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Jungle Tales

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The boat ricocheted off the slap of a wave on the starboard. Shota Aizawa hurried through the gallery, following the sounds of children’s cries. A break in the wooden floor sent him skidding down some stairs and landing with a slap to his ass. The high pitched wails crescendoed as another wave rocked the ship. Shota slipped on the floor, his arms flailing out to try and maintain his balance. Boxes fell off the walls with loud crashes that sent their contents, precious food supplies, scattering around the floor. A small, chubby hand shot out from behind a post to swipe an apple from the ground. Shota allowed himself one relieved breath before he ran over to find his charges huddled together behind the post. Beady red eyes glared up at him defiantly as Katsuki Bakugou moved forward to shield his friends with his small body, one hand still secured around the apple. If they were in any other circumstance, Shota would have laughed at the toddler’s bravery. But they didn’t have time for that.

Shota brought them onto this godforsaken ship to escape the war, only for a storm to demolish those plans. He had promised their dying matron he would get the children to safety after their orphanage was destroyed in an ambush. Shota would happily die trying to fulfill that promise. With a tired tsk, he kneeled down and reached to scoop Bakugou into his arms.

“No!” The small boy screeched, squirming out of his reach. He pushed his friends forward with shaky lips. “Them.”

With a nod from their toddler leader, the other children obediently climbed onto Shota’s body, small hands and feet gripping where they could. Mina Ashido settled onto Shota’s shoulder, gripping at Eijiro Kirishima’s shirt to pull him up. Hanta Sero and Denki Kaminari ended up cradled in either of Shota’s arms. The two boys shook with fear. Now confident in his friend’s safety, Bakugou nodded to Shota as if in goodbye before turning to try and run away.

“You’re coming, too, you little shit,” Shota scoffed. He caught the boy by the back of his shirt, lifting him from the ground to hurriedly run back up to the deck. The storm was worse up here.Waves rose well over quarter deck and splashed salt into the young man’s face. His movements were slowed by the weight of the five toddlers, but he slowly and carefully made his way to a cockboat, ignoring the yells and cries of the sailors behind him. He couldn’t worry about the other people on this ship. All that mattered were the children. Another crash of a wave loosened the ropes of the small boat and sent it clattering down into the unforgiving ocean. Casting aside his doubts, Shota tightened his grip on all of the children and leapt off the ship.

 

Fifteen Years Later

 

The seagull’s cry may well have been a rooster call. Ochako woke with a start, gripping at the pounding of her head with a groan. She should have known listening to her brother was a mistake. Izuku insisted drinking would help her sleep through the inevitable storm they would face, and it did, but the cost was too great. A lurch of the ship sent a rustle in her stomach that rose dangerously up her throat. The door to her cabin was thrown open, revealing her green eyed brother and his usual wide grin. Ochako groaned, pushing Izuku to the side and rushing up to the deck of the ship. Veering left as soon as the fresh air hit her, she leaned over the side and released the contents of her stomach into the waters below. A soft hand landed on her back, fingers running comforting circles until Ochako was finished. Her best friend, Tsuyu Asui, giving her a soft smile when she straightened back up.

“I told you not to listen to him,” she croaked, fixing her long, dark green hair into a neat bun on top of her head. “The waters weren’t too bad.”

“You know I have a weak stomach,” Ochako chuckled. “Besides, your fiancé is a convincing man.”

Tsu smiled. “That’s why I’m marrying him.”

“Ochako!” Izuku called from the doorway. She eyed the steaming cup in his hands warily. “Don’t worry! It’s just a bit of mulled wine. The warmth will help you.”

Ochako wrinkled her nose. “Your answer for me is to drink more ? If I tell Mom about this, I’m sure she’ll yell at you.”

“We’re getting close to land!” Izuku changed the subject hurriedly. Lifting his arm to Tsu, he rushed over to the other side of the ship to show them. In the distance, a large island rose from the sea. The slope of a mountain was covered in dense forests that bleed into a beach they were quickly approaching. Her mother and father emerged from the captain’s cabin, their grins wide as they surveyed the island before them. Inko and Toshinori were not her birth parents, but they had been kind enough to adopt the young Ochako after her family died during the war. Ochako was five when they were taken from her, but she still had a few memories of a bright cheeked woman working in a garden and the deep, joval laugh of her father over a violin’s song.

Toshinori walked up to Ochako’s side, towering over his daughter. His voice was full of excitement as he spoke more to the island itself than to anyone else. “Do you see how thick the forest seems? It almost looks like a field of grass. Who knows what wonders the floor is hiding.”

“Perhaps you’ll find some new species of orchids, dear,” Inko hummed, tapping her husband’s arm kindly. “We’ll see when we land, won’t we?”

“I’m just proud we will land safely!” Momo Yaoyorozu appeared by the side of the ship, shielding her eyes from the morning sun. She was dressed in loose fitting, linen trousers and a blue shirt. Her hair was tightly wound into a single tail at the back of her head. Behind her stood her husband, Shoto Todoroki, the sponsor of the research trip. His father, Enji, had gifted them this ship, the Endeavor, as a wedding present for his seafaring daughter-in-law. Momo had been quick to organize the trip. The Southern Seas were famous for their turbulent waters, where many ships had gone but never returned. Toshinori was the first to suggest the opportunity for discovering untouched islands in the area. Using Izuku’s gift for weather watching, they traveled through the seas in the hopes of finding any landform.

“Well, it’s certainly not on any map.” The gravelly voice made Ochako flinch. Her group turned to find one of the ship hands, Tomura Shigaraki, grinning over at them maniacally. Shigaraki gestured with his map, his mop of pale blue hair whipping around in the wind. The man had made Ochako uneasy from the moment he stepped on the ship. Enji Todoroki had insisted that both Shigaraki and another hand, known only as Dabi, be on the trip. Shoto’s father’s intentions were unknown for this command, but Momo caved easily, eager to start the journey as soon as possible. “Seems like we completed our quest, huh?”

“Er, yes,” Toshinori smiled softly. “Are the conditions favorable to head onto the island then?”

“Oh, yes. Very favorable,” Shigaraki practically cackled, his eyes glistening with something Ochako couldn’t place. “Do you think you’ll find any rare animals on the island?”

“Why do you care?” A deep voice scoffed. Dabi snatched the map from his companion with a mocking grin. The man was beautiful with his tall, lean stature and sky blue eyes. His dark hair looked smooth to the touch. The only blemish on Dabi’s figures were the horrid burns that snaked around the top half of his face and down his neck and arms. The deckhand was still sneering at his companion. “Go. Get the crew ready to lay anchor. We’ll set off within the hour and travel in fours.”

“Thank you, Dabi.” Momo’s smile was genuine and so was the excitement that made her jump on her toes. “We’ll all get ready!”

Ochako glanced around as the couples drifted away to gather their belongings. A small pang went through her heart, remembering how it felt to have a man on her arm. It wasn’t too long ago that she was engaged as well. Having a lover to hold would have certainly made this trip easier. Every night, she forced herself to feign innocence and ignore the way the others would sneak away from dinner to be with their partners. Sighing at the dark turn of her thoughts, Ochako turned back to the island. Her body stilled as a pair of scarred hands landed on the railing next to her. Dabi leaned over the side of the ship, resting his chin on his arms.

“You can pair with me, if you’d like,” he said. “I don’t enjoy seeing a beautiful young lady like yourself travel alone.”

“I appreciate the offer, butー”

“I’m afraid I’ve heard about your recent...misfortunes,” Dabi kept his voice smooth. Only his thumb moved, lightly touching the side of Ochako’s hand. She felt her breath quicken, bracing for the same conversation that had been following her for the past year. “I’m surprised you’re able to travel so soon after your fiancé’s death. If ever you need some company...”

“I’m quite alright, thank you. Is there any specific reason for this turn of conversation?” Ochako stiffened her features until she was sure she looked unaffected by Dabi’s words or his presence. This was a mask she had grown all too used to wearing since Hiroshi passed away. Gossipers stuck around her to see how far she’d fallen and bachelors sought her out at every party or lecture she attended. Being the daughter of two great scientists and in the vicinity of wealthy heirs like Shoto and Momo made her a valuable single woman. She hated the attention and made a habit of relaxing her face until the nuisances got bored of her. “I can’t imagine you came over without a specific intention.”

Dabi chuckled. “You’re very perceptive. My...employer wants me to find someone I could rely on during this trip. An ally of sorts.”

“An ally against whom?”

“Currently? No one, but I’ve been on a couple of these expeditions before. It doesn’t take long for tensions to rise. I only want to be by the side of someone who will be strong enough to overcome petty arguments and see this voyage completed without any unnecessary casualties.”

She tapped her nails on the wood before them considering just how she’d react to any kind of conflict. Her friends had always been loving toward her. She honestly couldn’t recall a time she’d ever argued with any of them. Then again, they’d never been together for such a long period of time. Ochako liked to think she was levelheaded, but she wasn’t sure of anything anymore. “And you think that will be me?”

“I think anyone who can fool people with that indifferent face for as long as you have is capable of gaining a lot of power...if they wanted to.” Ochako couldn’t help but glance at him then, finding his eyes already trained on her. For some reason, the hidden emotions in his eyes scared her. She gulped, trying to come up with some way to get him to leave her, only to be interrupted by Shoto’s cough behind them.

“Ochako, you can ride with Momo and I. Let’s go collect your things.” Ochako let him lead her away from Dabi, who only winked at her in parting. A glance out the side of her eye found Shoto glaring over at the sailor as he guided her with a hand on her back.

 

On the island, Shota felt a shock of unease settle into his chest. He surveyed the home he had built for himself and the children. Just below the cliff, the gorillas lumbered around him, sparing him and his family only bored glances as they meandered around their land. The animals had found him and the children when they had washed up on the beaches. Shota had been looking for food when the gorilla’s leader, Kerchak, charged him for invading a nesting land. Shota would have been killed if Katsuki hadn’t revealed himself. The mothers took to grooming and caring for the human children within a fortnight. As the years passed, Shota and the others were taken in as family, though the gorillas were very wary of the older human for a while. Now, he and the children made up an isolated band of sorts within the gorilla society. They were allowed to separate themselves from the main band if they needed to hunt, but they were ultimately loyal to Kerchak’s rule and the needs of their family.

Katsuki bounded onto the cliff beside Shota, moving forward on his knuckles and toes. The boy had thrived in the jungle. He was the most skilled hunter of them all. Enough so that Kerchak prefered to keep the blonde nearby as much as possible. Shota sighed at the proud upper tilt of Katsuki’s nose. The extra attention went straight to the young man’s head and lead him into more trouble than good. He’d started more elephant stampedes with his temper than Shota cared to count. Both of them wore only a loincloth around their hips, ripped from spare cloth that would wash up from sunken ships. The boys never understood Shota’s aversion to nakedness, but with a command from Kerchak they made sure to keep themselves covered. Mina covered herself almost completely, with cloths for her chest and hips. Sometimes she would paint her skin with the juice of berries until she was pink for days.

“What the fuck is that?” Katsuki grunted, jutting his chin toward the ship in the distance. All of them spoke in the language of the gorillas, a combination of grunts and hums that Shota found hard to learn. Even now, after fifteen years on the island, there were times he had to focus to translate the language. Sometimes, when he was alone in the trees, the man would try to speak with human words, but isolation had made his grasp weak. Shota often found himself stuck without words, choosing to keep silent and observe the world around him instead.

“Outsiders,” Shota said. He wasn’t sure the gorilla’s had a word for ships. Why would they? None have ever escaped the horrors of the nightly sea storms. With any hope, these humans would leave without stepping foot on the island. The past few years had been full of peace for Shota and his children. When he thought back to the death and decay he had seen during the war, Shota could only blame humans. They were dangerous and brought violence with them. He prefered to stay away and he knew the arrival of anyone new would just bring harm to the others. This was why a furious growl ripped through his throat when small boats descended from the ship and small figures climbed down after them.

Katsuki stilled, taking in the tense slouch of the older man’s back. The position always looked uncomfortable for him and Katsuki had caught him moving just on his legs a few times before. The blonde wouldn’t admit this, though, because telling anyone would mean telling them about the many times he’d failed to imitate Shota’s movements. The man’s night black hair fell in ragged clumps well past his tan shoulders, but even this couldn’t hide the scowl on his face. His eyes narrowed at a small movement from the thing in the distance.

“They just look like ants,” Katsuki mused.

“They’re dangerous,” Shota snapped. “If you see anyone strange, you stay away from them. Understand?”

Katsuki grunted in answer, keeping his eyes on the distant specs.

 

Ochako lifted her skirt away from the rough waves as she stepped onto the beach. Dabi had managed to squeeze his way onto the boat after her. The short ride was filled with Momo’s excited chattering and Shoto’s occasional grunts of acknowledgement as he and Dabi paddled the boat. Ochako had discarded her shoes on the way over and now her toes wiggled in the warm sand. She suppressed a giggle, turning to help Shoto drag the boat onto the beach. Dabi stomped onto the ground, picking up a rifle and almost immediately pointing it at the deep, impenetrable forest.

“Can’t be too safe, you know,” he said when he caught her staring at the weapon. She rolled her eyes. The others were arriving now and a few boats filled with their cargo were barely leaving the ship. Izuku waved over to her excitedly as he helped Tsu out of their boat.

“Dad wants us to look for a good place to camp,” he called over.

“I don’t understand his enthusiasm,” Shoto sighed next to her. “We were on that boat for nearly three months, but it never wavered.”

“Neither did Momo’s,” she reminded him with a giggle. “At least you chose to be with her, I’m stuck with Izuku.”

Shoto winced. “Yes, well, you didn’t have to listen to him prattle on with Momo all through the night about the weather. Especially after having some very soothing tea in the captain’s cabin.”

“Tea?” She questioned. She couldn’t remember any mention of late night tea meetings. The slight widening of Shoto’s eyes told her this was intentional.

“I’m sorry. We didn’t want toー”

“It’s alright,” she forced her face to flatten. “I understand. My presence would have made for odd numbers.”

“Ochako...” She left whatever excuse he would have made and dashed for her brother. Izuku hugged her with a running start, his surprising strength squeezing her shoulders.

“We made it, Ochako! We really made it! This is a whole new island. It’s not even on a map! Mom says the wildlife will be thriving since there’s no humans here. It will be perfect for her research. Maybe you could even do some sketches for her new book like you did for her others. Wouldn’t that be great?”

“I’m sure it’ll be fun,” she grinned.

“And Dad’s already run into the forest with his notebook. I could have sworn I saw some small bamboo shoots! Come on, let’s go look for a good campsite.” He took her hand into the crook of his arm and led her into the bushes. The sand slowly made way for rough, dry dirt beneath them as more plants began to spring from the ground.

“Dad must be crying right now,” Ochako giggled. “Maybe taking a soil sample...or two...what are you doing?”

Her brother was crouched down with his ear to the ground. He pulled a finger to his lips and pointed at a bright pink bug crawling on a leaf. It looked like a moving flower as it limbs slowly treaded around on needle thin legs. Slowly, Izuku pulled a glass vial out of his pocket and uncorked it. Then, with a move so quick and precise Ochako almost missed it, he caught the bug in the vial and trapped it with the cork. Its new glass prison was large enough that the creature could take a step or two within the cylinder.

Izuku hollered in triumph, inspecting his new prize. “I think it’s a praying mantis! I’ve never seen one so brightly colored before...”

“You’re not gonna kill it, are you?” Ochako thought back to the collection of pinned insects that took up a whole wall of their study back home.

He blinked at her, a nervous crease growing between his eyebrows. “Well...yeah. I’ll put a drop of acetone in there. It’ll be a painlessー.”

“Just...wait until you’re in your tent to do that, okay?” She bit her lip, eyeing the bug. “You know I hate it when you kill them.”

“Uh, right. Let’s keep going, okay?”

The rest of their walk was silent, though Ochako noticed Izuku keeping watch for more bugs to add to his collection. The bamboo around them twisted and turned until a clearing opened up before them. It would be large enough to hold all of the tents and equipment, but also gave them a direct path back to the ship. There were other paths that splintered off from the clearing that she knew she would be dragged down eventually. It was like the area was made just for their convenience. She’d seen forests of the thin plant towers before, on different expeditions. They grew sporadically, never clumped together like the walls that surrounded her now and certainly never conveniently placed to make a clearing like this.

“What do you think made this?”

Izuku looked surprised and coughed like he was about to have an awkward conversation. “Well, we weren’t raised very religiously, but some people do say the gods made all the earth. I...I know the supernatural is hard to grasp, but it might comfort you to know that Hiroshi is in a betterー”

“Good gods. I meant the clearing! Bamboo doesn’t just grow like this. Someone had to clear it out,” she huffed, her hands tightening into fists. But she quickly discarded her flash of anger at the soft expression Izuku sent her. She sighed, testing the strength of a stalk nearby before leaning against it. “I know you’re worried about me, Izuku, but I promise, I’m fine. Hiroshi...he wouldn’t have wanted me to dwell on it too much and he would have loved this trip. So, I’m determined to love it for him. You don’t have to keep walking around expecting me to burst into tears anymore.”

“Sure I do,” Izuku leaned over to kiss her forehead. “I’m your brother. Although we both know Dad and I are more likely to randomly start crying.”

“True,” she snorted.

“But if you say you’re okay, I believe you. Just know, you can always come to me to talkーabout anything! Not just...you know.”

“I do,” she smiled. “Thanks, Izuku.”

 

He watched the two humans carefully, straining to understand their fast speech. Shota stayed hidden behind a thick shield of bamboo stalks. The people before him looked around the age of Katsuki and the others. Shota had stumbled on the adults earlier, keeping out of sight high in the trees. There was a tall man with oddly styled blonde hair, who meandered through the bushes for a while, taking leaves or flowers into his side bag occasionally. With him was a short, pudgy woman with amazing hearing. She forced her companion to stop every time something rustled in the trees above her. Shota had to throw a rock at a sleeping lemur to avoid being discovered. He left them to follow a couple, newly married by the way the mismatched haired boy would stare at his woman when she wasn’t looking. It wasn’t until he saw the older men with guns on the beach that Shota decided he’d have to do something about these strangers.

The two young ones before him began to wonder back toward the beach. The girl kept her head down, smiling behind the cover of her chestnut locks. Her cheeks had stayed a bright pink during her whole exchange with the green haired boy, no doubt an offspring of the shrewdly eared woman from before. Shota hadn’t caught any of the human’s names. He was lightly wondering which of the men “Hiroshi” could be when an elephant cried out in the distance. Shota stifled a groan, knowing almost immediately what had caused the distressed noise. He was going to skin Katsuki alive one of these days.

Shota only moved after the humans were well enough away. Darting through the clearing, he ran down the farthest path from him until he reached the thick forest. Swinging across the vines was easy for him now, though none of the humans had as much grace as Hanta. He was on the elephant’s side of the island in minutes, surveying their frantic splashing around a small lake. Katsuki was there, jumping across their backs with loud, grunting calls in an attempt to calm them. The older man swung over to Mother, the queen of the elephants, landing lightly just behind her ears.

Mother huffed indignantly in the elephant way, shaking her head as if Shota was no more than a fly at her back. He chuckled, scratching her right behind her right ear, her sweet spot. The elephant let out a pleasant grunt before barking over at her herd. They all settled down with indignant trumpets. One of them even swatted at Katsuki with their trunk. The boy hissed at it, catching a nearby vine to swing away into the trees. Shota swung after him with a snarl. As he caught up, he twisted his body mid-air to crash his feet against Katsuki’s back, sending the blonde spiraling toward the ground.

“What the hell was that for?” He hooted from the ground. Shota landed next to him, knocking him back down with his shoulder.

“When will you learn? Yelling around the elephantsー”

“It was my fault, sir!” A voice chirped from above them. Mina dove from one of the highest branches, spinning in the air gracefully and landing almost silently. Aside from her fingers, her skin lacked its usual pink hue. Shota raised an eyebrow, guessing who was really responsible Katsuki’s outburst. “I was trying to get more berries for my paint, but Denkiー”

“I told you not to let that fucker leave the treehouse! He tried to push me off the waterfall!”

“Enough. We all know Denki should never be allowed near the elephants, but,” Shota shot Katsuki a glare as he began to loudly protest, “Katsuki, you know better than to let yourself lose your temper like that.”

“Who said I lost my temper?” Katsuki snarled. Mina snorted.

“Anger works well for hunting, but it does nothing else to help you. Kerchak would take you off hunting rotations if he knew about this.”

“So don’t fucking tell him!”

Shota sighed, exhausted by the same conversation he had been having with the boy almost as soon as he was allowed to take to the trees. “You know what the price is for my silence.”

“Yeah, yeah. I’ll watch the fucking babies, but I’m not taking Eiji or the others with me this time. They act worse than the babies! Yeah, you too, Mina!” With an intelligible shout, Katsuki leap up and disappeared into the trees. Mina lingered nearby, watching the trees shift behind her friend.

“What’s going on, sir?” Her grunts were hesitant.

Shota sighed, dropping down to sit on a raised tree root. “I can never get any sleep with you five causing trouble on every side of this island.”

 

Ochako sighed, settling further down on one of the logs Dabi had cut down earlier. There wasn’t a need for a fire tonight. The heat was heavy around here, almost tangible with moisture. She had long since shed her heavier gown, changing instead into a simple black skirt and a pale pink, silk shift. She plucked at the frills of the skirt mindlessly while the others spoke in an excited chatter. The camp was mostly completed around them. Ochako thanked the hard work for distracting her from the anxious glances Izuku kept sending her. They had spent most of the day fixing tents and organizing supplies. Now the sun had set, they were gathered near lanterns and settling down for the night.

Everyone seemed to have found at least one interesting item while they explored their small area of the island. Toshinori had marveled at Izuku’s now dead bug, picking out an orchid that looked very similar to insect. They were still chatting away about it. Inko shuffled over to her daughter, biting her lip. Ochako knew she was nervous, she’d adopted that quirk herself after years of living with the Midoriya’s.

“Izuku told me about your conversation today,” she leaned over to whisper. Ochako resisted the urge to bite down in annoyance. “It’s okay if you’re annoyed, you know.”

Ochako gulped. Leave it Inko to see right through her. “I’m not annoyed...anymore. He was just looking out for me.”

“Yes, he was...but I know Izuku. He has well intentions, but he can be very confrontational about them.” Inko laughed at a memory. “I was surprised he didn’t try to wrestle with you like he would when you were little.”

“What?” Ochako couldn’t remember ever physically fighting with her brother. Inko’s eyes glazed over sadly. So it had to do with Ochako’s birth parents, then.

“It only happened a few times when you and your parents would come over. Izuku could never get you to talk about why you were crying, so he thought he could wrestle it out of you!” Toshinori glanced over with a loving grin at Inko’s laugh. “You always managed a punch or two to get him off of you, of course. I would try to split you two up, but your parents insisted you were left alone.”

“Really?”

“Oh, yes. They said they wanted their daughter to know how to defend herself!” Her adoptive mother sighed, lacing her fingers through Ochako’s. She was quickly reminded that she was the only Midoriya-Yagi who wasn’t able to start crying at any moment’s notice. The sight of tears falling down Inko’s cheeks sparked a memory in Ochako’s heart that made her arms go numb. “I’m sure they wanted you to be able to defend yourself emotionally, too. I know this past year has not been easy for you, but shutting yourself off may end up hurting you more than you know.”

Ochako only offered a noncommittal hum in response, sliding her hand away and glancing around for any route of escape from this conversation. Instead, she found the others peering at her from the corners of their eyes. With a growl, she surged up to her feet, refusing to let them see the wounded girl they believed her to be.

“I’m going to explore a bit. Please don’t follow me. I won’t go far,” she practically growled. Then, turning on her heel, she bounded for the first path her eyes landed on and stomped away. She kept her mind blank and her eyes down until the scent of jasmine surrounded her. Glancing around, she found the source of the smell. A large bush grew to her right, just at the roots of a thick tree. Ochako slid her fingers against the leaves, the scent growing as she rustled against the flowers. The bush pushed further into the forest, guiding her steps. Keeping a hand on the plant as she walked, she finally let herself acknowledge the memory she’d forced down.

She had been waiting in their family library all day for the mail to arrive. Hiroshi was supposed to write soon. She’d been waiting over a month for word from her finacé while he was on an expedition for the military. Something about checking for remnants of the war. Inko had rushed in soon after Izuku poured her a new glass of hibiscus and apple tea. Her mother’s eyes were flooding with tears, rivers running rampid down her pale cheeks. Ochako could never remember what the harsh parchment of the paper Inko had shoved in her hands said. Not exactly. But Toshinori had muttered the gist of it later that night, while Ochako sat in her bed screaming until her throat felt like she’d swallowed a pound of thorn bushes. Hiroshi had been trying to diffuse landmines. One of them went off. There would be no body.

Ochako startled out of her recollections as water lapped at her bare feet. Somewhere between here and the camp, she’d discarded her shoes. They were nowhere in sight, but Ochako was too distracted by the landscape before her to care. She had stepped into a small pond that was fed by a short waterfall from the rocks before her. The pond was lined with beautifully vibrant flowers. She smiled to herself, knowing Toshinori would scold her for how long it took to identify them. Rabbit-ear irises, cardinal flowers, and multi-colored primroses. The scent of the water overwhelmed that of the flowers. Making sure she really was alone, Ochako untied her black skirt and dropped it over a nearby rock. Now dressed only in her thin shift, she walked deeper into the pond, shivering at the intense chill of the water. It was refreshing against the heat.

She was oblivious to the rose tinted eyes staring at her from a dense bush at the edge of the water. One of the babies had wandered away from the main group, because Katsuki could never have an easy fucking day in his life. He’d left Mina to watch over the rest while he chased the tiny gorilla through the forest. It was her fault he’d have to look after them anyway. Fucking Aizawa always made him work more than the others, with much less room for error, too. Katsuki had kept the baby cornered, leading him toward a pond he knew he’d be afraid of. The little gorilla relished in his short lived freedom. Katsuki had just caught up with the little bastard when the woman walked out of the forest. Both of the wild creatures froze, transfixed as the woman walked toward the pond with dull eyes the color the clay Mina was fond of making statues from.

She startled when her feet touched the water, looking around dumbly as if she’d just been woken from a dream. Katsuki eyed the way she stood only on her two legs, tempted to try and imitate her stance then and there. The only thing that stopped him was his awe at seeing another human. Aizawa had told them other humans existed, of course, but he had also said those humans were too far away to ever reach their island. A few had washed up, dead, on the beaches over the years. Aizawa always carried them away to some unknown part of the island to bury them. Katsuki was never really interested in other humans, until now. The woman plucked off a dark piece of cloth, leaving only a near translucent layer of pink skinーno, not skin. It was yet another piece of cloth, smoother than any he had ever seen. Katsuki wondered if all human women tried to hide their skin like Mina. Maybe it was an instinct for them.

The woman continued forward until the water reached her shoulders. Katsuki quietly snorted at the way her jaw shook under the cold. Everyone knew this pond was cold as shit. It had nothing on the elephant’s lake though. The thought of the elephant’s shocked his attention away from the woman and back to the little bastard he was supposed to be watching. He glanced around wildly for the baby, only for his eyes to be forced back to the pond when a delighted squeal filled the air. Something about the sound coming from the woman’s pink lips sent a fire below his stomach. Katsuki shifted uncomfortably.

A splash behind her broke Ochako out of her bleak reveries. She spun around, ready to yell at whoever had decided to follow her despite her specific request. A small baby gorilla sat at the edge of the pond, slapping its tiny hands against the water to create a splash. The spray rained over her head, earning a surprised cry from her. The cold was heaven against her scalp. She’d have to remember to wear a cap to protect her from the sun. That was later, though. Now, she couldn’t tear her eyes away from the tiny animal hardly a meter from her. The baby hooted over to her, splashing the water again and jumping excitedly.

“Do you want me to spash you?” She asked, lifting her hand from the water to test this theory. The gorilla’s jumps quickened, screaming in anticipation. Hesitantly, Ochako swept her fingers across the water, sending a few drops toward the baby. The jumps stopped, the baby deadpanning in disappointment. Ochako snorted. She’d heard Inko describe gorilla behavior before, but she never imagined they were as emotive as the baby before her. With a giggle, she slapped the water harder. The sizable splash washed over the baby gorilla, who resumed its jumps and sent another splash toward her in return.

“Naked ape! Naked ape!” The baby was laughing over at the woman. Katsuki repressed the urge to throw something at him. He hated that term, though he knew it was the only way the gorillas knew how to describe humans. Kerchak had tried to explain the difference between apes and humans many times, but Katsuki knew the complicated explanation eluded the silverback as well. The woman and the baby were now locked in a splashing match, spraying water back and forth. Katsuki kept a close watch of the increasing shivers the woman gave off. Eventually she was so cold, he could hear her teeth chattering together from where he was hidden on top of the waterfall. The noises she made were odd to Katsuki’s ears as she tried to communicate with the baby. He’d only heard Aizawa speak in the human tongue a few times before. It never sounded as soothing as the sounds coming from the woman now.

“You’re a cute little thing, aren’t you?” Ochako cooed. The baby splashed her again in response. Her body was starting to go numb with how cold she was, but she had been too entranced by the animal before her to notice. “I need to get out now. I really hope I don’t scare you...”

Slowly, she edged out of the water, careful not to startle the baby. It only stared up at her with its head tilted to the side in confusion. Ochako had risen up to her hips when the baby suddenly froze with a screech at something over her shoulder following the sound of a bird’s cry. She stilled and slowly turned, hoping it wasn’t the baby’s mother. She’d be in real danger if a full grown gorilla thought she was threatening their baby. Nothing but the rustle of leaves in a bush appeared behind her. Ochako sighed in relief, turning to find the baby gone. There was no sign of the animal, save for the darkened dirt from where she had sent water flying.

“It must have run off,” she muttered to herself. She quickly left the freezing waters, and, glancing down to see just how translucent her shift had become from her submersion, she hurriedly wrapped her skirt around her shoulders to cover herself. Ochako muttered a little prayer, hoping no prying eyes would follow her when she returned to the camp.

Katsuki remained watching the pond long after the mysterious woman had left. He’d called the baby back to him with a quick whistle after the woman began to approach him. Sure, Katsuki was as transfixed by her as the baby, but he’d been charged with the bastard’s safety first. Still, he couldn’t stop himself from recalling the curves of the woman’s form that were revealed by the tight cloth when she’d left the water. His heart had stilled when she turned around to inspect the area around his hiding spot. The roundness of her cheeks had sent another flash of heat through his body. It was like nothing he’d ever known. The closest thing he could compare the feeling to was the rush he felt after a successful hunt. But this woman...he’d never felt the same pull he felt toward the stranger before.

“Home!” The baby whined near his ankle. Katsuki grunted, slinging the baby over his shoulder and reluctantly bounding away from the pond. One thing was for sure, he had to let Aizawa and Kerchek know more humans had arrived on the island.

Chapter Text

Aizawa had been restless all morning. Katsuki watched the older human pace over the moss-ridden ground, each movement accented by the squelch from the moistened covering. Behind him, Kerchak was hunched over a termite mound, picking for the insects with a bored expression. Katsuki knew better. The silverback was keeping as close a watch of Aizawa as Katsuki was. The two leaders had taken his news of the humans’ arrival without much surprise. Katsuki had at least expected some panic, instead Aizawa had just sent him away to sleep. It was fucking useless. He couldn’t rest with the memory of that woman stuck on the back of his eyelids. He cursed the little bastard baby for running away in the first place.

“We have to drive them off the island,” Aizawa was saying. Katsuki shook his head in an attempt to rid himself of the image of the way the pink cloth had stuck against the soft hills of the woman’s chest.

“You said they had weapons,” Kerchak grunted. “If they are dangerous, I will not have this family go anywhere near them.”

“I can go,” Katsuki blurted. Shota glanced at the boy, taking in the brush of pink at his cheeks. He was sure Katsuki hadn’t told them everything about his encounter with the woman. The presence of this blush only confirmed his suspicions. Katsuki looked anxious, his knuckles shifting against the ground as if he would run off at a moment’s notice. Shota wasn’t sure he was aware of why he did it, but the boy had also washed today. His hair was still damp from the dip in the washing pond, the blonde brighter than before.

Shota’s sigh sounded more like a growl than he meant it to. “I’ll go alone . Humans are dangerous. Katsuki, stay and watch the others. I won’t hear any arguments. Go. Now.”

He made sure to make his departure as loud as possible. Barely keeping his curses under his breath and slamming his fists into the ground. The others were just behind a small bush, watching the approach of Katsuki with wide eyed interest. The blonde froze, lifting his nose into the air before growling and slapping a large rock into the bush. It landed with a hollow thunk followed by a loud groan.

“Katsuki killed Denki!” Mina shrieked, rolling out of the bush in a fit of giggles. She’d finally gotten around to painting her skin, now as bright pink as raspberries. Denki dramatically cascaded out of the bush, cradling his forehead.

“You can’t go killing my mate, Katsu. I need him.” Hanta’s voice came from up in the trees. It was the raven haired boy’s natural home, where he could continually swing around on vines and jump down on unsuspecting targets. This time, his target was Katsuki, who he easily tackled after jumping from a high branch. Katsuki growled in annoyance, twisting until his arms reached across Hanta’s neck. Hanta bit into his arms just enough to get Katsuki to throw him away.

“What were you talking with Kerchak about, anyway?” Mina sat back on her heels, trying the sculpt the mess of curls on top of her head. Katsuki scratched at his stomach in thought. Aizawa probably didn’t want him telling these idiots about the other humans. Then again, the old man had really pissed him off by not letting him go search for that woman again. Fuck it.

“There’s some new humans on the island.”

“Like us?” Denki asked, suddenly alive again. He was leaning back against a tree while Hanta picked through his bright, blonde hair for bugs.

Katsuki shook his head. “She stands on two legs and she speaks in a weird way.”

“So there’s just one? A girl?” Mina perked up, clapping her hands together. She jumped around in excitement, catching Katsuki’s neck under her arm. “I’ve never seen another human girl before! Does she look like me? You’re sure there aren’t any others? Huh, Katsuki?”

“Get the fuck off me!” He snarled, twisting away from her. “I don’t know. Fucking Aizawa wouldn’t let me go scout with him.”

“That’s probably because you can’t stay hidden,” Hanta snorted. “I don’t know why everyone thinks you’re the best hunter. You have the stealth of a horny elephant. No, no it’s worse. It’s more like aー”

The splash of a mango colliding with his head stopped Hanta’s voice. Katsuki raised another over his head with a threatening glare. “Where the fuck is Eijiro?”

“Hm...at the treehouse, I think. Why?” Mina cocked her head to the side.

Katsuki glanced up to the greying sky with a wince. “It’s about to fucking pour, and if I have to watch over you idiots, I want to be dry at least.”

 

“Are you sure it’s not gonna rain?” Ochako gulped. Izuku stopped tying his boots to glance up at the small clouds in the sky. She knew she shouldn’t doubt him; his ability to read the weather was why they had landed safely, after all. Still, she couldn’t help but feel nervous about the sudden moisture in the air.

He shook his head with a reassuring smile, pointing up toward the sky. “See that cloud? It’s a cumulus congestus. They can turn into cumulonimbus, but that won’t be for a while. If it does rain, it will be long after we get back.”

She hummed, unconvinced. The camp was more alive today. Inko and Toshinori had risen with high energies and every intention to explore the whole island throughout the day...maybe even into the night. The camp was largely set up now. The tents followed the perimeter of the clearing, with Dabi and Shigaraki’s men resting at every path entrance. Ochako had somehow convinced one of these guards to switch tents with her, leaving her near the path that took her to the pond last night.

Inko had been overjoyed at the gorilla sighting. If Toshinori hadn’t stopped to remind her of sleep’s natural and important process in healing the human body, Ochako was sure her mother would still be wandering the forests. Her eagerness had not faded over the night though. Inko and Momo were jumping from tent to tent, returning with more tools with each trip. Todoroki was already hunched under the weight of his still expanding backpack. Tsu shuffled out of her tent, rubbing her eyes with a long yawn.

“I’m guessing he talked all night and didn’t let you sleep, right?” Ochako chuckled. Her friend only yawned again in response, dropping her head onto Ochako’s shoulder.

“Izuku’s excitement is understandable,” Tsu muttered. “But his energy is ungodly. I don’t think he’s ever felt tired in his life.”

“Isn’t that why you fell in love with him in the first place?”

Tsu sighed, straightening to watch her fiancé flutter around the campsite. Ochako watched her friend’s fatigue easily drop when she caught Izuku’s eyes for a short second. Tsu was always quiet about when and how she’d actually started to love Izuku. Ochako liked to poke and prod her about it, but Tsu would never reveal that information. Maybe it was a kindness of sorts, because Ochako felt a small, painful snap in her chest as she saw the admiration Tsu’s eyes held for Izuku. She gulped the sensation down, turning to give her friend some privacy, and focused instead on the smirk Dabi flashed her. He and Shigaraki were pulling gun after gun out of a wooden crate and handing them to nearby deck hands. Shigaraki was practically giggling with glee as he held a rifle out to test the aim.

Ochako huffed, stomping over with her fists tightened. Dabi’s sky blue eyes seemed to glow even during the day time. His smirk was predatory as he sent Shigaraki away with a wave of his scarred hand. She glared down at the gun in his hands. “I hope you aren’t intending on taking that into the jungle.”

“Of course I am, it’s my job. Master Todoroki insisted I come along for security reasons, after all.” His voice dripped with sarcasm at the mention of Shoto’s father. Something about it seemed personal, but then again, most people never really took a liking to the head of the Todoroki family. Ochako was surprised Momo managed to marry Shoto in the first place, let alone get full funding for this trip. 

“We don’t want you harming theー”

“Didn’t your brother kill a bug last night?” Ochako’s fingernails had begun to dig into her palms and now they dug even further. She could feel her skin about to break. “I watched it happen, too. It just moved slower and slower with each minute. Do you think it knew it was dying? Your brother seemed very interested in getting the answer. Now, me? I think it would’ve been better to watch it burn. Just as slow, but with a lot more movement. So you see...” He leaned his hands onto his knees until his face was in line with hers. “This gun isn’t the only thing the animals on this island have to be afraid of.”

Ochako’s heart was thudding fearfully in her chest. She gulped and took a few shamefully long seconds to gather herself before speaking. “If you shoot that, the noise will scare them away and we’ll have nothing to research.”

Dabi nodded thoughtfully, scratching his chin in concentration. “I’ll make you a deal then. Me and my men will stay and guard the camp for the next few days.”

“In exchange for?” Ochako could feel the wicked intent oozing off the man before her, but what else could she do? The others seemed unconcerned about Shigaraki and the rough looking sailors gallivanting around the island armed with weapons of war without restraint, but Ochako knew they would all be devastated if any animal was seriously injured on this trip. So she was content dealing with this devil to save them any pain.

“I’m not sure yet,” he grinned. “Let’s just call it an unspecified favor in the future. How’s that sound?”

“Ochako?” Shoto stood behind her, glaring over her shoulder at the shiphand. “We’re about to get organized, do you want to come?”

“Of course!” Her face split open into a perfectly joyful expression. Shoto’s shoulders loss some of their tension. As she turned to go, a rough hand caught her wrist.

Dabi pulled her back with a strong jolt. “I still need an answer, princess.”

“Is there a problem?” Shoto growled.

“No!” Her voice was too hasty and Shoto looked completely unconvinced. She waved him off with a light laugh and a wave of her free hand. “We were just discussing some security issues. I’ll be over right away!”

“Don’t worry,” Dabi’s voice was smooth. “I wouldn’t dare hurt one of little Shoto Todoroki’s friends.”

Shoto sent the scarred man one last glare and stomped off to the rest of the research group. They were all huddled together in deep conversation. Ochako wondered if this was what they looked like while having their private tea parties on the ship.

“Ahem.”

She stifled a groan and turned back to Dabi’s expectant gaze. “Yes, okay? I accept your condition. Just keep all these guns here at the camp.”

“Promise me you’ll do whatever I ask of you.” His hand tightened around her wrist. With a frustrated grunt, she snatched herself away from him and nodded.

“I promise.” With that she hurriedly scuttled toward her friends, just in time for their conversation to end. Momo jumped toward her excitedly, locking their fingers together before them.

“Oh! I’m so excited to go into the forest, aren’t you? I hope we see something soon!”

“You’ve been paired with us for this expedition,” Shoto’s smile was almost apologetic, but Ochako’s grin was genuine this time. Momo’s excitement was infectious. “But you get to pick which path we go down.”

Ochako’s eyes naturally led down to the thicket she’d walked through last night. If there had been a gorilla there, then there might be one now. Besides, she wouldn’t mind watching Momo’s reaction to the beauty of the small pond she’d found. Shoto followed her line of sight with a soft chuckle. He’d always been the most likely to catch her moods without her having to say a word. If ever she needed silent comfort, Shoto was there for her. They had both become close in the aftermath of Hiroshi’s accident. He was the one who’d insisted she come on this trip in the first place. In her year of mourning, Shoto’s advice had never led her wrong, so here she was.

“The pond path it is. Come on,” he took his wife’s hand gingerly and lead them into the forest. Ochako’s nose was immediately flooded with the scent of the jasmine bushes nearby. Their scent was just as strong as it was the night before. She took up the back of their little group, letting her fingers trail over the leaves again. Everyone had been overjoyed to hear she’d encountered a gorilla, an unaccompanied baby at that. Inko even looked a little jealous. Momo’s thoughts seemed to be on the baby as well. She kept glancing at Ochako over her shoulder.

Momo leaned over to whisper something into Shoto’s ear. He sighed loudly but stopped his walking to look over the pathway around them with a blank face before raising his eyebrows at Ochako in as bored gesture. “Is this where you saw the gorilla?”

“Shoto!” Momo scolded. “I told you not to be obvious!”

“This saves time,” Shoto shrugged. He turned back to Ochako. “So? Was it here?”

“No.” Shows how well they listen to you , the antagonistic voice in her head said. She shook her head, ignoring the thought. “The pond is further ahead.”

“Why don’t you lead, then?” Momo held her hands behind her back, leaning forward with excitement. “I mean, if you want to! I doubt the baby will still be there, but it’s a good start!”

“Sure,” Ochako smiled, taking the lead. Well, sharing the lead. Momo couldn’t contain her excitement for too long. She skipped beside Ochako, her head snapping in different directions each second. Momo wasn’t exactly an expert in one or two subjects like the Yagi-Midoriya’s, but she wasn’t entirely clueless like the deck hands. The heiress dabbled in different studies, taking in as much as she wanted before moving on to the next. Ochako always thought this made her the smartest person in their friend group. It also made her the most curious. Momo had dragged Ochako down crime ridden streets for the sake of sating her curiosity. If Momo hadn’t thrown the Yaoyorozu name around, they surely would have been arrested for night walking.

Ochako pushed a large leaf out of her way, ducking under to walk back onto the shore of the small pond. Momo squealed, running past her and into the water. Shoto walked up beside her with a sigh. “Really...she’s going to complain about getting her pants wet later.”

Ochako hummed in response, taking in the scenery. The flowers around the pond were just as vibrant as before, though Ochako could take in their details in the sunlight. The small waterfall was much taller than she originally thought. The cliff rose before them in a sharp drop off. Ochako couldn’t see a path up it that didn’t involve climbing the rock itself. There were no fresh tracks in the mud at the banks of the water, so the gorilla hadn’t been back since last night. If the baby really was by itself, it wouldn’t have gotten far on its own. Then again, it was rare for gorilla’s to abandon their babies. One of them had to have been close by while the baby played. Ochako still couldn’t figure out why she was allowed to stay so close to the baby for so long.

“We should find a way up there,” Shoto nodded toward the top of the cliff. “We may be able to find some tracks.”

“Sounds like a plan!” Momo was now thigh deep into the pond. Ochako was honestly surprised she’d managed to resist the urge to swim. The sudden increase of humidity around them had Ochako wishing she could take another dive into the cool waters. But that would have to wait. She had spent the first day on this island wallowing in the detachment she felt between her friends and herself. From now on, she would focus on the research. It was why she was here. She wouldn’t let any other distractions get in her way.

 

“Oh, hey guys!” Eijiro froze mid-grapple with a gorilla, who huffed when she realized his attention was diverted. The red head eyed his siblings as they bounded into the tree house. Mina’s eyes were wide as she glanced between him and Katsuki. He chuckled, shaking his head and shoving the gorilla away. Katsuki’s lower lip was out in an annoyed pout. Either he had just caused another stampede or Aizawa wouldn’t let him on a hunting trip. Eijiro jumped down from the balcony and landed just in front of Katsuki, giving his best friend a questioning sniff. No clay smell, so it must have been Aizawa who had him so annoyed.

“What’s going on?” Eijiro addressed this question to Mina, but it was Katsuki who answered.

“There’s more humans on the island and fucking Aizawa won’t let any of us near them!”

Mina sighed, crawling over to Eijiro and touched their noses together in greeting. She climbed onto his back and wrapped her arms and legs around his body contentedly. “I think Aizawa is just trying to keep usー”

“Safe?” Katsuki narrowed his eyes at their overly affectionate position. Mating was such a stupid ritual. “We live with fucking elephants. You know those assholes could kill us whenever they wanted. Not to mention fucking Sabor running around killing whoever the fuck he likes. We haven’t been safe our whole lives on this island.”

Eijiro scratched his head contemplatively. “True, but Aizawa’s always saying how much more dangerous it was when he lived in the human’s...What did he call them?”

Mina’s mouth tried to move around the sounds of human tongue, only producing an odd groaning sound. “He said they were like massive nests though.”

“It doesn't matter what they’re called!” Katsuki snapped. Cities. They were called cities, but he didn’t want to admit he had been going around practicing a language he would never have to speak. The woman...she didn’t look dangerous. She looked...soft and warm despite how much she was shivering in the water of the pond. “She wouldn’t hurt a spider.”

“Who wouldn’t?” Eijiro’s interest was peaked at the sudden rush of red to his friend’s cheeks. Mina let out a hoot of a laugh.

“That’s right! Katsuki saw a girl. Just like me, Eijiro! Can you imagine? I want to meet her!”

“Is that why you want to see the humans so bad?” Eijiro teased, perfectly hitting his mark. Katsuki’s muscles tensed as he tried not to give off a visual response. It was Eijiro’s turn to laugh. “Katsuki, do you want to mate with her?”

“Fuck off. She looked fucking weird, walking on two legs and shit. She was playing with one of the little brats.”

“So she’s a good mother,” Mina giggled. “Was she in heat?”

Katsuki’s mind flashed back to the rise and fall of the woman’s chest underneath the pinkish cloth. He hadn’t smelled her. Gorillas could go into heat at any time, maybe humans were the same. Katsuki shook his head with a growl. “That doesn’t fuckingー! Wait. Where the fuck are the other two idiots?”

Other two! ” Mina scoffed indignantly. “Weren’t you supposed to keep an eye on them, oh, mighty hunter?”

“I’m gonna fucking kill them!” Katusku yelled, scrambling out of the treehouse hurriedly.

“What are we going to do with him?” Mina sighed, shaking her head in imitative disapproval.

Eijiro laughed. “I don’t know, but we should probably go after him. We pissed him off enough that he might actually kill Denki this time.”

“You’re right. He’s soー” Mina was cut short by an odd cadence just outside the treehouse. Silently, Eijiro helped her climb up a half crumbled set of wooden stairs to the second landing above them. The sounds were faster now, closer. Eijiro pushed Mina further up until they were huddled on the rafters, looking down on the two humans who walked into the treehouse with excited yelps.

 

Katsuki finally caught up with the two idiots, who only giggled and ran even deeper into enemy territory. The gorillas were generally peaceful with all of the other animals on the island. Each pack of animals had lands where they preferred to be on their own, unbothered by outsiders. There were few exceptions, though, groups that could roam with relative freedom. Sabor and the jaguars wandered wherever their bloodlust led them and the gorillas and their human charges were generally liked, or at least tolerated. There were some areas, though, where the adopted humans were considered with a hostile gaze. Chimp territory was especially dangerous for humans.

Hanta and Denki seemed perfectly unaware of this, even though the musky stench should have been clogging their noses as much as it was inside of Katsuki’s. Hanta was swinging vine to vine as if Denki wasn’t strapped on his back. Even with the extra weight, he was easily able to flip to the ground and land without stumbling. Katsuki dove after them, perfectly oblivious to the humans walking through the dense growth of the forest floor nearby.

Ochako sniffed the air, catching the faint scent of animal waste in the air. Momo was chattering excitedly before her, fingers intertwined with her husband’s. Even Shoto seemed to enjoy himself, sporting the rare smile as he peered down at Momo. The leaves at Ochako’s hips rustled with a sudden wind, shaking against her skin. She spared a glance at the sky, still a light grey, when a crash disrupted the forest around her. Leaves shot out of a bush a few meters to her right. Screeches erupted from the very edges of the thick ceiling of the treetops and it seemed as if the sky was shaking with the swift movement of something within the branches. Ochako stood frozen as the forest seemed to split apart above her.

Katsuki was pummeling into Hanta and Denki, who had set off a rudimentary trap to prank him, when the first chimps jumped down from the trees. He was holding Denki by the neck as a chimp landed before them with a menacing hiss. Hanta quickly grabbed for Denki and took to the trees. Katsuki wanted to ignore the yells behind him and follow the humans he’d been living with his whole life. Instead, he found himself turning to find the source of the distressed noises.

“Ochako! Run!” Shoto quickly grabbed Momo and shot off. The trees were raining chimpanzees. Ochako made to run after her friends, only to be intercepted by two hissing chimps. She screamed, stumbling backwards on her dress. She should have taken Momo advice and worn some trousers instead of this long skirt. Somehow managing to keep her balance, she flipped herself around to run as quickly as she could, the screeches and thumps of the chimps paws right behind her. Desperately, she weaved through the trees. Inko had once advised running in a zig zagging pattern if chased by...some animal. Ochako was sure her mother hadn’t been talking about chimps, but it was worth a shot. The screams of the animals surrounded her as she ran up a slow incline.

Katsuki swung just behind the chimps as they chased the woman. The cloths she wore, a thick, ugly yellow ensemble that reminded him of vomit, were obviously weighing her down. The chimps urged her on with their screams and swipes at her ankles. He could keep up with most animal speak, but the chimps were too wild now. Their screams were only annoyances in his ears. The sounds terrified the woman, though. She jumped with each screech and her ankles stumbled below her. The chimps would be on her the second she reached the ground, he knew. He also knew they were leading her to a cliff. Two groups flanked her sides, keeping her just within the path they chose for her. It was a death run.

One of the chimps at her side took a successful swipe at her side, the air filling with a spray of cloth and blood. Ochako screamed, her knees collapsing under her from the sudden pain. She could hear the chimps scrambling closer as she rolled onto the ground. Hurriedly, she grabbed for the largest branch on the ground and spun around in the hopes of knocking her attackers back. Her makeshift weapon was caught in a tanned hand, a human hand. Ochako’s eyes followed the arm back to a blonde man with a shock of spiky hair and blazing red eyes. The man growled at her, throwing the branch away and locking his hand around her arm.

He pulled her to her feet with relative ease. Leaning down, he quickly caught her knees and hauled her up against him. Her eyes glanced over his shoulder to find the chimps hunched down behind him, seemingly ready to pounce. The man took off in a run, with the chimps hot on his tail. Ochako’s side pulsed with each jostle on her silent ride. She turned back to give the man another glance, maybe to try and ask what his plan was, but her eyes latched onto a far more terrifying prospect.

“C–Cliff!” She screamed. The man’s eyes only narrowed at the approaching drop off. He readjusted her in his arms until only one was wrapped around her bum. Panicked, Ochako wrapped her arms around the man’s neck, only then realizing he was shirtless. The resulting embarrassment had no time to settle in, though, as the man leapt off the cliff. “We’re gonna die!”

Their descent was quick, the forest ground rising to meet them so quickly Ochako didn’t have a chance to think of her death. The man reached a long, lean and muscly arm out in front of them, catching onto a thin vine. Somehow, he managed to swing them both and jump to the next vine without dropping her. Ochako screamed each time he let go. She had almost forgotten the gash on her side when a chimp’s cry sounded close behind them. Gripping the boy’s neck, Ochako spared a glance behind them to find the chimps catching up via the tree branches. The man leap again, their bodies arching up and falling. A sudden jolt ripped her from the man’s arms and onto a solid surface.

The woman rolled away from him as Katsuki stumbled onto the small landing. They were still within the chimp’s territory, she was still in danger. With a rueful grunt, Katsuki hurried to pick the woman up again, bracing for her screams, and jumped into the hollow tree nearby. The tunnel swallowed them up, sending them down a fast, but arguably more peaceful route out of the chimp’s land. Katsuki hooted a string of victorious and mocking curses up at the chimps who watched them fall away. He held the woman close, sniffing at her honeydew scented hair curiously. Is this what a human woman in heat smelled like? He’d have to ask Eijiro later.

The tunnel shot them out into the air again, making the woman yelp and grab onto him for support. Her cloths were rough on his skin and slick with her blood. Katsuki ignored his fleeting concern for the wound and swung them around until he found a tree with branches thick enough to support the both of them. He dropped the woman down as lightly as he could and climbed up into the tree to see if any foolish chimp had followed them.

Ochako peered over the edge of the enormous branch the man had left her. It was as thick as a fully grown tree and it swayed each time a gust of wind blew by. Her head began to spin as she realized just how high up she was. If she fell, she would die, but that might be better than waiting around to find out what the crazy man had in store for her when he returned. He hadn’t said a word to her while they raced through the jungle. She was still in shock that another human could be living on the island, let alone surviving long enough to learn how to swing through vines and escape crazed chimps as the man had.

It was only her second day on this damned island and she’d already almost died. This trip couldn’t get any worse. And then, as if the gods themselves were listening to her complaints, a rumble of thunder preceded a sudden, heavy downpour by mere seconds. Ochako sighed in defeat, retreating from the edge of the branch until her back rested against the solid trunk of the tree. A spray of rain fell from the leaves above her and landed onto her wound with a sting. Ochako’s hiss of pain turned into a soft whimper. She pulled her knees to her, resting her forehead on her arms and allowed herself to cry.

Having found no further trace of the chimps, Katsuki worked his way back to the woman, cautious of the cries he heard over the rain. She was curled around herself when he landed back on their branch. Her chestnut colored hair fell over her shaking shoulders. Katsuki eyed her silently, leaning over to spare her wound a glance. It was still bleeding. Part of him wanted to take her to Aizawa to have it wrapped up and healed, but that would go over about as well as a rogue male during mating season.

“Hey...hey. It’s alright. Those fucking chimps are gone,” he hooted over at her. The woman’s eyes shot up, bloodshot and full of tears, her mouth agape in confusion.

The man had spoken. Well, he’d grunted at her in a way that might have resembled speech. Maybe she just hadn’t heard him correctly over the rain. “I’m sorry? I didn’t quite make out what you said.”

“What you said,” the words felt odd on Katsuki’s tongue. He edged forward, placing his curled knuckles on his chest. “Katsuki.”

“Oh! Is that your name?” Ochako questioned. The man gestured to her, nodded with an excited grunt.

“Katsuki.” He made the same motion again and then reached out to touch his knuckles to Ochako’s chest, just above her heart. “What you said.”

“What Iー? Oh. No, no. That’s not my name,” she giggled. Katsuki imitated the sound with a questioning raise of his eyebrows. “No, I’m Ochako.”

“No, I’m Ochako.” He nodded as if he perfectly understood her. Ochako snorted, taking his fisted hand and putting it back on his chest.

“Katsuki,” she waited for the glimmer of acknowledgment in his eyes before taking his hand and placing it back on her chest. “Ochako.”

“Ochako,” he repeated. She grinned up at him, in awe of this wild man’s quick ability to understand her. Katsuki stared down at the thin fingers she had wrapped around his wrist. Her fingertips were cold. He freed his hand from her hold and caught her palm between his fingers. Slowly, he trailed his thumb down each finger where he squeezed at the plump, unblemished flesh with interest. His own hands were hard from sliding down vines and gripping onto branches each day. Having walked on his knuckles for most of his life, Katsuki found it hard to keep his hands uncurled. The womanーOchako’s hands fell open easily, like a flower ready for a bee’s landing.

“Um...ahem, what are you doing?” Ochako’s cheeks were burning. Katsuki’s eyes had darkened into a deep wine as he inspected her fingers. He only looked up at her again when she attempted to pull her hand away. “I’m sorry, but I should beー”

Katsuki touched her cheek next, marveling at the moss soft texture of her skin. He pushed against the pink flesh, wondering what it would feel like to rest his cheek there. The woman gasped, pushing him away with a quick jumble of her human words. The sounds she made when she spoke were nothing more than sounds. Outside of her name, he could find no meaning in any noise that escaped those soft pink lips of hers.

“As...As I was saying! I should be going back. I have friends who are probably looking for me and gods know walking in this storm will be a living hell, as if I haven’t lived through that already. I don’t even know where I am or where camp is. I hope they’re not looking for me. I’d hate for someone to get lost for my sake.” She stared off into the seemingly unending jungle. Ochako honestly didn’t know if she’d ever see her friends again. It seemed hopeless to try and walk through the forest. She wasn’t even sure the chimps were gone, though she hadn’t heard any of their nightmarish sounds since she’d landed on this branch. A pair of fingers caught her chin and turned her head back to Katsuki. His palm cupped her cheek again. The rain was slowing to a stop around them.

“Friends.” He knew that word. Somewhere in the deep abyss of his memory, the word flooded up with a certain emotional emphasis. Ochako’s face had fallen as soon as she uttered the word. She sniffled, nodding her head and releasing another volley of her foreign tongue. Katsuki only listened for her inflection and the movements she made.

“Yes! We have a camp...somewhere on this island. It might be far away, but maybe you could help meー” A gunshot interrupted her thoughts. Her eyes narrowed in the direction of the sound. “Dabi.”

“Friend?” Katsuki asked.

Ochako rolled her eyes with a frustrated sigh. “No, but he’s probably at the camp.”

She pointed toward the direction of the loud noise, gesturing for him to pick her up again. Katsuki grinned. They were off the branch just as the rain fully stopped. Ochako gripped his neck tightly, but there was significantly less screaming this trip. The sound went off again, giving Katsuki a solid target to follow. The noises were coming from a familiar edge of the island. The bamboo forests always kept their warmth, so the gorillas liked to nest there during the cold seasons. Violently unfamiliar smells assaulted Katsuki’s nose as he neared the human’s nest. Burning wood and a sharp, metallic smell forced him to halt just at the edge of the bamboo. He slowly slid down the vine and released Ochako onto the ground.

Ochako kept her grip on the wild man’s arm, unwilling to let her savior go so soon. “Wait! I...I know you can’t understand me, but I would love you to meet my friends and...”

Friends? Did the woman already consider them friends? The thought made Katsuki hesitate, for just a moment. He reached for Ochako’s fingers again, enjoying their petal softness. He would have stayed there, rolling his fingers over hers, if it wasn’t for the new voices coming from the thicket.

“Ochako? Is that you?” Izuku called. “I swear I heard her voice! Come on!”

Katsuki dropped her hand and quickly climbed back up the vine. He was gone long before Izuku and the others made it through the bushes. “Ochako, there you are! We were so worried! Shoto was telling us you were attacked by chimpanzees. That must have been horrifyingーIs that a cut? Ochako, did you get hurt? Are you in pain?”

Ochako didn’t hear any of this. She was still watching the trees, looking for any trace of the man that had saved her life. Behind her, at the edge of the group and out of everyone’s view, Dabi was looking up at the trees too, his finger twitching over the rifle’s trigger.

Chapter Text

“And it was near the top of the west mountain! There were footprints that looked relatively recent. Maybe your wild man isn’t alone, Ochako. Did he mention anything to you?” Izuku was coated in sweat, earned mostly during his animated retelling of the treehouse he and Tsu had stumbled upon before the storm. Neither of them seemed to have had actual encounters with the wildlife of the island quite like she had, though.

“He didn’t really talk much.” She bit her lip in unknown shame. Talking about her time alone with Katsuki seemed...dirty. For whatever reason, Ochako found herself wanting to keep the details─ the way he held her as they swung through the trees, how he cradled her cheek so delicately─ those details, she would keep close to her heart.

“But he could talk?” Toshinori leaned over Izuku’s shoulder to point out a marking in his notebook. Izuku glanced from his writing to silently reassert the question.

“A little. It was about as much as a baby, just mimicry. He was able to tell me his name, though. Katsuki.” She glanced around the trees, as if he would appear just at the utterance of his name. A sardonic chuckle bright her back to the floor of the forest.

“Seems like he left an impression,” Dabi smirked. “But you shouldn’t go wandering on your own. He could be dangerous.”

“Dangerous?” Ochacko scoffed. “He saved me from the chimps!”

“And you didn’t see any other wild men then?” Toshinori asked.

“There could also be wild women, dear,” Inko sang.

“Of course, of course.” He nodded. “But you’re quite sure there were no other humans?”

“There were strange tracks in the dust of the treehouse,” Tsu said. “There were toes that might have been human and rounded marks before them. We weren’t sure if it was an undiscovered animal or─”

“Katsuki walks on his knuckles.”

“Then his friends must as well,” Tsu continued. “There were multiple tracks, but we couldn’t find much other physical evidence of their presence. We didn’t stay for long.”

Izuku’s pencil froze in its motions as he glanced up to consider his fiance. Tsu rose an eyebrow at him, earning a grin. “A fresh set of eyes are more likely to lead to fresh discoveries than not.”

“Any others might have tried to stay dry during the storm.” Inko giggled in excitement and shook Toshinori’s arm.

“The storm is long gone now,” Shoto sighed, shaking his head. “If there are more of them, I’m sure they travel just as quickly as the man Ochako met.”

“It wouldn’t hurt to look!” Momo gasped. “Even if we don’t run into any wild people, we could learn so much more about them at the treehouse.”

“It won’t be safe.”

“I’d be more than happy to tag along,” Dabi grinned. Ochako felt a wave of uneasiness fall over her .

 “That won’t be necessary,” she tried. Dabi raised an eyebrow

“Oh? Are you sure? We wouldn’t want you to run into the chimps again.” Ochako gulped, remembering the animal’s screeches surrounding her. Her side still throbbed under the bandages Momo applied earlier. Dabi’s grin widened. “Didn’t think so. I’ll bring some of my best men along. We should be ready to leave shortly.”

Toshinori clapped a hand down on Dabi’s shoulder. “Thank you for the protection, but let’s keep the gun load to a minimum. We wouldn’t want to injure anyone. Instruct your men to shoot only if we are charged and never directly at the animals.”

“We will use our best discretion, sir.” The burned man scuttled away, holding his gun close like a seasoned soldier. Ochako’s knees felt weak, sending her tumbling backward. Shoto caught her with a subtle hand on her back. He slowly led her to a crate.

“Are you okay?” He kept his voice low under the excited conversation of the others. Shoto eyed her side uneasily. “Does it still hurt?”

She placed her hand on the bandages in contemplation “A little. Maybe I lost too much blood...”

“Then you should stay here.” He nodded as if it was decided.

“No! I mean―I don’t trust Dabi or any of his friends. If they’re coming along, I have to go, too.” Shoto rolled his eyes. “Okay, okay. And I want to see Katsuki again.”

He snorted, sitting next to her in an elegant motion. Carefully keeping his eyes away from her, Shoto laid his hand on top of hers and released a heavy breath. They stayed like that as the others began to prepare for the journey up the mountain. Momo passed them a few times, smiling brightly over to them. Ochako didn’t need his words to understand the weight of his hand, but he gave them anyway.

“I’m glad you were saved in the end, but I...Izuku told me about his time abroad. There was a day he couldn’t save some civilians from an old bomb. They were out of his reach.”

“Yeah. That’s the day he met Hiroshi.” Ochako’s eyes began to sting. Shoto squeezed her hand once.

“I couldn’t reach you today and you could have died...You would have died if not for that wild man. I just wanted to―.” She cut him off by wrapping her arms around his neck with a warm giggle. Shoto stiffened underneath her hold.

“I’ll accept you letting me hug you as your apology,” she laughed.

He harrumphed into her ear. “This feels more like a punishment than acceptance.”

 

“He’s just been sitting there...I don’t think he’s alive. Eiji! Go poke him or something. No, with a sharper stick. Just to make sure he’s─”

“Shut it!” Katsuki lunged for Mina, knocking her off the nearby ladder. She cackled as she easily righted herself and slid over to Denki and Hanta, who were both tied to a post. They flailed against the rope. “All of you are getting on my fucking nerves! Can’t I just have quiet for once in my fucking life?”

“Oh please,” Hanta rolled his eyes, “You couldn’t keep quiet for even two minutes.”

“Baby duty for two seasons says I can,” Katsuki snarled. Denki snorted. Katsuki was sure the two of them shared a mind as they nodded in near unison, agreeing to the terms of their bet.  He exhaled, sitting back on his heels and falling silent.

“Wow, so Katsuki really went in to chimp lands and started a riot?” Mina giggled.

Denki nodded judgmentally. “ And he set off a trap like a regular baboon. He really could have started a territory war.”

“How the mighty have fallen,” Hanta cackled. “And then he disappears for a whole hour? What? Did they make you clean their fur?”

“Where were you, really?” Eijiro was the only serious face in the treehouse, considering Katsuki’s expressions carefully. He pouted, keeping his eyes away from the red-head. He couldn’t tell anyone about Ochako. No. It was more like he didn’t want to tell any of these idiots about her. The only exception might have been Eijiro, but the boy’s lips were loose when it came to his mate. Mina would tell the whole island about Katsuki’s involvement with the stranger if she knew. The birds would start singing songs around him all day. His cheeks burned at the thought of it.

“Maybe he went to go see his human again.” Mina’s eyes narrowed at the subtle tensing in Katsuki’s shoulders. He kept his eyes trained on the ground. She sniffed the air dramatically. “Something about you smells off...did you go visit her nest?”

Katsuki thought back to the strange scents of Ochako’s camp. The memory was strong, as if the scent was still in his nose. He sniffed the air too, ears straining for any sound. A shuffling of leaves came from just outside the treehouse. Katsuki leapt to one of the windows in the rafters above him. A silver arc crashed through the branches just before the treehouse, breaking space for a human to burst through. This one was male, maybe Katsuki’s age, with green hair that blended into the forest around him. A grow rumbled into Katsuki’s throat. He was ready to yell for the others to leave when a pair of rosy cheeks pushed through the branches next. Ochako’s hair was still disheveled, but her side looked like it had been attended to, hidden by layers of white cloth. Her torn clothes were gone, replaced by long, brown pants, borrowed from Momo, and a white, linen shirt. She bit her lip as her eyes roamed the treehouse. Katsuki froze, half of him hoping she wouldn’t see him and the other hoping she would .

More humans appeared after her with eager expressions. They dispersed as soon as they broke through the treeline. It would have been easy to warn the others to leave before they were discovered, but the appearance of a specific man made Katsuki’s blood run cold. The word for the thing he held in his scarred hands sent a shock through Katsuki’s mind that buzzed at the edges of his skull. Gun. A memory of structures like the treehouse flashed behind his eyelids. They had neat corners and were made of what looked like dried clay. The sound of the gun― a sound he heard earlier with Ochako― played like a bird’s song in the distance of this memory. Katsuki felt his arm being pulled away hastily and then saw only blood.

Below him, Ochako hesitated on the threshold of the treehouse. The others were circling the building, looking for footprints. Yet something was drawing her to the front door. It wasn’t a door so much as a few pieces of mismatched plywood nailed crookedly together and hanging on loose hinges. The wood below her feet creaked as she stepped closer, triggering a gasp from behind inside. The sound was followed by soft hoots and grunts and hurried movements.

They were stopped by Izuku’s cry from behind the hut. “Everyone, I think I found something!”

Katsuki became unfrozen at the male’s voice. His friends were stilled on the ground level. They were desperately looking for an escape route, silent for once in their fucking lives. He carefully crept over to them, remembering all the spots where it groaned. Denki’s jaw was firmly set, his fist curling around a spare piece of wood. Hanta jumped up with Katsuki, ready to swing down on intruders. Mina and Eijiro stood by the door, ready to attack whatever walked in the door first. More human voices came from all around the treehouse, they were completely surrounded. Glancing back out his window, Katsuki couldn’t catch sight of any humans, not even Ochako. The door creaked open.

Ochako tried her best to stay behind the door, leaning only slightly into the treehouse. “Hello? Katsuki?”

Mina saw her first, shooting Eijiro a look to keep him from attacking. It was strange to see another human girl. She hadn’t even painted her skin. Ochako froze at the sight of the pink girl. Her mouth opened in awe. The girl was hunched over just like Katsuki, though she straightened as she met her golden eyes with Ochako’s.

“Ochako? Where’d you─?” Izuku choked behind her ear. Slowly, he opened the door completely, revealing Eijiro and Denki. Ochako gasped. Hanta glanced at Katsuki, who remained still and simply observed from above. With a growl, Hanta jumped down to block Denki from the stranger’s view. Katsuki crawled away from the window to get a better look at the doorway. Ochako was there, eyes wide and curious, and behind her a boy looked feverish with excitement.

“We’ve seen you before!” Mina pointed at the green haired boy. “Yesterday. Remember, Ei?”

“What are you doing here?” Eijiro growled. The boy pushed past Ochako, his head tilted in confusion, and sunk down to his knees.

“This is so remarkable. They really do make ape sounds! Didn’t you say the man you saw could speak?” Izuku kept eye contact with the wild humans before him.

Eijiro sniffed in the stranger’s direction and pushed Mina behind him. She sniffed toward Ochako. “Do you think that’s Katsuki’s girl?”

Hanta considered the girl with a lopsided grin. “I know I’m a little lovestruck.”

“Definitely,” Denki nodded, though he kept his wooden weapon in his hand. Something nasty curled into Katsuki’s stomach at their words, like he’d eaten a bad fruit. His opposing growl was just forming in his throat when Denki sent him a smug grin. Their bet was still on. Katsuki gritted his teeth, glancing over at Ochako, who was oblivious to the idiots’s comments.

“Oh my gods...” The wobbly voice came from behind them. Inko slowly pushed past her children and sunk down only a meter away from the wild kids. Ochako glanced back to find the others crammed together to sneak a glance at the people in the treehouse. People, Ochako had to remind herself. These were people, not test subjects. Inko seemed to have the same thought, sitting back on her knees and holding her hand out into the treehouse. “It’s nice to meet you, I’m Inko Midoriya-Yagi.”

The red haired boy exhaled heavily at the motion. Inko immediately sunk back, careful to keep watch of the bodies before her. Toshinori coughed nervously. “Dear, I think we should retreat. They can’t understand―.”

Something had been building in Ochako’s stomach since the others first decided to come looking for these wild people. Her family was gazing at them with the same calculating expressions and light steps they had used around her for the past year. Every move they made was to ensure she wouldn’t be hurt, and while they had the best intentions, they had done more harm than good. Only now the harm could be physical. Glancing over the crouched figures, Ochako noticed their strong builds and the thick branch in the blonde one’s hands. If he moved with that, Dabi would shoot him, she knew that much. If Dabi shot him, then...it would be carnage. All of these thoughts buzzed her mind into numbness until she was stepping between the two groups, her arms outstretched and vulnerable.

“Is...” She gulped, her voice giving out. “Is Katsuki here?”

Mina stiffened at the name, her eyes slowly rising up. Katsuki bared his teeth down at her, willing her not to be such a fucking idiot for once in her life. But Ochako was already following her gaze. Katsuki could feel the moment those wide, tree bark eyes landed on him. Ochako gasped, taking an unconscious step back. More loud inhales filled the room as the others found the wild man in the rafters.  Katsuki growled down at them, dropping to hang over them from his hand. Ochako felt herself start to sweat as his muscles pulled taunt.

“What do we do?” Eijiro asked out the side of his mouth. Katsuki let himself drop onto the ground in a hunch and slowly rose onto his two legs.

Izuku choked, the creak of wood snapping Katsuki’s attention to him. His voice wobbled. “Ochako...I think you need to step back...”

“Wait,” she breathed, more to Katsuki than her brother. The blonde glared over her shoulder, his teeth dangerously bared. The click of Dabi’s rifle stopped her heart completely. She lunged forward, pushing at Katsuki’s chest desperately. “You have to go. All of you. It’s not safe for you to―”

Katsuki grabbed one of her wrists, earning horrified gasps from their audience, and placed her hand over the middle of his chest. He felt himself heat up under her touch, still enamored by the softness of her fingers. For a moment, he forgot about all the humans, more than he’d seen in as long as he could remember, and focused only on his human. His friend. Denki’s shuffling brought him back to reality and he took in the people behind Ochako with a raised eyebrow.

“Friends?”

Ochako startled, equally caught up in their contact as Katsuki. Gathering her breath, she nodded and chanced a smile up at him. “Yes. These are my friends. And these are...?” She gestured to the still stiff figures behind him, though, oddly, they were all wearing matching grins now.

Katsuki rolled his eyes, perfectly guessing the looks they were giving him behind his back, but he still nodded all the same. “Friends.”

Ochako nodded in greeting around Katsuki’s body, managing a feeble wave. Mina mimicked the action. Ochako glanced back at her group, still frozen in the doorway. As far as first encounters went, this was a disaster. They needed to reset, find a balance between their two worlds. She sighed, tapping Katsuki’s chest before shaking out of his grip and taking a wide step back.

“We’re leaving,” she announced. “Let’s just move slowly and then we can go. Katsuki...”

“Stay.” The word came out like a whimper, something from the deeply buried memories Katsuki had been swimming through since he first saw Ochako. It wasn’t something he wanted to stop doing, that was for sure. He already missed her touch. Leaving her back at her nest was painful enough.

Ochako shook her head, “I can’t...But...I don’t know if you’ll understand this, but find me, okay? I know everyone would love to get to meet you and even the rest of your family, if they wanted to come. Not that they have to! It’s just that I...”

“It’s been a while since we’ve seen her like this,” Izuku whispered to his mother. Inko smiled, now safely back at the entrance. She and Izuku were the only two still left in the treehouse.

“Shh. Just let her figure it out,” she giggled.

“...I would like to see you again, that’s all.” Katsuki considered her closely before nodding like he perfectly understood everything she’d said. He did not, but this seemed to signal Ochako’s swift departure. She nodded back dumbly and quickly turned on her heel. She grabbed onto her brother as soon as he was within reach and dragged him out after her, mostly so she wouldn’t trip over her own feet.

Katsuki’s legs were still shaking long after Ochako’s scent had faded back into the forest. He sunk back down to his knees, letting out all of the breath from his lungs. For a single, suspended moment, he imagined the idiots behind him leaving him alone to think about what just happened. His life could never be that easy. Hanta draped an arm around his shoulder with a solemn dip of his chin.

“We’ll miss you for the next two seasons, Katsuki. At least you’ll have the babies to keep you company.” The bastard had the audacity to wink .

“Your human is very cute!” Mina chirped, still wrapped around her mate.

“She’s not mine,” Katsuki growled.

Denki snorted. “All of that eye contact could have fooled me. But if she really isn’t yours, then you won’t mind if I try to bond with her?”

“You already have a fuckng mate!”

Hanta shook Katsuki’s shoulders once and jumped away. “Oh, I don’t mind. She’s very cute. I’m sure she’ll feel soft under Denki while he―hey!”

Katsuki tackled him with a roar. The two wrestled and rolled around the ground, a jumble of Katsuki’s curses and Hanta’s laughter. Katsuki slammed Hanta to the ground by his neck, “Stay the fuck away from her!”

“Alright, break it up,” Mina sighed. “You guys are so aggressive. It’s not like we’re gonna see any of those humans again, right?”

They all turned to Katsuki for an answer, but he was watching the distant, thoughtful expression on Eijiro’s face. “Oi. If you have something to say, say it, Shitty Hair.”

Eijiro’s expression paled as he gulped out, “We have to tell Aizawa about this.”

Fuck .”

 

“Did you see the way they walked? On their knuckles in an almost perfect imitation of gorilla movement! And I have to wonder―”

“―if that was learned or inherent?”

“Exactly, Izuku, thank you! They’re capable of vocalization, Katsuki showed us that. But could it only be him? Likewise, according to recent considerations of Darwin’s works and some other papers I've read, the presence of humans should have completely disrupted the food webs of the island! Yet the few groups we’ve found all seem to be thriving! There have been accounts of gorillas adopting orphan baby gorillas , but could it be possible for them to adopt a child of a different species? And where did these children come from? A storm? Or, and this may be a very unlikely explanation, but―”

“All explanations should be explored, Mom!”

“Yes, you’re so right! What if they naturally evolved here, on this island! They could be some link between homo sapien neanderthalensis and homo sapien sapien! Could you imagine, Izuku? They could change our whole outlook on evolution and even our role as humans. Where we fit into the natural order of nature, how we got here, why we can do the things we do. We have to see them again! Don’t you think, Toshi? What do you say? Let’s go out there right now! Better to catch them in a natural habitat then―Oh, my.”

Ochako had to turn her gaze to the sky as Toshinori laid an exceptionally long and loud kiss onto Inko’s running lips. Toshinori coughed to let them her it was safe to look back down. Inko was reduced to a silent, blushing form, hidden under Toshinori’s long arm. Ochako knew it was the only way to subdue her mother while she ran on one of her tangents, she just wished she didn’t have to be subjected to it as often as she had been.

“I think we should all rest. We’ve had a lot of excitement today, and if we are going into the forest again, we should do that with clear minds.” With that, he lightly but purposefully guided Inko to their tent and zipped it shut. Ochako knew he would have to get her to sleep as quickly as possible in order to stop his wife from wandering into the forest alone.

Izuku smirked after his parents, drawing Ochako into a half hug. “I haven’t heard from you since we got back. How are you feeling?”

“Oh! Uh...” She wasn’t sure how she felt if she was honest. On one hand, she was so happy to see Katsuki again. It was like the two of them could have disappeared into the ground in that moment and she wouldn’t have cared. On the other...and this was definitely the more rational of her two hands, she could only focus on the click of Dabi’s gun. The man and the other contractors had been eerily absent since everyone returned to camp.

“I guess I’m a little worried about Katsuki,” she mumbled. Izuku urged her on with his wide eyes. “I just...Gorillas can be territorial, right? Obviously he’s survived on this island for a long time, but what if our being here puts him and the others in danger? I know this is an important trip for all of you, there’s so much to study and discover here! But wouldn’t it be better to just go? Leave things as they are and forget about―?”

Something solid landed just before her, a mass of tangled black hair cascading over a sharp, stubbled chin. The man rose to his feet in an easy movement, far smoother than Katsuki had been. His dark eyes were tired, bloodshot and narrowed down at her with a murderous fire. He was wearing a piece of cloth cut longer than the ones Katsuki and the other boys had been wearing, but still loosely gripping to a muscular set of hips that led into a thin but finely sculpted chest. A growl began in his throat as Ochako unconsciously ogled him. Izuku threw his arm over her, putting himself between her and the stranger.

“I know you probably won’t understand this, but if you don’t stop staring at my sister like that, I’ll be forced to hurt you,” Izuku said.

The man raised an eyebrow. “You think you could hurt me, hm? You’ve only been on the island for, what? Two days? You have no idea how long I’ve been here, but I can assure you, you won’t win this fight.”

“Izuku?” Tsu emerged out of her tent with a yawn. “Who are you―?”

“It’s fine!” Ochako yelped. The man had a dangerous gleam in his glare, but he hadn’t made any advances yet. That had to mean he had some kind of restraint. “We’re just talking to...er?”

“Aizawa.” The man eyed the camp around him, sneering at their crudely built shower stall. It was really just a few pieces of wood and a bucket on a string with water from Ochako’s pond. Tsu gripped at the flaps of her tent, eyeing Izuku nervously. “I didn’t come to hurt you. I only wanted to see the people those children are so interested in.”

“I hope no one got hurt?” Ochako pushed Izuku’s protective hand down, muttering, “Relax. He said he’s not going to hurt us.”

“Hurt?” Aizawa chuckled. “They’ve survived elephant stampedes and chimp raids,” he gave Ochako a pointed look, “Those guns, though. They pose a real problem.”

Shota thought back to the fearful narrow of Katsuki’s eyes when he mentioned the weapons. Hearing the boy speak in the Human tongue for the first time was shocking enough. The fact that his first word was one that should have been buried deep in his infant memories was what made Shota come to this human camp in the first place. Now he sized up the girl before him. She had attractive qualities, he supposed, but that shouldn’t have been enough to shake Katsuki. And yet the boy was nearly silent when he returned to the gorilla’s nests. He only growled and sulked at the edge of the group as Eijiro recounted their encounter. It was obvious they all wanted to see the humans again, but they would never do anything without his approval. That’s what he was here to do; let the children return or run these humans off the island.

The girl's concern softened his suspicions, but only slightly. He'd spare her from dancing around the subject. "What do you want with them?"

"We want to study them! A-and you, if you'd let us," Izuku blurted. "My mother, she's a scientist, she has a postulate about their evolution and―!"

"We're from your country," Shots sighed. Maybe they weren't as intelligent as he'd thought. "I can't believe you'd be so misguided as to―"

"Aizawa?" Toshinori's voice crackled through Shota's body, sending him stiff. Ochako's father emerged from his tent, glancing back to his sleeping wife before zipping it closed. His blue eyes were electrified, seeming to glow as he gazed at the new arrival. "It is you, isn't it? Shota Aizawa? You were stationed at Mother Marigold's during the war, right?"

"Mother Marigold's?" Ochako whispered to Izuku.

"An orphanage my dad worked as during the war," he muttered, eyeing Aizawa carefully. The man broke from his frozen state, hunching over in a manner more like the wild people they'd seen earlier and slowly turning to face Toshinori.

"You've grown!" Toshinori gasped. "When I couldn't find you after the war, I thought..."

"Marigold sent me away with some of the children." Aizawa's voice shook. He caught himself with a cough, averting his eyes to the ground. "We were under siege after you left. The orphanage was completely destroyed. I took as many as I could."

"You were just a boy, then. You can't blame yourself for―."

"I got us passage on a neutral ship. We were supposed to go east. It was safe there, supposedly. But we were caught in a storm."

Toshinori nodded. "Yes, the seas around these islands are rough territory. That must have been, what? Thirteen years ago?"

"Fifteen," Aizawa corrected.

Ochako gasped. So Katsuki had been on this island for most of his life. That would explain his manner of...well, just about everything. The others, too. Aizawa's speech was nearly perfect, but he had spent most of his years in human society. Ochako figured he'd be somewhere in his early thirties, at most. There was an undeniable youth to the man, though the speckles of a dark beard aged him. The war had displaced people all over the world, but she never could have imagined anything like this. The fact that they'd survived one of the infamous storms of the Southern Seas was miracle enough. It was entirely unprecedented that their little group could survive for fifteen years alone, so far from society.

"The gorillas took you in," she realized, the thought ejecting out of her lips. Aizawa glanced back at her over his shoulder. His glare had softened, though his eyes seemed to take in every detail of her.

"What's your name?" He asked. Katsuki wouldn't even speak it. When the others tried to pry it from him, he'd just sink his head in frustrated embarrassment and play with the leaves at his feet.

"I'm Ochako," she held her hand out to him. Aizawa raised an eyebrow at the motion, full of a formality he hadn't experienced in years. Cautiously, he took her hand and shook it. Ochako resisted wincing at the roughness of his hands. Katsuki's hands were just as rough, worn down by fifteen years of an existence Ochako couldn't imagine. Aizawa was equally drawn in by the texture, or lack of it, on Ochako's hand. Her grip was strong though, not the flaccid dropping of a hand in his like a "lady" was supposed to. A lady wouldn't have lasted traveling with a ruffian like Katsuki through an unknown island either. No, Aizawa decided, the woman before him was not that simple, and that alone gave him some hope for this encounter.

He jerked his hand away and gave Toshinori a curt nod. "Expect the children at High Sun. Study them all you want, but if they come back injured I want you off the island."

"And the gorillas?" Izuku asked. "We were originally here to study them."

"That's their decision, not mine." With that, Aizawa launched himself into the air with a push of the powerful muscles in his tight and disappeared into the trees.

 

None of them could keep still the next morning. Naturally early risers, all they could do was wait for "High Sun," which they assumed meant noon. Toshinori told them about his time at Mother Marigold's orphanage. It was during the final year or so of the war, when enemy forces, low on rations and high on tired frustration, were more aggressive in their raids. Toshinori was only there at the interest of the orphan's safety, though the army gave him a small battalion nonetheless. He was already considered a war hero by then. But then there was the hope of surrender, which sent the famous “All Might” away.

“I only heard about it afterwards.” he said, sketching a nearby bird into his sketchbook. Ochako had never seen her father so distant. Inko sat behind him, silently rubbing his back. It was never easy for him to recount the things he’d done in the war. Seeing Aizawa after so long had been a shock. The last he’d seen of the boy, now a man, was when he left the orphanage. The eighteen year old had promised to keep the children safe, and it was clear he’d done his very best to fulfill that promise. “Some soldiers decided to attack the city without command. The orphanage was destroyed. I thought...I didn’t think anyone survived.”

Everyone gave Toshinori the space he needed for the rest of the morning. It was too easy to get wrapped up in some of the preparation for their new guests anyway. Momo was setting up a blackboard under one tent, filling it with simple words that Ochako knew the wild people wouldn’t be able to read. Izuku and Tsu were setting up a projector in the “library” tent and Shoto sat on the floor, leafing through different pictures to show. Ochako settled for making some sandwiches and, after some critical thoughts about what Katsuki and his family might be more used to eating, she set up a plate of cut meats and fruit.

A scarred hand interrupted her absent thoughts and swiped a grape from the plate. Dabi grinned down at her between chews. “So, I’m guessing you’ll want us to keep our guns away again, Princess?”

“Yes, actually,” she huffed, slamming her knife through an orange. “And while you’re at it, you can keep that man, Shigaraki, away, too. We want these people to feel safe and I don’t entirely trust―.”

“Then trust me . We have an agreement, don’t we? I send the guns away when you ask and you do me a little favor in the future.”

“Don’t make it sound so crude!” She held the knife between them to emphasize her frustration.

“Listen, Princess,” he snatched her wrist into the air and stepped into her. His grin loomed over her. “I’m doing what you ask me. Isn’t it fair that I get some reward for my good behavior?”

And this was, of course, the moment that Katsuki had to drop down from the trees. He was followed by only one of the people she’d seen earlier, the man with the spiky red hair. Eijiro watched Katsuki take in the camp, zeroing in on his human. The girl, Ochako, was intertwined with another human, only a breath away from the man in front of her. Katsuki rose to his feet shakily, never dropping Ochako from his sight.

“Are we going to fight him?” Eijiro asked. The man was tall, dark, and scarred all over. His mouth opened into a wide smile as he took in the two wild men. Eijiro pumped his chest out in warning.

Katsuki was frozen, gaze jumping from the firm grip the man had on Ochako’s wrist and the warmth of her wide, surprised eyes. “Ochako.”

“Katsuki! You’re here!” She gasped. The knife fell from her hand and she wretched herself out of Dabi’s grip. Her friends slowly edged out of their tents, watching the two expectantly.

Aizawa had given them permission to visit with the humans, but only on the condition that they stay safe. So, Katsuki decided to only bring Eijiro this time. Knowing the other three, they’d find a way to end up dead on their first encounter. Eijiro stayed hunched over, waiting for Katsuki to deliver Aizawa’s message. He’d practiced it all night, even when he thought the others had gone to sleep.

With a small gulp and a lick of his lips, Katuski pushed out his chest and said, “We are here to learn.”