But Izuku needed more than that. “If we’re going to be in an alliance, I need you to talk to me-”

“I am fucking talking to you,” Katsuki said with a hard look at Izuku. “You woke me up at the ass of dawn, and you expect me to be Mr Conversational?”

“Well - no. It’s only, we didn’t talk yesterday, and I just really want to know what’s going on with our alliance.”

Katsuki’s body relaxed a little bit as he settled back in to his spot. His gaze was on the water, as if trying to will the fish to come to him. “What did Ochako and Tenya tell you?”

“They told me that the Solana tribe all made an alliance,” Izuku answered quickly, grateful to have Katsuki’s temper off of him for the moment.

Katsuki nodded. “That’s what Kirishima told me, too.”

This made Izuku straighten a bit. “So, Kirishima’s staying loyal to you, then? If he told you that?”

“Kirishima’s staying loyal to me.” There was an unspoken but there, but Katsuki didn’t seem eager to continue the sentence.

“But…” Izuku prompted tentatively, his nerves on-edge with the way Katsuki was being evasive with giving out information.

But ,” Katsuki gritted out, “he’s not going to enter into yet another alliance when he already has two.”

“So what are you saying?” Izuku asked softly. “You don’t want to be an alliance with me, anymore?”

“Did I fucking say that?” Katsuki turned his hard stare back on Izuku, his eyes an angry stormcloud of red. He ran a hand through his still-messy hair, causing it to stick out at unnatural angles. Izuku felt the urge to reach forward and smooth it out for him. “I’m loyal to you, and I’m loyal to Kirishima, and that’s it. I can’t promise anything else. That’s what I’m saying.”

“Okay,” Izuku said slowly. “So, hypothetically, what if Kirishima said, ‘I want to vote out Izuku’? Would you try to protect me?

Katsuki snorted. “It wouldn’t do me any good for you to be out of the game, would it?”

Izuku figured that was the closest to an answer as he would get out of Katsuki.

This being settled, they both lapsed into that comfortable silence again while they waited for fish to bite at their lines.

They had been sitting there for perhaps two hours with very limited conversation when there was a hard tug at Izuku’s line.

Izuku sat up immediately, straightening his posture and looking to Katsuki for guidance. What did he say to do again? Pull up and backward. Right. Izuku attempted this, but he wasn’t sure he really did anything, and then the fish tugged even harder , and Izuku had to strain his muscles to keep his firm hold on the pole.

By this time, Katsuki had been roused from his lax position as well, quickly shuffling over to the other end of the boat to help Izuku pull his fish in. While Izuku held steady onto the pole, Katsuki began to bring the line in, and before long, he had the fish plopped soundly onto their boat. Without wasting a single minute, Katsuki grabbed the fish and flung it into a box that had been predesignated for their caught fish.

Izuku finally slackened his grip on his pole. Katsuki sat there for a few seconds, breathing hard from exertion. And then he opened the lid of the box and peered inside.

When he looked up at Izuku, he was smiling. Actually smiling , in a way that wasn’t mean or snarky or feral. It was an actual, real smile, and it almost startled Izuku to see it there, on Katsuki’s face. He’d never seen an actual smile from Katsuki before.

“It’s huge,” he said.

Izuku found himself beaming back at Katsuki, pleased with himself. Granted, he didn’t really do anything, but he could say that it was his line that caught the fish, and that was something.

“What is it?” Izuku asked, inching closer to the box to peer inside. He didn’t really know anything about fish. He wouldn’t be able to tell one species from another - they all looked the same to him. This one was no different, but Katsuki was right - it was big .

“I don’t know what it’s called,” Katsuki said, mirroring Izuku’s position exactly, both of them on opposite sides of the box and leaning over it to admire their catch. “It doesn’t really matter, though, does it? We’re going to eat it tonight.”

Izuku looked up from the fish to smile at Katsuki again.

Katsuki looked up at the same moment, and there was no smile on his face anymore, but he wasn’t frowning, either, and there was a pleased glint in his eyes in place of the usual unimpressed and calculating glimmer.

And then Izuku realized that there was only a couple of inches separating their faces, and they were so close to each other, and Izuku’s smile slipped off his face as he stared at Katsuki.

He was knocked momentarily breathless by the intense beauty with which Katsuki possessed. Even out here, so far from civilization, when they had gone seventeen days without showering or shaving or brushing their teeth or brushing their hair - even given all that, Katsuki was still somehow so effortlessly beautiful. It was in a very quiet, fierce way - the way his face was all sharp angles and hard edges, the way his hair was always sticking out at odd angles yet framing his face perfectly, the way he carried himself like he didn’t owe anybody anything, the way he was so unapologetic in his behavior yet so confident in himself. It was all so breathtaking that Izuku didn’t know how to react to it.

He wanted to kiss him, Izuku realized as his eyes darted between Katsuki’s red eyes and his red lips. He knew that he was attracted to Katsuki, of course, but he hadn’t realized how far that attraction went. But now, being so close to Katsuki, staring into his intense eyes, being alone in the middle of the ocean - yes, he wanted very badly to kiss Katsuki.

Because even despite his overwhelming personality, even despite his faults and his lesser moments and his aggression and his abrasiveness, Izuku could tell that Katsuki meant well. And he could tell that Katsuki was as good as his word. It was obvious that Katsuki used his anger as some sort of a shield, and Izuku couldn’t fathom why he did that, but he knew that he wasn’t really a bad person, despite all his obvious flaws. Angry, a little bit dangerous, overly aggressive - yes. But a bad person? Absolutely not.

And more than that, he loved this game just as much as Izuku did. While he lacked significantly at playing a solid social game, he was always thinking of his strategy, always performing well in challenges. Izuku admired that about him, and it made him that much more enticing, that much more attractive and desirable.

But Izuku had no idea how Katsuki felt for him. He had no idea if Katsuki thought Izuku was attractive, or if Katsuki wanted to kiss Izuku. For all he knew, Katsuki saw Izuku as nothing more than a stranger that he was stuck on this island with and forced to play a game with on his path to win a million dollars. Which was fair. He couldn’t blame Katsuki if that was how he felt. That was how Izuku should have felt for Katsuki. Because he wasn’t here for a relationship. He wasn’t here for romance. He was here to win the million dollars for himself and for his mom. He didn’t need any stupid feelings for this stranger to get in the way of that.

And yet he couldn’t seem to stop the feelings from coming. Every time he was alone with Katsuki, every time he looked at Katsuki, every time he watched the way Katsuki’s muscles shifted as he picked up something heavy, every time he saw the effortless way in which Katsuki could start a fire - something lit in Izuku’s belly.

It was a stupid, harmless crush. That was all it was, and that was all it had to be. It couldn’t be anything more because that would be so stupid for Izuku and for his game.

Yet Katsuki stared back. He didn’t look away, didn’t break Izuku’s gaze. He just stared at Izuku with that same fierce intensity that was so characteristic of him. Izuku didn’t know what that look meant on Katsuki’s side, didn’t know if that meant that he was assessing Izuku or considering the possibilities of their alliance and the future of their game together - or, perhaps, if Katsuki was having the same thoughts that Izuku was having. It was slightly unsettling, to be under Katsuki’s gaze like that without having a thought of what was going through the other’s head.

Izuku opened his mouth to speak, to say something to break the awkward tension, but as he opened his mouth, Katsuki’s gaze flicked from Izuku’s eyes to his lips - and Izuku didn’t even want to begin to think about the implications of that - and then, just like that, the moment was over as Katsuki hurriedly placed the lid back on the box containing the fix and then scooted back to his side of the boat.

“We should get back now,” Katsuki grunted out, picking up his oars and beginning to row them back to shore.

Izuku nodded and pushed himself back to sit at his end of the boat, picking up his oars as well. The entire boat ride back to shore, Izuku tried his hardest not to let his eyes linger on Katsuki longer than necessary.

--

Izuku had conversations with everybody that day, regarding the game, which proved to Izuku that everybody who was left was here to play the game and to play the game hard. Now that they had entered the individual portion of the game, it would be a lot tougher to play and a lot harder to tell who was lying and who was true to their word.

Izuku and Denki were both trying to get a feel for each other when they talked, trying to figure out where the other’s head was at and who they were really allied to. It was their first real conversation together, and, as such, neither of them really knew how the other played the game or how they would vote. Even at the end of the conversation, Izuku couldn’t figure out who Denki was really loyal to - the beauty tribe or the Solana tribe.

Izuku and Hanta spoke about the possibility of them remaining allied with Katsuki, Kirishima, and Mina, as well as Ochako and Tenya. Which meant that Katsuki hadn’t filled in Hanta about the fact that Kirishima was, presumably, going to stay loyal to his Solana alliance. Hanta made it clear, at least, that he was going to stay loyal to this brain and brawn alliance that they had thought up over the past week, which was good news for Izuku. At least, until it all came crashing down, which it inevitably would, given that that alliance seemed to have fallen through.

Kirishima didn’t talk a whole lot of strategy with Izuku, since it was evident that he had chosen his sides already. Kirishima was perhaps the only one in the game, as far as Izuku could tell, that had a solid alliance that he had complete faith in. Whether or not that faith was misplaced or not would be a completely different matter, though. Regardless, it was apparent that at this point in the game, Kirishima didn’t have a desire to work with Izuku personally, which was just as well with Izuku, as long as Katsuki had his back, should his name be mentioned in potentially going home.

Momo and Shoto were both remaining loyal to their beauty tribe, although that depended a lot on whether or not Yuga would flip back to their side and vote with them and also on whether or not Denki would vote with them or if he would vote with the Solana tribe instead.

Ochako and Tenya, of course, were going to stick with Izuku, but they were also going to try to stick with the Solana alliance for as long as possible so that they could remain in the majority, if that alliance ended up being a lasting one. Although it made Izuku nervous, that they were in an alliance of five people and that Izuku wasn’t one of those five, he trusted Ochako and Tenya more than anybody else, so he tried not to worry about it too much, lest he give into the paranoia that was infamous to Survivor contestants.

And then there was Yuga. Truthfully, Izuku had no idea how Yuga was going to vote or where his real loyalties lie. Out of everybody left, Yuga was the one that Izuku was most worried about, and it wasn’t because he was particularly good at this game - no, it was because Yuga was the only one that Izuku couldn’t get a read on of any kind. When they spoke today, Yuga had claimed that he would vote with Izuku, that he would be loyal to Izuku, but Izuku couldn’t be sure that this was entirely true, since he had seen him talking a lot more with Denki, Momo, and Shoto since the merge. Perhaps Yuga had decided to go back to the beauty tribe and remain loyal to them, despite the last tribal council.

Now that they were merged, the lines between alliances was beginning to intermingle and blur so much that it made Izuku’s head spin. For the rest of this game, he had to continually count heads, had to continually run the odds of who was going to vote for who in his mind, had to continually remind himself of who he thought was allied to who. The moment that he stopped doing that would be the moment that he would get voted out.

For the rest of this game, he had to keep himself on his toes or else he had no chance in hell of winning the million dollars.

Chapter Text

Ochako found Izuku in the water the next morning, washing off before it was time to go to their immunity challenge.

“I have bad news,” she said by way of greeting.

“Uh-oh,” Izuku muttered, shoving his wet hair out of his face. “How bad?”

“Pretty bad,” she said gravely. Once she was close enough to him to whisper in a low voice, she said, “I think they’re going to vote you out tonight.”

“What? Me?” Izuku stared at Ochako in horror, waiting for her to say it was just a joke, but that moment never came. She was serious. “Who’s they ? Solana?”

“Yeah. It was Denki’s idea. And I’m pretty sure he’s going to get the old beauty tribe members to vote with him, so even if Tenya and I flip with you, it’ll still be Denki, Kirishima, Mina, and the three other beauty members voting for you.”

Izuku refused to accept this. He would not be the first one voted off of their newly-merged tribe. He would not be the first member of the jury.

“Katsuki might be able to get Kirishima to change his vote,” Izuku murmured. “If he flips, then we have six, and they have five. I know I have Hanta and Katsuki on my side. They won’t vote for me.”

“Who are you guys planning on voting for?” Ochako asked.

“We were thinking maybe Shoto,” Izuku answered. More, he had been thinking Shoto, and he was sure Katsuki would agree to that. Shoto was strong, smart, and strategic, and he could very well make it to the end of the game if they didn’t vote him out sooner rather than later.

Ochako nodded thoughtfully. “Tenya and I will vote whatever way you guys do, and if anything changes, we’ll let you know. Try to win immunity today, okay?”

Knowing that his name was being mentioned to be voted out was definitely motivation enough for him to want to win the first individual immunity challenge. He supposed their reasons for wanting him out were the same as his for wanting Shoto out - Izuku was strong, smart, and strategic, and he didn’t try to hide it. He was good at this game, and the other side must have recognized that he was the most capable of making it far, that he was a threat that needed to be taken out now.

It was a compliment, of sorts, to be considered so dangerous that they wanted to vote him out right away. But it was one that he didn’t particularly want because now he was in danger of going home - again.

He needed to win immunity today.

--

For their immunity challenge, they had to take a boat to a platform in the middle of the ocean, where there were eleven different-colored triangles that they would, presumably, be standing on.

Once everyone was on the same platform as Toshinori, Toshinori called out to them, “Alright, you guys ready to get to today’s immunity challenge?”

After a two day respite from challenges, everyone chorused their affirmation with excitement. It was the first individual immunity challenge, and everybody was excited to get right down to it, to be the first person to win the individual immunity necklace.

“First things first, I will take back tribal immunity,” Toshinori said, walking up to Tenya, who was holding the tribal immunity that the Solana tribe had won from the last immunity challenge. He returned to the covered stand that he had previously been standing next to and placed the tribal immunity idol onto the ground. “Tribal immunity is no more,” he announced. “This is what you seek now.” And then removed the cloth covering the stand and revealed this season’s immunity necklace - an extravagant thing that was painted gold, with triangular shapes all around it that almost looked like scales, and the same face that had been on the statue of the tribal immunity was on a gold plate in the middle of the necklace, all bound together with thick red threading.

There were awed noises coming from the group as they saw the necklace that they would be competing for, that, if worn around their neck at tribal council, would signify that they were safe, that they were guaranteed to survive until the next tribal council.

“Individual immunity,” Toshinori said, unnecessarily. “If you have this around your neck, you are safe at tribal council. There is no better feeling in the world than to walk in with this around your neck. Without it, you could be in trouble.”

Izuku was nodding along to Toshinori’s words. Although he was speaking to the group at large, Izuku felt as though he could’ve been speaking solely to him, what with the news that he was, apparently, already in trouble at tribal council tonight. It was extremely important that Izuku win this necklace so that he would be safe from the vote tonight.

“For today’s challenge, you’re going to balance on triangular platforms in the water with your feet perched on very narrow footholds. At regular intervals, we’ll move up, making it more difficult. If you fall off, you’re out of the challenge. The last person left standing wins immunity and is safe from the vote. Losers, tribal council where somebody will be voted out of this game. We’ll draw for spots, and then we’ll get started.”

With that, Toshinori brought out a black bag that was full of rocks that matched each color of the triangles in the ocean. One by one, they all stuck their hand in the bag and pulled out a colored rock, and whichever color they got determined which platform they would be standing on for this challenge. Izuku drew the pink rock, which was the third platform out.

After everybody had drawn their rocks, a boat came and took them to their respective platforms so that they wouldn’t have to swim and tire themselves out before the challenge even began, especially those who drew the platforms farthest away from where they were standing on their beginning platform with Toshinori.

While waiting for everyone else to take their spots, Izuku sat down on his platform. To his right was Denki, and to his left was Mina. He took a moment to place his feet on the footholds, to see how uncomfortable the situation would be - and it was definitely going to get pretty uncomfortable. The footholds were so small that Izuku could only fit his first toe on it, and the rest of his foot would be gripping the side of the platform to stay on.

Hanta was the last one to be dropped off at the farthest platform, and he took a seat on his as well while they waited for the boat to speed away. When everything was ready, Toshinori called out,  “Alright, here we go. Everybody take your positions. Your feet are going to be on that first foothold.”

Izuku placed his feet on the first foothold and began to stand up, keeping his hands on the top of the platform as he did so to find his balance before he had to let go.

“Here we go,” Toshinori called out. “Five. Four. Three. Two. One. Everybody up, and this challenge is on.”

Izuku took his hands off the platform and stood then, focusing on nothing but the sounds of nature and on his balance. He couldn’t fall off. If he fell off, he might be going home, and that was absolutely unacceptable.

“The rules are simple,” Toshinori said. “No other part of your body can touch the structure other than your feet. That means your hand. That means your butt. Any part of it touches, you are out. You’re going to be here for fifteen minutes. Think of this as your warm-up round, just getting loose. Get your body ready for what’s to come.”

For the next fifteen minutes, nobody said much of anything, everyone opting to just stand there and focus on their own balance.

“Alright,” Toshinori said once the fifteen minutes were up. “Move in to your next foothold. You can use your hands now to help yourself get up there.”

Izuku placed his hands on the top of his platform, thankful for a break in placing all of his pressure and bodyweight on his feet. As he moved his feet up to the second foothold, however, he was not feeling grateful at all. The second foothold was much narrower than the first, and standing there for fifteen minutes would definitely hurt his feet even more than the first one did.

“Everybody get good and solid,” Toshinori said. “Here we go. Five. Four. Three. Two. One. Everybody take your hands off. This challenge is back on.”

Izuku cautiously let go of the platform and straightened his body so that he was standing upright.

“Now you’re going to have to grip a little more tightly to hold on. There’s less room for your foot.” After several more minutes, Toshinori called out, “Everybody’s still looking good.”

Next to Izuku, Mina made a sudden movement, and Izuku glanced over interestedly to see what had happened. She’d doubled over, bracing her hands on her knees.

“Where are you feeling it, Mina?” Toshinori asked.

“Uh… Everywhere,” Mina answered after a few seconds.

“How are you feeling, Ochako?” Toshinori called out to Ochako, who was separated by Izuku by three people.

“This isn’t a fun challenge,” Ochako said as an answer. “It’s a lot of pain.”

Izuku felt a sharp stab of sympathy for Ochako. It was true - they were all in pain, and Izuku was no exception. But hearing that the person that he was closest to out here was in such physical pain still made Izuku feel bad for her.

“We will go fifteen minutes here as well,” Toshinori said.

Izuku stood as still as he could possibly manage for the next fifteen minutes, not wanting to make any sudden movements and, as a result, risk his position in this challenge.

After the next fifteen minutes was almost up, Toshinori finally called out, “There are thirty seconds left in this round. Then we move to the top. Everybody is still looking very good. I’m impressed. Whatever you’re doing, it’s working. Whatever you’re telling yourself to fight through that pain, keep telling yourself. Fifteen seconds. Don’t relax, and don’t give up. You are there; don’t make a mistake now.”

Izuku knew that Toshinori was just trying to build the suspense for the next round, but his commentary was really not doing anything for Izuku’s nerves that were already tightly-strung.

“Five. Four. Three. Two. One. Alright, we’re going to move to the top now. You can use your hands. We’re still live, though. If you fall out at this point, you’re out.”

This was going to be the real challenge, Izuku knew. Instead of perching to either side of their triangular platform, they were now to stand on the very top of it, with nothing to grip onto at all. It was all about balance, now.

Very carefully, Izuku moved one foot up onto the top. He was gripping the platform firmly to ensure that he wouldn’t fall off while making the transition.

“Alright, here we go. You got fifteen seconds to start making your move,” Toshinori said.

Izuku placed his other foot onto the top and stayed knelt down for a few seconds, breathing in deeply to try to center himself before slowly, slowly straightening his body into a standing position.

“Get them up there,” Toshinori called out. “Five. Four. Three. Two. One.”  There was a splash a little bit down the line, followed by Toshinori saying, “Yuga can’t hang on. He can’t make the transition.” There was another splash, followed by, “Momo can’t make the transition.” Another splash. “Hanta is in.” Another, this time from right next to Izuku. “Mina is in.” Another splash. “Ochako is in. We are down to six.”

Izuku was wobbling where he stood, his arms spread out around him so that he could maintain whatever precarious balance he had. He could tell that he would fall off soon, but given that half of the other contestants had just fallen off, he hoped that everyone else would fall off before he did. He didn’t need to last long - he only needed to last longer than everybody else.

There was another splash, and then Toshinori announced, “Tenya is out.” And then, to the other side of Izuku, Denki fell in. “Denki is out. Four people survive the transition.”  There was yet another splash. “Kirishima’s in. We’re down to three.”

After that, the splashing and falling ceased for at least a few minutes as the three remaining contestants - Izuku, Katsuki, and Shoto - fought desperately to keep their balance. Izuku didn’t dare glance to the side to see how the others were doing, but in his peripheral vision, he could see flailing arms, telling him that they were struggling just as much as he was.

“Izuku, Katsuki, Shoto, great job,” Toshinori called out.

And then there was a huge gust of wind, and that was all it took for Izuku to lose his balance. He lost his footing, and then he was falling into the water.

“A big gust of wind knocks Izuku off,” Toshinori announced as Izuku swam back to the platform where the other eliminated contestants were sitting, waiting for the winner to be named.

Izuku felt so defeated. He had wanted so badly to win this first challenge, and he just couldn’t do it. He needed to win this, with the knowledge that he was likely to receive votes tonight. And yet, even with that added pressure, he still couldn’t pull it out.

“The wind is coming up huge,” Toshinori shouted over the howling of the incoming wind. “It is Katsuki and Shoto.”

Izuku took a seat next to Ochako, who gave him a thumbs-up for lasting so long. Izuku smiled back at her weakly and then fixed his eyes back on Katsuki and Shoto. Shoto wobbled dangerously for a moment, and Izuku was sure he was going to fall in, but then he saved himself, regaining his balance.

“Nice recovery from Shoto,” Toshinori shouted. “We are down to two; it is Katsuki and Shoto. It’s a huge balancing act in this third round that got everybody except these two. You guys need to just focus. Don’t get distracted.”

Katsuki, though he was wobbling, looked a lot more solid than Shoto did, who was flailing his arms in his efforts to stay atop his platform. Izuku felt like his heart was beating audibly in his chest. He had to resist the urge to cross his fingers that Katsuki would win this one.

Again, Shoto began to dance on the top of his platform dangerously, but, again, he saved himself from falling into the water and straightened up, regaining his balance for the second time.

“Another nice save by Shoto,” Toshinori announced. “The first individual immunity is on the line, and somebody is going to earn it.”

Now Katsuki and Shoto were both moving a good amount in their fight to stay on the longest, and Izuku honestly had no idea who was likely to go in first. They both looked to be in just as precarious of a situation as the other.

And then, seconds later, Shoto fell in.

“Shoto goes in; that is it. Katsuki wins the first individual immunity!”

Katsuki, upon realizing that he won, did a victorious fist-pump in the air and then did a backflip , of all things, into the water. When he resurfaced, he let out a triumphant shout and then swam to the platform, where everybody else was already waiting for him.

Izuku was beaming as he stood up and took his place on their mat so that Toshinori could give Katsuki his immunity necklace. He was happy for Katsuki - really, he was. He wished he would have won it because he felt like he needed it more than Katsuki did tonight, but if it couldn’t be him, he was glad it was Katsuki. And, more than that, he was glad it wasn’t Shoto, since Shoto was, at present, Izuku’s target.

After everyone had regathered on their starting platform, Toshinori said, “Katsuki, come on over.” He unclasped the immunity necklace from the pole it was resting on.

Everyone clapped and gave Katsuki their congratulations as he made his way over to Toshinori. Once he reached Toshinori, he turned his back on him so that Toshinori could do the honors of securing it around his neck.

“First individual immunity,” Toshinori said after the necklace was clasped securely around Katsuki’s neck. “Katsuki is safe tonight at tribal council. As for the rest of you, after nineteen days, somebody will be voted out of this game. It should make for an interesting afternoon. Grab your stuff; head back to camp. I’ll see you at tribal. Congratulations,” he said to Katsuki one last time before they were all sent on their way, taking a boat back to the shore the same way they had come in.

--

Within minutes of getting back to camp, people began to group off and whisper to each other about the vote tonight.

Now that the tribes were merged, now that the game was an individual game, everybody was playing twice as hard as they had been before. He decided to find Ochako and Tenya first and make sure that they were okay with voting out Shoto.

“Here’s what I think,” Tenya said. “I think that Shoto has an idol, so I don’t think it’s smart to try and vote him off tonight. What we could do, though, is we can let it slip to Denki that you guys are thinking of voting out Shoto, and Denki will tell Shoto since they have a little bit of an alliance because they used to be on the beauty tribe together, and then Shoto will play his idol.”

“But you don’t actually want to vote for him?” Izuku asked.

“I think we should get rid of Yuga first.”

Izuku frowned at this. Yuga was wishy-washy, and Izuku would not keep an alliance with him or rely on him in any way, but he also didn’t see Yuga winning any immunity challenges or winning the game, at the end. He wasn’t really a threat, and so Izuku saw no reason for voting him off.

“Why Yuga?” Ochako asked, confusion in her own voice.

“Nobody really has any allegiance to Yuga, so nobody will be upset to see him go,” tenya explained. “In addition to that, Shoto will play his idol for no reason, and then he won’t have it anymore. And if you’re worried about people voting for you, Izuku - there’s a higher chance that we can get people to vote with us if we vote for Yuga instead of Shoto. Shoto has alliances and friends; Yuga doesn’t. More people will be willing to vote for Yuga than Shoto.”

Izuku nodded along to all this information thoughtfully. “Alright. That makes sense.” Any other day, Izuku would think it was stupid to get rid of Yuga when they needed to start getting rid of threats as quickly as possible, but since it was Izuku’s ass on the line, he readily agreed with this safer option.

“So we’re going to make them think you’re voting for Shoto, but you’re really voting for Yuga?” Ochako asked.

“Right,” Izuku agreed.

“And we’ll make them think that we’re still going to be voting with them so that they don’t even see it coming,” Tenya added.

“Okay, so we have us three voting for Yuga. We need to get three more people to vote for him,” Ochako said.

“I can get Hanta and Katsuki to vote with us,” Izuku said. “And I might be able to get Kirishima, too.” What he really meant was, Katsuki might be able to get Kirishima. If Katsuki knew that they were voting out Izuku tonight, and if he was really loyal to him the way he claimed he was, then he’d do anything in his power to get Kirishima to vote out Yuga instead.

They only had a couple of hours until it was time to head to tribal council.

Izuku had to work fast.

--

“They’re going to vote for me tonight,” Izuku told Katsuki.

Katsuki stared hard at Izuku for several moments, then he rubbed at the blond stubble on his chin as he thought. “And your plan is to, what?”

“Vote out Yuga. It was Tenya’s idea, actually. He thinks Shoto has the idol, so we’re going to tell the other side that Shoto’s the target for Shoto to play his idol, but we’re actually going to vote Yuga.”

Katsuki nodded at this. “That’s not a bad idea. So how many people do we have right now?”

We . As if they were playing the game together. It was so stupid, but Izuku really liked the sound of that.

“Right now, I have Hanta, Ochako, Tenya, and you. I need one person, and I was hoping that you could talk to Kirishima.”

“I already talked to Kirishima,” Katsuki stated. “I told him he’d be stupid to stick with Solana, since literally none of them are going to stay loyal to each other. You can already see Ochako and Tenya going back to you, and stupid Denki is already going back to his beauty tribe. Kirishima and Mina would be fucking idiots to stay with them.”

Izuku nodded, feeling a flood of gratitude for Katsuki for already analyzing the situation, recognizing the potential threats, and then trying his damnedest to convert Kirishima to their side.

“So, he’s going to vote with us?” Izuku bent over to pick up a small piece of firewood. He and Katsuki were alone in this area of the forest. They had said they were going to get more firewood, only neither of them had picked up any firewood at all yet.

Katsuki snorted as Izuku straightened himself. “I hope so. I trust him, but he didn’t promise anything, so I can’t say for sure.” He stared at Izuku for a few silent moments, as if assessing him, as if trying to make some kind of decision, before seeming to make up his mind. “I have an idol.”

Izuku eyes must have widened comically as he stared at Katsuki, at this sudden announcement. He had to blink several times to get his eyes to a normal size again. “You have an idol?” he asked quietly, afraid that if he spoke too loud, somebody would overhear them.

Katsuki nodded, his jaw tight. “If I think you’re going to get the votes tonight,” he said through clenched teeth, as though it pained him to say the words, “I’ll use it on you.”

Izuku’s heart stilled in his chest, and his eyes widened for a second time. “Katsuki - I don’t…”

“Don’t get all sentimental on me, nerd,” Katsuki snarled. “I gave you my word to keep you safe if I could, and I can, tonight. So if I think you need it, I’ll use it. But you’ll owe me a new one, got it?”

Izuku nodded immediately, even knowing full well that this was an empty threat. He took a step towards Katsuki - although to do what, he couldn’t say. To embrace him? To clasp him on the shoulder? He didn’t know. All he knew was that something pulled him closer to Katsuki, causing him to step forward once, and then again, and then he remembered where he was and who he was with and had to physically restrain himself from moving any further.

“I - thank you,” he said quietly, almost intimately.

Katsuki seemed frozen in place, staring down at Izuku, that same intense look in his eyes.

And then he turned away abruptly, and Izuku had to hurry to catch up with him.

“You’re not going home tonight,” Katsuki said, though he said it so quietly that Izuku thought perhaps he had imagined it.

--

It was finally time to leave for tribal council, and Izuku had never been so nervous to attend one of these before since this game started. Yeah, he’d been on the chopping block a few times, but each time, he had been relatively certain that it wouldn’t really be him going home.

Tonight, he wasn’t so sure.

Somehow, he ended up sitting in the back row, right in between Denki and Kirishima. Katsuki and Tenya were both sitting in front of him.

After everybody had settled into their seats, Toshinori started tribal council by saying, “Alright, Ochako, where are we at? What is the mood of this group of eleven?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I mean, it’s kind of chaotic. Everyone’s been involved in multiple alliances with different people, so now everyone’s trying to maneuver through these alliances and trying to figure out who is really with them and who isn’t. There’s a lot of distrust going around right now, and there’s a lot of questions, and tonight’s tribal council is actually a welcome one for most of us, I think, to figure out where everyone’s real loyalties lie.”

“Hanta, do you agree with this? Everyone’s kind of eyeing everybody else to see where they’re at?”

“Absolutely,” Hanta said. “This is the first time that all of us have been together, and it’s the first time that any of us have had to deal with ten other people and so many different alliances and so many different suballiances and so many different nuances all at one time. I think everybody’s a little bit scared because none of us are really safe tonight. It could be any of us going home.”

“Except for Katsuki,” Toshinori said.

Hanta chuckled. “Right, of course, except for Katsuki.”

“Yuga, what are you basing your vote off of tonight?”

“I’m basing my vote off of who is the biggest threat in this game,” Yuga said. “Everyone’s wondering who they can beat, and if you think that somebody else is going to beat you, you vote them out.”

“Tenya, is that fair to say that whoever is the biggest threat should be voted out?”

“Yes, but there are many different types of threats in this game. There are physical threats, and there are social threats, and there strategic threats, and the hardest part right now is to figure out which kind of threat you need to get rid of the most.”

“Izuku, you started with the brain tribe, the beauty tribe, and the brawn tribe, and then you guys were split up into the new Appari and the new Solana tribes. Are you noticing different groups of people merging together?”

“Yeah, absolutely. Um, coming into the merge, I didn’t really expect people to be divided the way they are. And, like Hanta said, there are so many alliances right now, both previous ones and new ones, and it’s hard to keep track of them all, so I agree with Ochako when she says that tonight’s tribal council is a welcome one. It’ll make it very clear who really stands where with the other people on this tribe.”

“Are you worried for yourself at all?” Toshinori asked.

“I am,” Izuku answered honestly. “I’m always worried when I’m here.” He didn’t want to mention that he knew he was getting votes tonight. If he did, then the Solana tribe would know that Ochako or Tenya had turned on them.

“Denki, do you think it makes sense for Izuku to be worried?”

“Yeah. He’s strong, and he’s smart, and he’s a competitor. He could make it all the way to the end, honestly, and he would win, if he got there. I think he’s the biggest threat sitting here right now.”

Izuku bit his lip anxiously at Denki’s answer. Proclaiming Izuku as the biggest threat out here right now, whether it was true or not, was an awful thing for Izuku’s game. Because now that it had been said, people were going to start thinking about it, and they would start seeing that, yeah, maybe Izuku is a big threat, maybe he is going to potentially be the one standing in the way between them and a million dollars, and then they’d decide to turn on him and vote him out.

He was honored, to have that distinction, but at the same time, it wasn’t a particularly welcome distinction to have at this moment.

“Shoto, where do idols come into play? Do you think they have been found? Do you think somebody has one?”

“It’s odd that no idols have been seen yet,” Shoto said. “I mean, none have been played, if what the other tribes say about their tribal councils is true, and we’re nineteen days into the game. You would think one would have appeared by now.”

“Does it worry you, Momo, that none have come into play yet?”

“No, it doesn’t worry me. I think the people who are going to be getting votes tonight don’t have idols, and that’s all that matters.”

“Katsuki, do you have a good idea of who’s going home tonight?”

“Yeah. I know who’s going home tonight.”

Several people turned to look at Katsuki at this bold proclamation. Izuku had to resist the urge to kick the back of his head to keep him from saying something stupid.

“You know who’s going home?” Toshinori asked.

“I do. And it isn’t who you think is.” Even though he was speaking to Toshinori, the words were very obviously directed at everyone sitting around at the fire. Everyone began to shift in their seats nervously, looking from face to face, as if trying to decipher the riddle that Katsuki had just laid out for everybody.

Just like that, with only nine words, Katsuki had caused an immense amount of paranoia among everybody present.

Izuku had to keep himself from smiling baldly at the effect of Katsuki’s words.

“Mina, immediately, everybody begins to look nervous. Do Katsuki’s words really hold that much power?”

“Well - he’s the only one who’s safe tonight, so he can say whatever the hell he wants and not worry about going home. The rest of us, anything that’s said could have an effect on the vote, whether one of us says it or whether Katsuki says it, and now we’re all wondering, hmm . What’s he talking about? What does he know that we don’t know?”

“Kirishima, does this change anything?”

“For me, personally, no. But you can see that it has the desired effect. Now everyone’s paranoid; now everyone’s trying to decide if they need to switch who they’re voting for. It’s crazy.”

“Alright, so should we just end the suspense and get to the vote?” Toshinori asked.

“Absolutely,” Hanta said.

Everybody else nodded their agreement. They were as ready as they were ever going to get.

“Alright. It is time to vote. Momo, you’re up.”

Izuku was bouncing his leg nervously as he watched Momo walk across the bridge and vote. With every person who walked across the bridge to vote, Izuku felt himself getting more and more nervous. He could hardly sit still while he waited for his turn to vote.

He was the last one to cast his vote tonight. He stood and made his way across the bridge to the table where the paper and the marker were waiting for him to write down his vote. In big black letters, he wrote down Yuga’s name, and then he folded his parchment and placed it in the urn.

When Izuku returned to his seat, Toshinori said, “I’ll go tally the votes,” and then he walked across the bridge himself to grab the urn and bring it back to them. He set the urn on the same podium as always, and then he said, “If anybody has a hidden immunity idol and you want to play it, now would be the time to do so.”

Izuku waited in an anxious silence, his eyes fixed on the back of Katsuki’s head, willing him to use it on him, to guarantee his safety through the night.

And then, miraculously, Katsuki actually stood up. All eyes went to Katsuki, wide and disbelieving, as he dug through his bag and pulled out the circular hidden immunity idol.

“Can you validate this for me, Toshinori?” Katsuki asked roughly as he approached Toshinori and handed the idol off to him.

Toshinori took the idol from Katsuki and examined it for a second before saying, “Yes, this is a hidden immunity idol.”

“I’m giving it to Izuku,” Katsuki said, his voice clipped, before returning to take his seat.

Izuku was beaming at this exchange, and he was even so bold as to reach forward and clasp Katsuki on the shoulder. Katsuki tensed under his hand, but he didn’t move or try to shove him off.

There were confused murmurs coming from the group as all of this happened, which made Izuku savor the moment that much more.

“Alright, any votes cast for Izuku will not count,” Toshinori said, setting the idol to the side. “Once the votes are read, the decision is final. The person voted out will be asked to leave the tribal council area immediately. I’ll read-”

“Hold on,” Shoto said, effectively interrupting Toshinori’s ritual statements.

Izuku’s smile grew wider.

“Yes?” Toshinori asked.

“I’d like to cover my own ass,” Shoto said, reaching over into his bag and pulling out another idol. He stood up and made his way to Toshinori, handing it off to him before making his way back to the bench he was sitting on. “I’m using it for myself.”

“This is also a hidden immunity idol,” Toshinori confirmed. “So any votes cast for Shoto will not count, either.”

There was scattered congratulations from the people that Shoto was allied with, which was amazing to Izuku, considering that they had convinced them all that Shoto was the target tonight when, in reality, he wasn’t going to receive a single vote. Everybody had fallen for Tenya’s ruse. Shoto had just wasted his immunity idol, and Izuku was enjoying every second of it.

“I’ll read the votes,” Toshinori said, removing the lid of the urn and drawing out the first piece of paper. “First vote.” He unfolded the piece of paper and turned it around for everyone to see as he said, “Yuga.”

Immediately, people reacted to this. Nobody had heard anybody mention Yuga’s name - except, of course, for the people who had voted for him. They had all been fooled, and now they were realizing it.

“Hanta,” Toshinori said, turning over the next piece of paper and reading the vote aloud.

Izuku’s mouth fell open a little bit at this, and his brows drew together.

Why was Hanta getting votes? The votes were supposed to be for him and Yuga.

Something had happened. Something must have changed.

“Yuga,” Toshinori read. Then, “Hanta. Two votes Yuga, two votes Hanta.” He took out the next vote. “Yuga.” The next one. “Hanta. We’re tied again. Three votes Yuga, three votes Hanta.” The next paper. “Yuga.” The next. “Hanta. Four votes Yuga, four votes Hanta.” The next. “Yuga.” The next. “Hanta. We’re tied. Five votes Yuga, five votes Hanta, one vote left.”

The emotion that was at the forefront of Izuku’s mind was complete and utter confusion. He wasn’t sure how the vote had changed from Izuku to Hanta. He knew that Ochako and Tenya wouldn’t lie about it, and he knew that Kirishima had told Katsuki that the vote was Izuku, too. At some point, the other side must have, for whatever reason, changed their vote. Only Izuku didn’t understand why.

And then he felt bad because that meant Katsuki had wasted his idol on him, since he had, evidently, received no votes against him. He really did owe Katsuki now.

And then there was his worry for Hanta. All of a sudden, it was Hanta in trouble, and there was nobody available to protect him. It all came down to whether or not Kirishima voted with Katsuki or with his new Solana alliance.

Izuku held his breath as Toshinori unfolded the last piece of paper and said, “The seventh person voted out and the first member of our jury.” He flipped the paper over as he announced, “Yuga.”

Izuku hid his smile the best he could. Despite all his confusion and all the questions running around in his mind, it was still Yuga who had been sent home. Everything had worked, more or less, according to plan.

“Yuga, bring me your torch,” Toshinori said.

Yuga, looking completely blindsided, stood from his spot on the bench and walked behind everyone to grab his torch. He made his way to Toshinori, setting his torch in the predesignated hole for it, and faced his elimination.

“Yuga, the tribe has spoken,” Toshinori said, and then he snuffed Yuga’s torch. “It’s time for you to go.”

And then Yuga left, without a word or a backward glance.

After Yuga was gone, Toshinori turned back to the rest of them and said, “Well, it is clear that this was a shocking vote, and my prediction is that there are more to come. Grab your stuff; head back to camp. Goodnight.”

--

“So, when did the vote switch from Izuku to Hanta?” Tenya asked of no one in particular when they got back to camp. “Or was it always just a lie?”

“Well, to be fair, you guys lied to us when you said they were voting for Shoto,” Momo said.

“And we were really going to vote for Izuku at first,” Mina said, “but we saw how you guys kept talking to him, so we knew that you probably warned him, and we decided to switch things up.”

“But I’m still here,” Hanta said with a smile.

And Yuga was gone.

Katsuki, after removing his immunity necklace and hanging it on a tree branch, stalked away from the camp and towards the beach, which seemed to be his custom following tribal councils. Izuku, not really caring much to hear the drama and the potential bickering that was about to break out, decided instead to follow Katsuki and make sure everything was okay with him.

Katsuki had already taken a seat in the sand on the beach when Izuku sidled up next to him, making sure to leave an appropriate amount of space between them.

“I’m sorry you played your idol for no reason,” Izuku said.

Katsuki grunted noncommittally.

“At least Kirishima voted with us, right? That’s good.”

Again, Katsuki made a sound in the back of his throat that really could have meant anything.

Izuku was beginning to think that Katsuki just wanted to be left alone, and he began to stand up and leave, but as he did so, Katsuki’s hand struck out and grabbed Izuku by the wrist. Izuku, startled, looked back at Katsuki questioningly before resuming his position of sitting cross-legged next to Katsuki.

Katsuki seemed to be struggling with words. He kept opening and closing his mouth but not saying anything at all.

“What’s going on?” Izuku asked, trying to keep his voice soft. When it was clear that Katsuki wasn’t going to say anything, Izuku decided to just start talking out of his ass. “You know, it’s really hard for me to be out here. I haven’t ever gone so long without seeing or at least talking to my mom. And it’s hard for me to be out here in the wilderness and in the sun twenty-four-seven. And to have no hygienic tools. I’m getting new bruises and new bug bites every day, and even though I’m close to Ochako and Tenya, I still feel so alone out here. Like, I have to beat these people, you know? The day’s going to come when I have to vote them off. And I’m not a ruthless type of person. I don’t like backstabbing people. But I know I’m going to have to do it eventually. It’s just…” He trailed off as he abruptly got overtaken by emotion. Talking about all of this out loud felt… nice. Even if Katsuki wasn’t listening or didn’t care, it was still nice to say all of these things out loud instead of just in his head. He had to clear his voice before continuing. “It’s hard, you know? I want more than anything to win, but I also have to remember what matters. The relationships I create and the bonds I build and the people I care about out here. I don’t want to hurt anybody.”

Katsuki’s grip on Izuku’s wrist tightened just slightly, and this time, when Izuku turned to look at the other, Katsuki was staring right back at Izuku. It was dark outside, with only the moon and the distant fire at their camp to see by, by Izuku could have sworn Katsuki’s eyes were swimming with - with something, that wasn’t normally there.

“I played my idol tonight because I didn’t want you to leave,” Katsuki said, his voice rough and low. “I don’t regret it.”

Izuku nodded dumbly, stunned by the intensity with which Katsuki said the words, as if there was something else he was trying to say within those words, something that he couldn’t really force through his throat.

And then they were silent for several seconds, just staring at each other.

Katsuki’s grip tightened even more for just a split second before he broke their contact entirely, running a hand over his face, as if to wipe away the vulnerability he had just revealed.

“I’m here to win,” Katsuki said, and Izuku knew he was attempting to make his voice sound harder, more confident, but Izuku could still hear the slight catch in his words. “I’m here to beat you.”

Izuku nodded. He felt like the moment was broken, but he still couldn’t find it in himself to get up and leave Katsuki alone here.

“I hate that we met in this fucking game,” Katsuki said in a voice that was an astonishing mix between bitter and tender before he seemed to shake himself out of it. He pushed himself out of the sand roughly and said over his shoulder to Izuku, “You’ll freeze your ass off if you sit out here all night.”

And then he was gone, leaving Izuku there in a stunned silence to contemplate everything Katsuki had just revealed to him, his mind lingering on those last words.

I hate that we met in this fucking game .

That night, Izuku tortured himself over trying to figure out what the meaning behind those words was.

Chapter Text

“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.

Chapter Text

It was one thing to wake up as the sun came up in the morning, but it was something else entirely to be jabbed viciously in his side with a sharp toe even earlier than that.

Izuku, who had been sleeping in his customary spot in the sand surrounding the shelter, had no notion of where he was at being woken from his deep slumber so abruptly. It was still relatively dark, with only the very beginnings of sunlight casting light to see by, and Izuku couldn’t immediately work out where he was.

Another jab in his side was issued, and Izuku managed to open his eyes completely, rubbing at his eyes with his knuckles to get rid of the sleep that still lingered there. He yawned, stretched his body lazily, and rolled over onto his back, peering up at the intruder with only a small amount of exasperation. Izuku wasn’t normally cranky in the morning, nor was he especially hard to wake up, but he felt so tired , both physically and mentally, and he liked his current system of waking up on his own, before everybody else, to cook a small breakfast for everyone and do other odd chores to get the day started.

Being woken up by somebody else was not ideal, and it took him out of his own personal rhythm. At least there was no challenge today, so Izuku could probably sneak in a nap at some point throughout.

And when he finally removed his knuckles from his eyes to gaze up at none other than Katsuki, outlined by the very faint sunlight in the distance, fully dressed and ready to go, Izuku remembered that they had a mission today. They had to get out and find the hidden immunity idol, and they had to do it sooner rather than later, before anybody else woke up and had time to wonder at where they had gone or what they were doing.

Katsuki was wearing a sneer on his face as he lifted his foot, as if to nudge Izuku again. Izuku hastily scrambled up to avoid another painful jab, kicking his blanket out of the way and throwing on his shirt, which he had discarded at some point throughout the night. He tugged it over his head in a quick, if somewhat awkward, movement, and then he rubbed his eyes one more time and blinked sleepily at Katsuki, waiting for further instructions, trusting Katsuki to take the lead on this venture.

Katsuki let his gaze rest of Izuku for several more seconds, which Izuku didn’t think was strictly necessary, before he turned silently on his heel and made his way towards the woods surrounding their camp, stepping lightly so as to avoid waking anybody up. Izuku didn’t know how Katsuki could so easily walk without making noise. Izuku had to basically tiptoe to keep from crunching any leaves or snapping any sticks, and, still, he managed to make more noise than Katsuki.

They walked in silence until they were well out of earshot from the camp, and even then, they barely spoke a word to each other, choosing to make their journey in relative quiet. Izuku couldn’t speak for Katsuki, but he was still so tired that he didn’t even trust his ability to form a coherent sentence at the moment, and he had to put all of his focus into watching where he walked so as not to step on an unsuspecting animal or stub his toe on an especially thick root.

The sun began to rise in earnest the longer they walked towards the destination where Katsuki thought the clue described. Before long, they were standing at the edge of a small ravine, the banks rising up well above the water level, creating walls of dirt and roots, which did, indeed, fit the description the clue had offered perfectly.

They stood in silence for several beats longer, scanning their working grounds, trying to discern the most likely spots where the idol would be hidden. The clue had said that they wouldn’t be “digging down,” which gave Izuku good reason to believe that they would be digging through the dirt walls to either side of the ravine.

“Alright,” Katsuki said promptly, before pulling his red t-shirt off over his head, leaving him clad in nothing more than his orange swim trunks. Izuku tried his hardest not to stare or blush or look flustered in any way at all, with - likely - very minimal success. He could feel all the heat in his body flooding into his face, turning it what he assumed to be a startling shade of red. Luckily, he could blame this on the fact that the sun was out now, and the heat was beginning its oppressive descent on them. “I’ll look on the other side. You look over here.”

Izuku nodded once and watched as Katsuki stepped into the water, making his way over to the dirt wall on the opposite side of the ravine.

And so they began their search, each digging wherever they thought an idol could possibly be hidden. Izuku began where Katsuki had indicated, but as the minutes turned into hours with no success, they switched sides so that Izuku was digging at the dirt wall and Katsuki was searching the side that Izuku had started on. At this point, Izuku lost his own shirt as well, since he was beginning to sweat more than he was comfortable with, and he didn’t want to soil his shirt more than he needed to. He had just washed it (as much as one could wash a shirt without the aid of soap), and he wasn’t too keen on dirtying it up again.

And so both Izuku and Katsuki were covered in dirt and mud and dirty water, clad in only their swim shorts, sweating profusely and growing more and more irritable by the second. Every time Izuku glanced at Katsuki, he could tell that the very thin hold he had on his temper was getting smaller and smaller with every instant, as his movements and motions got more and more desperate and erratic. Instead of digging in any kind of methodic, rhythmic manner, he began simply pulling at loose roots and grabbing handfuls of dirt before moving on to another spot.

As such, Izuku felt even more pressure to find the idol himself. Even though he was quickly growing irritable as well, under the unforgiving heat of the day and the impending sense of failure, he knew that he could hold out longer than Katsuki could. He had a much larger well of patience than Katsuki did. He could be searching for twice as long without giving in to his rising temper or discomfort.

And there was still the fact that Izuku felt indebted to Katsuki for playing his idol for him at the last tribal council. Izuku wanted to be the one to find the idol, if only so that he could be the one to give it to Katsuki. He knew that this was a game, that he’d be absolutely stupid to give up the hidden idol if he was the one who found it, that he’d likely regret his decision, that everybody who would watch him do this at home when the show aired would say what an idiotic move it was, but… Katsuki had done it for him. Maybe he didn’t outright give his idol to Izuku, but he had used it on him, which might as well have been the same thing. Katsuki was now without its protection, all because he chose to protect Izuku, and Izuku really did feel he owed it to Katsuki to repay him by handing him a brand new idol, even if Katsuki claimed he didn’t regret using it on Izuku.

Another hour passed, and Izuku was beginning to worry that they were never going to find this stupid idol, and pretty soon, everyone at the camp would be awake, if they weren’t already, and they’d all be wondering where Izuku and Katsuki had snuck off to. Izuku was about to suggest heading back to camp empty-handed and resuming their search at a later time, when they may or may not look less suspicious -

But just as he was about to voice this opinion, his hand struck something buried towards the top of the dirt wall.

Izuku froze. And then, so as to not jinx himself, he very, very slowly lifted his gaze to where his hand was inside the dirt wall, to the object he was now grasping.

He pulled his hand out of the wall, and clutched in his fingers was a definitive round object, wrapped in worn and dirty cloth. He was vaguely aware of the fact that his fingers were shaking. His entire body felt lighter as the relief flooded him, and he could feel his face breaking out into a magnificent grin.

He had actually found it. He’d found a hidden immunity idol.

Try as he might, he couldn’t suppress his yelp of glee at having the object in his hands. He was such a fan of this game, had loved this game since he was a child, and he had never dreamed that he’d actually be lucky enough to be in possession of a hidden immunity idol.

Katsuki turned sharply in Izuku’s direction at his shout, and Izuku glanced in Katsuki’s direction and waved the idol around a bit, smiling like an idiot. “I found it!”

Katsuki was across the water and at Izuku’s side in less than a second. He snatched the idol out of Izuku’s hands and unbound it from the cloth with quick fingers, and his eyes scanned the note that came folded-up with it, reading the words. Izuku looked over Katsuki’s shoulder to read as well, learning that this was, in fact, a hidden immunity idol, although this one was just a regular one, not the one with the different powers that they had learned about at the merge. But it was still something , and Izuku was absolutely ecstatic that he had found it.

It was a simple circular wooden idol, with a face carved into the center, hung on a woven brown string. Katsuki placed the idol around his neck, almost reverently. Izuku watched the whole ordeal in fascination. The idol hung from Katsuki’s neck and settled onto his naked chest, and Katsuki stroked the wood of it with an awed finger absentmindedly.

“It suits you,” Izuku said, still smiling broadly. “Your second idol. That must feel good, huh?”

Katsuki looked up at Izuku sharply, his brow creased. “What the fuck do you mean by that?”

“Huh? I mean -”

Before Izuku could even finish his sentence, Katsuki tore the idol off of his neck and all but flung it at Izuku. Izuku caught it against his own chest. “The idol’s yours. You’re the one who found it.”

“What? I know I found it, but-”

“There are no but s about it, nerd,” Katsuki interrupted gruffly. “You found the idol, and it’s yours.”

Izuku didn’t understand why Katsuki was so insistent about this. Izuku was offering to give him the same protection he’d received. “You played your idol on me, though. I’m only giving you back what you lost-”

Katsuki whirled on Izuku, a fire blazing in his eyes. He stuck his face right into Izuku’s, as if to make it absolutely clue how serious he was. “Listen to me, nerd, because I’m only gonna say this once. I found that idol, and I chose to use it for you. I didn’t fuckin’ give it to you; I kept it, and I played it how I saw best for my own personal game. It had nothing to do with you, so don’t try to give up your only guarantee at protection for me. That’s fuckin’ stupid, and it’d be the dumbest move you can make in this game. I thought a nerd like you would be able to figure that out yourself.”

Izuku blinked at Katsuki a few times, unsure exactly how to respond. He opened his mouth and then closed it again. There was really nothing he could say. Katsuki was right; of course he was right. Izuku had known before Katsuki had said anything that he was right. But it didn’t get rid of Izuku’s sense of debt to Katsuki. He still felt like he owed the other something.

He supposed that all he could do for Katsuki now was to remain loyal to him throughout the remainder of the game, for as long as he possibly could without putting his own game in jeopardy.

Izuku ended up only nodding and shoving the idol into his pocket, to keep it hidden from the others until he could find a more private place for it. “Alright,” he said. “We should get back to camp now. We’ve been gone for a while.”

But before either of them could take a step in the direction of their camp, Izuku slipped on his foothold in the water, and he fell into the dirty ravine water. Katsuki had gripped his arm to try and keep him upright, but he ended up falling down as well, landing right on top of Izuku so hard that all of the breath was knocked right out of Izuku.

Izuku struggled to get his hands underneath him, to push himself up and dislodge Katsuki off of him before Izuku became entirely aware of just how close to naked they both were, but instead of scrambling off of Izuku the way he would have expected, Katsuki pressed his body even closer to Izuku’s.

Startled, Izuku chanced looking into Katsuki’s face that was much too close for comfort, only inches away from Izuku’s own. But Katsuki wasn’t looking at Izuku at all. Instead, his eyes were firmly plastered to the forest in the distance. “Did you hear that?” he whispered, the rumble of his words vibrating in his chest where it rest atop Izuku’s.

Flustered, Izuku tried to glance around, but in his current compromised position, it was hard to see much of anything except for the shallow water he was still lying in and the bottoms of trees and bushes. “Hear what? Is someone coming?”

Katsuki didn’t answer, but he kept his eyes fixated on the forest, scanning for any signs of trouble. Izuku didn’t know what he would tell anyone who wandered upon them right now, but, honestly, if the situation looked as compromising as it felt to Izuku, then they could easily lie and chalk it all up to wanting to have some privacy to be intimate without wandering eyes.

But Izuku didn’t know if that would be better or worse than anyone thinking they had an immunity idol. If people thought that they were a couple of any kind, then that would put a huge target on both of their backs, and one or the other of them would surely be voted out sooner rather than later. That was how it always went in Survivor . Couples didn’t last because they would be guaranteed votes to keep the other safe, which was dangerous for the others

Izuku was just about to open his mouth to suggest that perhaps Katsuki should get off of him if anybody else was around for the reasons he had just come up with, but when he turned his face up to look at Katsuki again, he found that Katsuki was already staring at him, his brows drawn together, his head tilted slightly to the side, an almost confused expression diluting the annoyance there. It was as if Katsuki was looking at a particularly tricky math equation that he couldn’t figure out no matter how hard he tried, no matter how many attempts he gave it.

Izuku didn’t understand what that look meant for him. He didn’t know what was going through Katsuki’s mind as he stared down at Izuku, with a half-perplexed and half-irritated expression. He didn’t know what Katsuki was thinking, and it was making Izuku kind of anxious, to be the subject of such an intense gaze without having an inkling of understanding to what was really going on Katsuki’s mind.

Izuku began to squirm a bit, which ended up being a bad idea because that made him all too aware of just how close Katsuki’s body was to Izuku’s, made him aware of the sticky sweat on both of their chests, made him aware of every hard line and every muscle and every inch of skin that touched Izuku. His heart began to pick up pace, and his mouth was suddenly dry. Absentmindedly, he licked his lips, watching with fascination as Katsuki’s gaze darted down to Izuku’s lips with the motion.

For the first time, Izuku wondered if the attraction he felt for Katsuki was mutual. Despite all of Katsuki’s insults and name-calling, and despite his temper and his flares of anger, and despite his complete inability to work with Izuku, and despite the fact that he always needed to have the upper hand - perhaps Katsuki felt the same way. Perhaps Katsuki was going through day after day in such close, intimate quarters with Izuku, trying just as hard as Izuku was to ignore that ever-growing attraction, that physical draw towards each other, that desire to get to know each other on a deeper level than just playing this game together.

The way Katsuki was looking at Izuku right now made him think that - yes, maybe it was mutual. Maybe Izuku wasn’t just crushing on somebody who was completely unavailable to him. Maybe, just maybe, they could become more to each other than just allies in a game.

But then Katsuki shook himself once, hard, like a dog shaking off water, and he seemed to come back to himself. The shields that he always kept in place were lowered once again, and his face became a perfect mask of irritated indifference, as if nothing had just passed between them, even though Izuku was positive that something had .

As if just realizing the position that they were in, Katsuki scoffed and leveled Izuku with a sneer that would have sent Izuku spluttering and put his nerves on edge only days before. Katsuki planted a hand in the middle of Izuku’s still-naked chest - and Izuku definitely was not thinking about how it felt to be touched by that callused hand, was definitely not thinking about how Katsuki’s long fingers were as graceful-looking as they were strong, and was definitely not wondering what it would feel like for that hand to slide over the planes of Izuku’s chest and stomach - and he pushed himself up to his feet, running a hand through his hair and looking around the area they were still in. He was looking anywhere but at Izuku, Izuku realized.

Izuku quickly scrambled to his feet as well, quickly patting the pocket of his swim shorts with his hands to make sure that the idol was still there, despite being a little wet. And then he made his way over to Katsuki, careful to keep a certain amount of distance between them.

Even though Izuku was positive that there was something there between him and Katsuki, he wasn’t sure what, exactly, it was, at least from Katsuki’s perspective. He didn’t know if it was purely physical, if the need to be close to someone in an intimate way after being without intimate relationships for almost a month now in constantly stressful situations was driving Katsuki’s desire to be close to Izuku. This made the most sense, Izuku was forced to reflect. Katsuki was perhaps touch-starved and craving a physical relationship of some kind, but likely he didn’t want anything more than that, if even that were the case.

But Izuku couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something more there. Maybe Izuku was only projecting his own emotions onto Katsuki, but he could have sworn that there was something in Katsuki’s red eyes when he was staring down at Izuku; there was something in the way he looked so bewildered, as if he was just seeing Izuku for the first time. There had been something almost tender there, underneath whatever internal assessment he had been composing of Izuku, in that moment.

Whatever it was, though, Izuku had to remember that that wasn’t his priority, nor was it Katsuki’s. Anything physical or romantic or otherwise, whatever possibilities were there - it wasn’t either of their priorities, and he had to remember that at all times before he did or said something stupid that would ruin both of their games. If Katsuki wanted to pursue something, Izuku trusted that he was blunt enough to do or say something on his own. But Izuku couldn’t let his emotions take control over his brain, not when there was a million dollars on the line.

So Izuku took a few deep, steadying breaths before venturing to ask Katsuki, as casually as he could, “What did you hear?”

“Huh?” Katsuki barked out, cutting a glare at Izuku. And just like that, everything returned to normal between them. “I thought I heard someone walking towards us. Guess not.”

Izuku rubbed the back of his neck. “We better come up with a good excuse why we were out for so long. People are probably up by now.”

So they spent the next ten minutes collecting as much firewood as they could possibly carry in their arms, enough that it could have plausibly taken them at least an hour to gather, had they taken their time like everyone always did when collecting firewood.

Nobody was overly suspicious of them when they got back - at least not enough to call them out on their disappearance. And Izuku felt significantly lighter than he did before, with the weight of the hidden idol in his pocket.

Chapter Text

“Who do you want to vote out tonight?” Izuku inquired softly after glancing around to make sure there was no one else around. It was only him, Ochako, and Tenya sitting in their shelter, everyone else having gone off to get more water or to check their mail or washing in the ocean or having other private conversations in whatever location they saw best.

“It would be smart to get rid of Shoto now,” Tenya murmured, pushing his glasses further up the bridge of his nose. “He’s the strongest in challenges. Unless he wins the challenge today, I think it would be best to vote for him now.”

Izuku nodded. He liked Shoto, but Shoto was definitely one of the people Izuku was worried most about in the long run. He could win this entire game, if he was allowed to get that far, so it would be in his best interest to vote him out sooner rather than later.

“I agree,” Ochako said, throwing another stick into the fire and listening to it crackle as it burned.

In recent days, that was how Izuku, Ochako, and Tenya filled their time, by constantly throwing new sticks into the fire, trying to build it up higher or tamper it down when it got too big. They took turns finding sticks and seeing which ones would make the loudest noise when thrown into the fire, spending hours at a time playing this made-up game of theirs.

Izuku could deal with the hunger and the heat and the bugs and the lack of comfort. More than anything, it was the oppressive boredom of being out here that drove him mad. He felt like he was just counting the minutes, the seconds, before the next challenge or tribal council. He hadn’t thought that boredom would be the worst thing about being out here, but it was quickly becoming so.

Even with Ochako and Tenya willing to keep him constant company, even with Katsuki spending an ever-increasing amount of time with him, and with five other people to talk to should all three of them be unavailable at any given moment, he still found himself bored more often than not. After spending so much time with the same group of people for twenty-four hours every day for going on twenty-two days straight, one found that one began to exhaust their conversational topics. They talked about food, mostly, so much so that Izuku could probably list off everybody’s favorite and least favorite food on this island, but they also talked a lot about their families and their friends at home, sharing drinking stories or stories in which someone was horribly wounded or stories about wild animals or stories about their pets or stories about their jobs or stories about what they had studied or were currently studying in school. They talked about what TV shows they liked and what movies they liked and what books they liked. Any topic that someone could think of, they had all already discussed multiple times over. They had told the same stories multiple times just because there was nothing else to talk about.

The most interesting conversations they had these days were the ones about the fire and the weather, and Izuku meant that with complete seriousness. Talking about the fire was always interesting because the fire was important to all of them, since they needed it to stay warm at night and to boil their food and water. They’d discovered a multitude of rather stupid and extremely simple games to play with the fire, including the one he’d mentioned earlier about seeing which stick could crackle the loudest. Sometimes they would just sit and stare at the fire for hours, finding images and pictures in the flames, and someone would inevitably begin to narrate a make-believe story based on whatever images they thought they saw in the flames. It was so stupid, but it was one of the only things they could do for entertainment anymore.

The weather, at least, had a lot more diversity when it came to conversational topics. They could always do the classic cloud-watching, but the real fun was making bets with each other on exactly how hot it would be today, or if there was going to be any rain soon, or how hard the wind would blow hour by hour. They had nothing to bet, of course, but they pretended like they did because it was all they could do to occupy themselves. They would lie on the beach and just stare at the sky and have lengthy conversations regarding the weather or previous weather patterns. It was really amazing, how long people can talk about the weather when they really put their mind to it.

They tried to create crude games of bowling or hopscotch or draw tic-tac-toe boards in the sand. They even tried playing hide and seek once, which had been a complete and utter failure. They had started an ongoing game of tag in which whoever was it would tag somebody else at unsuspecting moments, made the more difficult since nobody ever really knew who was it until they were tagged by them, but they all eventually lost track and gave up on that.

It was incredibly boring out here on the island, Izuku thought as he picked up a tiny twig off the ground and tossed it into the fire, watching as the flames engulfed it.

He sighed heavily and pushed himself up, standing and stretching out. “I better go talk to Hanta and Katsuki and Kirishima and make sure they’re okay with that plan,” he said and then walked off, leaving Ochako and Tenya to stare at the fire silently.

Luckily for Izuku, Hanta, Katsuki, and Kirishima were all together already, and they were all by themselves, in the water. Izuku yanked his shirt off over his head and waded into the water as well, joining their little group unceremoniously.

Izuku still felt a little awkward around Katsuki, ever since what had happened yesterday. He wasn’t entirely sure how to act around him, if he should try to be closer to Katsuki or if he was better off giving him some space. He’d rather err on caution, so he decided to just give Katsuki space and wait for him to come to Izuku, should he want to talk at any point. And besides, today was a busy day, what with the immunity challenge followed by tribal council. Any talk they would have could wait for the next day that they had off from challenges.

He quickly told them about the plan to vote out Shoto tonight, so long as he didn’t win the immunity challenge today, and all three of them readily agreed to this. They were on the same page as Izuku, Ochako, and Tenya, then, considering Shoto to be one of the biggest competitors out here, and definitely the biggest threat in the whole competition outside of their own alliance.

That being settled, Izuku returned to the shelter and lay down, allowing himself at least an hour of rest before they set out for the challenge.

--

“Come on in, guys!”

They all walked into the challenge area for the day. Again, there were ten individual setups, one for each contestant. These setups were all differently-colored wooden frames with a block of wood resting on the bottom frame. Izuku also noticed that all of the bottom frames were at different heights, while all the top frames were the same exact height from each other, making the distance between the bottom frame and the top from differ depending upon which specific wooden frame one was at. This all made Izuku think that their heights mattered for this challenge, that their heights had something to do with what the object of this challenge would be.

“Are you guys ready to get to today’s immunity challenge?” Toshinori asked from where he stood in front of all of them, next to the now-empty wooden pole that carried the immunity necklace. “First thing’s first, Katsuki,” Toshinori continued, and he made his way over to where Katsuki was standing. Katsuki took a few steps towards Toshinori as well, the necklace hanging around his neck, though he let Toshinori do most of the walking. “I’ll take back the necklace.”

Katsuki, unwilling to let the necklace go willingly, turned around so that Toshinori could unclasp from it Katsuki’s neck.

Once Toshinori had the necklace back, he turned back to the wooden pole, and Katsuki returned to their lineup to await further instructions. “Thank you,” Toshinori said, and then he hung the necklace back around the pole so that the gold plates were on full display again. “Once again, immunity is back up for grabs. For today’s challenge, you’re going to balance on your toes with a block wedged between your head and the top of the frame. The longer the challenge goes, the more fatigued your legs will become, until they finally give out, and the block falls. When the block falls, you’re out of the challenge. The last person left standing wins immunity and is safe at tribal council. Losers, somebody will be voted out of this game. All your frames have been measured to your height so that it’s fair for everyone. Momo, you’re the yellow frame. Tenya, the blue one. Kirishima, the lavender one. Katsuki, the red one. Denki, the turquoise one. Shoto, the purple one. Ochako, the orange one. Mina, you’re the gray one. Hanta, the green one. And Izuku, you’re the indigo one.”

Toshinori had rattled all these designations off in the order in which the colors appeared, so Izuku’s indigo frame was at the very end, standing next to Hanta’s.

“Take your spots, and we’ll get started,” Toshinori said.

At Toshinori’s order, they all made their way to their allocated frames. Izuku stood on his frame and stepped on his toes, trying to figure out the best way to balance on it. Then he weighed the block in his hand. It wasn’t a heavy block, but the point of the challenge wasn’t to hold a heavy block on his head. It was to see who could stand on their toes the longest, without the block falling. Izuku had strong legs, so he was fairly confident in his ability to get far in this challenge, but he didn’t want to get so confident as to claim that he would win it. He knew that there were others out here who were stronger than he was.

Izuku placed the block firmly on his head and then rose onto his toes, wedging the block solidly into place.

“Alright, everybody is in position,” Toshinori called out. “Now I’m going to count you in, and you’re going to have to let your hands go. Five… four… three… two… one.”

Izuku let his hands drop from the block and slowly lowered them to his sides to keep his balance.

“Hands off the frame,” Toshinori said. “Everybody is in position, and this challenge is on. You cannot touch the frame.”

Izuku had a feeling that this challenge would last a while. Unlike the previous immunity challenge, where they moved to different intervals to make the challenge harder, they were to remain in one place the entire time this time. The only factor in this challenge that was going to make it harder was the strain on legs and feet and toes, but Izuku could definitely see multiple people lasting for a good, long amount of time, including himself.

No sooner had he had this thought than did he hear a block falling right next to him.

“Hanta can’t last but a few seconds,” Toshinori said. “He’s first out. You can have a spot here on your frame.”

Izuku didn’t dare to look in his peripheral vision at Hanta, but he couldn’t help but feel a little bit disappointed that one of the people he was allied with had fallen out of the challenge so quickly. Not that it really mattered. The only person that Izuku’s alliance had to make absolutely sure did not get this necklace was Shoto. If Shoto got the necklace, then their plans for voting him out tonight would all be ruined, and they’d have to settle on voting out somebody else instead, somebody who they didn’t really want to vote for yet.

“Ochako with a nice recovery,” Toshinori said. Even though sometimes Izuku was too distracted by Toshinori’s commentary or was concentrating too hard on the challenge to pay it any mind, this time, he was appreciative of it. It gave him something to listen to so that he didn’t get too restless.

There was the sound of another block falling and splashing in the muddy water from down the line.

“Momo is out,” Toshinori said. And then there was yet another block crashing into the ground. “Mina is right behind her. We lose two more. That’s all it takes. One slight hesitation, one little bit of movement, just a little bit of movement with your head-”

Before Toshinori could even finish with these suspenseful remarks, another block hit the ground.

“And just like that, Ochako does the same thing. We’re down to six people left.”

Izuku knew Ochako wasn’t in danger of going home tonight, so he wasn’t particularly worried about the fact that she didn’t win this challenge, but he still rooted for her every time, regardless, so hearing that she was out of the challenge sent a stab of disappointment through him.

His mind was perfectly blank as he stared ahead of him at nothing in particular. He kept his body as still as he possibly could, despite the nonstop pain and discomfort that began to lodge itself into his strained muscles. He had no idea whatsoever about how much time had passed since Ochako had dropped her block, but nobody else dropped for quite a while after that, and Toshinori ceased commentating for a little bit as well.

There were six people left: himself, as well as Denki, Katsuki, Kirishima, Shoto, and Tenya. With this set of people, Izuku wouldn’t be surprised if this challenge continued for several hours, which made Izuku’s legs itch just thinking about it. The pain was beginning to wind up his legs and into his knees, en route to his thighs. He knew that he would eventually become numb to the pain, but for now, it was almost unbearable. He hoped that more people would drop soon because even though he could hold on for much longer, he didn’t particularly want to if he didn’t have to.

Finally, Toshinori began to speak again. “We are way past the point of, ‘Does this hurt?’ It comes down the willpower, really. How badly do you want it? How much can you take? What do you do when bugs are flying on your body? They’re annoying. How annoying? Are you going to swat it away? You’re probably out of the challenge.”

Toshinori was definitely right about the bugs. Bugs had been flying on him throughout the entire challenge, causing parts of his body to become ticklish with the sensation of tiny legs crawling on him, and the temptation to twitch or swat away the bugs was always tempting, but he knew he couldn’t do anything about it, or else he would risk his position in this challenge.

Izuku’s legs began to wobble a bit, and his heart dropped into his stomach like a ball of lead.

He was going to fall. He could tell he was going to fall. He was suddenly off-balance, and he stuck his arms out to try to regain some of that balance without touching the frame, trying as desperately as he could to stay in this challenge -

Very slowly, he began to settle back into his previous position of solidity, standing still and firm, with his block still on his head, his toes steady once more on the bottom frame.

“Nice recovery by Izuku,” Toshinori said, which Izuku appreciated immensely because he was genuinely afraid for a moment that he had been out of the challenge, but he had overcome that and was still in the running. It was nice to hear it spoken aloud.

A few minutes later, Izuku heard a block drop. “Tenya loses his balance. He’s out, and you can see the pain now, trying to stretch out those legs, get that blood circulating again.”

Izuku couldn’t see Tenya, but he could hear him, even from a distance, groaning in the pain that was coming from stretching his legs after so long holding his position. Izuku was dreading that feeling and wanted to put it off for as long as possible, another reason that motivated him to winning this.

“Denki with a slight wobble,” Toshinori said. After about another minute, there was the sound of another block splashing into the mud. “Denki tries to recover; he cannot. Denki is out of this challenge, and we are down to four.”

Izuku, again, heard the sounds of Denki groaning before taking his seat on his frame.

“It’s just a little pain,” Toshinori said. “You’ve endured a lot more in twenty-two days of Survivor . The question is, how much more can you take?”

Izuku, Katsuki, Kirishima, and Shoto were the last four remaining, and none of them were ready to drop anytime soon. Toshinori was content to let them battle it out in silence for a while.

Again, Izuku had absolutely no sense of how much time had passed. It could have been hours or twenty minutes; he had absolutely no way of telling. All he knew was that the pain was now a constant throbbing in his legs, but he had been able to ignore it, to grow accustomed to it the longer the challenge went on. He had gone for this long through the pain; he’d be damned if he’d be the next one out. He was so close to winning it, had been standing here in pain for so long; he wanted to win this one so badly.

“I know you’re getting tired, and I know the pain is intense,” Toshinori said. “Kirishima is fighting through it. Keep fighting.”

There was the sound of a block dropping, plopping into the water.

“Kirishima, the slightest hesitation. His muscles are so exhausted he can hardly get down from the frame. You alright, Kirishima?”

“Yeah, I’m good,” Kirishima said, but his voice was so strained as to barely be audible, telling Izuku just how much pain he must be in.

Izuku swallowed, his mouth dry. He did not want to feel that pain, but he knew he would, sooner or later.

“Now everybody knows what Katsuki, Shoto, and Izuku are feeling,” Toshinori said. “Somebody is earning this immunity necklace.” And then, a few moments later, he said, “Katsuki with a nice recovery.”

And then, out of absolutely nowhere, Izuku felt his legs twitch, the movement dislodging the block, and he tried as hard as he could to save it from falling, but it was no use. This time, his block really did fall, and he really was out of the challenge.

Izuku swore under his breath as Toshinori said, “Izuku can’t hang on. Izuku falls out, and we are down to two.”

Now that Izuku was able to move his legs and stretch them out, he became very aware of the pain. It hurt to move his lower body at all. It hurt to bend his knees or flex his toes or move his legs. Despite this, he forced himself to walk in a wide circle a couple of times to get the blood circulating before he sat down on his frame, slowly and painfully.

He had wanted so badly to win this challenge, and utter disappointment filled his gut as the feeling of failure flooded through his body.

He looked down the line to where Shoto was standing in his purple frame, Katsuki in his red frame, neither of them moving a muscle. Katsuki looked solid, his face a perfectly calm mask, staring straight ahead, while Shoto looked pained visibly, his mouth hanging open awkwardly and his eyes scrunched up tight.

“Katsuki and Shoto are in a showdown for immunity,” Toshinori said. “It comes down to a question of who can outlast the other.”

Izuku prayed that Katsuki could pull this one off. He had won the last immunity challenge, so winning this one as well would put a huge target on his back as a physical threat, although not winning this challenge would achieve the same thing, since he was lasting so long. He was quickly emerging as one of the biggest physical threats out here. But Shoto was right up there with him, and - Izuku realized with a start - so was he. He had come in third place in both of the immunity challenges so far. He was close to winning both of them, had lasted a long time on both of them. He didn’t win either of them, but he’d gotten close enough that people would easily see him as a threat in challenges.

Kirishima was probably on that list as well. He always lasted long in challenges, just like Izuku, even if he hadn’t won yet.

Regardless of the fact that Katsuki was actively making himself a target, he still needed to win this because they needed to vote out Shoto. Shoto was a huge competitor, being smart, likable, and incredibly strong. If they didn’t vote him out soon, it would be difficult to vote him out later in the game. They had to do it now, while they still had the numbers, while they still were in an alliance, before somebody turned their back, before Shoto and Momo could work their magic and flip people onto their side.

Izuku quickly grew bored with watching the showdown between Katsuki and Shoto, since it was obvious that neither of them would be dropping soon, and instead rested his head in his hands, elbows braced on his knees, shutting his eyes and resting as best as he could while sitting on this frame.

“I am genuinely impressed,” Toshinori said some amount of time later, causing Izuku to look up and evaluate Katsuki and Shoto’s standings right now. “That is a long time to be holding this pose. Katsuki, no change in his facial expression. Shoto, awkward-looking but very strong.”

Shoto began to make small, risky movements, such as slowly twisting his head back and forth and shifting his feet into new positions. This was all very promising, to Izuku. The more he moved, the higher the chance that he would fall out of this before Katsuki did. Katsuki had been still the entire time that Izuku was out and had been watching; the odds were definitely in his favor for this one.

“Shoto has looked pained the entire challenge,” Toshinori said as Shoto began to wobble a bit, his block teetering.

Izuku sat up a bit straighter to look at Shoto, to see if this was when he would fall.

“Get it back in control, Shoto,” Toshinori said. “Keep digging, Katsuki.” Shoto’s block had not stopped wobbling. “Shoto is struggling to hang on.”

And then, all of a sudden, Shoto had stabilized again, his block firmly wedged between his head and the frame once more, his body going still again.

“Keep fighting through it,” Toshinori called out to them.

Izuku had the feeling that this challenge would be over soon, that Shoto would drop soon, so he kept his eyes fixed on the two contestants left, waiting for something to happen.

Sure enough, Shoto began to wobble again, his feet shaking with the effort to stay in this challenge.

“Shoto is really fighting to stay in this,” Toshinori said.

And then, to Izuku’s complete surprise, Katsuki began to wobble for the first time in the past thirty minutes.

To Izuku’s utter horror, that was all it took for Katsuki’s block to drop.

“Katsuki, out of nowhere, drops the block. Shoto wins individual immunity! He’s safe tonight at tribal council!” Toshinori shouted.

Izuku and the others all clapped for Shoto as he very painfully lowered himself from his frame, even if he wasn’t entirely happy about him winning the challenge.

Katsuki, for his part, didn’t even appear to be in any pain at all, since he was too busy kicking at the mud and swearing at himself for not winning this challenge. He had lasted so long, and Shoto had been struggling the entire time that there was no way he would have lasted much longer, and Izuku knew how he felt about winning. He must have felt like something of a failure, for not being able to win this one, and not just for himself but for their entire alliance, since they had been banking on voting Shoto out tonight.

The disappointment curled around in Izuku’s gut, but he was much more worried about the pain that Katsuki must be feeling than about the vote tonight. Katsuki wasn’t even giving himself a moment to give into the pain, just kept pacing angrily. Izuku bit his lip with concern, his gaze lingering on Katsuki for only a few more moments before they all lined up once again to watch Toshinori award Shoto the immunity necklace.

“Huge effort from both of you,” Toshinori said, directing the words to Katsuki and Shoto, who were standing next to each other in the lineup. “Shoto, can you walk over here?”

“I hope,” Shoto said with a nervous chuckle, walking over with some amount of difficulty to where Toshinori stood with the immunity necklace. He definitely looked like he was in a lot of pain.

Shoto turned his back to Toshinori so that the host could clasp the necklace around Shoto’s neck, letting it rest against his chest. When he was done, he clasped a hand on Shoto’s shoulder and said, “Shoto is safe at tonight’s tribal council, cannot be voted out of this game. As for the rest of you, after twenty-two days, somebody is going home tonight. Grab your stuff; head back to camp. I’ll see you tonight at tribal council. Congratulations,” he said once more to Shoto before sending them all on their way back to camp.

--

When they got back to camp, Mina and Momo immediately began scrambling, trying to talk to everyone and ensure their safety at tonight’s tribal council, obviously being the odd ones out. Denki didn’t seem as though he was in any hurry to have any discussions with anybody, which Izuku thought was a bit odd. Either he was pretty comfortable in his position in the game, thinking he was going to be safe, or he thought he was likely to be voted out and didn’t want to waste his time campaigning for himself. Izuku wasn’t entirely sure. He was never really sure what was going on through Denki’s mind.

As everyone was off having conversations, Izuku eased himself down in the shelter next to Katsuki, casting him an assessing look. Katsuki must have felt Izuku’s eyes on him because he looked sharply at Izuku, a scowl stamped across his face. “What the fuck do you want, nerd?”

Katsuki was stretching his legs out in front of him nonstop; obviously, there was still a good amount of pain and discomfort there, but Izuku knew that Katsuki wasn’t going to sit around and complain about any pain he might be feeling.

He tried to shove his concern to the back of his mind so that he could talk to Katsuki about the vote tonight. “Who do you want to vote out, now that Shoto is safe?”

Katsuki didn’t answer right away, perhaps to fully consider the question, never once stopping the movements of his legs in front of him. Finally, he said, “Denki.”

Izuku nodded. “That’s what I was thinking, too.” Izuku just didn’t completely trust Denki. He wasn’t entirely sure why, but there was something almost unpredictable about him. Izuku also had the feeling that Denki was perhaps smarter and stronger than he let on, that he was dumbing himself down for strategy purposes.

Katsuki’s continuous shifting and fidgeting was setting Izuku on-edge, and without making any conscious decision to do so, he reached out a hand and clasped it around one of Katsuki’s ankles.

Katsuki froze at the contact. Even Izuku was surprised by this action, and he was expecting Katsuki to pull out of his grasp, to scoff and say something rude, but he didn’t. More and more these days, whenever Izuku expected an insult or rejection from Katsuki, what he got instead was indifferent acceptance, as if he had resigned himself to whatever Izuku had to offer, as if he had decided that putting up constant fights and continuously trying to push Izuku away was too much effort.

Izuku looked at Katsuki’s face. He had his jaw clenched, his eyes fixed pointedly in the distance, not looking at Izuku, but not pulling away, either.

Izuku smiled a little bit to himself. It wasn’t like Katsuki was sitting there with open arms, but he wasn’t closing himself off, either, and Izuku considered that significant progress.

Izuku began to massage the muscles in Katsuki’s feet with his hands absentmindedly. His own feet still hurt, his legs and knees and thighs throbbing, but he figured this was the least he could do for Katsuki, after everything Katsuki had done to ensure his safety in the game.

They only had a limited amount of time until tribal council, though, so Izuku had to get up and get moving, had to start making the rounds and letting everyone know the new plan. He’d let Katsuki rest and do all the plan-laying himself.

As much as he wanted to continue to comfort Katsuki, he forced himself to stand from the shelter and stretched briefly, rolling out the muscles in his neck and his back. “I’ll go let everyone know the new plan,” he said offhandedly to Katsuki, who grunted in acknowledgment as he walked away.

As he was making his way to find Hanta, Kirishima, Ochako, or Tenya, he was intercepted by Momo and Shoto. They asked to talk to him before tribal council, so Izuku reluctantly began to walk down the beach with the pair, resigning himself to finding the other members of his alliance after.

“I know it’s a long shot, but is there any way you would consider fighting with us?” Shoto asked, wasting no time.

Izuku bit his lip. He liked Momo and Shoto; he really did. And they had invited him into an alliance when they were on the Appari tribe together, but Izuku had thought his chances were better in the long run if he stuck with Hanta, Katsuki, and Yuga. He couldn’t turn his back on Hanta and Katsuki now by allying with the former beauty tribe.

“Think about it,” Momo said quickly, apparently seeing the forthcoming rejection on Izuku’s face. “If you, Ochako, and Tenya join with us, we can get out the rest of the brawn tribe. You’ve already seen that Katsuki and Kirishima will dominate challenges. They’re the biggest threats in this game right now, and we can get them all out, if you guys vote with us instead of them.”

Izuku shook his head slightly. “I - I’ll think about it.”

He knew he sounded as unconvincing as he felt because Momo and Shoto’s faces fell. Izuku quickly excused himself and wandered off to find the rest of his alliance and relay the new plan to them.

He just didn’t think he would get as far with them as he would with the former brawn tribe. Momo and Shoto would take each other to the end before either of them took Izuku, whereas Izuku felt like he had a pretty good chance of being taken to the end by everyone he was allied with right now, bar Kirishima. Everyone else would at least consider taking him, and that was what was important.

After filling in Hanta, Kirishima, Ochako, and Tenya on their new plan for tonight’s tribal council, Izuku began to gather all his belongings together, shoving his few things into his bag, as he did every night before leaving for tribal.

Neither Denki nor Mina tried talking to Izuku, but he did see both of them having conversations with Hanta, as well as with Ochako and Tenya. A sense of unease wound itself through Izuku’s veins at the sight, knowing full well that they were trying to convince them to vote with them instead of with Izuku, Katsuki, and Kirishima. He could only imagine what kind of lies they were telling to get them onto their side. But Izuku pushed his unease aside. He had faith in all three of them; he trusted them. There was no reason to start worrying now, so soon before tribal council was set to start. If anything was amiss, he had full confidence that Ochako, at the very least, would tell Izuku something. He couldn’t see her blindsiding him by voting for him or anyone else in their alliance.

It was finally time to leave, and so all ten of them made the trek to the tribal council area in silence.

After tonight, there would be only nine people left. Nine people out of the original eighteen. That was the halfway point. After tonight, Izuku would have officially made it halfway through the game. If looking at it in terms of days, they were already past the halfway mark, with seventeen days left of the thirty-nine they were to be stranded out here. It was definitely taxing on not only Izuku’s body but his mentality as well, but he was getting through it with a lot less difficulty and discomfort than he had anticipated. In fact, he was mildly enjoying his time out here. He loved the game, so he was incredibly happy that he was having a relatively good time playing it and that he was doing pretty well. He was also content with the relationships he was forming. One of the things Izuku was most worried about was being stuck with people he would end up hating, but that wasn’t the case at all. He genuinely liked everybody he was here with, which made it that much harder to vote people out every three days.

Everybody filed into the tribal council area with their lit torches, situating themselves in any of the stools that were available to them tonight. Izuku had tried to get a seat next to Katsuki, but he somehow ended up squished in between Mina and Momo, with Katsuki to the other side of Momo. Ochako and Tenya were both on opposite ends of the front row, with Kirishima and Hanta in the middle of them. Shoto was also in the front row, and Denki was in the back.

After everyone had settled themselves, Toshinori said from his usual spot in front of everyone, “We’ll now bring in the first member of our jury.”

Everybody looked in the direction of the entrance to the tribal council area, where Yuga appeared, looking astonishingly clean and dressed in nice, fresh clothing, his hair shining brilliantly and his cheeks glowing with the cleanliness and hygienics that were afforded to him, now that he was officially out of the game. Izuku was almost jealous of Yuga, for being able to wash up and wear clean clothes and eat real meals at regular intervals.

But then again, Yuga wouldn’t be winning a million dollars, and that was a certainty. At least Izuku was still in the running.

“Yuga, voted out at the last tribal council,” Toshinori said as Yuga took his seat on the bench that was designated for the jury members.

Yuga smiled at them all and gave them a little wave, which caused Izuku and several others to smile as well.

But then it was time to get down to it.

“So, Mina, based on the last tribal, there was a massive statement about alliances,” Toshinori started.

“Yes, that’s right. We thought that we had the numbers. We thought we had a solid alliance of six, and we thought they had five, but that was the wrong assumption make.”

“Shoto, who did you think was in your alliance versus who actually was in your alliance?”

“When we merged, the Solana tribe kindly invited Momo and Yuga and I into their alliance, but we knew that Ochako and Tenya were going to go back to Izuku. So we thought we had Kirishima, but we apparently did not.”

“Kirishima, was there any fallout when you went back to camp?” Toshinori asked.

“Not really. I mean, yeah, they asked me about why I switched, but I just told them it was what was best for my game, and they kind of took that at face value. They were upset, but it’s part of the game.” Kirishima nodded to himself when he was done speaking, as if he was reassuring himself that it was the right thing to say.

“Hanta, are you at all worried about tonight’s vote, since you did get votes last week?”

“I’m not too worried, no. I think my alliance is strong, and I think we all trust each other.”

“Momo, you must be worried, then, if their alliance is as strong as they say it is.”

“Of course I’m worried. I am thrilled that Shoto won the challenge and got immunity because I’m sure he was the target for tonight, but now that he does have immunity, none of us really know who the others are voting for. It could be me; it could be Denki; it could be Mina. We really have no idea.”

“Izuku,” Toshinori said, startling Izuku just a bit. He didn’t think he’d ever get used to hearing his name come out of Toshinori Yagi’s mouth. “How does that make you feel, to be part of the majority alliance? You guys hold all the power in the game right now.”

“It feels pretty good,” Izuku answered honestly. “I know how it feels to be part of the minority, constantly being worried about getting voted out, so it’s nice to be a part of an alliance that I can depend on.”

“Denki, how are you feeling tonight, being apart of the minority alliance?”

“It doesn’t feel great, but whatever happens tonight, whoever they choose to vote for, whether it’s me or Mina or Momo, I just want to say that it’s important to remember that, on that alliance, there is a number six. They said it about us last week, and I’ll say about them this week. Of the six of them in that alliance, one of them is number six. And one of them is number five. And one of them is number four. Not all of them are going to make it to the end, and about half of them are incredibly silly to think that they will make it to the end with the people they are allied to. There is a very clear order to me on who is going to go home, after the four of us are voted out.”

Izuku rolled his eyes at Denki’s words. He was saying the exact same thing that Izuku’s alliance had said at the last tribal council, turning their own words against them. And it was true, of course. Obviously, someone was going to be number six, and number five, and number four, but Izuku himself didn’t even know what that order would be, hadn’t even thought about it. For all he knew, he could be the first one of the alliance of six voted out. That just wasn’t a worry of his right now.

“Do you care to share that order with us?” Toshinori asked, a small smile on his face at the drama unfolding.

“Absolutely. I was only waiting for you to ask,” Denki said, obviously enjoying building up the drama, amusement written all over his face. “Number six will be Hanta. He will be the first one voted out after the four of us. Then it’ll be a coin toss between Ochako and Tenya. Either way, it’s going to be them, back to back.” Denki reached forward and clasped Tenya on the shoulder as he said the words, as if for emphasis, which caused Tenya to jump in his seat. “If these six stick together in an alliance, it will be Izuku, Katsuki, and Kirishima sitting at the end, because they are the ones winning the challenges. Izuku and Katsuki are obviously a pair; Kirishima is Katsuki’s bro, and more likely to win challenges than Ochako or Tenya. And, you guys, I’ll tell you right now, if it’s you three sitting together in the end, then I’m going to be voting for Izuku to win, so keep that in mind as well.”

Izuku startled at this and almost leaned completely over Mina to get a good look at Denki. He had been rolling his eyes throughout this entire speech, but now his heart sunk into his stomach.

Izuku thought that Denki was just desperately trying to convince everyone else to side with his alliance, but that wasn’t what he was doing at all.

He was very deliberately putting targets onto Izuku, Katsuki, and Kirishima - but mostly onto Izuku, by proclaiming that he would vote for him if he made it to the finals.

Izuku was now feeling incredibly nervous. Not for tonight’s vote specifically - he knew he was safe tonight, that there wasn’t nearly enough time to switch the vote. Unless Denki had spoken to someone in his alliance, and they decided to flip.

Izuku shook his head. He couldn’t think that way. Nobody was flipping tonight; Izuku and his alliance were safe, which was the only reason why Denki was speaking so bluntly. He likely knew that he was the one they were voting for, and, as such, he was just trying to cause some chaos before he left, trying to go down fighting.

Only this was terrible news for the future of Izuku’s game. His words could make Hanta, Ochako, and Tenya paranoid, make them rethink their alliance in the game. They could all turn around and vote Izuku out, just because of the effect of the words that Denki was saying now.

Izuku swallowed audibly, his mouth gone suddenly dry.

“Katsuki, you are shaking your head vehemently; you’re rolling your eyes.”

“It’s ridiculous for Denki to say any of that. He’s not in our alliance. He doesn’t know how we operate. For him to proclaim an order in which we will vote each other is the stupidest shit I’ve ever heard at a tribal council. Izuku, Kirishima, and I have made no final three deal. He’s obviously just trying to cause paranoia.”

“But he’s got a point, Tenya, when he says that there’s got to be an order in there somewhere. All six of you won’t get to the end.”

“Yeah, I think you could make the argument for literally any alliance in this game. Denki, Mina, Momo, and Shoto are in the minority, but there’s an order to that, too. If those four somehow were able to get rid of all of us, there would have to be an order in there somewhere, too. In any alliance, there will have to be an order. For Denki to act like he knows what the order is is absurd.”

“Ochako, does it worry you to hear Denki’s assessment of your alliance?”

“Not particularly. I mean, he’s trying to save himself and his alliance. He’s trying to sway anybody that he can over to them. It’s desperation. I think he makes some good points about certain things that we should keep in mind, but, overall, he’s just being desperate.”

“Kirishima, do you think anything Denki said has any value?”

Izuku could hear the smile in Kirishima’s voice as he answered. “Well, firstly, I want to thank him for the vote of confidence, him saying that I’ll be in the final three, even if he claims he won’t vote for me. But, yeah, I think there’s some validity to what he’s saying. Is what he’s saying exactly right? Absolutely not. But he’s right when he says we need to keep in mind who we’re taking to the end. We need to keep in mind where we stand with who in the alliance. These are things we need to start thinking about as we get closer to the end. I think he’s absolutely being desperate, like Ochako said, by having this whole grand speech about it, but we would all be fools to just brush off everything that he said.”

“Hanta, Denki called you out as being the very bottom of this alliance. How does that make you feel?”

“Um… it doesn’t sit well with me that that’s how the outsiders view our alliance. And there are definitely suballiances forming within this group that I’m not a part of. So, yeah, it’s kind of worrying, but I’m going to trust my gut.”

And those suballiances were fairly obvious to everyone, Izuku knew. There was Katsuki and Kirishima; there was Izuku and Katsuki; and there was Izuku, Ochako, and Tenya. Looking at it that was, it was plainly clear that if it came down to it, yes, they would likely agree on voting out Hanta first. And Hanta was probably realizing this now as well. If Izuku could figure it out, then so could Hanta, and that was likely all he needed to switch alliances, or at least to seriously consider it, in the future.

“Momo, if there are suballiances, there are cracks.”

Momo nodded vigorously next to Izuku, which set Izuku’s nerves on edge. Even though Izuku was fairly certain that his alliance was safe tonight, it was unsettling, how the tribal council so quickly seemed to turn on disassembling the alliance of six. “That’s what I’m hearing, and I think it won’t be that difficult to figure out exactly where those cracks are.”

“Denki, you’re sitting up there smiling big as can be.”

“They can call me desperate all they want because, yeah, I’m a little desperate. I do think I might be going home tonight. But desperation or not, there is truth to what I’m saying, and I hope everyone can take what I’m saying back to camp and think on it and ruminate on it and use it to their benefit in this game. Some people need to switch their alliances, and some people need to make moves because there are already winners sitting here, if we let them get that far.”

In the silence that followed this bold statement, Izuku could feel his stomach twisting and turning with nervousness. He was sitting relatively comfortably tonight, but the same could definitely not be said for next tribal council. Now he had to worry about keeping this alliance together and strong because he had a feeling that Hanta would flip on them. He was even worrying that maybe Ochako and Tenya, his strongest allies out here, would flip. Because, at the end of the day, no matter how much they liked each other, they still wanted the million dollars just as much as Izuku did, and they would vote him out, if they really needed to to get far.

There was work that would need to get done once they got back to camp and until their next tribal council, thanks to Denki’s bold speech, and Izuku didn’t like that the tide was turning that way, not one bit.

“Alright, it is time to vote,” Toshinori said. “Tenya, you’re up.”

They all watched in silence as Tenya walked across the bridge to cast his vote. After Tenya, Mina went, then Hanta, Kirishima, Ochako, Shoto, Momo, and Katsuki, and then it was Izuku’s turn. He walked across the bridge to the urn to cast his vote, uncapping the marker and writing down Denki’s name in big, bold letters. He folded up the paper and placed it in the urn before making his way back to the benches. After him, Denki was the only one left to vote.

Once Denki got done voting and took his seat as well, Toshinori said, “I’ll go tally the votes.” He walked across the bridge himself and grabbed the urn before making his way back and setting it on top of his podium. “If anybody has a hidden immunity idol and you want to play it, now would be the time to do so.”

Nobody moved or spoke up for a few beats, so Toshinori continued his ritual.

“Alright, once the votes are read, the decision is final. The person voted out will be asked to leave the tribal council area immediately. I’ll read the votes.” He took the lid off the urn and drew out the first piece of paper, turning it over so that everyone could see the name written there as he read it aloud. “Kirishima.” He pulled out the second paper. “Kirishima.” The third. “Kirishima. That’s three votes Kirishima.” He pulled out the fourth piece of paper. “Kirishima. That’s four votes Kirishima.” He pulled out the fifth piece of paper and turned it over. “Denki.” The sixth. “Denki. Four votes Kirishima, two votes Denki.” The seventh. “Denki. That’s three votes Denki.” The eighth. “Denki. We’re tied. Four votes Kirishima, four votes Denki.” He pulled out the ninth piece of paper. “Denki. That’s five votes Denki, four votes Kirishima, one vote left.” He drew out the final piece of paper, read it, and turned it over at the same time that he declared, “The eighth person voted out and the second member of our jury: Denki.”

Denki wasted no time in getting to his feet and grabbing his torch from behind them all, making his way over to Toshinori so that his flame could be snuffed out.

“Denki, your tribe has spoken,” Toshinori said before extinguishing his fire. “It’s time for you to go.”

Before leaving, Denki turned around with a smile and said, “Good luck, you guys,” clearly aiming the words at Mina, Momo, and Shoto.

After Denki walked out of the tribal council area and was out of earshot, Toshinori said to the nine of them still assembled, “Well, you guys sound like you have a lot to think about, but if what Denki said was true, then the dynamic in this game is about to shift dramatically. The good news about that is that just because you’re on the bottom now doesn’t mean you’re out. Grab your stuff; head back to camp. Goodnight.”

The walk back to camp was done in a deafening silence, in which everybody began to seriously think about the future of their current alliances and their personal games.

Izuku could feel the shift in everybody’s mentalities. He could feel the way people were beginning to doubt, to recalculate, to create new strategies in their mind, to rethink their current plan of action.

They were all too exhausted that night to do much talking when they returned to camp; they simply lit their fire and found their sleeping spots. But Izuku did not rest easily at all that night, anxiety curling around his gut and his worried thoughts racing through his mind.

He had no idea how to go forward from here, had no idea what to do, to make sure that his alliance would remain loyal to him.

And, he began to realize for the first time in this game, the people who had previously been loyal to him would likely not all be loyal to him for much longer. Hanta would likely turn on him, and even though he hated to admit it, he even had to consider the possibility that Ochako and Tenya would turn on him. He didn’t think they wanted to, but if they thought there was any truth in Denki’s words that Izuku would win, that he would get to the end with Katsuki and Kirishima, then they would be idiots not to start making moves to make sure that that exact thing didn’t happen.

Izuku had to talk to them tomorrow and try to figure out where their heads were at. He had to know for certain whether he thought they were considering flipping on him or not.

He had been so sure, only hours ago, that they would not blindside him in this game, but now he had to face the truth. This was a game with a million dollars at stake, and if they had to blindside Izuku to get there, then he wouldn’t put it past them. Obviously, he wouldn’t blame them or harbor ill feelings towards them, since that was all part of the game, but he’d be lying if he said he wouldn’t feel a little bit betrayed, should Ochako and Tenya vote him out. They’d been together since day one, and Izuku had no intention of writing down either of their names, so he prayed that they felt the same way and wouldn’t write down his.

For some reason, as he thought through all of this, the possibility of Katsuki switching alliances on him was not even a thought in his mind. He was fairly certain that Katsuki would stick with him, that the two of them would continue working together and remaining loyal to each other throughout the game. Perhaps it was that Izuku was reading way too much into how he felt for Katsuki and how he thought Katsuki might feel for him. Perhaps it was that Katsuki had been so bluntly honest with him thus far that he figured Katsuki would just tell him outright if he was planning on voting him out.

Whatever it was, Izuku had no doubt in his mind that Katsuki was still going to be loyal to him, just as much as he was to Kirishima.

So maybe Denki was right, then, in his assessment that Izuku, Katsuki, and Kirishima would become the final three. Izuku hadn’t thought of that possibility before, but it seemed like a quite realistic outcome, considering the way the alliances were currently shifting. Unless they all got voted out before they made it that very, it was actually a pretty good likelihood.

Izuku was finally able to drift to sleep that night, despite all his worries, with the thoughts of all the conversations he didn’t want to have but would have to sit through tomorrow still whirling through his mind, as well as all the statistical possibilities of him making it to the end and winning, and with who.