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Home is where the Heart is

Chapter Text

Izuku Midoriya was a sickly child. He was like his mother in that way. She had been like a match, burning bright but fast and being extinguished before Izuku had turned three.

 

He didn’t remember much about his mom. What he does remember is a haze of fevers and exhaustion as doctors filtered through their home. Sometimes they were there for him. More often they were there for her.

 

“Reach for the sun,” She had told him one day, her skin pale and a weary smile on her face. “If you keep trying, then nothing can stop you.”

 

She hadn’t lived much longer after that. Izuku can’t remember any other words she said to him, but he treasured those ones.

 

Reach for the sun .

 

Growing up, Izuku struggled to follow her advice. He’d inherited her sickly demeanor, and spent a lot of his time in his bed after the Bakugou’s had taken him in. But all through his childhood, the dimness of that home was interrupted by a bright light. Kacchan. He shone brighter than all the stars in the sky. He was the opposite of Izuku. He was strong, he ran outside and always came back covered in scrapes and bruises but he never cried. He was Izuku’s best friend.

 

“Don’t worry Zuku!” Kacchan said. “I’ll beat up the sickness for you!”

 

“I don’t think it works that way Kacchan!” Izuku replied. “You can’t fight the flu.”

 

“Watch me!” And he would try. He would run around and bring him water and crackers and he would beat up anyone who made fun of him for being weak. His magic would pop out of his hands in little sparks and the other kids would run away.

 

“I think your magic is so cool Kacchan!” Izuku beamed at him.

“Of course it is!” Kacchan scoffed. “I’m the best!”

 

“Do you think I could ever get magic?” He asked.

 

“Of course you will!” Kacchan said.

 

“Maybe I could fly.” Izuku said, staring up at the sky. “I could touch the sun.”

 

“Hah? Why would you want to do that?”

 

“Because if I could touch the sun, then everything would be okay.” Izuku said.

 

“But what if you fall?”

 

“You’ll catch me, won’t you Kacchan?”

 

But then, Izuku took a turn for the worse, and everything changed.

 

“No!” Kacchan snapped, his magic bursting out of him with a pop. “He’s not going to die!”

 

“Katsuki,” Masaru said firmly. “You don’t get to decide that. It would take a miracle to save him.”

 

“Then I’ll make a miracle!” Kacchan snapped. “I’m not giving up on him!” He grabbed his cloak and stormed out of the house angrily.

 

They didn’t see him for two days. Izuku was afraid that he would die without seeing his friend again. He didn’t want that. So he made himself hold on.

 

He wanted to say goodbye to Kacchan before he died.

 

He was seven years old, and he’d never reach the sun.

 

But when Kacchan came back, Izuku got better. And not just from the flu, from everything. He was healthy, he could run around, he could fight. He could stand up.

 

It was a miracle, and Izuku didn’t know how Kacchan did it.

 

He could reach for the sun.

 

Except, everything had changed.

 

“I’m not the same weak little kid anymore Kacchan!” Izuku protested. “I can take care of myself!”

 

“You don’t know anything! You’ll always be useless, like a Deku!” Kacchan sneered. “How many times do I have to tell you to leave me alone! I want nothing to do with you!” Izuku hadn’t understood what changed. But now when Kacchan looked at him, he had a mixture of sadness and resignation in his eyes that Izuku had never seen before.

 

They were brothers, but it didn’t feel like it.

 

Mitsuki started berating them more. Kacchan was picking up on her words and her personality and he started lashing out. He was like a snake, lashing and biting and injecting venom. Izuku didn’t know what to do.

 

Kacchan and Mitsuki only got meaner once Masaru died. They missed him. Mitsuki’s scathing words turned into sharp fists and slaps. Kacchan’s hands started to burn .

 

Sometimes, all Izuku could think to do was leave.

 

He’d go out to the forest outside his house, he’d find the tallest tree he could, and he’d climb until the branches started to crack underneath his weight. He’d reach as high as he could, but the sun was always out of reach.

 

And that was how the years passed. Mituki would hurt him and Kacchan, Kacchan would lash out, and Izuku would climb for the sun.

 

He could never reach it. His mom had said when he reached the sun nothing could stop him, but there were so many obstacles right now.

 

He needed to stop looking at the sun, and start learning how to catch his fall.

 

***

 

He was running.

 

Kacchan was in a bad mood today. Besides, Mitsuki said they needed more firewood, and Izuku was more than happy to go get it.

 

So he was running through the forest. He found his favorite tree, one that twisted and turned taller than any of the other trees in the forest. He scampered up, finding the easy hand and footholds, and was soon as high up as his weight would let him go. He could see far into the distance.

 

His eyes widened when he saw a wagon racing down the path, out of control. Something had spooked the horses and the person that was supposed to be steering it was slumped over, clearly not conscious. While the path was clear now, Izuku was sure that the further it got into the forest the more likely it would be that it would overturn and someone could get hurt.

 

He had to do something!

 

He scrambled down a few branches, waiting as the wagon got closer. He had to time this perfectly. His hands shook, but he couldn’t hesitate.

 

He jumped from the branch, and for just a moment, he flew . And then he fell.

 

He landed on the horse’s back and firmly grabbed the reins. And he pulled. The horse bucked but he held firm. If he could keep his grip on the chicken eggs while Kacchan chased him with explosions then he could hold on to these reigns.

 

He managed to slow the wagon down and the horse came to a stop. He turned around to see what had caused the man to lose control of the reins only to see him staring, eyes wide and glassy with an arrow in his throat. His gut churned, but he jumped off the horse and raced to the carriage (because it wasn’t a wagon like he had first thought but a carriage. Is that the royal insignia ?) itself, opening the door.

 

“Are you okay?” He blurted out, seeing the man inside. He was a tall thin man, with long blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail, save two tufts that stuck out on his forehead like rabbit ears.

 

“I’m alright my boy.” The man said, his voice deep. He smiled at him, blue eyes soft. No one had looked at him like that in a long time so softly and happy to see him. “Thank you for saving me, that was very brave!”

 

“Well I couldn’t just let you die!” He exclaimed. “The man in front, someone shot him with an arrow, do you know why someone would do that?”

 

The man sputtered. “Ah, no reason I’m sure it was just bandits or something!” The man laughed awkwardly and Izuku tried to keep his suspicion off his face. This man was hiding something. “I was heading back to the palace to bring a package back to King All Might.”

 

“You’ve been to the palace?” Izuku gasped, eyes widening. The palace sat atop a hill in the distance, spires driving into the air further than any tree Izuku had ever seen. Maybe he would reach the sun there. He wondered what this man was doing so far away. Mitsuki’s land bordered the edge of the kingdom. “You know King All Might?”

 

“Yes. I, er, work for him.” The man coughed awkwardly. “I’m his secretary.”

 

“That’s so cool!” Izuku beamed. “What is he like?”

 

“Larger than life.” The man smiled warmly, but then he seemed to really look at Izuku and he frowned. “Young man, are you alright? Did you get hurt saving me?”

 

“What?” Izuku looked down at his body to see if he had gotten any injuries from saving this man. He hadn’t, it was just the typical bruises from Mitsuki, and burns from Kacchan. He had a dark bruise on his face and a handprint wrapped around his wrist. Scattered starburst burns littered his arms. “No, this is from before.”

 

“What happened?” The man asked, reaching a hand out. Izuku instinctively stepped back.

 

“Nothing.” He said honestly. This was normal. “Just-nothing.”

 

“Young man is there someone hurt-”

 

“I should go.” Izuku blurted out. “I have some chores to finish up. Is there anything I could do for you sir?”

 

“I’m alright.” He stepped out of the carriage, going to unstrap the horse. “I can ride this horse back home. Thank you for saving me, please allow me to repay you. I could talk to your parents and-”

 

“Oh no it’s okay!” Izuku did not want this man near Mitsuki. He seemed so frail, she would rip him in half. “I really need to go, have a great day sir!” He sprinted off, ignored the shouts of the man, and ran home.

 

He was fine.

 

***

 

Yagi Toshinori was looking for an heir to the throne.

 

Everyone was asking him about who would have the throne when he was gone. Right now, if he were to die, it would cause a war over who would be the new king. And Toshinori didn’t want that, he knew he needed an heir, but how was he supposed to make a decision?

 

Mirai had suggested his nephew, Mirio, but Toshinori had spoken to him and it didn’t seem like he wanted to rule. He didn’t know what to do.

 

A few people had suggested a tournament, a series of competitions to see who was the most worthy, but All Might didn’t want it to be all focused on strength. It needed to include an aspect of intelligence.

 

Then again…

 

His mind once again wandered to a young boy with green hair and bruises and burns on his skin.

 

Maybe it would be nice to see all the worthy heirs in the kingdom.

 

***

 

Word got around fast that the King was having a competition for someone to be his heir. Izuku didn’t think much of it. He had work to do. Besides, he had no possible hopes that he could win anything like that.

 

But that didn’t stop Mitsuki.

 

“All young men and women ages fifteen to eighteen are invited.” She said at dinner that night. “Which means you brats are invited. So you better go, and if you don’t win don’t bother to come home.”

 

“I don’t need to win some stupid contest to prove I’m the best.” Kacchan huffed. “I’m not prince material.”

 

“Shut up Katsuki.” She snapped. “I didn’t raise the both of you to be so ungrateful. You leave in the morning.”

 

And that was that. No arguments. Except Kacchan still tried to argue, but Mitsuki put a stop to that quickly. Kacchan limped to their room, nose bloody and eyes determined.

 

Sometimes, Izuku thought of the man in the woods, the one that had smiled at him so warmly. He really wished he could have someone look at him like that again. Not the disdain from Mitsuki, or the thinly veiled angerpainsadness from Kacchan (what did he do to make him feel that way?).

 

Izuku wondered what it would be like, to have someone be nice to him.

 

“Kacchan, you could win.” Izuku said firmly. “You could win and we could leave. You’re the strongest kid in the world.”

 

“I’m not prince material.” Kacchan said again. “I can’t be the heir stupid Deku. And why would I want to leave?”

 

“Kacchan we could live in the palace!” He argued.

 

“Shut up Deku.” He snapped. “You need to be realistic. Kids like us don’t live in palaces.” He shoved him and stormed over to his bed.

 

“But you never know if you don’t try!” He jumped onto his bed, hearing it squeak underneath him. “You could reach the sun Kacchan, I know you could if you would just try.”

 

“Don’t be stupid Deku.” He huffed. “Do you know what happens to people like you? People who reach for the sun? They get burned.”



***

 

There were a lot of kids there. A lot. There was no way Izuku could win this. He was an average kid with no magic. But Kacchan could win.

 

The first competition was there to crunch the numbers. It was an obstacle course.

 

Izuku could do obstacles. He had been climbing trees his whole life.

 

“Look, it's Deku!” Someone sneered. Izuku didn’t know his name, he just knew it was one of those kids that had been picking on him since he was a kid.

 

“I’m surprised he didn’t die on the way over.” Another kid snickered. “Little Dying Deku.”

 

He tuned them out, focusing on the task in front of him. Maybe he couldn’t win, but he could prove to himself that he wasn’t that same weak little kid that needed Kacchan to protect him.

 

The task started, and Izuku was off.

 

They had to swim across a lake first. Izuku wasn’t the best swimmer, but he knew enough. Some kids had dropped him into a frozen lake when he was a kid and he’d nearly drowned. He would have if Kacchan hadn’t rescued him. He didn’t want to be helpless like that ever again, so as soon as the river thawed he went to practice.

 

He was glad he chose to do that now.

 

He wasn’t the first to make it to the other side, but he was pretty early. Some kids hadn’t even gotten in the water yet. They must not know how to swim.

 

Next up was a large pit with small tightropes leading to the other side. Anxiety felt like lead in his gut as he thought about what it would be like to fall off of those.

 

He was quick on his feet. And he had good balance. He had to, to climb as high as he could.

 

So he sucked in a breath and started racing across. He kept himself centered. His feet were fast.

 

Kacchan was at the front. It didn’t surprise him. Kacchan was the best.

 

The last obstacle was a climbing wall. It stretched high into the sky. It was taller than anything Izuku had ever climbed. Just the thought of being that high made his heart race in anticipation.

 

In this competition right now, he was reaching for the sun.

 

His hands easily grabbed a hold of the wall. And he was scrambling up, the feeling of climbing familiar as he went up .

 

He got to the top, and he swore that the heat of the sun felt more intense.

 

He smiled.

 

He got sixth. There were five people ahead of him. But he had placed in the top ten. He didn’t have magic. He wasn’t the strongest or the fastest person here.

 

But he was reaching for the sun.

 

***

 

Next up was a team battle. Izuku ran to Kacchan, but his brother just sneered and turned away. He didn’t want his help.

 

They all had five points per team, and Izuku was determined to stay in until the end.

 

He had to play this smart. And the smartest way to do this was to stay in the middle. He needed to not attract attention to himself. Not the way that Kacchan was.

 

Kacchan had almost all the points, and everyone was going after him. But Izuku knew better. He couldn’t beat Kacchan. So he would avoid him.

 

In the end, Izuku barely made it. He had a rag tag group of kids. None of them could get on another team,, they were a bunch of magicless, scrawny kids. But being underestimated worked to their advantage. Their team had fifteen points, but they placed fourth and managed to sneak their way into the finale.

 

He was in the finals. He had done it. He wasn’t a useless Deku after all.

 

***

 

The last competition was a bunch of one on one brawls. Izuku had no hopes to win these. He wasn’t a fighter. He was sneaky, and smart, but when it came to raw strength he was lacking.

 

He stood, facing his opponent with his heart in his throat.

 

He didn’t know the name of the kid he was facing. He had been on Kacchan’s team. He was big and brawny and Izuku was going to get the shit beat out of him.

 

The referee called for them to start and the guy charged. Izuku sidestepped, and he barreled past. It was like he was fighting a bull.

 

He frowned. He knew he couldn’t win this, but he couldn’t give up either.

 

What would Kacchan do?

Probably blow him up. But he wouldn’t give up. He wasn’t useless and weak like Izuku was. Even if he was outmatched he would keep getting up when he got knocked down. He would never let himself lose.

 

So Izuku stood up, and he decided to fight.

 

The guy charged again and Izuku jumped, slamming his elbow into his head. He stumbled and Izuku wasted no time, slamming his knee into his opponent's neck.

 

“He dropped to the ground and Izuku searched for something, anything, he could do to win.

 

They were next to the boundary line.

 

Before he could adjust and get up, Izuku had already shoved him over the line.

 

***

 

Kacchan dominated his fight.

 

Izuku didn’t see how he could have thought otherwise.

 

***

 

His next fight was against someone from his team. He took a couple hits to his ribs, but he struck hard and fast. He had learned to, once Kacchan had stopped protecting him.

 

He left this one with a bloody nose and bruised ribs, but he was the one left standing.

 

***

 

No one could even touch Kacchan.

 

***

 

The next fight was hard . This guy had magic that made his fists able to turn into metal. Just his hands though.

 

But that meant his hits hurt

 

Izuku aimed for his face. But this guy had longer reach. So if Izuku was close enough to hit him, he was close enough to hit Izuku.

 

This fight was about stamina. Izuku just had to stay standing longer than this kid.

 

He heard his ribs crack. He grit his teeth and hit back, slamming his fist into this guy's throat, then grabbing his head and slamming his knee into his face. He hit Izuku in the face and he saw stars but he lashed out, throwing his elbow into him. They both went down. Izuku got up, the other guy didn’t.

 

The crowd cheered.

 

***

 

Toshinori watched the green haired boy win his second to last fight, and couldn’t stop the hope from growing. He wanted that one to be his heir.

 

The blonde one with the explosions dominated his fight again. He hadn’t even taken a hit.

 

He hoped the green haired boy won.

 

***

 

Izuku had to fight Kacchan next. Kacchan, who had been like his brother. Kacchan, who lashed out at him and hurt him. Kacchan, who would always be stronger than Izuku.

 

He didn’t stand a chance.

 

But that’s okay. Because Kacchan would win. And maybe then, Izuku wouldn’t be able to reach for the sun, but he’d be close enough. Because Kacchan would be there.

 

“We did it, Kacchan,” Izuku said. “We won.”

 

“Stupid Deku,” Kacchan scoffed. “We didn’t do anything.”

 

“You’re going to be the next king!”

 

Something flashed in Kacchan’s eyes. “No. I don’t want to be King. I only got this far to prove I was the best. But I don’t have to beat you to prove it, everybody already knows.” He turned around, walking to the edge of the ring. “Have fun playing pretend in the palace Izuku.”

 

He called him Izuku. He hadn’t called him anything but Deku in so long. “Kacchan, wait-”

 

He stepped out of bounds. And Izuku won.

 

“I’m not living in the palace. It’s time you finally moved on,” Kacchan said, which didn’t make sense. Why would Izuku need to move on? Why wouldn’t Kacchan come with him?

 

What had changed, all those years ago?

 

“What happened?” Izuku asked. “Why can’t you stay? What changed?”

 

“You were going to die,” Kacchan snapped. “And you were too weak to do anything about it. So I fixed it. You owe me, Deku. Now go become the Prince and live a good life. And leave me out of it.”

 

“But Kacchan-”

 

“Be careful Deku,” Kacchan said, turning away from him. “Do you remember the story of Icarus? He wanted to reach the sun too. Don’t expect me to be there to catch you when you fall.”

 

Izuku tried to run after him, but he was quickly surrounded by a group of excited people congratulating him.

 

He had done it. He had won. And Kacchan was gone. He would never hurt him again.


So why did everything feel so wrong?

 

***

 

The first person to greet him in the palace was the man he had saved in the carriage.

 

“My boy!” He greeted. “It’s so good to see you again!”

 

“You too sir!” Izuku smiled at him. “I’m sorry, I never asked your name?”

 

“Yagi Toshinori.” The man smiled, before growing in size. “Though you may know me as a more common name.”

 

Izuku shrieked. “King All Might?” He stumbled backwards. “I-what?”

 

“My magic manifests in my body to help me protect my people.” The king informed him. “It’s a magic passed from generation to generation, to the kings of this land. And I will be passing it on to you.”


“Yo-you will?” Izuku gasped. “I’ll get magic?”

 

“Indeed.” The man smiled warmly at him. “Izuku Midoriya, will you be the heir to my kingdom?”

 

Izuku hadn’t had someone smile at him like that in a long time. He would do anything to have people keep smiling at him like that. To keep placing comforting hands on his shoulder that didn’t hurt.

 

He had tried like he had to prove that he could reach for the sun, but right now, he felt like he was already there.

 

“Yes.” He smiled. “Yes, I will.”

 

He thought of Kacchan, who had returned home. Of Mitsuki, expecting him to come and whisk her off to the palace.

 

If he wanted to reach the sun, he had to leave the Earth behind.

 

***

 

Izuku hadn’t known what it meant to be a prince.

 

There were so many expectations. He had to sit this way, speak that way, never out of turn. He had to relearn everything about himself.

 

It was different. But Toshinori said he believed in him.

 

Izuku didn’t believe in himself.

 

He could be caring. He could be strong. But he didn’t know how to lead.

 

He had spent his whole life trying to run, and now he was being rooted down.

 

“Your Highness.” Sir Nighteye sounded annoyed. “You were supposed to be in the meeting fifteen minutes ago.”

 

“What meeting?”

 

“The one discussing how to spread taxes outside the main city.”

 

Izuku’s heart dropped. He hated tax meetings. “And I have to go?”

 

“Absolutely, it’s one of your duties as the heir to the throne.” He raised an eyebrow. “Is that not what you want?”

 

“Of course it is!”

 

“You know, Midoriya,” Nighteye began, “when you accepted your role as the heir to the throne, no one could have expected you to know what you were getting into. It’s okay if you don’t think you’re up to the task.”

 

“It is?” Izuku asked hopefully. Because there was no way he could do this. He was not good enough, he was an imposter hoping to pass himself off as a prince even though he spent most of his life collecting firewood and raising chickens. But if Nighteye was saying it was okay, maybe it would get better. Maybe soon Izuku could be the prince everyone needed him to be.

 

“Of course.” Nighteye said. “We can always look for a new heir. I, for one, was against looking for someone through a competition. You have no experience in politics or how to rule a country.”

 

Izuku felt his heart drop. Oh . Was Nighteye saying he wasn’t cut out for this? Izuku was trying his best, but this was all so new to him.

 

“It’s okay!” Izuku said firmly. “I can do this! All Might believes in me!”

 

He couldn’t let him down. Toshinori always smiled at him. Izuku didn’t want that to change. He couldn’t disappoint him. All Might was the only person that had ever looked at him like that.

 

“Midoriya, I have this country’s best interest at heart. I want to make sure they’re being led by the best person possible, and I will do anything to make that happen. It’s just,” The man stood up to his full height, towering over Izuku. “I highly doubt that person is you.”

 

Izuku’s eyes felt wet but he quickly shook his head, trying to focus. Princes don’t cry.

 

He had to do this.

 

***

 

He skipped lunch that day and went to the library to read up on politics. He normally would have met with Toshinori for dinner, but then he was brought last minute for a fitting because there was a party coming up. By the time he was done he was exhausted and all he wanted to do was go to bed, but he still had to read over the files from the meeting earlier and he had to keep up.

 

He couldn’t let anyone down.

 

(Why did it feel like he was falling?)

 

***

 

By the time he woke up he didn’t have time for breakfast before he had to be out hearing the needs of his people with All Might. He plastered a smile on his face and listened carefully. This was something he was good at. He was good at helping people.

 

He had only slept a couple hours last night, but he had managed to finish the paperwork.

 

He grabbed something quick at lunch but only had time for a few bites before he had to get to sword fighting lessons. He was more sluggish than usual, which his instructor noted, but Izuku assured them he was fine.

 

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Mirio asked, catching Izuku as he stumbled. Mirio was Nighteye’s nephew, was he waiting for him to fail just like his uncle? He couldn’t show weakness.

 

“I’m fine.” He said firmly, ignoring the chorus of imnotfinepleasehelp in his head. He stood up, ignoring the black spots in his vision. “I have to get to my studies.”

 

He had classes with his tutor next, where he was being taught to read and write. The words were swimming all over the page and every time he blinked it got harder to open his eyes again.

 

He was fine.

 

(He was falling.)

 

(Was anyone going to catch him?)

 

***

 

He managed to get some sleep that night, but the next day was just as hard. He felt like he couldn’t breathe.

 

He read up on Icarus, studying the story.

 

He had flown too close to the sun and fell to the ocean below.

 

Had Izuku gotten too close?

 

Is that why he was drowning?

 

Imnotfinepleasehelp

 

He shook his head and forced a smile on his face as he attended his dinner with Toshinori.

 

He can’t let anyone know what’s wrong.

 

Pleaseimdrowning

 

***

 

Shouto Todoroki is suffocating, and he would give anything to be anywhere else.

 

He swam to his room, ignoring the other merpeople around him staring at him with sorrow as they saw the burns on his shoulders.

 

He had never felt so much like he couldn’t breathe this deep underwater, and yet he couldn’t breathe.

 

Imnotfinepleasehelp

 

He needed to get out.

Chapter Text

Shouto dreamed of a life away.

 

“Shouto!” His father yelled, a burning hand on his shoulder. “Why aren’t you paying attention?”

 

“Sorry.” He mumbled, jumping back to avoid another hit from his father.

 

“I expect better from you if you want to lead this kingdom.” His father stated.

 

“Maybe I don’t want to lead this kingdom.” Shouto snapped.

 

“Don’t be ridiculous Shouto.” His father burned with anger that always left Shouto recoiling as the water boiled around him. “You don’t have a choice.”

 

***

 

Shouto had lived his life with a growing desire to escape to the surface. There was nothing further away from his father. He looked for anything to tell him about what it was like up there.

 

Shouto was rarely allowed outside the palace, and when he was it was only with a guard.

 

Whether the guard was to keep him safe or keep him from leaving, Shouto had never managed to figure out.

 

***

 

“If you are to rule this kingdom, you have to learn how to be stronger. You need to be stoic. You cannot show imperfections.”

 

“Of course, Father,” Shouto said, because any other answer just hurt.

 

***

 

“You cannot be childish, Shouto. What would our people think if they found you were wasting your time playing with your siblings when you could be spending your time learning to be a better ruler?”

 

Shouto had never really understood why his Father was stricter with him than with his siblings. After all, he was the youngest. Shouldn’t they rule? But then his older brother went missing, and all of a sudden, he was the crown prince.

 

***

 

“I have determined who you will marry.” His father started over dinner one evening.

 

“What?” Shouto snapped up from his food, looking at his father.

 

“She’s a wonderful young lady. Her parents are in the royal court.” He informed him. “Your wedding is a month from tomorrow.”

 

What ?” Shouto dropped his chopsticks, staring at his father in horror.

 

“Don’t be dramatic Shouto.” He scoffed. “She can regulate the temperature of water, your children will be unstoppable.”

 

He felt like he was going to be sick.

 

“Of course father.”

 

***

 

Sometimes, when his Father was angry enough, he could heat the water around him until it was scalding hot. When it boiled like that, Shouto couldn't breathe. He’d been able to breathe water his whole life, but when his father was angry enough, Shouto learned what it was like to drown.

***

 

Shouto wasn’t a romantic. He wasn’t stupid enough to believe in true love’s kiss. But he had seen what a loveless arranged marriage had done to his parents, to his family.

 

He wouldn’t agree with it. He couldn’t.

 

He packed a bag. He needed to get out of here.

 

He knew the guards patrol routes well, easy enough for him to escape.

 

He was sneaking through the city when a hand dragged him between two buildings. He thrashed and lashed out, only for him to see the face.

 

“Touya?” He asked. He’d known, deep down, that his brother was alive. But he was sure he was further away, somewhere where Father could never find him. To discover that he was so close…

 

Why hadn’t he come to see him? Why had he just left him there? What had happened to him?

 

“It’s Dabi.” He snapped, the deeply burned skin around his mouth pulling as he frowned. “Come with me.”

 

“Where have you been?” He asked. “Why should I go with you?”

 

“If you’re out here alone with a bag like that you’re running away.” Touya/Dabi grabbed his arm and led him away from the palace. “I’m going to help you disappear.”

 

***

 

“Oooooh is this your little brother Dabi-kun?” A high pitched voice squealed. “He’s so cute.”

 

“Toga please try to be professional.” His brother sighed. “Shouto, this is Toga, the Sea Witch. She can help you escape the king.”

 

“How?” He asked.

 

“How would you like?” She beamed. “I could turn you into a crab, I could change your appearance, I could give you legs! I could change you into seaweed! I could make you a girl!”

 

“You could give me legs?” His jaw dropped. “Really?”

 

“Oh yeah!” She beamed. “Of course with magic there’s always a price, so that’s what we’ll have to discuss.”

 

“Anything.” He could go to the surface. His father couldn’t find him there. He could explore a whole new world away from him, and he’d never have to see him again. He could walk on his own two feet and never have to worry about being the perfect heir to his father’s throne ever again. “Name your price.”

 

“It’s not, per say,” She hummed, “money, that will do it.” She pulled out a contract, making some adjustments. “Magic like this takes a price from you in particular. You could give me all your blood!” She beamed.

 

“He needs his blood to live, Toga.” Touya told her.

 

She pouted. “You’re no fun, Dabi! Fine! I’ll do you a favor. I can give you three months on land, but you gotta convince someone to fall in love with you!”

 

“What?” Todoroki asked.

 

“It’s either that or you have twenty four hours to sacrifice someone to Hades but that one always gets a little messy.”

 

“How, I, what ?” Shouto stammered. He had to make someone fall in love with him? Him ? His own mother couldn’t love him, had taken a look at him one day and shoved him face first into an ocean vent. How, exactly, is he meant to make someone fall in love with him in three months?

 

“You’d have three months!” Toga waved her hand, throwing potions into a vat. “I can fall in love with someone in a day!”

 

“I, uh, okay.” He frowned. “What do I do?”

 

“You get them to kiss you!” She leaned forward, very far into his personal space. He stepped back to prevent their foreheads from colliding. “Then you get to keep your legs forever!”

 

“And that’s it? No catch?”

 

“Well you see the way magic works, I’ll need insurance. It’s part of the magical bond.” She explained, slightly more seriously. “It keeps my magic from overpowering you, and it keeps you from stealing more of my magic than you need. Once you get the kiss you get the insurance back.”

 

“What kind of insurance?” He asked, as she threw some sort of tongue in the cauldron.

 

“You pick. Your sight, your hearing, or your voice!” She bounced around. “Which one?”

 

“Uh.” He needed his sight. He wouldn’t be able to trust what he couldn’t see. And without his hearing he wouldn’t be able to know if someone was sneaking up on him. He needed his sight and hearing to keep him safe. “My voice. Take my voice.”

 

“But then how are you going to seduce all those girls with your smooth sexy voice?” She pouted and Shouto felt his face heat up. He couldn’t wait until this was over. “Oh well! Let’s get started!”

 

***

 

The process was incredibly painful. It felt like all his cells were tearing themselves apart. The lower half of his body screamed in pain and he felt something tearing through his throat.

 

But he could breathe. 

 

***

 

Touya helped him get to the surface. He dumped him on the sand and raced back into the water. He would only be above the surface for so long before his skin dried out, especially since his was extra sensitive. Shouto stumbled, trying to get to his feet, but he wasn’t used to balancing in this way. He immediately fell back in the sand.

 

Damn . He tried to say,  but no sound came out. His hands flew up to his throat and he frowned. That was weird. That was definitely going to take some getting used to.

 

“Are you okay?” A female voice called out, and Shouto flinched. This did not look good. He was naked, covered in burns and bruises, and soaking wet on a sandy beach. Couldn't the sea witch have given him some clothes? “Hello?” The girl walked closer, close enough that Shouto could see her. She was tall, but young, with dark black hair pulled into a ponytail.

 

He tried to stand up again, but fell over. A hand grabbed his shoulder and helped him to his feet.

 

“You’re hurt.” She frowned, taking off her cloak. “Here, take this. Do you have somewhere safe you can go?”

 

Shouto stared at her. She was...helping him? No one had ever tried to help him before, except Fuyumi. And even then, she always patched him up, but she never brought him somewhere safe.

 

He shook his head. She took a deep breath. “Okay. You can come with me. We’ll have to sneak you into my room, no way my parents will let me hang around a naked boy.”

 

She helped steady him as they walked. “I’m Momo. What’s your name?”

 

Shouto he tried to say, but nothing came out. Damn. This was going to suck. He just shook his head.

 

“That’s okay. You don’t have to tell me.” She smiled at him. “You’ll be okay.”

 

***

 

Momo was very kind. He had never met someone this nice before.

 

He had found a pen and a piece of paper in her room. She had left him there while she was searching for a change of clothes for him. His hands were shaking but he quickly found a way to write. He wasn’t sure how they were able to use books under the sea, probably some sort of magic, but his fascination with the surface made it so he was familiar enough with the characters to write his story.

 

He handed the paper to Momo when she got back as he struggled to put on some pants. They were so impractical. It made more sense to wear that skirt thing Momo had on, it seemed much less restricting. But beggars can’t be choosers and he eventually managed.

 

“So, you’re a mermaid, but you ran away from home to be a human?” She asked and he nodded. “To get legs you had to give up your voice. You get it back and can keep your legs if someone falls in love with you and kisses you in three months?” He nodded more, glad this could be made easier.

 

“That's... a lot. But who hurt you?” She frowned. “You're covered in bruises and burns.”

 

He gestured for the piece of paper and pen.

 

My Father .

 

She gasped. “Your dad did this?” He nodded, frowning. “That’s horrible!” He tilted his head, trying to convey his confusion.

 

He didn’t understand. His father had always treated him like this.

 

“Shouto that’s wrong!” She exclaimed. “You can’t go back!” He quickly scribbled on the paper.

 

I don’t want to go back .

 

“Well, I’ll do what I can to help. I’d offer to kiss you but…” She smiled wryly. “You’re not my type.”

 

You’re not mine either .

 

“Boys?” he nodded and she laughed. “Good. You can keep them. I can give you some money and some clothes, and I can help with a bit of communication, but if you want to find someone to kiss you you’ll have to go searching somewhere else.”

 

He nodded.

 

Thank you. You’ve helped more than you know. I’ll forever be in your debt .

 

She smiled. “Just come back. I haven’t met many people my age. I’d like to see you again. I’ve never had any friends before”

 

Neither have I.

 

***

 

In the end, Shouto stayed with Momo for a week. She smuggled him food and water, and she taught him basics about the monetary system. She also taught him some of the basics of how to speak with his hands. She called it sign language. He couldn’t communicate fully but he could fingerspell and knew how to say hello at least.

 

She packed him up with food and money and gave him a hug. “You can do this. I hope in three months I’ll see you again.”

 

He nodded.

 

Goodbye . He signed. Thank you .

 

***

 

Shouto wasn’t sure why he felt so uneasy. He had been walking for a bit now, after leaving Momo’s kingdom. He was alone in the woods, there wasn’t anyone nearby.

 

So why did he feel like he was being watched?

 

***

 

He had been walking for a long time when someone called out to him. The feeling of someone watching him went away.

 

“Look at this guy, boys!” A man called out, his words slightly slurred. “He’s got some fancy clothes on!”

 

“Bet you he’s got lots of money!” Another one jeered.

 

“He’s pretty scrawny looking.” They stepped closer, and Shouto stepped back. He was in the woods right now, making his way between towns. Momo had helped him get as far as she could, and he had left her kingdom yesterday. He wasn’t entirely sure where he was now.

 

He had been fighting his whole life though. He could do it. He could take these guys.

Except he was off balance, so when he went to dodge a hit he stumbled. Another man managed to get a hit on him.

 

Shit . He mouthed, but again, no words came out. He elbowed the guy in the face and tried to take a step again, but stumbled. He reached out to his magic only for nothing to come out.

 

What was wrong? Why couldn’t he use his magic?

 

His magic turned the water around him to ice. That's what he was trying to do. Except, he’s no longer surrounded by water.

 

A fist slammed into his stomach and another grabbed the back of his shirt.

 

This. This was not good.

 

He winced as a few more blows landed. This sucked. For a moment, it was like he was back with his father, his anger burning bright and fast. He was on the ground now, and he couldn’t focus. His head hurt, and if he tried to stand he knew he’d just fall over again anyways.

 

Suddenly, a flash of white struck down and one of the men stumbled back.

 

“Shit!” Someone yelled. “It’s the Hood!” A figure jumped down from the trees. Shouto watched in awe as they effectively took down all the men around him in less than a minute. In the end, all the guys wound up on the ground and the man in the hood walked over to Shouto.

 

“You okay?” He asked and Shouto nodded. “Glad to hear it. What the hell are you doing walking through these woods in those clothes? You're asking to get mugged!”

 

He opened his mouth to answer, then slammed it shut. He raised his hands.

 

I’m lost . Momo made sure he knew the signs to explain his situation. Hopefully this guy would understand. Cursed. Can’t speak.

 

“Fuck I hate magic.” The man groaned. He sounded young. “You don’t have anywhere to go?” Shouto shook his head. “Fuck. At the very least I can escort you to the next kingdom over. But I can’t make any promises after that.”

 

Shouto nodded, grateful that he had some help. He needed it.

 

Thank you . He signed.

 

“Don’t mention it.” He waved a hand as if it wasn’t a big deal even though it was. People were being so nice to him. Well, except the guys that had just been beating on him. “You looked like you had a fighter’s instinct, but you were pretty unstable. You okay? Are you drunk or something?”

 

He tried to think of a way to say that he wasn’t used to legs. He chose to shrug instead.

 

“Okay. How’s your sign?”

 

Bad.

 

“Well I guess I can teach you some as we walk. And maybe I can show you how to actually defend yourself. Of course I can’t walk around like this, I’d get arrested.” He pulled off his hood to show bright purple hair and a sly grin on his face. He was young, maybe even Shouto’s age. He held out his hand. “The name's Shinsou Hitoshi. Nice to meet you.”

 

Shouto . He fingerspelled, though Shinsou just frowned.

 

“I don’t fingerspell, sorry. You got a sign name?”

 

What ?

 

“Sign name. You know, a name in sign so people don’t have to spell it out? You got one?”

 

No.

 

“We’ll start there. Anything in particular about yourself?”

 

Did he have anything particular about himself? He was half fish, right? He pointed to the river.

 

"Water? Is that your magic?" Shouto shook his head, then mimed eating.

 

“Fish? Really? That’s what you’re going with?” Shinsou shrugged. “Whatever fish boy.” He signed it out and Shouto rolled his eyes but nodded.

 

I’m Fish Boy .

 

***

 

“So any way to break the curse?”

 

Shouto nodded. 

 

“Let me guess. True love’s kiss?” Shouto made a wishy washy motion with his hand. “Kind of?” He nodded. 

 

“That sucks. Sorry. Not kissing you though. I'm allergic to shellfish."

 

Good. Shouto rolled his eyes.

 

***

 

They were sitting, turning in for the night, and Shouto pulled out a piece of paper. He wrote down his story, but Shinsou wouldn’t take it.

 

“Nope. I’m teaching you to sign, that’s cheating!” Shinsou said, shoving the paper back to him.

 

Read it! It tells you everything! He wanted to yell. Instead, he just shoved the paper at him again 

 

“Nope! I guess I’ll be in the dark until you figure out how to sign it to me or convince some poor girl to kiss you.” Shouto huffed. “Or guy you know. Whatever your type I don’t judge.”

 

No one needed to know sign to recognize the gesture he sent Shinsou.

 

***

 

Shouto practiced his fighting in the meantime. He did just fine in his upper body, but he didn’t know what to do with his legs.

 

“Your stance is shit.” Shinsou said. “Hold on.” He walked over and adjusted Shouto’s feet. When he stepped back, he gestured and Shouto threw a punch. He didn’t even wobble. He felt sturdy.

 

He turned and gave Shinsou the biggest smile he could muster. Shinsou smiled, but it looked more like a grimace.

 

“Here, let me give you some pointers you look like you’ve never had legs before.” Shouto nodded. “ What ? What does that even mean?”

 

Shouto gestured to his legs then crossed his arms to make an x. Shinsou’s jaw dropped.

 

“You’re not used to having legs, Fish Boy?” His eyes widened. “Fish Boy. Legs. You’re a mermaid?”

 

Shouto nodded excitedly.

 

“And someone cursed you, took your voice, and gave you legs?” He nodded again. “And you need some human to kiss you?” Another nod. “Damn. That’s exciting. Well at least now I know what you need to learn. Let’s go Fish Boy I’m going to teach you about stances.”

 

***

 

As time passed, Shouto started getting to know Shinsou better. He learned that he was around Shouto's age, though he's not entirely sure how old he is exactly. He's really good with his scarf, and when Shouto asked about it, he muttered something like "My mentor gave it to me." Then he turned away so that he couldn't see Shouto ask any more questions.

 

As far as Shouto could tell, Shinsou had been on his own for a while. He wondered if he'd ever had friends before, and if so what had happened.

 

Their communication was limited, and Shinsou wasn't the most talkative guy. Even so, Shouto started to read him by what he wasn't saying. He'd somehow lost his mentor, either by death or other means. He had been alone for a long time, and he was a wanted criminal in pretty much every part of the kingdom. Apparently the surface was split up into multiple different factions. They were headed towards the area that was ruled by King All Might as opposed to the Yaoyorozus. Apparently, he was more likely to find help there because of the way All Might ruled. Shouto wasn’t sure about that, but he figured that Shinsou hadn’t steered him wrong yet.

 

***

 

It was a few days into their journey in the woods when the first bounty hunter attacked.

 

“Friend of yours?” Shinsou yelled as he slammed his elbow into the creature's neck. Shouto shook his head. This man was attacking them, why would Shinsou think they’re friends?

 

“Give me Shouto Todoroki and I’ll leave you in peace, human.” The bounty hunter snarled.

 

“Sorry man, don’t know any Shouto Todorokis. I’d check the next town over.” Shinsou wrapped his weird scarf around the hunter’s neck and Shouto stepped forward, striking the main pressure points. The creature fell to the ground, paralyzed. “Nice hit Fish Boy.”

 

Shouto rolled his eyes, gestured to the creature, then to himself. At this point, Shinsou had to have figured out what his name was.

 

“Yeah yeah, Shouto Todoroki. I’m still calling you Fish Boy.”

 

***

 

Another set of bounty hunters came after them the next day. They dispatched them easily.

 

***

 

A couple days later, Shouto saw more of who Shinsou was.

 

“Stay back.” His friend said. “This is something I have to do. Don't freak out, if you want I'll explain later.” He pulled his hood up and unwrapped a scarf from where it was hidden under his shirt, dropping it around his shoulders to hide his face.

 

Shouto watched from the bushes as Shinsou leapt off the tree they were hiding in and on to the carriage, ripping the door open. He was fast, and these people weren’t fighters. He was in and out quickly, disappearing into the trees.

 

Later, Shouto asked for an explanation.

 

“There's so much corruption in high society.” Shinsou said, a bitter tone to his voice. The light of their fire cast a dark shadow on his face. “There are so many people suffering while kings and queens sit on thrones made of gold. I distribute the wealth. That’s all. It’s why people hate me so much.”

 

The next day they went to a town and distributed the money around. Shouto wore a cloak, the hood casting enough of a shadow to hide his mismatched eyes and scar. Hitoshi referred to him as Fish Boy the whole time, and Shouto always flipped him off. A few tearful people tried to feed them, but Shinsou always politely refused. A small group of kids handed them handwritten thank you notes and Shinsou put them away without reading them.

 

Later, Shouto saw Shinsou staring at the notes by the light of the fire. When he asked what they said, Shinsou said, “Nothing,” before he put them away. Shouto didn’t ask again.

 

***

 

Izuku had mastered the art of eating and filling out paperwork at the same time. He was just glad he was a fast enough learner that reading had come fast for him. Now that trying to read the letters didn’t make his head hurt, things were starting to get easier. He was finally getting the hang of things! He was busy, but once he finished this paperwork and his dinner, he could go to bed early and finally get a good night’s rest!

 

Almost as if he could tell, Sir Nighteye poked his head in the moment Izuku had signed his name on the last page.

 

“Excuse me, your Highness,” he said. “You’re not busy, are you?”

 

Izuku didn’t know why, but it seemed like the moment he had any downtime, Sir Nighteye seemed to show up to ruin it. He should say that he is busy, but he has a feeling that he would know he was lying.

 

“No,” he said, plastering a smile on his face. “Why?”

 

“We have an emergency meeting with the ambassador of the merfolk tomorrow afternoon that just got scheduled over your lunch break. They want to talk about their missing prince, Todoroki Shouto” Izuku had the feeling that this wasn’t about finding another time to make sure he got lunch. Why was all of this his responsibility? Why wasn’t anyone else attending eight meetings a day while prepping for seven the next? “I just wanted to make sure you were familiar with the customs of the merfolk so that you don’t offend them. I brought you this.” He handed him a large book. It had to be at least three hundred pages. The cover said Merfolk: Customs and History Volume One.

 

“Thank you,” Izuku said. If he skimmed over the less important parts, maybe he could still finish by midnight. That would give him six hours of sleep if he skips breakfast the next morning before his first meeting.

 

“Volumes two through four are in the library when you’re finished with that one.”

 

As he left, Izuku turned to the window. How hard would it be to climb out and just leave?

 

Do you remember the story of Icarus?

 

***

 

The next time bounty hunters attacked them, they weren’t so lucky.

 

“Holy shit what is that thing?” Shinsou was on the ground next to him, having just taken a nasty hit from the man in front of him. Shouto just shrugged as the creature moved to hit them again.

 

He was so fast Shouto couldn’t even see him. He was large, with eyes that seemed crazed and a brain poking out of his head. He had a large beak that took up most of his face. 

 

They couldn’t beat him through their fighting skills alone. He was beating them into the ground. Shouto had already heard Shinsou’s ribs crack painfully when he got smacked into a tree. He himself could feel the way his arm throbbed when he’d used it to block a punch from earlier. He didn’t think it was broken, but it had definitely bruised.

 

Shouto closed his eyes, feeling the air around him. There had to be some water in the air. Just because it’s not as common here doesn’t mean it’s gone. Even just a little bit of water should be enough.

 

He felt his magic and he lashed out, ice forming and encasing the creature.

 

“What the fuck!” Shinsou exclaimed. “You have magic?” Shouto shrugged. “Whatever, who knows how long that will hold, let’s get out of here.”

 

***

 

When they’d run far enough that they were sure that things were safe, Shinsou rounded on him “You have magic and you didn’t think to use it until now?”

 

Didn’t know I could? Shinsou huffed.

 

“Whatever. Stop holding out on me, okay?”

 

***

 

A new bounty hunter attacked them the next day, catching them off guard by shooting an arrow through Shinsou’s thigh. Shouto tried to freeze this one too, but he leapt over the ice attack and tackled Shouto to the ground, digging his arm into his throat.

 

“Nice try.” He growled. “Come along, your highness.”

Hitoshi stumbled to his feet and tackled the man off of him. Shouto iced the floor, having the frozen water inch over his body enough to hold him in place without trapping Shinsou. He helped his friend to his feet and they limped away into the trees.

 

***

 

“You have to pull the arrow out,” Shinsou said, laying on his stomach with his leg extended behind him. The arrow was sticking out of the back of his leg and Shouto felt his gut churn at the sight of it. “It’s not that deep and I don’t think it was barbed. I can walk you through the stitches. I’d do it myself, but it’s in a bad spot.”

 

Even if Shouto had his voice, he wasn’t sure what he would have said. Shinsou hissed when he pulled the arrow from his leg. Shouto’s hands didn’t shake as he did the stitches. If there’s one thing he can thank his father for, it’s knowing how to act calm under pressure.

 

***

 

Once, while Shinsou was robbing a set of guards, Shouto decided to step in. They were able to take them out quickly, and Shouto was actually able to practice his fighting skills.

 

“Much better than the last time you fought a bunch of guys.” Shinsou grinned. “It’s all in the stance.”

 

***

 

“Young Midoriya?” Izuku heard, followed by a quick rap on the door. He wiped his eyes, rubbed his nose, and took a deep breath.

 

“Come in!” The door opened and All Might poked his head in, his expression worried. Why was he worried? Was Izuku really doing that horribly? He probably regretted taking him in, didn’t he?

 

“Are you alright?” He asked. Izuku forced a smile on his face. It came easily. He’d had a lot of practice with fake smiles recently.

 

“I’m fine!” He said. “I’m just trying to get caught up on the paperwork for the meeting tomorrow morning!” He tried to remember what the meeting was about, but he was coming up completely blank. Was it about the budget? Or criminal reform? Maybe it was just about the preparations for the coronation, which at this point, Izuku wasn’t even sure was happening.

 

“You’ve been crying,” All Might said, and shit. Of course he noticed. All Might was amazing, and the only reason he hasn’t caught on to how much of a failure Izuku is was because they rarely saw each other with how busy Izuku had gotten. “Mirai mentioned that you’d been having trouble adjusting?”

 

“I just miss my friends,” Izuku said, because that sounded like something a normal teenage boy might be upset about. “I still haven’t heard from Kacchan.”

 

“Maybe your letters aren’t getting through to him,” All Might said. “What if we had a party and invited everyone around your age? The news would get around to everyone, he’d be sure to know about it.”

 

Izuku wouldn’t be surprised if Kacchan was getting his letters and just not responding. Even so, maybe the ball wouldn’t hurt. Right? It would at least be a few hours where he wouldn’t have to deal with all this prince stuff.

 

“That’s a great idea, thanks All Might!”

 

Don’t expect me to be there to catch you when you fall.

 

***

 

The next town they went to had two Wanted posters with figures Shouto recognized. One of them was for the Hood, who Shouto knew to be Shinsou. The other was labeled for a ‘John Doe’, as they didn’t have a name for him.

 

“You looking at the posters for the Hood and John?” A bystander asked. “Guards expect them to come through town any day now. Don’t know why they think they’ll catch em.”

 

Shinsou grinned. “John huh? Guess that’s your name now, little John.”

 

I’m not little.

 

“You’re like, way shorter than me.”

 

I am not !

 

“The Hood and Little John, stealing from the rich to give to the poor!” Shinsou nudged him. “What a duo!”

 

Shouto didn’t make the connection until later that Shinsou didn’t know what the Wanted posters said until someone had read them out.

 

***

 

Shouto was picking up sign language quickly. It helped that it was his only way of communicating with Shinsou since the boy still refused to read anything Shouto wrote. It was infuriating, but he had to admit it was helping him learn faster since he couldn’t rely on writing as a crutch.

 

He didn’t fully make the connection until they finally made it to town. There was a sign labeled Musutafu, so that’s what Shouto assumed the town’s name was.

 

“Welcome to Whatsit Town!” Shinsou grinned. “Not to be confused with Whosit Town, eight miles to the west, aka our final destination.”

 

Shouto gestured to the sign, and Shinsou shrugged.

 

“Don’t care much for names and stuff.” He didn’t even glance at the sign.

 

Shotuo paused for a moment, before following Shinsou into the city.

 

Could…

 

Could Shinsou not read? Why hadn’t he just said so? That made so much more sense! It explained a lot! That’s why he never reads the thank you notes even though he keeps them all, and why he doesn’t know how to fingerspell even though he’s completely fluent.

 

Honestly, it’s kind of surprising that Shouto didn’t figure it out earlier.

 

***

 

“Here we are!” Shinsou grinned. “Whosit Town! Now let's get you your man!”

 

Shouto’s eyes widened. You’ll stay?

 

“Might as well see this through.” Shinsou shrugged. “Besides, I want to meet the poor human stupid enough to fall in love with you.”

 

Shouto smiled. He was glad Shinsou was going to stick around. It had been a long time since Shouto had been this comfortable with someone. He was sure that with Shinsou on his side, he could do anything.

 

“Did you guys hear?” Someone ran up to them, excitement in their eyes. He looked to be a couple years younger than them, he still had light in his eyes, like the horrors of the world hadn’t snuffed out his spirit yet. “The prince is holding a ball!”

 

“Okay?” Shinsou frowned. “So a bunch of prissy rich people are going to show up for a few days?”

 

“No!” The kid beamed. “They’re having everyone between the ages of thirteen and twenty in the kingdom go! Even kids like us!” The kid ran off to find someone else to share his good news with. Shouto watched him go with a slight smile on his face.

 

“Good news.” Shinsou grinned. “I figured out how to get you laid.” Shouto raised his eyebrows. “But first, we need shoes.”

 

Shouto looked down at his feet. He had given up on shoes after meeting Shinsou. They were so constricting. Shinsou never wore shoes either. Their feet tended to get scraped up, but shoes were expensive and they never lasted long if you were traveling by foot. They weren’t worth the trouble.

 

Why?

 

“What do you mean why? This is a fancy party?”

 

***

 

Toshinori was worried about his son. He had won the competition allowing him to be his heir nearly four months ago, and he was starting to worry that he had done something horrible to the boy.

 

A few weeks after the competition was when Toshinori really started noticing it. Izuku hadn’t shown up for lunch with him that day. And then he had left dinner early for a fitting.

 

After that, Toshinori rarely saw the boy looking happy. He often had bags under his eyes. His smiles were fake and Toshinori saw him less and less. He was excelling in his duties, and yet Toshinori couldn’t see that as a good thing. Not when it seemed to break his spirit. He seemed to always be working, which was odd. Even Toshinori himself has downtime to sleep and eat. What kind of duties overwhelmed the boy? When he asked Mirai, his advisor had merely shrugged.

 

“You made a commoner a prince,” he said. “What were you expecting?”

 

He hoped the ball with people from Izuku’s old life would breathe some life into the boy.

 

Maybe Toshinori should have never ripped him from his old life. It seemed the boy was unhappy. And that’s the last thing he wanted.

 

***

 

Shinsou, it turns out, had a good amount of money on him.

 

Shouto looked at him with a raised eyebrow. Shinsou huffed.

 

“I kept a hold of some just in case we needed it. I’m glad we did. I never like robbing All Might, he’s not bad as far as royalty goes..”

 

Nice . Shouto grinned.

 

“Can I ask you something? You reek of royalty.” Shinsou asked. “So why does it seem like you’re on my side?”

 

Shouto made the sign for “Father,” before showing him two thumbs down with the nastiest expression he could muster.

 

Shinsou let out a laugh. “Well. I can’t argue with that. Let’s get some shoes.”

 

***

 

As they were preparing for the ball, Shouto heard stories. He heard about a little farm boy who won the heart of the king and became his heir and escaped an abusive situation.

 

Shouto could relate. He had run away too. Although he didn’t have quite the same level of planning. Had Momo not picked him up he likely would have wound up in jail. Or dead. Or maybe even both, somehow.

 

He was excited for the party. Shinsou said it was the best place to meet people.

 

He was going to find someone, they would fall in love, and he would keep his legs forever. He would never have to see his father ever again.

 

***

 

Shouto caught a glimpse of the prince, and he found himself transfixed. He thought that he would look happy. He had escaped

 

But he looked so sad.

 

Shouto had escaped. Was he going to look sad too?

 

“Why are you making googly eyes at the prince?” Shinsou hissed. “Go talk to someone.”

Shouto fixed him with the best deadpan stare he could muster.

 

“You know what I mean!” Shinsou rolled his eyes. “I can’t dance without risking the stitches in my leg, so I'll hang out by the punch and send any interested suitors your way. Now go smile with your pretty face and make all the girls and boys swoon.”

 

Shouto gestured to his very scarred face with a raised eyebrow.

 

“Oh please. It invites mystery.” He shoved him. “Go get em tiger!”

 

Shouto walked into the crowd, but he found his eyes kept being drawn to the prince.

 

He looked so sad .

 

***

 

Izuku was drowning.

 

But he’d never let anyone know.

 

There were so many people at this party, and Izuku wanted to go and talk to them. Talk to the kids he grew up with. But he was a prince. He needed to look and act the part, he couldn’t let himself relax. Nighteye had made that clear before the party had started.

 

But there were so many people, and Izuku hadn’t slept last night and he just...he just wanted a break.

 

So he slipped away from the guards and picked up a drink, not noticing that the person he picked it up from had passed by him three times in the past few minutes with his drink tray. He sipped it, and almost immediately knew there was something wrong. It didn’t taste right.

 

His vision blurred.

 

He was so tired.

 

Someone grabbed his arm and led him away, and he didn’t have it in him to fight.

 

***

 

Shouto was not stalking the prince. He wasn’t. He just wanted to see why he was so sad. He had escaped. Shouto had to know if he would be happy. If he could be happy.

 

Then he saw the man with the drink tray pass by him for the third time. He returned without the tray and led a sluggish looking prince out of the room.

 

Shouto ran and grabbed Shinsou.

 

“Hey Fish Boy what’s going on?”

 

Prince. Danger. He signed, dragging him in the direction he’d seen the man take the prince.

 

“You’re sure?” Shinsou started walking faster with him, slipping through the door. “How do we find him?”

 

Shouto paused, listening. There was a thump to the left. He sprinted in that direction. He burst outside to see a nearly unconscious prince being loaded into a covered wagon.

 

“If you get the bad guys, I’ll get the prince. I can keep him awake.” Shouto nodded, sending a wave of ice to trap someone. Time to put his training to good use.

 

***

 

Hitoshi knelt down next to the prince, looking at his eyes. He had definitely been drugged.

 

“Hey your Highness.” He sat him up. “Can you tell me what happened?”

 

“M’tired.” The prince’s words were slurred, but he was responsive.

 

“I know, but you need to stay awake, okay?” He frowned. It didn’t look like he had any other injuries. “We don’t know what they drugged you with.”

 

“Tasted weird.” He said.

 

“Good to know. Any idea why someone would want to kidnap you?”

 

“Ransom?”

 

“Fair enough.” Hitoshi wracked his brain. He needed to keep asking questions. “What’s your name?”

 

“Izuku.”

 

“Favorite color?”

 

“Green.”

 

“You like any sports?”

 

“I like sword fighting?”

 

“Sword fighting is cool. You any good?”

 

“Don’think so.” He hummed. Hitoshi heard the sounds of fighting in the background. “Not like him.” He looked up. Shouto had gotten ahold of a sword, and he was doing remarkably well. “He’s amazing.” His eyes had a slight shine to them and Hitoshi resisted the urge to laugh.

 

“Yeah.” Hitoshi hummed. “I’m going to try and move you okay? Get you out of the line of fire.”

 

Suddenly, a horde of guards burst into the area. They took out the rest of the kidnappers. Two of them grabbed Hitoshi and hauled him up. Without the focused distraction, Hitoshi noticed the prince’s eyes slip shut. Well. Shit.

 

“What are you doing with the prince?” One of them asked angrily. Another one had already grabbed Shouto. Hitoshi signaled him to stand down, and he let the guards restrain him.

 

“Your job!” Hitoshi snapped. “He’s been drugged. Something that could be tasted. I was trying to keep him awake!”

 

“Likely story!” Another guard snapped, wrenching his arms behind him and restraining him the way they had Shouto. “You’re under arrest!”

 

“Use your eyes, damnit. Look at all the criminals we beat up for you. You’re welcome.” Hitoshi huffed. He couldn’t believe he was being arrested for something he didn’t even do, rather than all the things he did do.

 

“Shut up!” The guard snapped, backhanding him across the face. Damn, Hitoshi wasn’t even fighting back. Overcompensating much? Screw All Might, Hitoshi’s gonna rob the guy dry. He feels kinda bad since the prince seemed nice enough. Maybe he’ll only mostly rob him dry.

 

Hitoshi let himself and Shouto get dragged to a random cell in their prison and just hoped this got cleared up. If not, well, Hitoshi’s broken out of prison before.

 

***

 

Izuku woke up slowly, his head pounding.

 

“What happened?” He groaned. He had some vague memories. Someone had drugged him. There was a flash of purple. And someone was fighting his kidnappers. His style was beautiful, like nothing he had ever seen before. Izuku had been transfixed by him, though that may have been the drugs. In fact, the moment he saw him, it felt like he could breathe for the first time in months. Izuku had heard stories about true love, and sue him but he’d always been a bit of a romantic. Where was that boy? Was he okay? He had saved him.

 

“You were attacked.” Toshinori said, worry in his eyes. Izuku had seen concern lately in his face to match up with the smile he had always given him, but the worry was more pronounced. “Someone tried to kidnap you.”

 

“Oh.” Izuku hummed. “OH! And there were two boys. They saved me!” Izuku looked up. “Are they still here?”

 

Toshinori frowned. “The guards arrested them.”

 

“They WHAT?” Izuku tried to sit up, but his vision went blurry. “Why?”

 

“They thought they were involved.”

“No! They saved me! Let them go! I want to thank them!” Oh no, what if both of them hated him forever and he never got to tell that boy how pretty he was? He tried to stand up but immediately fell down. Toshinori caught him. “One of them was so nice! He was talking to me and reassuring me! And the other one fought so well and he was so cool! I’d have been long gone by the time the guards got there if it wasn’t for them!”

 

“Izuku.” Toshinori placed a hand on his shoulder, helping him lay down. “I am absolutely going to let them go. I would like to thank them myself.”

 

***

 

“I can’t believe they arrested us!” Shinsou snapped, storming around their cell. “We didn’t do anything wrong!”

 

Shouto just shrugged at him. As soon as the prince wakes up he’s pretty sure this will get cleared up. Unless the prince is a jerk. In which case Shouto will burn his way out of here. He would have no problem with that, considering the way they treated Shinsou. His face was already showing a dark bruise where the guard had hit him. Shinsou had already been injured enough fighting for Shouto, with the arrow wound to his leg, and his still broken ribs. Shouto has no qualms against starting fights for him.

 

“Yeah yeah. But it’s been like four hours!” Shinsou kicked the wall. “I bet they already forgot about us.”

 

The cell door opened, and the king himself was there. Shinsou quickly turned to face him and Shouto stood up. The floor was cold against his bare feet. Shouto had kicked off his shoes to start the fight and they arrested him before they could put them back on. He couldn’t say he minded. Shoes were incredibly uncomfortable.

 

“Your majesty.” Shinsou greeted icily. Shouto chose to stand behind him and look intimidating.

 

“Hello.” All Might smiled at them. “I must apologize for my guards. They should have investigated further as opposed to just putting you in a cell.”

 

“So you do believe us?” Shinsou asked nervously.

 

“My son is awake. He wants to thank you.” All Might shuffled awkwardly. Shouto didn’t know kings did that. “But first, I have a request.”

 

“A request?”

 

“Yes.” All Might pressed his lips in a thin line. “I’ve been concerned about Izuku lately. He’s been overworking himself. I think his royal duties are stressing him out. I’m worried he’s placing too many expectations on himself. I held the ball hoping it would help him to relax and talk to people his age, but it didn’t help. He was so sad all throughout.” Shouto nodded. He had seen him. “But when he was talking about you earlier… Well, I haven’t seen him this lively in months. And he slipped past his guards at the dance which was how they were able to attack, but you protected him just fine.” All Might cleared his throat. “I want to hire you. As bodyguards for my son.”

 

As much as Shouto would have loved to stick around and get to know the prince better, he needed to keep looking. He had to find someone to love him because he never wanted to go back to his father ever again. He never even wanted to step foot in the ocean if he could help it.

 

“Okay.” Shinsou grinned, and Shouto looked at him in surprise.

 

Curse! He signed frantically.

 

I got it . Shinsou smiled back.

 

“Absolutely. When would we start?”

 

“Whenever you’re ready.”

 

Shinsou shrugged. “Let’s go meet our charge.”

 

***

 

The prince looked much better, Shouto noticed. He had more color in his face and when he saw them he smiled.

 

His smile was so bright. Shouto never wanted it to go away.

 

“Hi!” He greeted them. “You must be my knights in shining armor!”

 

“Your highness.” Shinsou bowed, and Shouto followed suit. “It was our pleasure to be of service to you.”

 

“Thank you.” Izuku said earnestly. “Without you, I would have been gone before my guards noticed I was missing. I really can’t thank you enough for saving me.”

 

“You’re welcome.” Shinsou smiled.

 

“What are your names?” He asked, and Shouto tensed. His name was pretty well known right about now, what with the news about him going missing. The bounty hunters all recognized it, though they didn’t have a description to go along with it. Maybe he could come up with an alias? But how could he signal that to Shinsou without making things obvious? They were pretty good friends, maybe he’d just know? He knows him pretty well, and Shouto trusts him with his life.

 

“I’m Hitoshi,” Shinsou said. “You can call him Fish Boy.”

 

Scratch that. Shinsou is dead to him.

 

“Fish Boy?” The prince asked. Shouto couldn’t help but think that he looked cute when he was confused.

 

“It’s his sign name,” Shinsou said, ignoring Shouto glaring daggers at him. “He can hear you, but he was cursed and can’t speak. He’s trying to stay on the down low. Thus, Fish Boy.”

 

“Um. Okay.” The prince said, smiling brightly. “I’m Izuku! I’d love to get to know you better. Do you have to leave town soon?”

 

“Actually.” All Might spoke up. “I wondered if you would like them to be your new guards.”

 

Izuku’s eyes brightened. “Really? No more stuffy old guards with dumb face coverings?”

 

“No more.” All Might confirmed. “They already said they’d be happy to stay.”

 

Izuku’s eyes were shining. Shouto almost thought they gleamed with hope.

 

***

 

Hitoshi was not a very tactful person. It took all of his tact in the infirmary talking to the prince that first day. He quickly found out that Izuku didn’t mind his tactlessness.

 

“Do I have to wear shoes?” He asked. “I fight better without them.”

 

“Nope!” Izuku beamed, turning to Shouto. “Did you already lose yours?”

 

“He took them off to fight your kidnappers and never got them back.” Hitoshi grinned.

 

“That’s horrible!” Izuku said. “Do you want them back?” Shouto shook his head and Izuku breathed a sigh of relief. “I’m sorry about the guards here. Sometimes they can be so stuffy.”

 

“Tell me about it.” Hitoshi huffed. “I can’t believe I got arrested for a crime I didn’t even commit.” Izuku laughed and Hitoshi relaxed.

 

“I’m sorry if this is forward,” Izuku began, “Do you know why you were cursed?”

 

Long Story , Shouto signed. Hitoshi went to translate only for Izuku to speak up.

 

“I’m sorry that happened to you,” he said.

 

It’s okay . Shouto signed. .

 

“No it’s not!” He huffed. “Who was it, maybe we can get them to undo it!”

 

It doesn’t matter. Shouto shrugged.

 

“You know sign?” Hitoshi asked.

 

“Yeah.” Izuku smiled sheepishly. “My brother has explosion magic. It messed with his hearing so we both learned sign language.”

 

“Brother?” Hitoshi pressed.

 

“Yeah. I haven’t seen him for a while.” Izuku sighed. “I don’t know why he refused to stay. I offered him a place here. I don’t think he feels like he’d belong in the castle.”

 

“I can understand that.” Hitoshi muttered, looking at the elaborate paintings adorning the walls.

 

“Maybe one day he’ll come around, but for now there isn’t anything I can do. He doesn’t want my help.”

 

This is a lot , Shouto gestured to the big hall.

 

“Yeah.” Izuku sighed. “Sometimes I wonder if I made the right choice.”

 

“Why?” Hitoshi pressed.

 

“I’m not made to be a prince.” Izuku explained. “I can learn the politics and how to talk to people and do taxes. But I’m always going to be the kid from the country. I feel like no one wants me here, and I never have any free time anymore. Sometimes I feel like there’s so much work to do I can’t breathe. I can’t fake being raised in high society.”

 

Shouto hated how much he could relate. All Might didn’t seem much like his Father, but looks can be deceiving.

 

“Why would you want to?” Hitoshi scoffed. “I think the world could stand to have a country boy ruling the kingdoms. That way the world isn’t being fucked over by stuffy politicians that have never had to work a day in their lives.”

 

Izuku looked at him, jaw dropped. “You really think so?”

 

Shouto shrugged. The King chose you because you’re you.


“Oh.” Izuku sat down and Hitoshi wondered if he was alright. He immediately panicked when he noticed he was crying. Oh no what did they do? Now they were really gonna get kicked out of the palace. “Thank you.”

 

“What?”

 

“I’ve been trying so hard to be perfect, to go above and beyond. To earn my spot here. But I don’t need to do that, do I?”

 

No . Shouto signed, and Hitoshi agreed. You already have .

 

Hitoshi saw the look Izuku sent Shouto and knew they were in the right place.

 

When All Might had offered a spot as Izuku’s guards, Hitoshi knew they had to accept. He didn’t believe in true love, or love at first sight. But he did believe in sparks, and he saw them here. Now he just had to get out of their way.

 

“I’m going to go check the perimeter.” Hitoshi announced. “Be right back.”

 

***

 

Shinsou had been gone ‘checking the perimeter’ for two hours, but Shouto didn’t mind. He and Izuku had been talking (well in Shouto’s case, signing) the whole time, and Shouto was enraptured. Izuku was amazing.

 

“So you ran away?” Izuku asked, and Shouto nodded.

 

I had to escape . He told him, and Izuku nodded.

 

“I get it. The need to escape.” He sighed. “Have you ever heard the story of Icarus?”

 

The boy with the wings?

 

“Yeah. He flew too close to the sun.” Izuku hummed. “I spent so long reaching for the sun, and I got too close. My wings melted and I fell, and I felt like I was drowning. In all my responsibilities. In my own expectations. I didn’t see a way out.”

 

Shouto wanted to reach out to him, to promise that he wouldn’t let him drown. But he held himself back. Right now, Shouto was a cursed guard, and Izuku was a prince. He’s out of his league.

 

Shouto would, however, find a way to lighten his responsibilities.

 

***

 

Shouto looked over the paperwork Izuku had spent the past three hours filling out. What the hell? Why on earth were they having a prince take care of this, when it should be delegated to the multiple assistants he should have on hand? What are they doing in their free time? Especially since Izuku isn’t even king yet, technically his signature isn’t legally binding. The advisor to the king and his assistants are the ones that are supposed to be handling this? What kind of fucked up heiarchy are they running here?

 

Should he talk to someone about this? Technically, this isn’t really his business. He could get in trouble for snooping on the documents that were confidential.

 

It was also interesting to find the treaty they had with the merfolk. Apparently, they’ve had an alliance. Shouto needed to be careful here.

 

And yet… Izuku was always so tired. And he’s being overworked.

 

***

 

“Hey Fish Boy, what’s with that face?” Hitoshi asked when Shouto walked into their room. They’d been placed in one of the spare rooms near the prince’s.

 

Shouto made a face, which meant that it was something complicated enough that his limited sign language capabilities could not express.

 

“That bad, huh?” He asked. It probably had something to do with the weird advisor that sent them glares every time he passed by to load extra work on the prince. Or maybe the guards that had been fired after what Hitoshi had dubbed “the Incident,” that for some reason had been assigned to Izuku despite never passing their background checks. Or maybe it was about the meaningless meetings that were added only into Izuku’s schedule and no one else’s? “Well, if you’re going to do something about it will you give me a heads up?”

 

Shouto nodded.

 

“Great. Good night.”

 

***

 

The next day, Izuku spent a great deal of time in the library. Shouto was actually able to help him with some of his assignments. They spent the rest of the time hiding out there, telling each other about their favorite books.

 

For some reason, Shinsou had left to check the perimeter and hadn’t come back. Shouto wanted to make sure he was alright, but he couldn’t leave Izuku alone.

 

Shinsou did eventually turn up again, right before they had to head towards Izuku’s sword lessons. It’s almost like he planned it.

 

***

 

Shouto might be overstepping here. Scratch that, he is definitely overstepping here. As far as anyone here knows, he’s a commoner. He definitely can’t demand an audience with the king.

 

But he’s gathered so much evidence! Hitoshi had even helped him find the corruption in the guards and everything! He has it all laid out clearly.

 

And Shouto knows that if he tries to make an appointment, the advisor would block him at every turn.

 

Well. His father would have someone executed for this showing of disrespect. Shouto thinks it might be worth it, just to see Izuku smile for real.

 

Which brings him to here and now, waiting for the king to join Izuku for his midday meal. Shouto will drop the stack of papers on him, take his punishment, and move on.

 

Easy.

 

Except, when the king reads Shouto’s introduction paper, his face pales.

 

“Fish Boy,” He said, hands shaking as he flipped through the pages. “How sure are you?”

 

Shouto just gestured to the rest of the packet. Izuku looked on in confusion. Hitoshi was gone again (at this point, Shouto is pretty sure he’s using his Hood skills to run interference with the advisor’s plans), so the room was quiet.

 

“All Might?” Izuku asked, breaking the silence a few minutes later. “Is everything alright?”

 

The king set the papers on the table, pulling Izuku into a hug. “I’m so sorry my boy,” he said. Shouto expected Izuku to push him away, or tense up, but instead Izuku crumbled. Shouto stood up quietly, slipping out of the room and standing guard at the door.

 

About thirty minutes later, the kindprice g emerged. He placed a hand on Shouto’s shoulder, his blue eyes boring into him with a deep intensity. “Thank you,” he simply said, before continuing down the hall.

 

***

 

They were out in the city that day, exploring. Izuku had wanted to go out and Hitoshi and Shouto were both there, so it was allowed. In fact, the king had encouraged it, considering he was taking the day to weed out the corruption in his palace.

 

Hitoshi made sure to stay a step ahead, keeping his eyes peeled for any trouble. Izuku and Shouto were behind him. They had gotten pretty close in the past month and a half. Shouto had a three month limit that he was coming up on, and yet he seemed in no hurry to speed things up. Hitoshi was tempted to lock them in a closet together. They didn’t need to get married, it was just a kiss!

 

So he left them alone as often as he could, checking the perimeter three times before returning, staying in front of or behind them. Shouto always stuck right by Izuku’s side.

 

It was because Hitoshi was two steps ahead of him that he saw the bounty hunter first. He’d seen his wanted poster next to his. It’s possible he was just passing through, but Hitoshi didn’t want to risk it.

 

Izuku was here. They had to protect him.

 

Hitoshi stepped back to them. “Shouto. Get Izuku back to the palace.”

 

Everything okay ? He asked.

 

“There you are!” The man roared. Hitoshi cursed. “Just give me the prince and I’ll let the rest of you go, you know how this works!”

 

“Go!” Hitoshi snapped and Shouto grabbed Izuku’s arm.

 

“No!” Izuku tried to pull his arm away. “I can fight! You can't just fight him alone!”

 

“Our job is to keep you safe.” Hitoshi said firmly. He reached under his shirt and unwrapped his scarf. “I have a few tricks up my sleeve. I’ll meet you back at the palace.”

 

Shouto grabbed Izuku’s arm, and the prince reluctantly left. The bounty hunter went to follow him, but Hitoshi wrapped his scarf around his neck.

 

“Not so fast!” He called. “If you want to get them, you’ll have to go through me.”

 

He hoped this worked. It had been a long time since he last used his magic.

 

The man smirked. “You? Eas-” The bounty hunter stood up straight, eyes turning glassy.

 

“Walk with me to the forest.” He ordered, and the man complied.

 

They were almost in the forest when it happened. Just a clumsy kid, running around the corner. He bumped right into the bounty hunter, who blinked the confusion out of his eyes.

 

“Shit.” He muttered.

 

“What did you do to me?” He growled, muscles actively growing on his skin.

 

“Wanna take a guess?” He grinned. The man growled but didn’t respond.

 

Double shit.

 

“Screw the prince.” The man growled. “I’ll take care of you first.”

 

Well, at least he was successfully stalling for time.

 

The bounty hunter was fast, and he quickly slammed Hitoshi into the ground.

 

“Ow.” He groaned. He picked Hitoshi up and slammed him into the ground again. His head cracked against a rock on the ground. He then picked him up and launched him into the nearest building. He hit it face first.

 

His vision was fuzzy, and he tried standing up, but his knees buckled. A hand gripped his throat and the black spots in Hitoshi’s vision got worse. Hitoshi was good in a fight, he’d been learning since he was a kid. But this was a man with magical enhancements. He could tell by the way the muscles ripple across his skin, growing fast like fleshy vines.

 

It wasn’t long before his vision went black.

 

***

 

“We have to go back for him!” Izuku argued. His heart was pounding and he couldn’t focus. Hitoshi was his friend, and they had just left him behind. “That guy was huge!”

 

I trust him. We need to get you safe.

 

“I can take care of myself!” Izuku argued. “How do you think I fought my way to the palace? I can fight.”

 

Fish Boy nudged him. Let us do our job .

 

His lip trembled. What if Hitoshi wasn’t okay? What if he got hurt, all because this guy was after him? What if he never came back?

 

He let Fish Boy lead him back to the palace.

 

***

 

They waited for two hours before Fish Boy started pacing. If Hitoshi had been leading him away he should have gotten back by now. Where was he?

 

“We need to go back for him.” Izuku muttered. “We have to save him.”

 

Fish Boy couldn’t help but agree. You stay here. I’ll go look for him.

 

“No!” Izuku snapped. “Splitting up is the reason we’re here in the first place! I’m not letting you go without me!”

 

The window shattered and the bounty hunter burst through.

 

“Hello.” He grinned. “Long time no see.”

 

“Where’s Hitoshi?” Izuku demanded, stepping forward. He stepped back again when a piece of fabric was dropped at his feet.

 

It was a scarf. The one Shinsou wore under his shirt.

 

And it was covered in blood.

 

“No.” Izuku whispered.

 

“He’s still alive.” The man stated. “For now. If the prince comes with me I’ll tell you where he is so you can save him.”

 

Izuku felt his lip temple as his eyes grew wet.

 

“Okay.” He said. “I’ll go with you.”

“You?” The man laughed. “I’m not after you. I’m a bounty hunter, and I’ve been chasing this runaway prince for nearly three months. Well, Todoroki Shouto? Are you done with your tantrum?”

 

Runaway prince? Who the hell is he-

 

It quickly dawned on him, and he looked to Fish Boy (Shouto, that was his name. It fit), who had a sad look on his face.

 

I’m sorry. He signed to Izuku. I’ll go.

 

“No.” He whispered, then louder. “I won’t let you take him.” He picked up the scarf, staring up at the man who’d thrown it at him.

 

“Oh.” The man smiled serenely. “You say that like you have a chance.” He moved before Izuku had even had the chance to think, and Izuku was flying out of the previously shattered window.

 

And Izuku was falling.

 

Be careful Deku.

 

His mind flashed to what Kacchan had said, all those months ago.

 

Don’t expect me to be there to catch you when you fall.

 

He had been falling for a long time. He looked up at the sun, wishing he could have reached it.

 

He was going to die. It was at least fifteen stories until he hit the ground.

 

The scarf in his hands suddenly came to life, wrapping around his wrist. It shot out and clung to a gargoyle. It pulled taught and Izuku felt his shoulder pop. He screamed.

 

He was hanging for a moment, suspended in the air. He was alive. The scarf had saved him. It had come to life. Since when has Hitoshi’s scarf been magical? It actually looked a lot like the scarf the Hood is known to-

 

Damnit. Are both of Izuku’s new friends currently being hunted by multiple kingdoms? What are the odds?

 

Whatever. Those were problems for later. Right now, Izuku had to get back up there. He had to save Shouto.

 

The scarf launched him up and he rolled back through the window.

 

***

 

If Shouto had his voice, he would have screamed.

 

Izuku had just been thrown out the window, Hitoshi was being held hostage, and Shouto was alone.

 

And the bounty hunter was bragging.

 

“The kid didn’t stand a chance once I figured out how his magic worked.”

Magic? Hitoshi had magic?

 

“I almost killed him then and there. But then I realized I would have no leverage. So I hid him. He’s in an alcove, two miles out in the ocean. As soon as high tide comes in he’ll drown.” The man smirked. “You’ll never make it with your human legs. You need to change back to a mermaid. And then I’ll take you back to your father.”

 

Hitoshi. Hitoshi was trapped. And Shouto couldn’t even save him. He couldn’t just change back. He wouldn’t have his tail back for almost two more weeks.

 

He threw ice out, hoping to catch the villain, but he dodged out of the way. Before he could attack again, he was distracted.

 

Had Izuku just screamed?

 

The door to the room burst open, and All Might raced into the room. At the same time, Shinsou’s scarf launched Izuku back into the room.

 

Izuku lit up with green sparks and All Might launched forward. The bounty hunter didn’t stand a chance.

 

“Shouto?” Izuku turned to him. “Are you okay?”

 

We have to go . He signed. He knew the alcove that the man was talking about. He was familiar with this side of the ocean. That alcove during a high tide was the closest he had ever gotten to the surface before getting his legs. It’s where he found most of his surface collectables. 

 

He sprinted down the stairs and out of the castle, running down to where the beach was. He was waist deep in water before Izuku grabbed his arm to stop him.

 

“Shouto where are you going?” Izuku demanded.

 

He’s going to drown . Shouto was frantic, he wasn’t sure anyone could read his signs.

 

He saw a flash of yellow and pressed further, moving until he had to swim to keep himself up. He’d never swam with legs before, but he managed to keep himself afloat with his arms until he figured out how to move them to keep himself above the water. The ocean was salty, and his eyes stung from the water in a way they never have before. But he pressed on, until the familiar blonde head with two buns was within reach. He heard Izuku call out his name and splashing behind him. He must have followed him.

 

“Hey Shouto!” A familiar voice greeted. “Running out of time, you know! Better hurry it up!”

 

He couldn’t sign, not when he was using his arms to keep himself afloat. He tried gesturing, but only managed to splash water everywhere. Even if he could, how would Toga know what he meant?

 

“You aren’t making any sense.” She huffed. “Look, just get Greenie over there to kiss you and you get your voice back!”

 

“Shouto. What is she talking about?” Izuku asked.

 

“Someone that loves him kisses him, bam, he gets his voice back!” Damn it. Why is she like this? Couldn’t she have a little tact?

 

“Oh. Why didn’t you just say so?” Izuke asked. He swam closer to Shouto, looking a little embarrassed. “You can stop me if you want,” He said. He pushed himself forward and planted his lips on his.

 

The kiss tasted salty. It was probably because of the ocean. Shouto instinctively wrapped his arms around him, only for them both to flail awkwardly as they both started to sink.

 

“Izuku,” Shouto said, smiling. He had no idea how good it would feel to hear the sound of his own voice.

 

“You sound beautiful,” Izuku said, eyes shining.

 

“Yeah yeah, you’re both in love. We get it,” Toga said. “As cute as that was, didn’t you have something to tell me?”

 

***

 

Hitoshi was not having a good day.

 

He woke up, his wrists in chains, the chain wrapped around a rock with Hitoshi’s arms pulled so tight his shoulders were aching, and a gag in his mouth. His head was pounding. He tried to move, but his shoulders were being stretched to their limit and everything ached.

 

He didn’t see how this could get much worse.

 

Then he realized the waterline in the cove was rising. The tide was coming in.

 

Fuck .

 

***

 

“I need my tail back.”

 

She scoffed. “What do you think I am, made of magic? No way!”

 

“But my friend is in trouble!” He snapped. “Is there any way you could undo it?”

 

“Maybe if that was a normal kiss,” Toga scoffed. “But I know true love’s kiss when I see it. That spell is so tightly bound nothing I can do will change it. Besides, you’re not the only merfolk I know. Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.”

 

***

 

Hitoshi was scrambling, trying to find a way to get free. The water was rising really fast. He tugged against the cuffs, throwing both his shoulders out of place to try and shimmy his way out. But it was no use.

 

His ribs were aching, his head was pounding, and his shoulders were now dislocated.

 

Movement near the back of the cove caught his eye and he looked over to see a flash of black.

 

The water was up to his chest now. The flash of black got closer, and Hitoshi caught a humanoid shape.


Was that a mermaid?

A hand grabbed one of the chains around his wrist and suddenly his wrist burned. The chain snapped. He swam and let the mermaid at the other chain. It was fast. He pulled the gag out of his mouth and looked to the mermaid below him.

 

“Thanks.” He choked out. He now had to tread water, but his dislocated shoulders made it harder. The mermaid’s hands wrapped around his waist, and Hitoshi was dragged under water. He didn’t thrash. Why would this guy break him free just to drown him now? He was dragged out of the hole in the cove and the mermaid brought him close to the surface.

 

“Just take care of my little brother okay?” The mermaid said.

 

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Hitoshi said. “But sure, yeah, whatever you want.”

 

***

 

Shouto was ready to try and race to the cove anyways. Maybe the tide would come late and he could make it. Maybe Hitoshi was on top of some rocks so he had more time.

 

Before he could start swimming, he caught sight of something moving in the distance.

 

It was, Hitoshi? And Touya?

 

His brother popped his head up. “Tell your human friends to stop leaving their trash in the ocean.”

 

“Touya.” Shouto whispered. “Thank you.”

 

“Don’t mention it.” He snapped. “Really, don’t. I have a reputation to uphold.”

 

Shouto grabbed Hitoshi. His friend was barely conscious.

 

His friend’s eyes were very unfocused. “You would not believe the day I’ve had.”

 

“Hitoshi, you look like shit.” He told him.

 

“Finally got the prince to kiss you huh?” His friend grinned. “Sorry I missed it.”

 

“Let’s go home.” He said, smiling.

 

***

 

Hitoshi, it turns out, was very injured.

 

Two dislocated shoulders, multiple broken ribs, third degree burns on his wrist, etc. Izuku was also sporting a dislocated shoulder and multiple cuts from being tossed through a broken window.

 

Shouto wasn’t hurt at all, which left an ugly guilty feeling rolling in his stomach. So he decided he was going to keep watch over them nonstop.

 

“You know, you don’t have to stare at me every second of the day.” Hitoshi deadpanned. “I’m not going to disappear.” Shouto raised his hands to sign before realizing that he didn’t need to anymore. Damn. Now he had to adjust to being able to talk.

 

“Screw you. I was worried.”

“Whatever, go kiss your boyfriend.” Hitoshi rolled his eyes. Shouto huffed and walked to the other side of the room, so he missed it when Hitoshi’s smile turned sad.

 

***

 

After Shouto explained his situation, All Might was the one to come up with a solution.

 

“It’s simple.” He said firmly. “I’m going to offer you sanctuary. In my kingdom your father holds no power.”

 

“But what about the bounty hunters?” Shouto spoke up, his voice scratchy since he was still getting used to talking again. He was starting to lose his voice since it was so disused. “People could get hurt.”

“Stay in the castle.” All Might decided. “It’ll be easier to keep you safe here, and there’s less collateral. Besides, I know my son would love that.” Izuku nudged All Might with a huff.

 

“I would love nothing more than to stay.” Shouto bowed. “Thank you.”

 

“Shouto stop being so formal!” Izuku complained. “You’re family!”

 

It hadn’t occurred to Shouto that Hitoshi wasn’t going to stay, but it should have.

 

***

 

“You’re leaving?” Shouto asked, looking at the bad slung across Hitoshi’s shoulder.

 

“I have to.” Hitoshi smiled at him. “I have a job to do, no one else is going to do it. Besides, you found your prince, and you got your voice back. My work here is done.”

 

“You really can’t stay longer?” Shouto sighed, accepting the inevitability. He knew HItoshi wouldn’t want to stay in a castle forever. Everything he stood for was a fight against royalty. That didn’t change the fact that he would miss him. Shouto would have been lost without Hitoshi.

 

“I’ve been here too long already.” Hitoshi looked out the window, the dark night sky illuminated only by the stars. There was something in his expression that Shouto couldn’t read. Something sad. Shouto was struck by how little he really knew about Hitoshi from before he’d met him. “Tell Izuku I said goodbye.”

 

“At least wait and tell him yourself.” Shouto begged.

 

“”If I don’t leave now I don’t know if I could.” Hitoshi looked at him with a sad smile. “I hope I’ll see you again.”

 

“You will.” He said firmly. “If you get hurt, or if you’re ever in trouble, you can find sanctuary here.”

 

“Harboring a criminal?” Hitoshi smiled. “That’s not very royal.”

 

“Well this is probably the least royal castle on the earth.” Shouto said. “I mean it. If you need help, come back. Come home.”

 

Hitoshi looked away, but Shouto thought he almost saw a glimmer of tears in his eyes. “I will.”

 

***

 

By the time the rest of the castle stirred, Hitoshi was long gone.

 

***

 

“He just left?” Izuku frowned. “Why?”

 

“You saw his scarf right?” Shouto asked.

 

“Yeah.” Izuku shrugged. “Did he think we would arrest him?”

 

“I don’t know.” Shouto answered.

 

“Because we wouldn’t. He’s family, just like you.”

 

“It’s more than that.” Shouto tried to find the words. It had been a struggle for him lately, finding the words to say what was in his mind. They always felt like they were on the tip of his tongue. “Hitoshi brings a lot of people hope. He does what no one else was willing to do. He had to get back out there.”

 

“Oh.” Izuku frowned at the breakfast he was eating, pushing it around his plate absentmindedly. “Do you think we’ll ever see him again?”

 

Shouto thought of his family under the water. A brother who had left him until Shouto had the courage to run away, a sister who was only there in the aftermath of pain, another brother who’s face Shouto couldn’t even remember. A mother, who scarred his face and who he had never seen again. And a father, with burning hands and harsh words to accompany them. And he thought of Hitoshi, the first person to show him what a family was.

 

Shouto remembered three months ago, feeling like he had been suffocating. He wondered what Izuku had felt like, when he talked about drowning. Hitoshi had pulled them out and introduced them to each other. But he had left, and where he left there was a hole Shouto had no way to fill. And he knew Hitoshi felt it too. Because while Hitoshi showed Shouto what it meant to have a family, Shouto showed him where he could find a home.

 

“We will.”

 

***

 

Ochako was running. The trees around her were just a blur as she headed in the direction of nowhere.

 

She was running, but she had nowhere to run to.

 

Pleasesomeonehelp

Chapter Text

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.