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Seeing Double

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Uraraka was many things, but she was not a sore loser. At least, that’s what she was telling herself as she nursed her dislocated shoulder in Recovery Girl’s extremely busy station.

 

Her hard work had earned her a spot in the semi-finals for her final Sports Festival, but ultimately was unable to best Todoroki’s firepower. Fire didn’t care if it was airborne, it just wanted to burn. She groaned, shifting uncomfortably in her training uniform. She had burns everywhere and just wanted to cry.

 

She was so close! After the hell that was her match with Tokoyami and Dark Shadow, she had finally built up the momentum she needed to take on one of the classes Top 3. But she got cocky and assumed she knew everything up his sleeve, making Todoroki’s final attack (a vortex of ice AND fire) a surprise that blasted her out of bounds.

 

Hence her busted left shoulder.

 

Uraraka Ochako was not the same girl she was her first year at UA. The world was not the same either. Some days she wished she could go back, other days she’s thankful she couldn’t. If she was honest with herself, the thing she truly missed was the innocent wonder she perceived the world with, and the optimism that came with it.

 

But it turns out that wasn’t in the cards for her. It wasn’t really for any of her classmates, or anyone wanting to be a hero. And she had to accept that that was ok.

 

Third year Uraraka Ochako was a self-made force to be reckoned with. During the winter break between first and second year, the League of Villains ambushed she and her classmates, making it very clear that their Kill List had expanded. A simple outing turned into a life-or-death brawl that forced all of them to accept that to be a hero in a post All Might world was to be one who accepted that their lives-her life- would always be on the line. She’d never forget the memory of Iida almost being crushed to death by a car, and how an instinctive flex of her hand is the only reason why he’s not in the ground.

 

After that day, Uraraka had to make a choice. They all had to make a choice. Providing for her parents was still a top priority, but it wasn’t enough anymore. She wanted to provide for everyone now. Everyone deserved to be safe, and it was in her power to make that happen. And if she wanted to keep up with the powerhouses that were her friends, no-their equal-then Uraraka herself would have to become a powerhouse too.

 

To control her nausea, she spent 3 months straight suspended in zero gravity. After discovering they had the same gym schedules, Kirishima became her favorite sparring partner. Her now-current internship partner Bakugo would join occasionally to practice fighting in the air. Deku helped her hone her reflexes, and mornings were dedicated to pushing her quirk to its absolute limits. Over the course of her second year, Uraraka transformed, earning the respect of her classmates and teachers. No longer were people hesitant to go all out on the fragile floating girl. If her goal was to become the embodiment of her school’s motto, Plus Ultra, she achieved it and more.

 

At least, that’s the image she broadcasts. If she wants to stand on the podium with the best of them, she can’t very well also be complaining over how stiff her muscles are, or how she weeps in her room eating mochi while watching sad do videos. Her internship with Miruko taught her that to be a strong female hero meant to be an impenetrable force. Ending up sharing that internship with Bakugo taught her the necessity of speaking her mind, and an entire dictionary of new curse words.

 

She was proud of her work to earn a spot in the top 5 of her class, but sometimes a girl just wants to take a nap.

 

Fuck.”

 

“Hey! Watch your damn language!”

 

She had to crack a smile. Kirishima was in the bed next to her wrapped head to toe in bandages. It was quite impressive that he got Deku to fight THAT ferociously against him in the quarterfinals, but damn did it do a number on his body.

 

Kirishima grew into what everyone predicted he would. A wall of muscle with a wicked sense of humor complete with a shit-eating grin. His friendship was a welcomed byproduct of her reinvigorated training regimen, and she’s always been thankful for it.

 

Also, he’s not bad to look at.

 

She laughed. “Give me another minute to whine, then I’ll be a good sport.”

 

It was his turn to laugh. “If having a potty mouth helps you fight like that, please never stop saying fuck again.” He groaned as he sat up in his hospital bed, bandages straining against his muscles causing him to look like a buff mummy. Control yourself, Ochako. “Seriously, that move Todoroki did was one hundred percent his last resort. It would’ve taken any of us down. You should be proud.”

 

Uraraka sighed, trying to lean against her own bed without grimacing. Her right arm was in a sling, but the bone hadn’t been popped back into its socket. Recovery Girl’s wing was full of students, as it had been last year. Her classmates just didn’t know when to quit.

 

“I know you’re right, but I can’t help to think that every fight I lose in here would be one where a villain wins out there." She sighed again. "It’s hard not to put so much pressure on yourself.”

 

Kirishima’s grin faded, replaced with an empathetic nod. Every hero-in-training felt that pressure. “When we graduate, let’s try to get hired at the same agency so we can watch each other’s backs, okay?”

 

Her grin returned as a smirk. “What? Just the two of us? And leave Bakugo by himself? Kirishima, is this a love confession?”

 

He wiggled his eyebrows at her. “I can’t lose the only sparring partner that doesn’t use me as cannon fodder!” They both leaned back laughing, and simultaneously winced through the pain it caused.

 

“Serves you right, fucking dumbasses.” Uraraka turned her head, shocked to see the scene of Bakugo being led into the office with an absolutely obliterated left arm by a very guilty Deku. Well, it looks like we know who won Deku vs Bakugo’s semifinal. I wonder how he allowed Deku to come with him. Three years later and she still didn’t have a single clear insight into their twisted relationship.

 

“Don’t worry Bakugo, you’re invited to join us.” She quipped, very pointedly not asking about the match. “Any agency would be lucky to have UA’s most busted up third years!”

 

This earned a snort from Kirishima and a murderous glower from Bakugo. “Go fuck yourself fat face.” Well excuse me then.

 

Training had leaned her out, but genetics were determined to keep her curvy. She didn’t quite mind it though. Her body was a reminder to her that she was in fact feminine, something she feels like she has to constantly disregard in the masculine driven world of battle heroes. She grew out her hair to shoulder-length and typically kept it in a low bun. Her bangs have never failed her and she doesn’t touch them, save for the occasional trim.

 

As Uraraka opened her mouth to retort, she was interrupted by a cough from UA’s number one, in combat and in anxiety. “Kacchan I’m so sorry about your arm I really didn’t-“

 

“SHUT THE FUCK UP!” Bakugo roared. Even from his wheelchair, his unadulterated aggression left him horrifying. “We’ve been through this! Fuck my arm! If you hadn’t have done it I would’ve killed you and won the fucking thing!” He spat angrily. “Accept the fucking win and get the fuck out of my face!”

 

If Kirishima grew into what was expected, Deku’s growth quite frankly defied logic. No longer was he a mop-headed kid desperately doing wall sits in between classes to bulk up. To make himself try to look older, he now sported an undercut (from Uraraka’s suggestion) to keep his curls at bay. He wasn’t beefy by Kirishima standards, but he was still an absolute unit of height and muscle. Uraraka couldn’t remember the last time she reached past his shoulders.

 

Uraraka reasoned that Bakugo was naturally the most physically attractive out of the bunch while simultaneously being the most emotionally repulsive. His shoulder to waist ratio didn’t matter, it was like having to babysit the kid in dodgeball who was constantly tagged out but refused to leave the game. Childish and exhausting. Despite mellowing out considerably since their first year, he had a long way to go before she (or any girl) would put up with that. Now if he DID calm down…

 

He growled again and turned away from the group, angrily nursing his broken arm. Uraraka got it. She really did. Losing sucked. Interning with Bakugo didn’t make them friends, but it gave her a better understanding of how he operated. She couldn’t imagine how hard losing his final Sports Festival must be for him, someone who places his self-worth on every win he gets. It’s even more insulting when the winner is a rival that tries to make excuses.

 

She sighed. “It’s ok Deku, if you won that means you earned it. Congratulations!” She smiled.

 

Deku’s face lit up at her voice and left Bakugo to his glowering. They all knew him well enough to give him a wide berth from here on out. Deku plopped down in the chair next to her bed. According to the schedule, they had at least an hour before the final match started. He needed to be preparing for it, but she was grateful for the company. “Uraraka, your fight was insane! I can’t believe the acrobatics you pulled in the last half! I almost wish WE were going up against each other.”

 

He turned to give an apologetic wave at Kirishima. “Hey, you doing ok?” Kirishima tried to wave back, but got caught on his own bandage. “I feel like shit, but in the best way. PLEASE win so I can say I got my ass kicked by the festival champion, it would soften the blow to my pride.”

 

It was hard to stay pouting when her friends were such good sports. She quelled the frustration building in her gut. At least, that’s what this pull she felt must be. She chalked it up to residual jealousy on being unable to progress to the finals. Uraraka playfully swatted Deku with her good arm. “I wish I could’ve seen your match, hopefully I’ll be out in time for the final.”

 

Deku closed his eyes, and reached out to squeeze her arm. Two years ago the action would’ve left them both flustered and blushing messes. Now, after everything they’ve been through, their relationship ran deeper than a mere romantic attraction. It was nestled somewhere between love and family, and neither were in a hurry to explore what that meant yet. “This is the first time I’ve made it to the finals, I’ve got to make it count.” He opened his eyes, gleaming with the determination he’d been perfecting these past 3 years. Uraraka beamed. Her own loss aside, she couldn’t be more proud.

 

“We love Todoroki, but kick his ass.” She said while grabbing his arm and thrusting it into the air via victory pose. “And afterwards, we can go get pizza!”

 

“Pizza.” They both sighed together. The forbidden, greasy delicacy they only allowed themselves once a semester. He dropped her hand and shook himself. “I’ll make it a victory pizza.”

 

“You guys are fucking stupid.” A quiet insult came from Bakugo’s angry corner. He huffed to no one in particular. “Where the fuck is that old lady?”

 

Kirishima gave him a look. “If someone hadn’t decided to blow up the stadium in the first round and give the majority of UA second degree burns, then maybe Recovery Girl could get to us quicker.”

 

“I DON’T NEED YOUR ADVICE ON HOW TO WIN!” Bakugo roared.


“Well, obviously.”

 

They were immediately dowsed in tense silence. Uraraka was wondering who would be dumb enough to prod Bakugo after such a public loss, and then realized too late the words came from HER. Shit. Maybe Todoroki blasted her away a little too hard.

 

 He gave her a look that could melt glaciers. Here we go. “When we’re all put back together, I’m going to tear your ass into a new one.”

 

She flinched. There was nothing more intimidating than being zeroed in on by an angry Bakugo. She didn’t know how Deku did it all these years. She felt another pull of her stomach, one that was EXTREMELY painful. She grimaced. This wasn’t anxiety. “What the hell?”

 

Deku noticed too. “Uraraka, are you ok?”

 

She nodded, “I’m ok, maybe I have some internal bruising, I’m not sure-“ A wave of pain caused her to yelp and convulse. Something was wrong. She seized again.

 

“Uraraka? URARAKA?” Deku hunched over her, trying to keep her body from seizing. She felt like she was being torn apart. “What’s..happening?” She hissed. Her bad arm slapped against her bed, the pain making her vision go fuzzy.

 

“Someone get Recovery Girl! She might have internal bleeding!” She couldn’t tell who was shouting anymore, she couldn’t tell much of anything. What the hell was going on?

 

“Deku, something’s…not right. This isn’t…” The room started to spin, people began to fall out of focus. She must’ve been losing her mind, because she heard birds chirping.

 

“Uraraka, hang in there! SOMEONE GET HELP!” Deku was now clutching her face, trying to keep her conscious. The rip in her stomach spread through her whole body, and she flung herself against the hospital bed. “Make it stop! Please!”

 

In the future, when she was no longer experiencing the feeling of being torn apart, Uraraka wished she could’ve taken a picture of their faces for what happened next. No one can prepare you for your classmate to start glowing. “What the fuuuuuck?” Kirishima whispered in horror.

 

“Stole the words from my fucking mouth.” Bakugo looked on dumbfounded. They were both rooted in place in fear, completely at a loss for the scene unfolding in front of them.

 

Uraraka’s mind desperately grasped for some sort of reason as to why even though his grip on her was iron tight, she was slipping through her best friend’s fingers. Why Recovery Girl’s station was slowly fading away and being replaced by a lush forest. Why whatever this was felt like it was tearing her apart. And most importantly, why a steady glow emanating from her body was growing in intensity. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she thought that if this wasn’t so absolutely horrifying, the glowing might’ve looked beautiful. Something out of one of her bedtime fantasy novels of damsels whisked away to other worlds in ornate portals and magic summons.

 

But this was not beautiful. This was hell.

 

She needed to convey this to her friends, to help them understand what was going on. But all she could choke out was, “…trees?” She’d lost it.

 

“Stay with us! Ochako, Recovery Girl’s coming! Stay-“ Unfortunately Deku couldn’t finish what he had to say next. One second he was clutching his best friend in what he had perceived to be in the middle of a seizure, and the next, she was dissolving through his fingers in a flood of light. Now it was his turn to lose it.

 

“What the fuc-?” Her forest hallucination had solidified into reality. Her friends had faded, their screams muted by the now-present wind.  The bed she was laying on disappeared from under her and Uraraka hit the ground. Hard.

 

The pain wasn’t finished with her, but her body had had enough. Finally succumbing to unconsciousness, her last fleeting thought was how she wished she could’ve stuck around a second longer, just to hear Deku drop his first fbomb.

 

~

 

Pain and confusion. That’s what woke her from her slumber. That and the stray leaf that tickled across her nose. Uraraka sneezed and yelped as the state of her body forced her into consciousness. It was a soreness she couldn’t comprehend. Without opening her eyes, she ran a shaky diagnostics check. Despite feeling like it, she wasn’t actually torn to shreds. Her organs and limbs were intact, albeit filled with a stiffness and aching she wouldn’t wish on her greatest enemy. The slight burns from her match were already fading away to a dull ache. Her biggest injury remained her dislocated shoulder. She didn’t understand how her fight with Todoroki left her in this state. Why hadn’t Recovery Girl fixed her shoulder already? Wasn’t Deku with her? Another leaf blew across her face and her eyes snapped open.

 

Recovery Girl hadn’t healed her because she wasn't in her station. She wasn’t even in a building. Uraraka glanced around, still unable to lift her head. She was definitely outside, on the ground, with trees surrounding her. Did she end up in a park? Her hand shakily reached for her phone, only to stop mid-way in frustration. It was still in the waiting room with her bag, she didn’t even have time to grab it between her match ending and being sent to the infirmary. Of course, she huffed, of course I wouldn’t have my phone on me. That would just make this convenient, and we can’t have that!

 

Uraraka forced herself to maintain steady breathing as she tried to recount what had happened. Her body hurts because something happened in the recovery wing that caused her to glow, dissolve, and experience an unbelievable amount of pain. She had to double back real quick. Yes, that actually happened.

 

Thinking back, it was a miracle she hadn’t activated her quirk in the delirium. And now, she was on the forest floor, defenseless, and in her tattered training uniform. She grimaced. It must’ve been a quirk that did this, but whose? She didn’t know anyone with the power to teleport people. Did she do it to herself?

 

No, she grimaced as she braced herself to sit up. Whoever did this knew what they were doing. That was far too painful and gradual of an experience for it to be at random. But she was coming up at a loss for who could be responsible. The most important thing right now was to find either a familiar face or a store with a phone. Her muscles screamed as she wrestled upright, gauging her surroundings.

 

It was early afternoon. Her match had ended a little after 10, she must’ve been unconscious for at least a few hours. She scratched her forehead, trying to motivate herself to stand up. “This is nothing, Ochako. You are Uravity, master of zero g. If you don’t get up now, you won’t be able to get pizza with Deku and Iida.” Despite getting a hold on her nausea, she knew she was in no shape to activate her quirk on herself. She had to rely on good old-fashioned willpower to get off this ground.

 

Taking a deep breath, she pushed herself off the ground with her good arm, only to fall immediately back down. “FUCK!” She rarely swore (out loud), but the soreness that shot through her arm was enough to make a sailor out of her. And this was supposed to be her good arm!

 

Was she supposed to just wait until someone passed by? She had no idea where she was! The day’s events were starting to wear on her. She was hurt, she was starving, and she was stuck. Tears welled up and she let out another scream of frustration.

 

“Oi!” Her head shot up. Was that a voice in the distance? Uraraka bit her lip. This person could either be her knight in shining armor, or someone very dangerous she’s attracting towards her. She knew her body, she was in no position to defend herself. Regardless, he grit her teeth and made the decision. “I’m over here!” She took a gamble, she can handle herself if needed. She was a hero for crying out loud.

 

Whoever was yelling was far enough away that Uraraka had time to drag herself to rest against a tree. She sighed. All I want right now is to get back to the dorms and take a long hot bath. “Still over here!” She called after a few more minutes.

 

She heard crashing footsteps to her left. Whoever was coming to her rescue either had a vendetta against the brush they were tearing apart, or was the size of an elephant. They broke through the brush and she caught a glimpse of ash blonde hair.

 

Ah, that explained it.

 

She sank against the tree. Thank god, someone she knew. She couldn’t be that far from campus then. “Wow Bakugo am I glad to see you-“ But as he came into view her words caught in her throat and her jaw dropped.

 

This wasn’t the Bakugo from this morning. It was him…but it wasn’t. His build was slightly off. His chest was broader-well-everything was slightly broader. Obviously Bakugo was cut, but she didn’t remember to this extent. There was a hungry nature about this Bakugo that felt primal. Not only that, he carried himself in a way that made him seem a head taller. And his hair…still the ash blonde spikes, but the sides were shaved down in an undercut that Deku wished he could pull off. But nothing prepared her for his choice of clothes…or lack thereof. Adorned in pants, leather boots, and an assortment of jewelry, Uraraka could only gawk at the only thing covering his top half, a lavish burgundy cape with fur trim.  

 

“Uhh..” But it WAS Bakugo! No one on this planet could replicate the scowl permanently set on his features. Other than his mother, she had also never met anyone else with eyes quite like that. Eyes that were now piercing her with an intensity that made her feel like a cornered animal.

 

“What the fuck happened to you?” He barked at her, not moving from his stance. Her alarm was mirrored in his eyes.

 

“I-uh” This was not what she was expecting. “Is your arm okay?”

 

His eyes widened, brows furrowed even deeper than she thought was possible. “What the fuck are you talking about?”

 

Right. Recovery Girl. Uraraka shook her head. “Sorry, dumb question I guess. Uh, Bakugo..can you please explain to me why you’re dressed like…” She motioned her chin in his direction, “..that?” She knew her welfare should be top priority right now, but she really couldn’t get over this Dungeons and Dragons ensemble. Was it for a tournament mini-game? But he had never participated before.

 

He didn’t speak for a moment, anger radiating from his body. It was clear he was thinking hard about something, but she didn’t know what. After a few moments, he shook his head and growled. “I can’t believe this shit. You run off into these damn woods some supposed voices calling your name, only to disappear for an entire afternoon and turn up batshit crazy. If you were looking to prove you could be useful, you fucking failed. Now we’re behind.” He thrust out his hand to point at her, suddenly getting very defensive. “And what the fuck am I wearing? I’m wearing my goddamn clothes. What are YOU wearing?”

 

Was this LARPing? How did Deku convince him to do this with him? Her shoulder twinged painfully. She didn’t have time for this. “Listen,” she hissed, “You and I both know I don’t know what you’re talking about. You can bully me all you want when we get back to the stadium but I need you to help me get to Recovery Girl so I can fix my shoulder.”

 

Bakugo’s eyes shifted to her injured shoulder in the sling and immediately tensed. “Who dressed that?” He whispered, looking at her in a light of suspicion. “And what ARE you wearing? And where did those mystery voices of yours go?” To her mortification, he sniffed at her. “Your scent is different too.”

 

Before she had a chance to retort, he crouched into a battle stance. His eyes alit with rage. “I knew it. There weren’t any voices. You’re a spy. This was a set up.”

 

If she wasn’t so afraid of the murderous intent rolling off him in waves, Uraraka would’ve laughed. But she didn’t even have time to blink. In a flash he was on her, roughly grabbing her jaw and bringing her to his face. He held her in place against the tree. Her face paled. “If you thought you could lure us in and pick us off one by one, you really are a stupid bitch.” The heat coming from his hand was starting to burn. She tried to squirm out of his grasp but he held tighter. “Were you just pretending to be useless? So we wouldn’t suspect you? Nice try.” He lowered his face to to meet her eyes. “When I’m done with you, you’ll have wished I would’ve ended you right here.”

 

His other hand went to her neck and started to apply pressure. This was all too much. She was losing oxygen too quickly to even slap him with her quirk. What was happening? “Your fucking murderer of a king will never win.” What?

 

If she was honest with herself, at this point, Uraraka welcomed the darkness that took her. Maybe when she woke up, this would have all been a bad dream. A horrifying, visceral nightmare, but not real. Maybe. Hopefully. Because if not, then that means this Bakugo wants her dead, and can’t do anything to stop him. Where the hell were her friends? Where the hell was she?

Chapter Text

At least when Uraraka woke up this time, she was leaning against a tree. It would be more appropriate to say tied against a tree, but she was at least thankful for the change in elevation. She had never felt so awful in her life. In addition to her injuries, she now had a sore throat from where she was choked. Jesus. Her shoulder had not been healed, she was still outside, and now she heard yelling.

 

“You can’t treat her like this, she’s our friend!” Iida?

 

She cracked open an eye. Judging by the daylight, she hadn’t been unconscious for long, and was now facing a makeshift camp. Four fuzzy forms slowly came into focus, and she recognized the one pacing back and forth, waving his hands in a fury. “I don’t know what was going through your head when you assaulted one of our party members, but you can’t get away with it!”

 

Iida always to the rescue. If she wasn’t so weak, she would’ve cried in relief. But she doubted she could even produce tears at this point she was so dehydrated. Uraraka was in a bad situation. She needed to figure out how to get out of it, and fast.

 

Opening her eyes a smidge more, the blurs slowly solidified into who she recognized as her friends. Well, her friends and this demonic version of Bakugo. It had been a long time since she felt fear like that. Two were standing while the other two were sitting around a fire.

And yet…just like with not-Bakugo, her classmates were…different. Not only in clothes, but in physical appearance as well. Is she in a glamour quirk? She still wasn’t prepared to accept the idea of physically teleporting somewhere far away from home. It filled her with more nausea than her own quirk.

 

 

 

Two were standing while the other two sat around a fire. Iida was dressed head to toe in European knight’s wear. Over his chain mail tunic he wore a navy surcoat decorated with some sort of bird of prey carrying a golden sun in its talons. This Iida was probably physically most similar to the one back home, save for the missing glasses on his face. Curiously, he had a leather belt that had multiple worn books attached to it and currently was shaking one at a dangerously quiet Bakugo.

 

He was taking in Iida’s words with closed eyes and crossed arms. The atmosphere in the campsite clearly indicated that it was time for Iida to stop, but he barreled forward. “I have known Uraraka all my life and never once has she done anything to bring harm to someone else, the fact that you would even think-“

 

“Are you done?”

 

Iida’s mouth snapped shut. A familiar tension seeped through the camp. Even here-wherever here was-no one talked to Bakugo like that. He stood up. Everyone held their breath as squared his shoulders and looked Iida dead in the eyes. He looked about eight feet tall. Uraraka shuddered.

 

The words were venom. “You think you’re brave speaking to me like that? That I won’t strike you down where you stand? You may not serve my family, vassal, but don’t forget your place.” He cocked his head, not breaking the crushing eye contact. “If you get in my way, I won’t hesitate to end you.” The last sentence wasn’t a warning, it was a promise.

 

No one moved. Iida tensed, opened his mouth as if to speak, but ultimately bowed his head. He turned away from the group in frustration, and Bakugo huffed. Threat being delivered, his demeanor went back to his (much less scary) irritable self. “Besides, I don’t know what the fuck you’re going on about being friends with that bitch. I know nothing about her. You know nothing about her. It’s fucking ridiculous you’re even defending her, I know a spy when I see one.” He spit on the ground. “Look at her. It’s obvious she doesn’t belong here.”

 

You could say that again, Uraraka thought to herself. It was a grim reminder that these doppelgangers were not her friends. They were other people entirely, and she couldn’t assume or rely on them to help her.

 

A soft but firm voice broke the silence. “Please refrain from speaking to Iida that way, Bakugo. If you want to prove how tough you are, there are betters ways of doing it than threatening my vassal.” Uraraka shifted her now-both opened eyes to catch Todoroki standing up from his previously seated position. Her breath caught.

 

His body was like a dancer’s. Proportionate, well developed muscles moved his body with grace and purpose. His hair was longer, and currently swept in front his face. She could imagine when styled back, he probably looked like a model. He still had a scar on the right side of his face, but it was significantly more faded than what she was used to. Despite wearing a worn brown traveler’s cape, his clothes underneath looked very nice. Under a white linen shirt was a royal blue surcoat held together by gold clasps.  It was tucked into gray pants and black leather boots with gold lining. His ensemble was completed by an ornate sword sheathed at his side.

 

This Todoroki was a prince. This shouldn’t have surprised her. She always thought had had a quiet command of authority, he just had no desire to ever exercise it. This Todoroki also looked uncomfortable speaking up, but he held his ground.

 

Bakugo sneered. “Big words coming from a coward.”

 

Todoroki flinched and unconsciously grabbed at one of the clasps on his surcoat. A nervous habit maybe? “Iida is right. Uraraka has served my family and the castle for years. I trust her with my life, with good reason.” He let go of the clasp and squeezed his fists. “She was the one who snuck us out of the castle. Why would she have done that if she wasn’t on our side?”

 

“You think I haven’t been thinking about that?” Bakugo snapped. “It doesn’t make any goddamn sense, but I know what’s in front of me. Whoever you’re talking about isn’t the same spy tied to that tree. For fucks sake, look at her!”

 

Uraraka snapped her eyes shut as she felt the gaze of the group shift to her. She felt extremely vulnerable and out of place in her singed training uniform-not to mention her hair had long since fallen out of her bun. She must look like a wreck. How could she explain her way out of this?

 

Someone cleared their throat. “Kacch-uh, Bakugo, I don’t blame you for being careful.” Deku’s voice washed over her like a salve. “But I think they best way to figure out what’s happened to her is to actually-well-talk to her?” Another deep breath. “I think she’s been cursed.”

 

She had to see her best friend. She risked exposing her awoken state and again cracked open an eye. Her body apparently had enough water to spare, because the sight of him immediately brought tears to her eyes. No undercut for this Izuku Midoriya, his mop of curls dwarfed his freckled face. Same height, but a much more lithe frame. His most noticeable muscles were his exposed forearms, which rippled as he nervously clutched the unusually long sword at his side. He was dressed the most plainly of the group, with brown trousers and a green vest over a cream linen shirt. His cape matched Todoroki’s, and she wondered if he had lent one to the prince.

 

He had the same kind eyes as her Deku, but they were shadowed by an expression of someone being hunted. If she was looking more closely, Uraraka would’ve seen that expression in all members of the party.  

 

Seeing that Bakugo hadn’t interjected, he rushed forward with his explanation, holding his hands up. “We can all see that something’s off. Even disregarding her clothes, she should’ve been able to heal herself by now.” Uraraka stored that information in her mind of questions to ask later. After more silence from Bakugo, he continued. “I believe that whatever led her into the forest was probably some creature that preys on travelers and hit her with whatever curse is making her appear like…this” He gestured towards her slumped form.

 

She couldn’t help but feel a little defensive. Did she really look that weird? They’re the ones that looked weird! Try looking better after the day she’s had!

 

Bakugo pinched the bridge of his nose and exhaled loudly through his nose. “And here I thought you couldn’t be any goddamn stupider. You really blow me away sometimes Deku.” Well, at least some things are similar here.

 

Iida found his voice. “I…agree with Midoriya. At the very least, we need to untie her and do an examination. I’m concerned about why her arm is still injured.” Refusing to look at Bakugo, he gave a sideways glance to Todoroki, who nodded in agreement.

 

Bakugo scowled. “We don’t have time for this. We should’ve left her and moved on already.” He turned and started briskly walking towards the brush.

 

“Where are you going?” Todoroki asked.

 

“To find my shitty-haired vassal.” Bakugo barked over his shoulder. “I’m clearly outnumbered by dumbasses and need to find someone with fucking half a brain.” He turned around a pointed a finger at them. “Don’t you dare untie her until I get back. If you do, there’ll be hell to pay.”

 

Todoroki sucked in his cheeks but said nothing. This was a compromise he needed to make if he wanted this hothead’s cooperation. There was too much on the line.

 

Bakugo took his silence as confirmation and continued his exit. “Maybe I don’t need to prove anything to you. Just ask her yourself and find out.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Little snitch has been awake for a while now.”

 

~

 

Bakugo was always known for dramatic exits, but Uraraka had to admit this one took the cake. The trio froze in their places, and slowly turned to look at her. Groaning inwardly, she decided it wasn’t worth pretending to be asleep anymore. She opened her eyes and took in their mixture of shocked/guilty/anxious expressions. She must really look awful.

 

“Please help me.”

 

Iida immediately went to her and cupped her cheek. “Uraraka, I’m so sorry. We’ll get you untied as soon as we can.” He shot a desperate look at Todoroki, who hadn’t moved from his spot.

 

“We…we can’t do that yet.” He murmured, looking at the ground. “I’m sorry as well, but this alliance is too weak right now. We can’t compromise it.” She closed her eyes and sighed pathetically. Figures.

 

Deku straightened himself and dove for a traveling pack, quickly fishing out a flask. “We might not be able to free you, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help.”

 

He opened it and brought the container to her mouth. She practically inhaled the water being gently poured into her mouth, resulting in a coughing fit. He awkwardly fitted his hand between the tree and her back to pat it until the fit subsided. “Thank you”, she wheezed. The water was already helping.

 

“Uraraka…” He looked her in the eyes. She tried to blink back tears as she realized this was the first friendly face she’d seen since waking up in this nightmare. “Can you tell us what happened?”

 

Iida crouched down beside her and Todoroki joined them at her tree. They all looked at her expectantly. She bit her lip. Just what was she supposed to say to them? Instead, she looked around, grasping for the right words. The only thing that came out was, “Uhm…where are we?”

 

Iida’s mouth tightened into a thin line. That was not a good sign. He flexed his hands. “We’re…currently in the Faroh Woods, 6 leagues from the castle. I don’t know where we are in relation to the main road…but we’re headed east.”

 

The Faroh Woods. Castle. Leagues, not kilometers. That was it. Taking in their faces, she had to accept the truth. She really wasn’t in Japan anymore. The tears that were threatening to fall finally gave way, trickling down her face. Uraraka hadn’t felt this defeated since her first sports festival against Bakugo. She never thought she’d miss that angry hero so much.

 

Uraraka looked at the young men in front of her. She took a deep breath. “I…I don’t understand what’s happening.” That’s an understatement. Her mind was rapidly trying to come up with an explanation that these three would understand, but she kept coming up blank.

 

While she didn’t know much, she clearly understood that this party was in a very stressful, probably dangerous situation. From her brief analysis (thank you Disaster Relief 201), Uraraka could conclude that she needed to be very careful to not upset her present company. Nerves were frayed, there was so much tension in their bodies she feared even a wrong word could make them snap.

 

Deku nodded in understanding, misreading Uraraka’s distress. “Confusion of environment is a common sign of being affected by a willow-the-wisp.” He explained to Todoroki, with a tentative nod of agreement from Iida. “It’s a spirit indigenous to heavily wooded areas that exist to lead traveler’s astray. Tell me Uraraka,” he turned back to her, “What do you remember?”

 

While speaking softly, she could detect an urgency in his voice he was unsuccessfully trying to hide. Iida would also glance over his shoulder occasionally. She was reminded of Bakugo mentioning they were short on time. Were they being chased?

 

She bit her lip. She had to make a choice that not only kept her safe, but also kept her tied to this group. If she had a chance in hell of finding her way back to her own world, she needed all the allies she could get. If her shoulder didn’t get looked at soon, the damage and pain would probably be irreversible. She was out of options.

 

Uraraka Ochako lied.

 

“I don’t remember anything!” She wailed, succumbing to the pent up fear and desperation that had been building in her since she woke up. It came out in waves. “I woke up in a clearing with my shoulder busted, and in these strange clothes. I don’t know what happened to mine!” The tears turned progressed into sobbing. She couldn’t stop even if she tried. “I couldn’t even stand. I was so scared. And then that monster attacked me and I woke up, tied against this tree, in the worst pain of my life.” She took in a shuddering gasp, trying to keep from hyperventilating. She would try to keep it as truthful as possible.

 

Deku, Iida, and Todoroki looked at her in stunned silence. Todoroki grabbed at the same clasp on his surcoat. “Are you saying…you don’t remember anything?”

 

“Your names, and mine”, she sniffed. “That’s it.”

 

More silence followed. Iida had his face in his hands. Deku was staring at the ground, looking like he was frantically trying to solve a puzzle. His head shot up. “It explains why Kacchan thought you were a spy! He probably took you acting weirdly as being suspicious. Don’t worry!”, he waved his hands in reassurance to the others, “The affects of a willow-the-wisp is temporary! She should be getting her memories back soon!”

 

Uh oh. Well, at least she now had some time to come up with a better story. She hated lying.

 

But Iida sighed and shook his head. “You and I both know temporary is a loose term. We will have no idea when it’ll wear off. It could be years. And what about her clothes? I’ve never heard of willow-the-wisps doing something like that before.”

 

Uraraka inwardly sighed in relief while the rest of her group physically sighed in defeat. Todoroki gave her a pained look. “This is not good.” Another understatement.

 Deku frowned. “It couldn’t have been another person. There’s no one around here for leagues, we made sure of that.” He cleared his throat. “Sorry Uraraka, I know this is probably really scary, but we just need to confirm something…do you still have your healing magic?”

 

My what? Uraraka mirrored his frown. Is that why they were confused about her arm injury? “I’m not sure what you’re talking about.”

 

Todoroki joined Deku and Iida on the ground, wringing his wrists. “This is bad, this is very very bad.”

 

Her stomach dropped. She had a feeling that whatever healing magic they thought she possessed was vital to their party. And now that valuable resource was gone.

 

Iida turned and placed a hand on Todoroki’s shoulder. “It’s ok your Highness, I still have my medical training. We can lean on it in the meantime while Uraraka learns to get her magic back.” He sounded like he was trying to convince himself. It wasn’t working.

 

Todoroki shut his eyes and exhaled a sharp breath. No one spoke for a moment. He stood up. “Right”, he stated matter-of-factly, “Ok. First things first then, we need to untie her.”

 

Deku bolted up and Iida blinked in surprise. “But what about Kacchan-“

 

“We don’t have much time then!” Todoroki snapped, his change of volume causing everyone to stand to attention. “Our friend is helpless right now and is in no state to travel. I refuse to leave her behind over an injury that we..Iida, could easily treat.” He paused, then added, “We can retie her after we fix her arm.”

 

He held Uraraka’s gaze with a gentle earnestness that caught her off guard. “I know everything is confusing right now, but you need to trust us. That man who attacked you-“ He pointed to the woods “-is the only reason why we’ve gotten this far. We don’t have time to explain right now, but we will. I will.” He lowered himself to meet her face to face. “I, Prince Shoto Todoroki of the Ember Kingdom, 4th in line to the throne, swear that I won’t let any harm come to you.” He smiled. “You’ve helped me so many times, it’s time for me to return the favor.” He stood back up, bravado gone. “Now Iida, untie her.”

 

Uraraka could only nod. She had never heard Todoroki speak so eloquently before, let alone string together that many sentences at once. But she knew for certain: this Todoroki was a friend, and she could trust him. Hopefully, she could trust all of them.

 

The ropes suddenly loosened and she fell forward, unable to support her weight. As Deku caught her, she yelped in pain as he brushed against her injured soldier. “We have to work quickly. Your Highness, please stand back.” The prince nodded and let Iida take his place in front of her.

 

He furrowed his brows together. “Uraraka, listen to me.” He stated calmly, ”I’m going to have to pop the arm back into the shoulder socket, and it is going to hurt. I need you to prepare for the pain.”

 

She gave a shaky chuckle. “This isn’t my first rodeo Iida, please just get it over with.” He and Deku looked at her confused, and she froze as she realized who she was talking to. She scrunched up her face. “It hurts so badly, please do it quickly”, she sniffled. Deku gave her hand an assuring squeeze. That was close. Pain or no pain, she needed to be careful.

 

Iida gave her a soft smile and went straight to business, taking her arm out of the sling. “Deku, please hold her in place. I haven’t done this in a while, please give her something to bite down on.”

 

Uraraka felt a piece of leather go between her teeth and was thankful for it. She’s only ever dislocated a limb once, her knee after landing weird during a training exercise, and remembered the agony of popping it back into place. Who knows, she thought, maybe after The Incident (her new name for her warping ordeal) this will just feel like a tickle.

 

Deku clutched her good shoulder one side and her waist on the other. Iida got into position and grabbed her arm at the appropriate places. “I’m going to go on the count of three, okay?” She nodded. “Ok, one-“

 

He popped it in and she screamed against the leather. Deku held her in place as she thrashed from the impact. “Sorry.” Iida panted. He looked pale. “It tends to hurt less when you don’t expect it.”

 

A manic giggle escaped her as she slumped against Deku. “No, it’s ok, thank you.” The shock was already leaving her, and she finally felt like she could move her shoulder again. She laughed again, earning alarmed looks from her friends. “It’s good I have to go back on the tree, because I can’t even support myself right now.”

 

After putting the sling back on, Deku gently placed her against the tree. He helped Iida bind her, leaving it much looser than it was previously. “The prince is right,” Deku murmured apologetically to her, “We’re in a really bad spot right now, and need Kacchan to work with us. Once we explain everything to him, we’ll have you back and on your feet in no time.”

 

The relief she felt with her shoulder back in place was intoxicating. Uraraka was finally able to come down from the pain-induced adrenaline rush and found herself crashing. She sighed, back snug and secure in her binding. What a strange thing to be thankful about. “Why do you call him that? Kacchan?”

 

Deku froze up, his ears turning red. “We, um, trained under the same master for a time when we were kids. I had no idea who he was at the time and it’s, uh, a hard habit for me to break.”

 

Uraraka snorted and asked, “Who is he then, an asshole?”

She heard a soft gasp come from Deku and Iida muttering to a shocked Todoroki something about “her physical state must be causing this vulgarity.” Whoops.

 

“Uhm, Uraraka”, Deku had his hand resting on his chin in thought, giving Uraraka a shot through the heart as she was reminded of her Deku’s signature thinking pose. “I know you probably can’t answer this right now, but I feel like it’s worth addressing” He looked at her. “Just how did your arm end up in a sling?”

 

Before she could open her mouth to reply, a massive gust of wind blew her back against the tree and caused the boys to lose their footing. As she looked up, her view of the sky was momentarily obscured by a sea of red. She blinked again, and the red shape took the form of a dragon touching down at their campsite, with a very windswept Bakugo on its back.

Chapter Text

Uraraka wondered if she would ever get used to what this strange world would throw at her. A part of her didn’t want to get comfortable enough in this place that she’d forget the normalcy of her own world. The other part really wished she wouldn’t gawk like an idiot when a dragon the size of a school bus landed in front of her.

 

Bakugo hopped off the dragon’s shoulders and landed on the ground with a solid thud. She was determined to no give him any of her attention, but couldn’t help but notice a glint of light on his neck. There was a gold necklace with a rough-hewn ruby the size of a small chicken egg swinging around his neck that caught the sun in the most peculiar way. While unpolished and set in a simple gold chain, there was something about it that put the rest of his body jewelry to shame.

 

Of course he caught her looking, and sneered. Fighting the blush on her cheek, she tried to return it with a glare of her own. Unfortunately it came out so pathetic, he sighed and turned to Todoroki. “We have to get moving. According to Kirishima, they’re less than a day away from us.”

 

Kirishima? Where is he? Uraraka looked around for her friend, but didn’t see that playful redhead anywhere. Then her eyes landed the crimson-scaled dragon in front of her. No.

 

It was like the air around him had liquified. The form of the fearsome creature slowly shrunk and shifted down into the form of a man. The process was so fluid, it was hard to imagine he was anything but a man to begin with. Before her was this world’s Kirishima Eijirou, who stood an entire head taller than the rest of the party. His natural crimson hair fell past his shoulders in a spiky mane that matched his wide mischievous eyes. He groaned and stretched his massive shoulders behind his back, arching his body in a way that made Uraraka believe that this unit of a man was comprised solely of rock and muscle. He wore no armor or weapons, and wore a loose black leather vest in place of a shirt. His pants were held up by a gold-buckled belt and his boots were a high quality dark brown leather.

 

He looked positively lethal.

 

She gulped, audibly enough that Kirishima turned his attention to her and widened his eyes in surprise. “Damn Bakugo, I know you told me what happened, but I didn’t really believe you’d tie a poor girl up to a tree like that.” He raised his eyebrows at him. “Didn’t know you were into that sort of thing.”

 

Any tension in the camp dissolved with a pop as Iida barked out a laugh, who then immediately slapped a hand over his mouth. Todoroki’s mouth twitched and Deku gave an exhale that betrayed the snort he was holding in. I guess Kirishima is the same everywhere he exists.

 

Bakugo glowered and bared his teeth. “Did you not hear what I fucking said? We have to get moving. Now.” His eyes narrowed at Kirishima. “I will kill you later.”

 

The dragon man put up his arms in defeat, his smile betraying his act of submission.

 

 Deku took this as a cue to speak up. He cleared his throat. “We..we have come to the conclusion that Uraraka has a curse on her. It has stripped her of her memories, which is why you believed her to be acting so suspicious.” He gripped the pommel of his sword for support. “Whatever this curse is has also made her lose her ability to perform healing magic.”

 

Todoroki cut in. “So we have decided that until this curse lifts, we are going to help our friend through it. We owe her that much.” He gave a sharp look at Bakugo, who was giving the group an unreadable expression.

 

“No.”

 

“No?” Todoroki blinked in surprise.

 

“No. That’s too fucking convenient. I refuse to believe you’re that gullible.” He barked back. “It’s another trick. I’m done discussing this.” He clenched his fists. “We have to go. Now. And we’re leaving this traitor to meet back up with her cronies.”

 

Todoroki took a step forward. “No.” His eyes turned steely. “We’re not.”

 

The tension was back. As Bakugo and Todoroki stared each other down, it felt like a fight was imminent. She was impressed (and a little touched) at how Todoroki was ready to fight an opponent clearly out of his league for her. Iida and Deku both quietly assumed defensive stances. Uraraka looked up at the sky, wondering for the umpteenth time that day why on earth she was put in this situation.

 

Kirishima cleared his throat. “Bakugo is right, we really don’t have time to debate this. So,” He shot a sharp-toothed grin at Uraraka, “I will speed this along.”

 

In just a few moments, Uraraka found herself blushing at an extremely close Kirishima crouched in her face. Before she knew it, he flicked his finger to the spot in her neck where her pulse was working in overdrive. He winked at the jolt he caused her before masking his face in an unnervingly neutral expression. She gulped.

 

“Ok. Answer me honestly. Is your name Uraraka Ochako?” She felt the sharpness of his nail brush over her neck.

 

She looked him in the eyes. “Yes.”

 

He didn’t blink. “Are you here to cause harm to our party?”

 

“No.”

 

He was searching for something in her gaze. “Did you really lose your memories?”

 

She was locked in his eyes. She would have to choose her next words very carefully.

 

“I have no idea what’s going on.”

 

They sat in silence for a moment longer, his finger not moving from her neck. He furrowed his eyes in concentration, before blowing out a large exhale. He relinquished his hand and stood up. “She’s telling the truth.”

 

Her trio of friends sighed in relief as Bakugo’s face screwed up into an incredulous glare. “Are you fucking serious? But she-“

 

“Bakugo.” Kirishima gave him an intense look. “You know no one can lie to me.” He turned back to Uraraka. “But something is wrong. I can tell it’s sweet little Uraraka, but her scent is drenched in residual magic. Nasty stuff. I’m not surprised you didn’t notice it. Even I had to concentrate to recognize it, and I have the sharpest nose in the kingdom.”

 

Bakugo didn’t speak. He wasn’t convinced. “Something is still off.” He crossed his arms.

 

Kirishima frowned for a second, before brightening up and clapped his hands. “The Sage in the Mountains!” He exclaimed. “It’s perfect!”

 

Bakugo scowled. “You idiot, we can’t go there.”

 

Kirishima waved his hands around excitedly. “No, it’s perfect. You know it is.”

 

Uraraka looked at the group to see if they understood what they were talking about. It turned out they all had the same confused expression as she did.

 

“Uh, isn’t that just a bedtime story?” Deku asked. “The Sage doesn’t exist, he’s just a myth.”

 

“She.” Bakugo spat. “The Sage is a she, and she’s very much real. A real pain in my ass.”

 

Kirishima shook his head. “Typically this would be a secret that’d cost us our life…but we’re in desperate times.” He put his hands on his hips. “The Sage lives in the Kirin mountain range and has been under our kingdom’s protection for the past century.” Bakugo growled, but motioned for him to continue. “She tends to a natural spring known to cure any magical ailments. It’s a little out of the way, but if we get Uraraka to her, we can lift this curse and get her healing magic back.”

 

Iida took a step forward. “If this really is true, why would you not share the resource with the rest of the world? Why keep it in secret?”

 

“The same reason why we’re in this fucking situation!” Bakugo blew up. “You Ember trash get your hands on whatever’s in front of you and abuse it until there’s nothing left!”

 

Todoroki put his hand on Iida’s shoulder. “He’s right.” He said quietly. “It was probably for the best.” He looked back at Bakugo. “We need Uraraka’s power back as soon as possible. Lead us to the Sage.”

 

Bakugo pinched the bridge of his nose, aware he was in a losing argument. “Fine.” He whipped his head to Kirishima. “We’re going to regret this.”

 

He returned a rueful grin. “Probably. But I regret everything that’s happened this past week.”

 

Uraraka caught a slight flinch from Bakugo at his words that was quickly covered up by a sharp tch. He turned his gaze to Uraraka and she blanched under the intensity. “It’s your lucky day, spy. Seems you got everyone here on your side, but I’m not convinced.”

 

The group collectively groaned at his stubbornness. All Uraraka could do was muster up a defiant glare. Iida walked forward and untied her. This time it was Kirishima who came to help support her weak state. “Bakugo’s right, we actually do need to leave. Can you stand?” He asked Uraraka.

 

She gave an experimental step and immediately buckled back into his chest. In any other circumstance, she would’ve blushed fiercely at the contact.

 

“As you can see, your prince did a number on her.” Iida muttered in a disgusted tone. He brushed Uraraka’s hair away and felt her forehead. “It’s a miracle she isn’t in worse shape.”

 

“Oi! I found her like that!” Bakugo barked. “I know what I’m doing, I’m a goddamn warrior. A simple chokehold doesn’t leave marks like that.”

 

“So you’re telling me you found her in this state and still decided to knock her out and tie her to a tree?” Todoroki’s mouth tightened in anger.

 

Bakugo returned his question with a glare. His ears were tinged with red. Guilt?

 

Kirishima sighed and turned to Uraraka. “I know you don’t remember, but…a lot has happened, and it’s making us all act a little more…careful.” He stole a quick glance at Bakugo. “I apologize on behalf of my prince and the Kingdom of Kirin. I hope that once you better understand the situation we’re all in, you can find it in you to forgive him.”

 

“I don’t need you to speak for me.” Bakugo grumbled. He glared at the ground. “Everyone gather your things, we leave in 5 minutes.” He strode away into the woods for a brief respite.

 

Kirishima rolled his eyes. “I really do. You can’t imagine how many diplomatic disputes I’ve had to fix because of that hothead. Here,” he crouched and turned around, showing his back to Uraraka. “Loop your arms around my neck and I’ll carry you.” He sensed her hesitation and craned his neck to meet her eyes. “We really don’t have time.”

 

She bit her lip and did what he said. She gave a little yelp as he grabbed her legs and hoisted her up on his back. He grinned at Deku, “This is the cutest pack I’ve ever carried.”

 

He face flared up and Deku choked out something about how propriety still applied to dragons. Kirishima just laughed again and readjusted Uraraka’s weight.

 

She gave in to her fatigue and rested her head on his massive shoulder. “I can’t believe how much you can get away with saying, especially to Bakugo.” She murmured.

 

He shrugged. “Not that you remember, but we were practically raised together. It’s always been the two of us, save for that time he was sent away to train abroad.”

 

She raised her eyebrows. “I know I’m new at this, but I’ve never heard of a prince going abroad while leaving his vassal behind.”

 

“Vassal?” Kirishima choked out. He tried to turn his body to look at her, forgetting she was on his back. She had to grip“He called me his what?”

 

At that moment, Bakugo returned, and grabbed his pack. “Hey you dick!” Kirishima yelled at him. “Stop telling people I’m your servant!”

 

Bakugo just smirked. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” He paused and pointed at him lazily. “Maybe stop acting like such a dumbass and people won’t assume you are one.”

 

He addressed the group, who all now had their packs ready. “We’re heading out.”

 

Kirishima squeaked out an offended scoff and Uraraka could only twitch her mouth in amusement. “Sorry Kirishima, what is your ranking then?”

 

He set off behind Bakugo in a quick stride. “You’re speaking to the Second Lieutenant of the Royal Army. I’m third in command of our kingdom’s forces and handle diplomatic visits with that asshole over there.”

 

She hummed in understanding. “You seem to address each other much more casually than the other three.”

 

He snorted. “Of course we do. We only recognize the strong and valiant, and you don’t need a special title to achieve that. We don’t have sticks up our asses like the citizens of Ember do. Oh sorry,” he faltered a bit, “I didn’t mean to insult you.”

 

“Does that mean I’m a citizen of the Ember kingdom?” She asked. They were traveling in a line through thick brush. She had no idea how Bakugo was leading them so confidently. Everything around them looked the same.

 

Kirishima whistled. “Damn, you really don’t remember. Do you know anything?”

 

She tensed a bit. “I remember your names. That’s about it.” She whispered. That and an entire life with you and this lot in a faraway place called UA where I’m slightly attracted to you and half the boys here.

 

He patted the underside of the right leg he was carrying. “It’ll be ok. We’re gonna fix you." He threw back a small smile. "Try to rest now, we’ll need you on your feet soon enough.”

 

His reassurance filled her with a pit in her stomach. What’s going to happen when they ‘fix’ her and find out she still can’t heal them? That the memories they think are missing were never actually there to begin with? Kirishima’s steady stride lulled her into a tired state. He was right, she had to sleep. She lowered her head and succumbed to her exhaustion, deciding that her current worries were for future Uraraka, and not her.

 

~

 

Kirishima carefully balanced the fast asleep Uraraka and strode ahead to match Bakugo’s pace. They were now far enough away from the Ember prince and company to have a private conversation. Bakugo broke the silence. “I hate this. I hate all of this.”

 

Kirishima sighed. “I know. Me too.”

 

“How the fuck did this happen?” Bakugo asked for the countless time that week. They had no answers, at least none that would satisfy. “And now this?” He gestured towards Uraraka.

 

Kirishima blew out some air. “The only reason why I’m placating these Ember idiots is because I sensed no malcontent from her. None.” He frowned. “But Bakugo, you’re right, there is something seriously not right with her.”

 

He grunted. “We shouldn’t be leading them to the spring.”

 

“I know.”

 

“What the fuck is wrong with her?”

 

“I…have no idea.” Kirishima made his own sound of frustration. “I know it’s her, but she’s…different? We’ve only known her for a short time, but even I can sense her behavior’s off.”

 

Bakugo snorted out a derisive laugh. “Today’s the first time I’ve ever seen her hold eye contact with either of us. I thought she was supposed to be fucking shy.” He frowned. “How can the other idiots not see it?”

 

Kirishima looked ahead, deep in thought. “We can chalk that up to the curse, but what confuses me the most is her body.” He readjusted her weight, and she burrowed her head deeper into the nape of his neck. “Not to sound like a pervert but uh..was she always this…sturdy?”

 

Bakugo turned to look at Uraraka’s sleeping form. It wasn’t lost on him the way her toned arm muscles slightly rippled as she hooked them across Kirishima’s neck. He frowned. “I thought so too. She looks like she’s been fighting for years. Last time I checked, she was some tiny servant girl. You can’t get this body in the course of a morning.”

 

Kirishima looked at the foliage above them. “And we really have to talk about these clothes. I have never seen this kind of garment before in my life. No magical forest creature put those on her.”

 

They walked in silence for a time. Kirishima broke it as they passed a small stream. “I know we’re thinking the same thing, and you’re gonna hate me for saying it, but I’m gonna anyways.” He turned his head to Bakugo. “There’s someone else out here, and they did this to her.”

 

Bakugo jerked his head away in a tense scowl. “It’s fucking impossible. We’re completely alone. You should know, you chose the fucking path.”

 

“But you know it’s true!” Kirishima argued. “And you know that means there’s someone else out there gunning for us, and they’re good enough to hide themselves from us.”

 

“Of course I know that!” Bakugo roared. He kicked the ground in anger. “Just add it to the pile of shit that keeps trying to suffocate us.”

 

Silence settled between them again. Kirishima’s breathing became slightly labored. “We will get answers from the Sage.” He muttered.

 

Bakugo begrudgingly agreed. “I would’ve never agreed to this otherwise.” He stopped suddenly, causing Kirishima to come to a halt. “Give her to me.”

 

“What?”

 

Bakugo made a frustrated sound. “Don’t try to act like the tough guy. You’ve been flying around all of last night and this morning, you’re exhausted. We both know I win in stamina.” He glared at him. “So give her to me.”

 

Kirishima rolled his eyes, masking his slight relief. His knees were already slightly trembling from the extra weight. “Someone’s jealous I get to carry the pretty girl.”

 

Bakugo narrowed his eyes impatiently, not taking the bait. Kirishima sighed and finally relented. He gently shuffled Uraraka onto Bakugo’s back without waking her, and couldn’t help but let out a groan of relief. He stretched his arms again and smiled. “She’s heavier than she looks, right?”

 

Bakugo rolled his eyes and tensed as he felt her unconsciously tighten her arms around his neck. She settled her head onto his shoulder and let out a sigh. He scowled. “Whatever. Until we find out what happened to her, she’s a burden to this group. I haven’t ruled out that whoever did this to her could have planted her here for information. I’m not letting her out of my sight.”

 

Kirishima shrugged. “Suit yourself.” He looked behind them. “I’m going to join the others. We have to get better at working with them.”

 

“You get better at working with them, see if I give a shit.” Bakugo muttered. His eyes narrowed into slits. “A bunch of fucking murderers.”

 

Kirishima sighed. “What a mess.” He turned around and waved at the rest of the party, leaving Bakugo charging on with the sleeping girl.

 

He clenched his teeth. A fucking mess. He’s absolutely right, and there’s no end in sight. Tears threatened to burn through his eyes until he felt Uraraka shift, involuntarily squeezing herself around his body before nodding off again. He shook his head and looked ahead.

 

Bakugo wasn’t sure what he was more upset about: the fact that deep within himself a small part of him was jealous that it was Uraraka who got to forget the past, or the fact that he couldn’t focus on anything except how she smelled.

 

Earth and lavender.

Chapter Text

She was falling…or being pulled down. Or up? Forward. It was coming from all directions. Uraraka was careening towards an unknown destination, feeling as if she had used her quirk on herself and was now being pulled in by another’s gravity. The string pulling her along attached at her stomach. At the speed she was flying, she was completely at its mercy.

 

Her head was lolling around her shoulders as she was battling with the force to keep her neck upright. The pulling sensation somehow seemed to last both in the span of a breath and the span of eternity.

 

It was unbearable.

 

The world around her was morphed and all she could see were blurs. People, objects, scenery, they could’ve been anything. Uraraka felt like she was dissolving into the void, slowly blurring herself. She was losing herself to this vacuum in time and couldn’t even put up a fight. Just as she began to lose herself in the fear, she felt a tug.

 

She looked down at her abdomen, and then up in the distance as something came flying at her. No, someone. Her eyes widened. When they passed each other, time froze. In that split second, she saw her.

 

Chocolate brown hair whipping through the wind. Pale complexion and flushed cheeks. Rosy tunic and maroon cape billowing behind her. Wide, terrified brown eyes. Her eyes.

 

On instinct, she tried reaching out for this world’s Uraraka as the other did the same. Like a rubber band they were snapped away from each other, each being flung into the other’s previous direction. She screamed in frustration, hand still outstretched. The image of her other self screaming their name burned into her memory.

 

~

 

Uraraka slept like a rock. She wasn’t sure how she was able to sleep so soundly while also still holding onto Kirishima, but she managed it. Despite him being abnormally warm, she was able to slip into a much needed coma. But that wasn’t what stirred her. As she turned her face to reposition her head, she was met with a mass of fur that slowly suffocated her until the lack of oxygen roused her awake.

 

She jerked her head with a start, and a sharp inhale through the nose. She didn’t remember Kirishima wearing a fur collar, how long had she been out? Judging by how groggy she was, it had been a good few hours. Uraraka slowly opened her eyes.

 

“Jesus, finally awake?”

 

She nearly jumped out of her skin, causing Bakugo to stumble back and give a loud FUCK in response. “Bakugo?”

 

He was definitely carrying her. It was his cape that tried to suffocate her, she was resting on his feverishly warm shoulders, and he was gripping her legs to support her weight. “When…what? How did I get on..What?”

 

He snorted, but couldn’t hide the slight flush that appeared on his neck literally millimeters away from her face. “Get a hold of yourself. Shitty Hair needed a break and you’re heavier than you look.”

 

She suddenly became very aware of how close they were and tensed up. This morning this Bakugo put her in a chokehold and bound her to a tree. She hadn’t forgot, and surely he hadn’t either…which made this interaction very confusing. “Uh..why are you the one carrying me?”

 

He made an annoyed sound in the base of his throat and resumed walking. “We didn’t have time to stop. I don’t trust the others to keep an eye on you. I’m the strongest next to Shitty Hair. Good enough answer?”

 

She frowned, thoughts whirling around her head. She still wasn’t sure of the party’s dynamics. “I know why you don’t trust me, but why don’t you trust them?”

 

It was Bakugo’s turn to tense up. “You really don’t know shit anymore, do you?” He muttered. She was caught off guard by the change of tone. His voice had the thickness of someone desperately trying to keep something down. She decided not to push it.

 

“I think it’s time for me to be filled in, for all our sakes.” She responded quietly. He didn’t reply, only readjusted her weight and picked up his pace.

 

She looked behind them and saw the rest of the group a good 15 paces back. Deku noticed her and gave her a hesitant wave. She weakly smiled in response. Uraraka had to reassess her situation.

 

She now had allies. Bakugo didn’t trust her, but if he was willing to carry her while they’re traveling, that means she’d been accepted by him to some degree. The boys didn’t get along, but they’re traveling together in this wilderness. No, not traveling, being pursued…did they know by whom?

 

And then there’s herself. Her body was still banged up, but her shoulder being popped back into place helped immensely, and the brief rest she took gave her back some of her facilities. She was fairly positive she could fight if needed.

 

She wished she could just float away to her bed. Wait. Did she still have her quirk?

 

 She realized she hadn’t been able to feel it since she got here. Uraraka felt herself start to panic. What if it only worked in her world? Was she going to be left here defenseless? She frantically raised a hand and slapped her face with all five fingers.

 

Immediately she felt the pull in her stomach and slowly lifted off Bakugo’s back. Oh thank god. She quickly rejoined her fingers and thought Release. Her weight settled back onto Bakugo and she let out a sigh of relief. The action lasted maybe a second. Unfortunately, her ride was very observant.

 

“What the fuck was that?” Bakugo stopped in his tracks. “Did you do that?”

 

She knew it was risky, but her panic of losing her quirk overrode her cautiousness. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Uraraka mused innocently.“I just swatted a bug off my face.”

 

He tried craning his neck to glare at her. “You’re doing a shit job of making me think there’s nothing up with you.”

 

She could only agree. If any of her friends back home were acting this suspicious, she’d be convinced of foul play. But at the very least, she needed him to know they were on the same page with one thing.

 

She met his gaze with an unexpected earnestness. “Listen. I want to find out what happened to me just as much as you do. I’m tired of feeling lost. I want my strength back.”

 

His eyes widened. Apparently, this wasn’t an answer he was expecting. Bakugo’s eyes always confused her. She could never understand how they could hold so many hues of reds and golds.  Neither of them broke eye contact, as each was trying to find something in the other’s eyes.

 

“Everything ok?” The moment was broken as Deku joined them. She hadn’t realized the group had caught up to them.

 

Bakugo glared at him. “No.” He started walking again. “We need to stop soon. There’s a place over this hill we can make camp at.” Before Uraraka could tell him that she could probably walk by herself now, he stormed off at full speed with her still clinging to his back.

 

There was an uncomfortable silence as they descended down the slight incline of the trail. Uraraka decided to try to get some more information. “So how do you know Deku?”

 

“None of your damn business.”

 

Well ok then. She promptly shut her mouth.

 

After a few moments, she heard a quiet, “Why do you call him that?”

 

She looked up at the leaves passing above them. “It’s his nickname, isn’t it? Like yours is Kacchan?” He immediately bristled and she backpedaled. “But obviously no one calls you that anymore! I certainly don’t, neither does Deku!”

 

He huffed. “No one but me calls him Deku.”

 

“I don’t see it as an insult. I think it makes him sound…capable?”

 

He shook his head. “You’re so fucking strange.” A pause, and an uncomfortable squuze on her legs. “If you call me Kacchan again spy, I’ll end you.”

 

She closed her eyes. Bakugo back home was better at insulting nicknames. She never thought she’d prefer fat face over something as unoriginal as spy.

 

Was she really going to be able to make it in this world?

 

~

 

 They reached a small clearing in the trees and Bakugo unceremoniously dropped Uraraka from his back. She landed with an indignant squeak. Without thinking, she hissed out, “Asshole!”

 

His eyebrows flew into his forehead and his jaw dropped. She knew she just crossed a line with this Bakugo, but she was pissed. Just as he inhaled (to what Uraraka imagined tear her into a new one), the rest of the group tore into the clearing. Kirishima fell backwards onto the ground with a deep thud and let out a loud groan. “I thought we’d never stop.”

 

Bakugo rolled his eyes and stretched his neck. “You’re the one who picked this area. I’m going to find meat.” He gave one last withering stare at Uraraka before disappearing into the brush.

 

Uraraka was resigned to accept that she was never meant to get along with Bakugo, parallel world or not. She shook her head and stood to help the others unpack. Deku handed her a pack that was slightly smaller than the rest. “Here, this one’s yours. If you need help pitching your tent, let us know!”

 

She stared at the heavy rucksack in her hands. This belonged to the other Uraraka.

 

The other Uraraka.

 

A foggy memory flitted across her mind, but it was of an image that kept slipping through her mind. She furrowed her eyebrows. Was it a dream? Trying to recall it felt like sand slipping through her fingers. She disregarded it and walked to a modest spot to set up her things.

 

It would only make sense that the other Uraraka would’ve taken her place at UA in the same way she did here. She must’ve gotten a much warmer welcome, she thought dryly. There were much worse ways to wake up from being transported to another world than in Deku’s arms. She knew from experience.

 

UA will take care of her. I hate to say it, but I need to worry about myself. She sat down and unloaded the pack, taking her first glimpse into her parallel life here in the Kingdom of Ember.

 

Her belongings were fairly modest and clearly packed in haste. There was a dagger sheathed to a worn leather belt. A canteen of water. Food rations. A bag of coins. In a small pouch there was a delicate silver necklace with the charm of a rune attached. A smaller bag containing what Uraraka assumed was various herbs and medicines. Located at the bottom of the pack, to her pleasant surprise, was an extra change of clothes. At least she could get out of this training outfit now!

 

Deku walked over and observed her taking stock of her items. He rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. “I forgot to give you the pack with your tent in it.” He placed it down next to her and twiddled his thumbs. It looked like he was building himself up to ask her something. “You know, there’s a stream not far from here. You look like you could use a face scrub, and I need to get some water. Care to join me?”

 

She looked up at his familiar freckles and met his nervous smile. She must look terrible if he’s suggesting that. “I’d appreciate that.”

 

She packed away her things and rose to meet him. Deku turned to the remaining 3 men. “We’re going to go scout by the stream and get some water. My prince, I’ll refill your canister as well.”

 

“You don’t need to do that, Midoriya.” Todoroki responded. “Don’t worry yourself about me.”

 

In turn, Deku turned a funny color and started spluttering. “Oh it-s t-truly nothing! It’s-it’s only logical that I get you some re-refreshments, you n-need to keep up your strength! We a-all do!”

 

Uraraka raised her eyebrows. That was new. Todoroki shook his head and smiled. “Very well. Iida and I will pitch the tents.”

 

Deku nodded fervently and bowed. After a second, Uraraka made an attempt at a curtsey and awkwardly followed him into the woods. She decided to spare him and not pry.

 

As a result, the walk to the stream was quiet and uneventful. Once they arrived, Uraraka set off to search for a more private area. “I’ll be over here if you need me!” Deku nodded as he placed the canteens in the water.

 

She turned away and walked further down behind an outcropping of boulders. “I better not see any mermaids in here”, she muttered while warily eyeing the swelling stream. She set her things down and began to peel off her shoes.

 

She was going to have to take good care of her trainers and socks. Uraraka didn’t see any extra in the pack, and if they’re on the run, she should assume she couldn’t go into town and get new ones. The same goes for this. She grimaced as she ran a hand over her sports bra. Lord knows how the other Uraraka dealt with that here.

 

She stripped off her clothes and winced only slightly when lifting her shoulder. She shivered, feeling very vulnerable in the open, even hidden away by the rocks. Uraraka wanted to take a shower, not skinny dip in a strange body of water. Getting closer to the edge, she braced herself and took a step in. It was less cold than she feared, but it was far from relaxing. She clenched her teeth, grabbed the block of soap she found in her pack, and plunged in.

 

She attacked her skin with a fervor of one trying to scrub away more than grime. She was scrubbing away the memory of today, ready to be rid of it. On her was the dirt and blood of two worlds, and she was sick of it. It was time to become a member of this Ember, and blend in while looking for a way back. It wasn’t just her she needed to save: the other Uraraka needed to go home too.

 

Once she felt sufficiently clean, she went in on her undergarments. Placing them to dry in the late afternoon sun, she scooted onto a low and flat rock. Looking down, she caught her reflection in the water.

 

Uraraka could already tell she was changed. Maybe it was the nature of this place. She looked hardened, more hungry, more…primal. There was a harshness in this world that saddened her. The more time she spent here, the more she realized how much it wore on her. Uraraka knew eventually her eyes will match those of her present company. She shuddered and kicked the surface of the water, trying to shatter the image of her doomed future.

 

She hugged herself, trying to hold off the cold of the river. She knew she had to get back to Deku, but this was her first moment alone since getting here this morning.

 

Alone.

 

Suddenly realizing that she had no one to pretend in front of, her walls crashed down and she choked out a sob. Tears came freely and she wept for herself and her pain. She missed UA. She missed her friends. She missed being able to call her parents. Did she even have parents here? Uraraka felt an ache in her stomach as she struggled to suck in breaths. Clutching her abdomen, she looked down at it and almost screamed.

 

A thin gold mark encircled her navel. If she ran her finger over it, she could feel a light protrusion, like a fresh tattoo. She lunged for the soap and started scrubbing furiously, sobbing in anger now.

 

Someone did this to her. Someone sent her here, and now they’ve marked her. No matter how hard she scrubbed, no matter raw her skin got, the mark would not go away.

 

“You bastard.” She hissed at her stomach. “When I find you, I’ll kill you. I’ll fucking KILL you!”

 

“Uh, Uraraka?”

 

She whipped around to see Deku nervously peeking at her from behind a boulder. “I heard screaming…I came over to see if you were ok…”

 

Uraraka was definitely not ok. She was hysterically screaming at her naked torso on top of a rock. But she couldn’t explain why to Deku without compromising everything, so she gave a wobbly smile. “I’m just having a little trouble adjusting to all…this.” She vaguely gestured.

 

He returned a sympathetic smile while pointedly looking up, concern still running rampant in his eyes. “That’s understandable…I guess.” He exhaled loudly. “I honestly can’t understand how confusing this all must be for you. It’s confusing enough for those of us who actually know what’s going on.” He gave a nervous chuckle. “But I’m happy that even though you don’t remember us, you still trust us enough to let us help you.”

 

Her heart warmed and she smiled at the familiar sincerity. “Of course I trust you, Deku. You’re my best friend.”

 

He went pink in the face. “O-Oh! That’s nice to hear! I was never sure if you even liked me or not-uh, not to say I thought you hated me!” He started to wave his hands frantically. “You were just always closer to Iida and the p-prince! Considering…w-well it’s nice to hear you feel that way!”

 

Uraraka frowned at the strange response. So they weren’t as close in this world…well she was going to change that. She needed her friend. “Since losing my memories, you were the first kind face I saw since waking up. We’re always going to be friends.”

 

Uraraka caught Deku having an intense moment in the reflection of the stream. She smiled, still such a softy.”I’m almost done here. You can go wait by our meetup point, I’ll be right there.”

 

He gave a watery nod and turned back. She sighed and slid off the rock to her clothes. Her time to cry was over, now it was time to get to work. She examined her new clothes.

 

The black tights were familiar enough, and durable for travel. Over them and her underwear she put on a dusty pink knee-length dress with three-quarter sleeves. She looped the dagger and belt over it, cinching her waist. The dress was made of a surprisingly sturdy fabric, complimenting the tights. Her final item of clothing was a muted, deep purple cape that was held together by wooden clasps. The front of it didn’t go past her chest, leaving plenty of room for her arms, and the neck cowled up to slightly cover her neck and chin. She smiled as she grabbed the matching fingerless leather gloves.

 

This Uraraka had good style.

 

She unfortunately had to complete the look with her white trainers, but she was thankful for decent footwear in this wild terrain. She carefully folded her beat up training outfit and stuffed it in the bottom of her pack. Uraraka loathed to waste anything, and she figured she could use the fabric for something else down the line.

 

Feeling more like a human, she slung her pack over her shoulder and went to meet Deku. Much to her dismay, a Bakugo carrying a sling of dead rabbits was waiting there too. The two appeared to be deep in an argument and hadn’t noticed her yet. Before she could pause to think, she crouched down to overhear their argument. I’m going to regret this.

 

“…You let that time-bomb wander off by herself?! You shouldn’t be going out on your own with her to begin with! She’s not safe.” Uraraka frowned. Of course Bakugo would be badmouthing her.

 

Deku was shaking his head. “You don’t have anything to worry about! If you need to worry about anything, be concerned about her.” He nervously gripped his sword pommel. “We need to be careful around her, she isn’t in a stable state of mind.”

 

She knew there was no way she could’ve successfully played off her meltdown. “Hah?” Bakugo raised an eyebrow. “Who fucking cares? We’re all about to lose it. DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT’S HAPPENING?” He hissed out a breath in an effort to calm himself. He pointed his finger and jabbed it at Deku’s chest. “She obviously isn’t an immediate threat, but round face is carrying around a curse. We don’t know what else it can do, we don’t know if it can control her or reveal her location. We don’t know a goddamn thing, and she’s so fucking helpless right now she can’t even defend herself. That’s why we can’t let her out of our sight, got it dumbass?”

 

It’s not like I can’t throw a punch, she grumbled to herself.

 

Deku flinched. “Fine. You’re right. It can’t hurt being careful.” He turned to look in the direction where Uraraka was bathing. “Her magic and her life was taken from her…at least we have our memories. I just feel bad for her, Kacchan.”

 

Bakugo scoffed. “She’s fucking lucky she doesn’t have to remember. And how many damn times do I have to tell you to stop calling me that? We aren’t kids anymore, Deku.”

 

Deku laughed nervously. “It’s strange, Uraraka has seemed to have picked up that nickname too.”

 

Bakugo grimaced. “I don’t like it. I still don’t buy this ‘no memory’ shit she’s spinning, she’s acting way too familiar with all of us.”

 

Silence. She strained to hear Deku now. He was wringing his hands. “I don’t know what to make of it. It’s clearly not a willow-the-wisp, but I’m scared of letting her or the rest of them know. Morale is already low enough.” He started trembling. “Earlier, she…she called me her best friend.”

 

“Why the fuck is that weird?”

 

“Because a few weeks before you guys came to visit…she told me she hated me.”

 

Silence.

 

Bakugo looked at him. “I cannot stress to you enough how much I don’t care about your social life, idiot. We just need to take her to the mountain Sage.” He sounded like he was assuring himself more than anything, but Deku nodded along fearfully. “She will know what to do with this.”

 

Ok, eavesdropping time is over. Uraraka felt like she’d been slapped across the face. Hate Deku? Was that even possible? She felt the pit in the stomach grow heavier as she fashioned a smile on her face and strode over to meet them. If Deku could act like everything is ok, she could too.

 

Bakugo’s scowl immediately deepened as she walked up to them. “Well, at least you look a little more normal now.” He lazily looked her up and down, sending a violent flush across her face.

 

“You’re one to talk! What kind of person thinks a cape and jewelry are better substitutions for a shirt?”

 

He narrowed his eyes and crossed his arms. “How else am I supposed to show what I earned?”

 

She crossed her arms and glared at him. She wasn’t sure if he was referencing the body jewelry or the tribal tattoos etched across his skin, but she wasn’t going to humor him by asking. It was clear to her that everything about his outfit was to indicate strength and battle prowess, and that he was a very successful warrior. She was itching to spar with this Bakugo and to wipe that smug look off his face.

 

The sun descending past the horizon caused the men to look like they were towering over her. Well, even more so than usual.

 

Deku sighed. “Let’s get back to camp and eat.”

 

Bakugo smirked and pushed past, clipping her shoulder as he did. “Don’t tell me what to do, commoner.”

 

His demeanor toward Deku had completely changed. Her mouth hung open in shock and rage while Deku just shook his head. “Always a gentleman.”

 

By the time they got back to the camp, the tents had been pitched and the men were gathered around a newly made fire. Bakugo was off to the side furiously preparing the rabbits while staving off a ravenous Kirishima. Iida perked up seeing Uraraka and handed her a cup filled with dark liquid. “You look almost back to normal!”

 

Before she could stop herself, she barked out a laugh. “Sorry.” She said sheepishly as she sat by the fire.

 

Iida stared at the flame. “No, I’m sorry. Of course you’re not back to normal.”

 

She couldn’t bear to see another one of her friends so sad at her expense. “No really, it’s ok!” She took a swig of her cup and almost immediately spat it back out. This was definitely not water, but it warmed her insides.

 

Iida seemed to lighten up for a moment, but settled back into a serious posture as he gathered his breath. “Ok, we’re all here now, and we won’t be going anywhere till morning, I think it’s finally time we tell you what’s going on.”

 

An especially loud RIP resonated from Bakugo as he ripped off a rabbit hide. Iida gulped. “Right. Well..”

 

“I for one think it’s a good idea.” Kirishima cut in, being thoroughly banished by Bakugo to join them around the fire. He took Uraraka’s cup and gulped back a swig. “I will also be here to make sure you don’t make any…embellishments.”

 

“We’re not liars!” Iida bristled. “Besides, this is technically Ember business, so there’s really no need-“

 

“No, I believe the Third Lieutenant is right.” Todoroki gently interrupted. “Our perspective is biased in one way, just as his and Bakugo’s is. Hearing both sides will be beneficial.”

 

Iida gave him a long look, but relented. Deku nodded encouragingly at him. Bakugo had acquired a hunting knife and was removing the rabbit’s organs. He looked like he would rather be anywhere but there.

 

“Ok.” Iida gave one last wary look at Bakugo before turning to Uraraka. “What we’re doing right now-traveling that is-especially with this particular group..is not, well, normal.” He leaned forward and stared at his hands. “You see, it’s because…well, a little over a week ago, ah..” He groaned. “How on earth am I supposed to explain this?”

 

“It’s ok Iida, I’ll take it from here.” Todoroki had his hand on Iida’s shoulder. He looked at Uraraka.

 

“In the most simple terms: my father, the King of Ember, has lost his mind.”

Chapter Text

“Wait.”

 

The group shifted their view to note Bakugo standing towards them, pointing the hunting knife directly at Uraraka. “Only tell her the same amount of information the enemy knows.”

 

She internally groaned. Apparently, she couldn’t keep it off her face either, because he glowered at her in return. Todoroki narrowed his eyes, but put his hand up in a peaceful gesture. “Very well. Sorry my friend”, he held her gaze with a deep expression of remorse.

 

She gave an unconvincing giggle and scratched the back of her head. “Don’t worry about it, we can’t be too careful.”

 

She understood the paranoia. For all they knew, Uraraka could be a bug to gather valuable information for the enemy to extract later. She wanted to disagree, but she couldn’t rule out the possibility that the enemy-Endeavor?-switched out their Healer Uraraka for another, less useful one. The golden band on her stomach could be anything from a symbol used to bind her to the spell caster to a simple after effect of the spell. The pit in her stomach doubled in size.

 

To comfort herself, she placed her fingertips together to connect the pads. Did the other Uraraka do this? “Um…before we get to why we’re here, would you be able to tell me more about who I am?”

 

Nothing she said was right. Todoroki had a pained look on his face while Iida gave her a sad smile. “You’ve always been a bit of a mystery, Uraraka.” He straightened his shoulders. “Growing up, other than the prince and his siblings, there were rarely any other children in the castle. Since the prince and I are of a similar age, we were tutored together. It was only natural that once I turned 13 I officially assumed the position of his vassal, I’d essentially been protecting him since childhood. Oh.” Iida’s face fell slightly. “I guess it would be helpful to remind you that my family has been serving as the special guard for the royal family of Ember for generations. Since birth, I’ve been destined to be a knight and serve along my family.” She couldn’t help but catch the hint of bitterness he said it with.

 

“Anyways…One morning (we must’ve been 8 or 9 at the time), the trading caravans made their annual trip to Aberon, the capital. It happens every spring as a way for the traveling merchants to sell higher quality goods while paying their yearly tax to the crown. Following a cart was a very dirty, very lost looking little girl. It was…well, it was you.”

 

“It seemed like you were unaccompanied, like you were just following this merchant because you didn’t know where else to go.” Iida looked at his hands and Uraraka’s heart constricted. “I remembered it made me sad.”

 

Everyone around the fire was deeply invested in his story. Even Bakugo, feigning disinterest, had his ear in their direction. Kirishima had his leg pulled up against him, listening intently with his chin resting on his knees. Iida continued. “Naturally, Prince Todoroki and I saw another child enter the castle grounds and immediately became excited. It didn’t matter that the prince was forbidden to leave his quarters at the time, nothing was going to stop us from meeting a potential playmate.” He smiled. “The merchant you were following you had ordered you to fetch water from the public well. As they were setting up their caravans, you wandered into the courtyard with a bucket roughly half your size.”

 

He gave a genuine laugh that lifted Uraraka’s spirits. “It was perfect. The courtyard was just inside the castle grounds, so I was able to sneak the prince right to you. You were so startled! I didn’t blame you, after such an arduous journey you were suddenly accosted by two hyperactive boys.”

 

She smiled at the thought. “So how did I end up staying at the capital?”

 

Iida looked to Todoroki, who cleared his throat uncomfortably. “I was…dealing with a severe injury at the time.” Her eyes flicked to the right side of his face. “I was confined to my quarters so I could heal properly. When we met you, you took one look at my bandage and asked if you could see it. I’m not sure what possessed me to take it off for you, but I did.”

 

His brow furrowed. “I didn’t know why you wanted to see it. Iida was against it, convinced we were going to get in trouble. But nevertheless, I showed my…injury to you. I remember you frowned at it and I became self conscious. But then, you raised your hand to touch my face,  and you healed it. The pain was gone. I could see again. All that was left was this faint scar. You were a small girl covered in dirt, and could perform miracles that not even our top healers could pull off.”

 

Iida nodded enthusiastically. “There’s a reason why your healing magic is so special. It’s because you don’t cast to use it! I’ve never seen it before. Your fingertips glow, and whatever you touch is immediately repaired. Our mages couldn’t classify it as medical spellcasting, so they merely called it vitality magic, because it was like you were sharing your own life force. From then on, the castle took you in and you became Uraraka Ochako, royal healer to the Castle of Ember.”

 

Oh no. Uraraka returned his compliment with a strained smile. This is bad. It sounded like they were heavily depending on Ember Uraraka’s miraculous healing abilities to get them through this dangerous journey. She hadn’t felt this useless or anxious since her first year at UA. No wonder they panicked when she said she couldn’t do it!

 

Kirishima whistled, breaking her out of her growing panic. “Well damn, when we heard of how young you were yet in such a high position, I knew there was something more to you! That kind of magic is rare rare, even our kingdom hasn’t had a magic user like that in decades. Did your parents have it too?”

 

Uraraka frowned. “Todo-your highness, you said you found me following after a caravan. Did it belong to my family?” It made sense if she was dirty, she couldn’t imagine her family being wealthy in this world either.

 

She was met with an uncomfortable silence. Todoroki was slightly guarded when he finally responded. “From what we gathered from the merchants, they found you as the sole survivor of a raided village.” Oh. “They took pity on you and allowed you to join their caravan as long as you carried out chores for them.”

 

She stared hard at the fire. Kirishima softly put a hand on Uraraka’s shoulder as she tried to swallow the lump in her throat. “So she was all alone…”

 

She wanted to cry for this Uraraka, whose life sounded like her worst nightmare come true. Her parents had been long dead. She wasn’t dirty because she was a peasant, she was dirty because she was an unwanted orphan with no one to care for her. And yet, this little Uraraka had enough kindness in her heart to heal the injury of a complete stranger. Her heart swelled with emotion. Uraraka wanted to find her other self and envelop her in a fierce embrace.

 

“But you have a happy ending!” Iida urged. “While you came to us under those conditions, you have flourished since as a person and as a healer. There hasn’t been a day that’s gone by where you’ve been alone. Since that morning, I believe I can speak for the prince when I say you have been our closest friend.”

 

Todoroki softly smiled. “More like family.”

 

Uraraka sniffed loudly and gave them a watery smile, overcome with emotion. She was so lucky to have them.

 

Tch.”

 

Their heads snapped to Bakugo vehemently cutting up the now-prepared meat. “Don’t understand what’s so fucking sad. Death happens. People leave. Get over yourself and move on.”

 

To Uraraka’s surprise, no one rose to argue with him or admonish his outburst. In fact, they all shrank in on themselves. Her blood started to boil. They could ignore him, but she couldn’t. She narrowed her eyes. “And that’s what you believe?”

 

He slammed the knife down. “That’s what I know!” He threw his hands in the air in a mocking gesture. “Am I supposed to feel bad that your parents died, what, ten fucking years ago? That warrants my pity? Please.” He spat. “What you should be sad about is how weak your parents were for not even being able to protect themselves.”

 

She shot up, absolutely furious. She had had enough. “What the hell is your problem?” Uraraka was shaking with anger. “It doesn’t matter when you lose someone, what matters is the hole it leaves behind in your heart! Don’t you have any decency in you, or are you just as monstrous as your appearance?”

 

Arms crossed, jaw set to land the final blow. “If they really loved you, they would’ve fought harder to stick around.”

 

She didn’t remember walking towards him. One moment, Kirishima was trying to hold her back, the next, she was in Bakugo’s face. He met her challenge with a widened stance, eyes bloodshot and full of rage. He was emanating a cold fury that dominated the space around them. It didn’t matter that she had to stretch her neck up to look directly into his eyes, she wouldn’t back down.

 

“Uraraka-“ Deku warned.

 

“No! I don’t care if my memories were taken from me.” She thought of her recently deceased grandparents, the civilians she had failed to save, witnessing the pain of someone realizing their loved one wasn’t coming back. “You are right. People do leave you. And that feeling never goes away, it lives in each of us differently. I don’t care about what the hell you’re the prince or warrior of, you have no authority over how someone grieves. Either learn some compassion or shut up.” She was breathing heavily by the time she finished.

 

Nobody moved. She didn’t care anymore. If he flew into a rage, she knew she could knock him on his ass if she really needed to. In fact, Uraraka was almost hoping he would.

 

What happened was so much worse. As they were staring each other down, for a fleeting moment something broke behind Bakugo’s eyes and his mask slipped. The anger almost immediately came back as he bared his teeth, but the heat behind it was gone. His demeanor completely shifted, leaving the tensed Uraraka dumbfounded. Breaking away first, he ran his hand through his ash blonde hair and closed his eyes. A mirthless laugh came from his throat. “So it never goes away, huh?” It was so quiet, she almost didn’t catch it.

 

His reaction deflated her. “I…I-“ He put up a hand to silence her and peered up at the dark sky, concealing his face. “I think it’d be best if I did a lap around the perimeter.” Before she could respond, he disappeared. Silence consumed the group once again.

 

Dejected, Uraraka shuffled back to the fire and collapsed back in her seat. Kirishima shook his head and groaned. “Sorry about that…we’re all just, really stressed at the moment. He’s not handling it well.”

 

Uraraka put her face in her hands, suddenly embarrassed at her outburst. “Why do I feel like the one in the wrong?” She peeked at her friends through her fingers. “Was I overreacting?” What was that argument even about?

 

Deku scratched at his nose and didn’t make eye contact. “Kirishima is right, it’s complicated.”

 

She bit her lip. “I’m tired of not understanding. Please, tell me what’s going on.”

 

The atmosphere shifted once again. Deku leaned in and nervously bounced his knee. “It’s actually probably a good thing you sent Kacchan away Uraraka, he wouldn’t have taken this well either.”

 

Kirishima grimaced. “Yeah…it’s been a rough week.” He gave a half assed bow towards Todoroki, greatly offending Iida. “Ember prince, take it away. I’ll take over rabbit duty and chime in when needed.”

 

Uraraka wasn’t sure how much she trusted Kirishima not to sneak in a few bites for himself, but no one else objected to his help. Hand back fiddling to his clasp, Todoroki tightly nodded.

 

“Before we begin, I need to give you a brief history lesson. Do you remember the inception of the elusive country, Kirin?” Uraraka shook her head no.

 

“Right…” Todoroki cleared his throat, throwing a furtive glance at Kirishima as he dumped the meat into the pot over the fire. “Up until a century ago, Kirin existed as the western-most part of Ember. It’s a very wild landscape, surrounded by a mountain range that kept it fairly isolated from the rest of the kingdom. Compared to the rolling hills and lush valleys of Ember, it’s a severe and mysterious landscape. And although very difficult to travel to, the resources discovered there were too valuable to abandon.” Kirishima snorted.

 

“What kind of resources?” Uraraka asked.

 

“Magic.” Todoroki said bluntly. “While magic is present in Ember, it is spread far out and much less common. Confined within the Kirin mountains is a land saturated with magic and magical beings. The mountains almost act like a barrier to the rest of the country.”

 

“And also act as a great mean of defense.” Kirishima cut in, stirring the simmering stew. Todoroki nodded. “Yes, very difficult to invade.” He added begrudgingly.

 

“As I said before, Kirin used to exist not as an independent state, but a territory of Ember. The terrain ranges from high mountainous regions to poisonous swamps and thick forest. The land is teeming with strange magical creatures and recluses strong enough to survive on their own. For humans, it’s almost uninhabitable. That’s why despite the high demand of resources to harvest there, only one human city has remained since it’s settlement.”

 

“Tell her why, prince.” Kirishima cocked his head, smile gone. “Tell her why despite all this, you Ember colonizers were crazy enough to build there and rule our mountains.” He returned to his seat next to Uraraka and crossed his arms.

 

Todoroki shifted uncomfortably as Iida tried to make himself smaller. Uraraka leaned in with baited breath. “Well?”

 

“Well…” Todoroki gestured at Kirishima. “It was the dragons. To be able to conquer their power and harvest their magic made us the most powerful kingdom on the continent. If you ruled the skies, you ruled everything.”

 

“Two hundred years ago, a century before they rebelled-“

 

“Peacefully broke off!” Kirishima interjected defensively.

 

“Of course, my mistake.” Todoroki sighed. “A century before they, peacefully broke off, the first humans arrived in Kirin and settled the great city of Argon. It was the first time any group of people had survived long enough to do so. These people, we call them the Settlers, were able to somehow tame the dragons and ride them back to our capital, Aberon.”

 

He paused. “From there, our history books state that in that century we as a kingdom blossomed under the prosperity and valor of our link with Argon. Unfortunately, the number of dragons decreased significantly until they were virtually extinct. When Argon…split off…it was perceived as an act of selfish rebellion from the disgraced dragon tamers. We were always taught that they were corrupted by their own greed and retreated to the mountains to hoard what riches they had left…Relations between the two countries have been abysmal to this day.” He finished lamely.

 

Deku began to distribute bowls and utensils as the stew cooked. Uraraka’s stomach grumbled, she didn’t remember the last time she had eaten. “But we now know that that wasn’t the case!” Iida piped up enthusiastically, before falling back into an anxious frown. “It’s much more…complicated than that”

 

Kirishima shot him a pointed look. “Nothing complicated about the enslavement of a species, book worm.”

 

Uraraka almost spat out her meal. Iida bristled. “We had no idea dragons were intelligent, let alone could shapeshift! We didn’t even know you weren’t extinct until you transformed into one and destroyed the dining hall!”

 

“You did, or at least your superiors did.” Kirishima shot back. “When the Settlers first came, the Deity of the Mountain was so impressed by their ferocity and resilience, she granted them the magic to communicate with us in our dragon forms. She Saw a vision of an advanced society, dragon and human working together to create a utopia. The goal was coexistence, but your people took it as an opportunity to dominate us. Who they couldn’t control they killed, and boy,” he spat, “they did. Your government knew, but turned a blind eye to the carnage. Entire bloodlines were wiped out in hopes of destroying the memory that dragons were ever free.”

 

Uraraka was aghast, her eyes fixed on the young men in front of her. Deku and Iida hung their heads while Todoroki grit his teeth. She clutched her bowl of stew, trying to glean some sad excuse for comfort from the heat. “How…how did Kirin gain its independence?”

 

Kirishima, seemingly unaffected by the tense atmosphere he created, slurped down his meal in a single gulp and threw his bowl down with a satisfied thump. He puffed out his chest and smirked at her. “There was a young woman who had fallen in love with a male dragon. I can’t blame her, we are very attractive.” Uraraka blushed furiously and Iida rolled his eyes.

 

 “It’s the truth! It wasn’t uncommon at the time, save for the fact it was extremely illegal. She was the daughter of the head of Argon’s military. He was a brutal and cruel man who saw us dragons as nothing more than livestock.” He clenched his fists.

 

“According to the tales passed down by our elders, she was a gentle person whose kindness was perceived as weakness and made her an outcast in her own society. But it was that compassion that opened her eyes to the horrors happening in front of her, and opened her heart to our people.” He smiled wistfully at the fire and Uraraka couldn’t help but wonder how much of this was truth, and how much of it was a romanticized version of a rebellion born out of horror and violence. But weren’t revolutions always conceived on the ideals of the romantic? Regardless, it was clear to her that Kirishima held onto this story so tightly, with an emotion she recognized she could never understand. It twisted her heart.

 

 “One moonless night, she and her lover ran away from the city and climbed the Weeping Mountain to seek out the Deity. They pled their case and begged for her protection. Guilt ridden for her own role in this tragedy, the Deity accepted their plea. She Saw a future of peace for Kirin through the couple, and granted the woman a magic stone. With this stone, she could call on the help of all the magical creatures in Kirin and drive out the Ember colonizers.”

 

“Wait,” Uraraka was confused. She was so caught up in his storytelling that she didn’t even realize she missed something. “Who exactly is the Deity of the Mountain?”

 

“A myth.” Deku chimed in. “In Ember mythology, she’s called the Demon of the Mountain. It is said she is a being of elemental magic that claims the mountain range as her territory, therefore giving it its special magical properties. According to Ember legend, no one in living memory has seen her descend from her Weeping Mountain in centuries. She is a feared entity that you should never mess with, unless you want to be cursed.” His face fell. “Well, that’s what we were taught…”

 

“But Kirishima is talking about her like she’s real.” Uraraka argued.

 

“That’s because as we very recently discovered, she is in fact, very real.” Todoroki deadpanned. He exchanged a glance with Iida.

 

Kirishima crossed his eyebrows, unimpressed. “I won’t lie, my people have gone to great lengths to conceal our country’s secrets, but it’s pathetic how you guys are so willing to dismiss your own past and call it myth.”

 

He turned to Uraraka. “Despite the fact that not even my people have seen her since she helped us a century ago, she exists. With that magic stone, the woman was granted the Power of Kirin, the power to communicate with all magical beings in our country. Along with the dragons and the support of the ever-growing Ember sympathizers, they were able to overthrow the central government and liberate the remaining dragons!”

 

He chuckled nervously, suddenly aware of his enthusiastic outburst. Kirishima shrugged. “Well, a lot more happened. Battles, political warfare, and having to rebuild an entire society from the ground up, but you get the gist of it.”

 

The fire illuminated his face, giving an almost ethereal gleam to his pointed teeth. His hair looked like it was casting its own gentle glow and in his eyes Uraraka could see the history mirrored in them. Get a hold of yourself Ochako we’re talking about something serious.

 

His gravitas melted away and his face slightly fell. “The dragons were too weak and too few in number to survive on their own anymore. As payment to the Deity, the woman made it her life’s work to restore us to our full might and protect the magical beings of Kirin forevermore. She became the first Queen of Kirin, also known as the Queen of the Beasts. That is why Argon told the world we went extinct and hid away from the world.” He narrowed his eyes at the trio of men in front of him. “To protect and rebuild.”

 

Uraraka hummed in agreement, mind buzzing with the information she was just presented. If she was being honest, she wasn’t sure how much of this she was truly digesting. This wasn’t her history, this wasn’t her world. Magic? God-like deities? It was going to take time to understand.

 

But, there was nothing far-fetched about the oppression of innocents and exploitation. That was villain territory. Uraraka couldn’t believe she was born into such merciless kingdom. It went against every single one of her principles as a hero. She glanced at Todoroki. “And this is why we ran away? Because we found out the truth?”

 

She, again, was alarmed to see the drastic change in her colleagues. Kirishima squeezed his eyes shut and Iida stiffened like a board. “I wish that was just the case.”

 

An exasperated sound escaped from Uraraka’s throat. “You’re telling me there’s something more? Something worse than finding out you almost drove an entire species to extinction and gutted their resources for wealth?”

 

Todoroki hung his head. “We warned you, this is a mess.”

 

She shut her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose. “Fine. Okay. Then why, us four citizens of Ember and two Kirin…diplomats (?) are currently fleeing through the Faroh woods?” She was proud of herself for at least remembering that much. She was really in one of Deku’s Dungeon and Dragon campaigns.

 

The Ember prince hadn’t moved. “It was supposed to be a summit meeting…we were supposed to fix our relationship.” He choked out in a halted voice.

 

He started again slowly, choosing his words carefully. “It was the first time in history since Argon seceded that the two heads of the kingdom would meet in person. We were making efforts to restore our broken ties with Kirin in order to reestablish some sort of trade.” His face turned to stone. “But that’s not what happened.”

 

Deku rested his head on his hands glumly. “A royal envoy arrived in Aberon the better part of two weeks ago. Along with Kirishima and Bakugo, it also contained six other guards…and the king.”

 

Uraraka raised her eyebrows. “The King?”

 

“Yes.” Kirishima slumped. “Masaru, the Gentle King of Kirin.”

 

So Bakugo is a prince! Oh god, and I basically told him to piss off. Somehow the word Prince didn’t seem to fit him though. It seemed too…refined. She remembered meeting his parents at a Parent’s Weekend during their second year. And, much to Bakugo’s annoyance, they had even invited her over for dinner once after her and Bakugo’s internship shift ended late. His father had warm eyes and a comforting way of speaking. She had really enjoyed his cooking. “The queen didn’t join?”

 

Kirishima shook his head. “The queen ruled in King Masaru’s absence. There always needs to be a royal in the capital.” He didn’t elaborate.

 

“Okay. So is the king still in Aberon?” She inquired.

 

Todoroki ran his hand through his hair, the right side of his face barely illuminated against the light of the fire. “Do you remember when Midoriya said that in Ember we knew the Deity as the Demon of the Mountain?”

 

She nodded her head. Todoroki grimaced. “We know her from an old folktale, passed down from centuries ago. The better part of three centuries in fact. The tale is called the Demon of the Weeping Mountain.”

 

Uraraka knit her brows together. “And this has to do with what happened last week?”

 

He sighed and nodded his head. “Just bear with me for a minute.” He shifted in his seat, pulling his traveler’s cloak tighter. “It was only ever rumors, superstition to confirm strange behavior. No one actually believes it. But people believe that the Ember royal family is…cursed. And that she put the curse on us.”

 

“Three centuries ago, just as the kingdom was born, the first King of Ember-my direct ancestor-set out to get the blessing from the Demon living on the Weeping Mountain. It was seen as a trial that needed to be passed in order to prove himself to be worthy of ruling. If he was deemed worthy, the Dem-Deity would grant him the gift of magic.

 

You see, humans aren’t inherently born with magic, it must be gifted by an extremely powerful magical being. After that, it can be passed down through generations, but it appears at random and you can’t predict which child will inherit it. It’s why magic is much less common in Ember, for the vast majority of magic creatures lie hidden away in Kirin. To possess any form of magic is considered an immense gift. The Weeping Mountain gets its name from being an inactive volcano. It’s said that the last time it erupted, the light from the lava could be seen from miles around. It looked like the mountain was crying for its own destruction.”

 

Kirishima put his hands behind his neck and stretched. “Kirin credits that night with the birth of dragons. As the mountain exploded, we also flew forth from the molten rock as beings of pure fire. As we mixed with the magic in the air, our exposed exterior cooled down, and we formed into what you see today. See,” he suddenly hissed out a small stream of fire, causing Uraraka to shriek in surprise. “The fire within us burns just as brightly as the night we burst out of the Weeping Mountain. As long as we’re alive, it’ll never go out.”

 

Todoroki frowned. “Can you please give us at least a small warning before you do something like that?”

 

“Oh I’m sorry prince, you don’t like me showing off?” Kirishima smiled mockingly.

 

The prince glanced down at the dragon with slight disdain. “No, you just set yourself on fire.”

 

They all followed his line of sight to see the knee of Kirishima’s pants smoking. He frantically put it out with his hands and retreated in on himself, ears burning.

 

The corner of Todoroki’s mouth twitched. “Right. While we don’t have anything in our stories concerning dragons, we do credit the Deity with stopping the eruption and saving the surrounding lands. It was a devastating explosion that would’ve wiped out Kirin and at least a portion of Ember.”

 

Uraraka was still eyeing Kirishima’s pants warily. “And when was this?”

 

Deku stretched out his legs. “Maybe…eight hundred years ago? A thousand? No one quite knows for sure if it even happened. I always thought it was just an afterthought to explain why the Deity took up residence on it.”

 

“It happened.” Kirishima mumbled with a bit of a pout in his tone, like a child insisting on the existence of the tooth fairy. Uraraka found herself smiling and gave him a sympathetic pat on the shoulder. “Of course it did.”

 

It was fully dark now. The fire was their main source of light, but Uraraka was pleasantly surprised to see how brightly the stars shone. Even without the fire, she figured she could still see everyone clearly. “So…the Ember king? Three hundred years ago?”

 

Todoroki groaned. “Right, sorry. I’m really not used to speaking this much.” To further his point, he took a nervous swig of his drink and cleared his throat. “After weeks of toiling and fighting, the King finally made it to the summit. He met with the Deity and asked for her ultimate gift, the elemental magic of fire. Other than dragons, no living thing had ever possessed it.” He paused. “She said no, that fire was not meant for anyone but the dragons. She acknowledged his resolve as a future leader of men, but could not give what he was asking her. Tch.”

 

He started wringing his hands as his eyes clouded in anger. “But of course the King couldn’t take no for an answer. While his stay on the mountain, he somehow stole the power and escaped. As penance for such a heinous act, the Deity put a curse on him. Any member of the royal family born with the power to control flame shall either be consumed of it by the body or of the mind. It’s the price to pay for stolen magic.”

 

Well. Endeavor was a fire wielder in her world, it would make sense he was one in this. And it drove him to insanity? Todoroki continued. “In the span of time between Ember’s inception and now, there have only been eight pyromancers born into the royal family. Just as the curse stated, they have either been burned up by the flame itself or driven to insanity by it.”

 

Kirishima shook his head. “That’s because no one is supposed to have that internal flame except us. Humans weren’t built for it.”

 

Todoroki nodded curtly in agreement and stared into the darkness behind Uraraka and Kirishima. He didn’t continue. She prodded. “So we’re running away because your father went insane..?”

 

The prince didn’t speak again, it looked like it pained him to try. Deku made a sound of frustration and hit his knee. “It’s my fault! It’s all my fault! If I hadn’t have brought that stupid book-“

 

“No, Midoriya,” Todoroki jerked his head towards him, “This would’ve happened with or without you. It was inevitable.”

 

Deku didn’t look convinced. He swerved to look at Uraraka, pleading. “No, it is my fault, and while it was on accident, I bear that weight. I came to Aberon four years ago to train as a squire under Iida’s family. I was sent there by-my previous master, with a letter of recommendation…and a gift.”

 

He threw his head back. “It was this ancient tome that no one could translate. My master thought that even if its secrets could never be accessed, it was still valuable enough for the King to take me request seriously.” He looked like he was about to cry. “We had no idea how old it was. It was so saturated in preservation magic, it didn’t look older than a few years.”

 

Todoroki rubbed at his face tiredly. “My father has always been very public about his magical abilities. King Enji has always had the reputation of a powerful pyromancer. He used his fire to rule with an absolute fist. It sounds harsh, but since he took the throne, there have been zero internal skirmishes and our borders have been the quietest they’ve been in years.”

 

“That’s because your father’s power is horrifying.” Iida muttered to himself. He flinched when he realized everyone had heard. “Sorry.”

 

“No, you’re right.” Todoroki sighed. “He’s a bully and he’s power hungry, but he never-he-“ He struggled to finish the sentence and Kirishima tensed beside Uraraka. “No one knew about his condition, but since he couldn’t be burned by fire, we knew it was only a matter of time before he started acting strange. I don’t know what we expected…we thought maybe he would just forget who we were…”

 

He shook his head. “Turns out he had been slowly losing his mind for years, succumbing to paranoia and hallucinations he took as visions. We just couldn’t catch the signs. He wouldn’t let us.” Another sigh. “And he knew it too. He was desperate to stay on top, to be the most powerful without paying the price. My entire childhood consisted of him preparing my siblings and I for…something. He wouldn’t tell us, like he couldn’t even trust his own children. Well, except Touya.”

 

“Touya?” Uraraka had never heard of him.

 

Todoroki made a face and Iida shifted uncomfortably. “My eldest half-brother, born out of wedlock. He still isn’t recognized by the court, the people don’t even know his true name…but he was born with fire magic. My father couldn’t ignore him. His power is unique, but scars him horribly. I’ll be honest, when he finally found out how to use it without significantly hurting himself, I got scared.”

 

Iida nodded enthusiastically. “Touya’s not insane, but he’s not…quite right. Extremely violent, likes to see others suffer. He has never held any official title, but the King always kept him close, and he would sometimes disappear for weeks on end to complete…errands on his behalf. The court knew him as Dabi, and no one went near him.”

 

Kirishima made a face. “He is one scary looking son of a bitch. I tried talking to him once after we arrived…I really thought he wanted to kill me right there.”

 

Iida grunted in agreement. “A month after Midoriya arrived with the book, Dabi disappeared with it and didn’t come back for months. I think we all thought he died on whatever mission King Enji sent him on.” The smile disappeared. “But he came back.”

 

“He found a way to translate the tome.” A whisper came from Todoroki. The air grew a little colder. “They had been hiding it for years. We…didn’t know until last week.”

 

Uraraka noticed the grip Kirishima had on his knee tighten. She gulped and looked around at the group. Iida was intently watching Todoroki with worry written all over his face while Deku just looked plain sick. “How did you find out?”

 

There was a pause. When Todoroki finally spoke, it was in a hushed tone. “The book was extremely old, written intentionally in code. Dabi must’ve searched far beyond our borders for a rune matrix advanced enough to translate the symbols. I’m positive my father went through the trouble of all this to increase its cultural value-like I said before, magic in any form is extremely valuable-but that was before he understood what was contained in it. The author must’ve been a brilliant sorcerer, because in it contained research dedicated to some of the most intricate spellcasting in living memory. Particularly its documentation of curse reversal.”

 

Eyes still on Deku, Uraraka asked, “And this was good news? Didn’t that mean you could cure your father and half brother?” Uraraka pulled up short, suddenly remembered who she was talking to. “And couldn’t it help y-“ She instinctively clapped her hand over her mouth, cutting herself off in time. You aren’t supposed to know he can control fire!

 

Todoroki’s eyes turned steely. “There are some prices too steep. Some wrongs that can’t be righted, because it would send you so far over the edge you wouldn’t be able to come back.” His face tightened. “But if you’ve already been slowly slipping into your own world of paranoia and fear, if you’ve had the voice of pure evil whispering into your ear for years, you’d be desperate enough to try anything.”

 

Uraraka felt her stomach drop. “Tell me what happened.”

 

“Sacrifice.” He replied, devoid of any emotion. “Multiple sacrifices.” It was Uraraka’s turn to shudder.

 

“Combined with the book’s instructions and Dabi’s…connections, they were able to devise a monstrosity of a plan to free the King from this curse. It took years for them to get it ready but once they did…” He gripped his knees. “We honestly still don’t know what the ritual entailed, we fled before they were able to complete it. All we know is that up until recently, it was supposed to be next to impossible to enact.”

 

“Why?” Uraraka asked.

 

The emotion slowly creeped back into his voice. “All spells can be broken, it’s one of the fundamental laws of Mana. Old, powerful curses are no different, but cast by a powerful enough sorcerer or sorceress, they can put in loopholes. For this particular curse, a bloodline curse, one of the sacrifices must be a legitimate heir carrying the same affliction. Dabi didn’t work because his blood wasn’t ‘pure’ enough to be seen as an heir to the Ember throne.” He swallowed hard. “I told you that out of the generations of Todoroki’s ruling Ember, there had been only eight fire wielders. Three of the five, including my half-brother, have all been born in the last forty years.” He closed his eyes and breathed through his nose. “I’m the eighth.”

 

“My mother was always afraid of my father’s lust for power. She must’ve known if he found out about my magic, he would’ve used it to hurt people. When I first showed her I could produce a flame, she flew into a panicked frenzy and tried to put it out with whatever water was closest…which was a boiling pot of tea.” Her eyes shifted to his scar, the same one she had healed all those years ago. “I never blamed her. She begged for my forgiveness and begged me to never show my father what I could do. Because I also inherited her great grandfather’s ice magic, I was able to keep myself from burning my skin too horribly. I thought I hid it well enough…”

 

Uraraka gave a small jolt as Kirishima let out a low growl. “It was all a trap. They didn’t want to discuss opening up trading routes. Part of the spell required the blood of someone blessed by the curse caster, and the Kirin royal family is the last bloodline in over a century to have made contact with the Deity.”

 

Uraraka’s eyes widened in horror as she understood what he was saying. “Kirishima, why did you risk exposing yourself and transformed?”

 

Todoroki shot him a sympathetic glance before continuing. “My father and King Masaru were working late in the night doing what we thought was mapping out a main road between our capital and their border. Dabi had asked me to join, they wanted my opinion on something. I thought it strange since I’m the third in line for the throne and I’m hardly listened to, but I figured it might have had something to do with my time abroad as an ambassador. So I followed him.”

 

“I didn’t trust it at all.” Iida interjected. “Granted, I’ve never trusted Dabi, and felt I had to keep a watch over the prince. Doing what I always did, I went to grab Midoriya for an extra pair of eyes.”

 

Deku nodded. “When Iida found me, I was with you Uraraka. We were…discussing something. You weren’t done with me, so you came along as well.” He looked at his hands. “I can’t imagine what would’ve happened if we hadn’t have done that.”

 

Kirishima crossed his arms over his chest. “Bakugo and I were already on our way to request our king’s presence. Bakugo had gotten into a fight with one of the guards and as our custom dictates, the king had to be the one to pass judgement and end the matter. Also, I’m pretty sure Bakugo was worried about his father overworking himself and wanted to give him an excuse to rest.” He added as a quick aside. She nodded. Leave it to blasty to try to help someone by picking a fight with someone else.

 

“It was strange.” Todoroki mused, playing with his coat clasp. “I didn’t understand why they were meeting in the catacombs. We would only go down there for burials.”

 

“Well, we know now.” Iida added darkly. Deku nodded curtly.

 

“When Dabi opened the door, I knew something was off. Father and King Masaru weren’t the only ones in there. There was a strange man with the hand of a corpse attached to his face, along with a young woman I didn’t recognize and a few other suspicious fellows. I couldn’t even ask what was happening because before I knew it, Dabi had struck the back of my head and I blacked out.” His hands started shaking. Uraraka noticed a sheen of sweat break out on his forehead. “I’m sorry. This is the first time we’ve properly discussed what happened. It’s difficult to talk about.”

 

“I…woke up, tied to an altar. King Masaru was unconscious, tied to another on the opposite side of some sort of transmutation circle. The man with the hand on his face was chanting some awful incantation and my…father stood in the center of it. I remember screaming at him to help me.” His hands tightened into fists. “He just looked at me and asked, ‘Did you really think you could keep it hidden from me?’” Now Uraraka thought she was going to be sick.

 

“He just kept smiling at me with this faraway look in his eyes. At one point he started caressing my hair and telling me how proud he was of me and how I was going to save everyone.” His eyes were burning. “I didn’t recognize him anymore. I really thought I was going to die.”

 

Deku had gotten up seated himself next to Todoroki, legs touching and a hand gently clasped on his shoulder. “We heard the screams. We thought an enemy had snuck in through the catacombs. It didn’t even occur to us who was down there…. We had. No idea.”

 

He sucked in his cheeks. “Kacchan kicked open the door. It was a nightmare. We…didn’t get there in time.” It was quiet again.

 

“What do you mean?” Uraraka pressed. Still no one answered. “What do you mean didn’t get there in time?” Then it hit her. She gasped. “No.”

 

Deku didn’t meet her eyes. “By the time we got there, Dabi had already slit King Masaru’s throat…he was already gone.” He started pulling at his hair. “If we hadn’t wasted so much time arguing earlier, we could’ve-we could’ve-“

 

Iida jerked up a hand to silence him. “You can’t think about that.” But even he was losing his nerve. “We can’t…we can’t-“ When words failed, he tried to gesture with his hands, but came up empty.

 

Kirishima was quiet. He looked lost in thought. “When he broke the door open, it was like time had stopped. We just all looked at each other in shock. Then we saw the King and I…we…” Uraraka thought he was trembling, but he was shaking in rage. “We trusted you.” He whispered. His eyes glinted in a way that unnerved Uraraka to her core.

 

Deku peered at Todoroki. “It was chaos after. Iida and I sprang to free the prince while Kacchan flung himself at King Enji. Kirishima started taking on Dabi and his cronies while you, Uraraka, were able to identify the strange man as the spell caster. You were able to wrench that awful hand off his face and break the casting.” He turned his head to Kirishima. “King Enji set himself on fire trying to get Kacchan off him. Kacchan’s tough, but I’d never seen him so burned…we were going to lose the fight. We had to run.”

 

“We made it to the dining hall before we were surrounded again. You were busy trying to heal Kacchan and I was carrying Prince Todoroki. Iida was our main point of offense at that point, and was casting every defensive spell he knew. And then-“ He nodded at Kirishima to continue.

 

Kirishima exhaled loudly and cracked his knuckles. “And then, I said to hell with it, and transformed into a goddamn dragon. The surprise bought us enough time to get everyone on my back-which was ridiculously heavy and very hard to fly with-and I was able to burst through the ceiling and get us away.” He looked at Uraraka. “And we’ve been running ever since.”

 

She blinked at them. That was…so much more than what she thought they were going to say. “Holy shit.”

 

The corners of Kirishima’s mouth twitched. “You know, you didn’t use to swear before.”

 

She stared at all of them, mouth agape. “How can I not? Oh my god? Is everyone ok?”

 

It was a unanimous chorus of “No.”

 

 She dipped her head between her knees, trying not keep herself together. “So let me get this straight. Todoroki’s father, Ende-King Enji, sacrificed the King of Kirin and tried to sacrifice his own son to reverse a curse that made him insane? And we interrupted it?”

 

She heard a quiet “Yes” from Todoroki as she tried to collect her thoughts. “And where are we running to?”

 

It was Kirishima who answered her. “Argon, back in Kirin. They have no idea what happened. We need to regroup and also figure out what to do next. I for one am going to climb the Weeping Mountain and track down the Deity myself. The Ember prince is still a target, you guys need sanctuary as well. And…we have our own rituals that need to be completed after a ruler passes.”

 

She finally looked up to see Kirishima’s eyes rimmed in red. The grief on his face shattered her nerves. This happened less than a week ago. They walked in on something so horrible, she couldn’t even imagine. Bakugo saw his own father-

 

Uraraka stood up and filled her bowl with the remainder of stew. She straightened her shoulders and set off for the woods. “Where-where are you going?” Deku squeaked.

She turned around to look at her poor group of friends, feeling absolutely wretched. “I’m going to find Bakugo…and apologize.”

Chapter Text

Marching off into the woods after dark probably wasn’t the best idea, but Uraraka’s guilt overruled her general anxiety of the unknown. The darkness seemed to envelop her as she walked on, clutching the warm bowl of her peace offering. This part of the forest was a labyrinth of pines, their fallen needles softening the sounds around her. It was a unique silence that was occasionally broken by the rustle of a breeze through the tree branches. Like in most woods, she couldn’t shake the feeling that she was being watched, reminded that this place belonged to something much more ancient than her, and that she needed to stay moving or risk angering it.

 

Typically, she would chalk this up to her active imagination. Maybe later in the safety of her room in Kansai she would be inspired and write a short story or something. But this wasn’t Kansai. This was a world full of danger behind veils of mysticism, and there could very well be some evil thing watching her, waiting…

 

Snap out of it. Uraraka paused for a moment and gave her body a shake. Her friends’ tale had shaken her more than she’d care to admit, and had only sprouted more questions in her head. More importantly, she now understood the gravity of their situation, and how hard she needed to work to make sure they come out of it safely. Uraraka was a hero first. The second after they recounted their escape she had silently accepted that her own wants needed to be pushed back. She needed to dedicate herself now to protecting them. There was no way in hell she’d ever allow her friends to suffer like this. To be used as ingredients, to-

 

A twig snapped, causing Uraraka to shriek and shoot into the air. Frantically, she scanned the area to see who (or what) caused the noise. She was lost in her thoughts and wasn’t paying careful enough attention to her surroundings. Her breathing sounded so loud in her ears…she strained them to try to hear anything else. The stars lit up the sky enough for her to be able to see somewhat properly, but the world was still gray and blurred.

 

A minute passed. She held her breath. Nothing. Slowly, quietly, she lowered herself to the ground and deactivated her quirk. I’m going to pretend it was a magic squirrel that did that and not Endeavor himself coming to finish us off.

 

God. What a horrible world. At least back home, Uraraka could trust that heroes would spring into action and save the day. But who were the heroes here? Who was supposed to stop the King before he could even think of using his power for evil? Was this why she was brought here?

 

She chewed her lip and trudged on through the wood. Maybe it was good that she and Ember Uraraka switched places. She knew her other half would be in safe hands while she went on her behalf to the battlefield. But why was her quirk-magic, different? Was it because it was gifted? Who was this mysterious Ochako? She bit back a smile. I guarantee Deku has already grilled her and has found out everything I’m wondering. Probably did it within the hour of us switching.

 

She peered down at the stew and her nausea returned, threatened to be overcome with homesickness. Uraraka didn’t need that right now. Right. Time to stop dwelling on home and focus on what’s in front of me. Who’s in front me.

 

This Bakugo was not ok. No one should have to witness what he did. Her heart twinged and her eyes smarted. She couldn’t imagine the grief he must be feeling, or most likely trying to push back. His behavior made sense now. Kirishima’s “He not handling it well” echoed in her mind, but she begged to differ. Bakugo had just seen Todoroki’s father kill his own and still decided their group was worth granting sanctuary. Even after Uraraka threw a wrench in their flight by…appearing.

 

She felt so stupid and helpless. Uraraka scoffed at herself. How can you keep them safe when you’re still so ignorant about this place? These people? Just because they have your friend’s faces doesn’t mean you know who they are. Her grip tightened on the bowl. She was going to have to work especially hard to understand them and earn her place in the group. It wasn’t a question. It had to be done.

 

An owl softly hooted. Uraraka slowed her pace and lifted her head in its direction. How long had she been walking? Surely he couldn’t have gotten far. Should she risk floating again and see if she can find him from a higher vantage point?

 

“Come to yell at me again?”

 

For the second time, Uraraka shrieked, but managed to keep her feet on the ground. Her head whipped around looking for the source of the sound. “B-Bakugo? Where are you?”

 

Tch.” Her eyes chased a tree trunk and found him straddling a branch above her. “Go away.”

 

She and squinted at his dark shape in the tree. “The rabbit you prepared is really good. I’ve never had it before, but I really enjoyed it. You should eat.” She suddenly felt very foolish and squeezed her eyes shut, holding out the bowl. “Hurry before it gets cold!”

 

There was an awkward pause. Uraraka couldn’t bear to open her eyes. She hated conflict and desperately wanted them to quickly move past this. Please say something.

 

“That…” He finally managed. “Was not what I was expecting you to say.”

 

She finally opened her eyes. This was a good sign, he wasn’t immediately telling her to fuck off. He hadn’t moved from his spot, but she wouldn’t expect him to. Higher ground gives you more control over the situation, and Bakugo was always in control.

 

Uraraka sighed and retracted her arms, sheepishly cradling the bowl. “It’s safe to come back now,” she started quietly, looking at the ground, “They told me everything I needed to know.”

 

The silence returned. This time it was thick, cancelling out their surroundings. It roared in her ears.

 

“So you know.” It wasn’t a question. It was a loaded statement.

 

She looked at the ground. “For the most part, yeah.”

 

He didn’t answer. She nervously shifted the weight of her feet. It wasn’t the darkness of the forest that made her uneasy, it was this uncharacteristically quiet Bakugo. After another half minute of silence, she couldn’t take it anymore. “Listen Bakugo, I-“

 

He cut her off sharply. “I don’t need your pity.”

 

Just the verbal slap she was hoping for. That means he wasn’t too far gone. “And you’re not going to get it.” She shot back, hand unconsciously resting on her cocked hip. She cleared her throat, hoping to sound more confident than she felt. “What you’re going to get is my gratitude for helping me and my friends despite it all, and my support for the future.”

 

Uraraka was expecting it, but she still bristled at his disgusted scoff. “I don’t care if you don’t need it” A lump formed in her throat and all of the sudden it became very difficult to see through the film of tears gathering in her eyes. “I can’t live with myself knowing what happened and just…cowering.” She squared her feet, finding her resolve. “I can’t do nothing, that’s not who I am. Whether you want it or not, I pledge my honor as a hero to get you home and bring those responsible for your father’s murder to justice.”

 

Her final statement rang into the night sky. She hadn’t meant to get so carried away. Uraraka felt a blush creep up her neck. Feeling very self-conscious, she turned away and stared hard into the stupid bowl she was sick of carrying. She shouldn’t have directly mentioned Masaru. “Right.” She coughed after another minute of even more uncomfortable silence. “Well, if you won’t eat, I’ll see you back at the camp.” Before she could turn on her heels and escape, Uraraka heard the branch creak and a thump as Bakugo landed behind her.

 

“Oi, what do you think you’re playing at?” She turned to see him standing maybe five feet away from her. Even in the dim light, she could see the tightness in his eyes. He was looking at her like she had grown another head.

 

She pulled her arms tight to her body defensively. “I told you. I want to help. We…we should stick together.” She finished lamely.

 

 

His eyes narrowed and zeroed in on her face. She felt like they were seeing straight into her, figuring her out, and she hated it. “I don’t get you.” A small jolt traveled up her spine, her instincts telling her she needed to leave. This wasn’t going well.

 

He opened his mouth a few times trying to find the words, agitation building as he kept clenching and unclenching his fists. “Pledge your honor? As a hero? What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” Uraraka realized she made a mistake. The grief was still too raw, he needed space. “I don’t-I don’t-FUCK!” He bellowed and smashed his fist into the tree he just jumped from. To Uraraka’s horror, the tree’s bark imploded with a resounding crack and splintered away from the deep impact.

 

He pointed his free hand at her and she froze. “When I first met you, you were so fucking shy you couldn’t even say shit to me without running away, and now you’re saying you wanna FIGHT? For me? For my father?” Bakugo continued to point at her as he ripped his other hand away. She gulped. “Don’t ever talk about him again in front of me. It will not end well for you.” He snarled, working himself up into a frenzy. The words kept spilling out of him like a dam breaking. Uraraka unconsciously took a step back as he closed in on her space.

 

“Are you fucking kidding me? You cried the first three days we started running. The ENTIRE three days. Couldn’t shut the fuck up, when you-it wasn’t even-“ His red eyes were boring holes into her. She couldn’t move.

 

“Let’s get one thing straight brave Ember bitch, the only reason why I haven’t left you or your band of misfits to die out here is because I have no fucking clue where to go from here. I want you all dead. If it wasn’t for Kirishima..I want you to pay for what you did to us-and you think you can-how fucking dare you stand there after getting that blessing of a memory curse, thinking you have ANY idea how to make things right. You didn’t come here to comfort me,” he spat, “You came here to make yourself feel better. And guess what? I’m not gonna fucking humor you.”

 

His chest was heaving, body language making it clear he was just daring her to say something. Uraraka had opened the flood gate he had been desperately holding back, and she had no choice but to take it. And even worse, at the root of it, he was right. Uraraka sought him out because she was feeling helpless. He didn’t need her words of reassurance, she just needed someone to receive them to ease her own guilt.  She felt wretched. Her chest felt tight.

 

She blinked, taking a moment to collect herself. Okay. She set down the long-forgotten peace offering, and returned his gaze. “Okay.”

 

Bakugo blinked, not understanding. “Okay?”

 

She started to shrug off her cape and he took a step back. “What the hell are you doing?”

 

Uraraka scoffed and began stretching. “What does it look like I’m doing? I’m getting ready to fight.”

 

He stared at her. “…to fight.”

 

There was now a good ten feet of distance between them. She bent over and suppressed a groan at the stretch she felt in her lower back. A Sports Festival and universe hopping all in one day-she was really testing her stamina here. “You’re right. I don’t know. A damn thing.” She straightened up. “So show me. Show me what you’re feeling, with your fists.”

 

He narrowed his eyes, but slightly widened his stance. “You’re a noncombatant. I’m not going to kick the shit out of someone who can’t fight back.”

 

Uraraka crossed her arms. “Didn’t stop you from trying to strangle me this morning. Speaking of,” she stretched her bad shoulder, “I’m still pretty banged up from that, so I can’t come at you with my normal strength. Still, it should be enough.”

 

She was bluffing, but he didn’t need to know that. Uraraka didn’t have a damn clue whether she could match this Bakugo at her peak strength, but this was the only way she was going to get through to him. He obviously needed to release all that pent up rage and she…Uraraka needed to hit something. Her own emotions were boiling over, and she needed to fall back on something familiar. It’ll just be like sparring with a classmate. She’d worry about the repercussions later.

 

So, she crouched down into her fighting stance, fists up. “Let’s get one thing straight prince,” Her echoes of his taunt gave the desired effect as he tightened in anger, “You don’t know a damn thing about me. You can insult me after you prove you can land a punch.” His jaw dropped. Uraraka was signing her own death warrant, but now she was too worked up to care.

 

While maintaining eye contact, he shucked off his own cloak and settled into a well-conditioned fighting stance. She forced herself to take calm breaths as her mind went into overdrive trying to figure out what this Bakugo’s style was going to be like. It certainly had nothing to do with his now bare chest and massive arms flexing in anticipation. She made a point not to count the tattoos covering his arms in rings, but good lord there were a lot. Her face was flushed because she was angry, nothing else. He exhaled through his nose, snapping her back to the present. “Your friends aren’t here to stop me. Don’t start crying when I kick your ass.”

 

She cracked her neck. “No magic. First to be pinned down for more than ten seconds wins.” He tersely nodded. A feral grin spread across his face, and Uraraka was struck with a memory from her first Sports Festival. His voice turned predatory. “I’m going to break you, and I’m going to enjoy it.”

 

Before Uraraka could decide to shelve exactly what that sentence did to her body, he was on her in a flash. She thanked every god in existence for building consistent Bakugos as she ducked his swinging right hook purely on instinct. His eyes widened slightly as she dodged it but immediately switched to his left arm and aimed for her stomach.

 

She had to admit it, he was horrifying. Uraraka had succeeded in tapping into his aggression and he was coming at her like a beast. It was unnerving the way he moved. There was no way someone that built could move that quickly, but there he was, moving fast as lightning with the strength of a battering ram.

 

Uraraka said they couldn’t use magic. She didn’t say anything about her own quirk. Using a technique she mastered the summer of her second year, she partially activated her quirk on her own body with only three fingers and flipped away from his punch just in time. She used the momentum to push herself off a pine and ricochet into a beeline aiming for his chest.

 

Or so she made him think. At the last second, she shifted her trajectory down to target his knees. As she outstretched her hands to catch him off balance, he bent down and grabbed her arms, swinging her away in retaliation. Instead of hitting the ground like he anticipated, her lessened weight caused her to spin away violently. She threw her hands out to cling onto whatever she could find and finally wrapped her arm around a branch. She hung there, panting as she willed her vision to stop spinning. He barked out a surprised laugh, eyes glinting in the starlight. “What the fuck was that, cheeks?”

 

She scowled and deactivated her quirk, landing on the ground with steady legs. With a snarl she flung herself at him and he dodged her high kick with a quick duck and returned with a blow to the stomach. She hardened her core just in time to take the impact, but it still knocked out her breath. Fuck, he was strong.

 

 She knew she could land a hit, she just needed the right leverage! Bakugo was larger and stronger, but she was faster. Her main strategy with opponents bigger than herself always involved disrupting their balance and messing with their centers of gravity. The problem was that he wasn’t giving her any time to retaliate in between attacks. Her focus had to be on constantly twisting and contorting her body to avoid taking another hit. He favored using his arms rather than his legs for power, but that didn’t stop his footwork from being impeccable. After narrowly missing a jab to her chest, she leaped away in a back handspring.

 

Uraraka almost buckled under the weight. Damn it. Her shoulder limited her mobility. Bakugo quickly caught on and charged at her. His strategy shifted to exploit the weakness of her left side, and it was working. It was all she could do to parry his attacks. This Bakugo did not disappoint. His fighting style was much more brute strength focused than the Bakugo she was used to, and it forced her to be lighter on her feet. He was gaining too much ground, pushing her back against a cluster of trees.

 

Uraraka blinked the sweat out of her eyes as she finally landed a punch across his jaw, but it was too shallow. He still swung back in time to dodge the brunt of the impact and she was unable to activate her quirk on him.

 

She grit her teeth, ducking between a double jab and surprised him by shooting back up and grappling herself around his neck with her thighs. She used the momentum of her body to swing him off balance and bring them both crashing to the ground. Panting and sweating, they locked eyes for a moment, painfully aware of Uraraka essentially sitting on top of him, thighs crushing his windpipe. If it was under any other circumstance she would have froze in mortification, but this fight was personal. Or not. She couldn’t remember at this point. The only goal now was to bring him down.

 

 Still, she unconsciously relaxed her grip on his neck. He took her split moment of hesitation to grab her from behind and rip her off him. In a tangle of limbs, they fought each other on the ground, neither willing to let the other up. Fighting in the dark seemed to throw her other senses into overdrive, overwhelming her judgement.

 

For Uraraka, it was excruciating. Her stamina was well past its expiration point and Bakugo was relentless. Still, she wouldn’t back down. Her plan of using her quirk on him backfired as the second he became weightless, she tried to flip him off too quickly and ended up slamming herself into the ground, knocking the air out of her lungs. She croaked out a tear stained Release before he could even notice what she did.

 

He grunted in exertion as he grabbed her wrists in a vice grip. She screamed in anger as he finally gained the upper hand, pinning her down with her hands forced behind her back and his knees crushing her back and legs.  

 

In a last-ditch effort, she threw her head back and slammed into his face with a loud smack! He swore loudly in pain while she saw stars from the impact. With his remaining hand, he gripped the back of her neck and pinned her down, completely immobilizing her. She heard a ragged breath by her right ear. “Don’t fucking try that again.”

 

Responding like the lady she was, she tried bucking up by her hips and spat out, “Eat shit.” He just dug his knee into her back and she yelped in pain. “Again.” He hissed, panting heavily. “Stay down.”

 

They stayed liked that for a while, Uraraka struggling in futility while Bakugo kept pressing more and more weight down on her. By the time her last dregs of strength left her, Bakugo’s entire body weight was keeping her pinned in place. Her will to fight was leaving her, now being replaced with anger at her second loss of the day.

 

Now if only he’d get off of her. Oh my god. She hadn’t even noticed that his bare chest and entire body was pressed against her. Uraraka finally stopped struggling, resigned to her defeat. But Bakugo didn’t appear to notice, making no indication he was going to let up. She was suddenly very thankful it was too dark to see the blush light up her face. Uraraka waited another few seconds to see if he’d let her go. He didn’t.

 

“Uhm…” Her breaths came out in shallow bursts, panting from the effort. “It’s been more than ten seconds.” He groaned as lifted his head off her and she almost screamed at the thought of it resting against her to begin with. “Oh shit, you’re right.” He finally tore himself off her. She gasped in relief as feeling went back into her arms. “You wouldn’t stop wiggling.”

 

He slid and fell on his back to her side. She felt a brush of indignance to him comparing her wrestling to wiggling. After gingerly rolling her wrists, he flipped on her back too. They watched the stars in silence for a while.

 

“I think you broke my nose.”

 

She turned to see his face and squeaked. The bottom half of his face was covered in blood. He raised an eyebrow at her. “Headbutt. Dirty trick.”

 

She snorted and turned to stare back at the sky. “It’s not fair you can move that fast and be that big. I gotta work with what I have.” She glanced at his nose again. “Not broken by the way. Just very ugly.”

 

He rolled his eyes and coughed, wincing slightly. It was petty, but she felt a twinge of satisfaction. It was a while before she heard him speak again. “Why did you do it?”

 

“Do what?”

 

He made an annoyed sound in the back of his throat. “Pick a fight with me, idiot. What was in it for you?”

 

She thought hard. “I think,” she began, “Sometimes your thoughts can become so twisted and knotted that you need something like action to bring them to the surface, lay them out. Then you’re free of them. Or at least, are able to understand them better.” Uraraka hesitantly added, “I didn’t peg you for a talker. I thought this might help.”

 

She shifted her head to look at him again. His expression was unreadable. “You only answered half my question. What was in it for you?”

 

She frowned and closed her eyes. , “I…really needed to hit something.”

 

A strangled laugh coming from Bakugo startled her. It wracked his body, like the sound was fighting him. She saw hand movement and was surprised to see him wipe a tear from his eye. “You’re fucking ridiculous. Seriously, who are you?”

 

He groaned as he propped himself up on his elbows. “Ember knights don’t fight like that. They aren’t that skilled in close hand to hand combat. I know because they showed us a demonstration. It was pathetic.” He gave up and laid back down on the forest floor. “They didn’t teach you that.”

 

Uraraka casted a sideways glance his way. She figured she should be slightly impressed he’s using this conversation as an opportunity to glean more information from her. His intellect was going to be a problem. She chuckled darkly. “Well, no one really knows now, do they? Probably cave trolls? They seem like they’d know how to throw down.”

 

Bakugo shot her a look that made her feel like she said the dumbest thing on earth. “Cave trolls aren’t real dumbass. Only goblins and dwarves live in caves.”

 

You’re joking. “Of course. How stupid of me.” Uraraka sat up, joints protesting. Alright, it was time to divert the conversation. “Bakugo, I have a question.” She turned her body towards him. “Do you have magic?”

 

His face remained calm but she caught the way his body tensed at the question. “What are you talking about?”

 

Uraraka could’ve sworn she felt his hands burn her when he knocked her out. That also could have something to do with the fact that she was being choked, but where were his explosions? “Well, Todoroki said that magic is much more common in Kirin. And you’re royalty…technically descended from the what, Queen of Beasts? Any perks to go along with that?”

 

He looked at her incredulously. “Perks? Are you-are you serious?” He let out an aggravated sound. “Oh my god-listen, magic is sacred, got it, cheeks? It’s like another life force, one that connects you to the world around you. Humans are disconnected from that flow because in general we’re greedy bastards who end up taking more than we give.” He sat up and faced her. “Citizens of Argon are descended from the Settlers, humans that were gifted the magic to communicate and tame wild dragons. The vast majority of citizens inherit that gift, to help fulfill the original Queen’s promise of protecting the dragons. Royalty-“He stopped. He swallowed and sneered at her. “Not really your fucking business, is it?”

 

“Sooo…” She couldn’t help but fish a little, “Nothing like, explosions? Coming out of your hands? Nothing like that?” Not for the first time, and she knew not the last, Bakugo looked at her like she was insane.

 

He blinked. “Humans can’t wield fire. Or most elemental magic.” He said carefully. “You can use magical objects, or if you’re talented enough, cast rudimentary spells, but…” He trailed off. “Humans can’t burn.” His gaze darkened. “Well, some do.”

 

The air seemed to have left her lungs. He shifted in his seat but didn’t continue. His gaze clouded over, seemingly losing himself in his own train of thought. She bit the side of her cheek. “Do you really hate them?” She whispered. Before she could stop herself, she blurted out, “Do you hate me?”

 

He shrugged but didn’t look at her. Bakugo had a pained look on his face, like he was trying to decide what emotion to show her. He seemed to be fighting his body’s natural desire to curl in on itself. “We never got along with Ember to begin with. History is messy. I know this. Kingdoms are built through conquering. People die in the process. That’s the way it is. You can listen to Shitty Hair spout out that flowery shit about the power of love and good vs evil, but what it boils down to is that our people were tired of being told what to do and we finally found the strength to fuck off and do our own thing.”

 

She stared at his profile. “And do you really believe that?”

 

His face screwed up in a grimace. “The Old Man-my father…fuck.” He rubbed his face with his hands. “The King always told me that something like oppression is hard to see from the inside, because when you’re raised in it, that’s all you know. It takes one person to truly open their eyes to just, I don’t know, see how much better you can all be, and it’s a rippling effect from there.” He started fiddling with his fingers. “As a leader, you always need to be aware of this trap and be constantly looking for better ways to serve your people. Ember’s policies didn’t make sense to our people anymore. They hurt half the population. They were cruel and outdated. We adapted.”

 

Prince Bakugo’s-no, it still didn’t feel right-worldview was fascinating to Uraraka. Much less altruistic than she’d expect and much more practical than his dragon friend, but does ruling give you a difference in perspective? Still, she thought back on her home country’s past, and realized where she came from wasn’t really all that different. Japan was an empire at one point as well. “We just need to watch out for each other.” She mumbled to herself. “And just calm down.” She wanted to know more about the late King Masaru. He sounded like a wonderful king. But she knew better than to ask.

 

The moon washed Bakugo in a pale light, causing him to look almost ethereal. His hair looked like snow and his eyes once again fell into that faraway look. He released a jagged breath. “What happened that night isn’t their fault. I know they didn’t know. Know that you didn’t know but-fuck.” His voice cracked.

 

She didn’t move, afraid that if anything disrupted the stillness of the woods the moment would pass and he would close up again. Uraraka didn’t envy him. She let him sit in his silence until he was ready to rejoin her. An owl hooted in the distance. A breeze started up again. She rested her head on her knees as she hugged herself. After a time, he rubbed his eyes. “You wouldn’t stop crying.”

 

“Hmm?” She had dozed off a bit. He glared at her, bringing her back to the present. “I was the one with third degree burns on my back with a dead dad and you were the one who couldn’t stop bawling your eyes out.”

 

Uraraka recalled Kirishima saying that she had healed him. From King Enji’s fire. She shuddered. “I guess I’m sorry for that?”

 

Bakugo shifted his glare to the ground, fixating on a nearby pine cone. “I didn’t get it.” He sounded like he was talking mostly to himself. “You didn’t know me. You didn’t know Kiri. But you saved me and convinced your band of idiots to work with us to get back to Argon.”

 

Her head snapped up at that. “Wait, I did?”

 

He rubbed the back of his neck, wincing at the stretch. “Yeah. I was ready to kill you all. Declare war and have Kirishima rip your heads off.” His face fell. “But you healed me. Said if we weren’t able to cry about it yet you’d do it for us.” He grew quiet. “Brought up common interests. Giving you an opportunity to right your wrongs, the same way we fucking did a century ago. Find the Deity. Save the day. Ridiculous.” He snorted. “I much prefer you now. You’re mean and you don’t know shit.” He gave her a lazy once-over glance. “And sturdier.”

 

Her mouth dropped open in indignation. Was that a compliment? That was most definitely an insult.  Her temper flared. “So I did all of this and you still wanted to tie me to a tree and leave me in the woods?”

 

He scoffed at her and stood up. “Don’t be dramatic. You know why.” He went to pick up his cape and tossed Uraraka’s towards her. He gingerly felt his nose and flinched. “Serves you right.” She hissed, pulling on her cloak.

 

He made a rude gesture towards her in response. “Fuck right off. I still won.”

 

She clamored to her feet and brushed off the dust, already cursing herself for getting into a fight mere hours after bathing. “Bakugo.” He raised an eyebrow at her. She took a deep breath. “It’s going to be okay. We’re going to fix this.”

 

Instead of an angry outburst she was met with a neutral mask. His energy felt wrong, too relaxed compared to what it was before. There was a hard glint in his eye that she couldn’t quite place, couldn’t remember where she’d seen it. It unsettled her.“ ’Course it’s going to be okay. I already have it figured out.” He fastened the toggle of his cape.

 

Uraraka pursed her lips. “What’s your plan then?”

 

He stopped what he was doing and held her in his gaze again. She was convinced his eyes contained a spell that froze her motor functions. His voice turned deadly serious. “You can’t stop me.”

 

“I don’t want to stop you, I want to help you.” She argued. “I think I’ve proven I’m somewhat capable.”

 

In reality, Uraraka knew the second they returned to camp whatever closeness they had just experienced would evaporate. He would go back to treating her like a liability and close himself off to everyone around him. Be a prince and put back on a brave face. If she was going to get him to take her seriously, it was now or never.

 

Bakugo considered her for a moment and frowned, signaling he finished whatever conversation he was having in his head. “Fine. Maybe I can use this…new you.” He said after a moment. “I’m going to kill the King of Ember, including anyone that gets in my way. And now you’re going to help me.”

 

He yawned and scratched his head. “Where did you put that bowl of stew? I’m fucking starving.”

Chapter Text

Oh yeah, he has her all figured out.

 

The walk back to the camp was a quiet one, save for Bakugo periodically slapping the empty bowl against his thigh. Uraraka’s face was pinched, clearly struggling with what he said earlier. He won’t lie, it surprised him. She failed the test.

 

Kill the King of Ember. Tch. That was a fucking no brainer. Wasn’t even a secret at this point, there’s no way Kirin would accept anything less as penance. It wouldn’t even come close to the loss he-they suffered. He just needed to see where her morals stood. Turns out, she drew the line at retribution. Coward.

 

But it also threw a wrench into his recent theory. This whole amnesia shit had been really nagging at him. Bakugo hadn’t bought it from the start, but not being able to pinpoint exactly why it was driving him insane. Well, now he knew. The wobbly memories, her strange physique, her weird magnetic pull that caused her to frequent his thoughts…it all made sense now.

 

Changeling.

 

The fae have been fucking with Kirin for years. Ever since his father enforced the law banning them spiriting away humans for their own amusement, they’ve had it out for the royal family. If he remembered correctly, there’s a decent sized village about a three day’s journey from here. If he had been thinking more clearly, he would’ve realized it a lot sooner. He ground his teeth.

 

It wouldn’t be hard for one of them to venture this close to the Ember border and pick off who they perceived to be the weakest of the group. Uraraka was small, but he knew if needed she could leave a dent with that fucking staff she always had on her. So those pointy-eared bastards somehow caught her off guard, switched her with this fake, and are probably keeping her in their village as a hostage. Shit.

 

He glanced at the imposter next to him. It must’ve been a rushed job. Typically, they’re almost indistinguishable from the original. But this Uraraka stood differently, spoke differently. Also, what the hell was that about fighting? And why was she so good at it?

 

Bakugo figured it out as he had her pinned down. The fight was exhilarating. Her skill caught him by surprise and forced him to actually focus for once. He found himself marveling more than once at the control she had over her body. She was like an acrobat in the air.

 

The first clue.

 

Then, she was on top of him. Never in his life had Bakugo been borderline strangled by someone’s thighs. His breath left him gazing at that fierce look on her face and feeling the weight of her ass on his chest. God did that feel good. But there was no way in hell he’d let himself lose. He hadn’t planned on that ground scuffle to last that long. When he finally forced her down, he was genuinely sweating from the effort. Her wrists were so small, he could restrain him with one of his own.

 

He could admit it to himself, Bakugo had been worked up. He was thankful her face was driven into the ground so that she couldn’t have seen the flush on his face. This spar wasn’t supposed to go this far, but this was a physical chemistry he hadn’t felt in a while. The soft, small of her back under his knee felt intoxicating. He had felt some twisted satisfaction seeing her struggle and squirm under his hold. Was that fucked up? Why was he feeling like this?

 

Then she headbutted him. Incidentally, it was in that flash of pain that he was granted some clarity. Changelings. They’re specifically designed to be more desirable versions of their counterparts. You’re supposed to be so enamored by them, you overlook their different quirks and buy into the illusion.

 

Bakugo never considered himself someone concerned with relationships or sex. In fact, he actively avoided it. There were too many more important things to be concerned about. He could worry about that shit after he had achieved his goal of the most decorated warrior in Argon history.

 

Most of his encounters thus far have been with friends as friends, almost always after copious amounts of mead and wine. It’d be more accurate to say that it was always presented as a challenge that he even could. The last time he woke up in someone else’s bed, it was a drunken result of both Kirishima and Mina taking bets that Bakugo was in fact not capable of being a lover, as he had nothing between his legs. He proved them both wrong.

 

That was months ago. Even despite that, Uraraka had never turned his head until this morning. He couldn’t describe it, he was drawn to her. Trying to understand, he had spent the entire day observing her, even offering to carry her. The way she spoke to him put him on edge. It was with a familiarity they had never established. She looked at him like she knew him.

 

He hated it.

 

Of fucking course she knew who he was. That’s why she was here. To fuck with him, the son of the king that ruined one of their favorite pass times-kidnapping humans and using them as play toys until they drop them off weeks later with no recollection of what had happened.

 

Fuck. He was going to have to get the real Uraraka back.

 

The biggest giveaway that you’re dealing with a changeling is that they can’t fake human morals. Fae don’t have a typical sense of right and wrong. He was expecting her to agree to assassinate King Enji without batting an eye. She didn’t.

 

But it didn’t matter. He’d just add it to the growing list of things that were giving him a headache. He needed to talk to Kirishima.

 

She coughed, disrupting his train of thought. He glared at her. “Can’t you be quiet?”

 

Uraraka returned it with a surprised glare of her own. “I haven’t spoken this entire time. Am I not allowed to cough?”

 

“No.” She scoffed and rubbed her shoulder. Fuck, even that was charming. Bakugo thought back to the sling it was in and wondered offhandedly how the fae’s healing methods had progressed that much. He felt a wave of anger rise within him.

 

You don’t know a damn thing about me.” Yeah, no memories my ass.

 

How dare she try to get information out of him when that was the whole reason he decided to talk to her in the first place? Asking about his magic? Did they really think he’d reveal anything to some healer they thought he had a hard-on for? Fucking idiots. It’s already bad enough they now know that the king was dead-

 

Not now, Kastuki. Deal with that later. He grit his teeth and shook his head, earning another questioning look from the imposter.

 

They finally reached camp. Bakugo could feel his nose begin to swell and a headache coming on. Ignoring the alarmed stares from the murderers he strode straight to Deku and thrust the empty bowl at him.

 

He knew he should be more understanding of Todoroki, but god he pissed him off. No self-respecting royal should ever look that anxious in front of his subordinates. It was weak. He scoffed and turned on his heels towards Shitty Hair.

 

Kirishima raised his eyebrows at the sight of him. If he looked over his shoulder, Bakugo would’ve seen the Ember pricks lose their minds over Uraraka’s equally beat up self. But he didn’t have time for that. He plopped down next to his best friend and shrugged. “She got even.”

 

Shitty hair’s eyebrows were still raised. “I thought she went to apologize.”

 

Bakugo spit. “Doesn’t matter anymore.” He leaned forward and lowered his voice. “I figured it out.”

 

Kirishima leaned in too. “Figured out what?” He whispered.

 

“Changeling.”

 

Kiri’s eyes widened. “No.” He frowned. “No. Wait.” He groaned. “No. Fuck.” He dropped his head in his hands. “It explains the weird magic following her. Shit, and they’re-“

 

“Yeah their village is too fucking close for comfort.” Bakugo nodded grimly.

 

Kirishima groaned again, this time loudly at the sky. “What are we gonna do?”

 

Bakugo narrowed his eyes. “You know what. I’m going to have to fucking get her.”

 

Kirishima continued to gaze at the stars. “This is so unfair.” He lowered his head to catch Bakugo’s stare. “You know I’d do it for you in a heartbeat.”

 

Bakugo smirked. “But you fucking can’t, now can you? Anyone except royalty’s not allowed to leave their domain once they enter, and we can’t have them making our third lieutenant their very own dragon whore, right?”

 

Kirishima rolled his eyes. “Don’t tempt me. I’d die a happy man.” His shoulders tensed and his voice became hushed again. “Do you think Uraraka is ok?”

 

Bakugo touched his nose experimentally, and found it not as tender as before. “They typically don’t fuck with hostages the royal family finds valuable. This seems more targeted at me than anything. I’m sure they just wanted to humiliate me for her letting her get taken in the first place.”

 

Kirishima shot him a mischievous look. “I wonder why you’re so convinced they gave you your own little succubus. Did something else happen while you two were sparring?”

 

“Fuck you fire crotch.” Bakugo hissed, hoping his face wasn’t as hot as it felt.

 

Kirishima put his hands up in defeat. “Listen, I don’t blame you. Whoever this changeling is, she’s hot. I’m sure they thought they could sneak her in your bed and have her wreak some havoc at the castle.” He shuddered. “They’re lucky you’re not your mom.”

 

Bakugo face darkened. “Uraraka’s lucky I’m not her. She’d kill the bitch and leave the real one to rot without a second thought.” He rested his elbows on his knees. “She would’ve known how to handle this a fucking lot better than me.”

 

Kirishima grunted in response. It was quiet between them for a few moments. The dragon shifted and peered at the tent containing the now-sleeping Uraraka. “So…what are we gonna do?”

 

Bakugo sighed. The only way to get Uraraka back without violence was to trade them. Now, the real challenge was to get this Uraraka back to the village without her catching on. “When we get to the border, I will break off, saying that the spring is in that direction. The changeling should be too interested in finding its location to think too hard about why we’re splitting up. You take the rest of the group on the normal path to Argon and I’ll meet up with you with the actual Uraraka in four day’s time.”

 

Kirishima peered at his boots. “They shouldn’t hear about what happened from me. It should be from you.” He murmured.

 

Bakugo felt his stomach muscles constrict. “We don’t have the fucking luxury of time right now, Kiri.” He stood up as Kirishima slightly blanched at the childhood nickname. “Don’t tell the others. They don’t need to know any more about Kirin’s world than they need to. If the nerd finds out, he’ll go charging in and then there will be a fight.”

 

“Hey, Bakugo?” He glanced down to see Kirishima looking up at him. He didn’t like his soft expression. What usually followed was something heartfelt that Bakugo didn’t have the capacity to deal with right now. He braced himself, but still wasn’t prepared for what came out of Kirishima’s mouth. “She’s not going to blame you. You know that, right?”

 

Bakugo had to remind himself to breathe. He returned his devastatingly naive friend’s gaze with a mixture of resignation and pity. “Yes Kirishima, she is.”

 

~

 

Uraraka woke up feeling like she had been hit by a truck. Muscles screaming, she rolled over to grab the alarm clock by her bed that failed to go off. Hopefully Aizawa would forgive her tardiness.

 

Instead of an alarm clock, her hand was met with the rough fabric of her small tent. Her eyes snapped open. Ah. Right. It was the morning after her fight with Bakugo. If it weren’t for the deep ache in the small of her back and the slight throb where her head connected with his nose, Uraraka would’ve passed it off as some intense fever dream.

 

And yet, here she was. In a tent somewhere in some woods on the run with her parallel-world comrades. Two of them were princes. One was also a dragon. Uraraka sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose.

 

Despite feeling like she had overslept, the sun was barely creeping through the slit of her tent. Uraraka yawned and arched her back into a deep stretch. After a brief hesitation, she pulled back the hem of her dress to see if the gold band was still imprinted around her navel.

 

It was.

 

She inhaled sharply as she traced her finger around the slightly raised circle. Was this worth telling the others? No. She frowned as she recalled the night before.

 

Bakugo had acted like he just told her something extremely mundane instead of dropping the bomb of wanting to assassinate a foreign King. She just stood there in shock as he had wolfed down the stew. Even after he was finished and was glaring at her expectantly, all she could do was squeak out a “?!” sound.

 

He scoffed. “Use your words, round face.”

 

She stared at him incredulously. “Are you serious?”

 

He narrowed his eyes at her and crossed his arms. “I thought you said you wanted to help me. That’s the plan. Have a problem with it?”

 

“Of course I do!” She sputtered. “We don’t take lives! It’s not what we do!”

 

Bakugo’s expression flickered between confusion and impatience. “Not what we do? Give me a fucking break. This is war, Uraraka. Reparations must be made.”

 

She shook her head vigorously and threw out her arms in frustration. “We’re better than that! You use your talents to help others, not to hurt them! We can find another way.” Uraraka gestured desperately. “I’m not going to let you become one of them. You’re not a villain.” Her hands fell, slapping the sides of her thighs. “You’re…you’re just not.” She finished weakly.

 

Bakugo gaped at her open-mouthed. “What the fuck was that supposed to be? Uplifting?” He rolled his eyes. “Tch. Whatever. You asked. I answered.” He pointed the bowl at her. “You wanna help? Keep your goddamn mouth shut. Don’t make me regret saying anything to you.”

 

Uraraka couldn’t help it, her eyes were threatening to burn with tears. “I won’t tell, because there won’t be anything worth telling. I’m going to convince you otherwise. We’ll find another way to bring him to justice.”

 

He just stared at her with a bored expression before taking off into the woods. “Sure. Have fun with that.”

 

It had been even more uncomfortable when they made it back to camp. Iida had almost had an aneurism at the sight of Uraraka’s dirt-covered face, and she’d had to spend several minutes convincing Todoroki that her scuffle with Bakugo was in good fun and that he didn’t need to defend her honor as an Ember citizen.

 

She understood why they were being so careful with her, but it brought back frustrating memories of her early days at UA where no one would take her seriously. Even if this Ember Uraraka wasn’t a fighter, she was at least resourceful enough to have brought together this party in the first place!

 

Telling them what Bakugo said would be a mistake. She was convinced that even confiding in them about her mystery mark would be one too. She was tired of being handled like a fragile vase. They had far more important things to worry about, Uraraka could handle this on her own. Bakugo on the other hand…

 

Uraraka was right when she assumed Bakugo would go back to ignoring her once they returned.  After harassing Deku, he immediately summoned Kirishima and they spent the rest of the evening in a huddle, talking in hushed voices. It was probably about her.

 

She scrunched her nose at the memory. At least Deku pitched her tent while she was away so she could immediately fall asleep after, although she was going to have to get used to using her pack as a pillow. Was anyone else up?

 

Uraraka peered out her tent opening to see a silent campsite. The fire itself had been subdued to smoldering embers, its faint smoke mixing with the slight morning mist in the air. Kirishima was splayed out next to it, snoring loudly while his head rested against his own pack. She discovered Deku resting against the front of Todoroki’s modest tent, leaning his weight on his drawn sword. Iida’s tent resided next to Uraraka’s while Bakugo’s was very pointedly set up across the clearing away from everyone else.

 

Her muscles creaked as she stood up, and exited the tent. She bent down to give her back and legs a good stretch before rolling her injured shoulder experimentally. Iida might’ve been nervous while he did it, but he did a great job popping it back into place. It was still sore, but it would heal back to normal soon enough.

 

When she straightened back up Uraraka caught Kirishima awake and watching her from his position on the ground. He appeared to have been scanning her while she wasn’t looking. The second he saw her look his way, his demeanor snapped from suspicious to playful, and gave her a playful wave. The entire interaction left her with a pit in her stomach.

 

So Bakugo told him, and now she’s being watched. Great.

 

“Sorry to wake you so early!” She chirped as she made her way over to warm her hands by the hot coals. “I went to bed so early, I literally couldn’t keep my eyes open for another second.”

 

Kirishima yawned and rose into a sitting position. “Don’t worry about it. I require less sleep than you guys anyways. Besides,” his eyes glinted, “I want to know how you messed up Bakugo’s face.”

 

She rolled her eyes and pointed to the back of her head. “If you’re going to pin someone down, make sure you pin all of them down.”

 

He bit back a smile. “Pin all of you down?”

 

She nodded and pointed to the nape of her neck. “This is the spot to keep in mind. Otherwise I’m breaking your nose.”

 

He snickered. “Good advice, I’ll let him know for round two.”

 

Uraraka cocked her head questioningly until she realized what she had walked herself into. Her mouth dropped open and her face turned beet red. “That’s-that’s not-LISTEN I think I have a mild concussion there was nothing sexy about it!”

 

Kirishima flashed his teeth. “I didn’t say anything about it being sexy, I just said I’d pass the information along. Why do you think I thought it was sexy?”

 

“Because-“ she shot back, “well-you…I…” She hung her head in defeat. “Be nice to me, I’m going through a lot right now.” She mumbled pathetically.

 

Kirishima laughed and ran his fingers through his crimson mane. “No can do, my good human. I am far too stressed out too and your facial expressions are priceless.”

 

She huffed and stuck out her tongue at him. He grinned wolfishly in response, before dropping it suddenly. “Hey Uraraka, I have a question for you.”

 

The tone shift in his voice caught her attention. She blinked at him. “What is it?”

 

The scrutinizing look was back. Uraraka gulped. “Do…you actually want to get your memories back?”

 

Uraraka prayed to every god and goddess she knew that Kirishima didn’t have some weird dragon hearing that could detect how much her heart rate just spiked. In her most innocent of expressions, she asked “Why wouldn’t I want to get them back?”

 

He didn’t answer for a moment. She felt locked in the intensity of his gaze. Kirishima smiled assuredly, but it didn’t reach his eyes. “I was just curious. You didn’t seem that enthusiastic about it the other day.”

 

He knows. He knows. How the hell does he know? Uraraka forced an insincere smile of her own. “Yesterday was very confusing for me, I’m sure you can understand. But I want to go back to my normal self and be able to be the healer that everyone needs me to be.”

 

It was all bullshit. She was terrified of whatever hot spring they were going to dunk her in and expect her to come out the master healer Uraraka who had spent her entire life in this world. There was no way she could fake any of that. But he couldn’t possibly know all of that. So why did she feel so on edge towards him?

 

His smile didn’t move, but his arms tensed. “Of course.”

 

She held her breath. Something went down between Bakugo and Kirishima last night. She shouldn’t have been so careless fighting Bakugo, what if he saw her use her quirk? What if at one point he saw her mark and mistook it as some evil symbol? She couldn’t even last a day undercover! If this was an exam, Midnight would’ve flunked her and then kicked her ass out of her number 4 spot.

 

Kirishima broke the tension when he looked over her shoulder and broke into a genuine grin. “Good morning Midoriya! I thought stiff-neck was the personal guard!”

 

Uraraka turned around to see a sheepish Deku saunter over to join them. “We switch off sometimes.” He mumbled. She couldn’t help but detect the faint blush spread across his freckled cheeks.

 

He sheathed his long sword and sat next to Uraraka. “How are you feeling?” He asked, concern dripping from his voice.

 

She waved her hand dismissively. “Sore, but nothing I’m not used to.” Kirishima cocked his head.

 

“It’s early”, he started slowly, “But we need to get moving soon. I’ll wake up the hot head if you guys wake your guys.” With that, he rose and made his way towards Bakugo’s tent, but not before shooting Uraraka one more pointed look.

 

Uraraka let out a deep breath she didn’t realize she was holding in. Deku blinked at her questioningly. She couldn’t resist those kind green eyes. “I don’t think Kirishima trusts me.” She whispered towards Deku. “Our conversation was a little weird before you came, and it made uneasy.”

 

Deku leaned back on is forearms and made a slight face. “That doesn’t surprise me. It’s not like we trust them either, unfortunately. There’s a lot of factors we have to consider. Frankly, it’s a miracle we’re even working together this smoothly.”

 

She eyed his sword. “Deku, where did you come from? You said you arrived in Aberon four years ago, but where did you grow up? How did you get that?” She gestured at his sword.

 

He shifted uncomfortably and gave her a shy glance. “I don’t really come from anywhere. It’s a small village in the northern part of Ember. As for this-“ he gripped his sword, “-I can’t tell you too much about it, only that it’s on loan from its original master.” His eyes lifted towards the sky with a reminiscent smile on his face. “I’ll give it back once I prove myself worthy of wielding my own.”

 

Uraraka nodded. “Ah, I see.” She didn’t, not at all, but Deku seemed to know what he was talking about and she wanted to support her friend.

 

Waking the rest of the others didn’t take long, and after a quiet breakfast of dried fruit and leftover stew, they were packed and ready to move on. Uraraka couldn’t believe how nervous she felt around the two Kirin boys now. Wasn’t it only yesterday she was being carefully carried on Kirishima’s back? Was she just projecting her friendship with the other Kirishima onto him?

 

As they took off, she stayed close to Todoroki, who seemed determined to be her guide for this new, forgotten world. “You see, this forest-Faroh Woods-borders our kingdom with Kirin. It’s dense and confusing, and horrible for farming. Ember citizens are convinced it’s cursed and steer clear of it. They aren’t too far off, magical creatures are rumored to have crossed into our side of the wood and terrorize humans who dare venture inside.”

 

Iida nervously palmed the hilt of his sword. “I’m not enjoying the fact that we are now included in those statistics.”

 

Todoroki smiled at Kirishima’s back. “Can you be both protected and terrorized by the same one?”

 

The next few days followed a similar pattern. They rose at dawn, Kirishima would fly out to scout, and then return with a route to take. Bakugo took great lengths to avoid Uraraka while Uraraka did her best to avoid being alone with Kirishima. She spent the majority of her days trudging through thick forest with her trio of Ember friends, and the majority of her evenings trying not to collapse the moment they broke for camp.

 

This routine broke the morning of their third day. After hiking through a particularly nasty portion of brush, the Kirin duo halted and turned to look at each other. Todoroki wiped the sweat off his forehead. “What’s going on? Why have we stopped?”

 

Bakugo held eye contact with Kirishima a moment longer before jerking his head towards Todoroki. “We have to do something now, and you’re not going to like it.”

 

Uraraka felt Deku tense beside her and saw Iida silently draw a book from his belt. “What aren’t we going to like?” Iida asked carefully.

 

Bakugo rolled his eyes. “Calm your tits, we’re still escorting you to safety.” His eyes raked over Uraraka. “Airhead and I just need to make a quick detour first.”

 

Before Todoroki could protest, Kirishima stepped towards the group. “If we want to heal Uraraka, we have to take her to the Sage in the Mountain. It’s on holy land that only royalty can enter without permission.”

 

“So you were going to separate us to begin with?” Todoroki seethed through clenched teeth. “I won’t accept that.”

 

Bakugo scoffed. “Trust me, it’s not ideal. But we need her back. Actually back.” For the first time in days, he acknowledged Uraraka’s presence. “And Kirishima’s right. If any of you try to follow, the second you trespass you’ll be hit with so many curses, you’ll wish your dad had finished the job.”

 

“Enough!” Todoroki barked. He anxiously turned to Uraraka, then back to Bakugo, clearly fighting with himself. “What’s stopping you from using this as an opportunity to take Ember’s most valuable healing resource and lock her away for yourselves?”

 

“HOW DARE YOU!” Bakugo roared. He took two steps forward and Deku immediately stepped in front of his prince, hand at his sword pommel. “What’s stopping us? Maybe the fact that we’re not fucking monsters like you lot! Do you think I want to go hike up a fucking mountain with round face over here? Don’t you think I’d, I don’t know, want to go home as soon as possible to let my family know that the King isn’t coming back? And have to convince them that now we have to protect the son of the one who murdered him? Do you think I want to have to put that on Kirishima?” He spat. “Fuck you, scar face. After all the shit we’ve been doing for you. Fuck. You.”

 

Whatever alliance they had formed was about to evaporate right before them. Despite this, Uraraka did not want to go with Bakugo. She was convinced he was about to take her somewhere else entirely, most likely to interrogate her for information. Nothing about this made her feel like he wanted to help heal her.

 

But her friends needed her help.

 

She forced herself a few steps forward. “How long will it take us to get there and back to Argon?”

 

Todoroki whipped his head towards her with a fearful expression while Bakugo looked on with a neutral expression. “Four days if we move at my pace.”

 

She gripped the strap of her pack and took a deep breath. “Okay.” Uraraka turned to face Kirishima. “And you will escort them safely to the city?”

 

The red head crossed his arms. “On my honor as a dragon of Kirin.”

 

Uraraka steeled herself before talking to her friends. She put on her award winning Uravity-will-save-the-day smile she’s been perfecting for years. “I will be ok. The most important thing is that I get my powers back so I can be there for you guys when you need it most.” She looked at each of them with a kind smile. They were so concerned for her, it broke her heart. “I will meet you guys at Argon, with my memories back. I promise.”

 

Deku and Iida looked to see what Todoroki would do. He stared at her intensely and gave a curt nod. “You’re the bravest person I’ve ever met, Uraraka.” She blushed at the compliment.

 

“Well, that was touching.” Bakugo jeered. He glared at Uraraka. “Keep up. We’re going for speed here, don’t make me have to slow down.”

 

With a gliding motion, she left the safety of her friends and made her way towards the Kirin prince. “I was about to say the same thing to you.”

 

His nostrils flared and he bared his teeth. Instead of responding, Bakugo thrust his finger to point at Kirishima. “You. I’ll see you in four days.”

 

Kirishima waved him off. “Yeah, yeah. Try not to dawdle, you know how impatient your mom gets.” He gestured towards the Ember men. “Ok trusted guests, time to go!”

 

Reluctantly, they followed. Deku turned over his shoulder one more time to wave at Uraraka, mouthing you got this before disappearing with the group into the brush.

 

She really wished she was going with them.

 

They were now alone. The tension that swirled between them was palpable. Uraraka tensed as she heard Bakugo grunt beside her. She lifted her head to receive further instruction, but instead she found him looking at the ground, unable to make eye contact with her. “We’re wasting daylight. Let’s go.” He whipped towards the opposite direction of where their friends left and took off with a swift gait.

 

She sighed and sped-walked after him, pit growing in her stomach. She at least trusted Kirishima to make sure their group arrived in Argon in one piece. Now that that was handled, Uraraka could now focus on what she had to do.

 

There were no memories to recover. There was no magic ability she had to re-access. The fact of the matter was that Uraraka’s time pretending was over. She could never deliver the promise she made to return with Bakugo to Argon.

 

Uraraka’s eyes bore holes into Bakugo’s back as they ambled through the woods. It was going to be hard, but she had to do it. There were no other options. It was time to find a way home. She had to leave.

 

And she had to make sure Bakugo couldn’t catch her.

Chapter Text

 

Midoriya Izuku of 3A was having a very weird day.

 

His third and final Sports Festival had started out fairly standard. He had to admit it was hard for him to watch Todoroki and Uraraka fight each other, but damn was it exhilarating to witness. Deku couldn’t believe how fearsome they had both become in such a few short years.

 

He himself also made it to the third round, which was an accomplishment in itself (or at least his mother insisted, desperate to keep him from injuring himself again). But he had never won the festival, and this year was finally going to be his for the taking.  

 

His semifinals round with Kacchan was nothing short of earth shattering. Having fought him multiple times before, he knew what to expect, but he was pretty sure at one point the stadium was stunned into silence after Deku literally wind-kicked away Kacchan’s signature Howitzer Impact.  As if All Might himself possessed Deku’s body and controlled his movements, he had somehow been able to defeat Kacchan, but not before severely injuring him as a result.

 

That should’ve been the first clue to how this day was going to go. The second would’ve been when Kacchan had actually allowed Deku to wheel him to the infirmary to ease his own guilt. Maybe that shouldn’t have been as surprising-they have been working on becoming better partners ever since Uraraka started forcing her internship partner to join their study sessions- but old habits die hard.

 

He had been so damn proud of Uraraka. Out of everyone in their class, her growth had been the most impressive to him. Even if she couldn’t see it herself, Deku knew she was going to be an amazing hero one day. She was by far his closest confidant at UA, he knew she would and could do anything for him, with him returning the favor in a heartbeat. He couldn’t believe how lucky he was to have such a loving and fierce friend at his side.

 

That was what he had been thinking about right before she began seizing.

 

“Stay with us! Ochako, Recovery Girl’s coming! Stay-What the FUCK?”

 

Deku’s hands flexed as they were left clutching air. She had slipped right through his fingers. Uraraka had seemingly faded out of existence, leaving the room of her three friends in abject horror. He couldn’t stop staring at the space where she just was. She was just there. There was still a faint glow where her outline had been. He couldn’t breathe.

 

“Did-did she..?” Bakugo’s hoarse whisper broke the silence. No one answered.

 

 Deku inhaled sharply, already feeling the panicked tears pricking his eyes. His hands were shaking. “What…what happened?” He looked pleadingly at Kirishima for answers. “I had her right here. I had her right here. Where-?”

 

The glow that refused to dissipate suddenly began to increase in vibrancy. Their eyes snapped back to it as the brightness grew. Deku drew his hands back as a faint scream began to fill the space. The fiercer the glow became, the louder the scream got. Kirishima’s eyes were about to bug out of his head. “Is she-is she coming back?”

 

The light began to take shape. An outline of a body slowly came into focus on Uraraka’s bed. If they hadn’t been so transfixed on the display before them, the boys would’ve heard the distinct sound of a wooden staff hitting the floor. Deku leaned in, desperate and terrified. “Uraraka? Is that you? Ochako?”

 

They were almost blinded by a flash of intense light.  Deku shielded his eyes in time, but heard a pained “Fuck!” come from both Kirishima and Bakugo.

 

Blinking away spots from his eyes, he tried to focus on the girl in front of him, writhing in pain on the gurney. The screaming was coming from her.

 

Uraraka was back. Deku choked back a sob of relief as he gaped down at his poor friend. Without thinking, he scooped her back into his arms and gave her a fierce, protective squeeze. “Uraraka it’s ok! It’s ok, you’re back! You’re with us again, you’re safe!”

 

But the screaming didn’t stop. Kirishima, blinking back tears from the flash, threw his hand at Deku. “Dude, you’re smothering her! Her arm is still busted, give her some space!”

 

Oh. He sheepishly bit his lip and gingerly released Uraraka, nervous that she’d disappear under his watch again. How can I be a good hero when my own friend can evaporate right out of my hands? He grit his teeth. Worry about that later. Uraraka needs you. Deku wiped his face and forced himself to switch into hero mode.

 

He finally looked down and studied the Uraraka on the bed. Kirishima willed himself off his own and joined them on her other side, keeping enough distance not to hover but close enough to be of help. She was still clutching herself, sobbing in pain. Bakugo forced himself out of the wheelchair with a grunt, clutching his broken arm. He couldn’t tear his eyes away from her. “Fuck this. You watch her, I’ll get the old woman and Aizawa.” No one stopped him from limping out of the room.

 

Uraraka gave one last shuddering gasp before slapping her right hand across her abdomen. Kirishima’s eyebrows shot upwards as the tips of her fingers began to glow a faint pink. After a few moments, her face began to relax into a less pained expression and she collapsed onto the bed. Deku and Kirishima exchanged looks. “Uhhh, was she always able to do…that?” The redhead asked.

 

He peered more closely at her and frowned. “Yo. Midoriya. What the fuck is she wearing?”

 

Deku thought he had a stroke for a second. What was she wearing? Uraraka was dressed in what he could only describe as something he’d seen being worn in the Lord of the Rings. She was in a sturdy rose-pink dress adorned with a worn travelers cape. The boots on her feet looked old and handmade. He looked more closely and realized her hair was shorter than he remembered. Also, was her frame always this small?

 

He gulped. “Uraraka, can you hear me?” He nudged her shoulder gently.

 

For the first time since reappearing, she opened her eyes. “Midoriya..?” She blinked a few times, trying to get her eyes to focus.

 

“Midoriya? When’s the last time you called me that?” He chuckled nervously while gently rubbing her shoulder. “Take deep breaths for me, ok? You gave us a scare”

 

To his surprise, a shadow of annoyance crossed her face. “I’ve told you before, I don’t need your-“ Her words caught in her throat as she finally peered at Deku’s face. Confusion replaced sheer terror in the blink of an eye.

 

Who are you?!” She shrieked, ripping herself away from his grip. Uraraka swung to her other side only to see Kirishima sitting there, mouth wide open.

 

“Uraraka, it’s ok! It’s us!” He tried to console her, but it only made the panic worse. She gripped the sides of the bed, trembling.

 

“What are you doing here?” She gasped at him. Her breaths were quick and shallow and a bead of sweat dripped down her forehead.

 

Deku’s stomach dropped. This couldn’t be happening. “Uraraka.” He pleaded. “It’s me, Izuku Midoriya, your best friend. That’s Kirishima, your classmate. Something…something weird happened to you, and Bakugo went to find the staff. Don’t worry, please. We’re going to figure this out.”

 

Uraraka looked at him like he had grown a second head. “You. You’re Midoriya.” She gave him a quick look up and down, eliciting a blush from him. “Why does your hair look like that?” Pursing her lips, she looked at Kirishima. “Did you do this to him? Give him a growth spell or something?”

 

It was Kirishima’s turn to look at her like she was insane. “Uhm, no?” Despite the nervous smile on his face, Deku could see he was having trouble keeping his cool. His head kept flitting towards the door. “Where the hell is Bakugo when you need him?”

 

His name finally registered to Uraraka. “B-Bakugo?” Her eyes widened. “Wait-“ She whipped her head towards Deku. “You said he’s going to get…staff?”

 

He nodded his head reassuringly. “Yeah, once he gets Recovery Girl in here, I’m sure we can find out what happened to you, just please remain calm, ok?”

 

Uraraka stared at the foot of her bed, dumbfounded. “Why…did you call the Lieutenant my classmate?” She whispered.

 

Kirishima barked out an alarmed laugh. “Since when did I join the military?” He and Deku shared another worried glance.

 

She was silent for a moment, deep in thought. Deku cleared his throat uncomfortably. Uraraka lifted her head to observe the room around her. Deku saw her breathing stop and she clutched her chest. “Where…where am I? What is this place?” She murmured. She looked at Deku with tears in her eyes. “Where’s Iida? Where’s the Prince?”

 

The boys were at a loss. Deku had never seen Uraraka look so frail or so lost. Wait. He narrowed his eyes. Uraraka had less than half the muscle definition she had before she disappeared. Something was off. “Uh, who’s the Prince?”

 

She snorted until she realized Deku was being serious. “You’re not joking, are you? Prince Todoroki Shouto? Third in line to the throne? Iida and I’s childhood friend and your-“ She stopped herself. “…Project?”

 

Why did that bring a slight blush to his cheeks? “Uraraka…” Deku started slowly. “Where do you think you are?”

 

She bit her lip, tearing her gaze away from him and to her fingers. “Last I remembered,” she replied, “We were still in the Faroh Woods trying to run from Touya and his guards. While I was gathering some wood, I thought I heard screaming and went to investigate. After that, I felt this…horrible pain, and woke up here.” Uraraka turned her head back to Deku. “Are we in a dungeon? Is it my fault we’re here? That you’re like this?”

 

Before Deku or Kirishima could even begin to answer, a newly healed Bakugo busted through the door with Recovery Girl and Aizawa following closely behind. Uraraka squeaked in surprise and shrunk down on the bed. Bakugo roughly gestured at the trio. “I told you, she looks wrong.” Deku’s ears warmed in embarrassment. Of course he noticed before us.

 

Aizawa motioned Kirishima aside and knelt in his place. “Uraraka,” He carefully scanned her face, “Do you know where you are right now?”

 

She blinked at him, visibly tense. “Do I…know you?”

 

Deku cleared his throat and turned to his teacher. “Aizawa-sensei…something really strange happened.”

 

 

 

~

 

Uraraka Ochako of Ember had been in this bright room for hours now. She found she couldn’t stop shivering despite it being quite warm. After that giant Midoriya spoke with the tired man with the long black hair, they had escorted her to a more private room in the infirmary wing. She had insisted that any pain she had felt she already healed, but they didn’t understand. She felt like a child again.

 

Midoriya had wanted to stay with her, but the older man-Aizawa-told him he had to finish competing, whatever that meant. Whatever was happening, the “staff” wanted to keep secret until they had more information. Uraraka was slightly grateful when he left. This version of Midoriya was unnerving, he was too familiar with her.

 

It’s not like they weren’t friends but…Why was he acting as if we never had that fight?

 

This place was so disorienting. After running some tests, Uraraka had been given a soft shirt and pants to wear. After wresting herself into what she was told was a ‘sports bra’, she decided these people’s fashion tastes were not for her.

 

The older woman-Recovery Girl-had come in to check on her a few times, but for the most part she was isolated. What were they waiting on? She chewed on her lip. Wherever she was, she needed to leave. Her friends needed her.

 

She hated this room. The lights here were unnatural, too brightly lit. She kept having to use her powers on herself to stave off the recurring headache they were causing. The stone here was too smooth. There was a chemical smell in the air that made her crave the fresh air of the outdoors. How did she get from the woods to this castle in the first place?

 

Thinking about her friends having to work with the Kirin warriors without her there as the mediator filled her with unease. For all she knew, they had been ambushed and separated from each other just as she was. But that wouldn’t make sense…considering getting Prince Todoroki back was King Enji’s top priority

 

The whole thing made her sick. She had no stomach for violence. Uraraka was a healer, she helped people. It was the King who had given her that purpose in the first place! So why…?

 

Uraraka groaned and began pacing the room. It was time for her to go. Her boys wouldn’t last a day without her, they’ve never been able to before. Adding that poor Kirin prince and wild dragon into the equation…She kicked herself for getting into this predicament. She knew Prince Bakugo would never let her hear the end of it.

 

The door creaked open, snapping Uraraka from her train of thought. Aizawa entered with what Uraraka presumed was a magical creature in the form of a giant white rodent. It was fully dressed and currently deep in conversation with the tired man. Did this mean they had crossed the border into Kirin?

 

Following them was a woman so scantily clad Uraraka felt her face instantly redden. She was carrying a flogger strapped snuggly to her belt. She caught Uraraka eyeing it and gave her a wink. “Be a good girl for me and I won’t have to use it.” Uraraka squeaked.

 

The white creature smiled at her. “Good afternoon Ms. Uraraka, do you know who I am?” He motioned for her to sit at the table on the right side of the room. She nervously made her way there.

 

“I’m sorry, but I have no memory of you. Please.” She implored, trying to remember the diplomatic skills Prince Todoroki taught her, “Can you tell me where I am? I need to leave and meet up with my comrades.”

 

The smile didn’t leave the creature’s face as he sat down across from Uraraka. “No? What a shame…Allow me to introduce myself then. I am Principal Nezu, and you are currently somewhere on UA property.” He crossed his paws together. “I hear you’re insisting you are Uraraka Ochako?’

 

She sunk down into her chair, forcing herself to take deep breaths. Remember your position Ochako. If there was ever a time to exercise your authority, now would be it.

 

Uraraka held her head high and stared into Nezu’s black eyes. “That’s right, I am Uraraka Ochako, Royal Healer of Ember. I don’t know where UA is in relation to the city Argon, but if you get me there to reunite with my party, I will make sure you are compensated for your trouble.”

 

The creature blinked at her. “I see.” He turned to the woman. “Midnight, it appears we will need your assistance.” Uraraka blanched as the woman smiled wickedly.

 

Nezu gave Uraraka another smile. “Don’t worry, she isn’t going to hurt you.” Midnight ripped a piece of her sleeve as she sauntered towards the table. “We just need to make sure what you’re telling us is in fact the truth.”

 

Before Uraraka could deliver a retort, her senses were assailed with an overwhelming scent of lavender. Her muscles immediately relaxed and she felt a haze set in her mind. Everything began to move a little more slowly. She smiled at the creature lazily. What was she so upset about earlier? Her tongue felt like it was too big for her mouth. She giggled and the woman snorted. “Poor thing must be stressed out of her mind for it to work that quickly.”

 

“Thank you Midnight, that will be all.” Nezu responded quietly. He leaned in towards Uraraka. “Now, please tell me your name and why you appear to be wearing one of our student’s faces.”

 

Uraraka lolled her head towards him. “I told you, my name is Uraraka Ochako.” She found that she couldn’t stop giggling. “I’m a healer! Can you believe that? Blood makes me so nauseous!” She snorted. “Who would wear a face? That’s so silly, you’re the only magical thing in here!” Frowning, she put a finger to her chin. “Well, I guess that’s not true.” She playfully splayed her finger pads out. “If you have a cut, I can heal it for you.”

 

She looked past the rodent to Aizawa. “How do you know Midoriya? Are you the reason why he’s so big?” Uraraka pouted. “Why can he walk around and I can’t? Aren’t we both prisoners?”

 

Nezu's ears twitched. Aizawa sighed and stood behind him. “From the tests Recovery Girl took we can confirm it’s Uraraka.” He muttered to Nezu. “The DNA matches, but it doesn’t explain why her quirk and appearance are now different.”

 

Nezu tapped his chin in thought. “She can’t lie under Midnight’s influence. Say,” He turned to Uraraka. “What were you doing prior to arriving here?”

 

Uraraka tilted her head back. “That was so long ago…” She furrowed her eyebrows. “Firewood…I was collecting firewood. And then, like I told Midoriya, I heard screaming and-“ She snapped up.

 

A memory flooded back. “They grabbed me.” She gasped. “I tried fighting back, but…” She was struggling to remember the specifics. “It was hot. I felt like I was burning from the inside out. I was all alone.” She whispered.

 

The creature leaned in closer. “What else?” He asked gently.

 

“I…” Uraraka blinked back tears. Nezu handed her a small stack of shiny papers. “Do you remember taking these?”

 

She nervously glanced at the glossy parchments in front of her. Each one was painted with such detail it looked like they had been taken from someone’s memories. They all had her in them. One in a large group of people, including her friends in identical uniforms. One of her in a strange outfit that was entirely too tight with boots that swallowed her legs. Another was of her and an older couple, smiling and hugging in front of a glass building. They were of her, but they weren’t.

 

Uraraka realized her hands were shaking. “This…is me, but…” She whispered. “This isn’t my life.”

 

Nezu nodded sadly. “I’m sorry to make you go through all of this, but I needed confirmation.” He gently took Uraraka’s hand in one of his paws. “We have had extremely rare cases of this before, but never to this level. I believe, Miss Uraraka, that you have somehow been transported from your world to ours. This Ember you speak of does not exist here. You are currently in Japan, on the Earth’s eastern hemisphere.”

 

Aizawa narrowed his eyes at Nezu, annoyed. “You’re telling me we have had visitors from parallel worlds before?”

 

Nezu released Uraraka’s hand. “Well, yes and no.” He mused. “We’ve had records of people popping up from the past, others leaving to other dimensions by mistake and reappearing years later. It all had to do with quirk malfunctions that we have understandably kept hidden from public knowledge. But,” he indicated to the crumbling girl in front of him, “There have never been any reports of someone coming here, let alone switching places with their parallel selves.”

 

His smile fell. “Which means our Uraraka, the one UA is responsible for, is somewhere alone in this Miss Uraraka's reality.”

 

Uraraka was trying to remain calm. No, this isn’t happening. This can’t be happening. But here she was, with these strange versions of her friends, in an entirely alien place. The same, but different. So different. If there was anything she’d learned in the last month, it’s that nothing is impossible. Her hands wouldn’t stop shaking.

 

“I need to see them.” She whispered. Nezu perked his ears up. “See who?”

 

“My friends.” She choked out. The tears were coming, she couldn’t stop them,. The effects of the woman had been canceled out by her panic. “Please, I have to go back! Send me back!” Uraraka bolted up from her chair. “They’ll die without me!”

 

Midnight tore open another part of her sleeve. “Calm down, sweetie. Panicking won’t get you anywhere.”

 

Uraraka was ready this time. The second she felt the pull of the scent, she slapped her hand across her chest and activated her magic. The three adults stared intently at her glowing hand. “Why do you think they will die without you?” Aizawa asked carefully.

 

Uraraka stumbled backwards, her backside hitting the edge of the infirmary bed. No matter how hard she breathed, her lungs weren't getting enough air. “You don’t understand, if I’m not there-they can’t, they won’t be-they’ll be caught.” She started wringing her hands. “We’re being hunted. This is my fault-I wasn’t careful enough. Bakugo was right-I let myself get caught by something and now-“

 

Her knees hit the floor. She stared at her hands. “I killed her.”

 

Aizawa crouched in front of her. “Killed who?” He pressed softly.

 

“Your Uraraka.” She replied in a monotone. She peered at the adults in the room. “If we really switched places, if she’s really in my world, there’s no way she’s still alive.” She gripped the man’s sleeve. “My world…is not kind. It will not show her mercy. I’m so sorry.” She sobbed.

 

When Midnight came to sedate her a third time, she did not fight back. This time, she welcomed the sleep, unable to live with the guilt now eroding away at her core.

 

She had failed everyone.

 

~

 

Deku had finally claimed first place at his final Sports Festival, but found that at the moment he couldn’t care less. After frantically consulting with Todoroki beforehand, they decided to make their final round a quick fight and get it over with as soon as possible. As crazy as it sounded, they had more important things to worry about.

 

After the fanfare of the awards ceremony, he and Todoroki tore away towards the infirmary to find out what had happened to their best friend. At the entrance, they were met by a fidgety Kirishima, a confused Iida, and a pacing Bakugo. As Iida saw them approach, he borderline ran to them.

 

“Midoriya! I got your message, but I don’t understand. What’s wrong with Uraraka?” The more anxious he got, the more extreme his gestures became.

 

Bakugo stopped pacing and bared his teeth in annoyance. “I fucking told you four-eyes. She beamed out of there and got replaced with some weird lookalike.” He smirked at Deku. “Who doesn’t like Deku.”

 

Deku opened his mouth in protest while Todoroki didn’t seem the least bit fazed. “What are you even doing here, loser?”

 

Kirishima stepped between them before Bakugo could blow up the hallway. “We were also there when it happened, so we came to make sure she was ok.” He grimaced. “And also to answer any more questions the teachers have for us.”

 

Bakugo kicked the wall. “Can I not come to check on my stupid partner? We’re supposed to have a shift tomorrow and I need to confirm to Miruko that she’s out of fucking commission.” He spat, but the venom wasn’t quite there. He looked about as worried as the rest of them.

 

Kirishima’s gaze softened as he turned towards him and put his hand on his shoulder. “She’s gonna be ok, dude.”

 

“Fuck off.” Bakugo muttered, but he didn’t move Kirishima’s hand.

 

Todoroki let out a huff of air. “Does she really look that different?”

 

Deku cast a sideways glance towards Bakugo. “I for one am not sure that this is a fake Uraraka but…she is different. Little things.” He chuckled nervously. “Todoroki, she thinks you’re a prince.”

 

Todoroki frowned. “I would be terrible at that.” His eyes slightly widened. “Is this my fault? Did I injure her head when we fought?”

 

Deku shook his head. “This all happened after the light anomaly I mentioned. She was fine before.” He stuck out his lower lip as he thought. “Afterwards, she said she had been running from a Touya…but I don’t know anyone named Touya, do you Iida?”

 

Iida shook his head. Deku sighed. “Bummer. How about you Todoroki, do you know-“ He paused as he saw him grow stiff as a board.

 

There was a pained look on his friend’s face he had never seen before. “Todoroki?”

 

“How does she know that name?” He whispered.

 

Deku opened his mouth to reply, but the door suddenly creaked open to reveal a very tired Aizawa. The boys stood to attention with Deku immediately charging forward. “Sensei! Is she-“

 

Aizawa put up a hand to silence him while using the other to hold back a yawn. “We had to sedate her earlier, but she’s awake and cognizant now.” His expression turned stern. “I think it’s a bad idea for you all to see her, but Principal Nezu believes it can help us gather more data.”

 

“What have you found out so far, Professor?” Iida probed.

 

Aizawa gave him a long look before answering. “Midoriya, why are Iida and Todoroki here?”

 

Deku tensed up. “Well…”  He rubbed his hair nervously before twiddling his thumbs. “Todoroki knew something was off when I met up with him before the finals so I had to tell him and then I couldn’t leave Iida out because he’s also our friend and Uraraka was asking about him and then I thought he should know anyways because we’re in the same friend group and it would look weird if all of the sudden I was acting secretive and Uraraka was gone so-“

 

“-So what he’s saying is that he can’t keep a damn secret.” Bakugo sneered. “But we already knew that.”

 

Deku lowered his head in shame. “I haven’t told Tsu!”

 

“Yet.” Todoroki mused. Deku’s head sunk further.

 

Aizawa groaned and pinched the bridge of his nose. “It goes without saying that you will all need to sign a non-disclosure agreement legally banning you from discussing this with other students.” He glared at Midoriya. “If I find out you broke it, expulsion will be the least of your problems.”

 

Kirishima shuffled his feet. “So…that means that this is, like, really serious?”

 

Aizawa glanced around to make sure they were alone. “Bakugo was correct. The Uraraka Ochako in that room is not only different, but came to us from a parallel world. She and our Uraraka were somehow switched. We are currently trying to find the reason why and a method to bring our Uraraka back.”

 

Iida stared blankly. “Bring. Bring our Uraraka back?”

 

Kirishima’s hand on Bakugo’s shoulder tightened into a death grip, but Bakugo didn’t seem to notice. They both looked ill.

 

Deku’s breath hitched. “So I did lose her…” He whispered. His eyes smarted as he balled his fists. “Aizawa, she has to come back! I need her to come back!” He croaked.

 

Aizawa glared at him. “Not. A. Word.” His gaze raked the rest of the company. “Her parents have been notified. No one else needs to know at the moment. Your purpose now is to talk to this Uraraka and get as much information out of her as possible.” His expression softened. “She’s been through hell. Be patient with her. It will be strange but…necessary.”

 

Todoroki crossed his arms, face resolute. “There is a friend in there who needs help. We help our friends.”

 

Deku sniffed. “He’s right. We’ll do what we can.” Iida nodded vigorously in agreement.

 

Aizawa closed his eyes. “You get one hour. Then it’s back to the dorms.”

 

~

 

Uraraka felt extremely vulnerable under the eyes of the three boys in front of her. This world’s Bakugo was leaning against the wall behind Midoirya and Iida, scowling. She couldn’t look them in the faces. Her guilt was giving her another headache. They had been sitting in an uncomfortable silence for a good five minutes. Iida cleared his throat and she jumped slightly.

 

“Sorry.” She whispered. He waved his hands in front of him. “Please don’t be! It was my fault. For coughing.” He finished lamely. Uraraka found she couldn’t stop staring at the strange machines in his legs.

 

Bakugo groaned from the wall. “Fuck this, we’re wasting time. You.” He pointed at Uraraka. “What the fuck are you doing here?”

 

“Bakugo!” Iida barked. “That is no way to talk to someone we’re helping! A friend!” He added quickly after seeing Uraraka’s deflated expression.

 

Bakugo sniffed. “Not my fucking friend. I don’t know jack shit about her.”

 

Uraraka couldn’t help but laugh. They all turned to look at her in surprise. “Sorry.” She apologized again. “It’s just that you’re a lot scarier back home.” Bakugo looked deeply offended while Kirishima sniggered.

 

“And you are right, we aren’t friends.” She looked down at her finger pads. “I’m pretty sure you and Kirishima hate us. Hate me.”

 

Kirishima stopped laughing. Midoriya moved to hold her hand and she unconsciously shrunk back. Her heart broke at the hurt look he tried to cover up. “Sorry, I guess we aren’t as close in your world.” He grinned ruefully.

 

His expression turned to one far more energetic. “Speaking of, I cannot believe there are multiple dimensions, can you? And multiple versions of us? There’s an even scarier Kacchan out there?” He leaned back, thankfully forgetting about her small rejection. “There are so many possibilities of other lives out there. We could all live underwater in one!”

 

Todoroki made a slight face. “I don’t like getting my hair wet.”

 

Uraraka stole a peek at this version of Todoroki. He seemed more distant, and far less talkative. He was far more built than his counter, it was obvious to her that he had seen more battles than throne rooms. There was a cold hardness behind the eyes she wasn’t used to. She wondered what this Shouto went through to gain that. “You have the same scar.” She observed.

 

He tensed and his heterochromatic eyes pierced into her brown. She suppressed a shiver. Tentatively, she lifted her hands towards his face. He raised his eyebrows. “May I…take a look at it?” She turned to the rest of the group, who all became extremely interested in what she was doing. “I don’t know if you were told, but I’m a healer. I helped heal this before…”

 

After a moment's hesitation, he gave her a curt nod. She let out a deep breath and caressed the left side of his face with her right hand. A cautious tenderness bloomed in his eyes that made him indistinguishable from her dear friend back home. She used that emotion to channel her focus. Uraraka closed her eyes.

 

She heard a slight gasp from the room as the tips of her fingers began to glow. The familiar feeling began to surround her as she accessed the pool of energy deep within her. Like trickling from a fountain, she channeled the flow of magic from her core through her arm and finally through her finger tips. Feeling like herself for the first time all day, Uraraka smiled.

 

She opened her eyes as the glow began to fade from her fingers. As she pulled her hand away, Midoriya leaned over her bed to get a better look at Todoroki’s face. “Holy smokes…” He breathed.

 

Todoroki’s scar hadn’t disappeared, but it had faded to a much less angry red. He kept moving his face muscles, touching the newly faded scar. “It’s not as tight anymore…it actually feels like it’s a part of my face…” He looked at her in awe. “Thank you.”

 

She blushed. “Oh it’s nothing!” She threw her hand behind her head. “It’s just my job! I’m sure the Uraraka here helps you guys out all the time!”

 

Iida shook his head, still unable to tear his eyes away from Uraraka’s fingers. “No actually. Her quirk-er-magic-allows her to manipulate gravity. The only healer we have here is Recovery Girl.” He finally stopped staring at her hand to look at Todoroki. “Are you feeling tired? Did it drain your stamina in a similar way?”

 

Todoroki frowned. “…No. I feel even more energized. Like I wasn’t in a tournament earlier.” Midoriya wiggled in his seat with excitement.

 

“Do we have different quirks there too?” He leaned in, again forgetting about physical boundaries.

 

Bakugo pulled him back and smacked him upside the head. “Calm down you fucking nerd.” He glanced at Uraraka, who was still extremely intimidated by the blonde. “So do we?”

 

She chewed her lip, a bad habit that was beginning to form. “Does quirk here mean magic?” Midoriya nodded. “Uh, Prince Todoroki can manipulate ice and…fire…but it takes a lot of stamina to do so. He’s better at keeping peace than real fighting. Iida.” She gestured towards him. “Is a royal knight, but lately he’s been studying as a mage. He’s able to do simple spells as long as he has a magical object on him to channel it correctly. Midoriya…” He was struggling to contain himself in his seat. “You’re a very skilled fighter, but most of your power comes from your sword. You won’t tell us its name, but we can pretty much guess it’s something very old and very powerful. It was gifted to you and it’s your most prized possession.” A curious expression fell over his face, and Uraraka wondered if this Midoriya carried a similar secret.

 

Kirishima put his elbows on her bed and balanced his head between his hands. “What about me?”

 

She stared at him. “Well, you’re a dragon.”

 

The jaws of the entire group dropped as Kirishima whooped and hollered. “HELL YEAH I AM! THAT’S SO MANLY!”

 

She laughed nervously. “Oi. Don’t leave me out.” Bakugo muttered petulantly.

 

Uraraka studied him closely for the first time. He was slightly smaller than the one she remembered, more lithe. He didn’t sport the same haunted expression as the Kirin prince either. While just as irritable, he seemed…lighter. There hadn’t been loss yet. She smiled softly at him. “You’re probably the strongest fighter I’ve ever seen. You scared me so much the first time I met you, I couldn’t look you in the eyes until-“ She stopped herself. Until I had to keep you alive on Kirishima’s back as we fled the country.

 

Midoriya noticed her shift in mood. “Is everything ok, Uraraka?”

 

Her chest started to burn. She nodded tersely, scared that if she spoke the emotional dam within her would break. Kirishima tilted his head towards her. “Earlier you said you thought Bakugo and I hated you. How could we hate you?”

 

Bakugo crossed his arms and watched her closely from behind Midoriya. Her remorse gripped her throat as she struggled to take in a breath. A tear fell, and Midoriya reached for her hand again. Curiously, this time she accepted it.

 

“I told your…sensei this earlier but,” Another tear hit the blanket. “My world is violent. It’s harsh.” She looked sadly at Kirishima. “Our people hurt your people. We were trying to fix it, and then…we were tricked. People…good people died, and I-“ Tears were freely falling down her cheeks now. “We were running and I had to go and get myself warped somewhere away from the people who need me.” She choked out a sob. “You were right Bakugo, all I do is cry and be a burden to everyone around me.”

 

Bakugo bristled at the accusatory glares he was now getting from the rest of the boys. “Don’t look at me! I didn’t fucking say it!”

 

Todoroki gently rested his hand on Uraraka’s shaking one. “If you appeared where our Uraraka was, does that mean she appeared where you were in your world?”

 

There it was. The question she couldn’t bear answer. She shut her eyes tightly. “I’m so sorry.”

 

“Why are you sorry?” Iida prodded.

 

She drew in a shaky breath. “I…you don’t understand. We were running for our lives. Our nerves were frayed to begin with, and we’re in such a dangerous place.” She hung her head. “I don’t see how she could still be alive.” She whispered.

 

Silence filled the room. Midoriya’s grip tightened on her hand and Todoroki drew his back as if he had been shocked.

 

“It’s my fault.” She continued to whisper. “I know this happened because of me. I wasn’t careful enough, and now she was thrown into my mess. I’m…I’m so sorry.”

 

Tch. The derisive sound made Uraraka open her eyes. Instead of seeing hate and revulsion in the eyes of her peers, she was only met with sadness and understanding. She turned to the source of the sound and saw Bakugo angrily flexing his hands. “There’s no way she’s dead. You’re weak as shit compared to her and you made it this far.”

 

He glared at the group. “And you all would be fucking idiots too to think one of UA’s top heroes would be enough of a pussy to die on her first day out in the field.”

 

Midoriya loosened his grip on Uraraka’s hand, steadying his own breath. “Kacchan’s right. Uraraka is strong, and she knows what she’s doing.” He gave a watery smile. “Out of all the Uraraka’s out there to switch places with, she’s probably the best equipped for it.”

 

He was met with a chorus of agreements. Kirishima let out a whoosh of air. “Our Uravity is the manliest female hero in our class. We have faith in her.” He flashed a toothy grin at Uraraka. “So don’t be putting this blame on yourself.”

 

Uraraka felt herself sink into the bed. So they didn’t hate her. That was good. But she wasn’t convinced that their Uraraka was safe. These boys really had no idea what they were up against. She sighed. “Thank you.” She peered up at the ceiling. “I have to get back to my friends.”

 

Todoroki nodded. “It’s important to be there for the people who are important to you.”

 

She stared at him before cracking a small smile. “It really is.”

 

Iida smacked his hands against his thigh before standing up. Other than the strangeness of his legs, she was glad to see that this Iida almost matched her childhood friend, minus the glasses this one wore. “We’ve decided. We will help our superiors in coming up with a way to get you back to your world and our Uraraka back to hers. In the meantime, I would hate for your quirk-sorry, magic-to go to waste. Maybe we could convince Recovery Girl to employ you in some way.”

 

Uraraka beamed at him. “Please, anything to make myself useful while I’m here. I would like that very much, thank you.”

 

He nodded curtly and turned to briskly exit the room. Kirishima checked the time on his phone. “Well, we still have a few minutes left, but I guess he’s on his own mission now.”

 

Midoriya shrugged and turned to Uraraka. “I’ll see when the next time I can visit is.” He grinned excitedly. “I want to show you all about what our world has to offer, and I want to hear more about yours. Is that ok?”

 

She shyly nodded. Todoroki placed his hands together on the bed. “I would like to join as well. I have…some questions I need to ask.” His eyes darkened. “In private.”

 

Both her and Midoriya looked at him curiously while Bakugo snorted derisively. “Well you won’t see much of me. I’m busy.” He stalked out of the room. “Someone let me know when my actual partner shows back up!” He yelled over his shoulder before exiting.

 

Kirishima rolled his eyes. “Sorry about that, he’s just…well no, he’s just an ass.” Uraraka giggled and Kirishima looked like he won the lottery. “Hey! You can laugh!”

 

Uraraka moved her hand towards her chest, shifting up the hem of her shirt in the process. Midoriya zeroed in on her slightly exposed abdomen. “Hey, Uraraka, what’s on your stomach?”

 

“Hm?” She looked at him confused until she followed his line of sight. “Oh!”

 

 She knew she should be more modest, but she lifted her shirt a little more anyways to reveal a gold band encircling her navel. “I’ve had it since I was little. I think it might be a birthmark, but I’m not sure. Does the other Uraraka not have one?”

Chapter Text

 

Uraraka was convinced she was going to die.

 

All day. They had been hiking through the woods all day. Only twice did they briefly stop to rest. Once for a bathroom break, and the other time Uraraka had to fake having to pee again just so she could catch her breath.

 

She had a nagging suspicion that this wasn’t all due to Bakugo’s unbridled enthusiasm to get to wherever they were going. If he kept her exhausted and constantly occupied, then she wouldn’t have time to think of a viable way of escaping from him. Uraraka suspected this because if she were in his position, she’d do the exact same thing.

 

And it was working. Bastard.

 

As he glided through the forest as if he was on some pleasant midday stroll, it was all Uraraka could do to keep herself from stumbling and twisting her ankle. Despite no words of mistrust actually being exchanged between them, Uraraka would have to be denser than Kaminari to not feel the waves of distrust rolling off Bakugo’s body.

 

In fact, they had barely spoken five words to each other since they separated from the main group. It wasn’t like she hadn’t tried.

 

“What does Argon look like?” Silence.

 

“What was it like growing up around dragons?” Cold shoulder.

 

“Did your tattoos hurt? How many do you have?”

 

“Airhead, I swear to the gods if you do not shut the fuck up I will knock you out and drag you to the spring by your foot.”

 

That had been hours ago. She wished she had a watch; it was impossible for Uraraka to discern what time it actually was. The dense trees suspended them into an eternal twilight that only got worse the deeper they ventured. A bead of sweat rolled down Uraraka’s back causing her to shudder with discomfort. A scowl settled in on her tired face. She was sick of having to crawl after that blonde asshole and sick of having to use that ridiculous cloak as her point of direction.

 

At a particularly steep outcrop, Bakugo stopped and sat at the ledge, dangling his legs into the air as he watched Uraraka struggle to climb. The dull ruby necklace around his neck caught in the sun, giving him silhouette a shining effect. He smirked at her. “Damn, I knew you were slow, but this is pathetic.”

 

She would not take the bait. She would not take the bait. Instead, she wiped her forehead before hauling herself over another rock. “My apologies your highness, for not being born with the abilities of a mountain goat. In my next life, I’ll ask for hooves.””

 

Damn it, she took the bait.

 

He rolled his eyes and propped himself against his elbows. “It’s not my fault you’re so out of shape.”

 

OUT OF-? She hated herself as she did it, but in the spitting image of her mother, she puffed out her cheeks in anger and pointed a shaky finger at him. “We have been going nonstop this entire day. If I actually was out of shape, I would’ve passed out ages ago. But have I? NO!” In a petty move, she jerked her finger towards her abdomen. “I have abs.” Partly true, the line running down her stomach was just now starting to define itself, but he didn’t need to know that. “Do you understand how hard that is for a girl to achieve?”

 

Bakugo scoffed, eliciting even more rage from Uraraka. Was she dealing with a child? “We’re not all built like monsters like you! Why are you built like that? Are you even human?” Well, I guess I’m a child, too.

 

She felt a nasty sense of satisfaction as her goading finally got under his skin. His smirk dropped and twisted into a formidable snarl. In the back of her mind, Uraraka made the impulsive decision to continue this argument no matter the consequence for the sole reason that this was the first time in ages she was able to stop and catch her breath. She’d deal with the repercussions later. 

 

“That’s rich, coming from you.”

 

It was so quiet, she almost didn’t hear it. She twisted her head up towards where he was now standing. “Huh?”

 

The snarl was still set in his face, making his canines look even more elongated than they already were. In all honesty, it made his face all the more devastatingly attractive. Devastatingly? Uraraka needed to get more oxygen in her system.

 

Deku would be disappointed in her immaturity, but she really needed another 30 seconds to get her legs to stop cramping. Uraraka made a sweeping gesture towards him. “Look at you! You’re probably part dragon yourself. Who looks and acts like you and isn’t some sort of demon hybrid?”

 

Bakugo’s body language immediately shifted. His face became an unreadable mask, and the only emotion she could glean from it was something predatory. Towards her. From this angle, he looked eight feet tall and poised to fight. This rapt stillness made her miss the snarl. She found herself trapped under his glare, like a rabbit realizing it’s been discovered by a rabid fox. You pushed it too far, Ochako, great job.

 

Uraraka internally kicked herself. She never used to offend people so easily before her damned internship with the other Bakugo. She probably could’ve caused at least three great cultural offences with that last question alone! And this Bakugo was so hard to read…she put her hands up in front of her as a sign of defeat. “Listen, I-“

 

He cut her off with a calm, deliberate flick of his right hand. “No. You’re done.”

 

Something in the tone of his voice caused her mind to temporarily short-circuit. Her mouth snapped shut on its own and she had to suppress a shiver threatening to creep down her spine. She discovered her body was tensed in the same way it did before going into a fight, but what she felt wasn’t fear. It was… anticipation? What is wrong with me?

 

If Bakugo had any clue to what on going on inside Uraraka’s exploding brain, he made no indication of it. The only movement on his face was a slight twitch of his jaw before he spoke again. “We’re wasting time. I’m going ahead. If you can’t catch up to me in five minutes, we’ll be walking through the night.” He left her with one last look of distaste. Her stomach dropped as he turned away, the billowing of his cloak being the last thing Uraraka saw before he disappeared completely.

 

As if the spell rooting her to the ground had been broken, she stumbled forward a breathed out a frustrated “Fuck.” She really needed to work on her communication skills in this world. Uraraka was resigned to the fact that she would probably never get along with Bakugo, but if she was to split off on her own, it was vital that she knew how to carry a civil conversation with strangers in this world. The art of blending in, being inconspicuous. Speaking of…

 

Uraraka knew she wasn’t actually left by herself. Even if he was out of sight, she knew he was still aware of her presence. Her escape needed to be well thought out and well executed-she doubt she’d have an opportunity to do it more than once.

 

But Bakugo was out of sight, so that meant…Uraraka activated her quirk, launching herself from the boulder she was standing on to where Bakugo had been only moments before. She quickly deactivated it and gave a sigh of relief. Uraraka wasn’t out of shape, but she hated to admit how much she relied on her quirk to get her through most obstacles. Not being able to use it had really tested her endurance skills.

 

She shook her head. Just think of it as an exercise. Feeling like she finally recovered a pinch of stamina, she strode in the direction of Bakugo’s footprints. It didn’t take long for her to see him come into view and jog to match his pace. The ground here was much more even. He didn’t acknowledge her as she walked beside him, sparking a flare of annoyance from Uraraka. She became even more annoyed at the fact that she wanted his approval.

 

It was a part of Uraraka she always had to work on – needing recognition. She knew it stemmed from years of always being underestimated because of her bubbly and round exterior. Up until a few years ago no one had ever taken her seriously, not even her parents. Especially her parents. All she wanted to do was to help support them, be a hero they could be proud of, but they never listened. It was always, That’s nice dear, or, Why are you pushing yourself so hard? How could you possibly go against such massive villains?, and, worst of all, the cursed, Honey, we’re just concerned about our little girl.

 

No matter how many shining report cards she brought home, no matter how many criminals she single-handedly brought down, no matter how hard she trained her body, it was never enough. She was always sweet little Ochako who, in the eyes of her parents and the media, was always too little and frail to play with the big dogs. Iida called it an inferiority complex. Mina called it daddy issues. Bakugo called it motivation. Uraraka didn’t have a name for it; she just knew that no matter what, her own sense of pride would never be enough.

 

Another few minutes had passed. He still hadn’t looked at her, despite her being right there. It didn’t bother her. Not at all. She knew she had proved him wrong, that she had met his challenge with success, and that’s all that mattered.

 

 His mouth twitched into a smirk and her eyes zeroed in on the action. “So you do know how to move quickly.”

 

Goddamn it, Ochako, it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t-

 

“Good girl.”

 

She had ascended. She had left her body and had achieved nirvana. The sounds of the forest had disappeared under the roar of blood rushing through her face, ears and body. Warmth flowed from her head to the base of her toes, swirling somewhere in her lower abdomen in a gathering storm that quite frankly alarmed her.

 

Instead of acknowledging any of that, Uraraka coughed and rolled her eyes. Play it cool. “Happy to please, sir.”

 

Apparently her response had the opposite effect. To her shock, Bakugo cringed and took a step away from her. “Don’t say it like that!”

 

“Say it like what?” she retorted.

 

He wildly gestured his hands at her. “Like. That. You know what you’re doing!”

 

Was he flustered? Uraraka looked from his face to his bare chest and detected a faint flush gathering under his collarbones. Noticing her stare, he scowled, wrapped himself in his cloak, and stomped ahead. “Five foot rule now. Keep your distance.”

 

Uraraka stared blankly after him. She swore she could hear him muttering to himself, I’m too tired for this shit, but chose to let him be. With the terrain becoming much more manageable, she was finally able to start devising a plan of escape.

 

Uraraka was in the middle of imagining her fourth simulation when it happened. One moment she was debating how fast she could speed away in zero gravity, and in the next she was keeled over with the breath knocked out of her.

 

Heat. Heat seeping from her core throughout her body entirely unlike what she had felt earlier. This felt like magma in her veins, slogging through her and filling melting her from the inside. Her lungs were filled with the stuff. Tears streamed down her face as she gasped for air.

 

A dull roar filled her ears and her vision went white. She felt…too much. Like whatever was lying dormant inside her body very suddenly needed to get out and it needed to get out now. The pressure was overwhelming. Was she going to explode?

 

Uraraka felt pressure on the side of her face. She focused on the outside force, using it as a lifeline to get her out of her body. The pressure sharpened as she recognized it as a slap. Multiple slaps. Her vision slightly cleared enough for her to see a very tense Bakugo slapping the side of her face while saying something. Or yelling, she couldn’t tell.

 

One last slap finally unlocked her lungs and she gasped in a lungful of beautiful, life-giving air. After feeling the fire within her finally subside, Uraraka was able to blink away the black spots in her vision and understand she had somehow ended up on the ground. Bakugo was holding her upright with one hand and gripping her face with the other.

 

“Oi, oi, can you hear me? Look at me.” She registered the command and met his eyes. His face sank in relief. “What the fuck was that about?”

 

Uraraka became acutely aware of his hand squishing her face. She looked at his wrist, noting the single silver bracelet hanging from it. “Cheeks.”

 

He frowned at her. “What?”

 

The bracelet was created to look like a thick silver rope with a citrine gem connecting it together. It looked like it was made with care. “If you’re going to call me anything other than my name, just say cheeks. I’m used to it.”

 

He released his grip on her face and gave her a look. “You don’t just choose the nickname people give you.”

 

She rubbed her jaw. “Yeah, well, airhead isn’t sticking and I’ve yet to hear anything better from you.”

 

Ignoring the sound of indignance that came from his mouth, she suddenly became extremely aware of how close he was holding her to his body. From the angle he was he was positioning her, she could see up close the delicate etching of scars that littered his torso. “What happened to the five feet rule?”

 

And with that, Bakugo promptly let her fall backwards. She yelped, extremely offended as he stood up and glared at her. “What happened to not being a pain in my ass? Again,” He mouth tightened into a thin line. “What the fuck was that about?”

 

Uraraka bit her lip. Honestly, she had no idea. Bakugo’s eyes slightly softened at her silence. “Oi. Can you stand?”

 

She gave herself a quick assessment. The pain was gone, now replaced with a soreness that Uraraka was convinced she was never going to be rid of. The only thing of note was now she could sense this slight buzzing undercurrent under her skin that gave her a slight itch. The aftershocks of whatever she had just went through hadn’t completely subsided. She groaned.

 

“I’m fine.” She pulled herself up to a standing position, slightly annoyed that Bakugo didn’t offer his hand. She dusted the dirt off her dress and stared at him. “Ok, where to now?”

 

His face was set in a frown as he continued to study her. “You need to tell me if this is a regular thing I need to watch out for.” She cocked her head, not following. He gestured at the ground impatiently. “The fits, you dumbass. We can’t have you rolling down a hill just because your body decides to check out.”

 

She scratched her head and gave him a sheepish grin in hopes of lightening the atmosphere. “I’m really fine! I think I’ve just been pushing myself lately…and stress! A lot of stress! Sometimes it gives me a stomachache?” She frantically waved her arms in front of her. There was no way she’d let him think she was weak. “I just need some water!”

 

The scowl had returned. “We’ll stop to make camp in an hour. Please don’t pass out until then.” Reluctantly, he turned away and resumed their hike.

 

Feeling like a newborn deer, she hobbled after him, trying to keep her breathing even. Maybe if she could convince Bakugo there was nothing to worry about, then she would also start to believe it. Uraraka was shaken, but she forced herself to swallow the panic slowly swelling inside her. Fear was a luxury she didn’t have time to indulge in.

 

She’d figure out what was wrong with her later. After she escaped these damned woods and this damned blonde.

 

~

 

Unfortunately, the even terrain did not last for long. If the forest was thick before, it didn’t even come close to the wildness of the brush before them. Despite it being only late afternoon, it was dark enough under the trees that Uraraka had to squint. Her wheezing breath had returned and was even worse now after her fainting spell.

 

Heavy brush gave way to a grove surrounding a pond. Uraraka choked out of breath of relief at the sight of the sky, not realizing how claustrophobic the trees had been making her. Bakugo scanned the area and dropped his pack by a boulder wedged in the earth. “We can stop here and pick back up at dawn.”

 

Uraraka sunk to the ground, overcome with the thought of being able to finally sit and rest. The Kirin prince cocked an eyebrow at her. “Don’t pass out again.” She stuck her tongue out at him and he scowled. “Refill the canteens while I make a fire.”

 

Having to hype herself up to stand, she begrudgingly snatched the water containers and made her way to the pond. The sun had begun to descend behind the trees.  Uraraka could see its perfect reflection in the glassy surface of the water. A slight glow caught her eye and she began to see fireflies gently dance in the water fronds. They were mesmerizing to her exhausted brain. “This place is beautiful.”

 

The sound of a snap jolted her out of her stupor. She whipped her head to see Bakugo crouched in her direction, hand outstretched as the source of the snap. He had gotten the fire going in an impressively short time. “Don’t stare too carefully, they’ll try to steal your shit.”

 

“Try to..?” Uraraka narrowed in her focus on a nearby firefly. Upon further inspection, her hand flew to her mouth as she discovered it in fact wasn’t a bug, but a small fairy-like being with luminescent wings. “What! Who-what are they?”

 

“Pixies.” He spat, flicking one away that wandered too close to his pack. “Harmless until they take the clothes off your back while sleeping. But luckily,” he leaned back to inspect his handiwork, “like most pests, they hate smoke.”

 

Pixies. She blinked, wrapping her head around how casually he said that. What a world… “Hey wait,” she started to ask, “I didn’t think there were…pixies…or anything that magical in Ember.”

 

Uraraka was beginning to hate that mask of insufferable neutrality Bakugo would dish out any time she asked a question he didn’t want to answer. “Probably because we aren’t in Ember anymore. We crossed the border a little earlier. Gimme that.” He swiped his filled canteen from Uraraka’s hand.

 

She sat by the crackling fire and glared at it. “What do you gain by refusing to tell me anything?”

 

Sitting down, he tore into a piece of jerky while tossing her the rest. “Not my fault you’re still playing dumb.” He muttered, then froze as he realized what came out of his mouth.

 

Uraraka stared at him. “So I was right. You still don’t trust me.” Bakugo appeared to be in a very angry conversation with himself, eyes fixed on the ground. Her pulse quickened. “Where are you actually taking me?”

 

His head snapped up at a speed that caused her jump. The slight hesitation he took before speaking told her everything she needed to know. “Don’t be fucking paranoid, we’re still going to the spring.”

 

She did not like the way he was staring her down. He fully expected her to try something. Was she going to? …No. His plan of keeping her tired had worked, there was no way she could successfully fight her way out of this.

 

Instead, she ripped into her own portion of jerky. “Ok, so going back to my previous question, why are you still keeping me in the dark?” She might as well try to get some information out of him while she was conserving strength. “Even if you don’t trust me with sensitive information, you might as well give me enough so I’m not just relying on you the whole time.”

 

Bakugo opened his mouth to speak, but promptly closed it shut. It was a while before he was able to answer. “You need to understand something. You will be the first non-Kirin – fuck that, first non-royal in decades to be in this part of our kingdom. This land is old, sacred, and dangerous. The people of Kirin always need to remember that we are allowed to live here. There are some secrets here too important for even me to understand. You not knowing shit is intentional. If you find out too much, I’d have to kill you.”

 

Uraraka laughed until she realized his expression hadn’t changed. The sound died out and was replaced with an audible gulp. This wasn’t a threat from Bakugo. It was a warning from a prince charged to protect his country at any cost. “Got it.”

 

He rolled his eyes, breaking the tension he created. “Don’t worry about it too hard, Cheeks. You’re so dense it’d take a miracle for you to even recognize a secret, even if it was screaming at you in the face.”

 

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, trying to remember the calming exercises Todoroki taught her during their second year. “Ignorant as I am, I kicked your ass once and I can do it again.”

 

Bakugo smirked. “If memory serves, I was the one who came out on top.”

 

She opened her eyes to hold his gaze, putting some steel in her own. “We will have a rematch, and I will win.” Even if it was a promise she couldn’t keep, she found herself promising it anyways.

 

He leaned forward excitedly, a wolfish grin splitting across his face. “Sure thing, as long as you try that trick with your thighs again. I’ve never been so ready to be suffocated.”

 

Uraraka’s hands flew to her face, mortified. I was hoping he forgot that. “I was hoping you forgot that.”

 

His smile widened as he squared his shoulders and puffed out his chest in such a way Uraraka would’ve scoffed at if she wasn’t so damn flustered. “Do you have extensive experience with crushing men with your thighs like that? I gotta say, it was unexpected, but I found a way to enjoy myself.”

 

She gawked at him, unable to form words. “You–it wasn’t–no, I–“

 

In the smuggest voice known to man, he sighed and asked, “Oh sorry, am I making you uncomfortable?”

 

Insufferable. Turning this into a game of chicken just to freak her out and put the conversation back in his favor. Manipulative prick. She had never humored it back home and she wasn’t about to start now.

 

As she turned in a dramatic gesture to let him know exactly what she thought about his peacocking, Uraraka stopped. Wait. There it was. An opportunity. She recalled a lesson she learned from Mt. Lady from a seminar she and the other girls attended.

 

Sometimes, you can’t punch yourself out of a situation. Physicality in battle doesn’t always mean fighting. If you can read the signs, sometimes…

 

Back home, she never had the nerve to use any of the tricks and pointers Mt. Lady had given them, despite the resounding success she had seen with Mina. If Uraraka had acknowledged that she could use her sexuality as a way to distract and unarm her opponent, then that would mean she would also have to acknowledge that their society still had a long way to go with their treatment and views of female heroes.

 

But this wasn’t Japan. And she needed to ditch Bakugo and make it out in one piece.

 

Uraraka was pretty sure she wasn’t ugly, but growing up being the girl with stubborn baby fat and earning nicknames like “Jigglypuff” and “Kirby” had all but convinced her that she just wasn’t one of those girls boys found attractive. She wasn’t like Mina who just oozed confidence and sex appeal, or even Momo with her devastatingly innocent good looks. Because of that, even as an adult she had never really explored that side of her – she chose to get recognition as a hero solely by merit and not by her sexual marketability. It had nothing to do with the fact that she was scared that even if she went that route, everyone would just laugh at her as the sad round girl who thought she could be on the same level as Midnight or Mt. Lady. Nothing at all.

 

She sent up a silent prayer to Mina for strength before she steeled herself. Bakugo had picked the wrong tired girl to mess with. He wants discomfort? I’ll show him discomfort. He had no idea what he had just started.

 

In a languid motion, she turned her body back around and gave him the most innocent, doe-eyed expression she could muster. Slightly jutting out her bottom lip, she blinked twice and let out a high pitched sigh. “Uncomfortable? What do you mean by that?”

 

Bakugo looked like she had just slapped him in the face. He was frozen in place, obviously taken aback at her change in behavior. Fighting back the urge to fling herself into the pond, Uraraka delicately splayed her legs out in a very uncomfortable but very attractive position and slightly pushed her arms to the sides to push out her chest.

 

His eyes zeroed in on the motion and Uraraka wanted to crawl into the earth. No, she thought furiously at herself. This isn’t sexy at all! This is strategy! Think, Ochako, you can do this!  

 

Bakugo’s body language immediately changed, slightly caving in as he went on the defensive. “What…are you doing?” His eyes were clouded with apprehension, but he couldn’t look away.

 

Sorry mom, sorry dad. She leaned her head to the side to let her hair cascade around her face and gave him a soft smile. “I’m just asking you a question.”

She delicately put her index finger on her lip to feign being deep in thought (something she had seen Cami do countless times), satisfied to find that he was fixated on the motion. “Am I making you uncomfortable?”

 

Something in her question registered within him as his eyes narrowed in slight clarity. To her alarm, his body relaxed and regained its confident aura. He deliberately lowered his head on the arm being supported by his knee and flashed her a crooked, arrogant smile that she felt in her bones. “I’ve never been uncomfortable a day in my life. Does that disappoint you?” Shit. He’s already caught on.

 

She had initiated the challenge. He just acknowledged that he accepted it. And there was no way he was going to give into her that easy. This was Katsuki Bakugo they were talking about, the man with an ego that surpasses multiple universes. It’s ok, I can still do this.

 

This was still just a petty game to him. He didn’t need to know the end result would be him incapacitated and Uraraka well on her way to the nearest town back in the direction of Ember. It just meant that she needed to step up her game. Yes, that was why she had initiated this in the first place. Keep your head. Her freedom depended on how long she could keep her nerve.

 

Uraraka accepted the blush that was going to reside permanently on her face and shifted her weight onto her hands, slightly arching her back in another way to accentuate her breasts. She was excited to see that despite his cocky demeanor, it caught his attention. No, not excited, satisfied. There was nothing exciting about this!

 

She looked up at the sky in a purposefully detached manner, not caring at all that his eyes were burning holes into her. “I find it kind of strange you took me out here in the woods all by ourselves to begin with. Did you want me all to yourself, away from the others?” She flicked her eyes to him, ignoring the screaming in her head. “Did our fight really get you that excited?”

 

Bakugo made a show of looking her up and down, setting her insides on fire. Even though this wasn’t real, and he was also doing anything he could to get her to crack, she had never seen someone blatantly stare at her with that much hunger. “That’s rich, coming from someone who pretended to pass out just so they could get me to touch them.” His eyes flashed. “Or so they could get close enough to touch me.”

 

Seduction momentarily forgotten, she scoffed at him with indignance. He cracked a smile. “Pre–pretend? Just to touch–listen!” She snapped. “I don’t have to come up with schemes to get you to touch me, or vice versa! Do I look desperate? Do you think that’s what’s happening here? That I want to touch you that badly? Please.” She crossed her arms, foregoing her own grandstanding to satisfy her need to pout. “Don’t flatter yourself.”

 

Bakugo smirked, not at all convinced. “Uh huh, sure. You’re very brave, my mistake.” He went in for the kill. “That’s why you were asking about my tattoos earlier, right? Because you couldn’t look away from my arms?” He cackled at her enraged expression. “Listen, it’s not the first time a girl used that pickup line because she was too much of a coward to say what was actually on her mind. It happens to the best of us,” he quipped with the condescension of someone who thought they had won.

 

Like hell he had.

 

She stood up, staring daggers at him. “I’m not a coward. I can touch whoever I want, whenever I want. I don’t hide behind pretense, you dick.”

 

“Then do it.”

 

She couldn’t have heard him right. “Wh-what?”

 

His grin became feral. “Come on seductress. If you’re so brave and straight forward, prove it.”

 

He was making fun of her. Of course. She was naïve to think she could catch him off his guard to begin with. A small part of Uraraka had started to believe she could actually pull this off. That she could be powerful in more ways than one. It stung.

 

But instead of admitting defeat, Uraraka dug her metaphorical foot into the dirt and shot him her own look of partial disinterest. “A little desperate for attention, are we?”

 

He changed his position to sit cross-legged by the fire. The light of it danced off his face, reflecting the flecks of gold in his red eyes. “I think we both know that out of the two of us, I’m not the one with something to prove.”

 

There it was. Her Achilles heel. Uraraka hadn’t realized that morning that the hill she was choosing to die on was feeling up Bakugo’s arm, but here she was, unable to back down. She sniffed. “I hate to break it to you, but you don’t leave me nearly as nervous as you think you do.”

 

Bakugo leaned back on his hands, grinning at her cracking resolve. “So I don’t do anything for you, U-ra-ra-ka?”

 

Uraraka crossed her arms, forcing them to keep from shaking. She missed classmate Bakugo who had the romantic emotional range of a teaspoon and had never once expressed interest in anything physical other than combat. The one in front of her was entirely too shameless. “Not my type,” she managed to get out.

 

He shrugged. “Then you wouldn’t have any issues, I don’t know…” He held eye contact with her. “Sitting in my lap?”

 

She was going to die. Her soul was going to leave her body and join the pixies buzzing around the pond. How could he even think of asking that?! Uraraka opened her mouth to tell him to piss off before she caught the look of absolute victory on his face.

 

He banked on her not doing it. He had absolutely planned on them getting to this point and her backing out, making him the crown winner of this argument. This was Bakugo, and he did not lose. But at that moment, Uraraka realized she didn’t either.

 

“Fine.”

 

He didn’t register it at first. After a few seconds of silence between them, she noticed a slight drop in his smug smile as his eyes widened at her. “You’re serious?”

 

She had finally regained the upper hand. Uraraka flashed him the most innocent smile she could muster and clasped her hands behind her back. “Like you said, it shouldn’t be a problem for me. And like I told you before, you’re not as effective as you think you are.”

 

Uraraka would’ve been an idiot not to see the rapid rising and falling of his chest. She smiled wider. He scowled, trying to hide the flush across his nose. “Well then, go on.” It didn’t work.

 

The look on his face as she sweetly ambled closer made her forget any embarrassment she was supposed to be feeling. This was her win. He was the one that was going to bow out. He was still leaning back on his hands when she made it to him. You’ve lost. With the confidence of a queen claiming her throne, she straddled his legs and lowered herself onto his lap.

 

They sat like that, neither one saying a word. Uraraka was sure he would push her off in a moment, tell her that she smelled bad or something, and then they’d go to sleep. But he didn’t. There was a shadow of awe lying in his intense expression, red eyes never leaving hers.

 

Yes, any moment now.

 

Her arms were still crossed and she had her own smug smile fixed on her face. Yet, he didn’t move. Another moment had passed. Then another. She was pretty sure she had been straddling his lap for a good minute before her nerve began to leave her.

 

Getting to this point was one thing. Fueled by anger and adrenaline, she felt no bashfulness about rising to his challenge. Uraraka didn’t account for what was supposed to happen next. Her senses kicked into overdrive.

 

He smelled faintly of campfire and burnt sugar, a curious combination. As she’d noticed before, his body felt like a furnace, and almost burned her more than the fire at her back. She noted his pulse quickly beating on the side of his neck and he kept swallowing nervously. Uraraka was painfully aware of the contact happening with the lower parts of their bodies, and finally allowed the blush on her face to shoot through the rest of her body.

 

Unable to hold his gaze any longer, her eyes slowly traveled past his jaw and down his neck. Past the mix of ornate and primitive necklaces, she reached out to gently caress the pattern of tattoos wrapping around his left shoulder. At the contact of her fingers, his hands immediately snapped to her hips and they both gasped. Their chests were almost touching now, and her heart was pounding out of her chest.

 

“See, I told you,” she laughed shakily. “You’re not my type.”

 

Her breath hitched as his grip tightened on her. “Sure,” he exhaled, half-lidded eyes fixated on her lips.

 

Uraraka suddenly became entirely too hot. The fire behind her and the boy pressed against her (when did that happen?) were starting to engulf her. She felt a rise of panic in her throat and did what she could to get out of the situation she had previously been too happy to fall into. On instinct, Uraraka slapped him across the face and activated her quirk.

 

“What the FUCK?”

 

She leapt away from Bakugo as he began to float in the air. He was frantically reaching out for anything to stabilize him. SHIT. SHIT. SHIT. In the middle of his scrambling, he locked eyes with her and released a vicious snarl. “YOU. What the FUCK are you?”

 

She stumbled back, cowering under the ferocity of his anger. Uraraka was already feeling the tug of nausea that happened when she overused her quirk, but letting him back down wasn’t an option. She got carried away and blew her damn cover. She tripped over to her pack and hastily slung it over her shoulder. “I’m sorry.” She snatched her canteen and put it back in its pocket. “I don’t know what happened. It wasn’t supposed to go that far and – I’m sorry.”

 

He was now a good six feet off the ground trying to air-swim his way towards her. There was absolute murder in his eyes. “Undo this curse NOW you fairy FUCK. I swear, once I get down there–“

 

Uraraka desperately threw up her hands. “Please don’t follow me! I mean no harm I swear, I’m just–I’m just trying to get home!” At a loss for words, she dropped her hands and looked up once more at the increasingly rabid floating Bakugo. “I really didn’t mean to lie to you! I just–I’m sorry!”

 

Not waiting for a response, she fled back in the direction of the border. This was not how she had envisioned her exit, but she now had to adapt and make the most of it. She needed to see how long she could maintain her quirk on Bakugo before her body gave out. If there wasn’t a big enough distance between them, she knew without a doubt he would come after her, and probably kill her.

 

Uraraka went from embracing a boy in one moment to running for her life in another. It had happened too quickly. What had happened to making a plan?! There were too many emotions torrenting their way through her body. Exhaustion, fear, confusion, arousal, but most importantly – determination. She grit her teeth and refused to let herself cry. She didn’t have to lie and pretend to be someone she wasn’t. She didn’t have to worry about the safety of those around her anymore. Her top priority now was to get home, hug her parents, and take the hottest shower of her life.

 

“I’m going to be ok. I’m going to be ok.” She clung to this mantra as she ran, desperately trying to ignore the roars of rage slowly fading behind her.

Chapter Text

Prince Shouto Todoroki knew a lot of things.

 

He knew the customs of every kingdom on the continent and how to navigate negotiations with each. He knew that as the third in line for the throne, expectations of him were considerably lower, giving him more freedom than his older siblings. He knew he had made a promise to his mother to never use his fire magic, no matter what. He knew Iida, Uraraka, and Midoriya were his closest friends and that he would willingly give his life to save any one of them. He also knew he was in love with the boy with the green hair and didn’t have any hope of him loving him back.

 

And now he knew his father wanted him dead.

 

He had to keep reminding himself, make himself not forget. All his mind wanted to do was to shut it out and pretend like nothing had happened. But everything had happened. Everything was continuing to happen.

 

If Todoroki didn’t have his friends by his side in this nightmare, he knew he wouldn’t have been able to make it this far. It was selfish, and he hated himself for it, but he was glad to not be alone. After waking up chained to that slab fully believing that he was going to die in that dark dungeon, he never wanted to be alone again.

 

But now one of his best friends was traveling alone with an emotionally unstable barbarian and he wasn’t able to do anything about it. It boiled his blood that because of his horrible excuse for a father, he was now in the debt of two people who would probably rather see him dead than save him. He still wasn’t entirely certain why the Kirin prince and dragon were helping them. He had already run through countless possible scenarios in his head, and all of them left him with a sinking feeling in his stomach.

 

“How far until we reach the border?”

 

Iida set his pace to match Kirishima’s, taking the front while Midoriya settled in a few steps behind him to cover the back. The question came from Iida as Kirishima used his horrifying claws to slash through a particularly nasty bramble. The redhead shrugged. “Probably a few more hours.” Slash. “I’m banking on us getting there a little before sundown, so you can do the math.”

 

They had decided against using Kirishima’s dragon form to get them there. While faster, the sight of a dragon in broad daylight in the sky would be a dead giveaway to their location, and Todoroki knew Touya-Dabi would have no issues finding a way to shoot them out of the sky. He shivered, and felt a rough hand on his shoulder. “Are you alright, your highness?”

 

Midoriya’s voice always felt like a balm that soothed all of his worries. Again, the guilt of forsaking his friends’ livelihoods and ensuring their exile by joining him caused a lump in his throat. None of them deserved what was happening to them; he knew that. But who was the reason why they were on the run?

 

He unconsciously relaxed his shoulder under Midoriya’s hand. “Thank you, but I’m fine,” he replied softly. “And please, just ‘Todoroki’ is fine. My thoughts right now are with Uraraka.” They continued forward to catch up with the two ahead. “I don’t like us being separated. Any of us.”

 

Midoriya frowned and nodded in agreement. “I agree. I mean, this whole situation feels so…so off. I hate feeling like I’ve only been given a portion of the story, and a lot isn’t adding up. On either side,” he added a little louder, privy to Kirishima’s keen sense of hearing. “But I trust Kacchan and know that we’ll be reunited with both of them soon enough.”

 

As if on cue, the mountain of a man beamed at him while singlehandedly butchering his way past a stray birch tree. “Right on!” Todoroki decided to never consciously make Kirishima angry.

 

Iida looked less convinced. “It’s not Bakugo I’m concerned with. Uraraka has been…a little headstrong since she lost her memories. Am I correct in thinking that?”

 

Todoroki exchanged a look with Midoriya, who had decided to shift his position to the prince’s left hand side. “Do you think she’d wander off on her own?”

 

Iida waved his hand. “No, no…well, perhaps. I don’t know,” he groaned, exasperated. “We’ve been spoiled with her telling us what to do our whole lives. It feels so strange not to have her be the voice of reason. I’m not used to her being the impulsive one.”

 

“Hmm,” Todoroki mused. “You have a point. It was quite shocking to see that she had willingly instigated a fight against Prince Bakugo. More so that she had actually landed blows.”

 

Kirishima cocked an eyebrow at him. “So all those years in the castle and she never once joined in a training session?”

 

Iida shook his head. “She hates the sight of blood. She says it’s the reason why she’s a healer, so that she can make it go away as soon as possible.”

 

Midoriya lifted the sleeve of his shirt, causing Todoroki’s heart to skip a little. He revealed a thin scar that started towards the top of his freckled shoulder and ended right above the crook of his elbow. “When I first got my sword, I had a lot of trouble handling it at first. I almost sliced my arm off. If Uraraka hadn’t have been there, I probably would’ve lost the arm.” He grinned sheepishly. “She was so mad at me. Pretty sure she threw up after dressing my wound.”

 

Todoroki lightly chuckled, not noticing a smile also break across Midoriya’s face. “She definitely did, because it was all over me. Father was so angry at my ruined coat.”

 

Immediately the group was plunged into a tense silence at the mention of his father. Iida nervously ran his hand over one of his spell books while Midoriya’s face began to match the color of his hair. Todoroki cursed himself. He shouldn’t have said anything.

 

Kirishima cleared his throat, clearly eager to move past the blunder. “Speaking of swords and fighting…Midoriya, I have some questions for you.”

 

Midoriya gave a little start. “M-me? Why?”

 

Kirishima laughed. “Bakugo never talks about when he left for training when we were younger. You were with him the whole time, right? I wanna know everything!”

 

Todoroki couldn’t bear how endearing Midoriya was when he got flustered. “I’m not sure how much there is to tell,” he stammered. “Other than the fact that I didn’t know he was a prince until a year into our apprenticeships.”

 

Kirishima frowned. “Why would he keep it a secret?”

 

Midoriya shrugged. “If truth be told, I accidentally stumbled upon both him and our master. They were both traveling through my village when a group of raiders came through. It’s not uncommon in the north, there’s a lot less of us up there so soldiers and knights are spread pretty thin…” He scratched his head. “Apparently, our master caught sight of me fighting off a few of them who were trying to get into our feed store and he decided I was worth teaching. I didn’t know who either of them were for a long time. I just knew that my one chance to become a knight was right in front of me and I took it with no question.”

 

Kirishima look impressed. “You proved your worth through combat and were acknowledged by an experienced warrior. Destiny favors the noble-hearted.” Midoriya blushed and shook his head, but Todoroki silently agreed with the Kirin warrior.

 

“They were probably traveling in secret, recognizing that if anyone knew Kirin royalty was within our borders, all hell would break loose,” he reasoned.

 

The group seemed satisfied with that answer. They were traveling downwards now, down a steep ravine. Kirishima huffed out a breath. “So Midoriya, what’s the name of yours and Bakugo’s master? He still won’t tell me.”

 

Iida and Todoroki both slightly angled their heads in Midoriya’s direction, anxious to see if he’d answer. In all their years of knowing him, he had never once revealed the identity of the knight who gifted him that sword. He threw his hands up at the dragon and grinned apologetically. “Sorry Kirishima, it’s not my secret to tell. They’re very private, and I refuse to be the one to expose them.”

 

“Such a shame, I’ve been curious about it too.”

 

Midoriya waved his hand. “Come on, you guys know– “ He whipped around and drew his sword, crouching in front of Todoroki.

 

The prince froze in horror at the source of the voice that had just spoken. At the top of the ravine, there Dabi stood leaning against a tree. He waved at the group lazily. “Hey, little brother.” He sighed. “Boy, am I happy to see you.”

 

He found us.

 

A guttural growl sounded from behind him. Kirishima’s eyes began to glow and steam started to roll from his mouth. “You made a huge mistake coming here alone.”

 

Dabi ignored him and began counting with his fingers. “…There should be two more of you. Where is the Kirin prince and Uraraka?”

 

Iida had a spell book at the ready with one hand and his sword in the other. “Why on earth is that any of your business?”

 

It appeared that Todoroki’s voice had stopped working. Seeing him there immediately thrust the prince back to that night in the dungeon. In the cold, and dark, with the scent of blood overpowering his senses and–

 

“It’s okay, your highness. I won’t let anything happen to you.”

 

The low rumble came from Midoriya as he snarled at their pursuer. Todoroki shook his head, finally feeling his throat unlock. He took a fighting stance next to his knight, right hand at the ready. “You aren’t the only one with people to protect. And please,” he said as he shot him a shaky smile. “It’s Todoroki.”

 

Dabi couldn’t have looked more disinterested if he tried. Todoroki found it was the most unnerving thing about his half-brother. His lazy attitude concealed one of the most destructive powers the prince had ever seen. He acted like this because he could. Because hunting his brother and company down in a dangerous forest was a simple errand to him, nothing special. Todoroki felt sick.

 

 “I have a message from King Enji to the squires Tenya Iida and Midoriya Izuku. If you surrender willingly and assist with transporting Shouto back to the capital, all will be forgiven. He understands that you have been charged with protecting his youngest, and that it was only natural to follow him as he tried to run away with the Kirin savages after conspiring to kill the king and succeeding in assassinating King Masaru. You had nothing to do with their crimes and have the nice opportunity to bring them to justice.” He let out a frustrated sigh. “At least, that’s what I’m supposed to say.”

 

He rubbed his eyes. “Listen, we really need the other two here. Dear old dad wants his favorite trophy back and since we couldn’t finish what we started with the dragon king or whatever, the son’s gotta take his place. So.” He lightly clapped his hands together. “Tell me where those two are and, in addition to taking Shouto back home, we can be on our way.” His eyes wandered back to Kirishima’s seething form. “We’ll need to kill him, though. No noisy witnesses.”

 

Kirishima’s face had lost all color. “You’re telling me…that Bakugo is an ingredient now, too?”

 

Dabi picked at his fingernail. “Well we have to get royal blood from somewhere, and he is the last remaining heir so…” He looked up and smiled. “Oh, look! Not alone anymore.”

 

Todoroki jerked his head to see two people approach from the opposite side of the ravine. The shorter was a young woman with blonde hair haphazardly piled on her head, her waist covered with dagger sheaths. The taller was a man with his face concealed by a tight black cloth. The woman winked at Todoroki and he felt his blood turn cold.

 

She lolled her heads towards Dabi. “Who can I cut?”

 

He shrugged. “If they fight back, the only one we need alive is little Shouto.” He raised his eyebrows at Iida. “Are you going to fight back?”

 

Midoriya answered by activating his sword with a word Todoroki had never heard before, and jolted as the sword crackled with power. Iida pointed his sword at Dabi. “As long as we’re still standing, you’re never going to get Todoroki back and you’re never going to find Uraraka.”

 

Dabi sighed tiredly. “Then we’ll have to kill you. Shame.” He gestured to the man and woman. “Go nuts.”

 

The duo moved at an inhuman speed towards the group. A horrific cackle ripped from the woman as she flung multiple daggers at the group. The man was doing cartwheels down the hill at a breakneck speed. From their position, their party was at a huge disadvantage. They were trapped at a low vantage point. Luckily, Todoroki had a plan. Or, a semblance of one at least.

 

Deep breath…

 

Holding out his right hand, a wall of ice erupted from it as it encircled their group. Iida dodged just in time to avoid a dagger thrown at his head. “I bought us maybe a minute, less if Dabi decides to use his magic.” He turned to them. “My ice is thicker than most stone, but it comes at a cost. I can’t hold it for long.” Midoriya’s brilliant green eyes caught his and he tried to quell his panic. “Fight or flee?”

 

Iida stashed his sword as he started whispering an incantation from his spell book to help support the ice. “If we stay to fight, we lose time and we risk severe injury. If we leave, we have to find our way out of this ravine without being tracked. We also risk severe injury that way.”

 

Midoriya tightened his grip on his sword. “Either way, the odds aren’t in our favor. Our top priority needs to be getting Todoroki to safety.” His eyes flickered to Kirishima. “And making sure they can’t track down Bakugo and Uraraka.”

 

Kirishima made a frustrated noise as he flexed his claws and said,“Fuck! I want to kill him so badly.” He scrunched his eyes shut. “But we have to get to the capital as fast as possible. Bakugo is a target now, and we’re the only ones that know. We have to fly out of here.”

 

He shot his head towards the sky, calculating. “Thirty seconds. I need thirty seconds of cover from you guys. Can you give me that?” The Ember men nodded tersely. Kirishima grit his teeth and cracked his neck. “How the hell did I become the one responsible for everybody?” he muttered to himself.

 

“What are you going to do?” Todoroki gasped as he added another layer to the ice wall. His legs had already started to shake and sweat poured from his face.

 

Kirishima started pacing back and forth, drawing a line with his foot. “Get behind me. Do not pass this point. If you do, you will die.” He crouched down, crimson scales already beginning to form on his face. “When I finish transforming, get on my back.”

 

Midoriya held his sword at the ready. “How are we going to manage making it out in one piece?”

 

He smirked at him. “It’s hard to chase after someone when you’re busy getting incinerated by dragon fire. Wanted to avoid it since I’m pretty sure I’m gonna take out a portion of this forest but…Ready?” he asked Todoroki. The prince nodded. “Okay, lower the wall in three…two…one…NOW!”

 

~

 

I’m going to be okay. I’m going to be okay.

 

Uraraka had been running past sunset and well into the night. She had no idea how much time had passed; she was mostly focused on having to force down the bile rising in her throat from refusing to release Bakugo from her quirk. She was well past the point of throwing up and was currently operating on pure willpower alone.

 

I’m going to be okay. I’m going to be okay.

 

Each time she wanted to stop, Uraraka found within her some kernel of energy she could harvest and use to spur her forward. Either her physical training was starting to pay off, or she had really underestimated the power of adrenaline. There was never enough distance she could put between her and Bakugo. Any time her mind wandered to that look of unadulterated murder he directed at her, she buried her fatigue and insisted that she could go another minute.

 

The entire situation left her mortified. What had she been thinking? She knew it began with trying to prove a point. There was supposed to be no funny business. It was all to get her from point A to point B.  But then he kept looking at her like that, goading her on…and all of the sudden it turned from seducing him as a game to wanting nothing more than to crawl back into his lap and run her fingers through his hair and–

 

Stop it. Focus. The time for that had passed. None of that mattered anymore. She’d place that memory somewhere in the back of her mind and look back on it years later and laugh it off, wishing the prince with the tattoos all the best.

 

Uraraka prayed that whatever direction she was bolting toward would eventually lead to a main road. From there, she could flag down a wagon or something and convince the rider to take her to the nearest town. There, she’d find the strongest witch or wizard (they were sure to exist here, right?) and beg them to help take her back to Japan. It was a solid enough plan, if she didn’t twist her ankle trying to get there first.

 

On her fourth break, when the full moon was reaching its peak, she decided that enough was enough. She was hunched over with her hands on her knees, sucking in sharp breaths of air. Okay, catch your breath, then keep going. There’s no way he knows where you are.

 

She didn’t even know where she was. Uraraka figured she had made it nearly ten kilometers from their campsite, switching directions multiple times. At this point, she couldn’t have even made it back there if she tried. Breathing finally stabilized, she placed her fingertips together and whispered, “Release.”

 

The relief was instantaneous. She choked back a sob of gratitude. It was as if a weight had been lifted off her body and she could finally relax. The nausea was still there, but it had significantly subsided. For the first time all night, Uraraka actually believed she was going to be alright. She let out a shaky laugh and downed her water, finally able to get the sting of bile out of her throat.

 

Her moment of reprieve was short lived. As she retied the laces of her sneakers, Uraraka heard and felt what she could only describe as a sonic boom. Well, that’s not good.

 

The last thing she needed to do was get in the way of some rock giant. Maybe it was dwarves and she was near a rock quarry. Who did she know that could be a dwarf in another life? As Mineta’s image flashed across her mind, Uraraka decided it was time to continue on. She’d rather face a rock giant.

 

Moving through the forest was so much easier now that she had deactivated her quirk. Uraraka ran her fingers through her increasingly tangled hair and wiped the sweat from her brow. She slowed her pace to a light jog as she navigated her way through some thick underbrush. She could do this.

 

Her parents must be so worried about her. She hoped the time away from school wouldn’t cause her to not graduate on time. Maybe she could somehow get it to count as something extracurricular, like her internship…Oh god, Bakugo is probably so pissed at her right now for disappearing. Oh god, how was she supposed to look at him ever again without wanting to throw herself out a window?

 

Another hour or so had passed (judging by the moon) when she heard another boom. This time, it felt closer, and she could detect the faintest vibration coming from the ground. She didn’t like that at all. Uraraka quickened her pace.

 

There was a nagging feeling at the back of her mind that told her whatever was causing those explosions, she needed to be as far away from it as possible. Anything in this pre-electricity world with that much natural firepower was too much for her to handle right now. Thankfully, the trees had slightly thinned out, giving her a less obstructed view in front of her.

 

She didn’t register the noise at first. Her heavy breathing had blocked out most immediate sounds around her and she was focused on the terrain ahead. The only thing she had truly noticed was that the trees were now spread out enough that she could clearly see the stars in the night sky.

 

Then it got louder. She froze, quickly scanning the area for any possible threats. There was nothing around her, not even the scuttle of an animal. Still, Uraraka crouched into a fighting stance. Silence. The only thing she could hear now was the rustling of the wind through the trees and the pounding of her pulse.

 

Uraraka finally recognized the noise as yelling and snapped her head around again, trying desperately to find the source. Again, she was by herself, shaking in the dark. She must be imagining things.

 

“YOU BITCH!”

 

No. Heart stopping, Uraraka snapped her heads towards the night sky just in time to see an airborne Bakugo hurtling straight towards her. Absolute terror shot through her and she lost all sense of calm. “What the fuck?!”

 

Appearing like an archangel soaring down from the heavens to smite her, Bakugo locked in on Uraraka’s petrified form and propelled himself forward with a final explosive BOOM from his outstretched hands.

 

WHAT THE FUCK?!” Uraraka jumped back and flew like a bat out of hell, panic taking over her entire body. HE CAN USE EXPLOSIONS? She was going to die.

 

Her mind shut off as she sprinted through the forest, sobbing as she willed her legs to go faster. GET AWAY GET AWAY GET AWAY OH MY GOD–

 

She hadn’t accounted for this. He wasn’t supposed – he had never used it before! He’d lied! How was she supposed to know?!

 

“Get the fuck back here!”

 

Uraraka made the mistake of looking over her shoulder and let out a shriek. Bakugo had made it to the forest floor and was barreling through the trees straight towards her at an alarming speed. How did this happen? How did he find her so quickly?

 

 He was going to kill her.

 

Her legs were on fire. She couldn’t breathe anymore. Each inhale felt like daggers in her lungs. She used her arms to bat branches aside as they slowly numbed into dead weight. Not yet. Not yet.

 

But he was gaining too much ground. While she had been slogging through the forest, he had had all night to sit and plot his revenge. When watching horror movies with her friends, Uraraka had always made fun of the trope-y dumb girl for thinking she could actually outrun the killer. Now she understood.

 

Her body was shutting down. Her calves cramped and her speed began to decrease. He was right behind her. Not yet not yet-

 

“Fuck!”

 

The breath was knocked out of her as she was body slammed into the ground. The force of the impact caused them both to roll down a shallow hill, with Bakugo forcefully pinning her down as they reached the bottom. “No!” She let out a primal scream and kneed him in the stomach.

 

He wouldn’t let up, ripping her hands from her sides and holding them over her head. The heat coming off them was burning her skin. “Try that floating shit with me again and I’ll break your goddamn fingers,” he snarled into her face.

 

Even in spirit, even when all reason had left her psyche, Uraraka still never knew when to quit. She cried as she struggled against his restraints. “You lied to me! You said you didn’t have any magic!”

 

“DON’T YOU TALK TO ME ABOUT LYING!” he bellowed. Keeping one hand gripped around her wrists, he roughly slammed his other down on her stomach, locking her in place. Still, she wouldn’t stop struggling against his hold, now using her legs in a feeble attempt to kick him off. Bakugo sunk his knees onto her thighs, causing her to cry out on pain.

 

“You’re hurting me!” she gasped.

 

“Good,” he spat. “Do you have any fucking idea how long I was clinging to that fucking tree branch? Those pixies took all my shit and I had to wait for that goddamn spell to wear off before I could track any of them down. Do you know how much that pissed me off? And now,” Bakugo pressed more weight onto her wrists, his face hovering directly over hers. “I had to spend my fucking night chasing down some batshit succubus who thought she could pull a fast one on me. Well guess what, bitch? I’m sure as hell hot and bothered now!”

 

Uraraka cowered under the utter rage that was Bakugo Katsuki. She was trapped. He growled in exasperation and adjusted the hand on her stomach and let off some weight. “Fucking stop wiggling!”

 

Fighting against the change of pressure, she bucked up into him, eliciting a brief gasp from the blonde before he promptly smashed her back into the ground. He lowered his head to her ear and grunted, “Don’t. Do. That.” She shuddered.

 

Uraraka threw her head back and screamed out in frustration. “Leave me alone!”

 

He glared at her. “Tough shit, fairy slut! I’ve got you figured all out. That’s right,” he sneered at her surprised expression. “I know your secret. If you didn’t want me to discover your plan, you should’ve sent someone a little more convincing.”

 

The look of murder returned to his face. “We’re going back to your village. You’re going to return the real Uraraka to me, and thank the fucking gods I don’t decide to end you right here.”

 

Uraraka finally stopped struggling, looking at Bakugo like he had just said he thought she was some fairy who had kidnapped the real Uraraka and was trying to take her back to her fairy village to get the real one back. After a few seconds of silence, she realized that was exactly what he had said. “Bakugo, what the hell are you talking about?”

 

He shot her a scornful look as a drop of sweat from his forehead fell and landed on her cheek. “Don’t play dumb with me. I know your kind have been pissed at us for years.” He tightened his grip on her wrists and she hissed. “If I find out anything has been done to the Ember girl, I’m burning down your entire village.”

 

Bakugo was entirely too close. She felt searing heat from her wrists to her abdomen, and now right against her face. She still had no idea what he was talking about, but if she didn’t get out of his hold soon, she knew she’d pass out. Uraraka grit her teeth and changed tactics. “You seem a little too enthusiastic about pinning me down. What’s the real reason why you chased after me?”

 

He choked out a laugh a disbelief. “Are you fucking serious? You think that’s gonna work on me again?”

 

He was going to probably see right through it, but she was out of options. He had really accused her of seducing him. That it worked. Hopefully it could work again. Deep breath. Regaining some composure, she slowly lifted her head and breathed softly in his face, murmuring, “Come on, this isn’t necessary.”

 

He bared his teeth, refusing to back down. “I told you, stop it. This time you lose.”

 

But he didn’t move. She smiled, eyes fixating on his lips. She couldn’t believe she was doing this again. She couldn’t believe he was absolutely still falling for it again. Well, he had always been endearingly predictable.

 

Maybe it was the adrenaline coursing through her, but her body felt like pure electricity under him. “Well, you caught me.” Uraraka cocked her head and parted her lips slightly, centimeters away from his mouth. He still hadn’t moved. His breath had quickened. She slightly angled her head and let out a sigh. Time to go in for the kill. “So what are you going to do with me, Ka-tsu-ki?”

 

His pupils dilated and she heard a hiss escape his mouth at the sound of his name. Bingo. Stunned eyes traveled to her mouth and he unconsciously licked his own lips.

 

There.

 

With the last dregs of her strength, Uraraka drew her head back and smashed her forehead into his with the force of a Texas Smash. As soon as Bakugo threw his hand up to clutch his face, she whipped her wrists free and tapped his right leg. This quirk activation was being fueled solely by the desire to live. She threw his weightless body off her and scrambled to her feet.

 

“Heh.” Uraraka swayed slightly, vision still slightly blurred from the headbutt. “I thought Kirishima warned you about my neck.” She clumsily wiped the sweat from her brow, her head feeling like it was about to split open. “I win.”

 

He screamed at her as she limped away. One thing was obvious – She was going to pass out soon. She needed to find an alcove or something to hide in until she could regain her strength. At this point, Uraraka had nothing left in her. She just needed a place to hide.

 

She barely noticed the trees give way to a small clearing, the moon bathing it in a sea of gentle light. The shadows of the trees from across the clearing concealed the two men observing her from an upturned log. One of them stood up with a slight hop and casually waved at her. “You look terrible, my dear. How on earth did you end up in this neck of the woods?”

 

Uraraka blearily turned her head towards the voice. She blinked the stars out of her eyes just in time to see him and his partner make their way towards her. In the moonlight, his teeth gleamed an unsettling white and she noted the way his ears ended in sharp points. Confused, she open her mouth to ask, “Are you–“

 

The second she spoke, her vision went black and she lost consciousness.

 

~

 

Bakugo knew he had no one to blame but himself.

 

He had tried to keep his cool while they were hiking. Keep his distance, not get distracted. It was working until that fucking nonsense by the campfire. He had it under control. Bakugo was just going to mess with her until she backed down, there was nothing physical or enjoyable about it. He would NOT get involved with a fucking changeling.

 

All that flew out the fucking window when she lowered herself onto his lap.

 

A few years back, Kirishima had decided to learn a new word every day in order to expand on what Mina said was a very limited vocabulary. One of the words he used so often (and incorrectly) that it was forever scorched into Bakugo’s migraines was the stupid term, bamboozled. He thought it was the dumbest word he’d ever heard and had banned Kirishima from ever attempting to use it again.

 

Kiri, I’ve been fucking bamboozled.

 

He had never been so angry in his life. After clinging to a tree branch for half the night with a traitorous hard-on and exterminating the goddamn pixies that tried to swipe his pack, all he could think about was wringing that conniving bitch’s neck. Never in his life had he heard of magic that could make someone weightless. What the FUCK was that about?

 

Bakugo also knew he shouldn’t have flown off the handle and used his magic, but at that moment, he only saw red. He was pissed he had lost their game, pissed she had ambushed him, and pissed that he still had a lock on her scent. The magic-imbued earring he used for hunting shouldn’t have made it that easy for him to pick it up. When he realized she was running in the direction of the village, he had panicked and blasted his way to intercept her in time. Annoying fucking bargaining chip.

 

Now, after falling for her shit again and floating in his own bubble of rage and arousal again, all he could be angry about was his own idiocy. His father’s face kept popping up in his mind as he fought to put a lid on his emotions. He’d be so disappointed in him.

 

He exposed a huge secret to a fucking enemy, an enemy he couldn’t even keep a steady grip on. One that was probably going to use this information in a way that’s going to royally fuck him  and his family for the next few years. He had managed to let his father die under his watch and now his mother was going to kill him for his recklessness. Long live Prince Katsuki, so awful at being a royal he was taken out before he could cause anyone else’s doom.

 

And he was still floating a foot off the ground with the worst migraine of his life. Unlike last time, it took all of five minutes for him to drop back to the ground. He had fully anticipated being stuck for a long time. That probably meant…

 

“Thank fuck,” he breathed out, head falling back on his shoulders. The bitch had passed out.

 

He wasn’t exactly proud of the manner in which he had chased her down and crushed her within an inch of her life, but it wasn’t like she was undeserving of it. Bakugo was going to have permanent brain damage from that iron head of hers. She must’ve sustained some damage, too, because her story she kept crying on about just wasn’t adding up.

 

“’Wanting to go home’…what the fuck is she talking about, playing coy? Why the fuck was she acting so desperate?” He winced as he gently touched the lump beginning to swell on his forehead. “She’s dead.”

 

He was going to find her, strap her in, and drag her to the village by her hair if he had to. He’d had enough of this shit. The very least he could do in this disaster was save the Ember girl and return her to her companions. She was an innocent non-combatant. His father was able to keep an entire kingdom safe for decades. If Bakugo couldn’t ensure the safety of at least one bystander, he didn’t deserve to set foot in that throne room again.

 

The scent of lavender twisted through his nose and he jerked his head in its direction. There. She really didn’t make it that far. Lucky for him.

 

As he stalked through the trees, he was assailed with another scent and stiffened his back. She wasn’t alone. Shit.

 

Bakugo calmly exited the brush and fixed his signature scowl on his face, ready to intimidate the hell out of whoever was standing between him and his prize. “Well, if it isn’t the human prince of Argon. Fancy seeing you here.” Fuck. He knew that voice.

 

The scowl morphed into the most menacing sneer he could muster. He stalked towards the trio, getting ready to fight his way through their defenses when he stopped dead in his tracks. Something was off.

 

Hitoshi Shinsou’s lanky form was leaned against a tree, his purple plume of hair muted by the moonlight. Standing next to him, the source of the voice and the yellow-haired bane of his existence, was Monoma Neito playing with the hair of an entranced Uraraka. Her eyes were clouded over with white, the most obvious sign that she had been spellbound by the duo.

 

The fae didn’t get affected by their own glamour.

 

Shinsou grinned toothily at Bakugo and casually rested his hand on the longbow resting by his foot. “Isn’t it a little hypocritical, banning us from having our fun with the humans while you go and hunt them for sport?”

 

Bakugo knew better than to answer. One word and he was done. When it was clear he wouldn’t fall for his trap, Shinsou looked fondly at Uraraka the way someone would a cute pet. “You’ve really done a number on her.”

 

Bakugo’s brain was short-circuiting. This didn’t make any sense. This couldn’t make any sense. If she wasn’t one of them, then what the fuck was she? Someone you put in danger.

 

This could be a bluff, a trick to get him to leave them alone and have her return home with them without a fight. If they knew he wanted to trade, taking away his only bargaining chip would leave him without options and Uraraka trapped with them forever. Bakugo played along and rolled his eyes and responded to the non-question. “Hilarious, pointy ears. Now if you please,” he beckoned towards her, keeping his pulse even, “I’ll be taking her back now.”

 

Shinsou grinned even wider. Monoma began caressing Uraraka’s face, eliciting a burst of fury to erupt inside Bakugo. Monoma spoke, his eyes on the brunette’s blank face. “Six years. Is that how long it’s been, old friend?” His pointed ears twitched as he basked in the glare Bakugo was giving him. “We haven’t had fun with a human in that long?”

 

Shinsou crossed his arms, frowning. “Wow, Monoma, I believe you’re correct. How devastating.” He held eye contact with Bakugo as he reached to stroke Uraraka’s hair. “We’ve missed them terribly.”

 

Bakugo’s jaw tightened. He didn’t like this shit at all. “That’s neither of our problems,” Bakugo stated. His stomach twisted as Shinsou lifted the hair in his hand to smell. Perverted fucks.

 

Time to act like the authority he supposedly was to these creatures. He squared his shoulders and took a step closer. “I don’t give a fuck how long it’s been for you twisted freaks. I know where we are so I know where the border to your domain is, and we’re nowhere near it. You have no claim to her.”

 

And he did? It made him sound no less possessive than the two elves in front of him. The comparison made his blood boil. He hated them. Before his father had enacted the human ban, it was common to hear of people snatched from their beds and to disappear without a trace. Then, they’d show up weeks later, no memory of what had happened to them, but nevertheless driven to insanity by what their body failed to forget.

 

As aloof as he was trying to be, Bakugo couldn’t stop his fists clenching at the sight of Monoma dragging his finger up and down Uraraka’s arm. They were far too excited to have her there; Bakugo could feel the frenzied electricity bouncing off of them. His stomach dropped. They weren’t bluffing.

 

If that girl was the actual Uraraka Ochako, then that meant there was no one waiting for them in the village. There was no other Uraraka. Fuck fuck fuck. This was his fault. Bakugo Katsuki was wrong. He wanted to blow something up.

 

Now he had to save her before he ruined yet another life.

 

Monoma shrugged, breaking him out of his internal panic,  arm now resting around Uraraka’s shoulder. “You’re right, to a point. But here’s the thing,” he grinned manically. “We didn’t set those borders, you did.”

 

Shinsou nonchalantly played with the string of his long bow. “We’d been watching you guys for a while. The Chief got reports of movement on the western border, so we were sent to check it out. And it seemed to the both of us this poor girl needed rescuing.” He raised his eyebrows. “I mean, look at her.” He smiled at Uraraka. “Darling, tell us, do you want to go back with this…man?”

 

Bakugo’s pulse quickened as Uraraka blankly lifted her head, white hot regret ripping through him. “I just want to go home,” she replied in a monotone voice.

 

Monoma clapped his hands together. “Marvelous! We can do that for you! Eventually!”

 

He shot a look of pure condescension towards Bakugo. “We don’t need to remind you that you’re not welcome here either, especially without a royal consort. And fighting your way through our woods, stinking it up with your disgusting human sweat? In all my centuries, I’ve never been more offended in my life!” He lifted his head pompously. “We’ll take the girl as a peace offering and forget this ever happened.”

 

Politics be damned, Bakugo was going to kill them. He found himself lowering into a battle stance. “If you touch her one more fucking time, I’m putting you in the ground.”

 

Monoma cackled with glee. “Look! I think he actually cares about this one!”

 

Shinsou dragged his eyes back to Uraraka’s slack body. His mouth tugged at the corners, giving no warning as he suddenly drew his bow and pointed an arrow straight at her head. “It might be more fun to kill her off then, don’t you think? Anything to hurt the family arrogant enough to think they can control the original inhabitants of the forest.”

 

He raised his eyebrows at Bakugo. “What do you say, prince?” His finger began to loosen on the nocked arrow and Bakugo’s heart stopped.

 

He lunged forward. “STOP–“

 

Bakugo froze as Shinsou grinned victoriously. “Gotcha.”

 

It had happened to Bakugo once before. During court, as a child he made the mistake of running up to Shinsou and the elven convoy that was visiting for negotiations. One moment he was answering a question the purple-haired elf posed, the next he was waking up in the barn apparently trying to eat the corn off the ground with the chickens.

 

But his vision didn’t go black. He was still cognizant. Bakugo stared at his outstretched hands while Shinsou’s face went slack with shock. Bewildered, he lowered his weapon while Monoma audibly gulped. “How..?”

 

Bakugo had no idea how the fuck he had managed to avoid Shinsou’s curse, but he sure as hell was going to make the most of it. Palms crackling and bloodlust on his mind, he made a move to begin blasting them to oblivion when Shinou’s demeanor suddenly changed. “Wait.”

 

Bakugo followed his line of sight and saw the baggy-eyed bastard staring straight at his necklace. The ruby one. Shit. Of course.

 

The atmosphere had changed. “A trade,” Shinsou began, breath quickening, eyes not budging from the stone. “Her for the necklace.”

 

His eyes locked with Bakugo’s and they held each other’s gazes for a tense moment. Monoma stepped away from Uraraka and leaned in excitedly, deranged greed dripping from his eyes. “Why on earth do you have that?” He started to clench and unclench his fists, forgetting himself. “Give it to us.”

 

If the air around them was tense before, the anticipation between them could now be cut with a knife. Bakugo’s expression hardened as the elves slowly reached for their bows. “You know that’s out of the fucking question.”

 

Shinsou’s hand didn’t leave his weapon, his stance relaxed only slightly. There was no chance the prince was going to hand it over. Shinsou knew better, but he couldn’t help himself. He shot Bakugo a wary smirk. “Most men would trade entire kingdoms for the right girl.”

 

Bakugo’s crimson eyes bore into him. There was no way he was going to let them get their dirty hands on it. Twenty of him didn’t even come close to the worth of the stone sitting around his neck. “I won’t ask again. Hand her over and get the fuck out of my sight.”

 

Get the fuck out of my sight,” Monoma mimicked in a mocking tone, “Get the fuck out of our sight boy, you are in fae territory.” His hand tightly gripped the back of Uraraka’s neck and he jerked her face towards his. “No necklace, no girl.”

 

It was the wrong move to make. The pointed-eared blonde flinched under the prince’s glinted stare. “You recognize what’s around my neck and you still think you’re in a position to negotiate?”

 

It wasn’t Bakugo talking anymore. It was Prince Katsuki of Argon, sole heir to the throne. And he would not yield.

 

Shinsou cleared his throat, arrogant smile long gone. “Silence, Monoma, he’s right.” He put his hand up in surrender. Bakugo did not relax.

 

“Release her. Now.”

 

The elf furrowed his brow, still fixated on the necklace. “If you’re wearing that, then that means…” He jerked his head up. “How long has the king been dead?”

 

Dead. It was one thing to hear it whispered in the back of his mind, another entirely to hear it spoken out loud. Somehow it made it more real. His throat burned.

 

Monoma scratched his head, clearly shaken by the turn of events. “Last we heard, you were all in the Ember capital.” He clutched his bow. “What happened?”

 

What hadn’t happened would’ve been the more appropriate question. But Bakugo didn’t have time to disclose sensitive information to some half-bit fae. He scowled, struggling to keep his voice even. “When I say it’s none of your business, I really mean it’s none of your damn business.” He made a move towards Uraraka, only to be stopped by a pensive Shinsou.

 

He had his hand on his chin, deep in thought. “No, it’s not our business…but it is our Chief’s.” He sighed. “Such a shame...” He gently placed on hand on Uraraka’s shoulder, causing Bakugo to snarl. “Calm down. Monoma, we have a change of plan.”

 

Beckoning towards Bakugo, he elaborated. “There is no way we won’t report this to our superiors, and there is no way our Chief won’t be extremely offended about having to hear about the king’s death from a couple of her scouts, and not from the source,” he said as his eyes flashed. “Feelings aside, our leaders are owed at least some diplomacy.”

 

Goddamn it. Politics in Kirin were exhausting enough. He knew that if he wounded the pride of any of the leaders before getting back to the capital, his mother would have his head. Prince first, person second. His emotions would have to wait. But first…

 

”Fine,” he spat. “But undo your curse on Uraraka.”

 

Monoma sighed. “Ah, Uraraka, what a pretty name.” Bakugo had to resist the urge to break his nose. “Don’t worry, she’s now an official royal companion to the Prince on official business,” he huffed, as though he was extremely disappointed. “She’s immune.”

 

Shinsou crossed his arms. “I wasn’t joking earlier when I said she looked rough. We’ll have a healer take a look at her. We’re quite the amicable hosts.” He flashed a toothy grin. “When we want to be.”

 

Bakugo didn’t wait. He borderline ran towards the trio as Shinsou whispered in Uraraka’s ear, freeing her from his glamour. Her eyes immediately cleared and she stumbled forward. He reached them just in time to catch her as her legs buckled. Bakugo wanted to sink with her in relief, but he refused to let his guard down. They were still in enemy territory. So, he settled for a smirk. “Caught you.”

 

He had never been so happy to be glared at. So she wasn’t a fairy. She was a human. But she was still lying. And you hurt her. “You’re killing me, Cheeks.”

 

Despite her fading consciousness, she still had the energy to weakly swat his arm in a manner that made his chest clench. She gazed into his eyes, a spark of clarity breaking through. “My head hurts.”

 

Then, Uraraka promptly passed out.

 

Bakugo groaned in exasperation and lifted her off the ground, carrying her bridal style. Fucking typical. “What?” he snapped at a sniggering Monoma.

 

“Oh nothing,” he chirped, “Call me traditional, but when I like a girl, I don’t chase her through the woods in the middle of the night just because she doesn’t like me back.”

 

“No,” Bakugo shot back, “You just abduct them without their consent.”

 

Monoma shrugged. “Well, did she ask to be a part of your moonlit stroll?”

 

“She fucking started it!” Bakugo’s temper had been far from subdued. “Listen you blonde bastard, you don’t know the half-“

 

Shinsou cleared his throat, bringing the two to his attention. “If you two are finished, we need to get going. We’ll make it to the village by dawn.” His eyes raked over Uraraka’s body, amused at how outrightly possessive the prince was. “As we said before, there hasn’t been a human behind our walls in years. This…will be interesting.”

 

In the course of a night, Bakugo’s plan had completely flipped and left him grasping at straws. The girl he was holding in his arms had become an even greater mystery and an even greater pain in his ass. He had almost caused an alliance-shattering blood brawl over said girl, and for what, to now have to explain to their Chief why the only person keeping this kingdom together had unexpectedly died? There was no fucking way he was reporting the full truth to some fairy bitch without telling it to his own family first. Fuck. His head hurt.

 

He could barely keep one person alive, how the fuck was he supposed to eventually do that for a whole country?

 

I didn’t ask for any of this, I’m not you! How could you do this to me?”

 

No. The goal was still the same. Get the damn truth out of the now-human Uraraka. Make it back to Argon in one piece to do some damage control. Deal with the Ember idiots. Kill their king. This was just an irrelevant side quest.

 

Uraraka shifted in his arms and he reflexively tightened his grip on her. She was so small. How the fuck did he not notice that before? Given she didn’t end up being some other magic hellspawn that ate the other Uraraka, he’d need to get her fitted with a decent suit of armor once they got home.

 

Home. Bakugo never thought he’d be so anxious to get back to his own personal prison. But that’s where Kirishima was heading, and he knew he couldn’t leave him to fend for himself against the wrath of the Queen.

 

He hoped Kirishima was having an easier time getting his group back to the castle than he was.

 

 

Chapter Text

As she shifted back into consciousness, something in the back of her mind told her something was off. She groggily took stock of herself. Uraraka felt… She felt amazing. Like someone had injected vitality straight into her veins and she was coming out of a three-day coma. Wherever she was, she was enveloped by soft blankets and the most comfortable mattress she had slept upon in living memory.

 

Her clothes were different as well. Instead of feeling the rough fabric of her traveling garments, she now felt the cool touch of silk around her body. But, most importantly, Uraraka felt clean. She couldn’t remember the last time she wasn’t wiping sweat and grime off her brow, especially in the last few days.

 

The last few days…what had she been doing? Her brain was still trying to wake up. She was still in the Faroh Woods…unfortunately…and she was off with Bakugo to get to some healing fountain. But she hadn’t planned on staying with him, so she ran, and–

 

Oh my god, she ran.

 

The events of the past twenty-four hours slammed into her brain at full force and her eyes snapped open. She shot up from her sleeping position with a gasp, desperately trying to remember what had happened to her. Did she get away? Uraraka blinked the sleep from her eyes and allowed her surroundings to come into focus. The first thing she noticed was that she was being swallowed by the fluffiest, largest bed she had ever seen. The second was that directly across from her, leaning against the door in a wooden chair with his arms crossed, was a very exhausted Bakugo.

 

So, she didn’t get away.

 

He eyed her warily and said, “Don’t even think about it.” The threat was lukewarm at best. He really did look terrible.

 

“You look awful.” It slipped out of her mouth before she could stop herself.

 

He scowled, pointing his finger towards the broken skin on his forehead. “And whose fault is that?”

 

Uraraka decidedly ignored him and looked around the room, captivated by its interior. She had never seen anything like it. While completely made of wood, the structure itself looked entirely natural, like they were inside a tree that had decided to house people. It was all soft edges and organic molding, with plush vines of ivy lacing the walls. Even the furniture looked organically formed, consisting of the massive bed she was currently sitting in, a side table, a wardrobe, and the chair Bakugo was currently inhabiting. Overall, it was a very serene and comforting atmosphere, completely unlike her environment before. She frowned. “Where are we?”

 

Bakugo groaned and sunk into his chair. “Hell.” When she raised an eyebrow, he rolled his eyes and added, “The esteemed guest house of Chief Emi.”

 

Emi…that name sounded familiar, but Uraraka’s rushing thoughts pushed it aside. There were more pressing questions to be asked. For example…

 

She looked down and erupted into a blush upon seeing the utter flimsiness of the dress she had slept in. It was a lilac silk slip that delicately haltered around her neck with an entirely open back. It was the kind of cut that would make Mina scream at her to take pictures in and would make Uraraka flee back into the changing room. She furiously gathered the goose-feather comforter around her and pulled her knees to her chest, feeling extremely vulnerable. “And why are we in the esteemed guest house of Chief Emi?” she asked, slightly muffled.

 

His eyes slightly darkened and his gaze fixated on a spot near the foot of the bed. “Royal duties.” His eyes flicked to the side, and he muttered, “Damage control.”

 

Uraraka waited for him to elaborate. He didn’t. She sucked on the inside of her cheek, unimpressed with his half-answer. “Ok, fine.” She then pulled an arm out of her blanket shield and gestured to herself. “Can you at least tell me how I ended up like this?”

 

Bakugo became more alert, straightening in his chair. “How much do you remember?” he asked carefully.

 

She frowned. “I was running through the woods. You flew at me, we–“ Her throat slightly caught and pointedly looked at her hands, trying to think back on a time in her life where she had ever blushed as much as she had in the past week, “–had an…encounter…and then, I ran into Shi-“

 

Her eyes snapped back to his and she clapped her hand across her mouth. “I answered his question! Oh my god,” she groaned, burying her face in her hands. “How badly did I embarrass myself?” She peeked through her fingers. “Is that why we’re here? Why you have me under house arrest?”

 

He looked at her like she was crazy. “Why you’re– what?” his voice cracked. “I’m guarding the goddamn door in case your slippery ass decided to pull a prison break!”

 

In a very Iida-like manner, he gestured wildly at her with both of his hands. “Do you know how exhausting it is keeping you from accidentally killing yourself? I have never met someone with more of a death wish than your dumbass self, and I trained with Deku for two fucking years!”

 

Uraraka felt her cheeks heat up and struggled to keep her pride through the admonishment. She hated the truth in his words, how she had overlooked her own ignorance in her desperation to get home. But what choice did she have? I didn’t ask you to help me, threatened to bite out of her mouth, but she knew it was a petulant response at best. She held her tongue and began fidgeting with her finger pads like the child she felt she was. “So this is my fault.”

 

He rubbed his eyes again and made a dissatisfied noise. “Not entirely, I was planning on bringing you here anyways,” he replied.

 

She cocked her head at him. “Bring me here anyways? Why?”

 

Uraraka watched him slightly recoil in his chair, a slight blush beginning to dust across his nose. “It doesn’t– it doesn’t fucking matter anymore. It was a misunderstanding.” He crossed his arms defensively and scowled at the floor.

 

She knew she had no right to be annoyed at him, but she couldn’t help it. “Again with the non-answers,” she huffed, crossing her own arms to mirror his. “What kind of–“

 

“Why did you run?” he blurted out.

 

She didn’t answer at first. “What do you mean?” she asked slowly.

 

“You heard me.”

 

He leaned forward and continued on, growing increasingly agitated. “I thought you were one of them. A spy. It wouldn’t be the first time they tried to pull that shit. But–“ he was clenching and unclenching his fists, struggling to find the words, “–but you’re not. So now I’m trying to understand.” His eyes hardened into sharp glints. “Why did you run? Don’t make me ask again.”

 

Just tell him. She couldn’t. You’ve never been good at lying and now it’s almost gotten you killed. There was no way he’d ever believe her. How could he? Did the truth even matter at this point anymore? What are you so afraid of?

 

What was supposed to be a sincere I’m sorry somehow formed into, “Fairy slut.”

 

Bakugo blinked. “Come again?”

 

“Fairy slut,” she repeated slowly. “At one point, you called me that and I didn’t understand. You thought I was one of them? Who’s them?”

 

The blonde grimaced. “The fae. Elves. Pointy-eared bastards, whatever the fuck you want to call them. Goddamn tricksters that like to cause havoc for their own selfish purposes. They’ve been known to switch out people and replace them with one of their own: a changeling. I mean for fuck’s sake, Cheeks, you fit the profile, even Shitty Hair was convinced.”

 

“A changeling…” she breathed. Uraraka furrowed her brow. Well, that explained Kirishima’s suspicious behavior, but it still didn’t sit right with her. “I don’t see it. What made you think I was anyone other than myself?”

 

Bakugo gaped at her. “Are you fucking serious right now?” He hissed, exasperated. “Anyone other than– what does that–?” He stopped himself, too worked up to properly insult her.

 

He didn’t speak for a moment. Instead he pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes, forcing himself to take a deep breath. Uraraka gulped. This is a bad sign.

 

After a deep exhale, he reopened his eyes and slapped his hands on his knees. “Okay,” he said to no one in particular, and then nodded to himself. “Okay.” And pushed himself up.

 

Uraraka looked at him, alarmed. As she opened his mouth to speak, he sharply raised a palm, silencing her. “No. Fuck it. I’m done. In the span of three weeks, I’ve seen my own father murdered, was almost burned alive, was forced to flee back to my own country in secret with a band of fucking Ember refugees, and now–“ He started pacing back and forth, “now I’m trapped playing diplomat because one of those fucking idiots can’t stop lying and putting herself in life threatening situations.”

 

He stopped suddenly, causing Uraraka to jump slightly. “I’ve gone through every possibility trying to understand why, but I’m at a loss here. You’re not a spy, you’re not a traitor, you’re not some fairy creature shit. But still you tried to run away from me when I went out of my way to offer help.” He pulled at his hair, failing to control his outrage. “At least before, you were fucking annoying, but you knew what you were doing.”

 

The intensity of his tirade was nothing compared to the guilt she felt from the fear laced under his words. She felt it seep into her own skin and form a lump in her throat. If he was this shaken by her actions, she wondered how dangerous of a situation she had run them into. “I’m sorry,” she whispered, failing to keep her voice from quivering.

 

“I don’t want your apologies, I want your honesty,” he spat. Bakugo had finally stopped pacing and sunk back in his chair, looking completely spent. “You don’t understand…how close you were to being trapped here forever,” he murmured.

 

“Just…no more games. No more evasive questions, no more arguments, no more lap-sitting. Tell me why you ran.” He spoke so softly, she almost didn’t catch it. “I refuse to lose any more people.”

 

She didn’t even know where to start. Bakugo’s gaze shifted from desperate to perturbed as he watched her, and she realized she was visibly shaking. “I-I-“ Her voice broke and tears began to fall.

 

“You weren’t taking me to some spring to heal me,” she cried. “I knew you didn’t trust me, and I was scared of being put in some dungeon while being tortured for answers I couldn’t give. That’s why I ran. That’s why I lied to you.” She choked out a shuddering breath. “There’s nothing special about me, I’m just plain Uraraka Ochako, apparently the biggest idiot in this forest. I had no idea where I was running towards, you have to believe me,” she pled. “I’m not a spy, I just wanted to get home.”

 

“I don’t believe you’re as ignorant as you want me to think,” he pressed. “How did you know you were glamoured earlier when you supposedly didn’t even know fairies existed? Did you think I wouldn’t catch that?”

 

Uraraka wiped her nose as a weak sob escaped from her chest. How could she explain knowing about the mechanics of Shinsou’s quirk? She had already decided that she would tell Bakugo as much as she could (she owed him at least that), but Uraraka wasn’t ready to come clean entirely. That was a conversation that would require tact and preparation she could not handle right now. And if she was being honest with herself, Uraraka didn’t have a clue how to confess it without opening up a massive interdimensional can of worms. “I get flashes of knowledge,” she replied slowly. “Just because we didn’t believe fairies existed doesn’t mean we don’t have lore about them.”

 

Bakugo frowned. “Are you a sorceress?”

 

She gaped at him. “No?”

 

“Then how could you manipulate my weight like that?” he demanded.

 

“I don’t know, are you a sorcerer?” she shot back. “Were you ever going to share with us that you can create explosions from your hands?”

 

Bakugo pointedly turned his head away. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he stated.

 

Uraraka stared at him. “Are you seriously trying to lie after lecturing me about honesty?”

 

He shifted in his seat, looking infuriatingly nonplussed. “You must’ve been imagining things. It was a very stressful night.”

 

She glowered at him. Fucking hypocrite. “Fine,” she said between her teeth. “New deal then: you get the rest of my truth when I get the rest of yours.”

 

He opened his mouth to argue, but stopped himself. “Fine,” he conceded.

 

That was far too easy. “Fine?” she repeated.

 

“Yeah, Cheeks, fine. Fuck.” Bakugo aggressively rubbed his eyes, and she took in his sorry state again.

 

They settled into a silence that satisfied neither of them. A shadow cast through one of the round windows in the room. “How long was I asleep for?” she asked.

 

Bakugo shrugged. “You fainted a little after midnight, we got to the village around dawn, and it’s close to evening now.”

 

At least sixteen hours. No wonder I feel so much better. “And why am I dressed like…this?” she asked suspiciously.

 

Bakugo looked offended. “Don’t look at me!” he yelled a little too defensively. “They took one look at your sorry ass and took you to their healer. Whatever this is was their doing.”

 

Uraraka frowned and rested her chin on her knees. “Why haven’t you been looked after yet?”

 

Bakugo shot her a sardonic look. “Spent the morning with the goddamn Chief and then had to make sure you wouldn’t bolt the rest of the time.” His eyes darkened. “Among other reasons.” he muttered to himself.

 

She looked at him reproachfully. “Bakugo, are you telling me you haven’t slept yet? After everything we’ve been through the past few days?”

 

“Oh shut up, I can go for as long as I need to,” he snapped at her.

 

Uraraka glared at him. “I’m pretty sure I gave you a concussion! You need to rest!”

 

He sneered at her. “Oh whatever, I took a bath earlier. I’m fine.”

 

He did not look fine to Uraraka. His skin looked sallow and his eyes were bloodshot. “Listen,” she said gently, “I’m not going anywhere, okay? I’ve learned my lesson. So please, you can go to your room and we can be on our way in the morning.”

 

His mouth moved, Uraraka couldn’t hear his response. “What?” she asked. His face turned redder and he repeated it, but it still wasn’t loud enough. “Stop mumbling I can’t hear you.”

 

“I said, there’s no other room!” he snarled. “This is the only one!”

 

Oh. “Oh.” She bit her lip, not quite understanding. “And why is that?”

 

He wouldn’t meet her eyes. “I had to tell them you were my fiancé.”

 

“You what?” she shrieked.

 

“Calm down!” he yelled back. “It’s not what you think-I had to come up with a way that I knew the pointy-eared bastards wouldn’t mess with you! They get fucking handsy with humans– especially tiny ones–and I knew if you had an official title associated with mine, they’d leave you alone. So,” he threw up his hands, “I fucking improvised, ok?”

 

His logic didn’t diminish how incredibly awkward Uraraka felt now. Judging by Bakugo’s body language, he was just as embarrassed as she was. Of course he had anchored himself to the chair on the opposite side of the room; it was just as much about protecting his space as it was hers. She shot him a coy smile. “So, you think I’m tiny?”

 

“Fuck you,” he croaked out, defeated.

 

Still…”Ok, I’m awake now. We’ve cleared the air.” Barely, she wryly thought to herself, but if he wasn’t pressing her about it then she wasn’t going to either. She had a feeling she had his exhaustion to thank. “I’ll be on chair duty.”

 

Before he could protest, she moved out of her cocoon of blankets to the floor, furiously trying to ignore how exposed she felt in that damned fairy slip. She pointed to the now empty bed. “Sleep. Now.”

 

He glared at her for a few more seconds before begrudgingly making his way towards the opposite end of the bed. “Don’t go anywhere while I’m out,” he warned while pulling off his boots. “Nothing about this place is real. It’s all lies and smokescreens, and it’s far too easy to get sucked in.” He jutted a finger out at her. “Words have more power to them. Phrasing is important here. If they ask for your name, don’t give it. You tell them what they can call you.”

 

Uraraka settled into the wooden chair, already missing the plushness of the massive bed. She suppressed a smug grin. “If you don’t want to be alone, all you have to do is ask.”

 

He scowled and tossed his cloak at her, causing her to squeak as it assailed her. “You look cold,” he smirked.

 

She scoffed, trying to hide how mortified she felt. “Eyes away from me, got it fiancé?” she hissed.

 

Bakugo cringed before settling into a sleeping position. “Yeah, yeah…it’s better up close anyways.” He snickered at her affronted expression before closing his eyes.

 

She hated him. But before she could tell him that, Bakugo was almost immediately fast asleep. Uraraka settled for flipping him off instead as she clasped his cloak around her neck. Instantly, she felt more at ease and protected under the thick fabric. It smelled amazing.

 

No. No it didn’t. Stop that.

 

Uraraka had always been slightly jealous of the girls who would wear their boyfriend’s hoodies around the dorms like trophies. Sweet Todoroki had offered her one of his when she had made an offhand comment about it one morning, and she had to explain why it wasn’t quite the same. She bit back a laugh as she imagined Mina’s reaction to seeing her engulfed in this massive traveling cloak with its obnoxious fur collar. She peered over to its owner passed out on the bed, not even under the covers.

 

Don’t go anywhere.”

 

It was extremely quiet in their strange wooden room. She could clearly hear Bakugo’s even breaths as he slept off the past few days. Uraraka sighed and settled into her uncomfortable chair, realizing she had just agreed– no, argued– to sit here for a long time. Her lower back already hurt.

 

Uraraka had been stationary for far too long. She unhooked his cloak and stretched as far as her arms could reach. As she bent down to touch her toes, she craned her head to check again that Bakugo was dead to this world. This dress was not made for exercise (or even the size of her chest for that matter). Over the course of the next ten minutes, Uraraka was able to expend some energy and complete her routine warm-up stretches, feeling marginally more refreshed.

 

She tied her hair into a topknot on her head and refastened the cloak. Back in the chair I go.

 

Not even half an hour had passed before Uraraka felt like she was going to burst out of her seat. When had she gotten this antsy? Sitting still meant having time to think, and that was something she did not want to do right now. Any time she settled into the silence, her parents crying faces would appear, begging her to come home. She would think about how Deku would be blaming himself for her disappearance and putting all his energy into taking care of the Ember Uraraka as atonement. Worst of all, her mind would start to whisper the one question she couldn’t bear to answer.

 

What if this was permanent? What if she could never go back?

 

She balled her fists in her lap, willing herself to calm down. There had to be a way home. There are two sides to a portal, she just had to find the opening. She could do this, she was Uravity for crying out loud!

 

Her pep talk was interrupted by a vicious stomach growl. She looked down at her own stomach, slightly disturbed she was capable of making a sound that loud. A soft snore from across the room let her know that at least it didn’t affect Bakugo’s sleep. Uraraka didn’t realize how ravenous she was. There was nothing in the room; what could she do to get food? She looked over her shoulder at the door.

 

Don’t go anywhere.”

 

“Well, if I bring him back something, too, he can’t get that mad,” she pondered aloud.

 

Besides, she was dying to see what a fairy village looked like after the architecture of this room had peaked her interest. Maybe she could learn something valuable about the design here she could take back to her dad’s construction company…Her stomach growled again. What if they had mochi? She’s going.

 

She stole one last look at the sleeping blonde before opening the door and quickly shutting it behind her. So far so good. When she backed up to get a better view of their lodging, she gasped. They were actually inside a tree. Looking around, she discovered that all the buildings here were comprised of trees that morphed and shaped themselves into habitable dwellings. The one she had been in was several feet above the ground, with a lattice work of branches acting as a sloping staircase to the ground. The late sun dappled through the foliage and cast everything in a soft glow. It was beautiful.

 

“Wow,” she breathed.

 

“We sing to the trees to help them grow for us!”

 

Uraraka peered over the balcony to find the source of the voice. Leaning against the base of the staircase, a beautiful woman with soft sea-green hair cascading down her back winked. Uraraka held back a snort. Of course. Chief Emi, aka Emi Fukukado, aka Ms. Joke.

 

She waved at Uraraka. “Hello there!”

 

Immediately the brunette felt the corners of her mouth tug and her stomach slightly dropped. So Emi’s magic had a similar influence as Ms. Joke’s laugh quirk…She’d need to be careful.

 

Uraraka allowed herself to give into the smile and descended the stairs, rapidly trying to remember how nobility spoke to each other in high fantasy novels. Did that apply here? “Good afternoon,” she replied sheepishly. “It appears I slept through the day.”

 

Chief Emi threw her head back and let out a peal of laughter that could be best described as wind chimes. She stood almost a head taller than Uraraka in a soft blue dress with a similar cut to her lilac one. Her toned bare arms were adorned with silver and gold bands and her ears were tapered to delicate points. In Uraraka’s opinion, she looked amazing. “It happens to the best of us. Besides, you looked like you needed it.”

 

She inclined her head towards her. “Chief Emi of the Faroh Fae at your service.”

 

 Emi tossed her a playful smile. “Well darling, our sweet prince wouldn’t tell me anything about you no matter how much I asked. I told you my name, can you give me yours?” 

 

Uraraka heart skipped. It’s not like she thought Bakugo’s warnings were wrong, she just didn’t think she’d have to heed them so quickly. She bowed slightly, feeling very shy in front of this exotic beauty. “You may call me Uraraka.”

 

The Chief’s smile didn’t waver, but Uraraka caught the slight narrowing of her eyes. She cleared her throat and clutched at the red cape. “What were you doing out here? Were you waiting for someone?” Uraraka squeaked and started waving her hands. “Not that I have any right to question your actions or anything! I was just cur–“

 

“No, I was out here waiting for you,” Emi replied bluntly. “I made sure there was no food in the guest house so you’d eventually have to come out. And I figured the prince would be fast asleep by evening so I timed it to make sure I ran into you.”

 

“Wha-why?” Uraraka sputtered.

 

“Because,” she dipped in uncomfortably close to the brunette’s face, eyes studying her excitedly, “I very much wanted to meet you, and your betrothed was making it very difficult for me.”

 

Uraraka’s face flushed at the word betrothed and slightly jumped as the chief gently grabbed her wrist. “Come. I can show you where to get some dinner and you can answer some questions I have!” Before Uraraka could reply, she was already being dragged through the forest.

 

“As I was saying before,” Emi chirped, “we have special songs we sing that grow the vegetation around us into what we want it to be. For example,” she pointed at an oak with the trunk the size of Uraraka’s house. “That is the infirmary, where you spent most of your morning. We like to be as unified with the forest as possible, and accentuate the beauty of what already is.”

 

Uraraka openly stared at her surroundings as she was pulled by. At a brief glance, it appeared that she was just walking through a trail of oddly formed trees. But if she looked closer, she could see windows in those trees. Patios, gently-trodden paths crisscrossing between vegetation, and the elves going about their daily lives. They were all watching her.

 

She shivered and tightened Bakugo’s cloak around her. The action wasn’t lost on Emi.

 

“Don’t mind them, we just haven’t seen a human in some time. We miss them terribly.” There was the slightest edge to her voice. She turned around and booped Uraraka on the nose. “Especially not one as cute as you!”

 

“A ha..ha…” Uraraka giggled nervously as she tried not to shrink under the gaze of the elves around them. There was a hungry look in their eyes she did not care for at all.

 

“By the way,” Emi continued, completely unbothered, “I must say you look delectable in our clothing. Lilac truly suits your skin tone. Your traveling clothes will be returned to you once they’re clean, but I’d like you to keep your dress as a small gift.” She winked at her. “So you’ll always remember me.”

 

Uraraka was now half-convinced to burn it in case the elf had enchanted it for some unknown reason. She moved her hand to now hold the chief’s. “You’re too generous,” she said kindly.

 

The Chief was looking intently at their intertwined hands, grinning wildly. “You’re not off the hook yet, darling. I still have so many questions for you.” They had finally stopped in front of a canopied area filled with low tables and clay countertops. “We’re here! Sit! I’ll make something for you!”

 

She gestured to one of the tables and Uraraka reluctantly took a seat on one of the cushions. “I’m not familiar with your culture. Is it normal for the chief to be cooking food? Do you have a class division in your village?” she asked.

 

Emi chuckled loudly as she began arranging ingredients into a pan on one of the countertops. “You are so adorable. When you live as long as we do, wealth and status lose it’s appeal, it just doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of it all. I’m a chief in title only, we all contribute what we can to help one another. My people decided I was the most adept to represent them, so it is only natural I respect their wisdom and heed my call.”

 

Uraraka rested her head in the palm of her hand, beginning to feel annoyed at the way the chief seemed to be talking down to her. “How long do you live then?”

 

Emi shrugged. “Forever? As long as we don’t die from a mortal wound, our life force is tied with the forest, and this beauty isn’t going anywhere any time soon.” She paused for a moment. “Come to think of it, I’ve quite forgotten when I was born. Maybe I was always here.” She shrugged and continued preparing the food.

 

Uraraka internally screamed. Of course she’s talking to you like a child, she’s fucking immortal! Don’t embarrass yourself!

 

The chief whirled around, brandishing a spoon. “I have an idea. Let’s play a game! You get to ask a question, I answer truthfully, then I get to ask a question and you have to answer truthfully! Doesn’t that sound fun?”

 

Oh god, she thinks she can get information out of me, Uraraka thought with a sinking feeling in her gut. This was the real reason behind this home-cooked meal. She’ll be so disappointed I know nothing about anything. But she…probably knows the most out of anyone I’ve met so far...I could use that. The brunette beamed at her. “Sounds lovely, I’m game.”

 

Emi plopped down in the seat across from her, presenting Uraraka with a plate full of delicately sliced fruits and thin cuts of meat. She started salivating as she realized the meat was seasoned with something other than salt. “Oh my…this looks amazing.”

 

Emi grinned. “Dig in. Let’s begin, shall we? You asked me about my age, so I’ll…ask about yours. How old are you?”

 

Uraraka thickly swallowed the piece of game meat she just inhaled. “Eighteen. Nineteen by Dec– the winter solstice.”

 

Emi whistled. “You are a baby! I just want to pluck you up and raise you as my own!” Uraraka didn’t like how aggressively she said that.

 

She washed her food down with a goblet of water and cleared her throat. “My turn now. Judging by what you have both told me, why don’t you and Bakugo trust each other?”

 

The Chief put her elbows on the table and blew a piece of hair from her face. In the fading sun, her green eyes looked hooded and dimmed. “We’ve never gotten along with the humans in the mountains.”

 

Her expression turned steely, giving her a hardness that hinted at the ferocity under her charming façade. “Our worlds, our very essences are vastly different, and yet they expect us to abide by their rules. It’s extremely infuriating to us, to be ‘ruled’ by such temporary things who know so little.” She cocked her head, plastering another smile on her face, but it lacked warmth. “Why do you refer to him so formally if he’s your fiancé?”

 

Uraraka choked on the apple she was eating. Emi poured her more water, watching her intently. “You have to answer honestly– that’s the game, remember?”

 

The brunette nodded as she accepted the water. “It’s…complicated,” she managed. “That’s all I can say at the moment, but it’s the truth. Why were you so interested in meeting me?”

 

Emi blinked twice before moving to grab a slice of an orange off Uraraka’s plate. “I have lived a long time. I can tell when someone is interesting. You, my dear girl, are fascinating.” She smiled widely, and Uraraka was immediately reminded of the Cheshire Cat. “You know, I was there when our healers tended to you. That’s quite a unique mark on your navel.”

 

“You–you saw me?” she yelped. “Wait,” she said as she leaned in urgently. “Do you know what it is?”

 

The chief booped her on the nose again and Uraraka almost screamed. “Uh-uh baby cheeks! You already asked your question, it’s my turn!” She bit into the orange. “Why were you so beaten up and fleeing from your husband-to-be? It was quite a spectacle, my scouts were convinced you needed rescuing.”

 

Uraraka’s temper flared and she shot the elf a hard look. “I wouldn’t call brainwashing me ‘rescuing.’” She looked down at her cup. “It was…a misunderstanding. Like I said, it’s complicated.”

 

Emi’s face was unreadable. “So it would seem.” They sat in silence, the chief staring intently at Uraraka as she tried to make her face just as blank of a slate.

 

“Oh!” The brunette exclaimed. “My turn. What did you and my…Bakugo…discuss while I was resting?”

 

Emi broke her stare-down with a derisive snort. “Less than half of what I needed to know.” Her demeanor changed and Uraraka’s pulse quickened at the sudden intensity. “Let me tell you something darling,” she stated as her eyes lost their mirth. “One look and I could tell you’re not from around here, so I’ll let you in on a non-human, unbiased opinion. The fact that King Masaru is gone so suddenly is not good. Kirin is comprised of numerous races and numerous creatures, and we all have different needs, different ways of life. As much as I hate it, the Gentle King was the only man powerful enough to keep us all united.

 

“We’re not a kingdom because we like to work together,” she spat suddenly, the venom reaching Uraraka from across the table. “We’re a kingdom because that wench on the mountain decided that you little animals were the ones to wield the power to hold back the chaos, and beings from Kirin only respect power.”

 

Another silence settled between them as Emi gripped the table. Uraraka was speechless. She didn’t know what to say. As if on cue, the chief’s face morphed back into its playful demeanor and she giggled, slightly bashful. “Whoof, sorry about that! I hate to dampen the mood, but sometimes I get a little fired up about politics. It’s my job after all!”

 

Uraraka felt sick. Emi reached over and shamelessly took a sip from the brunette’s cup. “It’s not like my people care either way. We’ve no interest in mortal affairs. We were here before Kirin existed, and we will be here after it is gone. Such is the way of the fae.”

 

Sensing the girl’s unease, she reached over again to cup her face. If it was anyone other than an immortal being of untold power touching her, she would’ve flinched away. There was an authority to Emi’s movements that scared Uraraka into unconscious compliance. “Easy, love. We can be a lot to handle to those who aren’t familiar with us.” Uraraka softly nodded, suddenly very aware of who she was sitting across from, and that this person was not a friend.

 

Emi lightly squeezed Uraraka’s cheek. “My turn. Where are you from? The place you were born, I mean. I hope somewhere unknown and exotic.”

 

Uraraka gently pulled away as she tried to hold back the tears associated when thinking of home. “Honesty…” she whispered. She squared her shoulders and looked at the elf, jaw set. “You’re right. I come from…a distant land, unheard of by anyone here. The fact of the matter is I don’t know how I got here. And as of right now, I’m trying to get back, but it’s…difficult. I’m no one special there, but I have people I love who are waiting for me to come back…and I miss it,” her voice wavered. “So much.”

 

The elf gingerly placed her hand over Uraraka’s and gave it a sympathetic squeeze. She looked deep in thought. “That was the most honest you have been with me all night,” she murmured. She squeezed it again and shook her head. “Ok, how about one more question for me, and we call it a night, okay?”

 

Uraraka sniffed loudly. “Can I ask two?”

 

Emi cracked a genuine smile. “Then I get to ask one in between. It’s only fair.”

 

Uraraka nodded. She began picking at her fingerpads. “Can you tell me about the late king? Why was he called the Gentle King of Kirin? Bakugo can’t talk about him,” she whispered.

 

Emi furrowed her brow, pressing her hands together. “It takes a lot to surprise me now, but I still cannot fathom what monster was able to take down that man…” Her right ear twitched and she reached for another pitcher and poured, this time a dark liquid. She took a swig. “The name the Gentle King is a bit of a joke. As I said, power is respected above all in our kingdom. That is why most of your humans here have developed their merit system based around combat. Masaru… was special.” She offered the dark drink to Uraraka, who politely declined.

 

 “He had this…energy about him, this aura unlike anything I’d ever felt. You didn’t have to fight him to know his strength, it oozed out of every pore in his body. And yet,” she tipped her glass. “He always chose to negotiate. Peace over war. Absolutely abhorred the idea of violence for sport.” She smiled, reminiscing at a memory. “He was so eloquent. He could walk into battle completely unarmed and subdue a pack of orcs with mere words. His people adored him.” Her smile fell. “If you saw him coming, it was either give up peacefully, agree to his negotiations, or force him to violence and ultimately die.”

 

She sighed. “In all my years of knowing him, he had only fought in one official fight. It was enough.” She grimaced. “Using orcs as an example earlier was a bad idea. They don’t exist anymore in Kirin.”

 

“Why not?” Uraraka asked.

 

Emi sneered. “Absolute fools. They really thought they could surround his castle and force him to give up the throne. Challenge him to a battle. A single human man couldn’t take down the mighty Orc tribe of the North, could he?” She barked out a jaded laugh. “It didn’t even take him an hour. An entire tribe. Gone. The rest scattered to the wind in exile.”

 

She took another swig of Uraraka’s now commandeered cup. “I wish I could’ve seen it. Those orcs were nasty business, always tearing up our woods for their disgusting hovels. I made the mistake thanking him for his service at the next conclave and I thought he was going to end me right there.” She shuddered. “Well. That was then.”

 

She let out a loud sigh. The corner of Emi’s mouth tugged into a malicious grin. “He’s going to be crushed.”

 

“Who?” Uraraka asked.

 

Emi winked at her. “Your supposed true love. Sure, he has a few years until he’s old enough to even qualify to take over, but after his monster of a mother is done destroying everything, there’s going to be nothing left of that city but blood and fire.” She sighed. “Such a shame. For you.”

 

Uraraka was beginning to think she would’ve been better off going hungry sitting on that awful chair. She didn’t like elves. Bakugo was right. “Okay.” She readjusted her cloak, having it completely encircle her. The pool of anxiety in her stomach churned. “You have one more question for me.”

 

Emi clapped her hands excitedly. “That I do! Thank you for reminding me my love!” She put her finger on her lip. “Let’s see…” she mused. “Ah ha! I’ve got it.” Her expression dropped. “Do you really think you’re no one special?”

 

Uraraka blinked at her. “That’s the question you want to ask?”

 

The chief didn’t move. “Your behavior confuses me.” She frowned.

 

Uraraka blushed as she slightly caved in on herself. “I…I mean objectively speaking…” She was floundering under Emi’s gaze. “It’s not..uh–“

 

“–Because I’m trying to understand something,” she interrupted, saving Uraraka from further stumbling over her words. “Your actions do not fit who is sitting in front of me.”

 

She gestured towards Uraraka’s body. “You weren’t the only one who arrived here in awful shape. I saw what you did to Prince Bakugo. You have the body of a fighter, which is something I don’t often see from non-Kirin women. And,” she narrowed her eyes, “despite only referring to him by his formal name, any time I mention the prince you clutch at that hideous cloak, which tells me–“

 

“It’s complicated,” Uraraka forcefully interjected, increasingly feeling more and more cornered.

 

“Right.” Emi smiled coldly. “Complicated. So,” she continued, “a warrior human girl from an unknown land running from a prince she clearly has wrapped around her finger stumbles into my domain with a very special marking on her stomach, and she refuses to acknowledge any of it?” She leaned back. “Either you’re very good at playing coy, or you have an incredibly low opinion of yourself.”

 

Uraraka felt the burning in her chest before she felt it in her eyes. She stared intently down at the empty plate in front of her, trying to hold back the embarrassed tears that threatened to spill. Not only was she flayed open, the person who did the cutting took a look inside and seemed entirely unimpressed with what was there. “I said where I come from, I’m not special,” she whispered. She took a deep breath and gathered her courage.

 

“Everyone around me is born with the same unique abilities, and we’re all competing to set ourselves apart from the average.” She let out a shaky laugh. “My entire life I’ve always existed in the average. I wasn’t lucky enough to be born into a family with numerous resources. I’ve never been the prettiest, the strongest, or even the smartest. Everything that has made me the me you see in front of you I earned with my own sweat and tears.”

 

Uraraka squared her shoulders and returned Emi’s gaze with a fiery expression of her own. “So no, I don’t think I’m special. I think I work hard, and that in present company, it would be arrogant to think I’m anything other than an amusing puzzle a powerful being like yourself finds entertaining enough to pry apart.” She crossed her arms before petulantly adding, “And I don’t have him wrapped around my finger!”

 

Chief Emi didn’t speak, expression blank as she intently studied the girl. I must’ve offended her, even though she started it. Uraraka sighed and put her hands together, bending slightly. “I’m so sorry for answering so rudely. I didn’t realize–“

 

“It was intentional. I needed to see your true face, and I did,” Emi answered. Still looking at her, she cocked her head and smiled warmly. “I am satisfied with what I see.”

 

Uraraka forced herself to close her open mouth. Despite sleeping all day, she found herself exhausted and wanted nothing more than to escape the eyes of this woman. They knew far too much with too little of information. She delicately placed her hands on the table in an effort to get them to stop shaking. Internally, she was a wreck. “My last question.”

 

“Make it count, darling.” Emi smiled cheekily.

 

Uraraka looked her square in the eyes, fists clenched. “What is the mark on my stomach?”

 

Emi groaned loudly and dropped her forehead onto the table. “I thought I told you to make it count! Why are you wasting it on something like that?”

 

“Something like–“ Uraraka sputtered, flabbergasted. “This entire time you’ve been hinting and prodding at its significance, and you don’t think it’s important enough for me to ask about?! You just insulted me for not!”

 

The chief groaned again. “Unbelievable. I’ve been alive the better part of two millennia with long forgotten knowledge at my fingertips, and you just want to know about a birthmark,” she complained, slightly muffled against the table.

 

She drew herself up and sharply put up her hand. “No, I don’t know if it is a birthmark, that was rhetorical.” Her sharpened, eyes like hard stones. The sun had sunk well past the horizon by now, and they looked obsidian in the dark. She smiled conspiratorially. “Hmm. Why don’t I give you the traditional fae answer, by answering it in a roundabout way that also satisfies my own needs?”

 

Emi didn’t wait for an answer. “You see,” she quipped, “when you’ve been around long enough to see dynasties rise and fall, you begin to discover patterns. Trends.” She pointed at Uraraka. “You, little warrior girl, feel like the catalyst of something big.”

 

Uraraka couldn’t help it, she snorted derisively. “I guarantee you, me being here is just a coincidence. A mistake at best,” she argued.

 

The chief shook her head. “Coincidence doesn’t exist in a land ruled by fate, especially in a forest as old and powerful as this one. If something brought you to this place, you were supposed to be here for a reason. And how do I know this?” Her eyes zeroed in on her abdomen.

 

“That symbol on you is something I haven’t seen in centuries. It’s so old, I don’t even know what it means. But I do know this,” she said as she leaned in with excitement. “It means the world is about to change. Carnage. Rebirth. New eras.”

 

Uraraka laughed nervously. “That’s uh, that’s quite a big statement to make.”

 

Emi pursed her lips. “I also know that anyone possessing that mark has always met a tragic end…maybe you’ve been alive for this long because ignorance has been saving you. I have never heard of someone with that mark living past childhood, they’ve always been taken at such a young age and used for the most horrifying things…”

 

Suddenly, she grabbed Uraraka’s hands and pulled her in close. “Listen to me,” she whispered urgently. “He can’t protect you, but we can. This forest has been the only thing in living memory to withstand the horrors of this country, it can keep you safe!”

 

Uraraka frantically tried to pull away from Emi’s ironclad grip. “What are you talking about? You’re hurting me!”

 

Her grip only tightened. “We’re just observers. As I said, the fae don’t concern themselves in mortal affairs, but that’s not the case for other creatures, other humans. If the wrong person finds out what is on your body, you will bring death to everyone around you. I’ve seen wars started for less.”

 

She lifted a hand to caress Uraraka’s frightened face. “You sweet flower,” she murmured. “Stay here as my companion. You’ve already proven yourself to me.” Her face hardened. “I couldn’t bear to see someone strip you of what makes you so shiny and pretty.”

 

Uraraka ripped free of the elf’s grip, falling off the back of her seat with a terrified squeak. She swiftly stood, trying to reorient herself. “I, uh, that was a really fun game.” She shot her a strained smile. “I should really be getting back to my room now. Thank you.”

 

Chief Emi didn’t move from her seat. “If you won’t listen to me…If you want answers, go to the Sage of the Mountain.” She pursed her lips. “They are the only one older than me who might have what you seek.”

 

Uraraka swallowed hard and gave her a slight bow. “Thank you for dinner.”

 

Emi smiled softly. “Of course. Shinsou, please see her back to her room.”

 

Uraraka jumped as Shinsou seemed to materialize next to her out of thin air. “Apologies,” he said, giving a slight bow and a crooked smile.

 

She glared at him and motioned towards the path. “Lead the way.” He chuckled and began to guide her towards the woods.

 

“Uraraka.”

 

The brunette turned in surprise to hear the chief use her actual name. “Yes?” she asked.

 

The green-haired elf was still sitting, looking up at Uraraka with her head resting on her palm against the table, chillingly calm. “My offer still stands. When your friends are all dead and they’re hunting you down, know you always have a place to run to.” Her wicked smile returned. “We will take good care of you.”

 

Uraraka visibly shuddered and hurried to follow the purple-haired elf. As the two disappeared from view, Emi blew out a puff of air and motioned with her finger. Monoma moved like liquid from the shadows and appeared by her side. “Did you get what you were looking for, Chief?”

 

Emi pouted. “They’re all fools. Even with the lack of information the prince gave me, I give it a year before the human city starts to crumble. Less if they find out about the girl.”

 

Monoma nodded. “It’s hard to forget about what happened to the last one we saw. What was that, four hundred years ago?”

 

The chief rolled her eyes. “That’s why I sent her to that old hag.”

 

 She wiped her hands together. “This can’t be our problem. It is a shame though,” she mused. “We won’t get to be the ones to end that ridiculous royal bloodline, goddess be damned. I thought he was being so possessive of her because he knew, but now I don’t think that’s the case. That stupid boy is as good as dead.”

 

“It’ll be interesting to watch though,” Monoma reasoned.

 

Emi chuckled, a big grin spreading across her features. “You’re right about that! I can’t remember the last time anything fun happened around here.” She patted the seat next to her. “Sit, friend. The tides are changing, and we have plans to make.”

 

~

 

Uraraka was convinced she never wanted to see another pointed-eared being again. After leaving dinner with the chief, a pit began growing in her stomach that only worsened with each step she took. Shinsou slowed his pace to walk by her side. “You don’t like us.”

 

She didn’t even have the energy to feign politeness. “I don’t understand you,” she replied bitterly. “How can you be so understanding one moment and then so cruel the other? I can’t keep up.”

 

“Of course you can’t, you’re a human,” he replied breezily. “Your lives are so short, you believe each moment you have should be something special and sacred.”

 

He put his arms behind his back. “When your life is as long as ours, what gives you meaning varies like the seasons. Feelings become inconsequential. You start to wonder what makes your existence bearable.”

 

She cast a sideways glance towards the elf. “And what makes your existence bearable?”

 

He flashed a toothy grin at her. “Fun. Pleasure. Excitement. And we will chase that by any means necessary.”

 

“I see,” she replied tiredly. They arrived at the staircase. Uraraka couldn’t believe how little time had passed– the moon was just now rising over the horizon.

 

Shinsou sank into a deep bow. “My apologies for earlier, in the woods. I wouldn’t have enchanted you if I knew who you were.”

 

She didn’t believe him for a second. “Thank you for helping me find my way back.” Her gaze hardened. “You can go now.”

 

He grinned and inclined his head. “I hope to see you again, Uraraka.” And he was gone.

 

Uraraka straightened her back and made it up the stairs. With one last backwards glance, she entered her room and collapsed against the shut door, shaking uncontrollably. “What…what was any of that?” She whispered tearfully.

 

She looked down at her shaking hands, vision blurred by the veil of tears forming. Forcing herself back on her feet, she strode to the bed and threw herself on it, only to bolt back up in horror as she remembered there was already a sleeping occupant in it. Please don’t wake up please don’t wake up please don’t wake up-

 

To her luck, Bakugo hadn’t stirred. He had now shifted onto his stomach, head facing her with an arm hanging off the bed. She sighed in relief and gently sat down on the mattress. “You were right, Bakugo, elves are the worst.”

 

Her conversation with Chief Emi had left her feeling violated and exposed. She hugged the cloak around her tighter in an attempt to substitute a supportive embrace. Uraraka whimpered, feeling utterly alone.

 

She looked back at the sleeping blonde and made a decision. She quietly oriented herself next to him on the opposite side of the bed, leaning against the headboard. “I don’t care if this is awkward, there’s no way in hell I’m going back in that chair,” she muttered. “I’m sad and scared and I am not adding a sore backside to that list.”

 

Without thinking, she moved her hand and dragged her fingers through his hair, something she had gotten in the habit of doing when either Deku or Iida was anxious and needed a calming touch. Uraraka froze, face on fire, and waited with baited breath for his eyes to snap open and ask her what the hell she was doing. Instead, he let out a small sigh and further sunk into the mattress.

 

Uraraka let out her own sigh of relief and choked back a laugh. “Geez, you’re the heaviest sleeper I’ve ever met,” she mumbled.

 

She turned to examine his face, confirming her suspicions that under his perpetual snarl, there was a handsome profile beneath it all. She continued to run her fingers through his hair, immediately feeling herself slowly relax through the contact. “Don’t get any ideas, this is just as much for me as it is for you.”

 

Uraraka leaned her head against the headboard and looked around the room. “A week,” she breathed. “I’ve been trapped here for the better part of a week and I still have no idea why I’m here. Ms Joke– er – Chief Emi just fed me this whole story about fate and destiny having to do with why this is happening, but I’m pretty sure she was just trying to get me to stay here and be her pet.” She shuddered. “Which I’d rather die than do.”

 

In the silence of the room her breathing began to sync with Bakugo’s. “Your hair is softer than I thought it’d be,” she observed. “Back home, Mina told me it felt like bristles, but I didn’t believe for a second you’d willing let her touch your head.”

 

“Sorry,” she sighed. “I need to stop comparing you. It’s so hard, when you’re right here, but you’re not. And I miss them.”

 

The words began to tumble out of her mouth. “I miss being a hero, and saving people. I miss my too-tight costume and cheering my friends on as I see them achieve their dreams. I miss my parents and constantly having to argue over whether or not they think I can handle my internship. And I miss,” her voice cracked, “I miss knowing my place in the world I’m in, and how I can help people. All I’ve been doing here is causing trouble and embarrassing myself. That’s not me!”

 

She looked down at her free hand, examining her finger pads. “I used to be so bad at lying, and now I don’t remember how to tell the truth. You all deserve better.”

 

A batch of fresh tears spilled from her eyes. “I’m so afraid of getting closer to you guys because I can’t afford to build friendships here when I know I ultimately have to leave. And how can I know if they actually mean anything when all I see are their faces when I look at all of yours?”

 

She sunk in on herself, nestling further into the borrowed cloak. “Especially you,” she whispered. “You confuse me so much I can’t even think straight. And–“ She let out a sob. “You’re in so much pain and I can’t do anything about it! Every time I learn something new about this world I just want to shield you from it. How can I go back in time and prevent any of this from happening to you all? It’s not fair.”

 

She quieted and used her hand softly scratching Bakugo’s scalp as an anchor. “It’s not fair.” She repeated. “But I’m done running. I see now that that’s not going to help anyone. But I still don’t know how to explain that I’m not the Uraraka you think I am…” she sighed. “I’ll come up with something. Apparently, I’m now also a walking omen of destruction according to Chief Emi, so I’ll just add it to my growing pile of mysteries that are giving me stomach ulcers.”

 

Uraraka looked down at Bakugo and softened. “But I am going to help you. I’ve decided. Healing powers or not, I can be still be useful until I find a way home. I want to prove to that-that pointy-eared bitch that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.” She gently swiped her thumb across his forehead. “I trust you,” she said with a conviction that surprised her. “I know you’re going to be fine. I’ll make sure of it.”

 

Uraraka slowly shut her eyes, lulled into to a relaxed state. “We’re all going to be fine,” she murmured. “Uravity is here to help…”

 

Hand going lax against his head, Uraraka drifted into a deep and dreamless sleep.