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Pay the Price (Gladly)

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They say there’s a shop where you can have any wish granted, for a price. It’s unassuming enough, shopfront placed on a quiet corner in a quiet neighborhood of a quiet city. If you didn’t know what to look for, you’d never know the shop was even there. Just another place of business, slightly old fashioned and stately, a place your eyes would skip over without you ever noticing.

 

Shouto had only heard of it in whispers, before. He’d dismissed it as urban legend, a story meant to create mystery where there was none. Only, then he'd stumbled across it, stumbled in to hide from the paparazzi that stalked him, and oh, the stories were true.

 

This shop could make any wildest wish come true.

 

The first time, he hadn't believed. He’d been greeted at the door, asked what he desired. He'd unthinkingly blurted out that he wished to hide, and the shopkeeper had acquiesced with a shy, soft smile. Shouto hadn’t asked after the price, but when the sun had dropped below the horizon and the stars had well risen to light the streets and he was at the door again, readying to leave after hours of genuine, comfortable company he’d blurted the question out. The shopkeeper startled, then murmured that the price had been paid, in full.

 

(It’s only later, much later, Shouto had realized that the price had been time , the most costly and precious currency.)

 

It’s only after Shouto’s found it the first time that he starts to notice the store in his everyday life - out of the corner of his eye on his path to school, from the conbini, and he would find himself taking walks only to stop outside the doors, poised to open the door and enter.  Part of him yearns to go back in, to the warmth and the easy companionship. It takes weeks, months for him to finally reach the breaking point, the feel of fists and rage pummeling his bones as he limps into the shop.

 

Crooked fingers, rough yet gentle, catch him when he falls in the lobby, slows his descent into a strong lift, deposits him into a feather-gentle bed. And Shouto can hear in his head the feeling of the words the shopkeeper asked him last time, What do you wish for?

 

He’s dazed, delirious and breaking and half-remembered memories of being a child tucked into bed the same way makes him whisper, I want my mother . A gentle press of scarred hands to his eyes press them closed, then your mother you shall have , and Shouto can only think the sensation of touch is green .

 

The next morning the story burbled out in waves, spaced by silence and food and warm warm tea that sunk into the spaces of a breaking dam and loosened the concrete just a little, just enough for Shouto to get the bare bones out. That his mother was locked in a hospital, broken after years of abuse, and Shouto had never had the courage to visit.The shopkeeper hadn’t spoken, let him take his time speaking, and then offered voice light and steady with eyes burning, you know you will pay a price for this wish ?

 

Of course, Shouto had replied -nothing comes for free - and the shopkeeper nodded once.

 

Then you will work for me until the price is paid . Shouto had thought it a fair trade then, and set to work immediately. At first it just seems like errands - to pick up items as specified, to place stickers with arcane symbols on certain ones, speak certain words, to go to a specific place and report back what happened. At first it’s easy to remain detached - just a price to be paid, so he can see his mother - and then he starts to notice the quirks and tells of the shopkeeper. The mumbles, the notebooks, the strength. They start to learn each other, speak about the mundane of their lives alongside the work, and it’s so easy to just be .

 

It’s easy, to fall into orbit around the shopkeeper then, with the softness belying a core of diamond, to match that unconsciously. Then the intensity of Shouto’s tasks pick up - sometimes there’s danger, sometimes normal human danger and sometimes danger that make Shouto question his understanding of the world; once Shouto is sent to pick up an antique dual broadswords and they feel like an old friend in his hands when he ends up having to use them against a giant yokai chasing him through the city streets. They’re yours , the shopkeeper told him when he returned, curls his fingers around the hilts in their scabbard, keep them .

 

Shouto learns the rules of the way this world works, the one tucked just out of reach yet so simple. Equivalent exchange, something for something and actions have equal consequence. Simple, elementary, and layered in ways that make the puzzle they create easy yet hard to tease apart and solve.

 

The days become familiar and comfortable, routine and Shouto feels something like friendship with the shopkeeper, able to joke and care and tend in ways that he has never been able to at home. It’s habit to make tea when he comes in, lay out snacks and tend the latest aches pains outright wounds on the shopkeeper. Shouto finds himself asking what causes these injuries, but he never gets an answer, instead a warm laugh and Ah, it’s nothing Shoucchan . Don’t worry, Shoucchan. And, oh, it’s always a near miss to not push into the rough heat of the hand that cradles his face after.

 

Then one day, he forgets his phone and has to double back. Eri, the child-like immortal who often turned back time on the shopkeeper, to heal the worst of the injuries, soft, You can’t keep absorbing the cost of payments, whole or partial. I won’t be able to keep “healing” you; the shop edges outside the bounds of time and there’s only so much I can do, even now. You only have so much time left to trade for healing too.

 

The implication had shaken him to his core, taken his feet down a path he had traced and traced and chicken out of finishing every time. This time he finds himself going through the doors at the end, giving his name and then getting escorted to the correct door. And then its instinct to fall into pine and snowdrift, fall into what he once had and has returned to. The conversation is stilted, but oh, for all his mother’s quiet ice she is still so so warm and a bit like a first childhood home. Instinctually comfortable, but something caught slightly off. He doesn’t know if its the years or something else, but he’ll ford the river against the current if he must. Still, he tells her everything, including the shop and the shopkeeper who looks like war but feels like safety. After a comfortable silence, soft like a revelation, Oh, Shouto, you love him.

 

He doesn’t know why, but that feels less like the death sentence he once thought it would be, and more like a key to unlock the rest of his life. What do I do? He’s sure his mother hears the question underneath, and her answer doesn’t soothe his fears, Be brave .

 

A thought he leans into - if a woman driven to madness and hurt him can be brave and face him after so long, then by some mathematics and disposition of genetics he should be able to be even a fraction as brave. It’s just a matter of how . It takes him a few days to muddle through before he hits upon the idea.

 

Shouto goes in at his usual time, but this time waits for the magic of the shop to bring the shopkeeper to him, as a customer once more. Oh, you went and visited your mother . How is she? And Shouto knows that that is not the question the shopkeeper is asking.

 

I’m here to make another wish.

 

Oh?

 

Someone has stolen my heart. I want theirs.

 

O-oh?

 

Please give me your heart, Izuku-kun, you already have mine. Ah oh, the most sun-bright smile split that freckled face to breaking, and Shouto had know Izuku could cry an ocean at the drop of a hat but it was something else to see up close, to brush away the tears with his hand and kiss salty lips.

 

Shoucchan, you already have it.

 

They say there’s a shop where you can have any wish granted, for a price. It’s unassuming enough, shopfront placed on a quiet corner in a quiet neighborhood of a quiet city. If you didn’t know what to look for, you’d never know the shop was even there. Just another place of business, slightly old fashioned and stately, a place your eyes would skip over without you ever noticing.


Shouto had only heard of it in whispers, before. He’d dismissed it as urban legend, a story meant to create mystery where there was none. Only, then he'd stumbled across it, stumbled in to hide from the paparazzi that stalked him and fallen into the rest of his life, and oh, the stories are true .