Katsuki marvels at the sight before him. He’s wandered away from his traveling group, chasing a strange-looking lizard that was almost half his size as it ducked underneath bushes.
The lizard zig zags around a maze of tunnels, and Katsuki follows it, a huge menacing grin on his face. It’s a lizard, one that had tried to steal their lunch.
His mother had freaked out upon seeing it and had tried to catch it. Katsuki, with all his curiosity, had insisted that it was just a dumb creature.
Do you even know what it is…? His mother had hissed. The lizard had red scales and had made a low, rumbling sound, cocking his head to the side—as if it could understand them. You want to spare its life, Katsuki? Do you understand what you’re doing right now?
Shrugging, Katsuki had given the lizard more pieces of fish. Exasperated, his mother had walked away to leave Katsuki to his own doings.
And so, he chases after the lizard. He’s only seven, and his curiosity gets the best of him. He’s sure that his mother will scold him about it later, but for now, he just wants to know where the lizard was going. Several times, the lizard stops in its tracks to hiss. The lizard also tries to nip at his hands, but Katsuki insists. He realizes that the lizard is trying to escape his sight, and Katsuki is too fast and clever for that—the thought makes him beam with pride.
When they finally get to the end of the tunnel, Katsuki forgets about the lizard, because he’s found himself a cave, and it looks more enticing and magical than anything he’s seen before. It’s akin to his mother’s jewelry collection, with bright shining stones of all colors all over its walls and foreign writings that he can’t understand.
He hears a hissing sound, and he sees the red lizard to one corner of the cave.
“Hey, come here!” Katsuki yells at it. The lizard shakes its head. Puzzled, Katsuki says, “Can you understand me?”
A loud rumble steals Katsuki’s attention. Shaken, he slowly makes his way deeper into the cave. The lizard follows and tugs his shoe, trying to stop him; Katsuki ignores it, just goes deeper and deeper into the cave.
“What is this…?” Katsuki whispers, because there’s a wall in front of him. It’s a translucent wall, similar to a mirror, but Katsuki can see the other side. It was as if he was looking at a very peaceful fall of water; he can see his reflection, and he can also see an entire forest behind it. Which is strange, because he’s barely walked much from the other side of the cave? He’s never seen such a shallow cave before. Katsuki’s only seven, but he knows this is odd, knows that there’s an ethereal explanation to this.
Gingerly, he puts a hand against the translucent wall and is bewildered when it passes through with no effort. His hand disappears behind the wall.
Out of nowhere, the lizard bites his ankle. Yelping, he glares down at the lizard which is struggling to pull him away from the wall. Katsuki nudges it away with his foot and runs right at the wall—
—a cold rush of air fills his lungs, and he stumbles into a clearing. Completely puzzled, he looks behind him and sees the mouth of the cave he had just exited from. The lizard stumbles after him, hissing.
The world on the other side of the wall looks similar to his, but Katsuki feels odd about it. It feels different, even if he can’t describe why. He looks around and sees nothing but dirt and trees, yet he can’t help and step forward to explore. A pile of colorful objects underneath a tree catches his attention and he kneels before it. It’s an assortment of random items, and he curiously picks up a copper ring from the pile. He blinks, recognizes it, “Didn’t I lose this yesterday…?”
“Hey!” A boy’s voice calls from behind him. “That’s my pile. Don’t touch it!”
Katsuki falls on his bottom in surprise, and he looks around frantically. There’s a boy, around his age, standing there. The boy has red hair that falls on his shoulders and Katsuki watches as he rummages behind a bush to pull out a pair of pants. “Who the hell are you?” spits Katsuki. “And why are you naked!?”
“My name’s Eijirou,” the boy replies, shimmying into his pants. “Don’t touch my pile!”
“This is mine!” Katsuki holds up the ring. “My mother gave me this on my birthday, so fuck off.”
At seven, Katsuki’s vocabulary is already colorful. The boy, Eijirou, looks scandalized by it. Gaping, he points a finger at Katsuki. “I found it, that makes it mine, that’s how it works! Anyway, why did you follow me here? You can’t be here.”
“I didn’t—” Katsuki crosses his arms petulantly. “I didn’t follow you here. It was a dumb red lizard I followed, not you.”
Eijirou blinks widely at that, at a loss for words. He opens his mouth, then closes them again. Finally, he says, “You need to go. Your kind can’t stay here.”
Katsuki looks at him with bewilderment. This boy named Eijirou, he’s weird. Thinking about it for a moment, Katsuki realizes that he should head back before his mother finds he’s been gone too long. “Fine,” he mumbles, getting up. At the same time, he deposits the copper ring back on his finger.
He walks towards the cave, and Eijirou watches him curiously. Then, when he tries to walk into the cave, across the strange wall, he hits a hard surface instead. The surface hits him square on the face, and he stumbles back, shocked.
“Wha—?” Katsuki gasps, putting a hand up to his forehead. The wall is there, he can see it. He can also see the cave behind it, yet… what sorcery was this? Eijirou snickers, and Katsuki turns around to glare at him. “What’s going on!?”
“It’s your fault for following me here.”
“I told you, I followed a dumb lizard!”
Ignoring him, Eijirou approaches. “Anyone can enter, but only our kind can exit. How else would we find the trespassers, if they can so freely leave?”
Katsuki gapes, confused. The boy’s words are foreign and confusing to him, and he can’t make any sense of it. All he knows is that, apparently, he’s being kept from going back to his group. He yells, “How am I supposed to leave!?”
“You just need something of our kind, that’s all. Here, take this.” The boy rummages through the pockets of his pants and gestures for Katsuki to stretch out his arms. Then, he deposits three fangs into Katsuki’s hand.
“Whose teeth are these?” Katsuki asks, eyebrows furrowed.
“Oh, they’re mine. They fell off this morning.”
The anger that flashes over Katsuki’s features is immediate. “I don’t want your teeth…!”
“Fine. Stay here, die here,” Eijirou shrugs.
Katsuki frowns. He looks at the teeth he’s holding in his hands. It’s all so strange, and too much for his young mind to handle. Scowling, Katsuki focuses his attention at Eijirou. The boy has a bright smile on his face as he gestures towards the cave’s entrance.
Nonchalantly, Eijirou says, “Consider it payback for sparing my life… and, for the fish, I guess.”
Such a strange boy, Katsuki thinks. Every word that comes out of his mouth makes little sense. He’s never saved this boy’s life or has given him a fish, he’s never even met him before. With a scoff, Katsuki gives up and closes his hand around the fangs in his hand. Giving the red-haired boy one last glare, he steps back into the cave, and is met with no resistance this time around.
“Kacchan, is this all right?” Izuku asks, worry lacing his voice.
“Yes, idiot!” Katsuki retorts. Frowning, he grasps the necklace he wears, letting his fingers run over the fangs attached there. It’s an odd gesture, and he does it unconsciously, has done it for a decade since he’s received them.
He’s off on his first official mission for the Yuuei nation. His mission is to retrieve a kidnapped girl. It’s a vague mission, with not much detail to work on. He was told that dragon shifters kidnapped the girl, and that’s all they know. It’s a dangerous mission because of the unknown, but Katsuki’s out to prove himself, as always.
Katsuki’s one of the few who knows how to go to the country of the shapeshifters. His own mother had realized this when he had returned, a decade ago, with three dragon fangs in his pocket. He’s told no one how to get there and refuses to explain when asked. He had only agreed to go on the mission if nobody else accompanied him—and the army had only allowed him to take it, if at least Izuku went as well.
Izuku, of all people, had been the condition. Of course, the universe would fuck with Katsuki in that way.
“Is this the correct way?” Izuku mutters, because they’ve been crawling around low tunnels for a few minutes now. Katsuki’s ahead of him, and he turns around to snarl at Izuku.
“I’ve only been here once, and I was a kid the last time! Just—fucking shut up, Deku. I’m figuring it out.”
Fortunately, Izuku stays quiet, at least for a while. They continue down the winding dirt tunnels, crawling on their knees and getting mud all over their clothes. It had been easier last time, Katsuki thinks. Perhaps it was because he was much smaller back then, or because a dragon had led him.
A dragon… he knows that now. The strange, red-haired boy from his childhood had been a damn dragon.
“I hear they execute any human that enters their nation,” Izuki’s voice says from behind, and Katsuki almost spins around to clock him on the jaw, because so much for shutting up. “Dying on our very first mission isn’t very ideal, Kacchan.”
“We’re not there to attack them,” Katsuki hisses, his patience wearing thin. “We’ll only ask about the kidnapped girl. They don’t kill emissaries, Deku. That’s the law everywhere, and I don’t think they’re fucking idiots.”
“Do emissaries crawl through dirt tunnels to get there? We’re trespassing. Surely, there’s a less conspicuous way to enter their nation.”
Katsuki sighs in exasperation. He ignores Izuku, simply continues crawling through the tunnels.
Finally, they arrive at the end, at the cave that Katsuki had found many years ago. It looks just as ethereal as last time, and Katsuki takes a moment to blink at it, trying to school his expression as he keeps his awe in check.
“Oh…” Izuku whispers as he scans the walls. “Dragon writing.”
“Hey, take this,” Katsuki says as he removes his necklace. Confused, Izuku watches as he takes a fang and tosses it towards him. Izuku catches it and stares at the dragon tooth he now holds. “You need it to get out of here.”
“Ah, Kacchan, you know so much.”
“Shut up,” Katsuki mumbles and his cheeks darken. He doesn’t know why he’s embarrassed because he remembers a lot about his first and only trip to this strange place. He’s seen so much more of the world since then, yet, that one day had made a great mark in his memories. “Let’s go.”
Katsuki takes a deep breath and leads Izuku to the magical wall. In the back of his mind, he wonders, will he see the red-haired boy again? Would he even remember him? It’s been years, too long to remember a single day from more than a decade ago, and yet he hopes—he’s thought of this many times before, if perhaps there was a spell cast on the fangs around his neck that makes him yearn to meet Eijirou again.
Right now, though, they just need to cross the wall.
I feel like I've had this idea in my mind for what seems like forever, and I'm finally putting it down in words. So, take my fantasy fic, take it! Here you'll find all the usual fantasy and fluff-filled tropes. Thanks in advance for putting up with me lmao
Thanks Becca for enabling me and handing me ideas (as usual, you genius) to get my butt started on this
Katsuki and Izuku walk through the forest. They’re both wary; even if there isn’t any other person in sight, neither of them speak a word. The other side of the wall, this nation inhabited by the dragon shifters, is very much similar to their own. If they hadn’t gone through the ethereal cave, they wouldn’t have even known they were in a place to be cautious.
Deep in thought, Katsuki lets Izuku lead the way. It’s not usual that he lets Izuku walk ahead, but he’s distracted. Katsuki’s eyebrows furrow in frustration as they walk through the forest.
“Kacchan,” Izuku says. There’s awe in his voice.
“Huh,” Katsuki says dumbly.
They’ve reached a cliff. There’s a large expanse of sky beyond them. Katsuki frowns and walks as close to the edge that he can and peers over the it. It’s a high fall, and there’s nothing on the bottom of it but rocks and gravel. Katsuki estimates it to be hundreds of feet until the bottom, but it doesn’t matter because there’s no reason to go this way—it doesn’t seem like it would lead them anywhere, as they can see nothing useful where their eyes can reach.
“We went the wrong way,” Izuku says. “Let’s head to the other side of the forest.”
Katsuki says with sarcasm dripping in his voice, “Brilliant, Deku.”
Izuku ignores him. He blinks a few times, focused on strange figures across the sky. They’re flying, much too large to be birds, but at this distance he can’t be too sure. There are at least a dozen of them, and Izuku gasps, “Dragons!”
Startled, Katsuki turns his head to follow where Izuku is staring at. He’s right. A pack of dragons, a myriad of colors and not one that looks like the other, are flying in the distance. They haven’t spotted the duo, but Katsuki shoves Izuku to head back to the shadow of the trees, anyway. Izuku understands and they both scramble back to the forest. It’s silly, yet they both know it’s the better choice, because facing a dozen dragons without an invitation is death waiting to happen. Before they had left Yuuei, their captain had told them, the best chance they had was to find their city and blend in as shifters.
If they were caught out here, in the open, with no excuse—it wouldn’t work.
“Kacchan, someone’s coming,” Izuku hisses as he ducks behind a bush. He’s right; Katsuki can hear leaves and plants being scrunched under thick boots, and two voices arguing. Against his will, Izuku grabs him by the arm and yanks him to hide too.
“Captain Nemuri will kill us!” an exasperated voice complains.
“It’s not my fault you wanted to slack off, Tetsutetsu,” replies a second person.
Katsuki exchanges glances with Izuku. To the best of their abilities, they find an opening behind the thick leaves that they’re hiding in. It’s difficult, but they make out two people who are standing in the clearing. There are two men around their age. They both have their backs to them and Katsuki makes a note that one of them has silver hair, the other crimson.
“I thought it would be okay, we haven’t had trespassers in months,” explains the silver haired man. He runs a hand over his hair. “I can smell them.”
“I can, too,” replies the redhead. “But, hey… they don’t smell entirely like humans. Perhaps they aren’t trespassers.”
“They’re more human than dragon.”
Katsuki exchanges glances with Izuku once more, both of them puzzled. Izuku points to the teeth around his neck—perhaps having them makes them smell like dragonborn? It makes little sense, and Katsuki shrugs.
“Okay! Enough!” The silver haired man exclaims.
It happens too fast. The man’s skin ripples into a color that mimics his own hair, and before either Katsuki and Izuku realize it, he turns and starts dashing towards the bush they’re hiding behind. Izuku, the idiot, squeaks in panic. With a curse, Katsuki’s palms explode in warning before the dragon shifter lunges at them, crashing against the thorns and leaves and grappling Izuku around the shoulders. Katsuki’s eyes widen as Izuku gets thrown on the ground. Izuku struggles underneath the man’s hold, his hands scraping uselessly against skin that appear to be—armored?
Katsuki grins, manic. It’s interesting that not only could these creatures shift from human to a dragon, they also have other abilities such as turning their skin into armor? It’s unfair that they could be so powerful, but it also resounds to Katsuki’s core, because he likes power.
“No!” Izuku yells.
Katsuki watches as Izuku grits, and the muscles on his arms make a strange crackling sound—Katsuki knows what’s coming next, and the dragon shifter doesn’t. The man named Tetsutetsu stares at Izuku’s arms, startled. However, when Izuku throws a punch at his face, he gives a loud yell of pain because the bones on his hand break almost immediately upon impact on the armored skin.
Stupid, fucking Deku. Katsuki can tell that it wasn’t his full power, and that’s why he couldn’t take the impact. The dragon shifter yells in surprise, anyway, and gets knocked back.
“What the fuck—” Katsuki yells, and he’s just about to lunge at the silver haired man with an explosion when the air gets knocked out of him. He hits the ground, a heavy weight on him. Red fills his vision as the back of his head slams against the dirt, his hands inadvertently exploding into nothing.
“Oh, wow,” the man with the red hair says, eyes wide. He has Katsuki pinned to the ground, his knees on either side of Katsuki’s torso. “You can make explosions—” the dragon shifter’s cut off when Katsuki grabs him by the hair and bashes their heads together. It’s an impulsive move, but Katsuki’s pissed off, and it causes the dragon shifter to stagger backwards and fall on his bottom.
“Fuck off!” Katsuki yells.
“Stop! Wait! Stop!” The silver haired man yells, his voice resounding through the area. Katsuki, confused, watches as the silver haired man stumbles to his feet and points a shaky finger at Izuku. “You’re—you’re dragonborn.”
“He’s fucking what?” Katsuki snarls.
“I can smell it, too,” the redhead says softly, a frown on his face. “It’s faint, but it’s there. Tetsu, we can’t hurt him.”
Izuku looks alarmed. He sits back on his knees and shoots a puzzled expression, his eyes wide with enquiry. Stunned, Katsuki doesn’t know what to say. He’s known Izuku all his life and has known that he’s definitely a human. Izuku’s definitely not a dragon—he hadn’t even been born with abilities, unlike Katsuki. He had been handed his powers, like the weakling he was.
With a stammer, Izuku croaks, “W-what...”
“You, though,” says the silver haired man as he points a finger at Katsuki. “You have something of ours on you, but you are not dragonborn. Surrender.”
The anger finally brims to the surface and Katsuki’s expression darkens. He grits his teeth. “Don’t tell me to fucking surrender,” he growls, before abruptly getting up and rushing towards the idiot.
The air gets swept out of him a second time, and he realizes that the redhead has crashed into him, again. What the fuck. The impact is stronger this time around, and they tussle and throw punches at each other. Katsuki couples his punches with his explosions, but somehow, they have no effect on the dragon shifter. Vaguely, he notes that the dragon shifter’s skin is as hard as rocks. It appears that he has the same ability as the other one—he can turn his skin into armor.
It doesn’t matter to Katsuki, because all armors will break, eventually.
The dragon shifter yells and kicks and punches back, but he counters most of them with his own blasts. Some get through, leaving scrapes across his limbs. They continue to scuffle, Katsuki getting more impatient by the minute.
“Kacchan, the cliff!” Izuku yells out.
A hardened hand digs into the skin of his arm and throws him aside. With a grunt, Katsuki realizes that they’re close to the edge of the cliff. The redhead had pushed him aside to keep him away from the edge; he was looking down on him, maybe even protecting him, and Katsuki hated the redhead for it.
“Hey, don’t—!” The redhead’s eyes widen in shock as Katsuki leaps at him. “The cliff will break, quit it with the explosions…!”
Katsuki doesn’t give a fuck, he repeatedly hits him with explosion after explosion. The dragon shifter puts his arms up to shield himself, his skin jagged and solid, protecting himself from the attacks. Katsuki hits him with the blasts, and he hits the ground under them, too.
Katsuki’s won. He knows this when the hardened skin cracks and breaks, little by little. Pissed that the dragon shifter’s not putting up a fight at this point, Katsuki smacks his arms aside and wraps his fingers around the dragon shifter’s neck. “Fuck you,” Katsuki grits, and he sets off another explosion, one that should kill the man. However, he’s not surprised when the skin under his palm suddenly becomes rock hard. The dragon shifter’s skin changes, rippling into jagged lines and edges, and his explosion is muffled by it. “If you won’t fight me, you might as well admit defeat, you idiot.”
“I’m just not keen on you causing this cliff to break,” he mutters in response. With an unimpressed look, the dragon shifter grunts, “Get off me.”
“Admit defeat and I will.”
Katsuki hasn’t won, not really—winning would have been splitting this man’s skin open with his explosion—the armor had prevented that. Still, he’s got the man pinned underneath him. And even if the fight has left him now, Katsuki’s still got the upper hand, and no way in hell is he going to let a gimmick such as armored skin scare him.
He presses close, hovers over the dragon shifter, his grin manic. “Admit defeat, and I won’t rip your armor off bit by bit with my blasts.”
The dragon shifter rolls his eyes, and Katsuki hates that, he interprets it as the asshole dismissing him. He’s just about to say something about it when the dragon shifter’s attention gets stolen by the fangs that hang in the space between them.
“Wait… what are these?” The dragon shifter’s eyes blow wide as he reaches for the necklace that Katsuki’s wearing. He grasps the teeth between his fingers and his lips part in bewilderment. When the dragon shifter snaps his focus back to Katsuki, his cheeks darken; Katsuki doesn’t know why, but his breath hitches in his throat, and a myriad of unfamiliar emotions hits him. The dragon shifter exclaims, “You’re the boy from before!”
“Let go!” Katsuki yells, smacking the dragon shifter’s hands away, face brimming with fury. Stupid, goddamn stranger, who gave him permission to do that? The ground trembles underneath them as he takes a step back. His numerous powerful explosions and the rocks had disturbed the cliff; it was unraveling beneath them. Katsuki was distracted, though—distracted that the stranger in front of him was gaping.
“Kacchan!” Izuku’s voice shakes him out of his reverie. He’s a good distance away, now held back by the silver haired man. “Kacchan, the ground!”
Katsuki hisses, “Fuck!”
It happens too fast. The ground breaks apart beneath Katsuki. He’s thrown aside by the shaking and ultimately breaks away from his position over the other man. Katsuki tries to scramble to hang on to something, anything, but his hands come up empty, grasping only air. Amidst the chaos, he sees the other man trying to reach for him, but it’s too late—he can’t reach him. Panic courses through his veins as he realizes that he might not survive this fall, and the last thing he sees is the silver dragon pulling Izuku back when Izuku tries to rush after him.
A hundred thoughts run through Katsuki’s mind. He twists himself to see where he’s falling, and all he sees is jagged stones and rocks. With a curse, he focuses on mustering the biggest explosion possible—because an explosion would break his fall. He’s used his explosion to propel himself into the air before, but not like this, not when he’s falling at an alarming rate. He’s falling too fast, he’s not sure if he can make it on time—
A redness envelopes him. A red dragon, one that appears out of nowhere, has flown right at his direction, and it wraps him in its massive wings, before flipping over and crashing right at the ground. Katsuki curses again as he feels the entire collision, and just like that, his surroundings whiten out.
Katsuki passes out.
He’s unsure how long he’s out. It could have been hours, or just a minute. The sunlight creeps through his lashes, blinding him, disorienting him—and Katsuki’s stomach lurches as he remembers the fall.
“Hey,” a voice says. There’s warm hand on Katsuki’s face, nudging him awake.
His head hurts like hell, each inch of his body sore—but he’s alive, that at least he knows.
“Wake up,” the voice says again, softly.
Katsuki blearily opens his eyes. It’s all a daze, and he can somehow make out that he’s been propped up against a huge, slanting rock. He can’t make out his surroundings, though there is a distinct crimson in front of him.
It’s the red dragon—rather, he’s in his human form, again.
“Are you okay?” the dragon shifter asks, and Katsuki musters up enough energy to smack his hand away.
Katsuki forces himself to open his eyes. He does so with much effort, and the dragon shifter gives a sigh of relief and sits back on his knees.
And he’s naked, of- fucking- course.
“Put on some goddamn clothes,” Katsuki grumbles, closing his eyes again.
The dragon shifter snorts at that. “Yeah, I don’t have any, unless you want to hand me your cape. How are you… uh, what are you doing?”
Katsuki wants to punch him in the face. Instead, he somehow manages to sit up straight and fumble and shake off the cape on his back. His ears burn; he can’t tell why the fuck they’re burning, because he had almost died, and having a naked idiot in front of him should be the least of his concerns. Katsuki glares at the ground as he shoves his cape at the dumbass who throws back his head in laughter before accepting it.
The dumbass drapes his cape over his lap, and Katsuki makes a mental note to burn it later. Out of spite.
“How are you doing?” repeats the dumbass.
“Like I just fell off a fucking cliff,” he says, leaning back against the rock and covering his eyes with his arm. “How the hell are you not hurt?”
“Uh, I can harden my skin… you saw it before,” the dragon shifter says. Puzzled, Katsuki peeks out from behind his arm to stare. When he realizes that Katsuki is looking at him, the dragon shifter grins (Katsuki notices that his teeth are weirdly sharp), and holds out his arm to demonstrate what he means. His arms ripple and hardens, just as he says as he could, and his skin resembles a rock when it’s like this. “Sorry, the fall still knocked you out, though. I got to you too late, couldn’t even fly because you were too close to the ground. Had no choice but to crash.”
“Whatever.” Katsuki hides his eyes behind his arm again, blocking out the too-bright sun, and this odd dragon shifter. His entire body is still sore; he’s not interested in talking at the moment.
“Katsuki, you need to get out of here,” the other man exhales.
Katsuki pulls his arm off his face completely this time. He narrows his eyes at the redhead. “How do you know my name?”
Perplexed, the man blinks. “Because, we met years ago, remember? I gave you those teeth.”
“Uh,” Katsuki says dumbly. “You’re Eijirou?”
“Yes?” Eijirou looks confused. “Have you not figured that out yet?”
“I never gave you my fucking name.”
Katsuki’s sure of it, even if had been a decade ago. He had never given that boy his name.
“You didn’t,” Eijirou laughs. “I heard your mother call you by your name, all those years ago.”
“What the fuck…” Katsuki mutters, and he glares at this idiot. “How do you even remember that…?”
Eijirou says nothing, only smiles.
He should have known. As he looks at this person in front of him another time, he can see all the hints now; the bits and pieces come together at once. The red hair, the blinding grin, and the way he had zoned in on the teeth around his neck. It was him, the boy that Katsuki had met all those years ago, the one that had shown him how to get in and out of this ethereal world. He wasn’t a lizard anymore, though. Katsuki’s cheeks burn as he tries to school his expression—he’s been thinking of Eijirou for so many years now, and yet now that they’re facing each other, he can’t find any words.
It’s been years, and he still doesn’t understand why the fuck he can’t get this person out of his mind, even if they had only met for a very brief time all those years ago.
There are loud, rumbling noises that come from above them. Shadows flutter over them and Katsuki looks up. Startled, he sees that there are three dragons descending towards them. “Shit,” he hears Eijirou mutter under his breath. The dragons land on the ground, and the dirt shakes slightly beneath them. Katsuki snarls as he forces himself to sit up straight, and he almost gets up to protect himself when Eijirou shoves him back down on the rock with a grip on his shoulder.
Katsuki hisses, “What the hell—”
“Don’t,” Eijirou says, clutching his shoulder, begging him to be quiet.
A dragon with purple scales and dark colors framing its eyes steps forward. It makes a low, growling sound from its throat. Eijirou nods at it, and Katsuki realizes that dragons can communicate regardless of what form they’re in. Katsuki feels dumb, and Eijirou’s hold on his shoulder is unrelenting. Somehow, it works, he sits there glaring as the dragons communicate in a way that he can’t understand.
“He’s not dangerous,” he hears Eijirou says.
Anger brims in him; Katsuki glares at Eijirou’s back, because his words are so dismissive, he’s making it seem like he’s a weakling.
A light envelopes the purple dragon for a moment, and Katsuki watches with shock as its form twists and shifts into a much smaller figure. It’s the first time he sees one of them shift, and it’s… ethereal. It’s unreal, how the dragon disappears. In its wake, there’s a woman, with slanted eyes. And, she’s goddamn naked. For a moment, Katsuki’s self-conscious as the human woman walks to them.
“Captain Nemuri, we should let him go back to his world,” Eijirou tells her.
“I’m sorry, Eijirou,” the woman says. “You know that’s against the law. He’s to be judged, as all trespassers are.”
Katsuki pushes Eijirou’s hand off his shoulder. He staggers to his feet as he half-yells, “Listen here, bitch—”
“Oh, that won’t do,” she says. A sweet scent wafts through the air. Katsuki’s light-headed, his eyes threatening to shut. The last thing he remembers is passing out a second time, falling forward, and Eijirou catching him before he hits the ground.
Eijirou and Tetsutetsu find themselves in the soldier’s quarters. It’s been hours since they had gotten back to the city, and the blond with the explosions—Katsuki—was automatically brought to the prison. It’s odd; a million thoughts run through Eijirou, giving him a headache, and he chews on his cheek.
The quarters are empty except for them. Eijirou hunches over a table with Tetsutetsu on the other side. His friend stares meaningfully and he ignores it.
“The other one, the human with the freckles,” Tetsutetsu says slowly. “They sent him to the palace to speak with the queen… he doesn’t seem to be dragonborn, not in the usual way. You sensed it though, right? There are traces of our kind in him… but he’s not bonded with any of us, nor is it in his blood. It’s strange.”
Eijirou hears the words, but he doesn’t listen, his mind much too focused on the blond who’s in the prison. He knows what will happened, has seen it multiple times before—Katsuki would be executed, because he was an uninvited human.
It’s strange that Eijirou bothered by this. There’s a longing in him, a distressing sensation that tells him that Katsuki can’t die.
“There’s got to be a way to get him out of this,” Eijirou racks his brain for an answer. He sighs and buries his face in his arms.
There are only a few reasons a human could be forgiven for trespassing. Emissaries were often let off to their own devices, but Katsuki wasn’t an emissary. Those with even just a hint of dragon blood in them were forgiven as well, but that was out of the question in this case.
Those who shared bonds with dragons, they were saved, too.
Being tied to a dragon meant that a human would permanently have something of this world, because it went deeper than flesh and blood, the vow tying their souls. It was risky, and very stupid—but Eijirou hadn’t been thinking about Katsuki for the last ten years just to let him go this way.
“I’m leaving,” Eijirou springs to his feet, startling Tetsutetsu. He rushes out, slamming the door open, and Tetsutetsu practically scrambles after him.
“Ei, where are you going!?” yells Tetsutetsu.
Eijirou hurries; he ignores the sounds of protests that his friend makes.
It doesn’t take long for Eijirou to find where they’re keeping the prisoner. The dragons don’t have a lot of criminals to keep. The prison itself isn’t even guarded properly, and the few guards that stay there pay him no attention as he makes his way towards the only occupied room. He opens the door to Katsuki’s prison, which is only a bare room with a dirt floor. Katsuki’s sitting, cross-legged, his wrists tied together. His legs aren’t bound, and Eijirou wonders if the dragons even remember how to take someone into custody, because this is ridiculous.
“Eijirou!” Tetsutetsu enters after him.
Katsuki scowls at them, his cheeks darken, and he looks a lot weaker and more tired than before. Eijirou realizes, perhaps a spell was cast on him? One that would prevent him from escaping, even if otherwise it would have been so easy.
“The fuck is going on, Shitty Hair?” Katsuki grits.
Eijirou ignores the new nickname. He spins around to glance at Tetsutetsu, and he pulls up a lie that he thinks might work in this scenario.
“He can’t be killed by the pack,” Eijirou insists. “We’re bonded. The law says you can’t hurt anyone whose life has been tied by one of us, even if it’s a human.”
It’s the only excuse he can find at the moment, the only one he knows could save Katsuki’s life.
“Ei, you’re not bonded!” Tetsutetsu exclaims with exasperation. “Why are you even lying about this?”
Eijirou flinches, he looks between his friend and at Katsuki, conflicted. The faces that look back are a stark contrast. Tetsutetsu looks concerned at the entire thing, and Katsuki… Katsuki looks angry, and he also looks scared. Eijirou can see it, somehow, from the way he bites his cheek. Katsuki’s trying his best to appear furious and inconvenienced, but Eijirou can see it for what it really is: Katsuki is scared of dying here.
“He beat me in a duel,” Eijirou says. Tetsutetsu scowls at that remark. “That means my life is indebted to him.”
“He didn’t beat you, you stopped fighting… and it—I guess that’s true, that’s the law, but you could pretend it didn’t happen. Why would you want to be tied to a human, Ei? Why are you lying to save his life?” Tetsutetsu asks. “Besides, we can tell you’re not bonded, you know that, right? He may have something of yours, and it might smell almost like a bond, but we can tell that your lives aren’t tied.”
“I know,” Eijirou says softly. “That could easily be fixed.”
Tetsutetsu’s eyes blow wide. “Oi.”
When Eijirou makes a move towards Katsuki, the latter bristles and tries to inch away. It’s futile, as his wrists are still, of course, tied. He can’t move much, but when Eijirou kneels down in front of him, Katsuki glares.
Katsuki snaps, “Shitty Hair, get away from me or—”
“Trust me,” Eijirou says, a hint of nervousness in his voice. Cautiously, he reaches between them, and grasps the teeth that dangles down Katsuki’s neck. It’s strange, seeing his teeth as ornaments, like this. He would never have guessed that this would happen, thought the first time he had met the rowdy blond would have been the last.
“Ei!” Tetsutetsu hisses. He rolls his eyes and starts pacing around the room frantically, and Eijirou ignores him. Katsuki’s eyes go wide when Eijirou tightens his grip around the necklace, and uses it to pull Katsuki towards him roughly, as if hesitating any longer would mean that he’d never do it.
Katsuki’s face is barely an inch away from Eijirou now, and Eijirou closes his eyes, his breath warm against Katsuki’s face, “I need something from you.”
“What the fuck?” Katsuki exhales, his voice wavering despite himself.
“Just give me something,” Eijirou says. “Your cape—I don’t know. Give me an earring.”
“I’m not giving you anything, you dick.”
Eijirou snaps his eyes open and Katsuki’s breath catches in his throat, because there's an urgency in the dragon shifter’s expression, and it burns within him. Somehow, Katsuki forgets his words, he watches as Eijirou pulls away and scans him from head to toe. Katsuki’s exposed at this, his cheeks darken and he bites his cheek, puzzled at his own reaction.
“They’re coming,” Tetsutetsu announces, his stare transfixed on the door. “I can hear them.”
“This will do,” Eijirou announces, and he yanks a ring off Katsuki’s hand. It’s a silver, coiled ring. He plants it in the middle of his palm and stares at it for a second, thinking. Then, he blinks at Katsuki and asks, “Are you—is this a mating ring? Humans do that, right? They wear rings when they’re mated?”
Katsuki splutters, “Mating ring…? Do you mean a wedding ring, asshole? It’s not a wedding ring, you idiot—”
“Oh, okay… huh, such aggression,” Eijirou says. Then, he presses his palm, with the ring, against the teeth dangling around Katsuki’s neck.
“What the fuck…?” Katsuki’s eyes widen when the items in between them give off a faint glow, and Eijirou’s muttering words under his breath. Katsuki can’t understand them, they’re from a foreign language, but he registers how agitated the silver haired man behind Eijirou becomes.
“Hey,” Eijirou whispers. He looks at Katsuki, and his eyes appear more red than naturally possible. “I need you to, uhm, just say something. Say that you agree to this.”
“I’d rather die.”
If Eijirou is taken aback by his words, he doesn’t show it. Katsuki’s words are hostile, but Eijirou can tell that he’s scared he’s not going to come out of this alive. Somehow, Eijirou knows that he just needs coaxing. A small grin spreads on his lips and he says with a low laugh, “Listen, this will help you.”
A few seconds pass and Katsuki says nothing. Finally, he transfixes his stare to the necklace and ring that Eijirou is holding in between them. He says, his voice breaking despite himself, “Fine. I agree to the goddamn, stupid, useless bond.”
“Unnecessary, but that will work,” Eijirou throws back his head in laughter. The items between them become scorching to the touch. They’re held away from Katsuki, yet can feel the heat emanate to his skin—Eijirou, however, is unaffected by it. He holds the items in his fingers, giving no indication of how it burns.
“Idiots,” Tetsutetsu sighs, ignored.
The items glow for a few more moments, and when Eijirou finally lets go, the necklace thumps back on Katsuki’s bare chest. It’s warm, no longer scorching, but it causes Katsuki to gape in surprise, anyway.
“There,” Eijirou says as he slips the ring on a finger on his left hand. There’s an undeniable blush on his cheeks, one that’s not important to Katsuki at the moment. “Our lives are tied.”
“This is ridiculous!” Tetsutetsu exclaims.
“Tied?” Katsuki repeats with disbelief. “I don’t know what the fuck that means, you dragonshit! And I don’t feel any different, so you can fuck off, right now.”
“Tetsu, gimme your knife,” Eijirou says, craning his head to look at Tetsutetsu.
“Idiots,” Tetsutetsu repeats. He fishes around his belt to unsheathe a knife which he tosses towards Eijirou’s direction. Katsuki watches as Eijirou effortlessly catches it by the handle, before cutting the ropes that tie Katsuki’s wrists. The rope falls around them, and Katsuki grunts as he looks at the redness on his skin, and he’s just about to rub them when Eijirou beats him to it.
“Sorry,” Eijirou says, and Katsuki scowls, because what the fuck? The red haired stranger, the idiot named Eijirou, rubs soothing circles over the rawness of his wrist. His hands are warm, and it helps, but still.
All three of them startle when the doors to the room slams open. Nemuri, the captain of the dragon army—the woman who had sent Katsuki to the prison—enters. She looks at all of them sternly, stares at Tetsutetsu who’s standing awkwardly, and at Eijirou who’s crouched in front of the prisoner and rubbing his wrists.
Eijirou senses how Katsuki bristles. The latter tries to take his hands away from his hold—Eijirou doesn’t let him. He tightens his grip, refusing to let Katsuki pull away.
The woman is quiet for a few moments, her shoulders tense, her lips pursed into a flat line. Finally, she looks right at Eijirou and sighs, “What have you done?”
Katsuki’s silent. There’s a lot of static in his mind and everything that has happened so far is unreal. He needs a moment to gather his thoughts.
At the moment, all he’s aware of is that he’s still sitting on the dirt ground with the dragon shifter called Eijirou in front of him. Eijirou’s rubbing circles on the skin of his wrist, where it’s red and raw from the way they had tied the ropes around it. It’s soothing, it allows him to relax, the way Eijirou’s fingers press lightly on him.
Then, he remembers—this goddamn dragon shifter is a stranger.
With a scowl, he roughly pulls his hands away from Eijirou. In a moment of confusion, Eijirou blinks, before putting his arms to his sides and looking up at the woman who had just entered, the woman they addressed as their captain.
Katsuki’s exposed. His entire body’s weak and drained, and his forehead throbs painfully. He’s still feeling the aftereffects of being thrown off a cliff, and also of being forced to sleep by whatever strange ability this so-called bitch of a captain had. Every fiber of his body is weak and he would try to get up if he could—but he can’t. He’s aware of it, how his eyes fall half-lidded and he slumps forward, doing his best to glare at the other people in the room.
Tetsutetsu’s agitated. He chews on his cheek and says nothing as he waits for their captain to speak. Eijirou, on the other hand, sits backs on his knees in front of Katsuki. It’s almost possessive and protective how he’s hovering so close to Katsuki, and Katsuki fucking hates it.
“I don’t understand,” the captain exhales. Instead of anger, her tone of voice comes out sympathetic and laden with worry. She looks at Katsuki with a frown as she shakes her head, then back at Eijirou. “Step outside with me. Let’s speak.
Eijirou’s mouth curves into a frown. With surprise, Katsuki realizes that Eijirou appears annoyed at the entire situation. Eijirou glances at him and Katsuki’s breath hitches at the meaningful way he does so. Reluctantly, Eijirou clenches his teeth and gets up before following the woman out the door.
The captain and Eijirou step outside and Katsuki can hear the woman’s voice. It’s calm and collected, and he can’t hear the exact words, but she seems to be reprimanding him. Eijirou responds now and then with sounds of affirmation but no explanations. Katsuki’s puzzled, he doesn’t understand what’s going on or the implication of what Eijirou has done.
He glances from the door to the silver-haired dragon shifter who’s still in the room. Tetsutetsu’s pointedly glaring at him with his arms crossed.
“The fuck you looking at, dragon shit?” Katsuki manages to snap at him, his voice raspy and exhausted.
Tetsutetsu laughs at that, the fucker. Katsuki grits his teeth in response.
Footsteps resound through the room as the woman and Eijirou walk back into the room. The woman still looks troubled. Eijirou offers Katsuki a weak smile before walking up to him. Katsuki watches as he steps in front of him and holds out his hand to him.
Katsuki chooses not to take his hand. He scowls and staggers to his feet. The only reason he doesn’t fall right back down to his knees is because of pride and pride alone. He hates this, hates how fucking weak he appears at the moment. He’s at the mercy of these shifters, and even he knows that. The plan had been relatively simple… Deku and he were supposed to infiltrate the city and pose as the shifters.
Nobody fucking told them that the shifters could so easily tell them apart.
A part of Katsuki knew that their commander had sent them there to die, probably not giving a fuck about the new recruits. There was no way that they didn’t have this information about the dragon shifters.
“Your friend’s in the castle,” the woman tells him with a wry smile, shaking him out of his reverie. “I have relayed the message that he should meet you by the city gates. Eijirou will show you the way.”
“Ah,” Katsuki mutters, dumbly. He thinks, why the fuck was Deku not sent to the prison like him?
“Let’s go,” Eijirou says, flashing a huge grin. The expression’s unnerving to Katsuki, who flinches at the sight of it. “We need to pass by my place first, then we can meet Izuku.”
Wow, okay. They even knew Deku’s name at this point.
“I’ll meet you at the gate,” Tetsutetsu grumbles at them. He’s the first one out the door, and captain gives them one last meaningful stare before following him out.
Katsuki don’t budge from where’s standing. Confused, Eijirou turns to glance at him. “What’s wrong? Do you need time to gain your strength back before we go?”
What the fuck.
With crossed arms, Katsuki glares at Eijirou. “Tell me what's going on, Shitty Hair.”
A comical expression flashes over Eijirou’s face as he reaches up to grasp his hair, as if trying to figure out if—if what? If they were still spiked in place? Katsuki can’t tell. Eijirou scrunches his nose and puts his hand back to his side. He retorts, “Oi, my name’s Eijirou, and our hair’s not that different!”
“Whatever! Tell me what’s going on,” he gripes.
“I’ll tell you on the way!”
Eijirou rushes out of the door without giving Katsuki another chance to demand for an explanation. Gritting his teeth, Katsuki follows him out. His movements are sluggish, similar to being woken up from a deep sleep and being dragged to walk right away. There’s a ringing in his brain that he can’t will to go the hell away, and he wonders when the after effects of that damn woman’s spell would be completely gone.
He says nothing as he follows Eijirou out of the door and down hallways that all appear the same. The prison is dark and quiet and it doesn’t appear that they’re keeping anyone else there, and he wonders if their citizens are just that good or if it’s for a more gruesome reason such as executing their prisoners too quickly. There’s a strange stench in the air as he follows the dragon shifter down the hallways. It smells like dried blood mixed with mud and metal, and Katsuki thinks the second reason might be the right one.
They walk up a winding staircase and into another hallway, one with sunlight this time, thank the gods. A few soldiers and guards let them pass, eyeing Katsuki closely as they do. Katsuki ignores them; he follows Eijirou out the doors and into the streets, and that’s the first glimpse he has of the city itself. Eijirou continues to walk through the streets and alleyways, turning corners and looking back once in a while to be sure that Katsuki’s behind him. Many of the citizens they pass glance up to stare at Katsuki questioningly, as if they knew there was something different in him, and they were trying to place a finger on it.
Soon enough, they arrive at a large stone building. “It’s the soldiers’ barracks,” Eijirou mentions to him in passing. “Can you wait here, by the door? I won’t take long.”
“Do I have a goddamn choice?”
Eijirou throws his head back in laughter, amused at Katsuki’s rudeness. Katsuki snarls, hears him chuckling even when the doors close behind him.
Not long after, Eijirou returns with a travel sack hung over his shoulder and a wry smile.
“The fuck’s that for?” Katsuki asks, eyeing him with horror as all the clues click into place.
“I’m your new companion.” The tone that Eijirou says it with such nonchalance, almost as if he’s stating an undeniable fact.
Katsuki’s face twists through a variety of expressions, and Eijirou waits for him to react with an eager smile. “W-what—” Katsuki splutters. “What the fuck?”
“Katsuki, you should have known what you were getting into when you agreed to bond to me.”
“I didn’t… I didn’t know what I was agreeing to!” Katsuki exclaims. Just like that, he finally finds all his energy and strength restored. His eyes are blown wide, scandalized with this new information, his mouth agape in shock. Eijirou cocks his head to the side with amusement when Katsuki’s palms ignite with small explosions.
“Are you doing that on purpose, or is it something you can’t control?” Eijirou asks with genuine curiosity.
“Listen here, Shitty Hair,” Katsuki growls, stomping over to him and grabbing him by the front of his vest. It’s unnatural, how Eijirou doesn’t budge at the obvious show of fury; he only stares and lets Katsuki pulls him roughly, red eyes glaring at him and teeth bared in anger. “I didn’t want to goddamn die, that’s the only reason I let whatever the fuck that was happen. You can show me how to get out of here, and that’s the end of it.”
“It doesn’t work that way,” Eijirou laughs. “Listen, I’ll explain it to you later. Your friend is likely waiting for you.”
The idiot had been sent to the palace while he had been sent to prison. Katsuki’s hold on Eijirou’s vest relaxes, and he grits his teeth. It would probably be a good idea to go see him, and to get an explanation from him. If they were lucky, perhaps the idiot had gathered information about the kidnapped girl they had been sent out to look for.
Right, they were here for a mission.
“Fine,” Katsuki mumbles. With a smile, Eijirou pats his wrist to get him to fully let go. Reluctantly, Katsuki releases his grip, but he doesn’t stop glaring at Eijirou.
Eijirou leads the way again. There’s a gnarling thought on Katsuki’s mind as he follows the dragon shifter—Katsuki doesn’t enjoy being steps behind anyone, for any reason.
It turns out that the city gates aren’t that far off. As they stride to it, Katsuki can see that Izuku is standing there, speaking with Tetsutetsu. Unlike Katsuki, Izuku doesn’t seem less for wear. When they get into hearing distance, Izuku cries out, “Kacchan!”
Katsuki sees that Izuku is holding both of their bags, as if he had simply picked it up from the ground despite the scuffle in the forest—or, perhaps, they had fetched it for him? As if he were someone goddamn important?
“What the hell, Deku?” Katsuki grits.
Izuku’s eyes are glassy. If he makes a jump to embrace Katsuki out of sheer happiness, Katsuki just might kick him. Thankfully, he doesn’t make any such move. Tetsutetsu blinks when Izuku says, too quickly, “They said I have dragon’s blood in me! It… it’s very confusing, Kacchan.” He glances at the surrounding group, at Tetsutetsu and Eijirou’s unnerving stare.
Whatever Izuku wants to discuss, he can’t discuss it in front of the two dragon shifters. Katsuki realizes, with annoyance, that it probably has to do with the powers that All Might had vested upon him.
“Dumb shit,” Katsuki mumbles, breaking the silence.
“Anyway,” Tetsutetsu says loudly. “I have informed the guards. You can cross the country’s barrier with no trouble. It’s not far from here.” He turns to Eijirou, wearing a serious expression. “When will we see you again?”
Eijirou smiles dryly and shrugs.
“Gods, you’re an idiot!” Tetsutetsu exclaims before grabbing Eijirou by the arms and embracing him in a tight bear hug. In return, Eijirou laughs loudly. “You’re an idiot, Ei! This is so manly of you, but you’re an absolute idiot!”
Izuku turns to Katsuki and mouths, what happened? Katsuki responds by giving him the middle finger which Izuku takes in stride. As Eijirou and Tetsutetsu huddle together and speak in hushed whispers, Izuku tells Katsuki, “They say the light-haired girl—that’s what they call her—is no longer here. They say she has gone to the country of Aldera.”
“She was here, though. They saw her.”
The two of them say nothing for a while, simply watch as Tetsutetsu and Eijirou wrestle with each other. The dragon shifters laugh loudly as they yell out their farewells, and Katsuki thinks, not for the first time that day, that he’s surrounded by imbeciles.
“Kacchan, I’ll head back to Yuuei,” Izuku tells him. “I have… questions to ask for All Might. We can meet in Aldera in a few moons. I presume the dragon is coming with you?”
By dragon, Izuku’s referring to Eijirou. Katsuki grits out, “Yes.”
“That’s an interesting turn of events.”
“I don’t want to hear it, Deku.”
He can practically hear the smug smirk behind Izuku’s voice when he says, quietly, “Okay.”
It turns out that the border that they had mentioned before were tall mountains that surrounded the dragon shifters’ country. The mountains themselves were treacherous, notorious for killing many travelers. Those from their country had always been forbidden from exploring these mountains, and now the reason makes sense to Katsuki. Eijirou leads them through a mountain path that are situated by guard posts. They also encounter adult dragons along their way, curled up on the side of the road and glaring at them as walk past.
They pass one final guard post. This one is found along a tall stone barricade where only a gate allows them to get through. As they go through the gate, Katsuki’s breath is punched out of him—a similar sensation to going through the ethereal cave. With wide eyes, he turns around to glance at where the gate had been… and sees nothing but trees, and the strong feeling to stay away.
“Dragon magic is amazing,” Izuku breathes.
Izuku bids them farewell after looking for his bearings on a map. They’re not far from the main roads, and it Izuku should be able to find his way back to Yuuei in less than a day.
“Where are we going?” Eijirou asks Katsuki once Izuku’s figure is completely gone from their sight.
“I,” Katsuki yells before going the opposite direction from Izuku. His strides are quick. “I am going to Aldera. As for you, I don’t give a fuck.”
“Aldera it is!” Eijirou says happily.
Katsuki ignores him and keeps walking.
About half an hour later, Eijirou calls out, “Katsuki, it’s getting dark. We should set up camp.”
“C’mon! Hey, don’t you want me to explain the bond to you?”
Katsuki’s palms give off small explosions, a consequence of his own frustrations. He glances up to the sky to see that Eijirou’s right, the sky is getting ready for darkness. With a sigh, he says, “Fine, let’s search for a clearing.”
Another half an hour later, they find a clearing that rests near a river. Katsuki looks at his map. He holds a lamp over it since night time has finally taken over. With disdain, Katsuki observes that Aldera’s about a week’s travel from where they were. Fuck. He just hopes that the trail for the kidnapped girl won’t become cold. As he studies his map, Eijirou kicks dry leaves into a pile for a makeshift bed.
“Oi,” Katsuki finally grits. “Time to explain what the hell happened.”
“Okay!” Eijirou says, much too eager for Katsuki’s satisfaction. He walks over to Katsuki and plops down across him, on the other side of the map that’s sprawled on the dirt. His red eyes reflect the flickering of the candle, and Katsuki stares for a while, wondering why they seem as if they’re on fire. “So, the life bond.”
“The life bond,” Katsuki repeats, carefully, slowly.
“First, can you tell me why we’re headed to Aldera? Why are you looking for the light-haired girl?”
Katsuki gapes. His temper threatens to burst, and he takes a few breaths before putting the candle down on the dirt before he hurls it at the dragon shifter. “First, you’re not coming with me—”
Ignoring him, Katsuki says, “Eri. The girl is named Eri. Deku and I were tasked with finding her and bringing her back to Yuuei… she… she has the power to undo what’s been done, and she’s important to the kingdom.”
“Oh.” Eijirou’s nose scrunches. “Thought they kidnapped her?”
“Then, are you looking for her because she was kidnapped, or because your kingdom needs her?”
Katsuki frowns. “What does it matter?”
Eijirou appears confused at his answer. For a few moments, Eijirou only sits there, contemplating. He said, quietly, “Humans are… strange.”
“The hell does that mean?”
“In my country, when one of us needs help, we help because they’re one of us. Not because we need them.”
This time, it’s Katsuki’s who stays silent, contemplating. It’s unreal that this foreigner, this dragon shifter, is lecturing him about how a society should work. Eijirou’s words are strange, but also rings true. He was a soldier, and it was his duty to protect all the citizens, despite what they contributed.
They were straying too far from the topic at hand. This wasn’t the time to talk about virtues and society’s obligations.
“The life bond,” Katsuki reminds him.
Eijirou smiles. With patience, Katsuki stays silent and waits for an explanation.
“It was the only way to get you out of there,” Eijirou murmurs. “A bond goes deeper than blood, it ties your soul with mine. Your body’s not a dragon’s, but your soul is, now. A part of me is in it.”
Katsuki’s ears get warmer as he listens to the ridiculous explanation.
“That’s why they couldn’t harm you, that’s why they let you leave. To them, you’re one of us now.”
With darkened cheeks that Katsuki can see despite the lack of light, Eijirou continues, “There’s more to it, though… I need to accompany you… otherwise, it would be torture. It binds us spiritually, and also physically. If we stayed apart from each other, it would take a toll on our minds. And, it’s unbreakable. The bond can’t be broken apart, not ever.”
“Eijirou,” Katsuki breathes. For a fraction of a second, Eijirou’s eyes widen, and Katsuki wonders if that’s the first time he’s called him by his name. He can’t remember. “That makes no sense.”
“I know it doesn’t,” Eijirou chuckles. “You’ll… you’ll see. You’ll feel it. I’m not sure how it works either, but it’s an intuition. A longing to be close by. It’s… don’t you feel it, Katsuki?”
“No,” he lies.
He does feel it. Even before the whole spectacle from that day, Katsuki had felt it. The longing to find the red-haired dragon shifter had haunted him since a decade ago, when he had met the strange kid at the cave.
He wasn’t going to tell him that, though.
“You’ll feel it, soon,” Eijirou says, softly.
“I won’t,” Katsuki grits. He stops staring at Eijirou and stares at the map that’s still between them. For a few moments, he stays quiet. Katsuki’s eyes are transfixed on the legend that stands for Aldera. “When we find Eri, she can destroy it for us.”
“What do you mean?”
“The light-haired girl. She can destroy this bond. It’s her ability, she can undo what’s been done. I told you that.”
“Ooooh.” Realization flashes over Eijirou’s face. He looks eager, his eyes widening in excitement. “Then, I’ll help you find her!”
“You don’t have a choice, Lizard Brains.”
“Gotta say, I’m not fond of the clever nicknames.”
“Do you think I care? I’m heading to sleep. You take first watch.”
Eijirou gives a loud laugh as Katsuki gets up on his feet. “By the way, why do you have so much anger towards your friend?”
Confused, Katsuki says, “Hah?”
“The anger you had towards Izuku was unnerving,” Eijirou tells him. He leans back on his hands to get a better view if Katsuki. “Another thing about having tied lives… we can somehow tell what the other is feeling. It comes naturally, and I could tell that you harbor a lot of anger towards Izuku.”
“I’m not going to talk about that,” Katsuki grits his teeth. “Figure it out on your own.”
He’s not going to tell Eijirou about what he’s been through with Izuku. There’s too much to talk about, the disappointment and resentment. He’s tired, too.
“I will learn a lot about you, Katsuki.”
How Eijirou says it causes Katsuki’s throat to dry up. Katsuki turns to glance at the dragon… then he gives a scowl. Eijirou laughs, because of course the fuck he does, and Katsuki watches as he jumps to his feet and starts shucking his vest off.
Katsuki growls. “The hell are you doing.”
“Shifting?” Eijirou responds. When he shakes off his pants, Katsuki feels the need to look away, his cheeks darkening as he does so. Katsuki’s thankful for the lack of light. He doesn’t know why he’s flustered at the sound of rustling clothes and how Eijirou takes his clothes off and tosses them to the side. Katsuki refuses to turn and look at the dragon shifter. Nonchalantly, Eijirou adds, “You can sleep under my wing.”
Katsuki says, as clear as possible, “I don’t want to sleep under your wing.”
“Why not?” Eijirou asks, his tone genuinely confused. “It will be warmer for you. That’s how we do it, especially the children.”
Annoyed, Katsuki’s temper rises to the top. He turns around, putting all his focus unto Eijirou’s eyes. Someday, maybe, he’ll get used to this fucking dragon shifter getting naked as if it’s no big deal. Today, Katsuki’s cheeks blush scarlet as he yells, “Do you think I’m a child!? Do you think I’m a damsel in distress, who the hell do you think you are, offering to—”
“It’s not a big deal, Katsuki!” Eijirou cuts him off and crosses his arms. He laughs, “I’ll take first watch anyway, right? And my senses are better when I’m a dragon. I just thought you’d want the comfort, that’s all.”
Katsuki scrunches his nose. “I don’t want to sleep under your wing,” he repeats, in a much calmer tone this time around.
“All right,” Eijirou shrugs. When he shifts, Katsuki doesn’t look away. He finds it curious, how Eijirou’s body slowly twists and grows, scales rippling down his arms and forming a red blanket over his skin. The spikes he has in his hair make way for two protruding horns. Once he’s transformed, Eijirou makes a low noise from deep in his throat and casually approaches Katsuki.
His dragon form is much bigger. He takes up most of the clearing and towers over Katsuki. However, Katsuki’s not intimidated when the dragon comes closer to him and leans down until their eyes are on the same level. When the dragon exhales, there’s a small trail of smoke that comes out of his nose, and it’s warm against Katsuki’s face even if they’re more than a foot apart.
There’s a scar on Eijirou’s right eye, and Katsuki momentarily wonders where that came from. He watches as the dragon plops down on the muddy ground—then, the fucker, the idiot, raises his right wing and blinks at Katsuki.
“I’m not getting under your wing,” Katsuki repeats for the third time, his eyes narrowed.
Eijirou makes a low, rumbling sound that sounds suspiciously like a laugh. He turns away from Katsuki and curls into himself. Eijirou’s quiet now. Katsuki can see that his eyes are wide open as he stares off at trees, at the direction they had come from.
Katsuki observes the dragon, his lips forming a frown he doesn’t realize he’s making.
There’s a strange sensation in Katsuki’s chest when he realizes that there’s a certain sadness in the dragon’s eyes, and that he’s staring longingly at where they had come from, at the direction of the border and the home he’s always known.
It bothers Katsuki even if he doesn’t know why. He leans against a tree, thinking it’s his fault that Eijirou had to leave his home. The sadness consumes him, and Katsuki wonders, is this what Eijirou meant? About being able to feel each other’s emotions?
It should be ridiculous, yet there’s a strange longing in his chest as he thinks about it. Somehow, he wants to give in, he wants to approach Eijirou and press his forehead against his, wants to run his fingers over the scar on his eyelid and ask where he got it.
Katsuki wants Eijirou’s warmth. He longs for it, which is stupid, because there’s no reason to do so, because Eijirou’s nothing but a stranger. A part of him wants all of it, and he almost tells Eijirou just that.
Instead, Katsuki sighs and looks away.
It’s been five days since they set off for the country of Aldera. Katsuki wishes they somehow pass by a stable to get horses, because that would be so much easier than walking the entire way. They’re walking by the main road, only going into the forest when they need to settle for the night. On their third day, they had found a farmland and had been able to stay the night—that had been nice.
Katsuki finds that, slowly, he’s learning about Eijirou. It’s just as Eijirou said, they’d learn more about each other. The experience is unreal. At first glance, Eijirou appears to be a normal human. Katsuki’s met a lot of different races before. It’s not uncommon. He even went to the academy with a green-haired girl with huge buggy eyes, who he remembers could breathe underwater… like a goddamn frog.
He learns that Eijirou enjoys being in his dragon form just as much as he enjoys being in his human form—and Katsuki had to sit him down on the second day to explain why he can’t shift to a dragon any time he pleased. Eijirou had hated it and had a sour expression on his face as Katsuki had told him that other races weren’t used to seeing huge-ass dragons casually walking down the main road.
They had ended up with a compromise: when they were in the forest at night, Eijirou could shift into a dragon, wherein there was less chance of running into other travelers. Eijirou was annoyed and silent for half a day, but had easily forgotten it when Katsuki caught them a dear for supper.
Apparently, dragons like meat.
Katsuki also learns that dragons have some usefulness to them, such as starting a fire was much easier.
As they walk, Katsuki’s shaken out of his thoughts when Eijirou calls out. “Katsuki! A carriage is coming.”
“Doesn’t matter.” Katsuki doesn’t even turn to look. He hears the telltale sounds of horse hooves and wheels running through rocks and dirt. Still, Eijirou waves at the carriage as it passes by. Of course, he’s ignored—nobody wants to pick up two hitchhikers—and he clicks his tongue in annoyance.
“Humans are not nice,” Eijirou grumbles under his breath. “I thought it was just you, Katsuki.”
Katsuki mouths a what the fuck at Eijirou, who quickens his pace to overtake Katsuki. Startled, Katsuki wants to kick the guy in the shin—what was he even thinking, jabbing him with off-handed remarks in such a way? Katsuki scowls as he watches Eijirou kick a rock out of the way. Eijirou’s shoulders are tense, and he’s crankier today. If it’s because he’s still hung up on not being allowed to shift to a dragon during the day, Katsuki can’t tell.
“Dumbass,” Katsuki mutters under his breath. When Eijirou turns to stare—apparently, Eijirou has good hearing no matter what form he’s in—Katsuki flips him off.
He expects Eijirou to say something snappy in return, but Eijirou simply rolls his eyes and stares forward again. Eijirou hunches forward, brooding. A strange and nagging sensation creeps its way into Katsuki’s chest. He can barely feel it but it’s undeniable: Eijirou’s upset. This causes Katsuki to feel anxious in return, and he reminds himself that Eijirou told him about this, that they’d be able to share emotions.
There’s an unnerving sensation in Katsuki’s mind, one that tells him that he has to please Eijirou, to cheer him up. The words spill out of Katsuki’s mouth even before he’s able to stop himself. He blurts out, “Let’s make camp, lizard brains.”
“Huh?” Eijirou blinks and looks up at the sky. It’s not dark yet, and it’s earlier than usual for settling down. It’s odd because Katsuki usually tries to push it. He enjoys being able to cover as much ground as possible and ending the day as late as they can. Eijirou usually has to argue with him for it.
“I’m tired,” Katsuki lies.
Eijirou stares at the sky, and then at Katsuki. He’s confused and Katsuki can see it. “All right,” he agrees.
They find a small clearing near a river. Katsuki leaves Eijirou to gather some water, and he glances over his shoulder to see Eijirou bunching dry branches for a fire. Eijirou still appears to be cross for whatever reason, his lips a flat line. The way he kicks leaves around is unnerving, and there’s a stiffness to his actions that bothers Katsuki.
Irritated by his attitude, Katsuki mutters under his breath and stalks off to the river. He washes his face with the cool water and fills up his flask. The water trickles down his forehead to his neck, and he wipes them off with the back of his hand. Katsuki can’t explain why, but he fumes, annoyed at Eijirou’s sour disposition. He does so quietly, lets the emotions eat him up from the inside.
When Katsuki gets back to the clearing, the fire’s still not set—which is understandable, because Eijirou’s still in his human form and is sitting cross-legged in front of the pile of branches and dry leaves. Eijirou’s fidgeting with an item, his eyebrows furrowed in concentration as he twists it in his fingers, glaring at it. Katsuki steps closer and realizes that Eijirou’s manhandling the ring he had taken—no, stolen—from him.
“The fuck are you doing?” Katsuki scowls. “If you hate it so much, then give it back.”
“What—? No!” Eijirou responds, all too quickly. He looks up at Katsuki, frowning.
Katsuki’s only been traveling with him for a few days, but he can tell that there’s something definitely off with Eijirou. The Eijirou he knows, the one he met years ago, and the one who had tricked him into a life bond… that Eijirou rarely frowned for no reason. It’s odd, but Katsuki thinks he’s known Eijirou far longer than he really has, and he knows that this isn’t him.
“This is troublesome, is all,” Eijirou tells him, holding up the ring in-between them. The ring glints in the sun’s light as he does so. “If I forget about it and shift, then it will break… and it’s small, I could lose it when I put it aside.”
“Then give it back,” argues Katsuki. He tosses his flask to the side. Eijirou turns to stare at where he’s thrown it, as if the sound annoys him, as if he’s too sensitive to everything around them. “Is it important? Will it break the bond if you don’t have it on you?”
“No, of course not.” Eijirou looks back at him and Katsuki can see the sweat forming on his brow. “It’s only a symbol of the bond. You should understand. It’s similar to the mating rings humans use.”
Katsuki splutters for a second before yelling, “I told you, it’s not called a mating ring!”
Apparently, how Katsuki’s face contorts into a mix of embarrassment and anger causes Eijirou to snicker. As if driven by Katsuki’s mortification, Eijirou puts his hand back down and slips the ring on his finger.
And, somehow, the crack in Eijirou’s foul mood causes Katsuki’s chest to flutter. Eijirou smiles, the corner of his eyes crinkling in amusement. When he turns away, Katsuki does, too.
They don’t speak the rest of the night. Eijirou’s foul mood returns just as quickly, and Katsuki watches from the corners of his eyes. He watches as Eijirou tosses his clothes and the ring aside before shifting to his dragon form. Katsuki knows that he doesn’t need the fire, a fact that he had mentioned the first night they had traveled. Still, he blows flames over the wood, for Katsuki’s sake. Then, he curls to himself on the far side of the clearing, and Katsuki can’t help but wonder if the foul mood is because he’s finally starting to regret the life bond.
The next day, Eijirou’s still in a bad mood.
And it’s starting to get on Katsuki’s fucking nerves.
The last straw’s when Katsuki tells him that Aldera was still two days away, and Eijirou gets so frustrated that he rips his own shirt. He fidgets with the hem and gets antsy enough that it shreds under his hardened fingers. Usually, Eijirou favors wearing his vest—other than that, he only has one extra shirt, and he instantly regrets his mistake. “Damn,” Eijirou mutters, nose scrunched, as he looks at the damage.
“Okay, that’s it,” Katsuki says. They’re walking on the road and Katsuki abruptly stops. Startled, Eijirou almost runs into him. “What is going on with you?”
Eijirou stares. “What do you mean?”
“You’ve been out of it.” Katsuki’s tone of voice is slow and calm, and he tries his best to not let his annoyance simmer to the surface—which is saying a lot, when it comes to him.
“Oh,” replies Eijirou, softly. His frown melts into a blank expression. There’s a long stretch of silence as Eijirou thinks, his fingers shredding the hem of his shirt further. Katsuki can sense the anxiety brewing off of him. Eijirou’s flushed, from his face, to his neck, to his arms—Katsuki almost asks him if he has a fever. “It’s nothing. I, uhm… I’d just rather we get to a city as soon as possible. It’s, um… I need to lie low for a few nights, I guess.”
“Lie low for a few nights?” Katsuki repeats, dumbfounded. “What’s that mean?”
Eijirou grins and he puts a hand up on his own forehead, and Katsuki thinks, maybe he was right… perhaps Eijirou was falling ill. “My body needs to rest. A few nights, at least.”
Still confused, Katsuki stares meaningfully. There’s a nagging thought in the back of his mind telling him that the dragon shifter is hiding something. “You’re ill,” Katsuki states, plainly.
“Yes, you can say that.” Eijirou’s eyes dart away and he stares at the ground. “I’ve never been away from my pack, Katsuki… you don’t understand.”
There it is, again—the twist in Katsuki’s chest that reminds him that Eijirou regrets the goddamn bond.
“Two days,” Katsuki grumbles. “We’ll be there in two days, and you can sleep in a fucking inn as long as you want.”
At that last statement, Eijirou’s expression lightens up. Katsuki shrugs and is about to turn around to continue walking when Eijirou says, “Ride me.”
Katsuki’s cheeks darken and he gapes. Eijirou smiles back at him, as if he hadn’t just said something so ridiculous and… awkward. Startled, Katsuki’s unsure of how to react. He repeats, slowly and carefully, “What?”
“Ride me, Katsuki!” Eijirou’s tone of voice has a hint of exasperation now. “We’ll get to the city faster if we fly there!”
“You mean ride on your back!?” Katsuki can’t help but yell. “Not… not ride you.”
“Yes, that’s what I mean. There’s no difference.”
Katsuki wants to punch him at this point. He’s finding it challenging to school his voice, to hide the fact that he had thought the goddamn dragon shifter had been trying to proposition him. “There’s a fucking difference, lizard brains.”
“Fine, what’s the difference?”
There’s a long, embarrassing silence as Katsuki stutters on his own words. His face burns up. “Just—get a fucking move on, Eijirou!”
“Ride on my back, Katsuki!” Eijirou retorts.
“I already told you… if these fuckers see a dragon flying around, it will be trouble.”
“We’ll keep out of their sight!” Apparently, Eijirou’s adamant in getting his point across. Katsuki thinks it’s ridiculous. How would a gigantic flying lizard keep out of anyone’s sight? However, there’s urgency—desperation—in Eijirou’s expression that causes Katsuki to stumble on his thoughts. “I’ll fly low. We can stop flying when we’re hours away from the city proper. Please, Katsuki!”
Was he… begging? Katsuki stares, confused. He can’t tell why Eijirou’s frantic to get to the city, fast. He wants to get to the city, too, wants nothing but a warm inn—Eijirou, though, acts as if it would kill him.
“Fine,” Katsuki exhales.
The change in Eijirou’s disposition is impressive. He smiles, genuine and unbidden, and slams his fists against Katsuki’s chest. “Yes!” Eijirou yells, and the happiness consumes him. Startled, Katsuki takes a step back, mouth agape. “Okay, you need to climb up and sit on my shoulder blades. It shouldn’t be difficult for you to hang on. I’ll fly steady, for you.”
Eijirou continues to ramble, explaining to Katsuki how he can communicate using only hand signals or touches on his neck. In the middle of his monolog, Eijirou shucks off his vest, and Katsuki facepalms when he realizes that the dragon shifter plans on getting naked in the middle of the damn road.
“C’mere, idiot.” Katsuki can’t help the laugh that comes out of him, low and throaty. He grabs Eijirou by the arm and starts pulling him towards the forest. He mutters, “Getting stark naked in the middle of the road, unbelievable…”
The laugh that Eijirou returns catches him off-guard, and he tells himself, it’s the first genuine laugh that he’s gotten out of him in what seems like an eternity.
Katsuki looks away when Eijirou removes his clothing. The almost dead tree next to them is interesting. That’s what he tells himself as Eijirou shoves his belongings into his bag and hands them to Katsuki.
“Ready?” asks Eijirou.
When Katsuki shrugs in reply, Eijirou takes a few steps back and shifts.
It’s unreal. Katsuki finds himself on the back of a massive dragon and they’re flying above the trees. Eijirou had started off slow, as if waiting for Katsuki to become accustomed to flying. It’s thrilling, and Katsuki’s breath hitches a few times. When Katsuki observes that Eijirou’s flying slow on purpose, he smacks the dragon, once, to get his attention.
“Faster, Eijirou!” he yells, smirking.
The dragon lets off a rumbling sound, one that Katsuki acknowledges as him being pleased at the demand. They fly faster, and the exhilaration gets the best of Katsuki—he could get used to this. He sits on Eijirou’s back, by the juncture where his neck meets his shoulders, and grips there like he was told to do. There are scales that jut out, giving him a place to grasp. That spot isn’t painful to sit on or hold to. It’s as if that part of Eijirou is built for a rider. Katsuki tells himself that it feels right.
He clutches Eijirou’s and leans back, a huge proud smirk gracing his features. He can see rivers and clearings as they pass them. They fly over a campsite and he glances down to see the startled faces of the people looking up at them, and he guesses that word will soon spread that there’s a dragon in the land. Right now, he doesn’t give a fuck.
The hours seem to pass quickly. He wonders if Eijirou’s getting exhausted. At one point, Eijirou’s wings seem to give in momentarily and Katsuki’s breath is pushed out of him as they dive a few feet to the ground. “Hey!” Katsuki grits when Eijirou steadies themselves once more. “If you’re tired, we can walk.”
Eijirou makes a low, rumbling sound. He’s telling Katsuki, no, not yet.
True to his word, they make good time. Katsuki smacks him on the side of his neck, demanding for his attention, when he sees the mountain that signals they’re close to the town. This is their stop, and as agreed on, they’re going to walk the rest of the way.
Eijirou knows this. He circles around a clearing before slowly descending and leans down to let Katsuki jump off his back. With a wide grin, Katsuki lets the adrenaline die down as Eijirou shifts back to a human.
He looks exhausted. Sweat glistens off his entire body, his hair sticking to his face. His hair is falling around his face and losing its spikiness, and Katsuki wonders what keeps it spiky in the first place. There’s a dazed expression on him and Katsuki catches himself staring at his half-lidded eyes and at his toned muscles. Just like that, Katsuki feels hot, too. He curses under his breath and hopes that Eijirou doesn’t hear him. Eijirou seems much too out of it, though. The dragon shifter barely registers it when Katsuki tosses the bag at him.
“You good?” asks Katsuki.
“Uhm, yes,” Eijirou breathes, wiping the sweat of his brow. “I just… let’s go to an inn, Katsuki.”
“Nearly there,” he mumbles in response.
Once they reach Aldera, the first thing they do is ask for the nearest inn. Eijirou’s fever is getting worse, and he’s barely acknowledging Katsuki when spoken to. Katsuki has no choice but to pull him by his arm, leading the way. The inn they arrive at is crowded and the music the bards are playing is deafening. Eijirou hates it, he buries his face into Katsuki’s shoulder as Katsuki speaks to the innkeeper. Startled, Katsuki snakes an arm around him, steadying him. His breath is warm against Katsuki’s shoulder and it sends shivers down Katsuki’s spine.
The innkeeper looks at them oddly before she turns to check if they have any available rooms.
“Oi.” Katsuki shakes Eijirou off his shoulder. Eijirou mumbles an apology and steps back from Katsuki, rubbing his eyes with his knuckles. For a moment, Katsuki simply stares at him, sees that his state is getting worse by the minute.
“You can take rooms four and five,” the innkeeper tells them, pointing a thumb towards the direction of the rooms. “First, pay up. How many nights are you staying?”
Katsuki doesn’t know how many nights they’re staying and telling the old woman that they’ll be around until the dragon gets better isn’t a good idea. He shrugs at her and says, “Five nights.”
That should be enough time for Izuku to catch up with them, too. He’s irritated at the fact that it only gives whoever’s abducted Eri a bigger chance to get ahead of them. As he pays the innkeeper, he thinks about his game plan.
“Katsuki,” Eijirou mutters, calling his attention. “Let’s go.”
Scowling at Eijirou, Katsuki takes him by the arm to lead him towards his room.
“Sir,” the innkeeper says before Katsuki walks away. “If your companion needs it, we can send a girl to his room.”
Katsuki reels. “A what?”
The innkeeper appears confused at Katsuki’s reaction. Despite his state, Eijirou finds it in himself to laugh awkwardly before shaking his head at the innkeeper. The entire walk towards Eijirou’s room, Katsuki looks at him, dumbfounded. He’s piecing it all together, but the conclusion that he’s come up with is so unreal that he doesn’t acknowledge it.
“What’s going on, lizard brains?” Katsuki grumbles as they walk. “The truth, this time. Are you sick?”
Eijirou gives a weak laugh, again. “No, not sick… It’s a phase we go through at least once per season, sorry. Don’t worry about it, Katsuki.”
“I’m not worried.”
He’s ignored by Eijirou. “I wasn’t planning to leave my country… I wasn’t prepared. Normally, I’d be with my pack, which made it easier… it’s a bit jarring now and I suppose my body’s not taking it well. I need to rest, that’s all.”
“Will you be okay, lizard brains?” Katsuki asks when they get to his room. The concern in his voice surprises him, too.
“Yes,” Eijirou tells him. His face is still beet red. “I’ll see you in a few nights.”
“Fine,” he responds. In the back of his mind, Katsuki thinks, this is fucking strange.
Katsuki doesn’t see him the entire next morning. He spends it exploring the city. The city’s very much similar to Yuuei, it’s bustling with a lot of business going on in the streets. He has no clue how to ask about Eri and her abductors, and he only hopes that Izuku get there faster, and that Izuku’s been able to gather intel in his absence.
When he gets back to the inn, the old lady who’s manning it shoves a bowl of porridge in his direction. “Your companion never came down to eat. Take this to him.”
With a frown, Katsuki almost asks her what the fuck it is to her. She turns away from him so quickly that he’s not given a chance to ask. Annoyed, Katsuki marches up to Eijirou’s room. It’s late in the afternoon and Katsuki’s irritated because Eijirou never even bothered to get a meal.
He knocks on Eijirou’s door a few times before he’s invited in with a grunt.
“Food,” Katsuki mumbles at Eijirou.
“Uh, thanks,” Eijirou says awkwardly. He’s sitting on the bed and Katsuki can’t tell if he’s stark naked—he wouldn’t be surprised, dragons apparently didn’t care for decency—because a blanket is wrapped around his hips. With a scowl, Katsuki strides over to him and shoves the bowl of porridge into his hands. Eijirou looks exhausted. There are bags under his eyes and sweat glistens over every inch of his body. Katsuki eyes him and senses how Eijirou seems to shrink underneath his watchful stare.
“I’m not your handmaiden, lizard brains.”
“It’s Eijirou,” he reminds him. Eijirou stares at the bowl in his arms. “And no, you’re not.”
“I won’t come back again to bring you a meal. Get it yourself, next time.”
Eijirou cracks a grin, one that Katsuki doesn’t miss. He says, still grinning, “All right, Katsuki.”
Another day passes, and there’s yet no sign of Izuku. Katsuki’s starting to get antsy about the entire situation. At one point, the innkeeper suggests that he visit the grand market. Apparently, it’s known for having merchants and wares from different countries. Katsuki would enjoy it, she says.
“Who are you to tell what I’ll enjoy,” Katsuki tells her crossly.
The old woman shrugs, the corner of her eyes crinkling in amusement, and Katsuki hates it.
He ends up going to the grand market and purchasing Eijirou a new shirt, only because Eijirou had fucking ripped his last one—no other fucking reason, aside from it would save them the time.
On the third day, Izuku finally arrives. He enters the inn just as Katsuki’s having a meal.
He has Shouto—or Half and Half, as Katsuki calls him—beside him, and Katsuki flares with anger.
“What are you doing here?” Katsuki snaps at Shouto. Izuku gives an awkward laugh as he and Shouto make their way towards Katsuki, sitting across him. Katsuki fumes, eyebrows furrowed, his stare trained at the new arrivals. It’s awful enough that Izuku’s given the same mission as him, and now Shouto’s part of it too?
“The commander said it would be better to bring Shouto,” Izuku explains. “How have you been, Kacchan?”
Katsuki rolls his eyes. “Got no news for you, dumbass.”
“All right,” Izuku replies. “We were told that we can meet with Toru. She works for Yuuei but is based here, and might have some intel for us.”
Toru. The name’s not familiar to Katsuki.
Shouto’s looking around the room with a deadpan expression. Finally, he focuses his attention at Katsuki and asks, “Where’s the dragon?”
“Shouto,” Izuku laughs. The innkeeper’s close to them, and at Shouto’s question, she glances up at them. “Not so loud.”
From behind Izuku and Shouto, Katsuki sees a flicker of a smile on the old woman’s lips. He narrows his eyes and sighs—it’s strange, but he’s quite sure she knows what the hell Eijirou is. There’s a lot of strange shit in this world that he doubts what to believe at this point… such as Izuku having dragon blood in him. He should ask about that, eventually. Maybe when he can fathom having a decent conversation with the idiot.
“The dragon’s sick,” Katsuki says.
“Sick,” Izuku repeats.
“What do you mean, Kacchan?” The tone in Izuku’s voice is genuinely curious.
With a shrug, Katsuki expounds, “He said he needs a few nights to recuperate. Last time I saw him, he was burning up and out of it. He’s cooped up in his room, said he’s going through a seasonal phase or whatever the fuck that means.”
Izuku and Shouto exchange glances. Irritated, Katsuki swears that the innkeeper is smirking to herself as she listens in on the conversation. Shouto’s the first to break the silence, he looks back at Katsuki and says, “He’s in a rut?”
Katsuki grits, “He’s in a what.”
“In a rut,” Shouto says, slowly. He enunciates the word, lets it dig deep into Katsuki’s ears. “We learned about it in the academy, remember? Some races go through ruts, it’s their body’s way of looking for a mate—”
“I know what the fuck a rut is!” Katsuki hisses, slamming down on the table. Shouto barely flinches as the bowls on the table shake, and the innkeeper is chuckling as she walks away. Because the world hates him, Katsuki’s cheeks burn against his own free will.
It’s made worse when Shouto says, completely toneless, “Are you not his mate? Shouldn’t you be there with him? He’s likely suffering, and you’re here… eating.”
Izuku facepalms and mouths Shouto’s name in exasperation when Katsuki gets up and reaches across the table. Katsuki grabs Shouto by the front of his shirt and Shouto looks perplexed by his reaction.
“I apologize?” Shouto asks. It’s hard to believe that he’s apologizing because it’s posed as a question, and it doesn’t fool Katsuki, either. The only thing that stops Katsuki from exploding his palm in Shouto’s face is the innkeeper slamming her broom against the wooden floor, grabbing Katsuki’s attention. Grumbling under his breath, Katsuki sits back down.
“We wait, then.” Izuku puts his elbows on the table and covers half his face with his hands, and Katsuki can tell he’s trying to hide his smile, the fucker. “When Eijirou’s better, we continue.”
“Yes,” Katsuki grits.
Shouto glances over to the innkeeper to ask her what’s they’re serving, and Katsuki looks away.
The entire situation is a fucking nightmare, and he can’t wait for Eijirou to return to normal. Fucking dragons, and fuck their cycles or whatever it’s called, and stupid goddamn lizard brain for messing up everything.
At the back of his mind, though, Katsuki wonders if he’s eaten that day. Izuku squeaks when Katsuki kicks a stool across the floor, frustrated, because Katsuki can’t tell why he cares at all.
The inn’s quiet and they’re the only group there. The other patrons had probably spent the night drinking themselves into a stupor. Katsuki knows, he barely had any sleep because of all the ruckus. Katsuki, Shouto, and Izuku are breaking fast… and Katsuki hates this, he’d rather not be in the same city with these two, moreso the same table. At the moment, he doesn’t have a choice. Izuku does most of the talking and Shouto answers with nods of the head and passive answers.
They’re in the middle of their meal when Eijirou comes downstairs. He looks fresh, as if he’d just taken a bath, and there’s a huge smile on his face as he takes the steps two at a time. Upon seeing him, Izuku waves and he strides over to them—the entire time, Katsuki trains his entire focus at the bowl of chicken soup and the loaves of bread he’s having.
It’s good chicken soup.
“Izuku… you’ve arrived. Hey, Katsuki!” Eijirou sits down beside him and knocks their shoulders together. Scowling, Katsuki turns to him… which is a mistake, because looking directly at the sun first thing in the morning isn’t a good idea. Eijirou’s expression is so bright, so cheerful, that Katsuki blinks for a few moments before Shouto shakes him out of it.
“Shouto,” half-and-half says.
“Huh… what?” Eijirou asks dumbly, blinking at Shouto. Shouto’s sitting beside Izuku, who’s only listening to the conversation. It’s as if Eijirou’s only now realizing that there’s a new person with them. Katsuki can’t help but snort at the useless expression on Eijirou. The dragon shifter is piecing it together, as if trying to figure out if Shouto had just greeted him in a language he wasn’t familiar with.
“It’s his name, dumbass,” Katsuki snickers.
“Oh. Oh!” Eijirou laughs too. “I’m Eijirou!”
It’s subtle, but Katsuki doesn’t miss how Izuku casts him an amused look. Izuku’s not used to seeing Katsuki laugh so freely. Upon realizing how Izuku’s staring at him as if he’s tucking away this new piece of information, Katsuki’s cheeks darken and he returns his focus to the chicken soup in front of him.
Eijirou chats with Izuku and Shouto, exchanging pleasantries that Katsuki doesn’t care for. The innkeeper comes over to hand Eijirou his food, which he accepts gracefully. She asks how he’s doing, and he sheepishly scratches the back of his neck and tells her he’s a lot better now.
As they talk about trivial things, Katsuki watches Eijirou out of the corners of his eyes. Eijirou’s cheerful, he’s animated, and he uses his hands a lot when he speaks. It’s a great contrast to the person who Katsuki has last seen days ago, who had been tired and anxious and cooped up in his room. Eijirou had been so out of it he hadn’t even reminded himself to eat—not that Katsuki cared.
Katsuki wonders if Eijirou had eaten anything else aside from that one meal he had brought up to his room.
… he reminds himself that he doesn’t give a fuck.
When Katsuki slams his bowl down on the table, the trio that surrounds him flinch. Now that he has their attention, he says, “If you’re all done talking about useless matters, we have shit to do.”
“I’m not done!” Eijirou retorts. He grips the bowls tightly as if Katsuki would grab it from him. “I haven’t eaten in days, Katsuki!”
Katsuki lifts his chin and confirms his suspicions. Holy shit. This stupid, lizard-brained idiot. “I told you to eat!”
“No, you didn’t. You told me you wouldn’t get me food. You didn’t tell me to eat!” Eijirou shoves spoon after spoon of chicken into his mouth. The entire time, he stares at Katsuki with wide eyes. He’s speaking between bites and Katsuki watches him wipe his mouth with the back of his hand.
“I’m positive I told you to eat!” hisses Katsuki.
A lie. He can’t remember what he told Eijirou.
“Ah… okay, you might’ve. I was very out of it.” He looks away from Katsuki and rips a loaf of bread apart and shoves one end of into his mouth. Across the table, Izuku and Shouto watch him in earnest, amazed at how quickly he’s going and at how he tears the food apart with his pointy teeth. Shouto turns to Izuku and points a finger at his own teeth, blinking, and then points at Eijirou. Apparently, Shouto’s baffled at Eijirou’s shark teeth, and Izuku gives an awkward laugh in response. Eijirou doesn’t appear to even notice their small exchange. Instead, he glances at his now empty bowl of chicken soup and the bread that will run out quickly. He says, his voice low and in a whine, “You humans eat little…”
Katsuki snorts at the comically sad look on Eijirou’s face. “Perhaps because we don’t go days without eating.”
Izuku laughs awkwardly and gestures at the inn keeper, who’s standing on the far side of the room. He gestures for more food and points a thumb at Eijirou, and the old woman nods before disappearing into the kitchen. It seems that she understands what’s going on, because she comes back with two plates filled with all kinds of meat.
“I told you to make sure he’d eat,” the old woman chides at Katsuki, who rolls his eyes at her.
The city itself isn’t that much different from Yuuei. It’s peaceful and its citizens are able to walk around with not much fanfare. Toru, the woman they’re supposed to meet, stays in a house that’s near the center of the city. Katsuki had met Toru back in the academy—a fact that he had forgotten until Izuku had reminded him. He doesn’t remember much of her. If anything, he’s not sure he’s even seen her at all.
The woman was a master at espionage, one of the best in Yuuei, and she was based in this city.
They arrive at her home, which is an unassuming house amid many others. Eijirou’s looks around a lot, observing, and he’s quiet as he follows Katsuki up the steps towards Toru’s house. They all stand by the door as Izuku knocks on the wooden door, and it doesn’t take long until it’s opened.
Katsuki stares at the woman called Toru. She’s the plainest person he’s ever seen, and it makes sense that she’s skilled in espionage. He thinks if he passed her on the streets, or in an inn, or even in a warzone, he wouldn’t take any notice of her. If it’s on purpose, he can’t tell.
“Come in!” she says, her voice cheerful. Toru stands aside and the four men enter. She leads them to the kitchen where there’s a tea kettle and cups set out for them. Her place is small and cramped and Eijirou bumps shoulders with Katsuki when they take their seats around the crooked table in the middle of the room.
Shouto cuts to the chase. He asks, “Do you know where the kidnapped girl is?”
“No,” she responds, all too quickly.
Just like that, their energies deflate.
Katsuki face-palms with an exasperated sigh and Eijirou, the dumbass, chuckles nervously. He can’t believe that they’d wasted so many days already. They had been sent to speak to Toru, who didn’t even know a fucking thing.
“It’s all right, Kacchan,” Izuku says. When Katsuki looks up, Toru is unfazed. She’s staring curiously, her lips curved into a cocky smile.
“I don’t know where she is,” she says, slowly, with emphasis, “but I know that you should travel North.”
“Why North.” Katsuki deadpans.
Toru giggles. “Because there’s nowhere else to go, silly!”
Katsuki stares and lets the simplicity of the answer sink in. She gets up and walks towards a cupboard before pulling out a dusty map, and cups are pulled from the center of the table as she spreads the map over the surface of it. Toru traces a finger and explains, “See? There’s nowhere to go but North. The mountains that surround the cities are inhabitable, and the only direction you can go from this city is here…”
Toru explains, patiently. The map she holds looks different from the maps that their group has. There are landmarks that Katsuki’s never seen mentioned before, and scribbles in foreign languages that Katsuki can’t read. She tells them how the kidnappers definitely didn’t head to the surrounding mountains. As he listens to her, it makes sense. She knows details that aren’t privy to them at all, such as how the borders to the North-East have been shut down because of a recent political disaster, or whatever. Shouto and Izuku nod as she speaks and Katsuki finds himself curling his fingers around his chin, deep in thought.
“Do you have any clue who took her?” Eijirou asks, curious.
“Only a hunch, dragon,” she answers. Izuku glances up at her answer and Katsuki can’t hold back his surprise, either. How did she know what Eijirou was?
Actually, why wasn’t she even questioning his presence? Not once did she even ask who he was.
Eijirou, unfazed, asks her, “What’s your hunch?”
“There’s a syndicate up north,” she says grimly. At that, she pulls out a parchment and writes a few letters before handing it to Izuku. “This is the syndicate’s name… they’re becoming more active, and my hunch is they took the girl with her. They are… they are a formidable group, I advise you to be cautious. I also advise you to keep a low profile.” At her last statement, she glances over to Eijirou who grins in response.
“Guess that means I can’t fly us over the mountains,” quips Eijirou.
“No, of course not,” Katsuki snaps. He turns his focus at Toru, glaring at her. “How do you even know about him? I swear to the gods, Deku, if you’ve spread word—”
“It wasn’t me!” Izuku says, defensively.
Toru chuckles. “I know a lot more than you think, it’s my profession.” Katsuki can’t help but flinch when she reaches over to put her hand over Eijirou’s, which is laid out on the table. “I hope you are not finding it too difficult to live with us humans. I have some herbs that will help you for next season, if you want it.”
“Hm?” Eijirou blinks. “Herbs?”
“Yes. Herbs. They will keep the… the changes to your body at bay. It’s not healthy to not do anything about it, and if you won’t… find a partner, then you need to postpone it.”
Katsuki watches the uncomfortable expression that flashes over Eijirou’s face. Toru seems to sense it, too, and she pulls away from him and sits back. With a laugh, Eijirou says, “It’s fine. Those types of herbs won’t do me good in the long run.”
There’s a long pause. Finally, Toru nods. “All right,” she says. For a moment, it seems that she wants to say more. It’s apparent that she decides against it as she looks at Katsuki and back at Eijirou, before giving a soft sigh and standing up. She says, “Let me get you a copy of this map.”
It’s awkward. Katsuki wants nothing more for the floor to swallow him whole right now. He can feel his ears burn up and he doesn’t even understand why the fuck he’s embarrassed. Shouto stares at him with a bank expression from across the table and Katsuki ignores him, simply scowls and looks away. They’re talking about Eijirou’s changes so blatantly, and how Toru had looked at him thoughtfully tells him that the bitch blames him for not helping the dragon. She said nothing about it, but how she looked between them, it had hit him like stones. Katsuki can’t help but seethe to himself and he clenches his jaw.
The anger fills him to the brim and he can’t help it when he kicks the leg of the table, startling everyone around them. Toru raises an eyebrow at him; she says nothing as she walks to the adjoining room, and Katsuki can sense her burning stare on him all until she disappears behind a corner.
“Katsuki,” Eijirou says, softly, all too kindly.
“Shut up,” he mumbles.
“I-I’ll help with the map,” Izuku suddenly says. He gets up and follows Toru. Shouto seems to understand the tension, too, and he stands up to follow them.
Once they’re all gone, Katsuki is left in an empty room with Eijirou. It’s suffocating, and it’s not only because of how cramped the house is.
“It’s not your fault,” Eijirou tells him.
“Never said it was, Lizard Brains.”
“Don’t be anxious. I can feel it.”
“I’m not—” Katsuki splutters. He turns to him, eyebrows scrunched together in frustration. He has so much to say, yet when he sees Eijirou, the words are stuck in his throat. Eijirou’s looks at him unabashedly, eyes wide and lips pursed into a thin smile. “They blame me for it,” Katsuki says when he regains his composure, and if his voice hitches in the middle of the sentence, it’s not his fucking fault. It’s too much, too overwhelming, and he didn’t ask for any of this. “They think you had to suffer for days and I didn’t even get you food, and that I didn’t let you fuck m—”
“Hah!” Eijirou cuts him off. The redness that spreads over his face all the way down to his neck is impressive. Katsuki can see him sweat and the dragon shifter inches away from him, the chair skidding against the floor as he does. “It’s not… I didn’t ask you for any of that!”
“I’m aware of that.”
Eijirou gapes, which Katsuki doesn’t understand, because had been the one to open the topic in the first place. Everyone, all the dumbasses, had been the ones to talk about the changes that Eijirou were going through as if it weren’t embarrassing to listen to. It was downright stupid. He can remember days ago, when he had almost exploded Shouto’s face for even asking about it.
“Besides, I… I can’t, not with a human.” Eijirou tucks his chin to his chest and avoids looking at Katsuki.
“Oh,” Katsuki replies, silently.
That settles it, then.
Katsuki’s tone of voice is bitter when he adds, “Maybe you shouldn’t have tied our souls, huh?”
“Not this again,” Eijirou mumbles.
“Whatever,” Katsuki replies before pushing back his chair and getting up. “I’ll check on the idiots. What’s taking them so long, even…”
Eijirou shrugs in reply, and Katsuki watches him hunch forward with his elbows on the too-small table. His eyebrows knit in frustration and he’s deep in thought; he doesn’t say anything else as Katsuki walks towards the direction the rest of the group had gone.
He follows the sounds of their voices and realizes that they’re speaking in low voices, as if they didn’t want Katsuki to hear them. When he gets closer, he finds out why—they’re talking about him and Eijirou. Of course. Katsuki rolls his eyes and is just about to walk in loudly to announce his presence when Toru’s words cause him to freeze.
“Breaking the bond wouldn’t matter,” she says in a melancholic tone. They have their backs to Katsuki and don’t realize that he’s standing by the door frame and listening. She’s folds up a map as she says, “It’s not the bond that keeps them together, in the first place. The innkeeper told me about it, she had sensed it herself.”
Innkeeper? The old woman? Katsuki had sensed some magic from her and had ignored it. Most people had magic within them, it wasn’t important.
“What do you mean?” Shouto asks.
“It goes deeper,” Toru responds. Her answer is very vague. “I can’t tell you. They must find out themselves.”
Izuku and Shouto exchange puzzled looks. After a moment, Izuku mouths a word to Shouto, and Katsuki watches as Shouto nods in agreement. Katsuki doesn’t understand what they’re agreeing to, and he doesn’t care—he’s had enough.
He lets of a small explosion in his palm and grins to himself when Izuku jumps at the sound. He’ll never tire of the way useless Deku flinches at it, and he has a manic smile on his face as he walks over to them. Shouto frowns as he stomps over and he watches Izuku clasp a hand over his own chest to catch his breath, still recovering from his surprise.
“Your map,” Toru says, depositing it into Katsuki’s hands in a move to placate him.
“Finally.” Katsuki says. Before he turns around to walk back to tell Eijirou they’re leaving, he doesn’t miss how Toru nods at Shouto and Izuku. Whatever it is they’re agreeing to, he doesn’t give a fuck.
“I’m anxious,” Eijirou complains. Katsuki raises an eyebrow as the dragon shifter fidgets at the hem of his shirt, and he wonders if he’ll harden his fingers again and rip through the shirt… the shirt that Katsuki had purchased from the market in the last city. Fortunately, Eijirou had nothing to say about that, had only grinned and thanked him when Katsuki had handed it with a scowl.
Katsuki, the most concerned person around, says, “Too bad.”
“Katsuki,” Eijirou grunts, “I haven’t shifted in two days.”
“Focus your energy on something else. I don't care.”
He cares, though. He fucking hates that he cares.
Eijirou’s bites his cheek and paces. Katsuki watches in silence from where he's sitting against the base of a large tree. Across the clearing, Shouto and Izuku are cleaning fish for their dinner. They can hear the conversation and stay out of it, glancing up and talking to themselves in hushed voices.
The sky’s almost dark. The campfire’s not yet lit. They left the last city, Aldera, two days ago and are on their way north. The road they’re travelling on isn’t a friendly one, nor are the surrounding forests and the steep mountains that cage in the road. Their informant Toru, hadn’t been lying when she said that the surrounding forests were inhabitable. They had seen no one yet, hadn’t run to other groups, but there was an eerie atmosphere that enveloped them. The atmosphere was unexplainable; they all agreed to not spend a lot of time in the forests, unless they had to turn in for the night.
They had also believed Toru when she had told them to keep a low profile, and that meant that Eijirou shouldn’t shift to a dragon, at least not for now.
The forests make them feel like they’re being observed—and letting their watchers know that they have a full-grown dragon with them isn’t a good idea.
“Can I shift for just a few minutes? Let me just fix this fire,” Eijirou bargains.
The dragon shifter grumbles at that and Katsuki has the strong urge to kick him in the shin. Instead, he says, “If you’ll be useless, go catch more fish. Deku barely caught enough for all of us.”
Izuku glances up at the mention of his name. He frowns and looks at the pieces of fish laid out on a bearskin. There are at least half a dozen river fish, and he thought they had caught enough. He asks, “Are you hungry, Kacchan?”
“The dragon’s hungry,” Katsuki responds, pointing a thumb at Eijirou.
Eijirou starts, “I’m not—”
“What I want to say is,” Katsuki rolls his eyes, “go focus your energy on catching the fish, instead of walking around here like a lunatic.”
“Oh,” Eijirou blinks. Realization dawns on him, and he claps his hands together once in amazement. “You’re so smart, Katsuki!”
Katsuki’s cheeks don’t darken. Of course the fuck not.
Eijirou turns on his heels and goes off towards the nearby river. From the clearing, they’re able to hear the sounds of the water, which meant that Eijirou wouldn’t be in danger if anything snuck up on the group—not that he was worried.
“That was nice, Kacchan,” Izuku comments as he grabs a fish. “You and Eijirou are getting along well.”
“Shut up, Deku!”
Katsuki ignores the fond smile that Izuku doesn’t attempt to hide. With a scowl, Katsuki builds the fire. Shouto and Izuku continue to work on the fish and speak in a low voice, discussing a topic that Katsuki doesn’t care about.
Time goes by. Soon, the skies are dark and they’ve skewered the fish. Katsuki watches, bored, as it’s cooked over the campfire. He flickers his gaze at the two other men on the opposite side of the fire, then he remembers—
“Deku.” Katsuki’s voice is more silent than usual.
Izuku hears him, anyway. He glances at Katsuki. “Yes?”
“Did All Might tell you why the dragons regarded you as one of them?” he asks, direct to the point, and doesn’t care about how Shouto cocks his head in puzzlement. For a second, Izuku panics, and Katsuki almost thinks he won’t divulge the information. Not many people know that the great All Might had passed his magic to Izuku, but Katsuki’s positive that Shouto at least knows this.
It’s quiet for a while except for the cackling of the fire. Izuku frowns and says, “All Might’s magic was passed down from soul to soul, accumulating over time… one soul had been dragonborn.”
It’s a simple explanation. Shouto lifts his chin at the answer and says nothing, although Katsuki knows that he has a million questions, too. Katsuki grunts in reply and reaches forward to grab a skewered fish. The fish looks cooked, its skin crisp and the scent of it calling out to him—that’s when he realizes how hungry he is. From the corners of his eyes, Katsuki sees Izuku and Shouto resuming their conversation. He can’t tell if they’ve changed the topic to Izuku’s abilities, and he pushes away the urge to listen.
The topic of All Might giving Izuku his powers has always irked Katsuki. He seethes and takes a bite off his fish, crunching the meat under his teeth.
He’s about halfway done with the fish when Izuku asks, his voice resounding through the clearing, “Kacchan, shouldn’t you check on Eijirou?”
“Why the fuck would I do that?” Katsuki snaps.
It’s been a while, though. Eijirou left for the river before the sky had darkened. He’s aware that the dragon shifter has better eyesight than them, even at night, and he isn’t worried. The river’s near enough that they can hear the currents. Eijirou had probably become too engrossed with trying to catch fish; Katsuki isn’t bothered by his absence at all.
Shouto shrugs. He gets up and says, “I’ll check on him.”
With a scowl, Katsuki watches the Half-and-Half bastard leave. He’s left with Izuku, who avoids looking at him. They eat in silence, not speaking to each other, nor even acknowledging the other’s presence.
The tension between them is strange. It always has been. Katsuki’s not fond of Izuku, and Izuku knows that—he’s learned to live with this fact. Their relationship has gone a long way since they were children, but it still has a lot of mending left to go.
Katsuki’s not thinking of anything in particular, his thoughts not important as he continues with his meal. He’s exhausted. They hadn’t taken much breaks that day, trying to cover as much ground as possible.
Out of nowhere, there’s a loud rustling sound that startles Katsuki and Izuku.
The sound comes from the direction opposite of where Shouto and Eijirou had gone. Izuku exchanges glances with Katsuki, baffled. The noises are akin to a large creature trampling bushes as it traverses through the forest… similar to how Eijirou sounds when he’s in his dragon form and is squeezing through the tight confines of the sea of trees.
“That idiot…” sighs Katsuki, shaking his head. Eijirou had likely shifted, against what they had all decided on, and had somehow gotten lost in the process because he was decidedly not coming from the direction of the river. The… dumbass.
The sound becomes louder as the large creature approaches.
Izuku laughs, scratching his nape. “It’s all right, Kacchan. Nobody else is around.”
“You don’t know that, Deku,” Katsuki mutters, throwing an empty skewer aside and reaching for another piece. The fish over the fire are fully cooked now, possibly burnt, so he gets up to remove them from the fire. Izuku does the same from his side.
It happens quickly.
One moment, Katsuki and Izuku are removing the fish from the campfire. Next thing they know, a flash of pink charges into the clearing. It crashes through the trees, startling both of them who freeze and drop the food they hold into the dirt.
It’s a dragon… but it’s not Eijirou.
Instead, they face a dragon with dark pink scales and yellow, curly horns that protrude from the top of its head. The dragon’s pupils are yellow, matching its horn. It glares at them, and normally where its eyes should be white, a pitch black tint is there instead. It stumbles into the clearing and growls. Curls of smoke come out of its nose as it does so.
“What the fuck…” Katsuki hisses.
The dragon advances in a slow manner and a shiver runs down Katsuki’s spine. He can’t move, too stunned to do anything. Izuku’s frozen, too. The dragon moves gradually, carefully, and when it’s about a foot away from Katsuki, it’s apparent that it’s smaller than Eijirou is.
A low growl resounds from its throat again as it bows its head, as if it’s trying to get a better look at Katsuki. The dragon focuses on the necklace of fangs around Katsuki’s neck, and when it exhales, Katsuki can feel its heated breath against his skin. It bares its teeth, and that’s when Katsuki snaps out of it, assuming a defensive position because his instincts tell him that the dragon’s not here to make friends. Judging from the way it’s baring its fangs at him and curling smoke out of its nostrils, it’s sizing him up. Similar to how Eijirou looks right before he pounces at a deer.
“Kacchan!” Izuku yells, panicked, because he too can sense the danger in the situation.
The dragon startles at Izuku’s voice. The dragon opens its mouth wide, and heat gathers at the space between it and Katsuki.
Katsuki’s been around Eijirou long enough to understand that the dragon’s preparing to spew fire at him.
Flames emit from its outstretched jaws and Katsuki curses and uses an explosion to to hurl away. The grass where he had been standing on is burnt to a crisp. Katsuki’s stunned, and he tries to recompose himself and registers that Izuku’s running towards him.
The dragon turns to them, craning its neck. It appears startled, its dark eyes wide as remnants of smoke escape its mouth.
“Listen, fucker!” Katsuki yells at it, his voice resounding through the clearing. “Who the hell are you, attacking me out of fucking nowhere!?”
A loud, resounding roar is the response they get. It looks angry now, and Katsuki doesn’t allow it a chance to attack first, not this time.
“Kacchan…!” Izuku squeaks, panicked, when Katsuki uses a round of explosions to throw himself at the dragon. It opens its jaws and releases a burst of flames at him and he retaliates with his own blasts. He can feel the heat on his arms as he does so, some flames coming through. The dragon cries, and he knows that he’s also hit it as it stumbles back, thrashing its head around.
Katsuki’s arms are in pain and he glances down at them with a scowl, seeing that the skin is raw and burnt in patches. He grits his teeth and glares at the dragon, barely making out the sound of Izuku yelling his name. Izuku’s rushes to him, pulling at his cape, yelling at him.
“Fuck off, Deku!” Katsuki yell, pissed off, and he elbows Izuku away.
“Stop fighting, Kacchan! It’s probably here for—”
With a snarl, Katsuki shoves him aside, again. Izuku appears angry this time around, his eyebrows scrunching in frustration. The dragon recomposes itself, baring its teeth once more. There’s soot on the scales on its head where the explosion had hit. That the dragon’s barely hurt angers Katsuki. It makes sense that a dragon wouldn’t get hurt too much by his explosions, with their tougher than normal skin and tolerance to high temperature levels. He also refuses to admit that he held back.
“Come at me, dragon shit!” Katsuki yells.
The dragon hunches. A peculiar, sour smell gathers through the air and Katsuki’s breath hitches as he notices a substance is coming out of the dragon’s hands. The substance gathers on the grass, dissolving it, and when the dragon drags its claws across the ground, it melts what it touches.
Similar like Eijirou, this dragon had other abilities, too. Fuck.
When the dragon makes a move to charge at him, its wings flaring up and extending, Katsuki’s ready. Katsuki’s arm still stings from where the flames had hit him, but there was no fucking way he would surrender to the dragon for such a dumb injury. He’s pissed now, paying no heed to the reason in Izuku’s words. He assumes a defensive position, ignores Izuku’s protests, and—
“Mina!” Eijirou yells as he stumbles into the clearing, panicked. Shouto rushes in after him, baffled at the scene. There’s sweat on Eijirou’s brow and panic in his eyes and he breathes, heavy, struggling to catch his breath. “M-mina, don’t, we’re soul bonded!”
The dragon snaps its head towards Eijirou. Just like that, its demeanour changes. It folds its wings back and gives a sound that can only be construed as a squeal of delight.
Katsuki’s frozen, still ready to fight, but the dragon forgets about him. Beside him, Izuku gasps. The dragon’s twists and changes, morphing into a much smaller form, and soon there’s an unclothed woman where the dragon had been standing. She has pink skin and hair and the color of her eyes are like the dragon’s, black where there should be white. “Ei!” she screams, and she runs towards him. “Ei! There you are!”
The woman lunges at Eijirou; all the while, she’s laughing loudly, squealing in joy. Eijirou grins and catches her in an embrace, and her feet lift off the ground as Eijirou spins them around once. She wraps her arms around his neck and buries her face in his shirt, crying happily against him.
“The fuck.” Katsuki stands up straight, stunned.
The mood changes even if Katsuki’s shoulders are still tense. It’s abrupt how the fight ends and it surprises Katsuki. Normally, he wouldn’t let an enemy get away so quickly. Should he regard her as an enemy, though? There’s a perplexing sensation in him as he stares at Eijirou, at the look of utmost happiness on him. Somehow, Eijirou’s expression relaxes him, too; it forces him to calm down and accept the fact that this girl, this dragon shifter who had been trying to kill him just a minute earlier, wasn’t a threat.
“Why are you here!?” Eijirou asks. He drops her down to the ground and pushes her away at an arm’s length to get a better look at her. His expression is one of utmost excitement and happiness.
Shouto, who’s standing a few feet behind Eijirou, cuts in, “Do you have clothes with you?”
“Huh?” The girl named Mina cocks her head at Shouto. She blinks, puzzlement spreading across her face. “No, I don’t remember where I put ‘em. I shifted hours ago.”
Eijirou chuckles, “Humans find it inappropriate to walk around without clothes. They get embarrassed and blush about it.”
That’s it. That’s when Katsuki snaps out of it, fuming. Damn dumbass noticed it all this time? What the actual fuck—
“Just put some fucking clothes on!” Katsuki yells.
Mina huffs. “I already said I don’t have any!”
Katsuki seethes and rips the coat off his back and stomps over. He throws the coat over the girl, and she yelps as she’s crowded by it; it envelopes her small frame, pooling around her feet. Eijirou laughs, again, and clutches the coat around her shoulders, helping to keep it up as she shucks her face free with an exaggerated inhale of fresh air.
“Ooooh, that’s soft… and it smells sweet,” she giggles, turning her head to inhale against the feathers that grace the top of the coat.
Eijirou nods, passively, “Katsuki smells like burnt sugar. I think it’s related to his magic.”
It’s a small noise, but Katsuki hears Izuku stifle a laugh. Shouto’s smirking, too, and Katsuki wants to punch all of them—not for the first time that day. With an exasperated exhale, he reaches up a hand to bury his face in it, and winces when he instead notices the burns on his arms. Given his ability, he’s used to burns. He’s not immune to them, yet over the years, has become more tolerant than other humans. With all that in mind, it still hurts—painfully so, especially when the adrenaline of the battle has died down and he’s forced to face the consequences.
“Oh, Mina, you did that?” Eijirou asks. There’s a hint of worry in his voice as he looks over Mina’s shoulder, staring at Katsuki’s arms. Katsuki has his back to the fire, his front is covered in shadows, yet Eijirou can see him. “Couldn’t you tell we were bonded?”
“Didn’t want to accept it, I guess,” Mina grumbles. The tone which she responds with is so petulant. “I could sense your soul on him, but my mind was insisting it was just the fangs around his neck.” Then, she says in a whisper, “I thought he killed you and kept the fangs to himself.”
“Oh, Katsuki wouldn’t kill me!” Eijirou says as he circles around Mina and walks towards Katsuki.
“You couldn’t even if you tried, Lizard Brains,” snarls Katsuki. “Oi, Half-and-Half, you have something for burns, right!? Give ‘em to me.”
“All right,” Shouto responds after a long pause. He moves past the group to where his belongings are.
Katsuki bites his cheeks as he twists his arms here and there, surveying the real damage. He’s aware that Eijirou stands in front of him, staring at him as he does so. When Eijirou grabs him on the shoulder to get him to face the campfire, Katsuki allows it, and he tells himself that it’s because it makes sense. Eijirou doesn’t need light to see his injuries, but Katsuki does, and his thoughts don’t ignore the fact that Eijirou knew what he needed. Katsuki pushes the observation away, lets it crumble into pieces in a dark pit in the back of his mind, because it’s a piece of information he’d rather not note.
The damage isn’t bad; it’s better than he expected, after being thrown flames by a dragon. Fortunately, his own blasts had negated most of the impact. For a second, he feels disappointed that the pink-skinned girl could escape it with any visible injuries.
“Your injuries aren’t that bad,” says Eijirou, softly. Shouto walks over and Eijirou outstretches a hand, taking a jar of ointment from him. Katsuki grunts at Eijirou in reply and ignores how Shouto eyes them for a second before walking away, again. As much as Half-and-Half irritates him, Katsuki’s also grateful that he keeps to his own business most of the time. “Sit down, I’ll help you put the ointment.”
“Don’t tell me what to do.” Katsuki doesn’t understand why he’s being helpful. It pisses him off.
Eijirou laughs. “Hey, don’t be like that.”
“Mina… that’s your name, right?” Izuku calls out. Eijirou and Katsuki look stunned as they realize that Mina’s still behind them, standing in an oversized coat that she holds around her lithe figure. They both turn to stare at her, and she appears just as surprised.
Had she just been standing in place, all this time? Katsuki raises an eyebrow at her. He grumbles, “What’re you doing standing there?”
“Katsuki,” Eijirou says. His tone is almost a warning, but more of a request for him to be nice.
“Mina, do you want to borrow some clothes?” Izuku gestures towards their belongings. “They’ll be big on you, but—”
Katsuki yells, “Be real, Deku, you’re scrawny as hell.”
“Katsuki, ” Eijirou repeats, more forcibly this time.
“What!?” he snaps, glaring. His arms are injured, a damn dragon attacked him out of nowhere and for no reason; he was pissed. Eijirou frowns, eyes narrowing as he stares. For a moment, Eijirou says nothing.
The tension is thick. Eijirou and Katsuki glower at each other, unrelenting; they both ignore how Mina cocks her head at them in puzzlement as she walks towards Izuku.
“Never mind,” says Eijirou, breaking the silence, “let me help you with this.” There’s a pop as Eijirou opens the cap to the jar of ointment. It smells minty and Katsuki scrunches his nose with a scowl. “C’mon, sit down.”
“Fuck off, Lizard Brains. I can take care of myself.”
Eijirou grins at him. “I know that. Let me help, anyway.”
Katsuki wants to tell him to leave him alone; his words get lost instead. His throat dries. Eijirou stands in front of him with a smile that should be criminal and Katsuki finds himself mesmerized at the way the campfire highlights his frame from behind. Eijirou’s hair’s wet—did he swim in the river?—and it sticks to his face and nape, relaxed but still unruly. Without its usual spikiness, he looks different. It catches Katsuki off-guard.
Surprising even himself, Katsuki concedes.
“Fine,” Katsuki mutters, avoiding looking at him. He plops down, cross-legged, and looks away; he transfixes his stare at anything but the man in front of him. Eijirou sits, too; the dragon shifter scoops some ointment with his fingers. Katsuki startles when a hand grips around his left wrist, careful not to touch any of the burns.
Eijirou’s touch is light, but it ignites his skin, anyway. Gingerly, Eijirou holds Katsuki’s left arm between them before rubbing the ointment into his skin, from his elbow to his wrist. The substance is cool, a great contrast to the furnace which is Eijirou; fingers gently spread over his arm, distributing the ointment over the patches of raw, burned skin.
There are burns on Katsuki’s hand, too. His breath catches in his throat when Eijirou turns his hand over and rubs the ointment on his palms, around the crooks of his fingers, and on his knuckles. Eijirou’s careful, his movements are slow and delicate. Katsuki wants to tell him it’s fucking unnecessary.
He’s not able to tell him.
The silence is unbearable and Katsuki can’t help but peek at Eijirou. He looks at Eijirou through his lashes, and he swallows the knot in his throat. Eijirou focuses on his task, a small smile on his lips—what is he even smiling about?
Eijirou's eyes flicker up to meet Katsuki’s, before darting down again as he lets go of Katsuki’s hand and reaches for the other. “How painful are they?”
Katsuki lies. “Not painful.”
Eijirou snorts at that. He doesn’t ask questions. Eijirou takes care of Katsuki’s other hand, too.
It’s stupid how Katsuki’s aware of each touch. His fingers leaves a prickling sensation in its wake, and Katsuki watches his face as he works. Eijirou concentrates, oblivious to the fact that Katsuki scanning over his face, memorizing. There’s a scar on his right eyelid. Not for the first time, Katsuki wonders how he got it.
Eijirou, too, is studying his scars. Katsuki doesn’t realize it until he notices that Eijirou’s staring at the marks on his palm, tracing them with his thumb. Most of them were caused by his own explosions.
“Hey, how—” Eijirou’s words are cut off because he glances up and sees that Katsuki’s staring at him. Their eyes meet, and it shouldn’t happen, but they’re both startled. A shiver runs up Katsuki’s spine and Eijirou’s hold on him fumbles. Eijirou says, faintly, “Oh.” He gazes as if he’s seeing Katsuki for the first time, and Katsuki’s overwhelmed.
“Oh,” Mina’s voice mimics, much louder than Eijirou’s.
Shocked, Eijirou and Katsuki both tense up. Katsuki takes back his hand from Eijirou’s hold and they both snap their heads towards Mina, gaping. Mina crouches near them, a mix of amusement and confusion on her face. She cocks her head to the side, smiling. On her are an oversized shirt and slacks that Katsuki recognizes as Izuku’s.
“What the fuck?” Katsuki exhales, completely out of his element.
Eijirou leans away from Katsuki and laughs, awkwardly and forced.
“I only wanted to ask if I could have some ointment,” she says, pointing at some redness on her chin and jaw. “It’s shallow, but your explosions hurt me, too.”
“Also, I’m sorry I attacked you,” Mina tells Katsuki, “and I’m sorry for ruining your moment. Here’s your cape.”
She outstretches her arms to hand Katsuki the cape. Not kindly, he grabs it from her, ignoring how Eijirou frowns.
“Fucking…” Grumbling to himself, Katsuki puts the cape back on. He stands up and stomps off towards the river without a word.
He hears Eijirou reprimand Mina. It’s mixed with an awkward chuckle, so he knows that it’s useless. Katsuki doesn’t know who the fuck this girl is, but he can already tell that she doesn’t care much about being scolded. She has a strange character to her, one that shouts she’ll do what she pleases.
Katsuki curses under his breath all the way to the river. It’s dark and only the moonlight and the stars guide him. Thankfully, it’s enough. There are a myriad of thoughts that run through his mind as he washes his face with the cool water, ignoring the fact that the ointment is probably getting washed off.
Whatever had happened, a few minutes back, that overwhelming tension he had felt, he doesn’t have a word for it. All he knows is that his heart’s still racing and that his ears burn, and that Eijirou had stared at him in a way he’d never seen before.
When Katsuki returns to the campsite, Eijirou and Mina are eating by the fire. They’re hunched together, shoulders pressed as they talk. Katsuki blinks when Mina laughs and leans her head against Eijirou, and Katsuki tells himself that it’s not jealousy that courses through him.
Their surroundings are humid. It’s midday and the sun’s behind the clouds, yet Katsuki’s skin is sticky with sweat. He can’t decide if he prefers the scorching sun or this. The signs said that rain was coming, which was always awful when out in the wilds. The muddy road they’re on can barely fit a horse-drawn carriage—which they’ve only seen one or two since they left the last city. Huge trees line the sides of the road, mountains caging them in. Eerily enough, the sensation of being watched still hangs heavy upon them. It makes little sense and none of them can pinpoint it, yet it’s undeniable; this road is dreadful to be on, even if there are no clear threats to be seen.
Two days have gone by since the dragon shifter called Mina had joined the party. At the moment, she walks ahead of them, side by side with Eijirou. Their arms are hooked together and one thing that Katsuki has noticed so far is that they don’t run of things to talk about. It’s only been weeks since Eijirou’s left their nation, yet they were catching up as if they hadn’t seen each other in years.
It was ridiculous.
To make it worse, the trip was exhausting. It’d probably be easier if they had been able to bring horses with them—which, as it turns out, wasn't possible.
Apparently, most horses feared dragon shifters. When they had tried to rent some in Aldera, the horses had backed away from Eijirou, as if spooked. Eijirou had stared, blinking and startled, as if this had been news to him.
So… they were walking.
Mina giggles and reaches up to brush dirt off Eijirou’s hair and Katsuki’s stomach churns. Katsuki lifts his chin and narrows his eyes, subconsciously reaching up to grasp the fangs around his neck—then he freezes, his hand twitches, and he puts them back to his side. It’s an annoying habit, always has been; when he’s anxious, he holds the fangs, as if it would help. Eijirou had caught him doing it once, and while Eijirou had said nothing about it and had simply stared for a few seconds, it had been enough to make Katsuki feel self-conscious enough to train himself to quit doing it.
Behind Katsuki are Shouto and Izuku.
“It will rain,” Shouto sighs, his eyes transfixed to the horizon. “Probably a storm.”
“Yes,” Izuku agrees. “If I remember correctly… a farmhouse should be somewhere here. It’s on the map.”
“Why the hell would anyone live out here,” Katsuki grumbles. “Must be lunatics.”
“Kacchan,” Izuku laughs.
“Kacchan!” Mina spins around. Katsuki bristles at the nickname and grits his teeth, ignoring how Izuku squeaks in surprise. As she walks backwards, Mina trains her eyes on Katsuki, a huge smile on her face. Her eyes twinkle in amusement. “Can we shift?”
“No,” Katsuki says, “and don’t fucking call me that, bitch.”
“Oi!” Eijirou glances at him for a second. “Be nice, Katsuki.”
What the fuck...
He doesn’t even know why she’s still around. Until when was she planning to stick with them? He had asked about it a few times, rudely. He had never received a straight answer.
Katsuki rolls his eyes and looks away. He’s not in the mood to get into a dumb argument with the two idiots. His legs hurt since they’ve been walking for days—their fault—and the weather is awful; they haven’t come across a river in two days. His skin was full of grime and sweat and he detested it.
Mina pouts and turns around, hooking her arm around Eijirou’s, again.
It’s not the first time she’s asked. Since meeting her, she’s posed the question multiple times, as if Katsuki’s answer would change. She’s antsy and Katsuki can tell—Eijirou is, too. The two of them aren’t used to being stuck as humans for so long. Katsuki observes, however, that Eijirou appears to be taking it better. If he’s becoming accustomed to it, Katsuki can’t tell.
They travel for hours; it feels like an eternity and Katsuki’s legs feel heavy. He wonders if the lunatics at the farmhouse will let them stay. Toru must have mentioned it, but Katsuki can’t remember right now. The thought of a nice bath and a warm meal is almost foreign.
The sounds of wheels startle them. A carriage approaches, towards the direction they’re heading. Mina’s overjoyed by it and Eijirou tries to hold her back, but she tries to stop it, anyway. The road is too narrow and the horses can’t circle around her. Instead, they give off distressed sounds, startling the man who’s holding their reins, too.
The man eyes her with suspicioun as Eijirou grabs her hand and pulls her to the side of the road. Katsuki watches as Eijirou apologizes once to the man, who grumbles under his breath before ordering the horses to move, again. It makes sense to Katsuki now, how the first few days he had been travelling with Eijirou, the carriages that had passed them seemed to move faster at the sight of him. It wasn’t only because they didn’t want hitch hikers; it was also because the horses wanted nothing to do with him.
It’s almost sundown when they finally spot the farmhouse. The house itself is modest. Looking at it from a distance, it can’t have over two bedrooms. It’s surrounded by unassuming fields. The land is much smaller than farms usually are, with a wooden fence barricading the property. It’s a strange sight to see—a landmark that’s completely out of place.
A brown-haired lady’s working near the fence. Mina’s excitement is palpable. She practically hops to the lady, Eijirou trailing behind her.
“Friends from Yuuei?” the lady asks. Her smile is cautious, and she looks at all of them, scrutinizing them. For a moment, she focuses on Mina with a puzzled look. “Toru didn’t speak of a girl.”
“Ah,” Mina nods, “I joined the group later.”
For a tense moment, the lady is quiet. Annoyed, Katsuki waits for her to gather her thoughts.
“All right,” she finally nods. “I’m Mandalay. I live here with my nephew—he’s inside the house. You can stay the night, Toru’s vouched for your group.”
Katsuki absently listens as the lady goes through her rules, which are not a lot. At one point, she also asks for their help in exchange for staying the night. It’s a simple request—there are wolves terrorizing their farm, and she wants to get rid of them. Mina accepts the request for everyone, though Katsuki guesses that nobody has any qualms.
There’s only one room for them. The room’s not a small one; however, considering that there are five of them in the group, it ends up crowded, anyway. Lamps are on the wall and Mandalay gives them mattresses and pillows which are clean but thin. There’s only one window, and it overlooks the farm plains and has a view of the road they had come from.
The smell of wet mud and grass seeps in from outside and the room itself is stuffy—yet, it’s still a lot better than sleeping in the forest, especially since the rain pours as soon they arrive in the farmhouse.
Mandalay’s moving around in the kitchen, preparing them a modest soup with chunks of vegetables in it. They’re told that there’s no meat today and Eijirou actually groans at that information. Katsuki turns to raise an eyebrow at him and he grins sheepishly as an apology.
The rain drowns out most of the noise and Shouto helps get the indoor fire going using his left hand. Even with the fire and the warm soup, it’s still cold. Mina shivers and sticks to Eijirou’s side, and Katsuki bristles when Eijirou snakes an arm around her shoulders. They eat in relative silence; the entire group’s exhausted from all the days they’ve been walking, and Katsuki’s just thankful they have a roof over their head for a change.
“You all seem weary, you poor kids,” smiles Mandalay. “Maybe turn in early today… don’t forget to take care of the wolves tomorrow. The rain should let out by the morning.”
“I can hunt down the wolves,” Eijirou offers. He’s rubbing Mina’s arm as he speaks; Katsuki pretends it doesn’t bother him. Eijirou’s stare doesn’t leave the soup that he’s lazily eating. It’s evident that he’s exhausted from how his voice drawls. “It’s fine, everyone else can sleep in. I’ll do it first thing in the morning.”
“All right,” Mandalay nods. “I believe they’ve marked the cave to the east as their territory. Will you be able to handle it alone?”
Eijirou shrugs in reply.
They were only wolves. Katsuki doesn’t doubt that Eijirou could accomplish the task without as much as a blink of the eye.
Still, Katsuki mumbles, “You can’t shift.”
“I know that!” Eijirou retorts.
Mina giggles at the exchange. After the meal, she finally detaches herself from Eijirou to help with the dishes. Mandalay and her nephew disappear to their rooms and Katsuki keeps to himself and watches the evening go by. Soon enough, Izuku stifles a yawn and heads to the room for the night, and Shouto sits by the fire, tapping his knee—Katsuki does not understand what he’s thinking about. With Half and Half, he could think about something as mundane as the next day’s breakfast, and still appear as if he was planning a murder.
Eijirou stretches and yawns. He taps Katsuki on the shoulder and says, “I’m going to sleep.”
Without even looking, Katsuki shrugs at him. Eijirou says nothing else as he languidly makes his way to the room. Mina’s finished with the dishes, too, and follows Eijirou. Annoyed, Katsuki can’t help but watch her go. The woman’s nice and cheerful. She tried to kill Katsuki on their first meeting, but Katsuki has to admit that she was a good person. Also, her presence seemed to make Eijirou happy. Ever since she had arrived, Eijirou’s mood had been lighter. Katsuki can tell, somehow.
Still, Katsuki can’t stand it. He can’t stand how she clings to Eijirou. The familiarity between them makes him anxious, somehow.
He simmers in frustration for a while. The rain’s still strong; it annoys him because he wants to head out and cool his mind.
After a while, Shouto gets up, too. He doesn’t say a word as he heads to the room, and Katsuki’s left alone with nothing but the sound of the rain banging against the roof. In a way, it’s relieving. Lately, there’s too much noise in his head. The clamour of the rain cancels it out.
When the fire dims out, Katsuki decides that it’s time to turn in, too. He hopes that there’s a good space for him to sleep. If he has to squeeze himself in-between Izuku and Shouto, he might just sleep in the kitchen instead. Shit.
Katsuki gets up and walks towards the room. When he’s right outside the door, he hears murmurs from their room. Eijirou and Mina are speaking. The door’s slightly ajar; from outside, he can see that both of the dragon shifters have their backs to him and can’t see him.
Mina and Eijirou have taken the mattresses near the door. On the far side are Shouto and Izuku, both of whom have already passed out. Katsuki’s about to enter the room when he hears the annoyed hitch in Eijirou’s voice; he doesn’t mean to eavesdrop, but their words are clear, and he can’t help but listen.
“You know I can’t go back with you, Mina.” Eijirou’s voice is soft and trained. However, his tone is too flat. Katsuki can tell he's irritated.
“Why not!?” Mina hisses. “Your place is back with us!”
“You know that it’ll drive me insane, if I stayed away from Katsuki… I mean, look at you. You’ve been away from home for a few days and I can already see it’s taking a toll on you.”
Mina growls at him. “It’s your fault. You broke the bond you had with the pack, so I’m uneasy, too—makes me feel as if I don’t belong here.”
“You don’t,” Eijirou sighs.
“Neither do you! That guy doesn’t even care for you, Eijirou! Why the hell—”
She doesn’t stop with her venting. “I just don’t understand why you would give your life up for this human, Ei! I know you’ve been stuck thinking about him since that day from years ago… still, that wasn’t any reason to sacrifice everything.”
“Mina, c’mon,” Eijirou mutters. His shoulders tense and he hunches forward.
“You should’ve seen Tetsu! He was so frustrated with you. We’ve always known you were selfless, but this… this just trumps everything you’ve done before.”
Katsuki narrows his eyes and his hands twitch by his sides. The conversation makes him restless. He’s getting tired of all this. Annoyed, he grits his teeth stomps inside, swinging the half-open door until it thumps against the wall. It announces his presence how he wants it to, and Mina immediately stops speaking and turns to glance at him. She’s frowning, her eyebrows furrowed in frustration, and her eyes are glassy as she tries to fight back tears.
“Katsuki,” Eijirou relaxes his shoulder and looks at him with a forced smile. He pats the mattress right beside his. Apparently, the only free space is the one next to Eijirou, with Mina on Eijirou’s other side. Eijirou asks, “You’re all right sleeping in this spot, right?”
“Whatever,” Katsuki grumbles, ignoring how Eijirou stares at him as he kicks his boots off.
Mina mumbles under her breath and shifts until she’s a ball buried under the blanket. The room’s dimly lit by a lamp that rests in the middle of the room, and when Katsuki plops down and covers himself with his own blanket, Eijirou gets up to dim the lamp.
It doesn't take long for Katsuki to fall asleep.
Katsuki wakes up in the middle of the night because a warmth is pressed to his side.
The room’s dark. Everyone else is asleep, and it’s quiet, except for the sound of Eijirou’s even breathing… which Katsuki can hear well, since Eijirou’s invading his space.
Still drowsy, he slowly turns his head until his chin’s tickled by unruly hair. Eijirou’s lightly snoring, an arm draped over Katsuki’s chest, one of his ankles thrown over Katsuki’s. For a moment, Katsuki forgets how to breathe as he stares at the face that is too close to his. Eijirou’s breath is warm against his clavicle, and that unfamiliar, overwhelming sensation consumes Katsuki once more.
“Lizard brains,” Katsuki mumbles. He shakes his shoulder, once, to dislodge Eijirou. To his horror, Eijirou nuzzles his face against the crook of his neck— fuck.
He can’t handle this. Katsuki freezes, and he looks away and stares at the ceiling, willing his goddamn heartbeat to slow down. It’s too much. Katsuki curses himself; he tells himself that there’s no fucking way that this stranger is giving him these rush of emotions, again. For a while, Katsuki doesn’t move, glaring at the ceiling, ordering his own heart to calm the hell down.
Stupid, goddamn dragons and their instinct to seek companionship, or whatever the fuck they called this. Eijirou had told him about this before, how dragon shifters liked to cuddle or whatever—how it comforted them. Katsuki could've guessed, too, from how clingy Mina was to Eijirou… not that he was paying attention.
Katsuki attempts again. "Lizard brains."
"Nnnngh," Eijirou groans. He nuzzles even deeper into Katsuki's neck. When his lips graze against Katsuki, Katsuki bristles; a rush of thoughts run through Katsuki's mind, and not all of them are innocent—definitely not thoughts he should imagine, especially when the subject is next to him, pressed against him, lips against his skin.
He grabs Eijirou by the arm and shoves him away. Eijirou makes a disgruntled noise and rolls away from him. The dragon shifter doesn’t wake, and Katsuki glances at him once before abruptly getting to his feet.
He needs a drink, probably needs some cool air to get rid of the burning in his cheeks.
The rain’s still strong and the house is dark, and he grasps his way around the narrow hallways. When he steps closer to the kitchen, he’s surprised to see that there are flickering lights from the fire. The fire’s still alive? Upon turning the corner, he sees that Mina’s crouched in front of it, poking at the fire with a steel stick.
“Oi,” Katsuki mumbles.
She startles, tensing up immediately. Mina turns to glance at him, blinking. “Katsuki! You can’t sleep?”
For a few moments, Katsuki only waits. He’s still pissed at her, especially after hearing her conversation with Eijirou—and he’s not dumb, he knows that she’s aware that he had heard it.
“You’re annoyed at me,” she states.
She forces a smile. “I’m sorry… it’s just—it’s very frustrating to see what Eijirou has done to himself.”
Katsuki grits his teeth. He debates on saying anything. Yet, he stands a few feet in front of her, tackling the myriad of thoughts that tangle in his mind. He has so many questions—so many fucking questions.
As if understanding his inner turmoil, Mina asks, “What’s wrong?”
He swallows his ego and blurts out, “The fuck do you mean that Lizard Brains sacrificed everything for me?”
Katsuki also wants to ask, what do you mean Eijirou has been thinking of that day they had met from years ago? It’s unnerving, and Katsuki buries the question, because there’s a related question that’s meant for himself only—why did he, too, remember too much from that same day?
Mina pokes at the fire with the stick. The shadows dance over her pink skin; it’s difficult to see her face, yet Katsuki can see the impatience and frustration on her face. For a moment, he wonders if all dragon shifters were this way, if they all wore their heart on their sleeve. She mutters, “Bonding with a human is nothing less than a sacrifice. There’s no reason to do it. A dragon shifter always, always, has to be bonded. When we’re born, we’re bonded to the pack… to everyone. We share each other’s souls. When we find our mate, though, we tie our souls with them and all our other bonds are lost. It’s irreversible.”
His ears burn at the word and Katsuki’s throat dries. When Mina casts him a skeptical look, he glances away and coughs to recompose himself. She continues, “When Ei tied his soul with you, he got rid of his connection with the pack… usually, our mates are dragon shifters, too. That’s why it’s easy, because our mate is one of us. To bond with a human, though…”
Her words trail off and she bites her cheek as she returns her focus to the fire. Katsuki stares at the ground, refusing to look at her. Again, there’s a painful tug in his chest, one that insists that he’s had taken away so much from Eijirou. Again, he asks himself why he cares so fucking much.
“Humans don’t know how we live, and you are much too fragile to be our mate—”
“Excuse me?” Katsuki snaps. He can’t help it, he doesn’t enjoy being called fragile, no matter the context.
“Don’t take it personally,” she laughs. She’s amused at his reaction. “We’re from a different race, a different culture; we are built differently, too. Perhaps Ei didn’t want you to stay with him during his rut because he thought he’d hurt you.”
How the fuck did she even know about that?
“Or perhaps it’s because I’m not his mate, dipshit!” Katsuki’s voice comes out loud and furious and his palm actually lets out small explosions. With a flinch, he clenches his fists shut, forcing the blasts to subside. It’s a little painful; his skin’s raw, but at least he can focus on that to calm himself down. Katsuki seethes at Mina, who raises an eyebrow.
“It’s not just the rut,” she says, slowly. There’s a sadness in her face that Katsuki doesn’t miss. “It’s…”
For a while, Mina’s silent, again. Her eyebrows furrow in such a way as she has an internal debate with herself. Katsuki sets his jaw, frustrated, and finally moves past her to reach for the pitcher of water on the table. He grumbles as he grabs an empty cup and pours himself a drink, aware of how Mina’s staring at him. Katsuki slams the cup on the table, his fingers twitching.
Katsuki glares at her. “Tell me.”
“Ei would hate me,” she whispers. The discomfort on her is clear. Mina stands up and drops the steel stick, her back to the fire, and her hands tremble when she entangles her fingers, anxious.
“It’s fine. Tell me.”
Mina exhales. Her eyes dart all over the room as if she half-expects someone to step in. “It’s silly for us to bond with a human, because it’s… it will last forever. Even when the human is long gone, the bond will still be there… can you imagine yearning for a person who is no longer around?”
Quietly, Katsuki watches her. His lips purse into a frown.
“Our kind lives for centuries, Katsuki,” she meets his stare and her eyes are glassy as she tries to keep it together, “humans do not. Dragon shifters and humans are not meant to bond. It’s...”
Her voice trails off, but Katsuki had caught the word. She had called it cruel.
It’s not fair.
Katsuki shouldn’t let sadness settle in his chest, shouldn’t let it creep its way to the surface. He shouldn’t have such a heavy weight on his shoulders, shouldn’t be affected by how this new information is causing his resolve to shatter. He narrows his eyes at Mina, “You’re telling me that when I die, he’d spend the rest of his shitty life—centuries—mourning for me?”
“Hah,” Mina scrunches her nose. “Wow, Katsuki, you always go straight for the kill, don’t you? Seriously, saying it that way?”
“Mm,” he shrugs, willing to keep the heaviness away, “you’re fretting for nothing. We’ve talked. The girl we’re supposed to rescue can undo the bond.”
“Break the bond,” Mina agrees. “Let Ei come back to us.”
“That’s the plan. We’ll get the girl to get rid of this stupid, fucking, useless soul bond.”
Mina returns her attention to the fire, picking up the stick again and prodding around for no real reason; Katsuki can tell that she’s deep in thought.
That was that, then. Time to head back to the room and think of a game plan of how to keep the shitty-haired dragon shifter from attacking him in his sleep, again. Katsuki yawns and turns away from her.
Mina startles him when she speaks. Her voice is soft when she says, “I know where she is.”
Katsuki narrows his eyes. He knows that she’s talking about Eri and he glares at her and asks, “How would you know where she is?”
“Because… when you left our country, we received the intel,” she says, grinning at him. “I’ll tell you, if you promise to break the bond and let Ei come home.”
There’s a pause as Katsuki grasps for a response to that. He’s baffled at this discovery. Finally, Katsuki says, “We need the girl to break it! I’ve told you that. Where the hell is she!?”
“Give me a few days to think." Her voice is so low that he almost doesn’t hear it.
Katsuki’s anger seeps to the surface. He clenches his fists again to calm himself down. “Why.”
“Because it’s dangerous…” she responds. That’s when Katsuki sees the unmasked worry on her and the way she’s anxiously prodding at the fire to distract herself. “I don’t know if it’s worth it, to risk Ei’s life like that.”
“You’re worrying for nothing. Shitty Hair’s the strongest person I’ve come across.” The words spill out of Katsuki even before he’s able to stop himself. As soon as he realizes his unbidden compliment, Katsuki frowns, because Mina finds it amusing. Her eyes perk up and she smiles, wide and bright, and her giggles carry over the room. “Stop laughing,” Katsuki grits.
“S-sorry!” she hiccups. “I just… I didn’t think I would ever hear you compliment anyone!”
“You’ve known me for, what, five seconds? Holy shit.” Katsuki’s doing a terrible job of masking his embarrassment. Fuck.
“Ah,” she says, blinking. She’s still wearing a goofy grin on her face and Katsuki looks away with a snarl. “Give me a few days to think. I don’t know… let me… come to terms with everything, I guess.”
Katsuki shrugs. It doesn’t make a difference at this point. The pink-skinned dragon shifter holds information that’s crucial to their mission, but she won’t give it up easily because she’s worried for Eijirou. It doesn’t make any fucking sense to Katsuki, but he can’t do shit about it for now—or perhaps he should tell Eijirou, and he’d wrangle it out of her? Judging by the little he knows about Eijirou though, he doubts that was an option.
These dragon shifters were odd.
At the back of his mind, he realizes that this meant she’d be with their group for a while more.
He’s not sure if he’ll be able to watch this newcomer get all cozy with Eijirou, again. Just the thought makes him bite his cheek and scowl at the ground, and Mina raises her eyebrows at him as he does so. If she knows what his scowl is about, she doesn’t say.
Mina causes his thoughts to stumble when she speaks again. “Meanwhile… you could do me a favor.”
“Be nicer to Ei,” she demands, “he’s done a lot for you, the least you could do is be nicer to him.”
A scowl spreads over Katsuki’s face. What the fuck? Mina glares at him, and he decides that this isn’t an argument he wants to have at such a god-forsaken hour.
“Good night,” Mina says.
“Night,” he mumbles.
Katsuki drags himself back to the room. Eijirou’s lying on his back, his face clouded behind a disarray of bright red hair. He’s half-lying on Katsuki’s mattress, which causes Katsuki to scowl. Katsuki sits down and pushes Eijirou by the shoulders, trying to get him to move away. Eijirou makes a disgruntled noise and his eyebrows furrow in his sleep.
For a long moment, Katsuki stares. The unfamiliar sensation is back—it causes his stomach to twist, makes him yearn to reach out and touch. Warily, he watches Eijirou breathe, watches his chest slowly rise and fall.
With an exhale, Katsuki allows himself to give in, just this once. He reaches over and brushes the hair away from Eijirou’s forehead, lets his thumb ghost lightly over the scar on Eijirou’s eyelid. Eijirou looks so peaceful and Katsuki’s fingers tremble as he cards it in his hair. It’s such a simple action, yet it satisfies something within Katsuki. It causes the unfamiliar sensation in him to subside, even just a little.
“You’re so stupid.” Katsuki’s whispers are drowned out by the thundering rain. “You’re so fucking stupid. I can’t believe how much of an imbecile you are.”
The guilt that wells up in Katsuki is undeniable.
“But… thank you,” Katsuki admits, his voice so soft.
Against all odds, Eijirou seems to hear it. Katsuki quickly retreats his hand when Eijirou stirs. Slowly, he wakes up and looks at Katsuki with dazed, half-lidded eyes. “Hey?” asks Eijirou, silently. “Katsuki, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong,” Katsuki grits. His cheeks and ears burn. “Move. You’re in my space.”
“Ah, sorry.” Eijirou rolls away, his back to Katsuki.
Katsuki stares for a moment more before grabbing at his covers and burying his face into his pillow.
Katsuki wakes up with a jolt when an unknown object hits him on his thigh.
There’s sunlight creeping in from the windows and unto his face; he frowns and covers his eyes with an arm, annoyed. The morning’s cold though the rain has stopped, leaving behind a certain freshness in the air that only comes after a storm. There are rustling noises and murmuring voices from across the room, and Katsuki hates it—his brain’s muddled, and he’s still unsure of what woke him up.
With a sigh, he rubs his eyes and glances down to whatever fucking hit him.
And it’s Eijirou… of course it is.
Similar to when Katsuki had woken up in the middle of the night, Eijirou is, again, pressed against him. Eijirou’s face is planted to Katsuki’s shoulder and his hand is thrown over Katsuki’s midriff, fingers pressed against warm skin. Katsuki can’t tell how long Eijirou’s been clinging to him in this way, but he’s sure that the reason he had woken up was because Eijirou was kneeing him on the thigh. He’s even found a way to get under Katsuki’s blanket, his own crumpled up by his feet. What the fuck?
Eijirou’s a furnace, and Katsuki burns everywhere he touches.
With an exhale, Katsuki sits up. Katsuki grabs the hand that’s laying on his chest and shakes it off, and Eijirou’s face falls off of its position on Katsuki’s shoulder. He expects Eijirou to wake up at that. Instead, Eijirou makes a disgruntled and moves closer, again. Katsuki’s breath hitches when Eijirou throws an arm over his lap and presses his face to the side of Katsuki’s thigh.
And so, Katsuki’s sitting up with an annoyed expression… and Eijirou’s still clinging to him.
Mina’s audible smirk startles him. “Heh,” she says, “Ei’s always been a clingy sleeper.”
Katsuki glares at her. She’s folding her blanket and putting it aside, her eyes twinkling in amusement as she gives Katsuki a meaningful look.
“It’s whatever,” Katsuki grumbles.
He’s not sure why he’s not making more effort in waking Eijirou up. Katsuki shifts until he sits cross-legged. The entire time, Eijirou doesn’t give an inkling he’s about to wake up. Katsuki leans back, attempting to get into a more comfortable position, until he’s resting against the wall behind him. He’s still sleepy—and it’s futile, he knows it would be impossible to fall asleep now that he’s aware that the damn dragon shifter is clinging to him.
Thankfully, Mina says nothing more. She gives him a soft smile before getting up and leaving the room.
Shouto and Izuku are up, too.
Half-and-half glances at Katsuki, then at Eijirou… then back at Katsuki. He blinks, slowly. There’s a question on the tip of Shouto’s tongue that he chooses not to ask, and he looks away, following Mina outside.
Izuku is not as quiet. From across the room, Izuku calls, “Kacchan.”
“Say a fucking word about this and I will end you,” gripes Katsuki.
“I didn’t—” Izuku bites back a smile. He looks away and unsuccessfully hides a laugh with a cough. “I was just going to say… Eijirou wanted to hunt for the wolves first thing in the morning. Perhaps we should wake him.”
“He’s sleeping, Deku,” Katsuki snarls. “Leave him alone.”
For a while, Izuku stares. Katsuki thinks he might start going off on one of his weird rambling speeches. “Okay,” Izuku responds, “can I take care of it, then? Shouto might want to, as well.”
“It’s whatever,” Katsuki says for the second time that day.
Izuku nods. He glances at Katsuki one more time. For a split second, he looks at Eijirou, too. Messy red hair hides most of Eijirou’s face, his chest rising and falling in a steady rhythm. Finally, Izuku leaves.
Katsuki’s left there, sitting up against a wall, with Eijirou’s arm over his lap and his face pressed against Katsuki’s thigh.
It’s strange. Katsuki doesn’t want to wake Eijirou. Somehow, this relaxes him. Eijirou appears so content and peaceful, and Katsuki prefers not to disturb that. Not on purpose, Katsuki’s been watching him since they had met. It had been gradual and unexpected; he had noticed things here and there, such as how Eijirou tossed and turned a lot in his sleep.
It’s the first time he’s seen Eijirou sleep peacefully, and there’s a voice inside Katsuki that tells him to give him this.
He tells himself that it has nothing to do with his conversation with Mina in the middle of the night. Katsuki refuses to admit how much the conversation had affected him. Be nicer to Ei, Mina had told him. It had been a simple request; it didn’t hold a candle to what Eijirou had done for him.
The room’s quiet. There are no other people. Nobody sees how Katsuki cards his fingers in Eijirou’s hair and they don’t see the calm expression on Katsuki’s face.
If they did, they’d tell him it’s been a while since they’ve seen him so content, too.
Katsuki can’t tell how much time passes. He can hear everyone moving around in the kitchen which is down the hall. Mina’s loud, as per usual, her voice carrying over the small house as she chats with Mandalay. The sounds of pots and pans being moved around is clear, but it’s not enough to wake Eijirou up from his slumber. At one point, the young boy—Mandalay’s nephew—peeks into the room, checking on them. He’s a quiet boy with a permanent scowl on his face and Katsuki finds it more than amusing.
The noise from down the hall becomes more quiet, and Katsuki can tell that Izuku and Shouto have both left the house, most likely to take care of the wolves that Mandalay had been complaining about.
Katsuki’s back hurts from the stiff way he’s leaning against the wall.
He’s only reminded that his hand is resting in Eijirou’s hair when Eijirou finally stirs awake. Eijirou blinks, slowly; his hand unconsciously clutches to the fabric of Katsuki’s pants where it’s still resting. Bristling, Katsuki takes back his own hand, planting it on the ground beside him.
Eijirou tilts his head and looks up, red eyes meeting his.
“Hi,” Eijirou mutters, still dazed and out of it.
Katsuki doesn’t answer him.
With a yawn, Eijirou sits up. The blanket pools around his waist and he looks around the room, puzzled. “Where are the rest?”
“They woke up a while ago.”
Eijirou turns to him, wide-eyed. “You waited for me?”
Fuck. Katsuki’s entire face flushes, from his ears, cheeks, and neck. Damn lizard brains—Katsuki should have known, though. Of course the damn moron wouldn’t pretend as if this hadn’t happened.
“Shut up,” Katsuki scowls. He fumes as he stands up and his entire body burns in embarrassment. Eijirou’s stare burns on Katsuki’s back as Katsuki stomps out of the door. Grumbling under his breath, Katsuki leaves Eijirou to interpret it all as he wished. Katsuki didn’t give a fuck.
Still flustered, Katsuki makes his way to the kitchen where there are two bowls waiting on the table. There’s nobody else around and he’s unsure about their whereabouts.
When he takes a seat, he’s still blushing. He hunches over the bowl, staring at its contents—a measly porridge with bits of vegetables in it. It’s only at that point that he realizes how hungry he is as he grabs a spoon and slushes it into his meal.
The house is quiet enough that he hears the moment that Eijirou enters the kitchen, too. Eijirou takes the seat in front of him and Katsuki glances at him once before resuming eating. Eijirou’s wearing the outfit he had gone to sleep in, a ratty shirt and a pair of pants. His ridiculous red hair sticks up in a funny way, one side of it clinging to his face because of how he had slept. In a moment of self-consciousness, Katsuki feels exposed. He hadn’t worn a shirt to sleep and his cloak wasn’t on him at the moment. He’s not even wearing the myriad of necklaces he had, choosing to set them aside the night before.
Eijirou hums and grabs his own bowl and spoon. Disappointment flashes over his features for a second as he finds out that there’s still no meat, and the sigh he exhales breaks the strange silence. Katsuki can’t help but bite back a smirk at that.
They eat without speaking. Katsuki looks up from his bowl, once or twice, to watch the man in front of him. The kitchen is crowded and small, everything feels like it’s enclosing on him. Light cascades in from the open window, and it’s soft and falls on Eijirou’s face in a way that stuns Katsuki.
The entire scene’s way too domestic for Katsuki’s tastes; it makes him self-conscious and awkward, makes him realize that he still can’t share comfortable silence with this man sitting in front of him.
Eijirou breaks the strange tension. “I assume someone else went to take care of the wolves?”
“Deku and Half-and-Half did,” Katsuki grumbles, “at least, I think they did. I don’t know where the rest of them are.”
With a sigh, Eijirou says, “I wanted to do it to blow off steam. It’s weird—not being able to shift makes me antsy, as if there’s a ton of energy in me I can’t get rid of. Makes me want to jump in place the entire day.”
Katsuki’s thoughtful for a moment. He stares at his food, eyes narrowed. Then, he suggests, “We can spar. That should help you.”
From the corners of his eyes, Katsuki sees how Eijirou freezes. Then, he picks himself back up with impressive speed. “You want to spar with me,” Eijirou repeats, as if he hadn’t heard it clearly enough.
There’s an underlying question behind it and Katsuki knows—Eijirou’s asking, you want to do for me?
“It’s not for you,” Katsuki responds. He grimaces, schooling his expression. “I’m antsy, too. If you don’t want to, then I’ll ask Raccoon Eyes.”
“Why don’t you ask Izuku or Shouto?”
“I’m not asking any of those fuckers a thing.”
Eijirou snickers—almost as if he had been expecting Katsuki’s response.
Again, they eat in relative silence. Eijirou empties his bowl and brings up the tip to his mouth, making sure that he gets every bit of it. Then, he looks around with a frown, his stare resting on the pot that’s resting near the window. He’s still hungry and Katsuki can tell.
“I want meat,” Eijirou grumbles under his breath. He resigns himself to more of the boring porridge, crossing the small expanse between the table and the pot to get himself one more serving. Katsuki finds it… well, endearing. He bites back the smile that threatens to appear, glaring at the spoon in his hand. It’s dumb, how he finds small aspects of Eijirou’s personality to be entertaining. For a moment, he wonders if Eijirou can even eat anything other than meat—his teeth are all sharp and pointy, how would he even chew on leaves? Were all his teeth pointy? What about those in the back—did he have molars, or were they all weird as fuck? What would it be like to kiss him, to run his tongue over—
Katsuki mentally kicks himself, because why the hell is he thinking about?
Eijirou takes a seat, again. “Katsuki.”
“You were trying to tell me something last night,” Eijirou states. It’s not a question.
Apparently, Eijirou could remember that few minutes he had been roused awake by Katsuki talking near him. It had been the middle of the night and Katsuki thought the rain had been drowning his words out. Just like that, Katsuki bristles. He wants to say… yeah, I was telling you you’re dumb as fuck. You gave your life up for a stranger, and it’s dumb, you goddamn lizard-brains.
Instead, Katsuki says, “I wasn’t.”
Eijirou stares. “You were definitely telling me something.”
“Probably a dream.”
With a frown, Eijirou drops the subject.
Katsuki thinks it’s the end of that topic, until Eijirou blurts out, “I have an idea!” His outburst is so sudden, so energetic, and it cuts through the tension like a knife. Katsuki jolts and looks at him with wide eyes, waiting for him to continue. “When we spar and I win, I can ask you a question. Any question. And you have to answer me without dodging.”
“I don’t—” Katsuki fumbles. “I-I don’t dodge your questions!”
Eijirou laughs. “Katsuki, come on.”
What the fuck.
“When I win, I get to ask you anything. If you win, then you can do the same,” Eijirou demands.
Katsuki slams his fist on the table, fuming; Eijirou’s unaffected by it. “First, you fucker, you’d never win. Second, I don’t dodge your questions. Third, I have absolutely nothing to ask you—is your head hollow!?”
“Literally everything you said isn’t true.” The amusement on Eijirou’s face irritates Katsuki. He’s wearing such a smug grin that Katsuki wants to reach over the table and knock it off with his fist. “It shouldn’t be a problem, right? It would only be a problem if you lose.”
“I wouldn’t fucking lose to you!” Katsuki seethes.
“It’s settled, then.”
Katsuki thinks he’s been tricked; somehow, he can tell that Eijirou has outwitted him.
They’re standing outside the house. The sun’s stronger, scorching. They’re not the only ones outside; Mandalay and her nephew are working at the fields, and Mina’s with them. They’re too far to be part of the conversation, though they all stare at the duo with curious expressions.
Sweat beads at Katsuki’s temples and he glares as Eijirou throws his shirt off, discarding it to the side. They’re standing a good distance away from each other and they need to raise their voices when they speak.
They’re talking about rules.
“No blasts!” Eijirou says with glee. “No hardening, too!”
“What’s wrong, Katsuki?” Eijirou tilts his head. “You rely too much on your blasts?”
“Fuck you!” Katsuki gives him the middle finger. “Fine, no blasts. When the other gives up, then the match ends.”
“No way. Neither of us would give up.”
Katsuki blinks—he has a point.
Eijirou continues, “Our goal is to throw the opponent to the ground. That it’s. It can be that simple.”
“Who the fuck made you the boss…” Katsuki grumbles, though he doesn’t have any real qualms to Eijirou’s rules. It’s good, too. It’s simple and if they do it right, they can go through several rounds—not that he has questions. Eijirou’s the one who’s determined to get answers out of him, and Katsuki’s only here because he wants to get the adrenaline out of his veins.
The first round goes off with little fanfare. Katsuki uses it as an opportunity to feel out his opponent. He’s always had a good battle sense, has always observed other’s fighting to get a better grasp about the situation. The two of them are built differently. Katsuki’s built for speed, and Eijirou appears to be built for strength. Eijirou’s slower than him, but he seems to be stronger—a fact that pisses Katsuki off.
They throw punches and kicks at each other, dodging. Wherein Katsuki’s trying to study Eijirou, Eijirou doesn’t seem to have the same mindset. They both know that the first round’s more of a warm-up, and even if Eijirou’s not trying to figure out how Katsuki moves, he’s still not attacking at full strength.
Katsuki dodges a punch, feels the air sweep across his cheek as Eijirou misses. Ducking, he throws a kick behind Eijirou’s legs. With a yelp, Eijirou loses his balance and crashes to the ground, his elbows scraping against rocks. There’s mud all over him when he turns and sits up.
Eijirou stares. “You win that round. What do you want to ask me?”
Got too many questions, Katsuki muses.
“Nothing,” Katsuki says with petulance. “Get up… and quit holding back, or you can forget this entire shit.”
Eijirou smirks. The corner of his lips curve and Katsuki glimpses the odd, strange teeth. Perhaps Katsuki should have asked him how he eats vegetables.
They go another round. It’s difficult to spar without his explosions, though he refuses to admit that he’s grown dependent on them. He can see, too, how Eijirou holds back his hardening; Eijirou’s skin hardens on instinct every time Katsuki lands a hit on him, he can feel the jaggedness on his knuckles, scraping it. Katsuki can tell that Eijirou isn't doing it on purpose, so he doesn’t complain.
Katsuki wins the second round, too.
“Really? Nothing to ask me, Katsuki?” Eijirou’s voice is teasing and Katsuki scowls at him. Again, Katsuki doesn’t ask him anything.
Adrenaline pushes Katsuki, and he has to admit that this is entertaining, that the last time he was in a real fight was back in the dragon shifters’ nation. He didn’t count the debacle with Mina, as it had been over too quickly. Every fibre in Katsuki’s body is energized, his hair sticking to his face with sweat. He’s got mud and scrapes everywhere and he loves it.
Eijirou wins the next round. A fist collides to his face, and Katsuki tastes blood; he falls to the ground, surprised. For a moment, Eijirou freezes, as if he’s contemplating on an apology. Thankfully, he doesn’t offer one. If he did, Katsuki would have ended this.
It’s undeniable that Eijirou’s strong by himself without the need to shift or the power of his hardening, and Katsuki’s impressed by that. They both pant, catching their breath, and Katsuki wipes the back of his hand along his mouth and sees blood smeared on his skin.
“Well?” Katsuki challenges. He won, right? He’s allowed one question—Katsuki still doesn’t see the point.
Eijirou cuts right to the chase. “What were you saying last night?”
With a grimace, Katsuki stands up. He glares at Eijirou, meeting his eyes meaningfully. His chest is in knots as he attempts to search for the words… for an excuse.
Then, he thinks, fuck this. “I said you were stupid as fuck,” Katsuki says. He keeps out the part where he thanked Eijirou, too. The words are on the tip of his tongue, and he stops himself. He’s not about to tell Eijirou how appreciative he is for having his life saved.
“What?” Eijirou stares, aghast. “Why!?”
“Shut up. You had one question, and that was it. Hurry, we’re going another round.”
“Ugh…” Eijirou rolls his eyes, but he gets into a defensive position, anyway. He’s ready to fight, again—they both are.
Eijirou wins the next round. Katsuki’s caught off-guard because he had been ready to emerge victorious. Eijirou’s eyes had been blown wide, he had been panting, and Katsuki had slammed his fists on his bare chest, expecting him to stagger backwards. However, the idiot was a goddamn rock. He had barely budged, squaring his shoulders and taking the brunt of the hit without blinking. Something manic had flashed in Eijirou’s red eyes, bearing into Katsuki, and Eijirou had countered—he had grabbed Katsuki by the shoulders and kneed him in the stomach, and Katsuki’s breath had been caught in his throat, what the fuck. Before he had thought of his next move, Eijirou had grappled him to the ground, clutching at his arms and immobilizing him.
“Fuck you,” Katsuki grumbles. Eijirou laughs and lets go, and Katsuki sits up at the same time he does. They both breathe heavily to regain their composure. It’s infuriating; Eijirou, somehow, has figured him out. Or perhaps Katsuki was holding back, too? Why would he, though?
“What’s your deal with Izuku?” The smile on Eijirou’s face taunts him.
Katsuki simmers at the question as he bares his teeth at Eijirou. “What do you care?”
In response, Eijirou shrugs. “Curiosity.”
“He pisses me off, always has,” Katsuki grumbles. “The idiot wasn’t even born with damn magic in his blood, yet he looked down at me all the fucking time, offering me help as if I needed it.”
He’s unsure why he’s rambling. Eijirou watches him as he speaks, his expression not letting any of his own thoughts apparent. If anything, Eijirou appears concerned at Katsuki’s vent. Eijirou says, slowly, “He has magic in him, though.”
“He does now,” Katsuki spits, “it was handed to him on a silver platter by All Might.” His voice croaks at the name, and he fucking hates that it does. Of course, Eijirou catches the slip.
Eijirou repeats, “All Might.”
Katsuki’s furious, now. Expectedly, the topic of Izuku and Eijirou would send him reeling into anger. He bites his cheek, pissed off, and meets Eijirou’s concerned stare with narrowed eyes. They’re still sitting on the ground, about a foot from one another. There’s a cut on Katsuki’s lip from where Eijirou had hit him earlier and Eijirou doesn’t look any better, either—a bruise is already forming on Eijirou’s left cheek.
“Fuck you,” Katsuki seethes, “stupid, fucking, lizard-brains.”
“Wow, what set you off now?”
“You did!” Katsuki yells, stumbling to his feet. “Get up, you fuck. I’m winning the next round.”
“Or, we can stop now,” Eijirou suggests, softly.
“No. Get up.”
Eijirou sighs, but he concedes, standing. There’s movement to their side and Katsuki turns to see that Mina has walked up to them. She’s at a good distance and she heaves herself up on the fence, sitting on it with her legs swinging in the air. There’s an eager aura to her and she gestures for them to continue with their duel, oblivious to the fact that there’s a thick tension in the air now that Katsuki’s been reminded of All Might.
All Might, the greatest soldier of Yuuei. All Might, whom Katsuki had on a pedestal since he was a child. All Might, who had chosen Izuku, of all people, as his successor.
All Might—the person who was now but a shell of who he had been because Katsuki had been ambushed by the fucking enemy some months back. All Might had lost his magic, his abilities, because Katsuki had been careless.
Katsuki’s still not over it; being reminded sends his blood boiling.
He puts his anger into the punches he pulls, sees the panic on Eijirou’s face because the dragon shifter can tell that something has changed. When his fist meets Eijirou’s jaw, he winces as jagged skin rips the skin of his knuckles. Eijirou had hardened his jaw, unconsciously.
“Shit, sorry,” Eijirou exhales, scrambling for words, “I can’t control it. It’s instinct.”
Katsuki gapes at him. He stands straight and looks at the damage on the back of his fist. Eijirou approaches him and invades his space, the fight brought to a pause. A shadow looms over Katsuki’s as Eijirou stands in front of him with an air of awkwardness.
For a while, Katsuki says nothing. He evens out his breath, slowly, glancing at the wound on his knuckles and at how Eijirou shifts his weight between his two feet. Eijirou’s mouth curves into a frown and he’s clenching his fists at the dirty material of his pants.
His fury is chased away, gradually, because Eijirou looks so fucking apologetic at the entire thing that Katsuki can’t help but find it endearing—in a way.
“I broke the rules,” Eijirou frowns.
“Not a big deal.”
“It… it kind of is,” Eijirou stares at the ground. “I don’t have the same control unlike you do with your explosions. Gods, even back in the last city… I couldn’t even control my shifting during my rut, fuck,” Eijirou grumbles. The frustration’s clear on his face, and he bites down on his lips so hard that he draws blood. Katsuki listens to him, watches his face twist in exasperation.
“Obviously. Nobody’s as good at control as I am.”
Eijirou smiles. “Ah.”
The silence between them is thick, like it often is. Eijirou had mentioned his rut, a topic they barely spoke about. It was weird, how Eijirou was rambling about it now, how he was letting his frustrations seep to the surface and break his facade—Katsuki wonders, was it a product of Katsuki’s own anger at his own situation? Was this another case of them sharing emotions?
Katsuki’s unable to stop the words when he asks, “What do you mean, you couldn’t control your shifting?”
For a while, Eijirou’s quiet. He stares at the ground. Once he speaks, his voice is low but clear. “When an alpha is in a rut, their body goes into haywire… in my case, apparently it means losing control and shifting without meaning to. I had to fight it down all those nights… I don’t know. There’s a lot of shit that goes on that I don’t understand, too. I almost destroyed the inn on the first night, to be honest. Only calmed down when you brought me food—and I don’t even know why.”
“You can’t keep it under control.” Katsuki states it. It’s not a question. It’s the explanation why Eijirou had told him it would never happen between them—not that he cared.
“I’ve never had a mate before,” Eijirou shrugs. “I don’t know.”
Since they’ve gone to the point of no return, Katsuki says, voice low, “You’ve never had a mate before?”
He had won half of their sparring rounds. He had the right to ask. If Eijirou mistakes it as concern or curiosity, Katsuki doesn’t care—at least, not at the moment.
“I mean… I’m not, uh, inexperienced.” Eijirou laughs; the sound is awkward and forced. “But I’ve never tied my soul, never had to deal with ruts this bad before. I told you, remember? We can only tie our souls once. I didn’t know until it happened. All this time, I hadn’t met the right person… and now, this. I’m still trying to figure it all out.”
Katsuki almost regrets where the topic is going now. He kicks a rock by his feet and clenches and unclenches his fists. His chest constricts as he’s reminded, again, that he’s stolen Eijirou’s chance of a normal future by a dragon shifter’s standard. “Why, then, did you fucking tie your soul with mine, if you were waiting for the right person.”
“Maybe you’re the right person.”
Katsuki narrows his eyes and glares at him. As he expected, Eijirou grins at him, wide and bright. “Fuck you,” Katsuki grits.
Eijirou cackles. His mood’s uplifted now, and Katsuki hates how he’s treating this as a joke. Katsuki doesn’t even know why he’s sorely affected, but for some reason, it feels as if he’s being undermined. Eijirou’s next words are the final blow. Eijirou turns away and says, “I’m kidding! Besides—would you even be able to handle me, Katsuki?”
With a snarl, Katsuki grabs his arm, nails digging into his skin, and pulls him back into his space. Eijirou exhales in surprise and Katsuki forces him to meet his eyes. There’s a manic look on Katsuki, and Eijirou gapes at him, stunned.
“Who the fuck do you think I am?” Katsuki snaps. He sneers and Eijirou freezes at his expression. Eijirou seems like he has something to say, maybe a retort to that—Katsuki’s smug face stops him dead in his tracks. To drive his point across, Katsuki says, “You may be an alpha or whatever the fuck you call yourself, but do you know who the hell you’re talking to right now? Me, unable to handle you? I’d ride you all night long until you begged me to stop. You wouldn’t be able to handle me, Eijirou.”
They’re so close to each other that their noses practically brush. Eijirou breathes heavily and the sound rings in Katsuki’s ears, bringing him back to reality. The moment’s charged as Katsuki locks eyes with him, refusing to look away. Katsuki’s throat feels dry, causing him to swallow, and it doesn’t escape him that Eijirou mimics the action.
Redness spreads over Eijirou’s cheeks. He pulls back, stunned, and there’s a wildness in his eyes as he opens his mouth—and closes it again.
Then, Katsuki realizes exactly what he had just said.
It had been a slip. Eijirou had challenged him, and he had pushed back… like he always did. It was that fucking simple, really.
He won’t let Eijirou know that he’s embarrassed, though. Fuck that. He had stunned Eijirou into silence, and he wasn’t about to take it back. Eijirou could pick his words apart and explore them himself, drawing his own conclusions… Katsuki didn’t care (except that he did).
Katsuki’s aware that he’s still gripping Eijirou’s arm, his nails indenting into his skin. He gives Eijirou one last glare before letting go and pushing away.
Finally, Eijirou speaks. “If anyone could make it work, it would be you.”
“The fuck’s that supposed to mean.”
Eijirou’s voice is soft when he speaks. “Dragons and humans don’t work out because they’re too different… but if anyone could make it work, it would be you… out of sheer spite and determination.”
Oh, the dumbass is making a joke.
At least, Katsuki thinks it’s another dumb joke. Katsuki smirks. He can’t help but agree, and can’t help but beam with pride that this dumbass knew that he could do anything. He sneers, “Fucking right.”
How Eijirou’s eyes glint at his response startles him. Eijirou grins, and it’s almost animalistic.
Katsuki’s sure he’ll remember that expression forever.
“We’re done here,” Katsuki announces. He rolls his eyes and walks towards the house, deciding that he could use a cool glass of water. Behind him, he hears Mina call out Eijirou’s name, and he realizes that the woman had been watching by the sidelines the entire time. He would have been embarrassed at that, if he gave a fuck.
Eijirou doesn’t follow him into the house. When Katsuki looks back, he sees that Mina’s standing in front of Eijirou, and they’re having a conversation out of his earshot. Mina’s smiling at Eijirou and she’s fidgeting as she speaks, and Katsuki can see how Eijirou’s shoulders tense as he listens. Katsuki has no idea what they’re talking about, and as he enters the house, he wonders—what if Eijirou had lived his life normally? What if he had found another dragon shifter to bond with? What if, even, Mina was the one he was supposed to end up with? The thoughts weigh heavily on Katsuki’s mind, bothering him.
Eijirou finds him in the kitchen. Katsuki’s leaning against a counter, a glass of water in his hand. He glances up and sees the frown on Eijirou’s face.
“Mina’s heading back to our country,” Eijirou says.
“You’ve said goodbye to your girlfriend. Huh.”
Katsuki’s surprised at his slight outburst. He had been thinking about the words and they had spilled out, anyway. Eijirou tilts his head, confused. “My girlfriend? You know she’s engaged to Tetsu, right?”
All this fucking time, Katsuki’s been jealous for no fucking reason? And to Tetsu? The odd, silver dragon shifter he had met before? What the actual fuck, this was news to him. He can’t believe how misplaced his jealousy had been.
He reminds himself that he was never jealous. “Not important,” Katsuki grits.
“Uh, okay,” Eijirou blinks. “Anyway, she told me where the girl you’re looking for is.”
Just like that, their group finally has a direction.
It’s almost sundown when Izuku and Shouto make it back to the farmhouse. The day’s gone, and it’s Mandalay who tells the group they’re welcome to stay another night. The duo appears tired and disheveled, and Katsuki smirks to himself; all they had to do was put out a pack of wolves, and by the looks of it, the creatures had gotten the worst of them. There’s even a goddamn leaf sticking out of Shouto’s hair, and it’s vibrant green against his pale hair. What did they do, wrestle with the canines?
Really, this is who All Might decided would succeed him? This scrawny weakling who had spent an entire day hunting wolves and returned with scrapes and dirty clothes?
Katsuki’s in the kitchen with Mina and Eijirou when they arrive. He’s standing by the counter while the two are sitting by the table, drinking hot tea that Mandalay had prepared for them. The two dragon shifters bristle as soon as they enter, both sniffing the air. Eijirou scrunches his nose and looks away, his ears darkening, and Katsuki takes a moment to stare at his odd reaction.
On the other hand, Mina is not as subtle. She waves a hand in front of her face and stifles a chuckle, leaning towards Eijirou to whisper in his ear. Whatever she ends up telling him, it causes Eijirou to blush profusely, his shoulders tensing up. Katsuki doesn’t miss how Eijirou pulls away from her and glances at his direction.
Once their eyes meet, Eijirou looks away at an impressive speed and stands up. His knees hit the table, and he winces, rushing out of the room with an urgency that baffles Katsuki.
“What.” Katsuki scowls at Mina. He watches her angle her head away from Shouto when the latter passes to get water.
“Nothing,” she smiles, “please tell me you’re both taking baths tonight. It’s unbearable.”
Shouto turns to her once he realizes that he’s being addressed. From the doorframe, Izuku squeaks and ducks away, disappearing into the hallway. Shouto stares and asks, “What’s unbearable?”
“Oh, uh…” Mina flounders, attempting to search for the right words. She glances around the room in a bid to buy time. “You both smell like you just came back from mating season.”
“Sorry,” Shouto says, passively. He doesn’t seem the least bit sorry, nor does he seem the least bit embarrassed by this turn of events. His expression doesn’t give anything away, though Katsuki does observe that the tip of his ears are tinged red. Katsuki scowls at the image that appears in his mind and a disgruntled sound escapes him as he visibly shivers. Gods, he’d rather not have the image of Deku and Half-and-Half… rolling in the hay.
Apparently, the wolves hadn’t kept them out all day.
They had wasted time on other tasks, too.
“It’s not a big deal, the scent is only a little jarring,” Mina explains, “it’s worse for Ei, though, since he’s an alpha. It triggers his fight-or-flight response.”
“That’s strange,” Shouto mutters, “it has nothing to do with him.”
Mina scrunches her nose again, as if to emphasize a point. “No, but his dragon side sees it as a threat. It’s, uh… it smells territorial, in a way. I’m sorry, I know it’s strange… but we can only stand this scent if it’s coming from our own mates.”
Shouto pauses for a while. His fingers curl around the mug he’s holding, and he glances at Katsuki for a second. “I’ll keep that in mind,” he says, blinking. With disgust, Katsuki watches him bring the mug to his lips and gulp down its contents. Shouto puts the mug away and Mina reels away from him again when he makes his way to the door.
“Gross,” Katsuki mumbles with another shiver. “I didn’t need to fucking know what those two dumbasses do on their own time.”
The kitchen is quiet now that everyone else has left. There’s a movement of red outside the window and Katsuki turns to see Eijirou standing a great distance away, by the fence that surrounds the farm. He’s leaning over it, his back to Katsuki. He appears more relaxed now, shoulders calm, and he he’s staring at the sky. Mina had mentioned that the scent of Izuku and Shouto bothered him more, and Katsuki muses that he’s trying to get fresh air, so to speak.
“Dragon instincts,” Mina hums, “we can’t help that side of ourselves.”
Katsuki shrugs and turns back to look at her. She’s smiling at him, a certain amusement clear in her expression. “Heard you’re leaving,” Katsuki grumbles, hands shoved in his pockets.
With a grin, Mina quirks her eyebrows. “Don’t miss me too much!”
He ignores the teasing. “You’re giving up so quickly on trying to get Eijirou back, huh?”
“Hey! I tried my best!” she retorts with a giggle. It’s impressive how she isn’t the least offended by his statement.
“You’re happy about it, at least.”
Katsuki smirks. “Happy that you’re finally gone.”
“If you say so,” she grins, “not at all because you’re jealous of how I am with Ei.”
... this bitch. The smug expression on Katsuki washes away, making way for anger, and Mina appears proud of her accomplishment. It’s Katsuki’s fault, really; he had started it, and even he knows it.
“If you needed an explanation… I saw the way Ei looked at you, and I knew there was no damned hope I’d get him to come home with me,” she offers. Mina stretches her arms and cocks her head at him, and it’s not a challenge, not this time. There’s fondness behind her eyes and even Katsuki’s able to interpret it for what it is. It’s kindness, mixed with endearment, and Katsuki lifts his chin and frowns.
“What the fuck are you going on about now.”
“I didn’t ask a damn thing.”
Mina sticks her tongue out, waving a finger. “At least you’re being nicer. I’m glad you took my advice.”
Katsuki’s cheeks burn. “Fuck off, right now.”
“I will, soon! Maybe before the sun rises tomorrow!” she says with utmost confidence. “Don’t worry! I’ll tell Tetsu and the rest of the pack that Ei’s content staying here, with you. They would lay off if they knew that Ei was happy.”
She sniggers in response and Katsuki detests how easily she’s able to get under his skin. Mina stands up and practically hops out of the room; Katsuki watches her go. The girl’s a bubble of cheerfulness, and even Katsuki can tell why Eijirou overflows with affection with her. Somehow, it carries over to Katsuki, too—and he damn hates it. Katsuki shakes himself out of it when he realizes that he’s smiling as he watches her go.
That evening, after supper, the entire group crowds around the too-small table with their map spread over the surface. Mandalay is there, too, offering her input. She’s seated, along with Mina, while the rest of the look over their shoulders.
The farmhouse is situated on the main road, in an equal distance between the last city and the next. Expanses of mountains and forest surrounding the road, and there aren’t many landmarks on the map. Their next destination was, supposedly, the city to the North—to gather more information. However, Mina trails her fingers instead to ruins about two days before the city. It’s on the side of the mountain, nondescript and solitary.
“This is where the syndicate is said to be operating,” Mina says, voice solemn. “They’re using it as their base. Intel says that they’re weaponizing the girl’s ability… the leader is named Overhaul.
“Overhaul,” repeats Izuku. He has a hand on his chin and is meaningfully staring at the map. There’s an utmost look of concentration on him, and Katsuki groans, half-expecting him to go off on one of his irritating monologues.
Mina uses her finger to circle around the perimeter of the ruins. “They’ve probably got all this area covered. Please be careful.”
“I would suggest calling for more soldiers,” Mandalay says, “they would outnumber you.”
“No,” Katsuki grimaces. “If they heard we were coming, then they’d just fucking get up and go before any other idiots get here.”
Thankfully, the rest of them agree with Katsuki. They have no choice and this is their only chance of getting Eri back. Katsuki doesn’t miss how Mina frowns at Eijirou, and at how Eijirou avoids her stare. It’s a dangerous mission, and they all know this.
Soon, they disperse. Shouto and Izuku end up in one corner of the house, strategizing in low voices. The rest of the night, to Katsuki’s observation, Mina plasters herself to Eijirou’s side. She’s pleading and he can tell—so much for giving up. Eijirou’s trying his best not to snap at her, to instead comfort her and assure her that all will be fine. Katsuki watches them from the corner of his eye, a tinge of annoyance mixed with anxiety welling in him. When Eijirou glances at his direction, Katsuki realizes that it’s Eijirou’s emotions he’s feeling, not his.
When Katsuki wakes the next morning, Mina’s gone.
The following days are uneventful. They travel, cautious but with a direction. With it, Katsuki continues to watch Eijirou.
As usual, he learns more and more about the strange dragon shifter, even pointedly glares at him when he eats.
When Eijirou eats, he puts the entire thing in his mouth and crushes it in between his strange teeth, meat and bones and all. The sound of it bothers Katsuki, and Katsuki can’t help when one afternoon, he glares at Eijirou when the latter swallows the fish he’s chewing on. Katsuki watches him grab a waterskin and empty its contents down his throat in quick gulps.
“What?” Eijirou asks when he notices he’s being watched. He wipes his mouth with the back of his hand, and when he stares at Katsuki, his lips glisten with remnant water.
“The hell are these, even?” In a sudden movement, Katsuki reaches forward, grasping Eijirou by the jaw. “Open up.”
Blinking, Eijirou thinks about it for a moment. Then, he opens his mouth, and bristles when Katsuki hooks the side of his mouth with a thumb. Katsuki stares at his teeth so intently, ignoring how Eijirou’s lips are wet against his skin, how Eijirou’s looking at him awkwardly and allowing him to find his own answers.
“Damn weird,” mumbles Katsuki.
“Heh?” manages Eijirou.
“They’re smaller than the ones you gave me.”
“Uh, yeah.” When Eijirou speaks, his lips brush over Katsuki’s fingers. It tickles and Katsuki ignores the sensation, and the thrill that runs down his spine. His words come out muffled and strained as he attempts to form words while there are fingers prodding around his mouth. “The ones from before were from my shifted form.”
“You were a tiny lizard.”
Eijirou narrows his eyes—he hadn’t been that tiny, and he can tell that Katsuki’s messing with him.
Katsuki’s thumb presses against one fang, feeling it prick against his skin. It’s definitely sharp—sharper than the teeth that’s adorned on his neck, since the ones he had been given has been worn down after all the years he’s had it. He ignores the way that Eijirou stares, and when Eijirou swallows, Katsuki feels lips momentarily wrap around his thumb. Finally, he lets go, shoving his hand back to his side. The words escape without Katsuki’s permission when he asks, bluntly, “How the fuck do you even blow anyone with these?”
The blush that creeps over Eijirou’s face is astounding. It spreads at an incredible speed, all the way from his ears to his neck. Eijirou coughs, looks away in embarrassment, and doesn’t give a proper response.
If Eijirou has an answer to that, Katsuki will never know—because as soon as Katsuki realizes just what the fuck he’s asked, he bites his cheek and curses under his breath, turning away.
The clearings they stay in at night are often spacious enough that it was unnecessary to huddle together. However, Eijirou always finds his way next to Katsuki. Katsuki tells himself it’s unnerving, to have a goddamn furnace pressed against his side. It reminds him of the first night after they had left Eijirou’s nation, when Eijirou had offered Katsuki a spot under his wing.
“You’re so damn touchy,” Katsuki growls when Eijirou presses his face against Katsuki’s shoulder.
Eijirou glances up at him with an earnest hope. “Is this not okay?”
Katsuki pretends to think about it. Then, he says, “It’s whatever.”
As if spurred on by that night back in the farm house where they had slept side by side, Eijirou is suddenly bolder with his affection. Katsuki boils it down to his instincts as a dragon and he allows it, because he said he’d be nicer, right?
He tells himself that he’s only allowing this to help Eijirou battle his anxiousness. In the middle of the night, when Eijirou drapes an arm over his torso, Katsuki can’t sleep because of the surge of confusing thoughts; still, he allows it.
Katsuki can tell that this is how Eijirou deals with anxiety. The idiot’s touch-starved; it’s apparent to Katsuki. He fidgets less when Katsuki allows him to be more affectionate. Eijirou hasn’t shifted for days now, probably the longest he’s ever gone without morphing into a dragon. It makes him uneasy—that, in turn, makes Katsuki uneasy as well.
The affection calms him down.
In a way, Katsuki allows it because it gets rid of his own restlessness, too.
At least, that’s what he tells himself.
“We’re getting closer to the ruins,” Shouto mutters. They’re at the foot of one mountain, settling for the night. There’s a campfire crackling in the middle of the clearing, though it’s smaller than what they usually have to be less inconspicuous.
“Are you all right?” Izuku asks, voice laden with concern as he addresses Eijirou. The dragon shifter’s sitting cross-legged on the dirt, shoulders tense and hunched forward. His eyebrows are knitted in frustration and he’s tapping his fingers incessantly on his thigh, worrying his lower lip with his teeth.
“Uh, yes,” Eijirou responds, “the air is different here. I can’t explain it.”
Katsuki, who’s sitting a foot away from Eijirou, eyes him warily. Eijirou cracks his knuckles and frowns at the fire, not adding much to the conversation as the rest of the group continues with it.
“Perhaps we should ask for back up,” Shouto suggests.
Izuku shakes his head. “Kacchan had a point, Shouto. We can’t wait that long.”
Normally, Katsuki would get a smug expression on his face very time Deku said he was right. Now, though, he can’t help but be uneasy because of how Eijirou was acting. Izuku, too, notices that Katsuki’s distracted.
“You can still return. You have the choice of leaving,” Shouto glances at Eijirou. He’s giving kind words of reassurance. They can all tell that Eijirou’s antsy and nervous, his fingers hardening and practically ripping the cloth of his pants. “This is a mission for Yuuei, not your nation, Eijirou.”
“Stop that!” Katsuki fumes, reaching forward to smack Eijirou’s hand. As if shaken out of his trance, Eijirou flinches and his fingers return to normal.
It’s only then that Eijirou realizes that they’re all looking at him, expectant. Shouto looks puzzled, Izuku looks concerned, and Katsuki… Katsuki looks annoyed. “I don’t have a choice,” Eijirou says.
“You always have a choice, lizard-brains,” seethes Katsuki.
Eijirou frowns. “Do I need to explain how life bonds work, once more?”
“Listen, if you’re scared—”
“I’m not scared!” Eijirou snaps. “I haven’t shifted in days. I’d be so much better if I could shift right now. It’s unsafe, being in this weak form—I can’t even figure out what all these noises and scents are! Let me turn into a dragon. If you refuse to let me scout the area, then perhaps we should wait for more of your people to arrive.”
Shouto starts, “You can’t turn into a dragon now because it would command too much atten—”
Katsuki cuts him off. He reels, a manic anger flashing over his face. “Are you fucking calling being a human weak—”
“Kacchan,” Izuku sighs, trying to stop the argument from escalating further.
“Fuck this.” Katsuki stands and Eijirou stares at him as he does so. “You can leave for all I care, but I will not back out now and let that girl get away, again. We will get her and we will cure All Might, and even you and your whiny ass will not keep that from happening.”
With a frown, Eijirou says nothing else. Shouto and Izuku are quietly exchanging glances, and nobody else says a word when Katsuki stomps away towards the nearby river.
The river’s not far and it’s crowded by the shadows of the trees, ultimately quiet but not at all calming. He fumes, downright pissed, as he shrugs his cape off and washes his face with cool water. All the while, Katsuki curses again and again in his mind.
Lizard-brains had called his human side weak.
The word bubbles dangerously within Katsuki; it makes him want to throw up.
He had been weak, and that’s why All Might had been left as nothing but a shell of his former self. Katsuki clutches at the fangs around his neck, its blunt edges digging into the skin of his palm, and he watches the fucking river to calm himself down.
When Katsuki returns to the clearing, Shouto and Izuku get up and head for the river.
He can tell that the two dumbasses are giving him some privacy with Eijirou, who’s leaning against the base of a huge tree and is eyeing him with caution. There’s makeshift bedding underneath him and a blanket thrown over his lap, as if he’s ready to turn in for the night.
Eijirou’s kind, always has been. Despite Katsuki’s outburst, he hadn’t taken offense. Katsuki can tell by the soft smile that Eijirou gives him. The expression carries over the distance between them, and it causes his insides to flutter.
Katsuki approaches him and nudges his ankle with a foot. “The fuck are you smiling for.”
“Nothing,” Eijirou responds.
For a moment, there’s only silence between them. Katsuki stares at the ground, a million thoughts running through his mind. Eijirou waits the entire time.
“I’m the reason we need to get the girl back,” Katsuki mutters, “it was all my fault.”
“It wasn’t your fault.”
Katsuki glares. “The fuck do you even know what I’m talking about.”
Stupid, goddamn Deku.
“Hey,” Eijirou says, sitting up straighter, “come here.” He gestures for Katsuki to sit, and Katsuki obliges, even if reluctantly. He plops down across Eijirou.
“It was my fault,” Katsuki hisses. When Eijirou opens his mouth to respond, Katsuki cuts him off before another word is said. “Shut up. Don’t argue. It was my fault, and it’s fine. Just… just let me get the girl back, and it’ll be over and done with. We can take them, Eijirou. We’re both strong.”
Eijirou blinks, still not accustomed to Katsuki calling him by his name. “All right,” he breathes out. “I trust you. I… all right. Please, just be careful. Shit. Katsuki, I can’t afford to lose you.”
Something tugs at Katsuki’s chest at that statement. It catches him off-guard, and it’s as if he’d been knocked off his feet. Katsuki swallows the knot in his throat, and when he locks eyes with Eijirou, all he sees is a genuine concern.
“Of course, what the fuck.” Katsuki manages to say. “Then we can get the girl to get rid of this bond, too.”
He’s not sure why he said it; Eijirou’s eyes widen by a fraction when he does. Then, Eijirou smiles. “You’re determined to get rid of this bond, huh? Does it suck that much for you?”
Katsuki pauses. His chest hurts. “Don’t you want it gone, too?”
“I’m not sure what I want. What about you?”
“To be honest,” Katsuki exhales, “I don’t fucking know anymore.”
A tense silence passes and Eijirou scans over his face as if trying to find answers to a question he doesn’t know how to ask.
“Let’s sleep,” Eijirou whispers, “It will be a long day tomorrow.”
Since he can’t disagree with that statement, Katsuki nods. It’s familiar now, how Eijirou bumps their shoulders together as they settle on the ground. Eijirou’s warm against his side and Katsuki glares at the starless sky.
They’re silent for a long time and the only sign that he’s not alone is the warm shoulder that’s pressed against his. He can tell that Eijirou’s still uneasy, he can hear him digging hardened fingers against the ground.
“If you want to say something, say it,” Katsuki mumbles. He senses Eijirou flinch at the words.
Eijirou turns to his side. A tentative moment passes, and, a hand finds its way to his hip, asking him to turn. Katsuki bites his cheek and shifts until they’re facing each other.
“Katsuki, since you were honest for once in your life… I need to tell you something.”
“Fuck off, I’m always honest.”
Eijirou ignores his outburst. He smiles, and it causes Katsuki’s heart to skip a bit, an overwhelming amount of affection welling in him. “This bond between us, it doesn’t make me feel any differently from before.”
At that moment, Katsuki’s mood drops at drastic speeds.
He doesn’t feel anything? What, then, were all these emotions that rushed through Katsuki on a daily basis? Was he alone in all this?
“Nothing’s changed.” Eijirou’s voice is a whisper, barely intelligible, almost as if he’s scared of being heard. His fingers tremble and Katsuki feels it; recomposing himself, Eijirou inhales deeply before he continues. “I’ve… I’ve always wanted to be next to you. It’s stupid. Please don’t laugh.”
“I’m not laughing,” Katsuki mutters. His mind’s a mess.
“I’ve always yearned to find you.”
Katsuki does not understand what to say to that. Would it be dumb, to say he’s felt the same way, all these years? If the stupid emotional sharing is in any way true, then Katsuki’s confident that Eijirou knew he felt the same way.
“I have one more confession,” whispers Eijirou. For a moment, Katsuki simply stares at him. It’s electrifying, how Eijirou rubs his small circles on his hip with a thumb—how Eijirou looks at him, and only him. Right now, everything’s frozen and nothing else appears to matter aside from the loud hammering of Katsuki’s heart. His entire body burns, an intense blush spreading all the way to his neck, and Katsuki doesn’t trust himself to respond with anything intelligible. He can’t speak, there are no words, and so he quirks his eyebrows to urge Eijirou to go on. Eijirou swallows, slowly, and his next words are so quiet that Katsuki almost can’t hear it above the crackling of the fire. “I want to kiss you.”
Katsuki’s heart soars.
“I always want to kiss you,” Eijirou says, and his voice hitches ever so slightly in the middle of his admission.
“Why.” Katsuki hates himself when his question comes out raspy and stunned.
“I don’t know.” The fingers on Katsuki’s hips tighten ever so slightly when Eijirou presses their foreheads together, and he’s looking at Katsuki with so much hope. Eijirou’s entire expression is a question and their noses brush when Katsuki shifts a little to get a better look.
Their lips are so near, skirting on an opportunity that’s right there. If Katsuki leaned in even just a little more, he would find out how it would feel to kiss Eijirou, and he wondered if that would finally give an answer to a yearning that he’s felt for a decade now.
It would be so easy, so definitive, to finally close the gap.
Katsuki doesn’t realize he’s holding his breath until Eijirou reaches up to put a hand on the side of his face; it causes Katsuki to inhale sharply, and then there’s Eijirou, running a thumb over the curve of his jaw, still waiting for an answer.
Out of nowhere, they’re interrupted.
“Kacchan, are you awake?” calls out Izuku’s voice.
Both Eijirou and Katsuki jolt. They push away from each other at an amazing speed, and Katsuki swears that Eijirou makes an annoyed groan when he does. Katsuki sighs, too. He sits up with an irritated expression, scowling at Izuku who’s walking up to them.
“The fuck do you want, Deku!?” Katsuki fumes.
Stupid, fucking Deku.
Beside him, Eijirou sits up, too. He can see a flash of red from the corner of his eye. Izuku shrugs, ignoring the anger in his voice—he’s so accustomed to it he doesn’t even bother anymore. “Kacchan, your waterskin, you left it at the river,” he says, tossing it towards Katsuki’s direction. The container makes a soft sound as it falls on the grass near Katsuki’s leg. “Why are you both red in the face? Are you both perhaps falling ill?”
A soft chuckle resounds from Eijirou, and Katsuki flips Izuku off before he flops back on the ground. For a while, Katsuki can’t decide how he wants to settle. He can’t turn to his sides, because he’d be facing either the chuckling Eijirou or the baffled Izuku… and he refuses to see any of them. Hence, he lies on his back and throws an arm over his face, cursing under his breath the entire time.
“It’s nothing,” Eijirou says, “sorry for worrying you.”
Of course, Izuku lets it go, bidding Eijirou a good night’s sleep before taking his spot on the other side of the campfire.
A few moments pass and Eijirou doesn’t move, as if he’s waiting.
Finally, Eijirou moves, his knee knocking into Katsuki’s hip as he shuffles closer. A warm grip wraps around the arm that covers Katsuki’s face. Fingers curl around his wrist and when Eijirou nudges him, ever so gently, Katsuki takes it as a request and not a demand. With a sigh, Katsuki lowers his arm, letting it rest over his chest, and Eijirou doesn’t let go.
Eijirou’s towers over him, one hand on his arm, the other planted on the ground right next to his face. He leans over Katsuki, casting a shadow over him, and the fire flickers behind him. His expression is soft; that’s the only word that Katsuki has to describe it. Eijirou smiles at him, relaxed, his eyes half-lidded as he gazes at Katsuki in a way that causes Katsuki’s heart to stutter.
Katsuki stares. There’s a thumb rubbing against the pulse of his wrist, and Eijirou whispers, “Good night, Katsuki.”
A voice in the back of Katsuki’s head tells him to say something snarky, to push this man away just like he always does. Instead, Katsuki blinks, slowly. He says in a quiet voice, “‘Night, dumbass.” It’s not outright kind, but it’s more than he often gives, and he’s sure that Eijirou’s aware.
Eijirou sniggers at the nickname. He lets go of Katsuki’s arm and brushes the hair away from Katsuki’s forehead, and Katsuki forgets how to breathe. He almost thinks Eijirou will brush their lips together, to continue their previous conversation, but he doesn’t; Eijirou, instead, presses a chaste kiss in the spot between Katsuki’s eyebrows. He lingers there for just a moment, and when he pulls away, Katsuki can’t help but smirk at him.
“Prude,” Katsuki whispers, teasing. He grins, and Eijirou mimics his expression, eyes crinkling in amusement.
“I knew you wanted it.”
“Shut the fuck up and let me sleep.”
Eijirou smiles, plopping back down to the ground. He nudges Katsuki to turn to him and presses their foreheads together again, chasing after a warmth that Katsuki wants, too. Katsuki closes his eyes and inhales; Eijirou smells like fire, if there ever was such a thing. “After all this is over,” Eijirou says, “let’s talk about us.”
Again, Katsuki debates being snarky. “Let’s do that,” he agrees, surprising even himself.
The area around the ruins that the group’s targeting has an eerie atmosphere to it. For days now, they’ve felt as if they were being watched—and now, it was worse. It made Katsuki shiver even when it wasn’t cold, and Eijirou was becoming more antsy as the days passed. In a way, Katsuki wondered if the dragon shifter’s nervousness was carrying over to him.
Eijirou glances around a lot, his ears picking up sounds that humans can’t. He lifts his chin, too, and intakes scents that cause him to frown. Katsuki has no idea what Eijirou senses, and he can only guess that Eijirou has no idea what it is either.
The morning that they’re close enough to the ruins to actually make a move, they start early. The sun has barely risen and Izuku and Shouto have the map laid out, again. The ruins is about an hour’s walk away and is hidden by a narrow passageway between mountains. Eijirou looks like he as something to say with the way that he’s shifting between his feet, but he bites his cheeks and stays silent. He’s clawing at the hem of his shirt, ruining it again, and Katsuki scowls to get him to stop.
“Let’s go,” Shouto announces, putting the map aside.
They walk, silently, to the north. The sound of the forest is distracting Eijirou snaps his head at every little sound that he hears.
“Stop that,” mutters Katsuki, voice low. He slows his pace down to match Eijirou’s while the two of their companions walk ahead.
“Katsuki, there are people close by.”
“You’ve been saying that for days.”
“No, they’re closer now. ”
There’s a lot of frustration on Eijirou’s face, and it agitates Katsuki, too. Eijirou wraps a hand around Katsuki’s wrist, grasping, demanding his attention.
“What’s going on with you!?” Katsuki hisses, grabbing him by the front of his vest with his free hand and leaning in. He searches Eijirou’s face for answers; the dragon shifter’s pupils dilate under his watchful stare and he opens his mouth to say something. He’s about to speak when, out of nowhere, there’s a whirring sound.
The air is knocked out of Katsuki when Eijirou suddenly throws him to the ground, an arm to his chest. His back collides with the ground and Eijirou’s half-kneeling over him, face twisted in pain. Eijirou hadn’t been able to harden on time, the arrow had flown past them and had planted itself on a tree, but not before it had grazed Eijirou’s right arm. “Ow,” Eijirou whines, a little too nonchalantly for Katsuki’s liking.
There’s a weird scent in the air, it’s metallic and Katsuki scrunches his nose. He’s on his back, Eijirou hovering over him. The wound on Eijirou’s arm is shallow but there’s an unknown, oily substance that Eijirou wipes away with disgust. Poison? Neither of them have time to decipher the situation further before they hell Izuku and Shouto both rushing to them.
“You’re trespassing,” says a foreign voice, booming over the expanse of trees.
Katsuki shoves Eijirou and he sits up, ignoring how Eijirou’s not paying attention to the strangers who appear from where the arrow had been shot. There are two of them; the one who had spoken has a bow in his hands.
They’re both wearing masks that cover half of their face, and the masks are made into the shapes of bird beaks. The man with the bow stares at them with unimpressed eyes. The other man is easily twice his size, towering over him.
“We’re here for the girl,’ Shouto states loudly, direct to the point. “That’s our only purpose here.”
“You can’t have her.”
Katsuki rolls his eyes—it’s the most ridiculous and useless conversation he’s ever heard in his life. There are sparking sounds as Izuku’s arms gather energy, and Shouto is getting ready to fight, too. It’s immediate, how the adrenaline courses through Katsuki’s veins; he stands up with a manic grin on his face.
… then he realizes that Eijirou’s not reacting to any of this.
One of the men, the one without any weapons, rushes forward and both Izuku and Shouto get on the defensive.
“Lizard brains!” Katsuki snaps. “Oi!”
Eijirou says nothing.
There’s a loud, clattering sound as Izuku’s fist collides with the enemy. Their surroundings get colder, too—Shouto’s using his ice. There’s a lot of yelling, and Katsuki can’t wait to be a part of it… but—
“Eijirou, what the hell?” Katsuki hisses. “What, you don’t want to fight!?”
With that, Eijirou looks up at him with utmost confusion. “Katsuki…”
“Shift! You can turn into a damn dragon and fight, now.”
Eijirou gapes, shock evident on his face. Katsuki’s never seen him look as frightened before, his face pale. It sends chills down Katsuki’s spine, makes his blood run cold. Slowly, Eijirou stares at his own wide-open palms then back at Katsuki.
“What are you waiting for!?” Katsuki pushes his shoulder. “Turn into a dragon and fight!”
“No, Katsuki, I can’t—”
“What do you mean you can’t?”
“It’s not—” The way that Eijirou stares at him at that moment crushes Katsuki. His eyebrows furrows in frustration, his lower lip trembles and his voice is shakey. He clenches his hands close, tightly, his nails digging into the skin of his palm until they’re practically bleeding. “I don’t… I don’t know, it’s not working. I’m trying.”
“Stop that.” Katsuki grabs Eijirou’s hands, prying his hands open. All around them, the fighting goes on. He can vaguely hear Izuku call them, telling them to move, yet Katsuki’s all too focused on the shock in Ejirou’s eyes. There’s full blown panic in the dragon shifter; Eijirou curses under his breath, yanking his hands away from Katsuki in a rough manner.
“The arrow was enchanted,” Eijirou concludes. “I can’t shift… can’t even harden. What the hell, Katsuki—”
Katsuki manages to say, “Lizard brains, pull it together.”
However, Eijirou’s not listening. He stoops his head and punches the ground and his knuckles scrape against the rocky ground, and he doesn’t budge from the pain even if Katsuki knows it hurts. Eijirou mumbles something under his breath, a foreign language, and Katsuki’s only heard him slip into those words a few times before. They’re curses and frustrated words and Eijirou’s lost from the present.
Katsuki could leave him here; he could run back the fight and leave the dragon shifter to fend for himself. Instead, he growls and slams his hands into Eijirou’s red hair, clutching at them and forcing him to look up. With a hiss, Eijirou simmers at him.
“Pull it together, fuck,” Katsuki leans in close until their foreheads are pressed, “Eijirou, focus.”
With labored breathing, Eijirou locks eyes with him. There’s something different in his eyes, they look more human than Katsuki has ever seen them. It’s strange; Katsuki can feel it, too. There’s a sensation in his chest that makes him feel that a part of him had been taken away. The sensation makes him want to vomit, makes him want to bury his face in his arms and not care about anything else.
And, if it’s that’s bad for him, it was probably even worse for Eijirou.
“Kacchan!” Izuku screams from behind him.
It’s too fast for Katsuki to keep up. Eijirou’s eyes widen and before he can react, Katsuki’s pushed to the side; he collides with the dirt ground, wincing, and Eijirou’s covering half of his body with his own—the fucking idiot.
“Shit, shit,” Eijirou hisses.
Katsuki exhales, “What the fuck.” There’s blood on his arm, and it’s not his. Eijirou had been hit by another arrow—on the shoulder this time. “Why the fuck did you do that!?” Did the idiot forget that he couldn’t harden? It was probably instinct to him at this point, and Katsuki pushes him off, watches him grit in pain.
There’s another yell of pain—Izuku’s. There’s a cracking sound as the moron’s thrown against a tree, and Katsuki turns to see the large man walking to him. He’s huge, and he’s fast, and judging from how he was able to throw Izuku aside… he was powerful.
“Rappa, get the dragon,” the boss commands, “we could use him for our research.”
Katsuki sees absolute fucking red, his palms sparking immediately. His hands warm up and he’s ready to let off the biggest explosion he’s ever made in his life. This asshole called Rappa didn’t stand a chance.
“Are you sure about that?” the man with the bow says, and Katsuki sees that he’s right next to Izuku who’s passed out. The idiot. Shouto’s not moving, an expression of horror on his face as he shakes his head furiously at Katsuki. The ma explains, “My ability… it’s to destroy.” He’s standing over Izuku, now; slowly, he places his hand on a tree to demonstrate.
The tree shatters underneath his palm, disassembling into nothing.
“Katsuki,” Shouto exhales, “don’t do anything.”
The huge man, the one they call Rappa, is incensed. He yells, “Let me fight, Overhaul!”
Overhaul ignores his companion’s outburst. He responds, in a voice that is much too calm for Katsuki’s liking, “If the dragon comes with us, then we won’t hurt him.”
Katsuki yells. “The shitty dragon’s not—”
“I’ll go!” Eijirou blurts out, because of course he fucking will.
“Eijirou,” Katsuki grits, his blood running cold.
There’s a standstill, and Eijirou leans close to Katsuki. He’s panting, his eyes are glassy and half-lidded—as if he’s about to pass out. He whispers in Katsuki’s ear, “You’ll be able to find me, Katsuki. The bond will lead you to me, for now we have to keep them from killing Izuku.”
Stupid. Fucking. Deku.
For a moment, there’s only silence, and Katsuki realizes that they’re all waiting for him to respond. As if this was his choice, what the fuck.
“Fine,” mumbles Katsuki, even if he’s never been more unsure in his life. Eijirou sighs and stands up, and he’s the only one moving as he makes his way towards the man named Overhaul. Everyone’s quiet, albeit for Rappa who punches a tree out of frustration. Katsuki watches Eijirou stand in front of Overhaul, watches Shouto slowly make his way to Izuku.
“No sudden movements,” Overhaul tells Katsuki, as if he knows that Katsuki might try something now, “your friend is nothing but a human now, remember that.”
Katsuki grits his teeth, watches the group leave until Eijirou’s nothing but a blur of red, and then he’s gone.
Eijrou walks with them, he walks until he’s tired; his brain’s fuzzy and his arm is limp on his side.
The next thing he knows, he’s in a room with no windows… he must have passed out. Sitting up straight with a groan, he massages his temples and looks at his surroundings. There’s nothing but a bed in the room, and it’s dark and cold, almost like a prison.
A sound startles him and he instantly tenses up. Any other time, his skin would have hardened even before he thought about it, because the noise was a threat and his body knew it. This time, though, nothing happens. He only has his human skin to protect him, and realizes with horror that he’s got nothing to defend himself with.
Eijirou growls, and it’s weaker, it doesn’t hold the same intensity as it usually does. Seriously, even that was taken from him?
“H-hi,” a soft voice says and a young girl peeks from the slightly ajar door.
“Uhm, hello,” Eijirou responds weakly, his shoulders relaxing as he stands up.
The girl enters the room. She barely reaches his hips, and she has light-colored hair and a… a horn? She has a single horn protruding from her forehead. The girl timidly stands on the other side of the room, by the door; there’s a bowl of porridge in her hands. “I was told to bring you food,” she explains.
Eijirou’s stomach makes a loud, embarrassing noise.
He’s always been trusting, sometimes to a fault. In his defense, she’s only a child, and he doubts that this is some sort of illusion quirk. At least, that’s what he thinks.
“What’s your name?” Eijirou asks.
The name rings a bell almost immediately. Eri! She’s the girl that had been kidnapped, the one with the ability that could undo. The child looks clean and kept, her clothes are tidy and there’s no dirt on her skin. If anything, she looks taken care off; she doesn’t appear to be someone who’s in captivity, and she’s also walking around freely to give him food.
It’s suspicious, but…
Well, Eijirou hasn’t eaten in hours.
“There’s no meat,” Eri tells him.
That seems to bring a smile to Eri’s face. She walks over, her eyes glancing everywhere from the bare walls to her feet. There aren’t any tables in the room so she places it in his hands, and he takes it—it’s cold. There’s no meat, and it’s cold. Sighing in exasperation, he plops down on the ground. Eri simply stands there, staring earnestly.
“Do you want some?” Eijirou asks... he hopes she’ll say no.
Eri shakes her head furiously. “Is your shoulder alright, mister? The doctor fixed it for you.”
“My shoulder’s fine.” He’s not used to injuries, his ability makes sure of that. His shoulder is bandaged and had been rubbed with ointment. The wound stings when he moves, and he’s only thankful he didn’t lose too much blood. His mind’s still a daze, though.
The enemy had actually taken care of his wounds.
Then he remembers that they want him for ‘research’ and a sour taste gathers in his throat at the thought of it.
Eri hums in reply and she hops over to the bed, sitting on the edge of it. Her legs sway in the air and she watches Eijirou eat his meal. She’s too trusting, Eijirou thinks—but so is he. They make quite the pair.
“I’m sorry they stole your abilities… they stole your abilities, right?” she asks.
Grimly, Eijirou nods. “I’m a dragon shifter.”
“I was in your country!” Eri exclaims it with glee, as if finding common ground, as if she wasn’t in a bad situation at the moment. In a way, Eijirou’s amazed by her spirit. “Wait, why’d you leave? I thought dragons don't leave!”
“Oh, I… well, I left because I had to.”
“You had to?”
Eijirou blinks and looks at her. Wide, curious eyes stare back at his earnestly; she tilts her head to the side, urging him to go on.
“Don’t you want to tell me?” she asks, innocently.
With a laugh, Eijirou sets the bowl and the spoon down on the ground and attempts to recollect his thoughts. “Hah, I don’t know why I’m telling you this, but you’re easy to talk to… I left because… because it felt right.”
“I don’t understand.”
He exhales, “It started long ago, I guess. Ever since I can remember, there has always been this nagging feeling in me, telling me that a part of me is missing. Then about a decade ago, I met this rude kid, and it made sense from there.”
“Who was it?” Eri seems enthralled by the story. It’s almost as if Eijirou’s telling her a fairy tale and she leans forward with a wide, curious expression. “Who was the rude kid? How did it make sense?”
Immediately, Eijirou’s cheeks darken and he coughs the embarrassment away. “His name’s Katsuki. A decade ago, when I saw him, I don’t know... it’s as if I understood where I had to be… but he was a human and humans aren’t allowed in our country, so I made him leave.”
“I see.” She blinks at him, urging him to go on.
“Strangely enough, he showed up in our country a few weeks back… and… uh, like I said, humans aren’t allowed in our country so I got him to agree to bond his soul with me so he could walk out alive.”
Eri giggles at that. She actually giggles, and Eijirou’s face warms up even further. Even the child knows the connotations behind what he had done. Great.
“So… that’s it. That’s why I left my country and ended up travelling with them. The soul bond doesn’t allow me to stray too far from him. Even right now, ugh… I don’t know. I can’t stand it. There’s an unexplainable feelings, always, to find him.”
“Even now?” Her voice is baffled.
“But, mister…” she whispers, as if it were a secret, “the poison should have erased the bond.”
Ejirou blinks at her. What…?
She looks just as confused as he does, and they stare in silence. Eijirou attempts to unpack her words.
The bond was? Gone?
“Oh!” she exclaims, startling him. There’s delight on Eri’s face. Her expression lightens up and Eijirou thinks that this expression looks best on her. Eri’s mouth widens into a huge smile as she clasps her hands together in excitement. “I get it, mister! He’s your soulmate.”
It’s a strange word. Even if he’s heard it numerous times before, Eijirou still has no idea about what it truly means. There are myths behind it. He knows that it’s true, that it’s possible, and he’s seen a few people claim that they have them.
“Soulmate,” repeats Eijirou, smiling; he’s humouring her, now.
“Yes!” Eri giggles. “It’s when the gods want you to be together. My mama used to tell me stories about it! They say most people can’t explain it, but in their heart they know it’s true! That they just… just have to be next to someone. How exciting!”
“Sounds like a soul bond to me!”
“Yes, but,” she giggles, again, “the bond is gone right now, right? You’re no longer a dragon shifter, only a human.”
The words hit Eijirou as if a bucket of ice water had been thrown over him. His throat goes dry and he stares, realizing that she’s right. His dragon side had been taken away; all his abilities were gone. He’s only a human; the bond had been part of his dragon side, and it was gone.
Except that it wasn’t.
He still yearns for Katsuki, like always.
Amidst unpacking the fact that he’s lost all his abilities, he has this to think about, too?
“Yes,” Eijirou agrees with a laugh, “perhaps we’re soulmates.”
Eijirou meant to say it as a joke, yet a huge weight is lifted off his shoulders as soon as he says it. It’s as if the pieces fall together, just like that.
It’s a mess. The entire situation is a mess. Eijirou forces a smile, watches the girl grin at him with newfound energy.
“I need to get out of here,” he tells her. “I’ll take you with me.”
The expression on Eri’s face drops, her eager grin curving into a solemn one. Eijirou decides not to address it.
i'm just getting these... plot thingies... out of the way, hhhh. i've typed most of the fluffy & kinda-steamy make out scenes but this chapter was one huge blank lmao, so i finally power thru-d it. sorry this chapter took a while, hope nobody lost interest ;) whoa i can't believe we're at 10 and nobody's kissed i've never done this before
Eijirou feels as if he’s been trapped in the room for two days now. All he sees is the little girl, who brings him food three times a day, and spends time with him during the other hours. She seems free to roam around—he isn’t. Since he’s not used to having none of his abilities, he knows it wouldn’t be smart to try his luck.
The room’s… nothing. It drives him crazy. There’s barely any light and warmth in it; Eijirou’s positive that if he has to endure more of this, he’d most likely lost it.
The man whose codename is Overhaul sees him on his second night. Eijirou’s on the floor, cross-legged, and Eri’s sitting across him. They had been playing a guessing game, one that Eri claims she had played a lot with her mother. The moment he opens the door, Eri freezes, and there’s a tension in the room that causes angers Eijirou. Her entire face goes white even if her back is to the door, and Eijirou has the strongest urge to pull her close. Ice runs through his veins as he sees the fright on her face and her shoulders shake as Overhaul speaks, addressing Eijirou.
“Tomorrow, you will accompany me,” he tells him, “we need to understand your abilities.”
“I don’t have any abilities,” he mumbles, and it’s the truth; they had taken it away from him, or had they forgotten that?
“Don’t worry about that. The poison is temporary. It should wear off soon.”
Eijirou frowns as Eri seems to cower even further, shrinking. Her light hair falls over her face and Eijirou has never seen anybody look more frightened, ever. “If it wears off soon, then I can get out of here,” Eijirou states, confused. It’s stupid to point out, but he thinks it’s a trap—Katsuki would probably call him a dumbass for even mentioning it at all.
“You could.” Overhaul’s voice is slow but concise, and he gestures towards Eri. “However, from what we’ve gathered, you wouldn’t leave this child here with us.”
“Papa…” squeaks Eri. “Please don’t…”
“Papa?” Eijirou repeats, puzzled.
“Come, Eri,” Overhaul calls. Carefully, Eri gulps and stands up, not even casting Eijirou another look. Her fists are balled to her side as she makes her way towards Overhaul, who puts an arm around her shoulders. “You won’t be coming to visit this man anymore,” he says, voice low.
He intends to keep Eri as his leverage—he knows that Eijirou wouldn’t leave her behind. A sour taste gathers in Eijirou’s throat, makes him want to throw up. Eijirou’s lips are a thin line, eyes narrowed as he watches Overhaul usher Eri out the room. The door makes a loud click as he locks it behind him, and Eijirou knows that he’s right… he would never leave the child behind.
“Katsuki,” Eijirou mumbles into the empty room. “What the heck’s taking you so long…?”
Was it the bond? He had told Katsuki that the bond would guide him, but… the bond’s gone.
Has he been abandoned?
Just as it’s been since the first night, Eijirou lies completely awake. The room’s cold, an eerie silence envelopes him—he hates it, it reminds him that his sensitive hearing is gone along with the abilities the other half of his soul had given him. He has no idea what’s going on... there might even be someone walking outside his door, and he wouldn’t have a clue. The thought keeps him awake on the too-hard bed that they’ve given him.
Judging by how long the sun’s been gone, he guesses that it was probably around midnight.
He’s going to go out of his mind, he just knows it. The only aspect of all this that keeps him sane is the girl named Eri, and she’s been ordered to stay away. Shit. And, tomorrow, he was going to be studied? What does that even mean? He’s aware that his kin’s coveted. They’re strong, and that’s why they mostly stay away from these greedy humans. Humans were incapable of living peacefully, they yearned for what they shouldn’t have. Eijirou understands now why his kind always sought to hide themselves.
Humans were horrible.
But… not Katsuki.
Katsuki has a good heart.
He snorts at the thought. Brash, rude Katsuki, who has a permanent scowl on his face—he has a good heart, and Eijirou would defend that to the grave. Only weeks have passed, but Eijirou’s adamant that Katsuki’s intentions were in the right place. He could tell from the emotions they shared; from the concern and worry that Katsuki failed to hide, to the affection that he so hesitatingly gave.
Eijirou very much wants to see him again.
He’s not even sure he’ll be given another chance.
Eijirou’s still wide awake when he hears it.
It’s an explosion, and it startles him to sit upright, adrenaline quickly coursing through him. It’s muffled, but he can hear yells and panic. He stares at the door, hears multiple footsteps run past. The explosions come after another, and he knows it’s Katsuki.
From the other side of the door, he hears someone yell, “They’ve got explosions! And ice magic!”
Eijirou’s heart pounds in his chest.
He sits there, bracing himself, waiting patiently until there are no other footsteps rushing by. Finally, he gets up and stomps over to the door. It’s still locked, but… well, even without his abilities, he’s still strong. He could probably kick the door down. It looks flimsy and worn-down, and he’s confident he can—
The lock clicks; the door opens, slowly, and a voice squeaks from the other side. “Mister?”
“E-Eri?” Eijirou asks, baffled. He yanks the door open, and Eri stands there, shoulders shaking. “Why are you here?”
“I-I came to get you,” she says, quietly. “Papa often forgets I’m here.”
Of course they would forget her amidst the turmoil and the fighting. In the first place, it was fortunate that they didn’t appear to care about her all that much, allowing her to freely walk as she wished. She probably had a room that wasn’t even locked.
Another explosion goes off, and then there’s a shout that jostles Eijirou.
“Give me back my shitty dragon!” Katsuki’s voice is loud, it rings in Eijirou’s ears, makes his heart skip a beat despite the turmoil that’s going on around them. A loud explosion and a lot of yells accompanies Katsuki’s outburst, and Eijirou takes a moment to compose himself. Katsuki. Finally.
Another blast resounds through the halls, and it seems to be getting louder and closer. Eijirou sticks his head out and can see shadows dancing from around the corner, and then there’s a loud collision and more yelling.
“I can’t take you to the fight, I can’t defend you…” Eijirou admits.
Eri points towards the other end of the hall, away from all the fighting. There’s nothing but darkness and Eijirou stares. “We could run… to the forest.”
“Do you know the way?”
He doesn’t give her the chance to say more. The enemy’s leverage is her, and he had seen just that when they had used her to threaten him from fighting or running. The best decision he can make is to get her far away as possible, to make sure that they can’t use her as a bargaining point. Eijirou grabs her wrist and tugs, practically dragging her as he runs towards the dark hallway that she had pointed to.
They run away from the fight, from Katsuki, and right now it’s the most reasonable decision.
“Over there!” Eri says.
They pass by a dozen ajar doors. The hall’s narrow and there’s only the sporadic lamp to light their way, and Eijirou almost trips over debris more than once. It doesn’t take long until he finally sees the exit. The moment they rush out of it, fresh air fills his lungs, and it takes him a moment to readjust to their surroundings. He looks behind him, at the strange ruins they had been using as a hideout, and then at the expanse of trees before them.
“Child!” The voice that calls out is loud but unclear, coming from the direction they had come from. Eijirou had heard it before.
“R-Rappa,” Eri stammers, and she latches to Eijirou’s arm tightly, burying her face to his side. “Mister, let’s go back. This was a mistake.”
“No, it’s fine,” Eijirou tells her, “we need to run, let’s go.”
Thundering footsteps can be heard; it’s strangely loud, as if it belonged to a giant, and Eijirou’s reminded of who Rappa is. It’s that large man that had ambushed them in the forest. He can see why Eri’s frightened. She shakes at his side, fingers clutching at his skin, causing him to wince. Eijirou lifts her, ignoring her slight yelp, and runs towards the forest. He’s relieved when Eri wraps her arms around his shoulders, accepting her decision, even if her touch is icy against his skin.
As they run, Eijirou can hear the enemies yelling and running after them. The forest is dark and Eri clings to him, shaking in his arms. They pass through crowded bushes and Eijirou ducks underneath multiple branches, almost tripping more than once. He’s panting, now—even his stamina had been greatly reduced.
It takes Eijirou a while longer to realize that despite the darkness of the forest, he can see. It’s not as clear as it should be, but the senses of his dragon side are back… but not completely. Even the footsteps that rush towards them are louder than they should be, signalling that his hearing is getting better, too.
It’s overwhelming to realize that the effects of the poison they had forced upon him were finally starting to wear off. An overwhelming happiness washes over him, as if a part of his soul that’s been ripped away has returned.
There’s clearly no time to celebrate as a whirring sound travels through the air and Eijirou panics immediately.
The arrows. The poison.
Almost on instinct, he throws himself to the ground, crushing Eri beneath him. Eri shrieks, surprised, even if Eijirou cushions the fall with his arms. He grabs her by the arm and pulls her behind a tree, which is futile; he knows it’s futile.
“Sorry,” Eijirou says, staring at his arms as he experimentally tries to see if he can harden, too. A ripple travels from his elbow to his hands, jagged edges that causes Eri to gasp in surprise when she feels it on her skin where he’s holding her. “It’s… it’s still not fully back. It’s too weak.”
“I-it will come back,” Eri stammers, “slowly.”
Eijirou nods. There’s intense worry on his expression that he can’t will to hide even if he tries, and Eri stares at him with wide eyes and trembling lips.
They both flinch when they hear the enemy come closer. Branches and bushes are crushed underneath Rappa, and he runs as if there’s nothing in his way.
“Give me back,” Eri says, weakly.
“They won’t hurt me… at least… they won’t kill me… Papa always brings me back, after he destroys me.”
“What…?” Eijirou’s throat goes dry at her words. She’s shaking, again, and hunches over herself and hugs her arms. It causes Eijirou to shake, too—he doesn’t know if it’s because of horror, anger, or fright. This girl in front of him is so fragile, so young, and she’s been through so much. He doesn’t understand what she means by bringing her back after destroying her… and he won’t ask. All he wants to do is protect her.
Which is why, when someone yells and lunges at them, Eijirou doesn’t even think twice. He pushes Eri aside and musters up as much of his ability as he can. It’s not enough, severe pain shatters him as a fist collides with his head and sends him crashing to the ground.
Rappa’s a beast. He stands before them, towering over them, a manic sound resounding from his throat as he laughs. Eijirou clutches at his head, feels it damp with blood as he attempts to recompose himself.
He’s useless like this. He’s got no abilities… if only he could turn to a dragon, then it wouldn’t even be a match—even if he could only turn Unbreakable in his human form, then it would be much better. He’s useless like this, and the realization courses through him, freezing him. Even if Eri’s there and relying on him, he can’t do a thing.
“Hand the girl over!” Rappa yells.
Eijirou should refuse. He should do something, but he’s frozen in fear. The fear that he’s only a human with no strength causes him to not even flinch.
It’s only when Rappa steps forward that it dawns on Eijirou that he’s about to hand over the fragile girl, again… to that person called Overhaul, who’s apparently, destroyed her again and again. Eijirou growls at Rappa, gritting his teeth, and Rappa simply smirks at him in response.
“You’re not a dragon anymore, boy,” sneers Rappa.
Eijirou tries. He tries to harden his skin, especially when he sees Rappa’s fist coming at his head, again. He puts up his arms to defend himself and it’s useless, another blow hits him and his back collides against the dirt, his head crashing against mud and stone. Shit. It hurts so much, every single bone in his body feels like it’s broken. Eijirou gasps for air and his vision blurs.
Rappa’s laughter fills him with dread and even Eri’s shriek can’t get him to stand up.
Useless… human bodies are so fragile, Eijirou thinks.
Just when he thinks it’s the end of the road, that Eri’s about to be taken away, there’s a loud explosion.
He can’t tell what goes on next. His entire body’s in pain and he can hear a lot of yelling and scrambling, and then Eri’s by his side and clutching at his shirt with fragile hands, begging him. He can’t make out her words amidst all the noise.
A warm hand brushes over his cheek. Eri leans over him, her hair falling against his forehead, and Eijirou forces himself to listen to her words. She says, “I can heal you. I have enough energy to heal you, mister. A-at least so you won’t die.”
A ringing courses through Eijirou’s mind. Her touch is calming, it’s fuzzy against his skin, and it makes the pain subside. The pain isn't gone, not completely, yet it helps. He leans into her hand, feels her support his weight with her own fragile hold. Eijirou mutters, “Run…”
Apparently, she’s a stubborn girl, and she ignores his request. It’s a strange feeling, how the wound on his head seems to close in on itself, how his mind becomes a lot less dazed in mere seconds. The side of his head is still drenched in blood, but the wound isn't as bad anymore. When he opens his eyes, Eri is there, smiling at him. The horn on her head appears to be much smaller than it was before, a fact that doesn’t escape Eijirou despite the entire mess of things.
“Amazing,” whispers Eijirou, “heal yourself, too. You’re hurt, right?”
“I can’t,” she smiles, her exhaustion clear, “mister, it’s fine. Your soulmate is here.”
Ah, she means Katsuki.
Shouto and Izuku are there, too. He can tell by the ice that barricades him and Eri from the rest of the fight—why hadn’t he noticed that before? On the other side, he can hear Izuku’s voice—that boy’s so soft-spoken outside of battle, it’s daunting to hear him yell with each strike he makes.
“It still hurts a lot,” Eijirou laughs.
“I… I could only heal you enough to not die,” Eri admits, “mister, we need to…”
Whatever she says next is drowned out when Eijirou closes his eyes and thinks of nothing.
Was the battle over? He can’t tell. Everything seems more quiet, so it might be.
Eri’s gently tugged off his chest and another hand replaces hers. It’s larger, calloused, and it smells like smoke. Of course, he knows it’s Katsuki. Grunting, Eijirou attempts to open his eyes.
Katsuki looks like a mess. His face is covered in dirt and his hair is tousled even more than it usually is. There’s blood on his cheek that Eijirou wants to brush away. Katsuki’s scrunches his eyebrows together and purses his lips into a thin line, and Eijirou wants to tell him to look a bit happier about meeting again, damn.
The poison is definitely wearing off because Eijirou feels the same intense emotions he felt when the bond had been in place, emotions that he’s come to relate to Katsuki. There’s yearning in his chest and an enormous joy that wells up in him, and he cracks a smirk at Katsuki—who frowns in return.
Katsuki holds him by the arms and tugs him until he sits up, and Eijirou goes slack against him, closing his eyes, again. He could make an effort to move, to fight to stay awake, but at the moment he feels safe. Eijirou feels fingers card through his hair and a familiar voice that calls out to him, and it’s warm, everything’s warm. An arm snakes its way around his shoulders, keeping him upright, and Eijirou smiles. “Katsuki,” he says, softly.
“How are you, dipshit?”
Katsuki should seriously learn to be better with his words… but then Eijirou’s breathing evens out and he doesn’t have the energy to open his eyes, even if he wants to see Katsuki. Fingers stop carding through his hair and instead a hand trails down to Eijirou’s nape, resting there, steadying him, and Eijirou can’t help but duck his face into the warmth of Katsuki’s shoulder.
“Eijirou,” Katsuki says, “wake up.”
Everything around him is slowly devolving into oblivion, his thoughts fuzzy and blank. His head’s drenched in blood but even the pain of his injuries feel like nothing now. Katsuki shakes him gently and he can sense the concern in Katsuki, can hear worried voices around them as Eri starts to cry.
Katsuki repeats, “Ei.”
“What happened to my dragon…” Eijirou mumbles and Katsuki flinches when he hears that.
“You fucking idiot, joking at a time like this.” He can practically hear the embarrassment in Katsuki’s voice; it makes him feel better. Eijirou hears muffled words that are spoken against his temple. Right before he blacks out, he hears Katsuki speak, and the words are undeniable. “Come back to me, Ei,” Katsuki tells him, and Eijirou wants to open his eyes and see… instead, he passes out.
hello and welcome to more of my word vomit teehee. dont @ me, i dont know what i'm doing like 98% of the time!! (full credits about the my shitty dragon thing goes to ever teehee.) Please dont tell me that i got eri's quirk wrong, this is an au 👉👈
uhm hi i'm upping the rating to E cos i've written parts of the other chapters and they are... they are definitely more than a mature rating :||||
Eijirou goes in and out of consciousness. His mind and body’s an absolute mess; it’s no longer painful, just a constant stream of static that invades his head. He doesn’t understand how many hours or days pass. Somehow, he can make sense of figures hovering over his bed, of voices that make little sense to him. Even his sleep is dreamless.
When Eijirou regains a hold of reality, even by just a little, he realizes that they’re moving . A carriage, perhaps? When did they get a carriage? He’s lying on his side with a thick blanket thrown over him and he can hear the rattling of wheels. He blinks slowly, attempting to focus.
There are bandages wrapped around his head and the smell of herbs is overwhelming.
There are voices, too.
“He’ll be okay, Kacchan.” Izuku’s voice.
Katsuki’s voice responds and Eijirou’s heart skips a beat. “I know he’ll be okay. Holy shit, shut up already, you’ve said the same crap for the last three days.”
He’s been out of it for three days ?
His head hurts a lot. His throat is awfully dry, and he’s starving… but he’s also very, very exhausted that even just the thought of sitting up is too much.
“Kacchan.” There’s concern in Izuku’s voice. “He’ll be okay.”
“I swear to the gods, Deku — ”
Eijirou would smirk, if he had the energy. He laughs in his mind; then he closes his eyes, again.
It’s dark the next time he regains consciousness. He’s still in the carriage, its doors open. This time, he sits up, wincing because his limbs feel like they’ve been unused for forever.
The carriage isn’t grand, it could fit at most four people but at least it has a roof. Only now does he realize that he’s lying on a makeshift bed — it’s a mess of thick blankets.
Eijirou wonders how they could find horses that allowed themselves to be around an alpha dragon. He was, still, an alpha dragon… right?
He can make out the flickering colors of a fire outside the carriage — they’ve set camp for the night, it seems. Eijirou sits there, eyes narrowed and silent, wondering if he should attempt to stand.
He hears muffled chatter for the campsite. There are more voices accompanying the group he’s grown accustomed to. The voices are foreign to him, makes him wonder just how much has changed, and what… what’s happened?
“Mister!” Eri’s shrill voice snaps him out of his reverie. She stands by the door, a huge smile easily spreading over her features. Before Eijirou can react, she turns and runs off, yelling Katsuki’s name.
Eijirou slumps forward and wraps the blanket around himself, fingers curling into the thick cloth. He feels sheepish and embarrassed and would rather that Katsuki not see him in such a state… but, really, it was too late for that now.
He only hopes that Katsuki brings him water.
Soon enough, Katsuki arrives. He’s frowning, which Eijirou had expected. Fortunately, he has a waterskin with him.
“Hi,” Eijirou croaks.
The carriage creaks when Katsuki gets on it, and he takes a seat beside Eijirou and removes the lid from the waterskin before handing it over. Eijirou fumbles with it as if he’s not sure how to use his hands, a blush quickly taking over his cheeks because he feels useless and watched. He somehow brings the drink to his mouth, and it’s good; it refreshes his throat immediately.
After gulping down everything, Katsuki takes the waterskin from him and tosses it aside, forgotten. Katsuki’s still frowning, red eyes looking right at Eijirou’s and Eijirou stares back at him with a sheepish smile.
“Do you want food?” Katsuki asks. “The army brought meat.”
“The army, wow.” His voice still croaks despite the water he drank.
“They were late to the fight,” Katsuki explains, “but they met up with us with carriages and food, and horses that didn’t freak the fuck out with your presence. Apparently, Deku sent them letters.”
"I don't think I'd be able to hold food down," Eijirou says, smiling weakly.
Again, Katsuki frowns. "All right," he mumbles, "I'll ask them to make you chicken soup or whatever — to ease you in."
Despite the throbbing in his head and the fact that his entire body feels disjointed, a warm comfort floods Eijirou's senses. Katsuki's… Katsuki's being nice to him and it's new; it's not unwelcomed. Eijirou takes a few seconds to just stare, sees Katsuki shift uncomfortably as if he too knows this is odd behavior for him.
Eijirou can't help but smirk. "I could get used to you being nice, Katsuki."
The reaction is immediate. A sour expression takes over Katsuki, his cheeks darkening. He grits, "I'll kill you, shitty dragon."
Sniggering, Eijirou responds, "Can we go back to my shitty dragon, please?"
Katsuki groans and rolls his eyes before scrubbing a hand over his face. "I fucking swear if you don't shut up about that…" His words trail off and Eijirou can see the manner in which his ears burn. It's not Eijirou's fault — Katsuki gets flustered each time he's reminded he said those words, and Eijirou finds it impossibly endearing, makes him feel many emotions that's new to him, too.
He has a lot of other questions, such as what has happened to the syndicate? How far away are they from the city? What kind of meat did the army bring? Eijirou stores them all away, simply smiles as Katsuki simmers in his embarrassment.
"Katsuki," Eijirou says, softly. He fumbles when he reaches and grasps a weak hand around Katsuki's necklace, tugging him closer as best as he can.
When Katsuki uncovers his face, there's confusion on him. He blinks, lets his stare wander from the fingers curled around the fangs on his neck to Eijirou's questioning eyes. Just like that, the atmosphere changes, and on Eijirou is an earnest hope that causes Katsuki's soul to thrum. Eijirou pushes his hand forward until his knuckles rest on Katsuki's chest, then he splays his fingers right where his heart is as if feeling it beat; and damn, it's beating fast.
"You're my shitty human," chuckles Eijirou.
"What kind of stupid sappy shit are you going on about." Despite the words, Katsuki bites back a grin.
Eijirou repeats it, his own heart racing. "You're my shitty human."
A moment passes before Katsuki exhales, his voice barely a whisper, "... fine."
Surprised by the response, Eijirou's eyes widen slightly. With bated breath, he watches Katsuki lean forward and knock their foreheads together, a gesture that he's done so many times before. It’s funny, too, because back in their country the gesture is one that only couples do, almost akin to kissing. Eijirou doesn’t know if it’s the same for humans, and he’d rather not tell Katsuki in case he stops doing it.
Eijirou wants to tilt his head to the side and kiss him, especially when Katsuki brings up a hand to clutch at Eijirou's nape. They stay that way, basking in a comfortable silence, and Eijirou couldn’t ask for more.
Except to kiss him — he wants it so much, always has.
“Katsuki,” Eijirou breathes.
As if understanding, Katsuki lets the hand on Eijirou’s nape trail to his jaw, tipping Eijirou’s face upwards, and he leans in —
They’re interrupted, again.
“Eijirou!” Izuku’s voice is giddy with happiness. He stands by the door of the carriage and Eijirou can sense the exact moment that Izuku realizes he’s interrupting. Izuku says, surprised, “... ah.”
The hand on Eijirou’s jaw freezes and Eijirou can practically feel Katsuki’s simmering rage. Katsuki lets go of his jaw and turns to Izuku, a murderous expression on his face. “I will kill you, Deku.”
“Katsuki,” Eijirou laughs to placate him even if he, too, feels annoyed.
“Sorry!” Izuku squeaks. “Eri told me Eijirou was up, and I only wanted to give him this set of clothes that Momo’s made for him. There’s a river nearby, Eijirou, if you want to bathe — ”
“Get lost, Deku!” Katsuki snarls, but he pushes away from Eijirou and hops off the carriage. Eijirou almost thinks he’ll lunge at Izuku, who apparently also has the same idea as he flinches in surprise. Huffing, Katsuki flips them both off and disappears out of Eijirou’s view.
“Sorry, Eijirou,” Izuku smiles. He places a folded set of clothing on the foot of the carriage, along with a bag of what smells like herbs. “I didn’t know.”
Eijirou’s unsure how to react, so he only laughs.
The herbs are medicinal. Eijirou chews on them as he makes his way to the river, and it uplifts his energy almost immediately. Strange. Maybe they’re enchanted? Maybe the army brought a doctor? He has so many questions, really. He glimpsed the group before he made his way to the river. There were two other carriages and about half a dozen other people, most of them surrounding the campfire and speaking in low voices as they ate their meal. Eri had waved at him cheerfully from the other side of the clearing, and Eijirou was happy she was safe. He can’t see anyone from the syndicate… and that gives him mixed feelings — he doesn’t want to see them, and he only hopes they hadn’t gone away.
The river’s not far and he takes a few moments experimentally hardening his arms. It causes a wave of sensitivity to course through him, drains his energy almost immediately.
Turning into a dragon would cause him to pass out, hence he doesn’t even try.
The water is nice, though. It’s refreshing and revitalizes him. Izuku had given him a simple pair of clothes — a white shirt and trousers, and it’s the most comfortable thing he’s ever worn. Annoyed, Eijirou realizes that he hadn’t brought the mixture he used to keep his hair in spikes… he wonders if it were even still around, maybe Katsuki had thrown it away upon discovering it. The thought makes him snort.
Once he feels that he’s been away for too long, Eijirou makes his way back.
Everyone is still awake and lively, and he stands by the outskirts of the clearing, awkward. He doesn’t know any of these people, even if most of them smile and wave at him.
Eri hops over to him almost immediately, a bowl of chicken soup in her hands. “Your soulmate asked the cook to make this!”
Eijirou almost chokes at what she calls Katsuki — yikes. Panicked, he notices that nobody else heard her. Katsuki himself is on the opposite side of the clearing with a blank look on his face as a blond man that Eijirou’s never seen before chatters at him nonstop.
“D-don’t say that,” Eijirou stammers.
Smiling, Eri tilts her head, and Eijirou thinks that the kid is all too knowing for her age.
They find a spot near the fire. Eri leans on his shoulder and watches him eat. It’s oddly comforting even if it’s strange for her to do so. Her hands are warm against his skin, a great contrast to the clammy state they had been the last time he had seen her.
“Your soulmate didn’t want to leave your side at all,” whispers Eri.
She will never stop calling him that.
“Yeah?” Eijirou chuckles.
“Mm-hmm. He took such good care of you.”
As if he senses someone’s stare, Eijirou glances up and locks eyes with Katsuki from across the campfire; just like that, his throat goes dry. Katsuki narrows his eyes and frowns, completely ignoring the blond who’s gesturing wildly at him.
Eijirou smiles, it’s slow and gentle, and Katsuki predictably doesn’t return it. Instead, he finally turns his attention to the man beside him — Katsuki calls him dunce face, what a weird nickname — and tells him to quit yapping.
After a few more moments, Katsuki scowls and returns his gaze at Eijirou. A stunned look washes over Katsuki as he realizes that Eijirou’s still smiling at him. Katsuki blinks, slowly. Eijirou’s heart beats impossibly fast when Katsuki’s gaze softens, and he finally returns the smile. It’s small, easy to miss, and Eijirou sees it as if he’s seen nothing else before. It’s a moment reciprocated between them despite the distance… and, Eijirou thinks that this is his soulmate, always has been. With the fire flickering and painting his profile in red hues, Eijirou can’t help but think he’s definitely never letting go of his shitty human, ever again.
Somehow, he believes Katsuki feels the same.
It’s slow how the group makes their way back to the city. The roads are narrow and dangerous and they don’t travel during the night; even if their pace isn’t to Katsuki’s liking, it’s still much faster than when they were travelling on foot. The prisoners — those who hadn’t escaped or had died in the fight — weren’t travelling with them. Instead, they were with another group, about a day ahead. Eijirou gives a sigh of relief when he finds out that Overhaul was taken alive.
“Why are they a day ahead?” Eijirou asks, blinking.
Katsuki looks at his baffled expression, then at the young girl who’s clutching at his arm. Eri seems attached to Eijirou, barely leaving his side. “Why would you want to see them at all?” Katsuki asks, not wanting to point out it was more for the girl’s sake than anything. Thankfully, Eijirou soon gets it. He ruffles Eri’s hair and changes the topic, asking her if she has a city she wants to see and tells her he can fly her there once he can shift.
Eri’s face lights up and Katsuki rolls his eyes, refraining from saying how foolish it would be to have a full-grown dragon flying over cities.
It doesn’t take long for Eijirou to recuperate. Only a few days after he’s woken up, the color comes back to his cheeks, and he’s livelier, his appetite stronger. Katsuki catches him testing out his quirk, sometimes, when he thinks nobody can see him. The dragon shifter will have a forlorn look on his face as he hardens his arm, again and again throughout the day. His abilities aren’t completely back yet, and Katsuki can tell that it’s getting to Eijirou.
It’s out of the blue when Eri asks, “Can you turn into a dragon now?”
They’re sitting in a moving carriage, just the three of them — Katsuki, Eijirou, and Eri. It’s quiet; only the sounds of the carriage’s wheels dragging over stones and mud breaks the silence. The day’s about to end and Eri has her head on Eijirou’s shoulder, staring at him thoughtfully. The girl looks at him as if she’s searching for answers, and Katsuki thinks she might be too clever for her own age.
“Not yet!” Eijirou answers with a cheerful tone, but Katsuki feels his chest twist painfully. It’s an overwhelming sensation, one that he’s familiar with by now — a consuming loneliness. “I’ve tried a few times but nothing happens, but my hardening’s coming back slowly so I hope it won’t take any longer.”
“How much longer should it take?” Katsuki grumbles. Eri and Eijirou seem startled to find out he’s listening, and it takes Eri a moment to realize that he’s asking her.
“I don’t know,” she says, tilting her head in puzzlement. “A day, maybe?”
Shrugging, Katsuki leans back. A day didn’t seem too far away. Eijirou, on the other hand, frowns and scratches the back of his neck. It’s clear that he wants his abilities back; he likely hasn’t gone so long without shifting into a dragon before.
“Don’t be antsy,” Katsuki says, “your injuries aren’t even healed yet.”
It’s true. The wound on Eijirou’s head is still fresh, bandages wrapped around it. The army’s nurse helps him clean it each night and, sometimes, he gets easily dizzy when he stands up too fast. Katsuki had seen him clutch at his stomach as if he wanted to barf and had yelled at him to be more careful, to not be such an idiot.
Katsuki tells himself that he only yells because it would be incredibly impractical if the idiot passed out. It wasn’t because he actually cared. Eijirou had stuck his tongue out at him in a petty response and told Katsuki that he’d probably be a more stubborn patient if he were the one who were injured.
For some reason, Katsuki decides not to tell him about the injury on his own shoulder. It had happened during the raid, some stupid fucking extra had hit him with a mace while he was distracted — the nurse had patched it up but it still hurts like hell. Luckily, he’s been able to hide it so far using cotton shirts under the pretense that the weather is getting more chilly.
There’s no reason to tell the shitty dragon about his own injury, so he doesn’t.
The next day, Eijirou still can’t shift. The anxiety is clear on him, and Katsuki distracts him by rubbing circles against the small of his back. Eijirou’s startled by it, glances at him with wide eyes, and Katsuki avoids his stare.
It happens two days later. The sun’s just set and they’ve made camp near a river, as usual. After supper, Katsuki’s makes his way to the river, alone, when he hears a loud but familiar noise behind him.
That idiot… Katsuki thinks.
He turns and sees a large red dragon emerge from the mess of trees from the camp’s direction. Even in this form, Katsuki can sense the happiness he emits. His large tail swings from side to side as he comes to a halt in front of Katsuki. There’s a bag hooked around one of his horns, likely containing his clothes, and Katsuki snorts and hides his pride at the fact that Eijirou actually remembered to take some damn clothes with him .
It’s been a while since he’s seen this form of Eijirou’s. There’s a strange gash near his left horn that wasn’t there before and Katsuki realizes it’s the injury he received as a human. It causes a split between the scales, and Katsuki stares at it momentarily before reverting his attention to Eijirou’s eyes.
“Who said you could shift?” Katsuki scowls, clearly joking.
In retaliation, Eijirou puffs smoke at his face and nudges him to the side. The dragon races towards the river and Katsuki follows behind; he watches the dragon practically dive into the water. The river has a large expanse, fortunately. Even Eijirou, in this form, looks small in it.
The dragon circles in the water, sending splashes everywhere. Katsuki chokes down a laugh when water hits him in the face. Eijirou’s overjoyed and Katsuki watches him make a beeline towards the other side. His tail moves erratically behind him.
Katsuki didn’t think he’d ever see Eijirou this happy; actually, he didn’t think he’d ever see Eijirou, again — for a while, he had thought he never would.
He stands there, entranced. There’s a warmth that gathers in his chest, a happiness that wells up in him. It’s the damn soul bond, he thinks. The joy that Eijirou emits is contagious. The dragon has his back to Katsuki, lost in his own space. Biting back a smile, Katsuki decides to get in the water, too. He shucks off his clothing — it makes him feel self-conscious, even if it shouldn’t. Then, he removes the myriad of necklaces he wears, neatly putting his items on a dry piece of rock. The wound on his shoulder isn’t bandaged and if he moves into the water quickly, perhaps Eijirou won’t notice at all. Thankfully, Eijirou isn’t looking at him, doesn’t see him slide his way into the river until most of his body is submerged.
The water’s refreshing. Sighing with relief, he splashes his face, lets the water run down his neck to his shoulders and torso. Katsuki rubs his eyes, only now realizing just how exhausted he is. He has gotten little sleep for a week now, even after they had finally found Eijirou and Eri. Instead, he had stayed up almost the entire time Eijirou had been recovering… a fact he would never admit. Deku had asked him multiple times to get some rest, but he couldn’t.
When Eijirou had regained enough consciousness to get a tight hold on reality, Katsuki had felt a rush of relief in his chest.
He would never admit it.
Katsuki leans against a rock, resting against it… and he watches Eijirou, again. Eijirou has calmed down and is resting his chin on a large rock. His dragon form’s huge; Katsuki has seen it multiple times before and he’s still not unimpressed. Eijirou cranes his head, looks over at Katsuki and lets smoke curl from his nostrils when he exhales. He’s a great distance away yet Katsuki feels closer to him than he ever has. The dragon makes a low rumbling sound, thrashing his tail and sending waves across the water — he wants Katsuki to come closer. Does he want Katsuki to play with him or whatever’s going through that mind of his?
“Fuck no,” Katsuki calls out. He’s okay where he is, resting against a rock. He could practically lie back and fall asleep, if Eijirou would let him.
Eijirou makes another low sound that vibrates from his throat, his ears going flat against the sides of his head.
“What do you want!?” Katsuki demands.
He can’t speak when he’s in this form, and Katsuki knows it. Katsuki practically taunts him, face splitting into a manic grin as Eijirou makes a frustrated noise and starts wading towards him.
Katsuki is suddenly very, very aware of his own lack of clothes as Eijirou gets closer. The dragon stops a few feet away, but when he leans his head down, he’s close enough that Katsuki feels warm smoke against his face when the dragon huffs. Eijirou noses at the huge bruise on Katsuki’s shoulder. It’s a dark purple on his skin, all the way from his shoulder to his arm where the enemy had hit him.
“It’s not a big deal.” Mumbling, Katsuki puts a hand on the dragon’s snout and pushes him away, resulting in a disapproving growl from Eijirou. “Fuck off.”
At that point, Eijirou decides to shift. Katsuki narrows his eyes and watches him slowly turn into his human form, red scales slowly morphing into skin and his body shrinking until all that’s left is Eijirou, as a human, naked as the day he was born, frowning at him. Eijirou’s wet hair sticks to his face and he brushes it away from his eyes.
“You didn’t tell me you were injured,” Eijirou says.
“I told you, it’s not a big deal.”
Katsuki’s dismissal of the entire thing makes Eijirou’s lips curl into a frown. He steps closer to Katsuki and places a hand on his shoulder, right over the bruise, and Katsuki flinches — but he’s not flinching because it hurts; in reality, he doesn’t need Eijirou stepping closer to him when they both don’t have clothes.
Eijirou’s doesn’t seem the least bit bothered by their state of undress. Of course he fucking doesn’t… dragon shifters and their dumb nonchalance about the entire thing.
“Katsuki,” Eijirou says, quietly, “I’m sorry.” His eyes are transfixed on his own hand as he thumbs over the bruise, his frown deepening as he examines the extent of the injury. “It’s my fault. If I hadn’t been caught—”
“Shut up.” Katsuki refuses to hear about it; he snarls, teeth bared, and Eijirou’s stare lifts until they lock eyes.
“It’s my job to protect, and—”
“I said, shut up, lizard-brains!” Katsuki’s frustrated now, too. The water splatters everywhere when he suddenly grabs Eijirou by the back of his neck and pulls him closer. He sees the alarm that flashes over Eijirou’s expression as he does so, and he ignores it. Not for the first time, Katsuki presses their foreheads together and forces Eijirou to see. “It’s over. The kid’s with us. It wasn’t your fault, so quit being an idiot.”
Eijirou’s silent. He searches Katsuki’s face for something that Katsuki can’t tell and lets a moment pass before he nods and pushes away. The water splashes around them as Eijirou gets out of the river, and Katsuki stares down with darkened cheeks.
Katsuki gives himself a minute or two before he gets out, and is relieved that Eijirou’s fully dressed when he does.
“Can you look away, what the fuck?” Katsuki snarls because Eijirou’s just standing there and blinking when he rises from the water. It’s not that he’s shy about being exposed — it’s just irritating how nonchalant the dragon shifter is about it.
Eijirou cracks a smile and Katsuki feels he’s being mocked. Still grinning, Eijirou turns around and starts kicking rocks while Katsuki puts his clothes on. It’s not until Eijirou hears the rattle of the gems and teeth of Katsuki’s necklaces that Eijirou turns around, again.
“Let’s go,” Katsuki grumbles, cheeks still dark.
Humming in response, Eijirou follows as Katsuki leads the way back.
For a while, neither of them say anything as they traverse through the mess of trees. It’s dark and chilly and Katsuki wonder if it will snow soon, considering the seasons are changing — it’s good that they have Momo in their group, she can create winter clothes in a second if needed.
“I’m happy for you, lizard-brains,” Katsuki says without even looking at Eijirou.
“Ah,” Eijirou responds. “I probably would have gone mad, if it weren’t for you.”
“The heck’s that supposed to mean?”
A hand circles around Katsuki’s wrist, halting him. Eijirou gently nudges him until they’re facing each other. “It means you calmed me down a lot of times.”
It’s sappy and out of the blue, and Katsuki frowns in response. The grip around his wrist gets tighter, and it’s overwhelming how Eijirou tilts his head to the side and smiles at him. For someone with an ability that causes his skin to become rocks, Eijirou’s can be unbearably tender.
“Can we talk, now?” Eijirou asks, his voice hopeful. “We said we’d talk about us after the… after all that.”
Katsuki remembers. Right before the entire mess, they had made a promise — that they’d talk about them. He still has no clue what that even means.
“I want you,” Eijirou says, diving straight to the point, catching Katsuki completely off-guard.
Immediately, Katsuki’s face warms up. “Do you even know what that means!?”
“Yes?” Eijirou looks astonished. “Does it mean something else for your race?”
“It’s not — what the…”
A thousand thoughts run through his mind, all muddled up and he can’t pick them apart to choose the proper response. Katsuki stares, mouth agape, cheeks flaring.
“I-if you don’t feel the same way, I’d understand,” Eijirou blurts out. It’s quick how the insecurity envelopes him and he lets go of Katsuki’s wrist as if it’s hot coal. Katsuki feels a rush of anxiety course through him and he realizes he needs to calm the dumbass down.
“You’re an idiot.” It’s not reassuring words, but Eijirou gets the hint when he reaches forward and holds Eijirou’s face. They search each other’s eyes for answers, and Katsuki wishes they could just let the emotional bond do the talking, to let them communicate not with words. “I want you, shitty dragon.”
Just like that, something possesses Eijirou. He reaches forward and grips Katsuki’s hips, squeezing them, and the next thing Katsuki knows he’s being pushed up against a tree — and it’s not gentle, not at all. It takes Katsuki longer than he wishes to realize that there’s something else behind the sudden force of Eijirou’s actions.
“I want you,” Eijirou repeats, his voice strained. “Shit, sorry, Katsuki… my dragon side — ”
Eijirou’s pupils dilate into slits, dragon-like, and Katsuki’s startled by how they glow red in the dark. There are scales forming on Eijirou’s temples and the fingers on Katsuki’s hips are sharp against his skin. Katsuki flinches as Eijirou digs his fingers into Katsuki, drawing blood, and Katsuki realizes that they’ve turned into claws. Eijirou’s skin hardens, red scales appearing, and his breathing is more labored — almost panting.
“What’s going on?” Katsuki grumbles. Without thinking, he asks, “Is this your rut?”
“No, uhm. I…”
Frozen in place, Katsuki realizes that Eijirou’s losing his hold on reality. If he doesn’t stop, he might shift into a dragon, perhaps against his will.
“Eijirou,” Katsuki exhales. Eijirou’s fingers dig deeper into Katsuki’s hips, and Katsuki winces, pain clear on his face. Gritting, Katsuki curses, “ Shit. Lizard-brains.”
With a gasp, Eijirou releases his hold. Blood drips from Katsuki’s skin, spreading to the tips of Eijirou’s fingers. The scales disappear, his pupils stop glaring red, his claws retract. All that’s left is Eijirou, bewildered and apologetic. Eijirou furrows eyebrows and purses his lips as he rubs over the wounds with his thumbs, trying to get rid of the traces of blood. “I’m sorry,” he says.
“It’s whatever,” Katsuki answers.
A tense moment passes. Eijirou locks eyes with Katsuki, a meaningful stare on his face.
“It’s not,” Eijirou says, still panting. He presses forward and buries his face into the crook of Katsuki’s neck. When he presses his lips against the skin there in a chaste kiss, Katsuki shivers. “I’m sorry,” Eijirou croaks, and he kisses him again as an apology.
“I said it’s whatever,” Katsuki mutters, attempting to school his voice. The goddamn dragon shifter continues to pepper light kisses on his exposed skin and Katsuki arcs his neck, giving more access — he tells himself he’s not doing it on purpose.
Eijirou chuckles, “I lost my dragon side for days so it’s overwhelming, it’s as if it’s all come rushing back… though I keep forgetting that humans are built differently. That wouldn’t have surprised my kind.”
Again, Eijirou’s putting a huge wall between them. He still thinks dragons and humans are inherently different, that it wouldn’t work, not naturally. His words sting Katsuki to the core.
“Get off me,” Katsuki says, quietly.
It’s instantaneous how Eijirou’s able to realize the mistake behind his words. Ejirou kisses Katsuki’s exposed throat Katsuki fights the urge to shiver, to turn his head and press their lips together. “Katsuki,” Eijirou says, “give me a second.”
“I said get off.” He shoves at Eijirou’s shoulders roughly, knocking him on the chest with his arm when he stands up straighter. In silence, Eijirou stares at him with furrowed eyebrows. The regret is clear in his expression. Katsuki says his next words without hesitation, “When the kid’s recuperated, she can get rid of this fucking bond.”
“Do you mean that?” Eijirou asks, voice low. His lips are a thin line as he searches Katsuki’s face for answers, because there are times when Katsuki says things he doesn’t mean — and Eijirou wishes this is one of those times. He searches for hints, for a break in the facade, and gets only a stoic expression that gives nothing away.
Dread fills Katsuki and he wonders if it’s real or, maybe, if it’s from Eijirou. The dragon shifter’s still staring at him with an expression that crushes Katsuki, but he’s not taking it back. The bond needs to be broken, and it doesn’t matter if they’ve had moments where it seemed like they could work… because Eijirou, again and again reminds them both that he’s a dragon who can’t be with a mere human.
Katsuki’s tired of trying to prove himself.
“Katsuki,” Eijirou calls.
He turns his back and when Eijirou puts a hold around his wrist; he smacks the hand away. “Fuck off.”
“Katsuki!” His name’s said more forcibly this time around, a hint of a growl behind it, and there’s a tug in Katsuki’s chest when he hears it.
Again, there’s a hand on his wrist — Katsuki, annoyed, turns to glare at Eijirou. “What do you want!?”
Eijirou stares at him, mouth agape. He lets only a second pass before he asks, slowly, “What are you angry about?”
Holy shit —
Just like that, Katsuki gets rid of the space between them and crowds Eijirou until the dragon shifter braces himself and starts walking backwards until a tree hinders him from moving away any further. There’s absolute anger on Katsuki’s face and Eijirou doesn’t miss it, he only grimaces when Katsuki slams his hands against his chest and glowers at him. A tense moment passes and Eijirou’s stays frozen, waiting.
Eijirou says, “If I said something wrong, tell me — ”
“Shut up!” Katsuki slams his fists against Eijirou’s chest, causing the other man to flinch. There are hints of hardened scales that appear on Eijirou’s forehead and nape, and they disappear just as quickly. “I’m tired of having to listen to you draw a line between dragons and humans, or whatever the fuck goes on through your head, and if you think I need to prove myself to you, then you’re dumber than you think.”
“I didn’t mean to,” Eijirou says, quickly. His eyebrows furrow in frustration and his breath is warm against Katsuki’s lips when he speaks. They’re so close to each other, a position that they find themselves in several times now. “I didn’t realize I was doing that .”
Katsuki takes a moment to recompose himself and he’s only mildly aware of the fingers that curl around his wrist, warm and soft like they always are. Eijirou leans forward and presses their foreheads together and his hair is damp against Katsuki’s own. Somehow, it calms Katsuki down and jolts him back to reality. It’s tender how Eijirou rubs his wrist with his thumbs — it’s a simple action, and it irritates him just how much he wants every touch he can get from this damn idiot in front of him.
All he can hear is Eijirou’s soft breathing. Exhaling, Katsuki’s shoulders slacken and he lets go of Eijirou’s shirt.
“Sorry,” Eijirou repeats, his voice barely a whisper, and Katsuki allows him to lean in further until there’s a mouth pressed against his temple. Eijirou trails his lips from Katsuki’s temple to his ear, slowly and Katsuki’s heart hammers in his chest and it’s fucking irritating how easily the mood changes, how easy this shitty dragon can cause his emotions to fluctuate without even trying. “Katsuki.”
“Fine,” Katsuki responds, “it’s whatever.”
This version of his shitty dragon is a great contrast to the one from minutes ago, the one who had almost lost his hold on the present. This version’s soft and gentle, and Katsuki not sure which one he prefers. That’s all he can think of as Eijirou’s hand finds its way to his nape, squeezing gently. It really is infuriating, how quickly Katsuki’s swayed. Even if Eijirou’s the one with his back against a tree, Katsuki thinks he’s the one with the upper-hand, because Katsuki feels he’d probably give Eijirou anything he wanted at that moment.
“I want to kiss you.” Eijirou’s breath is warm against his ear. His voice is low and soft but Katsuki hears it — and he wants it too, he always has.
Katsuki’s heart’s beating so loudly and his mind is a haze; despite that, he tilts his head up and glares. Eijirou stares at him with such earnest and Katsuki can’t help but wonder how he looks at that moment, if Eijirou can also tell that he wants it as much.
“I hate you,” Katsuki grits. Eijirou cracks a smile at that and Katsuki can’t help but reach up and drag a thumb across Eijirou’s lower lip, emitting a startled expression from him. His lips are soft, Katsuki thinks; they’re soft against the pad of his thumb and it’s now or never as he leans in and angles his face to the side, ready to find out what it’s like, finally —
The sounds of footsteps interrupt them. There are several voices and Katsuki can make out at least Deku’s, along with Eri who’s singing a song he doesn’t recognize. “I wonder where Kacchan and Eijirou are?” Izuku asks, confused, and Eri doesn’t appear to hear the question as she continues with the song.
They’re nearby, getting closer, probably making their way to the river.
Katsuki curses under his breath, pulling away from Eijirou. “Can’t get a fucking break around here…”
“I think I hear them,” Shouto’s voice says.
Just before they appear in sight and Katsuki’s able to yell at them for being irritating morons, Eijirou tugs at Katsuki’s wrist. Katsuki yelps, stunned, and Eijirou pulls him until they’re on the other side of the tree and away from everyone’s view. This time, it’s Eijirou who crowds him against the tree, bringing up a finger to his mouth and signaling for him to keep quiet.
Katsuki glares at him. He has words to say about being manhandled like this. Izuku, Shouto, and Eri can be heard walking just behind the spot they’re hiding and Katsuki opens his mouth to tell Eijirou to fuck off — but then before he can say anything, Eijirou closes the small distance between them and there are lips against his.
If he makes a noise of protest or of surprise, it’s muffled by the kiss. Katsuki’s entire body burns. The kiss is messy and their noses bump once, and Katsuki flinches when Eijirou accidentally runs sharp teeth against his tongue.
Katsuki returns the kisses in the same earnest way, tasting Eijirou and wanting more. It’s not enough and the kisses only become more heated and eager as the moment drags on.
There’s pain on his hips and he realizes that, again, Eijirou’s hands are hardening and there are scales on his arm. This time, Katsuki simply reaches down and weaves their fingers, and that allows Eijirou to mutter another apology as he retracts his claws. It’s a habit they’ll have to work on, Katsuki thinks, as he holds his hands and rubs circles against his palms. He’d much rather reach up and grab a fistful of Eijirou’s hair, but for now, this will do. They’ve got all the time to practice on Eijirou’s control.
As if to make up for not being able to roam with his hands, Eijirou crowds him further until they’re pressed flush against one another, and Katsuki fights down the indecent thoughts that race through his mind.
Katsuki’s not sure when they’re completely in the clear from the group. All he knows is that when they break apart for air, they’re both panting for air and Eijirou’s lips are spit-shined and bruised and Katsuki wants to kiss him, never stopping.
Eijirou leans in again and presses chaste kisses from the corner of Katsuki’s mouth to his neck, and Katsuki cranes his head away to give him more access — unconsciously or not, Katsuki’s unsure. “I’ve wanted this for so long,” Eijirou says, and the way his voice hitches makes Katsuki’s heart soar. “You have no idea, Katsuki.”
But, Katsuki does have an idea, it’s tormented him for just as long — yet he can’t trust himself to speak, simply nudges Eijirou back for another kiss.
“Look, look!” Eri’s face lights up with excitement as she points a finger at the map that’s spread out on the dirt. She’s on her knees, uncaring about how her dress is easily getting spoiled by the dirt. The map’s huge and she looms over half of its expanse. There’s a marked spot on the map that one of the soldiers had placed earlier, signifying where their group was currently in. “Eijirou! We’re so close to Yuuei! How long more do we need to travel?”
It’s the end of the day and the convoy’s getting ready for a night’s rest. The sun’s not completely gone yet, the skies in red and orange hues. The convoy’s starting the fire, feeding the horses, and preparing for supper. They’ve only been traveling together for several nights but somehow the group’s able to find a routine.
Blinking, Eijirou stares over her shoulder; he’s sitting on the dirt, right beside Eri. “By the carriages… maybe two more days?” He turns his head and grins at Katsuki, who’s standing behind them. “If we flew, then only a couple of hours — ”
Katsuki rolls his eyes. “No.”
Predictably, Katsuki’s still not confident in letting Eijirou turn into a dragon… especially so close to a city, and especially to fly to a city. Even if it were a city like Yuuei which was safe and familiar to the travelling group, the idea was still daunting and not one that Katsuki was willing to risk.
Eijirou sticks his tongue out at Katsuki, earning him an exasperated sigh. At that, Eri giggles — the sound is refreshing and genuine, and Eijirou appears slightly startled, turning to her with wide eyes. A smile easily spreads over Eijirou’s face, the corners of his eyes crinkling in amusement as he joins Eri with his own soft chuckles.
There’s a scowl on Katsuki’s face, one that he puts on to mask the strange but warm feeling that bubbles within him. Seeing Eri and Eijirou laugh as if everything’s been solved brings a certain type of happiness to Katsuki, and even he can’t deny that.
The warm feeling is fleeting — it’s gone almost immediately when Eijirou glances at the map, his focus momentarily on a huge mountain range a few hours from where they’re currently in. The map shows it as mountains that barricade a thick forest before being completely cut off by the edge of the paper, but Katsuki knows what’s hidden behind the unassuming location.
The country of the dragon shifters.
It’s only a split second, but Eijirou’s expression changes. His lips curl into a frown and he furrows his eyebrows. The sorrow and the longing courses through Katsuki; as faint as it is, Katsuki can tell Eijirou misses his home.
The realization runs cold in Katsuki.
Eijirou misses his home.
It was incredibly stupid of Katsuki to think the dragon shifter wouldn’t regret the bond he’s formed with Katsuki, even if they’ve spent their most recent nights pressing kisses on each other’s lips. Their nights consisted of quiet conversations, ones that were difficult to get when travelling in huge groups. They never talked about anything in particular, never about anything important; Katsuki only liked how Eijirou’s fingers curled around his nape, how Eijirou would fight down the hitch in his breath when Katsuki would lean forward and suck on his lower lip.
It was all new. The kissing was new, the questions of how it would feel finally answered, and Katsuki had foolishly forgotten one important thing… that the bond wasn’t supposed to exist in the first place. Katsuki narrows his eyes and watches as Eri suddenly asks Eijirou what supper is, and Eijirou welcomes the distraction with a huge grin.
Supper consists of fish and deer meat. The camp’s spirits are high, most of them excited to return home to Yuuei soon. Out of all of them, Eri’s excitement is the clearest. She smiles brightly, cheeks tinted pink, and the child’s demeanour somehow rubs off to everyone else.
The entire camp is also knowledgeable about the fact that Eijirou is a dragon shifter. A few of the squires had appeared startled the first time they had seen Eijirou shift into a full-fledged dragon, and Katsuki mentally swears that one of them had almost peed his pants. Thankfully, other than the frightened stares, there was no hostility. Rather, it was mostly interest.
Momo, a royal born mage who worked for the army and was travelling with them was currently badgering Eijirou with questions. The convoy usually broke apart in smaller groups during the night, and Katsuki found himself dining with Eijirou, Eri, Izuku, Shouto, and Momo.
“I do apologize for all the questions,” Momo says, although she doesn’t look the least bit apologetic. The woman’s well-read and known for her knowledge of many subjects, and they could have only predicted she’d have many questions for a dragon shifter.
“No worries!” Eijirou chirps.
“Dragons live for centuries, do they not?” Momo questions.
“Yes,” Eijirou responds, not the least bit bothered by her inquiries. Eri’s listening intently, eyes wide with wonder as she looks between Momo and Eijirou, anticipating the next questions.
Momo continues, “Then, do you age slowly, or perhaps you stop aging after a certain year…?”
“Both, I suppose,” shrugs Eijirou, “we age just as quick as mortals do but once we reach the age of maturity, the years go by very slow.”
“That’s quite strange.”
Eijirou shakes his head. “My mum used to say it’s nature’s way of not driving our parents mad. Imagine if they had to spend decades taking care of crying younglings, that would be horrifying.”
“Wait, wait!” Eri waves her hand. “You mean… you stop aging once you’re a certain year?”
Eijirou grabs another skewered fish. “Not exactly. When we start getting our ruts or heats, once we mature, then there’s no reason for our bodies to continue aging. So it barely does.”
“Ruts? Heats? What are those?” Eri asks. Katsuki chokes back a laugh while the rest of the group appear mortified.
Coughing, Eijirou ignores her inquiry, attempting to steer the topic away. “If you see a dragon shifter who’s weak with age, they’re probably a millennium old.”
Millenium? Katsuki scrunches his nose. Dragon shifters can live for a thousand years? He’s not sure why this surprises him. Katsuki’s always known that dragons live for centuries, a vast contrast to humans who can barely live to a hundred.
Nobody seems to notice the uncomfortable silence that envelops Katsuki and he stares at his food as if it’s committed him the gravest offense. Eijirou turns to stare at him, before returning his focus to the conversation.
Izuku laughs, “Perhaps Lady Mitsuki’s a dragon, as well.”
At the mention of his mother, Katsuki snarls at Izuku. “The fuck?”
“Who’s Lady Mitsuki?” Eijirou asks.
“Kacchan’s mother.” Izuku grins, pleased with his joke — on the other hand, Katsuki looks like he wants to reach over and punch Izuku. “She has barely aged for the last two decades. It has come to a point where ladies believe a spell has been cast on her.”
Katsuki fumes. “What are you going on about!? That old hag looks ancient enough to be put in a coffin. You’re all blind, I swear to the gods.”
Clearly baffled, Izuku retorts, “She does not look ancient , Kacchan!”
It’s no secret that Katsuki holds an odd kind of relationship with his mother. It’s easy to get under his skin by simply mentioning her — Katsuki grits his teeth and glares at Izuku, a warning for him to keep quiet. His slight temper tantrum causes Momo to hide her laugh behind her hand and Shouto to smirk.
“Ugh, you fucking assholes…” Bakugou grits his teeth, his temper easily flaring to the surface. “Whatever. Oi, kid, can you reverse the bond now?”
His question’s unexpected, even to him. Katsuki’s unsure why he even brings it up now, of all times. He guesses it had heavily to do with finding out that dragons can live to a thousand years. A thousand years.
Just like that, silence envelopes the entire group. Eri blinks at him, wide-eyed and startled, and Izuku exchanges a glance with Shouto. Eijirou stops chewing on his fish, an inexplicable expression washing over him as he stares at Katsuki.
“Is this really the right time to talk about this…?” squeaks Eijirou, clearly uncomfortable.
Katsuki should apologize. He hadn’t meant to blurt it out, but that’s what happens when his temper gets the best of him… even if the subject of his temper had nothing to do with his outburst. He stammers, “Shit, I — ”
Eri cuts him off before he’s able to actually apologize. She says, voice soft, “I don’t want to do that.”
“Katsuki — ” Eijirou starts.
“What, why not?” Katsuki asks, not smartly. He feels like shit for even bringing it up but Eri’s response baffles him and he can’t let go of the topic now.
“We should at least wait for her to regain her strength before she uses her ability once more,” Shouto comments. He’s the voice of reason and he glances between Eijirou and Katsuki, attempting to steer away the conversation. “Besides, once she’s recovered, the priority is to heal All Might.”
Shouto’s response successfully silences Katsuki. He grunts and doesn’t say anything else.
The rest of supper is awkward and Katsuki can tell Eijirou’s irritated. The dragon shifter wears a frown and he immediately loses his appetite, tossing his food aside and leaning back against a tree and not speaking for the rest of the meal.
Katsuki can tell there’s an argument to come.
The rest of the group appears to gravitate away Katsuki and Eijirou as the night passes. Even Eri, who enjoys spending the free hours with Eijirou, chooses to instead help Momo with other chores. Katsuki hates how they look at him with mixed expressions, he can feel the judgement yet he knows it’s justified. It’s unnerving how Eijirou stares at him as Katsuki sets his bed roll in one quiet corner of the clearing.
Katsuki’s cape is currently folded neatly and placed aside, the necklace that symbolizes his bond with Eijirou on top of it. Even without the cape, Katsuki’s not too cold due to the shirt he’s wearing. Momo’s magic allows her to create any item, which is how they’re able to procure thicker clothes in the middle of their travels. The season’s beginning to change, so it’s rare to see even Eijirou walk around without a shirt on — thank fuck . The nights are getting chillier and Katsuki reckons that there might be snow in a few week’s time.
Katsuki’s not good with words, never has been. He could so easily apologize to Eijirou… instead, he ducks beneath his blanket and keeps his back to Eijirou’s watchful stare.
Grumbling incoherently under his breath, Eijirou finally makes a move to prepare his bed roll as well. Despite clearly being angry at Katsuki, he still sets it right beside his. Katsuki can hear him shift and lay down, and an arm knocks into his back. Eijirou has his own blanket but he never uses it, instead squeezes himself to share Katsuki’s.
Relief rushes Katsuki when Eijirou puts an arm around his torso and pulls him closer, and he feels Eijirou exhale loudly and press his face against the space between Katsuki’s shoulder blades.
“Do you actually hate me that much?” Eijirou’s voice is muffled against his back.
It’s an odd thing to ask especially when he’s currently crowding Katsuki, especially when they’ve spent most of their recent nights peppering each other with kisses — yet, Katsuki understands.
It’s sudden how Katsuki responds. “No.”
“Then why do you still want to break the bond?”
Katsuki’s silent. He feels Eijirou’s fingers twist in the fabric of his shirt, in the spot right under his rapidly beating heart. Eijirou’s hurt — Katsuki had thought he was angry, but listening to him now, he can tell that there’s more insecurity than anything else.
He’s not good with words.
Katsuki doesn’t know how to formulate his thoughts and explain them. It makes him feel vulnerable. He can’t tell how Eijirou’s easily transparent, and it only makes Katsuki hates himself that he can’t be the same way.
He tries, though. Katsuki turns to lie on his back and Eijirou shifts, too. Eijirou pulls away, his fingers still twisted in Katsuki’s shirt, and they stare at each other. Eijirou’s eyes are searching and hopeful, and the dying campfire casts a dim light over them that allows Katsuki to see Eijirou.
“You’re going to live to a thousand years,” Katsuki states.
If Katsuki’s time came to an end, which was inevitable, Eijirou would spend the rest of his centuries yearning for a soul he’d never meet again. That was what the pink-skinned dragon shifter had told him. The words haunt him every single day, and he only wishes Eijirou’s able to understand the real reason why he wants the bond broken without actually saying the exact words.
Eijirou’s eyes widen. In a split-second, his expression morphs from upset to amused. His lips curve into a smile and he fights back a chuckle — Katsuki almost wants to sock him in the face, the goddamn idiot. “Maybe,” Eijirou coughs, clearly trying his best not to burst out laughing. “Or perhaps you’ll kill me much earlier.”
Katsuki really, really wants to sock him in the face.
“I’d be lucky to reach eighty,” Katsuki grits.
“True, I do think you’d be stabbed in your sleep long before then.”
“Eijirou. I will knee you in the balls in two seconds if you don’t fucking quit it.”
As if the dam’s broken, Eijirou throws his head back and laughs. The hold he has on Katsuki’s shirt finally loosens and Katsuki rolls his eyes as he watched the dragon shifter wheeze and attempt to catch his breath back.
“Fuck you,” Katsuki grumbles, shoving Eijirou’s hand away. When he attempts to sit up, Eijirou simply wraps his arms around his neck and pulls him close, nuzzling his unruly hair. Although he doesn’t attempt to break free a second time, Katsuki simmers in his anger.
“I — Katsuki, I’m sorry,” Eijirou croaks against his hair, “I didn’t think that was on your mind at all.”
“One of us has to do the thinking, and it definitely won’t be you! Besides, all you do is look at the direction of your country… all the fucking time. There are so many damn reasons as to why this bond should be broken. It’s not right, you moron.” Katsuki’s rambling, his expression contorted into frustration as Eijirou pulls away to watch him speak. Eijirou’s expression is soft — he wears a slight smile that appears forced, and he listens. “Would you even still want me without this bond!?”
Eijirou brushes a thumb over Katsuki’s lower lip. “You should keep your voice down,” he suggests.
It’s a good thing they’re in a quiet corner, away from the rest of the group. This conversation is one that’s ridiculous to have amidst dozens of people. Katsuki’s voice rises as he lashes out, and he can only hope that nobody can hear him. Most of the convoy’s already fast asleep. However, Eijirou has a point. Katsuki bites his cheek and glares.
“I’d still want you,” Eijirou whispers, barely audible, and Katsuki’s heart races.
“Then we don’t need this bond,” hisses Katsuki. Despite that, his cheeks burn. He feels wholly embarrassed. He doesn’t think he’ll ever get used to Eijirou’s bluntness, won’t ever hear that Eijirou wants him without his entire body igniting.
“I don’t know what would happen if the bond’s broken,” Eijirou admits. “These instincts of mine are ridiculous. My soul knows we’re tied and I still have a hard enough time kissing you without stabbing you with my fingers.”
“We’ll figure it out. Besides, you’re getting better. It hasn’t happened since the first few nights.”
Eijirou grins and Katsuki thinks he’s staring at the sun. It’s so goddamn blinding that he grabs Eijirou by the jaw and kisses him because he doesn’t think he’d be able to look at that stupid expression any longer. The kiss isn’t soft — it’s heavy with frustration and Eijirou’s hand finds it way to Katsuki’s hair, tugging slightly. Katsuki’s caught completely off guard by it and he bites his cheek to fight back a groan, because that would be damn embarrassing.
“I’d always want you.” Eijirou’s words are spoken against his lips, muffled but audible, and there’s so much truth behind his expression that Katsuki doesn’t doubt it. With an exhale, Eijirou trails kisses from Katsuki’s lips to his jaw, nibbling. His teeth are sharp but he’s careful, it’s never enough to pierce through skin. “I know it’s difficult, but we can make it work.”
They can make it work, Katsuki agrees. They simply have to communicate better — he almost cackles at the thought. Them, actually communicating? Like normal people? The thought was laughable.
Yet, they had to try.
“Hey, lizard brains,” Katsuki grumbles, “tell me about your rut.”
“My… rut?” Eijirou freezes, lips still hovering over the pale skin of Katsuki’s neck. “Why?”
“If we’re going to make whatever this is work, I need to know how to help you.”
Eijirou’s silent at that. He stops peppering kisses, his shoulders tense.
Katsuki flicks him on the arm. “What happens when you’re in a rut? What is it you need?”
“You need to fuck?”
“Katsuki!” Eijirou squeaks, slapping his shoulder.
Frowning, Katsuki regards the dragon shifter. His face is bright red and he looks at Katsuki with a bewildered expression, lips parted in surprise. “You need to fuck?” Katsuki asks again, a lot slower this time… as if Eijirou hadn’t heard him clearly the first time.
“Holy shit, you’re going to be the death of me,” Eijirou manages to say. “Yes, alright? My body’s searching for its mate and this strong urge to… to fuck is strong.”
“What happens if you don’t?”
Eijirou’s expression morphs more and more into embarrassment as the conversation passes, but even he knows Katsuki won’t let this go until he gets the answers he needs. “I don’t know how to explain it, Katsuki!” Eijirou blurts out. So much for being silent. Katsuki raises an eyebrow and grins sheepishly before lowering his voice once more. “It’s similar to a boiling kettle, it starts slow and it simmers, until the water gets too hot and starts to spill, and if nobody puts out the fire then the water overflows.”
“And for you, overflowing water means shifting into a dragon without meaning to.”
Katsuki hasn’t forgotten the conversation they had some time ago wherein Eijirou said he couldn’t control his shifting, that he almost destroyed the inn by turning into a full-grown dragon while in a tiny room.
“Can’t you just jack off?” Katsuki adds.
“That used to be enough,” admits Eijirou, frowning. He reaches up and brushes Katsuki’s hair away from his forehead and Katsuki doesn’t miss the way his hand shakes as he does so. “Perhaps when we tied our souls, my body thought I was mated and it was searching for you.”
At that, Katsuki’s eyes narrow.
Then, he comes to a conclusion. Katsuki says, “I’ll be there, next time.”
Eijirou’s eyes widen. He opens his mouth to respond, only to abruptly shut it again. Katsuki stares at him meaningfully, daring him to turn him down. The air is thick with tension between them and when Eijirou swallows, Katsuki swears he can see sweat forming on his temple despite the chilliness of the night.
“I might hurt you,” Eijirou says, softly.
“I can take it.”
Chuckling, Eijirou ducks his head and buries his face in the crook of Katsuki’s neck. He’s warm against Katsuki; not for the first time, Katsuki compares him to a furnace. Katsuki’s heart beats loudly in his chest and he can’t believe they’re having this conversation. He still can’t tell if Eijirou’s convinced to let him be around the next time his rut comes around, but Katsuki’s adamant it will happen.
“I’d wreck you,” Eijirou mumbles.
The words catch Katsuki off-guard, his breath getting trapped in his throat. Vivid images flood Katsuki’s mind — Eijirou pressing him against a mattress, bare chest draped across his back and both of them dripping in sweat. It’s not the first time he’s thought of it, though it’s foolish to think of it now, when the subject of his imagination is crowding him.
“We’d have to go all night long.” Eijirou’s voice is raspy and unsure. If he’s trying to deter Katsuki, it has the opposite effect.
Katsuki doesn’t respond. He shifts his legs, his pants getting tighter as the stupid conversation drags on — would this be a good time to smack Eijirou on the head and tell him it was time for bed? Grumbling incoherently, Katsuki turns to his side, his back to Eijirou. The dragon shifter follows immediately, wrapping his arm around Katsuki’s torso and burying his face in Katsuki’s hair.
It’s too warm. Winter’s close but Katsuki’s entire body burns, and he stifles a gasp when Eijirou curls his body around him, head to toe. The hand that’s resting on Katsuki’s torso splays over clothed skin and Eijirou kisses his ear. There’s a hint of a smile on Eijirou’s voice when he asks, “do you want me to take care of that?”
There’s no denying that Eijirou’s referring to Katsuki’s current predicament.
“I will end you,” grits Katsuki.
Eijirou laughs, softly. His chest rumbles against Katsuki’s back as he does so. The dragon shifter slips his hand under Katsuki’s shirt, fingers rubbing against Katsuki’s hip bones. Just like that, Katsuki’s breath hitches at the contact. He shivers despite how warm Eijirou’s hand is, feels Eijirou tracing small circles on his skin. Eijirou’s hand is so close to where Katsuki actually wants it to be. At the same time, he’s fully aware of how Eijirou’s own boner presses against him.
Katsuki hisses, “Don’t be so proud of yourself, I can feel your dick on my ass, you — ”
His words are cut off when Eijirou slips his hand into Katsuki’s pants. A large and calloused hand wraps around his dick, enveloping it in sudden warmth. Katsuki exhales, surprised, and bites his lower lip to keep from groaning when Eijirou pumps him, slowly. Eijirou’s sucks on his earlobe and Katsuki can hear his heavy breathing.
Eijirou’s a goddamn tease is what he is. Even with a hand wrapped around Katsuki’s dick, his movements are too slow, and the tension that builds up within Katsuki has nowhere to go. His dick throbs in Eijirou’s hand and he shakes when Eijirou finally quickens up the speed, only to slow down again.
“What is your problem!?” Katsuki hisses. He makes a move to turn around but suddenly Eijirou lets go of him. Katsuki punches him softly on the thigh and wonders what’s going on.
When Eijirou puts his hand back down his pants, it’s wet with spit. He had sucked on his own fingers, a fact that only turns Katsuki on further, holy shit. Katsuki groans when Eijirou speeds up, throwing his head back against Eijirou’s shoulders, his eyebrows scrunching up with pleasure.
Shit. Katsuki chokes, he kind of hopes that Eijirou would just shove a hand over his mouth to shut him up. Their companions are on the other side of the campfire, and fuck, they could so easily be heard. If Deku even as much as stirred in his sleep, Katsuki might kill Eijirou - because this was entirely Eijirou's doing, the asshole.
“Katsuki, shit,” Eijirou hisses, “look at you. Fuck.”
“Shut… shut up.” Heat pools in Katsuki’s stomach and he clutches at Eijirou’s arm, raking it with his nails. It’s difficult to speak, his voice catches in his throat, and his words come out raspy and dry. He bites down on his lower lip in an attempt to keep the embarrassing noises at bay, but his mouth opens in a gasp when Eijirou flicks his wrist. It’s fucking mortifying, and Katsuki forces his eyes open and turns slightly, only to find out that Eijirou’s looking at him with half-lidded eyes.
“Katsuki, keep it down,” Eijirou exhales, but he’s not stopping. He thumbs over the head of Katsuki’s dick, spreading pre-come, and Katsuki’s coming undone bit by bit.
“Fuck.” Katsuki groans when Eijirou strokes him, his grip definite. He presses back against Eijirou’s boner and Eijirou gasps, and Katsuki’s only slightly aware of how Eijirou’s rutting against him.
Eijirou squeezes at the base and whispers in Katsuki’s ear, “I can’t wait to wreck you.”
Katsuki comes all over Eijirou’s hand, a guttural moan escaping him. Thinking fast, Eijirou shifts over him and swallows his sounds with his mouth, muffling the moan. He eases Katsuki through his orgasm, only stopping when Katsuki pulls away.
Both of them are blushing furiously, their hair sticking to their temples with sweat. They’re both a sticky mess, but Eijirou doesn’t seem to care as he cradles Katsuki’s face with his free hand and kisses him, softly this time.
“Lay back,” Katsuki hisses, “it’s your turn.”
Eijirou laughs against his lips. “Might not be great if I turned into a dragon, right now.”
Katsuki squints at him. To be fair, his skin turns into rock just from simple kisses — he has a point; it’s a point that irritates Katsuki. It feels unnerving, as if he owes Eijirou, now.
“Let me take care of you,” Katsuki says, voice barely audible, “when your rut comes, let me take care of you.”
Once more, Eijirou freezes, and Katsuki realizes he hadn’t been able to convince him before, not really. Still, Eijirou whispers, “okay.” His answer’s heavy with hesitance, but Katsuki thinks it’s a lot more confident than any other answers he’s received so far.