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Home is where the Heart is

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Ochako’s hands shook as she was being led to her death.

 

“Please.” She begged the castle guard who held the knife to her back. They had reached the forest and were walking along off the path. “You don’t have to do this.”

 

“I’m sorry.” The guard whispered, his voice wobbling. “The queen ordered me to.”

 

“Tenya.” She begged her friend. He’d been guarding her for years, ever since his brother was injured protecting her. He was her best friend, her only friend. How could the Queen have ordered Tenya to do this? What had Ochako done wrong? “Please.”

 

The knife slashed and Ochako winced, only for her to feel her hands get freed.

 

“I could never kill you.” He whispered. “You’re my best friend. The queen is sending more guards to make sure I finish the job. You need to run.”

 

“Tenya-” She started, before he cut her off.

 

“Go!” He said. “I’ll try to lead them away. Don’t stop until you’re safe from her influence.”

 

“Where would I go?”

 

“Into the woods.” He whispered, pushing her towards the thick expanse of trees. “You can hide there.”

 

She saw him turn, walking down the path. She presumed to distract the other guards. She turned and ran off the path, into the untamed brush and foliage.

 

How had it come to this?

 

***

 

She didn’t know how long she had been running for before the guards caught up.

 

“There she is!” One of them yelled. “The queen wants her heart!”

 

Her heart? What? Why?

 

She whimpered, stepping beck. Her foot hit a protruding tree root and she fell to the ground.

 

She could take care of herself, she knew she could. But there were at least seven of them, and they were armed.

 

One of the guards stepped forward, sword raised, and she flinched back. Someone shouted something, but the blow didn’t land. She opened her eyes, her jaw dropping open.

 

“Seven on one?” A voice called out. “That’s hardly fair now, is it?”

 

It was the Hood. The Hood was saving her. Wasn’t he a criminal? Her stepmother was constantly complaining about him and how he was ruining the kingdom. But he was saving her.

 

He was good. Really good. But even still, seven on one was hardly fair. And Ochako wasn’t going to make this harder on him. She picked up a rock the size of her hand, sneaking up on one of the men that was distracted by the Hood. She slammed the rock on his head and he fell like a puppet whose strings had been cut.

 

“Nice hit!” He commented, sending another guy to the ground. “You pack quite the punch there, princess!”

 

“Don’t call me princess!” She snapped.

 

“But you literally are a princess.” The Hood said.

 

“Shut up!” He knocked the last guard down with a well timed kick, then grabbed her hand and started dragging her further into the forest. “So how did you find me?”

 

“Your friend was very concerned about you.” The Hood informed her, hopping over a tree branch. “He did his best to keep the other guards off your back but he could only stall them so long. I figured I’d help out. Like I said before, seven on one is hardly fair even if you do pack quite the punch.”

 

“Thanks.” She muttered. Now that she actually had time to think, everything was starting to hit her. She sniffed, trying to hold her tears in, but it was no use. She stumbled to a stop, rubbing at her face. This was so embarrassing. “It’s not fair!” She sobbed. “I didn’t even do anything! I turned sixteen! That’s it! And she got scared and threatened and I didn’t do anything wrong!”

 

Even though she couldn’t see his face, she could tell the Hood looked distinctly uncomfortable.

 

“You’re right.” He said. “Sometimes people just suck.”

“Yeah.” She said, wiping her nose with her arm. She was so gross right now. She was covered in dirt, blood and sweat and tears. And snot. She was disgusting, and it had been a really long day, and she just wanted to find somewhere safe where she could take a nap. “Where am I even going to go?”

 

“Hello?” A voice called out. “Is there someone there?” Ochako felt her blood freeze. No. She didn’t want to fight anyone else. She was so tired. Her stupid stepmother had never been kind, but Ochako had never feared for her life before!

 

“Stay down.” The Hood said. “You’re safe.” She nodded, standing behind him. “Over here!”

 

A young girl walked into the clearing, holding a basket of flowers. She frowned at them. “Who are you?”

 

“People call me the Hood.” He said. “Who are you?”

“Tsuyu Asui.” She replied, gesturing to Ochako. “Who’s she?”

 

“Ochako.” She whispered. “What are you doing out here?”

 

“I live here, with my grandmother.” Asui said matter of factly. “What brought you out here, we’ve never had visitors this far out before.”

 

Ochako could see it. The people in her kingdom were terrified of what was in the forest. Everyone always took the path or the long way around.

 

“My mom kicked me out.” She sniffed. “She sent people to kill me.” And with those words, it was like the dam broke again. The Hood shifted awkwardly, but Asui didn’t hesitate. She raced forward, pulling Ochako into a hug.

 

“That’s horrible!” Asui exclaimed, wrapping her arms around her tightly. The hug was warm and Ochako couldn’t help but feel like, just for a moment, things weren’t absolutely terrible. “Where are you staying?”

 

“Nowhere!” Ochako sniffed. “Everyone wants to kill me!” Asui got a determined look on her face.

 

“I have room in my home. You can stay there until this all blows over.” She stated.

 

“No!” Ochako gasped. “I really can’t. There are people trying to kill me, it would put you and your grandma in danger!”

 

“No one comes out in the woods this far.” Asui explained. “At the very least it will keep you safe for a little bit longer until we have a better option.”

 

“But I don’t even know what I could do as a better option!” Ochako stepped back, looking at Asui and the Hood. “Where would I even go where they wouldn’t just give me up to my mom?”

 

The Hood hummed. “Give me a few days. I’ll see what I can do. I’ll stick around and keep an eye on the guards, but I’ll send out a messenger.”

 

“See?” Asui gave her a firm, calm look. “It’s just a few days. You won’t be a burden or a danger at all. I promise.”

 

“Okay.” Ochako agreed. “Okay. Just a few days. Thank you Asui.”

 

The girl smiled at her. “Call me Tsu.”

 

***

 

Tenya didn’t know what to do.

 

He didn’t know if his friend was alive or dead, all he knew was that right now no one would listen to him.

 

“Please!” He begged the man in the bar, the one who’s wanted poster he had recognized. He was a bounty hunter. “You could protect her.”

 

“Sorry kid.” The man huffed. “Not even I’m stupid enough to go against the queen herself.”

 

He tried a few more people, but it was always the same reaction. No one was willing to help him. The Queen had a tight grip on these people, she hurt first and asked questions later. And if she didn’t like your answer she killed you (the way she did Ochako oh no Tenya can’t do this on his own).

 

He left the bar, distraught by his circumstances, only for a firm hand to grip his wrist and drag him into an alley. He started to shout, but another hand clamped down on his mouth.

 

“Quiet.” Purple eyes bore into his own. “I can help you, but we need to be quiet about it.” Tenya nodded, a tiny flame of hope spurring in his chest. “Okay. I know where the princess is, and right now she’s safe.”

 

“Thank you.” Tenya said sincerely, not sure if he was thanking him for keeping her safe or just for the knowledge that she was okay. “ Thank you .”

 

“Don’t thank me yet.” The kid grimaced. He was young, around Tenya’s age. He wondered why he seemed so old at first. “I’ll stick around, make sure to lead the guards away.”

 

“How?” Tenya frowned. “The Queen put a large bounty on her head. It’s hard to distract someone from that.”

 

“I’ve got friends that are very distracting.” The kid said in reply. “We’ll protect her as long as we can. Until then, I need you to go to All Might’s kingdom with a message.”

 

“All Might?” Tenya frowned. “What message?”

 

“Go to the palace and ask for an audience with the prince. The guards won’t let you in, but they would be willing to carry on a message. Tell him Hitoshi Shinsou sent you. When he comes to talk to you, tell him that I’m in the Queen’s forest, and I’ll find him when he gets there.”

 

There was so much information in that sentence that Tenya couldn’t even begin to understand. He wanted him to approach a prince? And with such a vague message? And why did the message sound like he expected the prince himself to come to their aid instead of sending soldiers in his stead? But despite his questions, he did what he did best. He was a soldier, and he followed orders. It was what he was good at (until he couldn’t follow orders, not anymore, not when it was his only friend on the line-). So he took note of what he had to do and he stood up straight.

 

“I will do it.” He said firmly. “Thank you, HItoshi Shinsou, for protecting my friend.” He bowed low. “I’m in your debt.”

 

“Bring the cavalry and I’ll consider it repaid.” Shinsou said dryly. “Now go. We don’t have much time to spare.”

 

***

 

Tsu thought that Ochako was amazing. She was kind and funny and pretty and Tsu couldn’t understand why anyone would ever want to hurt her. Even over three days Tsu couldn’t imagine her life without her. For so long it had just been her and her grandmother, Ochako was like a breath of fresh air. Tsu hadn’t even realized how lonely she was until she had someone else in her life. Someone who shined like the sun. And Tsu would rather die than let anyone hurt her.

 

The past few days had been eventful, to say the least. They were careful not to be tracked back to Tsu’s home, the only other person who knew where it was was the Hood. Ochako would be perfectly safe. And the Hood took care of anyone who got too close.

 

Tsu’s grandmother wasn’t home right now, but Tsu wasn’t too worried. The woman was always off for weeks at a time, checking in with a nearby kingdom. She always came back with more food and sometimes the most beautiful little trinkets. Tsu missed her, of course, but she knew her Grandma needed that bit of adventure.

 

So of course, Tsu was surprised when she found out there was someone in the house. She grabbed a knife, sneaking into the main room where a figure sat on a chair. She only relaxed when she saw a bright white scarf.

“Hood?” She asked. “What are you doing here?”

 

He coughed. “Shit.” He muttered, a hand pressed to his side. “I don’t suppose you have a first aid kit around here?”

 

“I do.” She confirmed, “But I can’t stitch up your side. We don’t have any needles.”

 

“What? Why not?”

 

“My grandma says she has this phobia of them. Can’t even be in the same house.” Tsu shrugged. She had never questioned it. It rarely came up. “But we can stem the blood flow and I’ll see what I can do. Why did you come here?”

 

“I’m not very well liked in this kingdom,” he said dryly. “You’re the only friendly face nearby.”

 

The cut wasn’t too deep. It was shallow enough that stitches weren’t strictly necessary, which was good. Stitches would help it heal faster, though. While she was administering first aid, the Hood took off his hood and mask and Tsu was surprised to see how young he was. She wasn't sure why he was trusting her like this, but she couldn’t complain, as without the thick cloak she could work on his wound easier.

 

“You should stay here until you heal.” She said, matter of factly.

 

“I can’t.” He hummed. “The guards are still tracking you, not to mention the bounty hunters. I have to keep you safe.”

 

“Is anyone even coming?” She asked. She watched, as doubt and fear briefly flickered across his face, before he schooled his expression.

 

“Yes.” He said firmly. “They’ll come.”

 

“How do you know?” She asked.

 

“They’re family.” He told her. “You don’t leave family behind.”

 

***

 

Shouto still had nightmares.

 

Sometimes, he was back underwater, with his tail, under his father’s cruel rule and wishing he could escape to the surface.

 

Other times he would watch Izuku get thrown out the window. This time he never came back.

 

Those ones were easy to shake off, well easier. All he had to do was wake up and see  his legs, or go check on Izuku, and realize he was fine.

 

Most often, though, he dreamed of Hitoshi. They spent so much time together fighting side by side that his nightmares had plenty of fuel. And sometimes Shouto wondered if he was seeing the future. If one day, some guard in some kingdom would be bragging about how he finally took down the Hood, and Shouto wouldn’t even be able to mourn because he’d never get the chance to see the body.

 

He couldn’t shake those ones off. He didn’t know where Hitoshi was.

 

So when he’s sitting with Izuku, only for a guard to come in and inform his boyfriend that someone came to speak to him sent by Hitoshi Shinsou, Shouto felt his heart freeze. Was his friend okay? Why didn’t he come himself?

 

By the time the tall messenger came in, Shouto was already pacing.

 

“Where is he?” He demanded, as soon as the doors closed.

 

“The Queen’s Forest.” The man replied. “He sent me to ask for help.”

 

“Why didn’t he come?” Izuku muttered. “Is he hurt?”

 

“Not when I last saw him.” The messenger assured them. “He’s helping a friend of mine. I have speed magic, so I was able to get here in less than a day.”

 

Shouto frowned. It would certainly take them a long time to travel back, even on horseback.

 

“What are we waiting for?” He demanded, grabbing his cloak. “Let’s go!” The guards around him began scrambling. Sometimes, Shouto forgot that here, he wasn't a prince. The guards tended to forget that too. Maybe it was his tone?

 

Hitoshi better be fine. If not, Shouto was going to kill him.

 

***

 

Ochako’s gut churned.

 

The Hood was downstairs. He was hurt. The guards were coming, and they would kill him and hurt Tsu and it would be all her fault.

 

She couldn’t let it happen.

 

Help is coming, she tried to remind herself. Just hold on .

 

But the feeling remained.

 

She couldn’t let them die for her. A part of her wondered if Tenya had gotten in trouble for letting her go. What if the Queen had hurt him? All she’s doing is causing problems for everyone around her.

 

She grabbed a cloak and opened the window.

 

This is for the best . She told herself, as she left her safe haven behind.

 

***

 

Hitoshi had only groggily stirred when Tsu burst into the main area of the house.

 

“Ochako’s gone.”

 

His eyes widened, and he sat up straight. “What?”

 

“She left, her window was open and her cloak was gone.”

 

“Damnit.” Hitoshi curse. “I’ll go find her, you stay here in case she comes back.” Tsu nodded, fear in her big green eyes. He stopped and turned to the girl. “She’s going to be okay.”

“Okay.” She said firmly. “Keep her safe.”

 

“I will.” He replied, moving off the couch. The half-healed wound on his side twinged in pain but he ignored it. He couldn't let it bother him. He had a friend to save.

 

“Hood.” Tsu stopped him. “Why would she leave?”

 

Hitoshi thought about it. There were a lot of reasons, few of them good. He thought about what could drive someone to leave the only safe place they had been able to find.

 

What had he told Shouto?

I have to. I have a job to do. My work here is done .

 

The lies had been bitter in his mouth.

 

He left because he knew better than to trust he could have a family, not with a timer ticking in the back of his head and reminding him that no relationship was ever long term.

 

He wondered what had driven Ochako away.

 

He found her, eventually, dropping out of the trees to crouch down next to her. She startled with a yelp and whirled around to stare at him.

 

“You left.” He accused her.

 

“You got hurt because of me.” She accused right back, and for a moment, everything made sense.

 

Of course she blames herself for that. If half of what Hitoshi had heard about the queen was true, then the queen was narcissistic and cruel. He couldn’t imagine living with her ( yes you could, his mind cries but he shoves it back). Of course Ochako feels like a burden, she’d spent most of her life alone and able to seek love and affection from someone who only loved themselves.

 

“That’s not your fault.” He says firmly. “It’s the bounty hunter that hurt me, not you.” It had been the same coward that Ochako’s friend had spoken to in the bar. If Hitoshi had hit him a little harder than necessary, well, who could judge?

 

“But you’ll get hurt again if I stay.” She sniffed. “I’m just causing so many problems!”

 

“Granted, your mother is the one causing the problems.” He shrugged. “You need to remember that none of this is your fault. It’s never your fault when someone who was supposed to love you decided to hurt you.”

 

He thinks of Izuku, who had told him stories of heavy hands and burning fists from the person he’d loved like a brother. Of a pseudo mother that never did her job. He thinks of Shouto, who had to leave an entire world behind just to escape the cruelty of his father. (he thinks of cruel words, cursed so long ago, no one will ever love you more than me, not for long .)

 

Her lip wobbles and her eyes look wet, but it’s cut off by a snapping branch to their right.

 

He had surprised Ochako and she had yelped, leading people right to them.

 

“Go.” He said softly. “Get out of here, I’ll distract them.”

 

“I’m not going to leave you here alone.” She said firmly. He sighed, knowing it would be a lost cause. She wouldn’t let him fight her battles, not unless she was fighting too.

 

“Stay behind hme. If you see an opening, use it. Okay?” She nodded and he turned towards their assailant. There were at least a dozen guards. On a good day Hitoshi would have had a hard time with that. Twelve on one is hardly fair. But his side is still throbbing and his head hurts and he has someone to protect. Then again, it was twelve on two, so his odds could be worse.

 

The ensuing fight was not fun. Ochako stepped in when she could, but the guards were well trained and fast and Ocahko didn’t have a sword. Hitoshi took a few heavy hits. He barely blocked a strike from a particularly strong soldier with his arm, and he heard it snap just as his vision went white for a moment.

 

Okay. Ten on two, and he has a broken arm. At least he still has his magic as a last case scenario. He probably couldn’t brainwash ten people though, so he had to keep fighting.

 

In the end, he was on the ground, a sword at his throat, three men still standing and walking towards a scared Ochako, and he knew he had one chance. He opened his mouth to say something, anything to get them to respond, when a chill filled the air. A very familiar chill. Hitoshi could have cried.

 

The guard with the sword at Hitoshi’s throat was frozen in seconds.

 

“Shit!” One guard explained. “It’s his partner! John or something!” The other three guards didn’t stand a chance. He saw his friend (his brother) emerge from the trees and Hitoshi could feel the tears in his eyes he definitely wasn’t going to let fall.

 

He came .

 

And judging by his stance he was pissed. Well, Hitoshi liked living, but he supposed it was over now. His friend was going to kill him.

 

“Little John, saving the day like always.” He teased. “You would not believe the day I’ve had.”

 

Shouto’s hand in his should not have been as comforting as it was. But he couldn’t deny how relaxed he was knowing that Shouto was here and he had his back as Shouto helped him to his feet.

 

“You’re an idiot.” His friend said, immediately crushing him in a hug.

 

“Whoa there Fish Boy, watch the ribs.” He choked out, wrapping his arms around him. “Long time no see?”

 

“Do you have any idea how worried I’ve been?” Shouto demanded. “Your friend shows up and all he can say is that you were uninjured last he saw and that you needed help! You could have died!”

 

“I still had another trick up my sleeve!” He tried defending himself, checking himself over for injuries. His stab wound had reopened, he had some broken ribs, and his arm was broken. But he could still stand, so that was a win. “Where’s Izuku? And Ochako’s friend?”

 

“We split up to cover more ground. We’re going to meet up somewhere near here in about an hour.” Hitoshi stood there awkwardly, still stuck in Shouto’s arms.

 

“Are you going to let me go anytime soon?”

 

“We don’t have to meet them for another hour.”

 

Hitoshi hummed. “Ochako, this is my friend. Fish Boy, this is the princess.”

Shouto sighed. “You always get involved in the weirdest shit.”

 

“Hey this is much less weird than your shit so you have no room to talk!”

 

“You were involved in my shit!”

 

“It’s nice to meet you!” Ochako interrupted them awkwardly. “Thank you for saving me.”

“You’re welcome.” Shouto replied. “If Hitoshi likes you then you’re good in my books.”

 

“Good.” HItoshi said firmly. “I’m hoping All Might can give her sanctuary.”

 

“Sanctuary?” Shouto hummed. “What is that?”

 

“All Might is special because he offers sanctuary in his kingdom. If you’re a criminal in one kingdom you can go to his kingdom and be kept safe. You’ll still be imprisoned, but he gives you the opportunity to plead your case and ultimately decides whether to hand you over to the people looking for you or grant you immunity within the borders of his kingdom.” hitoshi explained. “So if All Might were to give me sanctuary, even though I’m a wanted criminal, I could walk around his kingdom freely. Anyone who goes against his sanctuary is basically declaring war on All Might, and no one wants that.”

 

Ochako’s eyes watered. “He could really do that for me?”

 

“Yup!” Hitoshi grinned. “Just until we get your mom removed from power. What she is doing is definitely illegal. Give us time and we’ll get you home.” He shifted in Shouto’s arms. “You happen to have a first aid kit on you?”

 

“Of course I do.”

 

“Think you can stitch up the stab wound in my side?”

 

“The what?

 

***

 

Izuku hadn’t known what he had been expecting when they had split up to start their search. Maybe to run into some guards or a spare bounty hunter. Hopefully, to find Hitoshi and yell at him while giving him a hug.

 

He hadn’t been expecting to find a little cottage in the middle of nowhere.

 

Curious, he stepped closer, hoping to see evidence that someone lived there. It certainly looked lived in and well kept, so he assumed that whoever lived there was current and hopefully not a mean old witch about to curse him for trespassing.

 

Izuku had been so busy focusing on the little cottage, he didn’t notice the small figure sneaking up behind him, a pan in her hand.

 

His vision went black.

 

***

 

“He’s still not here.” Shouto at this point had basically paced a trail into the clearing. He wasn’t sure what to do. They had waited an extra thirty minutes for him to get back, and Izuku was still gone.

 

“We’ll find him.” Hitoshi promised. “But first, let’s take Iida and Ochako back to the cottage. Then we can go looking.”

 

“Then I will go looking.” Shouto corrected. “And if I take anyone with me, it’ll be Iida. Because he has two working arms and no stab wounds.”

 

“Ouch.” Hitoshi huffed. “I see how it is. I introduce you two and you decide you like him better than me.”

 

Iida spluttered but Shouto just gave him a dry look. “Yep.”

 

“Well bold of you to assume you can stop me.” Hitoshi grinned at him. “Izuku is my friend too, I’m going.”

 

“Hitoshi, I will tie you to a chair.”

 

“Kinky.”

Hitoshi !”

 

***

 

Izuku’s head was pounding. Like, really pounding. But at least he was conscious now. Although, being conscious didn’t mean much since he was currently tied to a chair.

 

“Hello?” He called out, hoping to get someone’s attention. “Sorry for trespassing and invading your privacy. I was looking for my friend.”

 

“I’m sorry but I just can’t believe that.” A voice spoke up and he turned to see a short girl, probably his age, with long green hair. “There have been a lot of people looking for my friend lately. Are you one of them?”

 

She must be talking about Hitoshi. Or Ochako, the girl Iida had been worried about. This obviously wasn’t her, Iida said she had short brown hair.

 

“Yeah, I think so?” He tried. “But I’m here to help, I promise!” He exclaimed seeing fear and anger flicker on her face. “I came here cause my friend sent for help!”

 

“Who sent for help?” She asked, eyes narrow and Izuku paused, contemplating. Should he say Hitoshi’s name? But what if she only knew him as the Hood? Iida knew his name, but Hitoshi had probably given it to him for the sole purpose of getting Izuku’s attention.

 

“Do you want his real name or his alias?” He finally asked, deciding that he should answer sooner or later because this girl was still holding a pan and seemed to be trusting him less and less by the second. She was definitely trigger happy and Izuku did not want to find himself on the other end of that frying pan for a second time.

 

“Alias.”

 

“The Hood.” Thankfully, she relaxed. She didn’t make any move to untie him though.

 

“What are you going to do with Ochako?” She asked.

 

“Ideally? Give her sanctuary in All Might’s kingdom.” Izuku shrugged, thankfully he had enough range of motion to do that. “Based on what Iida said, she didn’t do anything wrong and her mom is the one committing crimes. We can keep Ochako safe with all the power of All Might behind her until we dethrone her mom.”

 

“How do you expect to do that, All Might doesn’t offer sanctuary to just anyone.”

 

“Well, er…” He trailed off. He’d never had to introduce himself as a prince before. How does he do this without sounding pretentious? “All Might is my, uh, dad?”

 

She stared at him, face blank. “What?”

 

“All Might is my dad.”

 

“You’re the prince?”

 

“Yes?”

 

“And I hit you over the head with a frying pan?” She ran a hand through her hair, looking slightly frantic.

 

“I guess?” He smiled at her. “But don’t worry about it! You were just protecting your friend!”

 

“I hit the prince of All Might’s kingdom over the head with a frying pan!” She said, starting to pace the room. “What was I thinking?”

 

“Um, could you untie me now?” He asked. “I promise, I’m not mad.”

 

“Right,” she said. “Sorry. Yeah, I’ll untie you.” She moved towards him, but the door burst open before she could do anything else.

 

“Hey Tsu, one of my friends is missing so I’m going to head out but I’ve got Iida here with Ochako and-” Hitoshi cut himself off, staring at what must have been a pretty interesting sight. “I clearly missed something here.”

 

“Um, I was looking for you earlier when I found this house. Your friend caught me snooping and took measures to make sure I wasn’t dangerous.” Izuku explained while the girl (Tsu?) untied him.

 

Izuku watched Hitoshi’s face break into a large grin before he started laughing.

 

“It’s not that funny!” Izuku complained.

 

“It’s pretty funny.” Tsu disagreed. “Sorry, your highness. I promise not to tie you up again.” If anything, this sentence only made Hitoshi laugh harder.

 

“Hitoshi what are you…” Shouto trailed off when he saw Izuku. “Izuku!” He rushed forward, looking him over for injuries. “Are you hurt?”

“I probably have a concussion, but otherwise I’m alright.” Izuku tried to console him. “There was a bit of a misunderstanding.” He smiled sheepishly at Tsu.

 

“Ochako!” Tsu ran forward, pulling the other girl into a hug. “I was so worried, I’m glad that you’re okay!”

 

“I’m sorry for leaving.” The other girl wrapped her arms around her. “I know you guys were just trying to keep me safe. I felt bad for being a burden.”

 

“You are not a burden.” Tsu said sharply. “You’re my friend. The first one I’ve ever had. You could stay here for the rest of your life and I would fight a thousand guards for you and you’d never be a burden.”

 

Ochako sniffed. “Thanks Tsu, that means a lot.” She wrapped her arms even tighter. Iida looked fondly at the interaction.

 

“So…” Hitoshi spoke up. “Where do we go from here?”

 

“I thought it was obvious.” Shouto smiled. “We go home.”

 

Izuku really hoped it would be that simple.


It wasn’t.

 

***

While it had only taken the two days to get down there on horseback, they didn’t have enough horses for everyone and Ochako refused to go ahead and leave anyone behind. It would be a long journey back to All Might’s kingdom on foot.

 

Tsu decided to come with them, leaving a note for her grandmother. She said that she wanted to make sure Ochako got there safely, and Izuku couldn’t blame her considering that he would do the same for Shouto and Hitoshi.

 

It seemed everyone in the kingdom was trying to kill Ochako. Which meant everyone in the kingdom was trying to kill them. He fired up his new magic (All Might called it One for All for some reason. Izuku wondered if it had to do with the story of the three Musketeers) and launched himself at one of the bounty hunters, green lightning crackling around him.

 

“Could you always do that?” Hitoshi looked gobsmacked. He turned to Shouto. “He couldn’t do that when I left, could he?”

 

“No, he was still working to control it back then.” Shouto smiled at Izuku, a proud look on his face. “Now he doesn’t break his bones anymore.” Izuku ignores Iida’s scandalized ‘you were breaking your bones ’ and focuses on the fight.

 

With all of them there, they were a pretty big target. But they were also stronger as a unit. Iida was faster than anyone he had ever seen, his magic enhancing his legs to the point where it was always visible. Shouto continued to use his ice (sometimes Izuku wondered if there was more to his magic, something Izuku never saw). Hitoshi was fast as lightning with his scarf, and his fighting experience was beyond anything Izuku had ever seen. Ochako surprised them with the information that she also had magic, and could take away the gravity of an object. Even Tsu had magic that helped her transform certain characteristics of herself to match up with a frog. It was amazing. Izuku couldn’t help but beam when they all fought together.

 

Sometimes he thought back to that competition nearly a year ago, where he had become All Might’s heir. Fighting those people one on one had been terrifying. Here and now, fighting with these people against enemies much more dangerous, Izuku decided he never wanted to fight alone ever again.

 

It took them almost two weeks of fighting and hiding to make it back to All Might’s kingdom. But when they got there, Toshinori was waiting to welcome them with open arms.

 

***

 

Izuku pulled Shouto aside shortly after they got back.

 

“Is everything okay?” His boyfriend asked.

 

“I was just wondering.” Izuku started. “Your magic, is it only ice? It only comes out of one side of your body.” Shouto was quiet, a sad look in his eye.

 

“No.” Shouto said. “But I can’t use it. It reminds me of my father.”

 

Izuku doesn’t press further, knowing it wasn’t the time. Shouto wasn’t ready.

 

***

 

Tsu knew that she and Ochako had lived very different lives. And yet, over the two weeks that they’d been traveling Tsu had felt closer to her than anyone else she had ever met. It may be because they had both grown up so lonely, it may be because they’re the only girls traveling, but Tsu knew she could trust Ochako with her life, and she would never let anything happen to her.

 

It was why she had come along in the first place. Tsu was so lonely, and for a brief moment, her house had been so loud. She wondered if that had been what it would be like to have a big family. She’d never truly know. It was just her and her grandma. But it had been so nice, and Tsu was so reluctant to lose it. So she’d come along. And she was glad she did. She hadn’t realized how much she had been missing out, growing up isolated. How much laughter, how much fun. Her heart had never been lighter.

 

And now, it was over. Ochako was safe, and it was time to go home.

Tsu didn’t want to go. She didn’t want to leave this behind. She didn’t want to go back to her empty cottage in the middle of nowhere with no one for miles. She wanted to stay, and laugh with her new friends. She wanted to have people to talk to and hang out with instead of spending every day alone in a cottage.

 

But she knew her grandma would be back soon, and she couldn’t keep her waiting, even if she had left her a note. She had to go back. But she didn’t want to.

 

Her inner turmoil made it hard for her to sleep, so she took to wandering the castle in the middle of the night.

 

She wasn’t sneaking around, she just needed to be moving so her thoughts weren’t focusing on everything she was leaving behind. She often ran into the Hood (Hitoshi, he had eventually introduced himself) wandering around as well. Apparently, he had trouble sleeping too.

 

Her feet took her all over, from the library to the great hall. She hadn’t felt like she was searching for something, and yet her feet seemed to have a destination in mind.

 

It wasn’t until she discovered the seamstresses quarters that she found what she was looking for. A spinning wheel. She had never seen one before. She saw the needle on the end, and wondered what it was her grandmother was so scared of. Was it sharp?

 

She hummed, looking closer.

 

Touchittouchittouchit

 

She shook her head, her mind feeling foggy. She wasn’t sure why her feet had brought her here. She turned, planning to leave, but couldn’t seem to make her feet go.

 

Was it sharp? She’s never touched a needle before.

 

Why was her grandmother so scared of it?

 

Before she knew it, her hand was reaching out, pricking her finger on the needle.


Her mind fogged again, and she knew no more.

 

***

 

“Has anyone seen Tsu?” Ochako asked, bursting into the hall at breakfast. “She wasn’t in her room!” There were multiple mutters of disagreement across the room. “That’s not like her. Do you think she’s okay?”

 

“I don’t know.” Izuku swallowed, a thoughtful look on his face. “Why don’t we go looking for her if she doesn’t show up by the end of breakfast?”

 

“I ran into her wandering last night,” Hitoshi said. “She was having trouble sleeping. Maybe she’s just sleeping in now?”

 

Ochako nodded and sat down, her stomach churning. She couldn’t even stomach the idea of food right now. She didn’t know why, but she felt like something was wrong.

 

Tsu never showed up for breakfast.

 

“Okay.” Izuku hummed. “Shouto, you check in with the guards last night, see if anyone saw her leaving. Hitoshi, you take the east tower, Iida the west. I’ll look throughout the main floor. Ochako, check down in the servants quarters.” They all nodded and moved towards their respective destinations.

 

Ochako searched thoroughly, refusing to let even the slightest thing slide under her radar. She finally found her friend in the seamstress room.

 

“Tsu!” She exclaimed, kneeling next to the other girl on the floor. “Tsu, wake up!” She quickly checked her head for any injuries, but there were none. She wasn’t hurt, just asleep.

 

Scratch that. There was a bit of blood on her finger. But why would that knock her out, unless the needle was poisoned?

 

Wasn’t there that one princess from the next kingdom over that got cursed by a witch? It had something to do with needles, right? But Tsu wasn’t a princess, was she? Unless she was hidden away. Maybe she was a runaway royal, just like Ochako.

 

Of course Tsu was a princess. She was too amazing not to be.

 

“Tsu!” She shook her friend's shoulder. “Tsu please!” Her eyes felt wet. How did someone even break the curse again? True love’s kiss? Wasn’t that a myth? “Tsu wake up!” She lessened her gravity, gathering her in her arms.


Why hadn’t she seen it? There were no needles in her whole house, not even for minor mending. That’s not normal, even if someone has a needle phobia!

 

“Help!” She called out. “Please!” A guard came running her way, eyes widening at the sight. He moved to take Tsu from her arms but Ochako pulled her closer. “Just show me where the infirmary is, and send the others over.”

 

She didn’t know what she was going to do, but she wasn’t going to let her friend just die.

 

***

 

They were all gathered in her hospital room, surrounding Tsu’s bed. Ochako didn’t know what to do. Her friend was lying, death like, on the bed and no one could even do anything.

 

“How do we break the curse?” Tenya asked tentatively.

 

“The typical true love’s kiss.” Shinsou answered. “That breaks every curse, but it was specified as the only way in this one.”

 

“It’s not fair!” Ochako sniffed. “She didn’t even do anything wrong! It was her parents! Why would that witch curse her?”

 

“She’s not the most stable.” Shinsou answered, sighing. “She was offended and lashed out.”

 

“Where is she?” Ochako asked. “Maybe we can find her and ask her to take off the curse? It’s been sixteen years, maybe she’ll-”

 

“No.” Shinsou interrupted, firm. “There’s no reasoning with her. She won’t remove the curse. True love’s kiss really is the only way.”

 

“Then we can make her reverse it!” Ochako decided, determination filling her.

 

“You can’t make her do anything!” Hitoshi argued. “You can’t reason with her, she’s a monster!”

 

“What do you mean?” Izuku asked. “Hitoshi, you’re talking as if you’ve met her.”

 

Hitoshi turned away. “Trust me,” he said. “It’s a lost cause.”

 

“Hitoshi?” Izuku pressed, but Hitoshi just pressed his lips into a thin line and turned away.

 

“We have to do something!” Ochako snapped. “There had to be some other way to break the curse!”

 

“What if we went back and asked her grandmother?” Shouto said. “Maybe she’s been able to figure something out after all these years?”

 

Ochako felt herself perk up. There! That was something she could do! Surely her grandmother would know something!

 

“You can’t go,” Tenya tried to tell her. “Your mother’s still looking for you. If you leave All Might’s kingdom then you won’t be protected anymore.”

 

But Tsu had done so much for her. She was her friend. She was amazing and Ochako was going to do everything she could to fix this. She had to go, she had to make sure that this went well. She would never forgive herself otherwise.

 

***

 

Luckily, they managed a fast trip down to Tsu’s home. Ochako stayed in disguise the whole time. The last thing they needed was the entirety of the kingdom coming after them.

 

***

 

Tsu’s grandmother was a tiny little woman who bore very little resemblance to Ochako’s friend. She was small with a thin face and tiny eyes.

 

“Hello dear.” She greeted. “You must be Ochako. Tsu mentioned you in the letter she left.”

 

“I’m so sorry.” Ochako whispered, focusing her eyes on the ground. “I didn’t know, so I didn’t protect her.”

 

“It’s okay.” The woman soothed, and Ochako could feel herself relax. She didn’t know how this woman was doing it, just her presence seemed to calm the entire room. “Tsu will be alright.”

 

“How do you know?” Ochako had cried a lot these past few weeks. Then again, they had been pretty emotional.

 

“Because she's met her true love.” The woman smiled at her, tilting Ochako’s head up.

 

“Who?”Ochako asked, her heart hurting. Hurting because her friend was hurt. Hurting because Ochako couldn’t give her what she needed. Hurting because deep down she loved her and she wanted more than anything to be okay.

 

“I think you know.” The woman smiled at her, cupping her cheeks. “Tsu hasn’t met very many people. Now why don’t you go and save my granddaughter?”

 

***

 

Ochako couldn’t help but feel like all she’d done lately is cause problems. But now she actually has the chance to fix something.

 

True love’s kiss breaks every curse. That’s what Hitoshi had said. And Ochako knew she loved Tsu.

 

When Tsu’s green eyes opened again, Ochako burst into tears.

 

“Ochako?” Tsu reached up and pulled her into a hug. “What’s wrong?”

 

“I did something right,” Ochako sniffed, wrapping her arms around her. “I’m just glad you’re okay.”

 

“Of course you didm” Tsu said. “You’re amazing.”

 

***

 

And just like that, things seemed to finally settle down. Word got out about All Might’s sanctuary for Ochako, and the rest of the world started questioning whether the Queen was telling the truth. Ochako’s stepmom was weaving some tale about how Ochako had been responsible for her father’s death. Which was ridiculous, since Ochako was only ten when he died.

 

“It looks like people are finally on your side,” Tsu said one day.

 

Eventually, people would realize how cruel the Queen was. Eventually, she would be run out of the kingdom and Ochako would be welcomed in as the new ruler. But until that became a reality, Ochako would be happy to stay here with all her friends.

 

***

 

“Were you going to say goodbye?”

 

Hitoshi cursed, turning to see Shouto staring at him, an unreadable expression on his face.

 

“I can’t stay.” He whispered. Tell him a voice whispered in his head, but he shook it away.

 

“Why?”

 

“I have to help people.” He lied. “I have a duty.”

 

“You don’t have to.” Shouto pursed his lips. “You’re needed here just as much.”

 

“I can’t.” Hitoshi grit his teeth, his mind echoing with a chorus of tellhims . “Tell everyone else I said goodbye.”

 

“Tell them yourself.”

 

“I can’t wait.”

 

“Why? What’s the hurry?”

 

If I don’t leave now, I never will He could say. It was true. He needed to go now, before someone could stop him. It wasn’t the whole truth, but it was why he couldn’t say goodbye.

 

Hitoshi had never been good at saying goodbye. He could count on one hand the number times he’d left someone behind that he would have had to say goodbye to.

 

“I’m sorry.” He said. “Goodbye Shouto.”

 

“You’ll come back right?”

 

Yes . He wanted to say. I don’t want to leave . But he couldn’t. He couldn’t promise. There was only one thing that he was ever sure of. “I don’t know.”

 

***

 

Tsu’s parents reached out a week later. They were ecstatic to meet both Tsu and Ochako, but neither of the girls was really sure what to think of them. Tsu had never met them before, she didn’t remember them, but they wanted to be a part of her life. She’s never really considered that she may have had parents before.

 

In the end, Ochako and Tsu went to visit, and they hit it off. They still came back to All Might’s kingdom frequently, choosing to form an alliance to give them an excuse to visit. In the end, Ochako couldn’t help but feel like she’d found her happily ever after.

 

***

 

Momo was trapped.

 

She was trapped and she just wanted an escape from everything holding her back.

 

That’s what she told herself as she snuck out of the palace again.