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but i've got an angry heart

Chapter Text

i could go off the deep end
i could kill all my best friends
i could follow those stylish trends
and god knows i could make amends
but i’ve got an angry heart

Even without a tie, his collar is too tight. Bakugou pops two buttons before his mother grabs his wrist and forces his arm down. He doesn’t look up at her, but he knows she’s glaring at him. She hasn’t stopped glaring at him for months, now, and there are new lines under her eyes as a result. Vain as she is, she probably won’t forgive him for that.

He clenches his hands into fists and presses them against his thighs, unseen under the table they’re sitting at. His palms are sweaty, and he can feel the steady flush rising up his neck. It’s too fucking hot in here, and the crowd goes from deafeningly loud to impossibly quiet at a moment’s notice. He can’t get acclimated, can’t find a center of control. He’s trapped here, whether he likes it or not. His mother’s hand settles on his shoulder, holding him down and reminding him of that fact.

His name is the last one on the schedule. He’d been told that that was for his benefit, that there’d be less people in the room as the morning wore on, and that they’d therefore have their privacy. But all Bakugou knows now is that he’s had to sit through hours of other people’s fucking stupid problems before being called to the front of the room.

“Bakugou Katsuki,” the judge says, finally. He looks down at Bakugou from the height of his bench, eyes narrowed. Bakugou hates him for having that distance, that place of superiority. He’s never allowed anyone to look down on him, before, but now he can’t stop the judge from doing so. Smug bastard.

He’s rattling something off, now, a list of conditions that Bakugou should be listening to. They’d been discussed ahead of time, but he hadn’t been able to pay much attention then, either. It’s like he’s underwater, the pressure rising around him and roaring in his ears. Whatever the conditions are, he’ll have to agree to them anyway. It’s not like he’s got any other fucking options.

“Lift your head,” his mother hisses at him, out of the corner of her mouth.

Bakugou does so, but not for her benefit or the judge’s. If he’s going to meet his fate, he’s going to do it with his chin up, looking it straight in the eye. He’s Bakugou goddamn Katsuki, and he’s not going to be cowed by this situation. He refuses.

“Do you understand?” the judge asks, meeting Bakugou’s gaze evenly. He doesn’t flinch at the glare Bakugou sends his way. “I mean it,” the judge says, “I don’t want to see you back here unless it’s a scheduled appearance. We’re giving you this chance, son. Don’t waste it.”

Don’t fucking tell me what to do, Bakugou thinks. When his mother nudges him, again, he grits out, “I understand.”

The judge sighs, almost imperceptibly. But Bakugou catches the slight movement of his shoulders, the exasperated way they edge lower towards the line of the bench. “Alright,” the judge says at last. “Good luck.”

His gavel comes down with a deafening, definitive strike. Bakugou’s fate is sealed.

The ride home is almost unbearable. Apparently, the past few months haven’t given his mother enough time to scream her head off, so as soon as they’re on the road she starts off again. If Bakugou hears the words “wasted potential” one more time, he’s going to explode. Or he’s going to blow something up. Either one sounds preferable to hearing the grating sound of his mother’s voice, right now.

“Fucking hell,” he spits out, after half an hour of staring out the passenger-side window, “I get it. Shut up.”

His mother slams her foot down on the breaks, stopping them just a few blocks from their house. “Do you?” she asks, voice suddenly far too quiet. “Do you get it, Katsuki?”

“I said I did, didn’t I?” Bakugou snarls. “Leave me the fuck alone.” He crosses his arms over his chest and brings his knees up so that his feet rest against the edge of his seat. His suit jacket pulls uncomfortably as he contorts himself, but he needs to hold himself together. He needs to hold in the rest of the vitriol that’s threatening to spill out of his mouth.

After a moment’s silence, his mother sighs heavily and steps on the gas. The rest of the way home, both of them are quiet.

As soon as they’re home, Bakugou lunges out of the car and rushes past his mother to his room. She’s yelling something after him, but he doesn’t listen. The apartment is empty— his father should still be at work. His mother had drawn the short straw, having to take the day off to make sure Bakugou made his court appearance. Or maybe she’d volunteered to go, afraid of what the stress of the day would’ve done to Bakugou’s father. They’re considerate of each other that way, always fucking have been. They try to accommodate Bakugou, too. Or they did, up until a few months ago.

Once in his room, Bakugou shrugs out of the suit jacket and tosses it onto his bed. It crinkles against the plastic cover it’d rested in until this morning. He’d left the makeshift garment bag on his bed as he’d gotten dressed, along with the tie that went along with the suit. Now, he looks at it, his eyebrows drawing together dangerously.

Today’s the first time in his life that he’s worn this suit, but it’d been bought for him months ago. He was supposed to wear it to his high school graduation, before he’d been barred from attending. They’d mailed him his diploma a few days ago, and for all Bakugou knows it’s still sitting in its envelope on the kitchen table.

Now, he snatches up the tie— a deep, forest green in color, smooth between his fingers. A growl rises up from his throat as he crosses the room, digging through his desk drawers until he finds what he’s looking for.

He’s probably not supposed to have a lighter, anymore. He’d never used this one to smoke, but had liked the soft clicking noise of the lid against its body, and the power of keeping it in his pocket. Now, he takes it over to the window and lights the flame, letting it lick at the lower edges of the tie.

He watches as the flames slowly consume the silky fabric, reaching upwards and leaving only ash and smoke behind. He holds the tie at its far edge, but eventually the flames reach upwards to his fingertips. He lets the fire burn against his skin for a moment, then two. Then he opens his hand and lets the ashes blow away out the window.

A week later, Bakugou finds himself lugging boxes up three flights of stairs. Why he couldn’t have moved to a building with an elevator, he doesn’t know. Maybe walking up the stairs is supposed to be part of his penance.

Still, he isn’t at it alone. His father follows behind him with another few boxes, and his mother behind him with the duffle bag full of Bakugou’s clothes. Eventually, they make it to the top floor of the building.

“It’s the door on the left,” his father says, when Bakugou pauses at the top of the stairs.

He huffs, and makes his way to the room. It’s a small and crowded, even with the barest amount of furniture. A stripped bed frame and mattress take up one wall, and there’s a single wide window in front of which the desk and chair sit. The closet takes up another wall. Unimpressed, Bakugou drops his boxes to the floor and then grabs the second load from his father, dumping them on top of the pile he’d just made.

When all is said and done, he hasn’t brought that much with him. His clothes and other necessities, a box of school supplies and his computer, some books and hand weights. None of the affects of his childhood bedroom— the stupid posters of childhood heroes, the complex models he’d made in junior high, the shelves of awards— have come with him. He doesn’t care if his parents throw them all out, or burn them, but he knows they won’t.

“Do you want us to stay and help you unpack?” his father offers, reaching up with one hand to straighten his glasses. He’s had a pinched look all day, even when he tries to smile. Bakugou almost wishes he’d take a page out of his mother’s book and start yelling, if that’s what he wants to do. But Bakugou can’t remember his father once yelling, in any of his memories.

“No,” Bakugou bites out. “It’s five fucking boxes, I can do it myself.”

His mother’s hand comes down on top of his head, pressing down with too much force. “Watch it, kid. We don’t have to let you do this.”

For a moment, something like fear settles around Bakugou’s heart. He’s never actually considered the possibility that his parents might not let him move out. After the past few weeks at home, with nothing to do with himself, he knows he’d never survive that. He’d have to kill himse—

That train of thought ends as quickly as it begun, with Bakugou taking in a sharp breath and batting away his mother’s hand.

He crosses his arms over his chest, and looks at his mother with a sour expression. “I know,” he settles on saying, finally. “But you’re still going to.”

His mother clicks her tongue against her teeth. “For now,” she says, finally. Then she sighs, and all the fight seems to go out of her at once. “Believe it or not, brat, we actually want you to make the best of this.”

“Yeah. Whatever.” Bakugou grinds his teeth together, looking pointedly at the floor and waiting for them to leave.

Instead, he stiffens as he feels his father step up to embrace him. He rests his chin against Bakugou’s head for the briefest moment, then steps back. “We’ll see you for dinner on Sunday, won’t we, Katsuki?”

“What your father means is that if you don’t show up, we’ll be here to drag your ass home,” his mother tells him, reaching out to ruffle his hair with less pressure than before.

For an uncomfortable moment, both of his parents just look at him. He knows the emotions lurking in their eyes, disappointment and pity and resignation. He longs, for a brief instant, to see pride in their eyes, to have them look at him as though he can do no wrong in the world. But that illusion is forever shattered.

“Sunday, Katsuki,” his mother reminds him. Before he can think of a suitably caustic response, they’re both heading out the door.

He stands rooted to the floor for several long moments, anger boiling up inside of him. He doesn’t know what it’s directed at— the pitying looks in his parents’ eyes, or the emptiness of this shitty room? He clenches his hands and clamps his teeth together so hard that his jaw aches.

He takes two steps towards the wall, reels back his arm, and swings. His fist collides with the wall, not enough to leave a mark, but enough to send a reverberating boom through the wall. When Bakugou pulls his hand back, his knuckles are red and smarting. The pain, somehow, makes more sense than anything else.

When he wakes up the next morning, it takes him a moment to orient himself. The window is on the wrong side of the room, light streaming in and hitting his face so that he can no longer sleep. He can hear birds chirping outside, and when he turns his head to look at his alarm clock, it reads 7:15 AM. Fucking hell.

Bakugou rolls himself out of bed, a headache already forming at the base of his skull. Sleep has been elusive, lately, and he’d hoped that the move would help. But apparently, that hope has been dashed, as well.

He’s about to open his door to go to the shared bathroom on this floor when he notices the scrap of paper that’s been pushed under his door. It’s a salmon-colored flashcard, the type that’s sold in 500-packs with multiple colors. Bakugou stoops to retrieve it, frowning at the message he finds written on it.

Hey neighbor, welcome to the house! I heard you knocking things around, yesterday, and I think you maybe punched a wall? Anyway, the landlady gets pissy if you put holes in the wall, but I have a punching bag! You can come over and use it, or I can move it into the hall, if you want!

Whoever had written the note hadn’t planned well ahead of time— they’d clearly nearly run out of room towards the end, the remaining words crammed together. There’d been no room left to sign the notecard, even if they’d been planning to.

The writing is messy and cheerful, uneven but enthusiastic. It sets Bakugou on edge, and before he can think better of it, he crumples the card in his fist and tosses it onto his desk. Yesterday, he’d organized his school supplies, so a fresh pad of orange post-it notes are sitting there. He grabs a pen, jots down a quick message, and peels the first note off the top of the pad.

There’s only one other bedroom on the fourth floor. Aside from the ground floor, each level of the house boasts two bedrooms on opposite sides of the hall and a shared bathroom between them. Now, Bakugou crosses the hall to the bedroom on the right side, slamming the post-it note against the door.

Fuck off and die, it reads.

Bakugou has never been an obsessively-organized person. In grade school, putting effort into things, as a rule, seemed unnecessary. He never wrote down his homework assignments or his schedule, keeping everything in his head and managing better than most everyone in class despite this.

But when he’d moved out, his parents hadn’t trusted him to remember all the various appointments and obligations he’s now responsible for. His father had acted like the fancy digital calendar was some kind of reward, but Bakugou knows his parents have access to it online and can fiddle with it as much as they like. Now, half an hour before he’s supposed to be anywhere, his phone lights up with irritatingly cheerful, color-coded reminders.

His classes for university, which will start in a few days, show up in blue. The times he’s supposed to be at community service are in pink. Appointments with the doctor are yellow. Appointments with Aizawa are green. Weekly dinners with his parents are purple.

If Bakugou could delete all of them except the university classes and get away with it, he’d do so in a heartbeat. As it is, he’s already skating on thin ice, and he has no intention of letting the bottom fall out of his world for a second time. He’s going to make all of this work, if only to spite those who think they’re going to fix him by making him jump from one task to the next like a programmed robot.

He has to take public transit to get to the university. Most freshmen live in the dorms, but that option hadn’t been available to him. Instead, he wakes up half an hour earlier than he needs to so that he can catch the right train, lugging his backpack with him and glaring at anyone who might sit in the seat next to him.

During high school, he’d constantly fantasized about the freedom that university would offer. Academics have never been the issue, but he hated the way that his high school teachers knew him and thought they had anything valuable to offer his future or his character. He fully intends to make no connections in university, to drive himself to the top through sheer will and talent.

He spends his first day shuffling around between classrooms, trying to find everything in the massive university buildings. Thousands of other students rush around him, each living their own lives and not giving him any thought at all. By the end of the day, he’s accumulated a massive stack of textbooks and very little understanding of anything.

If asked, he wouldn’t be able to describe what his professors look like, or who any of the other students in his classes are. There are probably some students who show up more than once in his classes, but he wouldn’t know.

At the end of the day, lugging his books for Chemistry and Calculus and Physics and Literature under his arm, he passes through the imposing gates that mark the northern boundary of campus. The school’s logo, an interlocking U and A, are built into the gate.

Yuuei, Bakugou thinks darkly. The place he’s been working his way towards for years, finally open to him. But instead of any sort of pride, he feels a crushing emptiness.

He lets out an abortive, frustrated noise as he kicks fiercely at the gate.

The boarding house is an old brick building, nestled into a less-crowded part of the city away from Yuuei’s campus. There are rosebushes lining the path up to the door, and when Bakugou gets back he notices a woman with green hair kneeling in the grass, gently pruning the bushes.

She looks up when he passes by, but he brushes past her to fit his key into the lock. If every room in the house is occupied, there are five other people living here. He doesn’t give a shit about any of them.

He stomps up three flights of stairs, opens the door to his room, and lets his books spill from his arms onto his desk. He tosses his backpack onto the desk chair and pulls off his shirt, riffling around in his closet for something else to wear.

As he’s pulling on his t-shirt and turning around, he sees another reddish notecard lying on his floor. He pauses, utterly disbelieving. What sort of idiot would take his reply as a message to send more notes?

Still, he kneels and peels the card off of the floor, looking at the same writing from this morning.

Okay, so is that a no on the punching bag? Also, we usually all have dinner together downstairs, around 7! None of us have met you yet, so come to dinner and we’ll introduce ourselves!

Bakugou is still considering how best to tell his new neighbor how he can fuck off and die more eloquently than he already has when his phone chirps from his pocket. He pulls it out and glances at the screen, cursing as he bites down on the inside of his cheek. He’s going to be late.

He crumples the notecard and tosses it onto his desk, not wasting time with a response.

“You know, glaring at the wood isn’t going to make it any lighter,” Uraraka says, easily hoisting two of the large planks onto her shoulders and carrying them with perfect balance.

Bakugou, adjusting his grip on his own load, shoots her a dirty look and mutters something uncomplimentary under his breath.

“What was that?” Uraraka asks, without turning back to look at him.

Bakugou is convinced that she’s certifiable, because she’s spending an afternoon doing this work without a court mandate forcing her to. The sun is shining far too brightly overhead, and sweat beads down Bakugou’s brow. Apparently, the mess of wood and metal that they’re currently lugging around will eventually be assembled into a playground for kids. Bakugou does not care.

“Fucking nothing, round face,” Bakugou says, louder for her benefit. He picks up his pace as he edges around her, dropping the wood at its designated spot and immediately turning around to get more of it.

Most of the workers on the site are older— members of the construction company that Uraraka’s family operates. Bakugou’s been assigned to them as free labor, and if he misses a single day and they refuse to sign off on his paperwork, he’s basically fucked. A lot of people have that sort of power over him, now, and Bakugou feels like he’s chained in on all sides. Any one of these assholes could decide to screw him, and then whatever “chance” he’d been given will be gone.

After three hours of work, Uraraka holds out a sweating water bottle to him as Bakugou sits on the sidewalk and tries to catch his breath. Uraraka’s face is red, her brown hair escaping from its ponytail and plastered against her forehead. Still, despite all that, she looks down at him kindly.

“That wasn’t so bad, was it? Sometimes it feels really good to just, do some work with your hands. It’ll be even better when we start actually putting things together, too.”

Bakugou drains half the water bottle before blinking up at Uraraka. The sun is just beginning to set, but that doesn’t make it any less hot. Despite the comfortable soreness in his arms, he refuses to give in to her asinine small talk.

“It’s the fucking worst,” he tells her in no uncertain terms, “And as soon as I get my two-hundred hours, I’m out of here.”

She purses her lips, disappointed at his response. But then she just bats her lashes and says, blandly, “Two-hundred and fifty.”

Bakugou growls. “Fuck off, round face.”

“Stop calling me that! My face isn’t round!”

But her indignation is better than those cheery, too earnest smiles, so Bakugou considers the day something of a victory.

On Tuesday, he doesn’t have time to return to the boarding house before making his appointment. He ends up sitting in a waiting room with his books at his feet, arms crossed over his chest as he assesses the other people in the room and pretends not to be doing just that.

Aside from the receptionist, there is one other person in the waiting room. He’s tall, sitting upright in his chair with his hands carefully folded in his lap and his feet planted against the floor. His hair is white on one side and red on the other, but despite that oddity he carries himself like a respectable person. That alone sets him apart from Bakugou, who slouches on purpose and hunches his shoulders. But this other person is also different for another reason. He wears the reason he’s sitting here as plain as day, in the form of an angry red scar that covers his left eye and goes up to his hairline.

Bakugou hates him, for that. Of course, there has to be a reason behind his injury, and that reason is probably traumatic. No one would question why he’d be sitting in the waiting room of a psychologist’s office. There’s nothing trapped inside of him, tearing him up from within. Bakugou envies him.

He sits with his teeth gritted, his eyebrows drawn together angrily until he’s called back to the main room to meet with the doctor. She’s an older woman with graying hair pulled back into a bun, slight but formidable despite her wide smile. When she’d first introduced herself to Bakugou, she’d mentioned that some of her younger patients had nicknamed her Recovery Girl. Bakugou had said that was a stupid dumbshit nickname, but her smile never faltered.

“Ah, Bakugou-kun,” she says today, when she sees him. “Take a seat. Is there anything in particular on your mind, today?”

“No,” Bakugou spits out. He has the same answer every time, even though there’s always at least ten things on his mind. He doesn’t see what talking about them will help.

For the third night in a row, he gets home after ten and completely misses the communal dinner. It’s a relief, honestly. He could make excuses not to join his housemates, who he still has made no effort to meet. But people don’t accept being brushed off as easily as they should, and there’s no fucking way that Bakugou’s getting caught up in introductions. He wants to avoid all of them for as long as possible, ideally forever.

At ten o’clock, two bags of groceries in hand, he makes his way to the kitchen. He’s no gourmet chef, but as a kid he’d wanted to know how to do everything, and he’d learned his way around the kitchen. Now, he fries eggs and chops vegetables, cooking chunks of pork and arranging everything over rice.

He makes enough to last a few days, setting aside his dinner for tonight and packing the rest away in the fridge. Concentration never breaking, he balances the rest of his things along with his bowl of dinner, and makes his way up the stairs.

He sits at his desk while he eats, not wanting to risk staying in the kitchen and running into a straggling housemate. He cracks open one of his textbooks and props it up so that he can read while he shovels rice and egg into his mouth, eating mechanically, without really tasting the food. He sets the bowl aside when he’s done and continues reading, staying up another three hours before he’s made his way through all of his work for the night.

Finally, exhausted, he collapses onto his bed.

Was that your food in the fridge? None of us are very good at cooking, except Tsuyu-chan, but she mostly makes fish! It was really good, you should take a turn making dinner for everyone!

Bakugou finds the note the following evening, after seeing that a small but noticeable portion of his food was missing. A loud part of his mind is screaming at him to find his floormate and beat the shit out of him, to teach him a lesson for eating Bakugou’s fucking food.

Bakugou crumples this note, the same way he had with the others. He doesn’t know why this person refuses to take the hint— maybe his post-it notes don’t convey the true rage and intimidation that he can achieve in person.

Still, if Bakugou goes to find him, will that be him blowing this out of proportion? Maybe this person is secretly laughing at him, sending him stupid notes and waiting for Bakugou to explode over them. Embarrassment always tastes bitter on Bakugou’s tongue, and he’s not going to indulge someone who’s only poking fun at him.

Don’t touch my fucking food, you motherfucking asshole.

He leaves the post-it note on his floormate’s door before he goes to sleep, and wakes up to another red notecard slid under his door.

Man, is that like a stylistic choice? One fuck per sentence, at least? There are other curses out there, I promise!

Bakugou doesn’t flatter that message with a response.

Saturdays are supposed to be a day off, but Bakugou’s alarm goes off too early in the morning and he has to get himself out of bed and ready for the day before eight o’clock. He grumbles all the while, looking at the stack of readings and assignments he’ll have to complete this evening. He sits on his bed to lace up his sneakers, shoving his wallet and keys into the pocket of his jeans after he stands up.

As he heads for the door, he glances at the floor of his room, in the spot where the notes tend to land after they’re shoved under the door. There’s nothing there, this morning, and after staring for too long at the spot Bakugou curses to himself and heads out the door.

He keeps his eyes lowered as he heads down the stairs, hands shoved into his pockets. When he’s on the last flight, he catches a flash of red out of the corner of his eye— a guy with vibrant hair, he thinks distantly, dressed like he’d just gotten back from a run.

“Hey,” the guy starts to say, “Aren’t you—”

Before he can get the question out, there’s a series of rapid knocks at the door. Bakugou barely manages to stifle his groan, even though he knew the asshole would be right on time. He walks with quickened steps down the rest of the stairs, ignoring his housemate in favor of answering the door.

Aizawa Shouta stands outside, dressed in his customary black despite the heat of the season. There’s an old gray scarf wrapped around his neck, and he’s tall with spidery limbs and tired eyes. Bakugou thinks he looks more like a drug addict than a probation officer, and has told Aizawa this, before. Aizawa had cuffed Bakugou on the back of the head in response.

Now, he looks down at Bakugou after pushing his sunglasses up to sit amongst the messy mass of his dark hair. “Weren’t planning on skipping today, were you?” he asks blandly.

“I opened the goddamn door for you, didn’t I?” Bakugou retorts. He can’t skip his appointments with Aizawa anymore than he can skip the Sunday dinners, or the community service hours, or the sessions with Recovery Girl. If he doesn’t want to lose the one thing that matters, he has to dance like a puppet on strings. But no one ever said he had to smile while doing it.

Aizawa sighs softly. “Manners,” he says, almost bored, before turning to walk back towards his car. “Come on, let’s go.”

Bakugou doesn’t bother to ask where they’re going, but they eventually end up at a gym. Aizawa leads him to the boxing ring after they get changed.

“What the fuck is this?” Bakugou asks.

Aizawa shrugs again, like nothing has ever been more annoying to him than having to spend time with Bakugou. Bakugou certainly feels the same way. But Aizawa pulls on focus mitts and indicates the gloves waiting for Bakugou.

“You look like you want to hit something,” he says.

“I always fucking look like this.”

“Obviously.” Aizawa steps into the ring, and Bakugou has no good reason not to follow. “So, we might as well work out some of that anger.”

Bakugou is sick of adults telling him to let go of his anger. He likes being angry. It’s like a fire burning at the core of his being, keeping him alive. If he stopped being angry, what would he have left? Just ash, to be blown away in the wind.

“Should you be encouraging this?” Bakugou asks skeptically, throwing a first punch. Aizawa catches it easily, shifting on his feet so that Bakugou has to follow him around the ring to keep up his strikes. Even though they hit cushioned pads and not someone’s face, the punches are satisfying. The motion of winding back his arm, letting his fist strike— it makes sense, at least.

“Don’t tell me how to do my job,” Aizawa says, leading Bakugou around in circles. And Bakugou lets him, if only because he has to focus on keeping up and punching at the same time, and doesn’t have enough breath to argue after the first few rounds.

Afterwards, they sit on the edge of the ring and drink water. Bakugou’s shirt is soaked through with sweat, and his hands ring with the echoes of each punch.

“You’re shit at this,” he tells Aizawa, after gulping down the water.

Aizawa raises one eyebrow, daring him to continue.

“Aren’t you supposed to get me to talk, or whatever? Ask me if I’m on drugs or getting into fights?” Bakugou doesn’t actually know what the point of Aizawa’s job is— if he was going to commit a crime, Aizawa wouldn’t be there to stop him. Knowing he’ll have to see the man every week isn’t much of a deterrent.

Aizawa’s bored expression barely changes. “I really don’t care what you’re doing with your life. If there’s something you have to report to me, you will.”

“No I fucking won’t,” Bakugou says, just to be contrary.

Aizawa rolls his eyes. “Big talk, for a kid who cried over getting kicked out of Yuuei before he’d even started.”

“Fuck you,” Bakugou hisses. “I didn’t cry— I didn’t get kicked out!”

“Mm.” Aizawa agrees nominally. “But you thought you had.”

“Did you just bring me here to taunt me?” Bakugou says, voice rising.

Aizawa casually glances at the clock on the wall. “Time’s up,” he says with a tight smile.

He’s not sure whose cats they are. There are three of them that he’s seen so far— a puffy one with cream-colored fur and a shit attitude, a ginger one that follows him while he’s cooking in the kitchen, and a brown tabby that’s constantly rubbing up against his legs no matter how much he tries to nudge her away. They probably belong to the elusive landlady, who Bakugou has yet to meet, judging from the way they roam the house like they own it.

After a week of living in the house, working himself to the point of exhaustion each night so that his brain will be too tired to dream, Bakugou hits a breaking point. The third time his pencil breaks as he scrawls math equations across his notebook, he snaps it in two and tosses the pieces aside.

“Hell,” he says, rubbing a hand over his face. He doesn’t know how he can keep this up for months, if every day of the first week has felt as though it’s slowly killing him.

Pushing aside his books, he gets to his feet and trudges down the stairs. He rummages around in the kitchen, warming a bowl of leftovers and taking it back to the living room. By the time he settles on the couch, all three of the cats have assembled in front of him.

“You’re not getting any of this,” he tells them, reaching for the remote so that he can turn on the TV. It’s past midnight, and he has no idea if sounds from the first floor carry up to the bedrooms. He decides he doesn’t care, flipping channels until he finds an old, familiar action movie to watch. The plot and dialogue are shit, but he likes watching the explosions.

When he finishes eating through his leftovers and sets the bowl on the coffee table, the ginger cat jumps up on the couch and makes himself comfortable on Bakugou’s lap, turning in a small circle until he finds a good spot and then sitting, tucking his feet beneath him. Bakugou would push him away, but the cat’s weight is surprisingly comforting. Gingerly, Bakugou lays on hand against the cat’s back, feeling the beat of its heart and the gentle rumbling rising up in its chest.

Normally, animals hate him. He used to drag a stick along the fences in his neighborhood on his walk back home from school, making all the dogs bark as he passed. He’s never had the patience for cats, and he fucking hates the birds that chirp outside his window every morning. He’s no more an animal person than a people person, and for the most part he’s been content with that.

But he doesn’t hate this cat, he decides. He’s at least brave enough to take what he wants, not caring that Bakugou has never curried his favor. He doesn’t balk away from Bakugou’s touch when Bakugou starts stroking up and down his back.

It doesn’t take much brainpower to keep up with the movie. The main character narrowly escapes death in the first scene, then spends the rest of the film trying to get revenge. He goes about it in a stupid, ultimately pointless way, but he takes out enough people in between to keep things mildly interesting. Having seen it before, Bakugou’s barely conscious by the time the second act begins.

“Oh, I love this movie!”

The voice is too loud, breaking through Bakugou’s reverie and the only peace he’s had in a week or longer. He grunts out something incomprehensible in response.

“Can I watch with you?”

Why this asshole isn’t asleep, Bakugou doesn’t know. He also doesn’t really care what the interloper does with his time. The couch is long enough to fit five people, easily, and Bakugou is tucked against one side of it. There’s plenty of room for the guy to join him, which he does after a moment.

Bakugou is barely paying attention to him. He tilts his head back against the couch, his pale hair in front of his eyes as he struggles to keep them open. Within another few moments, he’s fallen asleep.

Chapter Text

The movie ends, predictably, with one last explosion. Kirishima sits forward on the couch, hands clenched in anticipation as the screen becomes a blur of fire and light before fading to black. A second later, the credits start rolling. Kirishima pumps both arms into the air, letting out a disappointed groan.

“Man, what a cliffhanger,” he says. “It gets me every time. What do you think, do we have time to watch the sequel?— oh.”

Turning to look at the other side of the couch, Kirishima finds his new floormate fast asleep. He has no idea when the guy dozed off, but if Kirishima’s reactions to the movie hadn’t worked him, he must be out like a light.

It’s only been a week, but his floormate has been occupying a majority of Kirishima’s thoughts this week. Now, he finally has a good look at him. He’s curled up on the couch, Riot held against his stomach by one bare arm. He’s probably just about Kirishima’s height, though it’s hard to tell from the way he’s positioned. His light hair sticks out at every angle, but looks soft. Even asleep, his expression is stern, lips pulled into a frown and brows drawn together.

What’s got him so angry and tired? Kirishima finds his notes hilarious, even when they threaten his life, but seeing his floormate in person seems to confirm Kirishima’s worse suspicions. He’s not just a guy who likes to curse— he’s someone who’s carrying a heavy weight.

He knows it’s not his place, but Kirishima wants to do something to help. Everyone else who lives here— Tsuyu and Kendou, Tokoyami and Jirou— has their own issues, and things they keep to themselves. But they all gather for dinner or to just hang out, and share parts of their lives with one another. And Kirishima knows that helps all of them, having the support and companionship of their housemates. But this new guy, he’s rejected all of that outright. How can Kirishima show him what he’s missing out on if he refuses every invitation?

It’s getting late. Kirishima rises to his feet, stretching out his back and groaning slightly. It seems a shame to disturb his floormate, now that he’s sleeping, and Kirishima thinks carrying him to bed might piss the guy off more than usual. So Kirishima heads for the hall closet and finds one of the throw blankets that Kendou keeps there, taking it back to the living room and draping it over his floormate and Riot.

Blasty and Zero, two of the other cats that occupy the house, are sitting under the coffee table and staring at him. Kirishima crouches to scoop Blasty up in his arms, ignoring the way the cat starts mewling in protest.

“Oh, shush,” Kirishima says, holding the pale cat like a baby in his arms. “You love me and you know it.”

Content that there’s nothing more he can do, for now, Kirishima heads upstairs to get some sleep, himself.

He doesn’t see his floormate the next morning. After class, he has an afternoon shift at the coffee shop on campus. During a lull, when afternoon classes have started up, Kirishima stands at the counter with his manager, Amajiki.

“Is this the guy who leaves you threatening notes?” Amajiki asks, when Kirishima gets done relaying the story of the impromptu movie night. Amajiki is an endlessly impressive person— he’s in one of Yuuei’s most prestigious programs, third in his class and already being scouted by the government and every major pharmaceutical company for after he graduates. Only two students in the entire university rank higher than him. Still, he stands with hunched shoulders and constantly looks down at the ground, even when he’s talking to Kirishima.

“I think he maybe doesn’t mean them as threats,” Kirishima says with a shrug. “More like a speech affect, except he’s writing it out? At least, that’s what it seems like. And anyway, I think he might not be so bad!”

“You’re probably best off letting him work things out for himself,” Amajiki says, rearranging the pastry display unnecessarily. He and Kirishima are dressed alike—black button-down shirts and red aprons tied at their waists, the shop’s logo embroidered in white at the corner. The logo is a stylized icon of a round man’s face, smiling wide. Fatgum Coffee is best known for their pastries, which come covered in frosting and boast an unbelievable variety of flavors.

Kirishima feels his smile falter. His hands still around the mug he’s been drying. Brow furrowed, he asks, “You really think so?”

Amajiki shrugs. A moment later, the bell over the door rings as a group of students enters the shop, all chattering excitedly. The shop mostly caters to Yuuei students, and the hoards of tourists who come through to tour the campus of the most prestigious university in the country.

“Let’s focus,” Amajiki says, nodding Kirishima towards the register.

Kirishima sighs before going to take the customers’ orders, though his customary smile is in place by the time he does.

But a little while later, Amajiki says, “You know, when I’m really stressed or feeling down, Mirio brings me chocolate. It boosts serotonin levels.”

That evening, Kirishima grabs a flashcard off the stack on his desk and scribbles a quick a note.

Hey, neighbor! I saw this at the store and thought you might like some. Chocolate gives you more serotonin, and that’s supposed to be a good thing. Let’s watch the sequel this weekend, yeah?

Satisfied, he digs around in his desk drawer until he finds scotch tape, affixing the notecard to the large bar of chocolate he’d picked up earlier. It’s a foreign brand, and boasts a spicy kick in addition to being made with all natural cocoa. Kirishima thinks it suits what little he knows of his neighbor.

He slips into the hall, walking over to the door on the right side. Attached to the chocolate, the notecard won’t fit under the door. Kirishima leaves the small parcel on the floor in front of the door, and hopes his floormate sees it without stepping on it, first.

He wakes up to the sound of thunder at his door. Disoriented, Kirishima twists in his sheets, groping around on his bedside table to find his phone. But he reaches too far, and ends up falling in a heap to the floor, tangled up in blankets.

“Ouch,” he mumbles, rubbing at his back. But the knocking hasn’t let up, so Kirishima extricates himself and gets to his feet, rushing to open the door. “Yes?— oh. Hi.”

His neighbor stands in the hall, furious expression on his face and a fire blazing in his eyes. He’s wearing the same cropped sweatpants he’d had on before, along with a tank top that shows off his toned arms. Kirishima had been right— facing each other, they’re of a height and can look straight into the other’s eyes.

Kirishima briefly wonders how much of a mess he looks like— hair down and messy from sleep, pajama pants hanging loosely at his waist, no shirt at all. Laughing nervously, he runs his hands through his hair in an attempt to tame it.

“What’s up?” he asks, when his floormate doesn’t speak first.

That seems to set him off, however. He holds up the bar of chocolate and Kirishima’s note, waving them in front of his face. “Why do you keep doing this?” he demands hotly.

Kirishima blinks, eyes still cloudy from sleep. “Oh— well. I mean, the notes are because I hadn’t met you, and you never seem to be around to say hi? But I didn’t want you to think that you were living next to a ghost, or someone who didn’t care about greeting you! And the chocolate was because you seemed a little tired, and upset? I thought it’d help.”

“I’m not tired or upset,” his neighbor seethes, “fuck you and your shitty hair.”

Kirishima might be a bit wounded by that statement. He likes his hair, thank you very much. It’s distinguishing and awesome. Red is a great color, and it’s his favorite. But maybe right now his hair is not quite at its best, so his neighbor can be forgiven.

“Okay, okay,” he says, holding up both hands. “And it’s Kirishima, by the way.”

His neighbor blinks at him. “What the hell?”

“My name,” Kirishima says. “Kirishima Eijirou. Nice to meet you, officially, and all. And you are?”

His neighbor crosses his arms over his chest, still holding onto the chocolate in a vice grip. “Bakugou,” he says after a moment, declaring his name like a challenge. “Bakugou Katsuki.” He pauses deliberately after he says his name, eyes flickering all over Kirishima’s face like he’s watching for a reaction.

Is Kirishima supposed to recognize his name? The landlady had told everyone that empty room would be occupied, but not who would be occupying it. There’s nothing familiar about Bakugou, otherwise.

“Well, Bakugou,” he says, “You want to go get some breakfast?”

Bakugou looks at him like he’s grown a second head.

“I’m craving meat,” Kirishima explains, “And it takes too long to cook. So, easy fix! We go out to get some breakfast.”

Bakugou’s cheek indents, like he’s biting at the inside of it. “I don’t have the time.”

“You have to eat, don’t you?” Kirishima asks. “What’s an hour going to cost you?”

Bakugou weighs this, still looking at Kirishima with an expression that’s half incredulity and half disdain. Kirishima wonders if that’s his default expression, if he ever looks happy or even just neutral. It’s impossible to tell what he’s thinking, other than the fact that he finds Kirishima’s suggestion odd.

After what seems like an eternity, Bakugou mutters out, “Fine, whatever. It has to be somewhere close to campus.”

It feels like a victory, like the breakthrough Kirishima’s been waiting for. “Alright! Gimme a few minutes to get dressed, yeah? And you should eat the chocolate, it’s probably really good!”

“Probably,” Bakugou repeats skeptically.

“He ate the whole thing by the time we got to the diner, though,” Kirishima says into his phone, laying upside-down in bed with his legs propped up against the wall. “And he doesn’t really talk all that much, but he goes to Yuuei, too, and he’s majoring in chem! Which means he’s gotta be some kind of freaking genius, who gets into that program as a freshman?”

“You go to Yuuei, too,” Ashido reminds him over the phone. Her voice is slightly sly, like she’s leading him into a trap.

Kirishima misses living in the same neighborhood as Ashido. They’d grown up together, gone to all the same schools, and then both gotten into Yuuei for vastly different programs. Now, Ashido lives in an apartment near campus with her friend Hagakure, and Kirishima lives in the boarding house. But even though they see each other often enough at school, and Ashido comes by Fatgum constantly for their berry tarts, Kirishima still ends up calling her at least twice a week.

“I know that,” Kirishima complains. “But not for their most prestigious program. Professor Yagi won a Nobel Prize, our chemistry department is big deal stuff!”

“Did your grumpy neighbor tell you that?” Ashido asks.

“Yup,” Kirishima says, easily. Bakugou hadn’t been much of a talker, instead digging into his breakfast sausages with extreme vigor. But he’d let Kirishima chatter at him, and had even responded to some of his slew of questions.

“And what does he look like?” Ashido asks. Kirishima images her in another decade, twining a phone cord around her index finger as she talks, instead of keeping him on speakerphone while she paints.

“Hm,” Kirishima says, trying to decide how to start. “Well, he’s a little taller than me, and pretty built? He’s got nice arms, at least, and his hair’s like, super pale blond. When the sun hits it it looks almost silver, and his eyes are like fire, and… Mina.” He realizes what she’s done only belatedly.

Her laughter sounds like a bird’s chirping, light and clear. “I just asked, Kirishima. You’re the one who answered.”

“I barely even know him,” Kirishima says, trying to backtrack. “And sure, he’s good looking, but I don’t think I’ve seen him smile even once, yet. At first I thought he was joking, in the notes, but he talks like that, too!”

“So, what does that mean, then?” Ashido asks.

Kirishima rubs a hand over his face. “I don’t know. I get the feeling that he just needs a friend, you know?”

“You are a good friend to have,” Ashido says easily. “But just be careful, yeah? You take on other people’s problems too much.”

“No, I don’t,” Kirishima protests, even though he’s touched by Ashido’s earlier statement.

“Mm,” Ashido hums, neither agreement nor disagreement. “Whatever you say.”

The next evening, Kirishima stands outside Bakugou’s door and knocks twice, like a normal person. He waits about a minute, then tries again. Finally, the door swings open, and Kirishima sees Bakugou blinking warily at him.

“I’m starting to miss the fucking notecards,” he grouses.

Looking behind him, Kirishima has his first clear view of Bakugou’s room. His bedsheets are gray, and there’s nothing at all on his walls. His desk is piled high with books, and crumpled balls of paper litter the floor around his chair. The entire place is as stark and impersonal as a prison cell.

“You coming down for dinner?” Kirishima asks, refocusing on Bakugou.

Bakugou presses his lips together, eyes darting upwards and then down, avoiding Kirishima’s gaze. Fatigue and hesitation are plain as day on his face. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out his phone, glancing at its screen for a moment as his scowl grows more pronounced.

“I can’t,” he says, finally. “I’ve got somewhere to be.”

“Okay,” Kirishima replies, trying to bite down on his disappointment. “I’ll see you around, then.”

From careful observation that definitely isn’t stalking, Kirishima knows that Bakugou doesn’t spend much time in the house. He leaves early in the mornings and returns late at night, and only occasionally is he back in between. Even with the rigor of his major, he should have more time than he does. Kirishima, who’s balancing all his first-year classes and a part-time job, still has time to relax, to sit and eat dinner with his friends and to go to Jirou’s band’s gigs on the weekends, and to do a million other things.

Kirishima is willing to make allowances for someone studying chemistry at Yuuei. But where the hell is Bakugou always rushing off to?

“Maybe he’s in a gang,” Kaminari says, arranging paperclips into a lightning bolt shape against the blank page of his notebook.

“Maybe he’s a secret agent,” Ashido suggests. She’s got her sketchpad open in front of her, even though they’re ostensibly supposed to be studying for calculus. She sketches the beginnings of a figure, dressed in a suit and tie.

“Oh, oh, I know,” Kaminari cuts back in, “he’s a superhero!”

Kirishima frowns at both of them, as a change from frowning down at his calculus textbook. “I don’t think any of those can be right,” he tells them.

“Hey, gang might actually be a possibility,” Kaminari says. “Didn’t you say he’s always threatening to kill you?”

“Is that the same thing as telling someone to die?” Kirishima asks, tapping his chin with the tip of his pencil. Somehow, he doesn’t think so. If Bakugou had really ever meant to hurt him, he wouldn’t have come to breakfast. He wouldn’t bother responding to Kirishima’s notes at all.

The three of them are spread out over the kitchen table. It’s four o’clock, so they’ve got a few hours before they have to clear up for dinner. Ashido and Kaminari will probably stay to take advantage of Tsuyu’s cooking. At least, that’s how these study sessions typically go.

But then Kirishima hears the front door opening, and in the next moment Bakugou passes by in the hall, stopping to look skeptically into the kitchen.

“Does anyone in this house have normal hair?” he asks flatly.

Ashido fluffs her cloud of bubblegum pink hair haughtily, but Kaminari just snickers.

“They don’t live here,” Kirishima explains. “This is Ashido and Kaminari, they both go to Yuuei, too. Maybe you’ve seen them around?”

Bakugou doesn’t turn his face to look at the other two, just blinks at Kirishima blankly.

“O-kay,” Kirishima says, laughing a bit awkwardly. “Anyway, you’d know who does live here if you ever came to dinner!”

“Whatever,” Bakugou grumbles.

“Hi,” Ashido says, offering a friendly wave. “You’re the famous Bakugou, right?”

“What the fuck do you mean by that?” Bakugou snarls at her.

Ashido blinks, a little taken aback. “Kirishima talks about you a lot,” she says.

Kirishima looks from Ashido to Bakugou, trying to decipher what had gotten such a violent reaction from Bakugou. He grumbles at everything, but that last response had been inflamed. His eyes had gone wide, and if Kirishima hadn’t known better he’d say that Bakugou had looked almost panicked.

“Hey,” he says, “You want to grab a chair and study with us?”

Bakugou crosses his arms over his chest. “Hell no.”

“Kirishima sucks at calc,” Kaminari puts in, apparently trying to be helpful. “We could use the help.”

“Not my fucking problem,” Bakugou says, turning away.

Riot, who’s always hanging around the kitchen, scampers towards Bakugou and rubs up against his legs. After a moment’s pause, Bakugou reaches down and picks the ginger cat up in his arms, holding him against his chest. He leaves the kitchen after that, heading up the stairs to his den of solitude.

That’s the guy you want to make friends with?” Kaminari asks, looking at Kirishima like he’s out of his mind.

Kirishima shrugs. “He’s rough around the edges,” he concedes.

Ashido snorts. “If that’s how you want to put it.”

Despite Bakugou’s abject refusal to study with them, the next day while Kirishima is sitting at the kitchen table by himself, Bakugou appears and slams a pile of books down onto the table next to him. He takes a seat and flips open a book, propping it up between two others as he glares at it with fierce concentration.

Kirishima is so stunned he forgets how to speak, for a moment.

“My room gets goddamn depressing,” Bakugou says, without looking up. He offers the explanation defiantly, daring Kirishima to disagree or question him.

“I didn’t ask,” Kirishima says easily.

They sit in companionable silence for a few moments, until Kirishima gets stuck on a problem set in his math book. He starts to flip back to the explanatory section of the book, then thinks better of it.

“Hey,” he says, carefully, “there’s no way you figured out chapter three yet, right?”

Bakugou, who’s been keeping his nose pointed at his book and his eyes away from Kirishima, looks up with jolt. “Hah?”

“I mean,” Kirishima continues, following his hunch, “This is like, advanced stuff. I never really understand math the first time, but you probably didn’t get much more than I did.”

“Hey, fuckface,” Bakugou growls. “You don’t understand shit because all your stupid hair is in the way and nothing can reach your goddamn brain. This chapter was fucking easy.”

“Yeah?” Kirishima says, biting down on a smirk. “Prove it.”

Bakugou clenches his teeth and grabs for Kirishima’s notebook, scooting closer so that they can both see what he’s doing. His pencil dances across the page, performing each step of the equation and labeling them, in order. As he works, he explains what he’s doing in straightforward, albeit colorful, terms. He doesn’t bother with elaborate theoretical explanations, instead just laying out the necessary steps and how to get from one to the next.

When he speaks, his brows remain drawn together, but the tone of his voice relaxes a fraction. He has a rough voice, deep and authoritative. He holds Kirishima’s attention completely.

Then he copies out the next problem, sitting back as he shoves the notebook towards Kirishima. “Now you try it, shitty hair.”

But Kirishima is staring at Bakugou, mouth slightly slack. He lets out a laugh, before he can stop himself.

“What?” Bakugou demands, voice snapping back to its usual sharpness. “What the hell is your problem?”

“Nothing, man,” Kirishima says, still grinning. “It’s just like, you’re a brand new person.”

Bakugou blinks at him. “I’ve been living across the hall from you for almost three weeks.”

“Yeah, I know, but,” Kirishima says, talking quickly in his excitement, “Usually you’re all grumbly until you explode, and then you’re grumbly again. When you were talking about math, just now, you were like, almost an articulate human!”

Bakugou’s face contorts into a fierce scowl, but there’s also a redness dusting his cheeks. “Shut the fuck up,” he grumbles. “Do your shitty homework.”

“Okay, okay,” Kirishima says. He copies Bakugou’s earlier work, plugging in the new numbers and going much more slowly than Bakugou had. Still, the process is methodological, and when he’s done he looks up at Bakugou hopefully.

Bakugou frowns down at the page, but then nods.

Kirishima crows at his victory. “Ha, I did it! Thanks, by the way— you’re like, really smart.”

“Fucking obviously.” Bakugou scoots away from him, back to his own work.

Sensing that pushing more right now would be a mistake, Kirishima turns back to his book and works through the next few problems. When Bakugou speaks again, Kirishima almost doesn’t hear him.

“What?” he asks, looking up.

“I said you’re really… smiley.” Bakugou frowns over the word, like it sits uncomfortably on his tongue.

“Thanks!” Kirishima flashes another grin for good measure.

“It wasn’t a goddamn compliment,” Bakugou snaps.

“Just an observation, then?”

Bakugou huffs, and turns away again.

Kirishima regards him thoughtfully for a moment, before asking, “Hey, are you going to come to dinner tonight?”

“Can’t,” Bakugou says shortly. Then, after a pause in which he runs his tongue over his teeth, “I have to go home.”

Kirishima imagines he means wherever he lived before this, probably his parents’ home. “How come?”

Bakugou glowers at him. “How come you just fucked up that equation?” he retorts, pointing out Kirishima’s mistake.

“Oh, shoot,” Kirishima says, grabbing for his eraser and rubbing it over the page.

“Pay attention, dumbass,” Bakugou says. “Don’t make me waste my time explaining shit to you if you’re not going to remember it.”

Kirishima imagines that Bakugou’s talking so much to lead the conversation away from why he has to go home. So Kirishima follows his lead, and lets that subject drop entirely.

Bakugou doesn’t show up at dinner that night, or the night after, or the night after. But during the next week, he’ll appear in the kitchen while Kirishima is studying. He brings his own books with him and studies diligently, only leaning over to help Kirishima when he’s asked directly, or when he catches Kirishima staring at the same page for too long. Still, it’s a comfortable rhythm, and Kirishima imagines that they’re edging closer to something like real friendship.

Despite his surliness, Bakugou is an impressive person. When he studies, he has absolute focus, his eyes narrowed as he reads over his textbooks with a speed that Kirishima could never pray to achieve. Eventually, his cellphone will buzz and Bakugou will jump up from the table, grabbing his things and mumbling something vague about having to be somewhere. No matter what day or time he and Kirishima study, there always seems to be something that demands his attention, eventually.

Kirishima doesn’t take it personally. He’s fine if they grow friendlier in increments. Progress is progress, after all.

Towards the end of the week, Tsuyu invites a friend over and then asks Kirishima to help the two of them make dinner. Kirishima is always willing to help—his own culinary skills leave a lot to be desired, but if Tsuyu’s giving him instructions he can manage not to screw anything up too badly.

Tsuyu’s friend is named Uraraka Ochako, and Kirishima is immediately in love, in the most platonic sense. Uraraka has round cheeks that seem perpetually rosy, and a smile that could sell sand in the desert. Conversation between the three of them flows freely as they make rice and set the table.

It’s earlier than usual when Kirishima hears the front door unlocking, and soon thereafter Bakugou is passing by the kitchen on his way to the stairs. He’s wearing a baggy sweatshirt today, the hood pulled up. The slim white chord of headphones draws a line from his pocket up to his neck, where it splits and disappears into the hood. Kirishima’s never seen anyone who looks like they want to block out the world so much, and he works at a coffee shop where overstressed university students come to study.

But then Bakugou pauses, his eyes lingering over Kirishima for a moment before they land on Uraraka. Then Kirishima notices that she’s looking at Bakugou, too.

“Bakugou-kun,” she says, taken aback. “What are you doing here?”

“You two know each other?” Tsuyu asks, head tilting towards Uraraka and then back to Bakugou.

“No, we don’t,” Bakugou spits out.

At the same time, Uraraka says, “We’re old frie— I mean, acquaintances.”

“Old acquaintances,” Tsuyu repeats sagely, like she’s trying out the phrase. “That’s a weird concept, Ochako-chan.”

Bakugou is still standing in the entryway, looking at Uraraka like she’s about to burn down the entire house. His hands are clenched into fists at his sides, and he looks at her and then at Kirishima, eyes darting back and forth wildly.

Then, Uraraka starts laughing, too loud and almost nervous. “I didn’t realize you lived here,” she says. “So, I wasn’t expecting to see you! How have you been? I haven’t seen you in a while, have I?”

Bakugou blinks slowly, his eyes narrowing suspiciously. Finally, he huffs out a sigh. “No. I haven’t seen you in fucking ages. And we should’ve kept it that way.”

Abruptly, he turns and heads for the stairs.

When he’s gone, both Kirishima and Tsuyu turn towards Uraraka. She holds up both hands, smiling apologetically.

“I really didn’t know he lived here,” she says. “I mean, I figured he was living near campus, in the dorms. Unless he can’t…” She trails off, clapping one hand over her mouth.

“First year students have guaranteed housing at Yuuei,” Tsuyu says matter-of-factly. “Why wouldn’t he be able to stay there?”

“Forget it,” Uraraka says. “I mean, I don’t really know his circumstances! Like I said, it’s been a long time since we’ve seen each other.”

Kirishima wonders if that’s quite true. Uraraka seems desperate to get off the subject, however, and he doesn’t want to make her uncomfortable, even though he’s endlessly curious about the mysteries of Bakugou Katsuki.

“Well,” he says, “We all chose to live here, too. It’s cheaper, and less crowded than the dorms, and we’re all like a family, here. I’m sure Bakugou’s got his reasons, too.”

“They’re probably not that he considers us a family,” Tsuyu says blandly. “He didn’t even let me introduce myself.” Tsuyu is particular about introductions, insisting that most people call her by her first name almost immediately. She taps one finger against her chin thoughtfully, though Kirishima guesses she might be hurt at being so ignored.

The rice cooker pings, announcing that their meal is ready, and so they’re distracted from the topic for the moment, at least.

Kirishima waits a few days before trying again with Bakugou. But Friday night finds the house empty. Kendou has gone to Tetsutetsu’s place so that they can work on their bikes, and Jirou is at band practice. Tokoyami and Tsuyu had left earlier, to go out with Shouji and Uraraka, respectively. Kirishima is at a loose end, and he knows that Bakugou is home. He figures he’s given his floormate enough time to cool off, so he crosses the hall and knocks on Bakugou’s door, waiting expectantly.

After a minute, Bakugou opens the door and stares at Kirishima.

“I heard you come in a little while ago,” Kirishima says, by way of explanation, “And I downloaded the sequel to the movie we were watching, before. Want to make some popcorn and check it out?”

Bakugou grinds his teeth for a moment before asking, “Is the sequel as shitty as the first one?”

Kirishima grins. “Probably! But that’s half the fun, right?”

“Whatever.” Bakugou stifles a yawn with the back of his hand. “I wasn’t going to get any work done tonight, anyway.”

“You work too hard, man,” Kirishima tells him as they head downstairs. Kirishima tends to end up alone on Fridays, since Jirou never misses a practice and Tsuyu, when she’s not going out, tends to fall asleep early after a long week. Tokoyami is generally happy enough to hang out by himself in his room and actively seeks company when he wants it, so Kirishima tries not to bother him too much. Bakugou’s isolation is of an entirely different character than Tokoyami’s confident periods of solitude, though.

But now Bakugou has agreed to spend time with him. Kirishima makes popcorn and Bakugou turns on the TV, and soon enough they’re all set for their first planned bonding night. Not that Kirishima will tell Bakugou that that’s what he’s calling it. He has a feeling that that wouldn’t go over very well.

But as soon as Kirishima grabs the remote, the doorbell rings.

“I’ll get it,” he says, jumping up and tossing the remote aside. “Wait here, okay?”

“Where the hell would I go, shitty hair?” Bakugou says.

“I don’t know, dumbass,” Kirishima replies jovially. “Just sit tight. I’ll be right back.”

Kirishima opens the door and sees a person about his age standing there. He has huge, round eyes and hair that curls up from his face like a dark cloud. Freckles dust his nose and cheeks, and when he sees Kirishima he stops biting his lip and smiles.

“Hello,” he says easily, “Is Kacchan— I mean, Bakugou here?”

Kirishima tilts his head as tries to process this. First, this person seems apprehensive as he says Bakugou’s name, almost like he’s scared. And he’d said Kacchan, and Kirishima can’t imagine anyone getting away with calling Bakugou such a cutesy nickname. He can’t imagine calling Bakugou by his given name, even.

“You’re… a friend of Bakugou’s?” Kirishima asks, still confused.

The guy smiles, though it’s strained. “Ah, not exactly? I’m Midoriya Izu—”

Deku.”

Kirishima turns to see Bakugou stepping towards the door, his face cold and unreadable and almost terrifying in its blankness. He stomps towards the door, stopping a pace or two away from Midoriya.

“What the fucking hell are you doing here?” His voice doesn’t sound like it normally does— normally, even when he’s cursing, Bakugou sounds grumbly and irritable and sometimes openly angry. But right now, he sounds furious, his voice lowered but more intense.

“Kacchan, I—”

“Get out!” Bakugou roars, shoving Kirishima aside so that he can stand in front of the doorway, hands braced on either side of the doorframe. “I’ll fucking kill you,” he says, and it doesn’t sound like an idle threat. For a moment, Kirishima believes that he’ll do just that.

“Can you just listen, for a moment?” Midoriya says. His tone is almost pleading, but his face is set in a hard, determined expression. So maybe he isn’t scared of Bakugou, himself.

Bakugou makes a sound like a boiling kettle, baring his teeth at Midoriya. “No fucking way. How the hell did you even find me?” He looks apoplectic, the veins of his neck strained against the tight skin over them.

“I’m sorry—” Midoriya starts to say, and that’s when Bakugou loses it.

Fuck off! Get out!” He lunges, and Kirishima has the presence of mind to grab for him at the last moment, catching the collar of Bakugou’s t-shirt and yanking him backward.

Midoriya is still talking, holding up his hands and looking like he’s trying to explain something, but it’s impossible to hear him over the enraged sounds that Bakugou’s making. Kirishima grabs him around the waist, pulling him away from the door.

“Um, maybe you better go?” Kirishima asks helplessly.

In between curses, Bakugou hisses out something that sounds like “restraining order.” But that makes no sense, at all.

Midoriya squeaks at that, though, suddenly looking guilty. “I— whenever you’re ready to talk, Kacchan—” But a minute later he’s gone, fleeing back down the road.

When Midoriya is out of sight, Kirishima releases Bakugou and slams the front door shut. Bakugou falls down to his knees, slamming both of his hands against the floor, so hard that the resulting sound reverberates. Kirishima winces in sympathy.

“Dude,” he says, breathless. “What the hell was that about?”

When Bakugou finally looks up, it’s with the wild, startled eyes of an animal. He scrambles to his feet, and pushes past Kirishima, taking the stairs two at a time as he rushes up them as quickly as possible.

A minute later, the house shakes as another door slams, somewhere far above him.

Kirishima is left alone and without understanding. When he wanders back into the living room, the only thing to greet him is a full bowl of popcorn and no one to share it with.

Chapter Text

Bakugou is waiting on the curb when Aizawa’s car pulls up. Dressed in his customary dark, baggy jeans and half-hidden behind the hood of his sweatshirt, he glowers at the world as he balances his elbows against his knees. Across the street, elderly couples are going for walks and people are out with their fucking dogs. People in cars and on bikes speed by, going about their lives. Bakugou hates each and every one of them, and he’s busy thinking about all of the ways in which average people are useless and ungrateful when Aizawa honks to get his attention.

He gets up and yanks open the passenger-side door of Aizawa’s car, throwing himself into the seat and immediately turning to gaze out the window instead of letting Aizawa into his line of sight.

Aizawa lets out a barely perceptible sigh, but then starts driving. For a few minutes, he’s content to let Bakugou stew in his unhappiness. It’s his job to check in and make sure Bakugou isn’t breaking any of the court’s orders— it’s not his responsibility to make sure that Bakugou is in any way happy.

That’s probably why he sounds so distinctly unhappy when he asks, “Alright. What’s the matter with you, today?”

Bakugou doesn’t look towards him. He has his elbow leaned against the car door, his chin balanced against his hand. “Fucking nothing,” he says. “This is how I am. All the goddamn time.”

His voice doesn’t burst out of him as it usually does. Instead, Bakugou keeps his teeth gritted and talks in stilted, forced words, trying his hardest to keep everything else inside.

Aizawa pulls over a moment later, parking on the side of the road by a park and getting out. Because he has no other choice, Bakugou follows.

It’s early enough in the morning that the park isn’t very crowded. Joggers and photographers are scattered here and there, along with some people who look like they never made it home last night and are now trekking back. Bakugou tries not to look at any of them, shoving his hands in his pockets and staring down at the ground.

Aizawa sits down on a bench, but Bakugou doesn’t join him. After a moment’s silence, Aizawa tilts his head towards Bakugou and says, flatly, “Don’t try and fool me. Just tell me what happened.”

Bakugou hates it when Aizawa looks directly at him. Usually, his dark, messy hair falls over his eyes and mostly obscures them from view. But now, he reaches up and pushes his bangs back, fixing Bakugou with a penetrating stare. Aizawa’s eyes are dark and beady, his sclera always bloodshot. And yet, his stare strips away all pretenses, leaving Bakugou feeling bare and exposed and vulnerable.

“Deku showed up at my fucking house, yesterday,” Bakugou says, finally. He stands next to the bench, looking out over the grassy expanse of the park. He hates the color green, and yet he’s being bombarded by it no matter where he looks.

Aizawa pinches the bridge of his nose. “That reckless kid…” he mutters. “What did you do?” he asks Bakugou.

“Nothing,” Bakugou snaps, even though he knows it’s obvious that he’s lying. He hadn’t even made any efforts to leash his temper, last night. He’d heard Deku’s voice from the other room, and the careful control he’d built around his anger had snapped immediately. He couldn’t think, beyond knowing that he had to get Deku away from Kirishima as quickly as possible, before he did any more damage.

The rest has become a bit of a blur, aside from looking up and seeing Kirishima standing over him, his smile faltering into a look of concern, and confusion, and something like fear.

God fucking damn it.

“You didn’t hit him, did you?” Aizawa presses.

“No,” Bakugou says, defensively. He probably would have, if Kirishima hadn’t held him back.

But Aizawa seems satisfied enough with that. He tilts his head back and his eyes shutter closed for a moment. “Does that mean you actually talked to him?”

“Fuck no.” Bakugou crouches down, hunching his shoulders. “I have nothing to say to that useless— stupid— piece of shit. And I don’t give a damn about whatever he wants to say to me, either!”

Aizawa is silent for a moment. “So, if you didn’t hit him, and you didn’t talk to him, why are you still upset?”

Bakugou is good at denying his feelings, and he’s immediately ready to do so again. But his emotions betray him, and before he can deflect Aizawa’s question he spits out, “I don’t want anyone to know.”

“You were a juvenile when it happened,” Aizawa explains, even though Bakugou already knows that. “The records are sealed.”

But Aizawa isn’t understanding what Bakugou is trying to say. “I don’t want anyone to know,” he repeats, “ever.”

Despite that wish, he’s surrounded by people who know. His parents, Aizawa, Doctor Shuzenji, Uraraka, the judge he’ll have to go back and see in a few months. And Deku. They’re all leaks in a dam, and their very existence poses the risk that the dam will burst and Bakugou’s life will flood with the shame he’s been trying to force down and hide.

Aizawa is looking straight at him, again, his expression shrewd. “Anyone?” he asks, “Or someone in particular?”

“Someone,” Bakugou starts to say, before correcting, “No— shit. I don’t know!”

Aizawa doesn’t comment on that, nor on the fact that Bakugou’s voice is steadily rising. “You know, it’ll probably come out sooner or later, as you get to know someone. Wouldn’t you rather it be on your terms?”

“No,” Bakugou says, crossing his arms over his chest. He tells himself it doesn’t look like he’s hugging himself, trying to keep the rest of the world at bay. “I just won’t get to know anyone. I don’t need anyone, anyway.”

Again, Aizawa doesn’t contradict Bakugou. He’s a vampire-looking fucker who’s probably allergic to people himself, anyway. “Why would it be so bad if someone knew?” he asks, voice nonchalant.

Because he thinks I’m worth something and he wants to hang out with me, Bakugou thinks before he can stop himself. He isn’t put off by anything I do, but if he finds out he won’t want anything to do with me.

Out loud, he mutters, “Because then he’ll know I’m a bad person.” He says the words like a challenge.

Aizawa blinks at him. “Are you? Are you a bad person?”

“Fucking obviously,” Bakugou hisses.

Again, Aizawa goes silent for a moment. Then, he says, voice harsh, “So, in your estimation, no one is ever allowed to screw up?”

Bakugou takes issue with his generalized language. “I don’t care about other people. I’m different.”

Aizawa scoffs. “Is that so?”

Bakugou clenches his teeth and doesn’t respond. It should be obvious. He’s always excelled at whatever he’s wanted to, has always been the best at anything he’s truly applied himself at. He had been perfect, and now he’s juggling the shattered remnants of a life that could’ve been worth something. Fucking wasted potential, indeed.

“Your standards are impossible,” Aizawa says. “Even for someone like you to meet.”

Bakugou bites down hard on the inside of his cheek. “So, what? It doesn’t fucking matter. It’s already ruined, anyway.”

“So, you’re either perfect, or you’re a failure?” Aizawa presses. “You either stay a good person because you never get caught, or you screw up once and you’re bad forever?”

Bakugou’s had enough of this. He’s had enough of feeling that Aizawa is flashing a spotlight on him, baring everything he doesn’t want anyone to see, that he doesn’t want to acknowledge himself.

When Bakugou doesn’t respond, Aizawa just shakes his head. “No wonder you’re always so bent out of shape. Viewing the world through absolutes like that must be exhausting. But guess what? You’ve got to live this out, now. So, you’re going to have to find a way to live with yourself.”

Bakugou keeps biting down on his tongue until he tastes blood in his mouth. A short while later, Aizawa drives him home.

He goes through his classes like a ghost. Normally, when he’s listening to a lecturer or trying to figure out a problem, a part of his brain lights up and drowns out everything else, and at those moments Bakugou feels— pride, and accomplishment, and challenge. But now, as he sits at his desk and mechanically takes notes, he barely hears what’s being said around him. When he looks down at his paper, the words and numbers and chemical symbols all blur together.

He shoulders his bag as he stomps out of his chemistry lecture. Going from the lecture hall to the building’s entrance takes him past the labs, and now Bakugou pauses in front of them. He’s by the glass windows, in the hall where funders and guests are brought to watch for-display experiments.

Out in the hallway, he can’t smell the familiar mix of chemicals and disinfectants that make up the atmosphere of the lab. But he imagines them, closes his eyes and inhales. When he looks through the window, again, he sees all of the expensive equipment and state-of-the-art facilities. He sees them, and he’s hit with a pang of longing so sharp it’s painful.

He just needs to get through this fucking year. If he can manage that, the next year he can take lab practicals and apply to do research. He’d have to be supervised, so it wouldn’t be perfect. But shit, it’d be something.

Caught up in his thoughts, he doesn’t realize it when another person steps up beside him. When Bakugou finally looks at him, he immediately freezes.

The man is tall, but doesn’t take up much space. His limbs are long, but he looks like a clump of clay that’s been stretched out too far. His arms hang at his sides, and his eyes are sunken in. Lank, wild blond hair hangs around his face. He needs to get his suit tailored so that it doesn’t drown him.

Still, despite how he looks, he’s impossible to mistake. Professor Yagi Toshinori, Yuuei’s most famous faculty member, renowned for his life-saving biochemical research and winner of a Nobel Prize.

“You have an interest in our research, young man?” Professor Yagi asks. His voice is rough as sandpaper, and yet somehow calming. “I can show you what I’m currently working on, if you’d like.”

At the age of seven, Bakugou had come to tour Yuuei with his parents. He’d seen Professor Yagi through the window he’s now staring at, even though back then he’d been a huge and imposing figure. When he’d finished explaining his work and the many advancements he’d made, he turned to the crowd and smiled, an expression so bright and powerful it had dismissed all doubts.

Back then, Bakugou would have committed bloody murder to get into Yagi’s lab, to see his work up close.

Now, he grinds his teeth and mutters, “No thanks. I have a class.”

He turns on his heel and stalks away, before Yagi can say anything else to him. He can’t stand to be so close to something he’s always wanted, and not be able to have it.

He’s a goddamn fucking liar, and doesn’t actually have a class to go to. Still, Bakugou books it from the chemistry building with as much dignity as he can salvage, walking in a straight line across campus without stopping or once looking up. By the time he’s sure he’s put enough distance between himself and Yagi Toshinori, he glances around and realizes he has no clue where he is.

It must be the very edges of campus, he realizes. He only ventures out of the math and science quad for his literature class, but he recognizes the style of the buildings around this side of the school. There are gates marking Yuuei’s boundaries on one side, and a little beyond them, a coffee shop with a red awning. With nowhere else to go, Bakugou shoves his hands into his pockets and heads for the shop. Maybe he can pick up lunch there and avoid going back to the house, where Kirishima might be waiting.

But as soon as he enters Fatgum Coffee, he sees the barista behind the counter and realizes that the entire shitty universe is conspiring against him. Because that barista is Kirishima Eijirou, wearing a crisp button down and an apron as red as his hair. He looks up when the bell over the door chimes, brilliant smile at the ready, then freezes when he sees Bakugou.

At this point, Bakugou is certain that no part of his life is actually working. And it isn’t fair, because if he’d just managed to contain things for a few months, he might’ve had a prayer of just moving the fuck on. Instead, Kirishima had arrived to leave him stupid notes and goddamn chocolate, to knock on his door and ask Bakugou to come to dinner every shitty day. And the fact that he wouldn’t take no for an answer had given Bakugou some kind of strange hope, a feeling in his chest that had replaced the barren, charred remains of everything he used to feel.

Fuck Kirishima. Bakugou hates him. And he would’ve managed just find without him.

But he can’t just walk out of the shop, because that would be a weak ass retreat that he’s not willing to make. Instead, he stalks into the shop, finds a table in the far corner, and throws his bag to the floor as he takes a seat. He looks determinedly out the window and tries very hard to pretend that Kirishima doesn’t exist.

But Kirishima, the worst fucking person on the planet, won’t let it rest with that. Within ten minutes, he’s standing over Bakugou’s table with a small tray. He sets down a steaming mug and a small pastry in front of him.

“What the hell is this,” Bakugou growls. “I didn’t order anything.”

Kirishima waves a hand. “Yeah, but what’s the point of having a housemate who works here if you don’t get free drinks?”

Suspicious, Bakugou picks up the mug and sniffs it. It doesn’t smell like coffee, and he picks up several spices he can’t name in the scent. It’s enticing, despite the fact that Bakugou doesn’t want it to be.

“It’s Mexican hot chocolate,” Kirishima says with a grin. “You seemed to like the chocolate, before, and this has spices in it! Plus, you seem really keyed up all the time, so I figured caffeine is probably not the way to go.”

Bakugou shoots Kirishima a slanted glare. “Die.”

Kirishima laughs. “Just try it, man. You’ll like it, I promise. I’m sort of a genius at figuring out what drinks people like best.”

Despite himself, Bakugou takes an experimental sip. The drink burns his tongue, but the chocolate is smooth and rich and the spices light up his taste buds, one after the other. It’s stupidly good, probably the most delicious thing Bakugou’s ever fucking had, and he hates Kirishima a little bit more for it.

“So?” Kirishima asks. “Good, right?”

Bakugou takes another long sip before he sets down the mug and scowls at Kirishima. “What is your problem, anyway?” he demands.

Only then does Kirishima’s smile falter. “No problem,” he says carefully.

“You don’t make any sense,” Bakugou tells him, frustrated. Why won’t Kirishima just ask? He hasn’t said anything since Bakugou’s outburst in front of Deku, hasn’t questioned it since that moment when he’d been more shocked than anything. But he must be fucking curious. He must want to know, he must have come to a million of his own conclusions by now. So why is he pretending otherwise?

Kirishima shrugs. “I just figure that everyone could use someone in their corner,” he says, finally. “Even people as prickly as you.”

No. That is unacceptable. Bakugou has never, not once in his entire life, asked for help. He’s never wanted help, and he’s definitely never needed it. Kirishima does not just get to decide that he’s on Bakugou’s side, especially when he doesn’t know fucking anything.

“You’re an idiot,” Bakugou says, shooting to his feet.

The table jostles, and Kirishima reaches out to catch the mug even though the hot chocolate spills over his fingers as he does.

Bakugou ignores this, grabbing his bag and making his way for the door. “Fuck you,” he says, voice carrying across the coffee shop. He’s sure the other customers are staring. “Just leave me alone.”

Doctor Shuzenji Chiyo, or Recovery Girl, sits in her heavy-backed chair, fingers steepled in front of her as she looks at Bakugou with concern.

When did he start referring to her as Recovery Girl, anyway? When the hell had he let some stupid kids’ nickname become a part of his thoughts? Fuck her, and fuck them, and fuck this entire situation.

“Are you happy, Bakugou-kun?” Recovery Girl asks, voice soft and nonthreatening. Bakugou hates it, he hates being treated like he’s a ticking bomb that someone’s trying to disarm while a timer runs down in the background.

Bakugou barks out a laugh, harsh as glass shattering. “Obviously fucking not.”

She doesn’t look surprised, but she tilts her head to one side and asks, “What do you think would make you happy?” She acts like that’s the only goal, here, like he hadn’t been ordered to come see her against his own will.

“I don’t know,” Bakugou spits at her. What a stupid question. If he knew, why would he still feel this way?

Recovery Girl hums thoughtfully. She never rushes through these appointments, always acts like each and every question is important and thought-out, even if Bakugou doesn’t say anything responsive in return.

“You’ve wanted to go to the Yuuei since you were a little boy, haven’t you? Wasn’t it your dream?”

“So what?” Bakugou asks.

“So, you were so keen on saving that dream. And you managed to do that. You made it to the place you wanted to be.”

“Well, I’m there now and I’m not happy,” Bakugou says.

Recovery Girl clicks her tongue against the back of her teeth. “Can you try something for me?”

Bakugou, sitting on the couch across from her with his knees draw up to his chest and his feet against the cushions, knows he can’t leave until she says so. “Fine,” he snaps.

She nods. “Can you close your eyes, for a moment? And remember what you felt like, when you used to think about going to Yuuei?”

Bakugou lets his eyes fall shut. He can feel the pulse of his heart, too quick, and the labored rhythm of his breathing. When was the last time he felt like he wasn’t about to burst?

He thinks about Yuuei, when Recovery Girl says it again. He remembers his dream, of being the only kid from a shitty, underfunded school to make it big. Of turning his aptitude towards science into a real, hard-won talent. Of discovering or inventing something so world-changing that everyone would have to look up at him in awe. It wouldn’t matter if they liked him or not, they’d have to acknowledge what he’d done. They’d praise him, look at him with admiration.

Unbidden, Bakugou’s mind calls up the impression of someone’s face, and a voice that says, “You’re like, really smart.”

It’s not a crowd of people— just one. And instead of anonymous faces, it’s a person he recognizes.

No!”

He doesn’t realize he’s gotten to his feet until he opens his eyes and finds himself standing in Recovery Girl’s office. His hands are clenched at his sides, and his jaw is set so tightly it aches.

Recovery Girl sits in her chair, and looks at him with eyes that aren’t worried so much as concerned. “Bakugou-kun…”

“I don’t need to be fucking happy,” he snarls at her. “Just— just shut up about this. If I’m not doing anything wrong, if I’m not hurting anyone, why the hell should anyone care how I’m feeling?”

She purses her lips for a moment. “It still matters,” she tells him.

He can’t bring himself to believe her.

When Bakugou gets home that night, he’s a bit earlier than usual. From the hallway, he can hear the muted murmurs of conversation and laughter coming from the kitchen. It’s probably all of them— Kirishima and his shitty hair, the frog-looking girl whose name Bakugou never bothered to learn, and whoever the other three fuckers who live here are. They’re all sitting around the table, enjoying dinner together like they do every night.

He’s always been a solitary person. As a child, he’d been constantly surrounded by admirers and taggers-on, but he’d never thought of them as necessary. He hadn’t gone out of his way to cultivate those relationships, or any relationships. He doesn’t need anyone.

But his housemates’ laughter taunts him as he heads up the stairs towards his room. He throws his bag into one corner and then throws himself onto his bed, lying face down.

He closes his eyes and tries to block out all of his thoughts, all of his feelings. But the sickening sensation of shame has taken up residence in his stomach, and he can’t dislodge it no matter how hard he tries. He’s Bakugou fucking Katsuki, and he’s supposed to be so much better than this. He was supposed to make something of his life. He was supposed to be beyond needing anything or anyone.

He feels like there’s no bottom to his world, like he’s falling through the endless expanse of space and will keep falling, forever. In his mind, he imagines someone far above him, reaching down to grab him. But whoever that person is, they can’t reach him, and Bakugou doesn’t extend a hand to bridge the gap between them.

A growl rises up from his stomach, and Bakugou turns over in bed to stare at the ceiling. His stomach keeps growling, but Bakugou knows the others haven’t vacated the kitchen, yet.

“Guess I’ll fucking die, then,” he snarls, kicking the wall.

Logically, Bakugou knows that he should have seen Deku around campus before now. It had been one of the sticking points, back when the entrance exam’s results were announced and Bakugou realized he would not be the singular student to rise above the obscurity of his high school. Yuuei boasts a large campus, but Deku’s studying biology and Bakugou is in chemistry— their schedules should overlap a little, and they have to frequent most of the same buildings. The fact that Bakugou doesn’t run into him on a daily basis is testament to how carefully they've been kept away from each other.

So, when Bakugou is walking across campus and sees someone out of the corner of his eye, his mind immediately registers it as wrong. His head snaps up, and he sees Deku across the quad.

He hasn’t grown much since high school, though he doesn’t shake like a fucking leaf all the time, anymore. He’s had the same expectant expression and kind smile since they were kids, and Bakugou’s lip curls as he sees Deku now. He’s wearing short sleeves, today, making the brace around one of his wrists visible. As he walks, he’s completely oblivious to Bakugou’s stare.

He’s surrounded by people, but the person he’s turned towards and talking to has short brown hair and cheeks warmed pink by the sun. Uraraka.

Something snaps into place in Bakugou’s mind, a piece of a puzzle that had gotten misplaced and has only now been retrieved. His anger, which had cooled from a blaze to glowing embers, lights up once again.

He arrives at the worksite for the park at the same time he usually does. They’ve been working for a couple weeks, now, and most of the main structures are in place. There’s the bare skeleton of a swing set and the structure of a jungle gym, along with a space waiting for a slide and a sandbox waiting to be filled in.

But Bakugou isn’t looking at any of that right now. Instead, he stomps his way across the worksite until he comes to stand in front of Uraraka, who’s fitting lengths of chain through the rubber seats of swings. When Bakugou’s shadow falls over her, she looks up.

“Did you tell him?” Bakugou barks at her.

“Did I tell who what?” Uraraka asks.

“Fucking Deku!” Bakugou yells. They’re far away from the rest of the workforce that they won’t be overheard, but if it seems like they’re fighting someone will come to break things up. Bakugou doesn’t care.

Uraraka gets to her feet, slowly. “Bakugou-kun—”

Did you?” He screams, even though he’s sure he already knows the answer. How else would Deku have known where he lives? He and Uraraka must be friends, because they’re both pathetic. They both smile too easily and are too friendly and are ultimately weak as a result. They’re kind when they don’t have any reason to be, and Bakugou hates them both.

“Calm down,” Uraraka says firmly. “Believe it or not, I want to help—”

Bakugou lets out a furious noise, swinging out with one hand when Uraraka approaches him. He doesn’t hit her, but it’s a near thing. Glancing around, Bakugou can see everyone’s eyes trained on him, and Uraraka in front of him, expression set into firm lines even as her lower lip wobbles.

“Go to hell,” Bakugou seethes at her. “You and fucking Deku and all the rest of you. I don’t care.”

And as if he can prove it, he turns and leaves the worksite. He can hear voices calling out behind him, some angry and some entreating. But he doesn’t respond to any of them, doesn’t stop moving until he’s as far as he can get from the stupid, half-made park.

When he’s most of the way back to the boarding house, he stops on the sidewalk and kicks ineffectually at a lamppost.

“Fuck,” he mutters, kicking again and again. “Fuck, fuck, fuck.”

He shouldn’t have walked away. If he can’t complete his community service hours, everything will fall apart. But what does that matter, anyway? Seeing Deku last week has reminded him of all his many failings, all the things he can’t run away from.

He’s ripped open and raw, like a scab picked off a wound, bleeding underneath. The wound won’t fucking heal, because every time the scab reforms it’s scratched away again.

He can’t move forward.

He makes it back to the house, at some point. But from there Bakugou quickly loses track of the time. He doesn’t know how long he’s been lying on his bed, staring at the ceiling and willing the universe to cave in on him and put him out of his misery.

There’s a scuffling noise outside his door, and when Bakugou looks up there’s a new red notecard on his floor. It takes an immense amount of effort to get up and retrieve it, but somehow he manages.

Hey man, you okay? You don’t have to talk to me if you don’t want to, but I haven’t even seen you for a few days and I wanted to make sure you were alright.

Bakugou lets out a hoarse noise and rips the card into halves, and then into fourths, and then keeps going. He rips and rips at the material until it’s too small to hold onto and falls through his fingers, onto the floor.

Why won’t Kirishima take the fucking hint? Bakugou never, ever wants to see him again. He doesn’t want to go to dinner, or study with him, or watch any shitty movies. He doesn’t want Kirishima to be a presence in his life, with his constant good humor and wealth of friendships. He wants to be left alone.

So, he doesn’t respond to Kirishima’s note, and doesn’t even think about what he could say in response.

He goes downstairs in the dead of night, scrapes together something resembling a meal, and then retreats back to his room. At some point, he must fall asleep, because when Bakugou wakes up again light is filtering into his room through the window. It’s too bright, burning his eyes when he blinks them open blearily.

He’s barely gotten to consciousness when his cellphone beeps at him. He glances at the screen and sees a blue alert.

Rage overtakes him. He grabs the phone and squeezes it in his fist, like if he tries hard enough he’ll be able to crush it in his grip. When that doesn’t work, he screams and hurls the phone across the room. It smashes into the wall with a satisfying crunch, then falls to the floor.

Bakugou is on his feet, now, breathing heavily and looking around the room like he’s expecting an attack to come from any corner, daring his life to throw something else at him in this moment.

What he does not expect is for his door to burst open, and for Kirishima to come rushing into the room. He looks barely awake himself, in a loose t-shirt and boxers, hair a mess and face the picture of concern.

But maybe Bakugou should have expected it, because of course Kirishima would burst in at the worst possible moment.

“Are you okay?” he blurts out. “I heard a crash, and—”

“Get the hell away from me,” Bakugou grinds out. He doesn’t know what he’ll do if Kirishima stays, so he needs to get out.

“Um, no?” Kirishima says, blinking and rubbing the tiredness from his eyes. “Dude. You look awful.”

“Then fucking leave,” Bakugou screams.

“No,” Kirishima says firmly. He crosses his arms over his chest. “Tell me what happened.”

“Get the fuck out of my room, Kirishima,” Bakugou says, voice dangerously low.

“You left for class yesterday like normal, so what happened between now and then?” Kirishima insists. “Is this about that guy— Midoriya?”

“Shut up!” Bakugou yells. His nails press deep into the skin of his palms as he keeps his hands clenched, tries to keep himself from moving or reacting.

“Look,” Kirishima says, “I just want to help, and—”

I don’t need your help,” Bakugou tells him. “You don’t know fucking anything, you just keep butting in where you’re not wanted, why won’t you just fuck off and die?”

Kirishima blinks and takes a step back, expression faltering.

But Bakugou barely notices. “You want to know about fucking shithead Deku?” he asks, voice rising again. “Do you?”

Bakugou throws back his head and laughs, harsh and discordant. “I tried to fucking kill him.”

Kirishima’s face loses its color. “You… what?”

Bakugou plants his feet, but it doesn’t help. His entire body is shaking. “I told him the whole world would be better off without him. And he almost believed me, you know that? Fucking pathetic.”

Kirishima’s teeth dig into his lower lip. “Why… why would you do that?”

The laughter bubbles out of him again, like lava pooling at the top of a volcano. “I don’t have a fucking reason! People keep asking me to explain myself, and I can’t!”

He’s breathing hard, chest heaving. “He got into Yuuei, too! You can go be his best fucking friend.” He looks up at Kirishima without really seeing him. “So, what are you waiting for, Kirishima? Didn’t you want to know?”

Kirishima swallows audibly. “I… I think I need to…”

“To what, run away? Good. Just get the fuck out.” Bakugou laughs again, and it feels like someone has their hands clenched around his throat. “I don’t give a shit about anyone. I don’t give a shit about you.”

But for some reason, Kirishima doesn’t turn to leave after that. Instead, Bakugou’s words seem to harden his resolve, because he squares his shoulders and stares Bakugou down.

“What about yourself?” he asks, his voice utterly calm, a perfect counterpart to Bakugou’s.

“What?”

“Do you care about yourself?” Kirishima asks, gaze searching and voice insistent.

Bakugou freezes. He does not have an answer to that question. “Fuck you,” he manages, finally, but even he can hear how hollow it sounds, how he’s said it so many times that it’s lost all meaning.

He sees, in his mind’s eye, the disappointed looks of his parents—his mother’s disbelief giving way to anger, his father’s concern breaking with sadness. And then he sees the kids from his high school, giving him wide berth and whispering about him behind their hands. He hears emptiness, stillness, no recognition and no praise.

He unclenches his hands only to press his nails against his thighs, so hard that pain spikes through his skin. He can’t look up at Kirishima when he spits out, “I don’t have to explain myself to you.”

Kirishima is still staring at him, as immovable as a tree that’s roots have grown far down into the earth. “No, you don’t,” he says, in the same firm, calm voice. “But man, aren’t you tired?”

Bakugou’s throat is hoarse, and his eyes are burning. He doesn’t think he’s ever hated anyone as much as he hates Kirishima right now, for seeing him like this. He thought that if he let all of this vitriol spill out of him, Kirishima would leave and that would be the end of it. They would go back to being strangers who happened to occupy the same space, and nothing more.

But when Bakugou looks up, Kirishima is still standing there.

He does the only thing he can think of.

His hand clenches into a fist, and Bakugou takes a step forward in the small space of the room. He pulls back his arm, and then swings forward to punch Kirishima in the face.

Chapter Text

Kirishima is still trying to wrap his head around what Bakugou had just said to him. He’d tried to get Midoriya to kill himself? Despite Bakugou’s attitude and general belligerence, Kirishima would have never thought him capable of that. He still doesn’t quite believe it.

He’s slowed by his thoughts, but he still recognizes the quick motion of a fist coming towards him. Kirishima acts on instinct, sidestepping and reaching out with one hand to catch Bakugou’s punch. There’s force behind it, but Kirishima is immovable as stone once he’s planted his feet.

Bakugou lets out a noise like a wounded animal, struggling to wrestle his hand free of Kirishima’s grip. When he can’t manage it, he strikes with his other hand, which Kirishima catches just as easily.

Bakugou is still moving, as though there’s a fire lit under his skin that keeps crackling. There’s no easy way to keep him contained, now that he’s lashing out at every opportunity. But Kirishima manages, shifting positions until he’s behind Bakugou, pinning his arms to his sides and wrapping around him like a starfish.

“It’s okay,” Kirishima says, even though getting punched in the face would not have been okay in the slightest. “Just calm down, yeah?”

But Bakugou is screaming, an unintelligible mix of curses and inarticulate noises that don’t have any meaning at all. There’s something about the way he sounds, the way he’s reacting, that tells of something deeper than anger. Even as he struggles to maintain his hold on Bakugou, Kirishima realizes that he must be in pain. The anger is just the way it’s being expressed.

“Let me go let me go let me go,” Bakugou is screaming, over and over again, trying to drive into Kirishima with his elbows now that he doesn’t have use of his hands.

But Kirishima realizes, suddenly, that he can’t let Bakugou go. He’s clearly ripping himself apart from the inside, and if Kirishima lets him go to act on that, there’s a chance he might really hurt himself or someone else. So, Kirishima grits his teeth and tightens his grip, and emphatically does not let Bakugou go.

Bakugou keeps flailing, kicking out until he strikes Kirishima’s ankle. They both fall to the floor, still tangled up together. Kirishima switches tactics quickly, trying to get Bakugou pinned beneath him before he can get away. He takes an elbow to the jaw for his trouble, but Bakugou clearly isn’t a trained fighter. He doesn’t know how to escape once Kirishima has his wrists pinned on either side of his head, when Kirishima straddles him and presses down with all of his weight to keep Bakugou still.

Bakugou blinks up at him, words finally stilling in his mouth. His face is flushed an angry, blotchy red, and he looks dazed.

“How the fuck did you do that?” Bakugou hisses, still struggling against Kirishima’s grip.

Kirishima almost laughs. “I’m an Olympic-level judoka,” he says, because it’s true. “It’d be a little sad if I let a chem major get the drop on me, don’t you think?”

Bakugou’s eyes widen, and he looks at Kirishima like he’s seeing him for the first time. “What the fuck.”

Kirishima leans over him. “You never asked,” he tells Bakugou. In truth, Bakugou had never asked about anything. It had been Kirishima who’d peppered him with questions, curious to know more about him. Bakugou had never shown any signs of reciprocating that feeling. He probably hadn’t thought much of Kirishima at all.

But the conversation is keeping Bakugou focused, if not calming him down completely. Kirishima can still feel how tense his muscles are, taut enough to snap at the slightest provocation.

“What?” Kirishima asks, as though they’re talking over coffee and not on the floor of Bakugou’s bedroom. “Did you think you were the only one who had dreams? You never wondered what I was doing at Yuuei?”

“You’re, you’re,” Bakugou sputters, “you’re taking goddamn calculus.”

Kirishima shrugs that off. “I still want a degree,” he says, again because it’s true. “And it’s not like I can’t do it, I just need a little bit of help.”

Something about his words sets Bakugou off, again, because he arches upwards and spits at Kirishima, “I wish you were dead.”

“No, you don’t,” Kirishima says. But can he really be sure of that, anymore? Bakugou’s earlier, manic confession rings in his ears.

“You don’t know anything,” Bakugou says around clenched teeth. He’s still struggling, but it’s easy enough for Kirishima to lean his weight down and let gravity do the rest. It would take a great deal of strength and skill to overpower him, at this point, and Bakugou probably isn’t capable of it in his current, worked-up state.

Kirishima just hums in response to Bakugou’s question, faking a calm he doesn’t feel. It’s true enough— he only knows what Bakugou’s told him, and Bakugou is the cagiest person that Kirishima has ever met. Maybe all his efforts up until now have been a waste, and maybe he has seriously misjudged Bakugou’s character. But someone who is just genuinely awful and badly intentioned doesn’t scream like the world itself has betrayed them, Kirishima thinks. His instincts have never led him astray, and his instincts are telling him not to leave Bakugou like this.

So, he keeps sitting on top of him, even after Bakugou catches his breath enough to resume his stream of curses and creative insults about Kirishima’s hair, and his intelligence, and his “stupid fucking face.”

He doesn’t know how long they sit there, but when Bakugou has stilled again Kirishima asks, “Have you calmed down?”

Bakugou’s face is a furious scarlet. “I’m always fucking calm.” His voice is hoarse, and calls to mind a bombed-out building— all debris and smoke and rubble.

“If I let you up, will you promise not to freak out again?” Kirishima asks.

“Probably not,” Bakugou says mutinously.

But they can’t stay on the floor forever, so Kirishima slowly gets to his feet, making sure to maintain his grip on Bakugou’s wrists. He uses that grip to yank Bakugou to his feet, despite his sputtered protests.

Once they’re both standing, face to face, Bakugou yanks his hands out of Kirishima’s, and Kirishima lets him.

Bakugou’s shoulders sag, and he stares at the floor. Reaching up, he rubs the backs of his hands against his eyes, and Kirishima realizes, startled, that Bakugou is crying.

But even this he doesn’t do in a typical way. Bakugou hunches in on himself, and the tears leak from his eyes as Bakugou furiously rubs them away. His jaw is clenched, so that no sound escapes him. The effect calls to mind one of those marble statutes at the center of a fountain— utterly still, carved from stone, but with water streaming from it almost unnaturally. Kirishima imagines that the tears are everything inside of Bakugou, whatever he’s feeling and thinking about and holding in, finally reaching past the point of capacity and spilling out of him.

“I don’t know what to do anymore,” he says, in that same rough voice. Now that he’s seen the tears, Kirishima realizes that Bakugou is trying to keep his voice from shaking, and only half succeeding.

He hardly knows what to say in response. “You don’t have to do anything.”

“Yes, I do,” Bakugou snaps, voice heating up again. He rubs even more furiously at his eyes, and when he pulls his hands away his skin is even redder. He looks down his nose at Kirishima. “You don’t know anything,” he says, again.

Without looking at Kirishima, again, Bakugou stomps out of the room.

He’s lost half the morning by the time he collects himself and makes it to campus. Kirishima still has a full day of classes, work, and practice, and he doesn’t have the luxury of checking whether Bakugou has gone to his own classes or if he’s off somewhere else, licking his wounds or further imploding. That doesn’t stop Kirishima from worrying, however.

At the end of the day, he’s wiping down the tables at Fatgum Coffee when his phone buzzes in his pocket. The shop is closed to customers, so after glancing at the caller ID he answers the call and props the phone between his shoulder and ear as he keeps working.

“Yo, Ashido— what’s up?”

“Did you know your housemate is a criminal?” Her words come out all in a rush, her voice jumping at the last.

“Um. What?” Of course, Kirishima has learned things about Bakugou today that might support Ashido’s assessment, but she doesn’t know that. “What are you talking about?”

“Hold on,” Ashido says, “I’ll send you the article. I thought his name sounded sort of familiar, and then I stumbled upon this! Just take a look, okay? And make sure you look at the comments!”

“Yeah,” Kirishima says, even though he’s still confused, “I will.”

Once Ashido has hung up, Kirishima opens up the link that she has sent him. He’s redirected to a local newspaper’s website.

TWO STUDENTS STILL IN HIGH SCHOOL SCIENCE BUILDING DURING COLLAPSE — INJURIES REPORTED

Kirishima glances at the headline, dated several months ago. His brow furrows as he thumbs through to the rest of the article.

The science building of Orudera High School was destroyed Monday night due to a chemical fire. Two students, both third years at Orudera, were on campus when the accident occurred. The fire started at approximately eleven pm. Both students were on campus after hours, and apparently without permission. One student, Midoriya Izuku, was taken to a local hospital to be treated. The other, Bakugou Katsuki, sustained no serious injuries.

The article goes on, talking about fire safety and building codes, but Kirishima skips ahead to the comments as Ashido instructed. There are a slew of them, especially for a local news story. But it’s their content rather than their number that has Kirishima’s eyebrows hiking higher and higher.

I went to middle school with that punk— I bet he blew up the building on purpose.

Isn’t Midoriya the kid that Bakugou’s always beating up? How do we know this was an accident?

They were the only ones in the building! It’s clearly suspicious! Are the police going to investigate that student?

The thing is, Kirishima can’t immediately say that Bakugou hadn’t blown up his high school. It isn’t inconceivable, given what he’s seen of Bakugou. But something about the article, and the comments, strikes Kirishima as wrong. The sensation sticks in his thoughts like a piece of food caught between his teeth, impossible to dislodge.

He finishes up his shift and packs up his things. As he’s headed back across campus, he licks over his teeth and tries to straighten out his thoughts. But it’s then that he sees a blur of green out of the corner of his eye.

When he catches up to the person, Kirishima is relieved to find that it is, in fact, Midoriya Izuku that he’s just chased across campus.

“Midoriya!” he calls out, “Hey— Midoriya!”

He pauses mid-step, turning around and looking at Kirishima with a confused expression. Perhaps it’s unkind, but when Kirishima looks at him, he can see how Midoriya might have been the target of grade school bullies. But something tells Kirishima that Midoriya isn’t to be underestimated.

“Oh, you’re Kacchan’s…”

“Right, we didn’t get to finish our introductions, the other day!” Kirishima says with a laugh, rubbing at the back of his neck. “I’m Kirishima Eijirou. Sorry to stop you out of the blue, like this.”

“No, it’s okay. It’s nice to meet you, Kirishima-kun.” Midoriya has a brilliant smile, all white teeth and dimples. But there’s a keen intelligence lurking in his eyes, and an unspoken question as he looks at Kirishima.

“Listen, could I talk to you for a bit?” Kirishima knows it isn’t his place to ask. But he also feels like he’s holding a bunch of ingredients without instructions for how to make a cake, and he doesn’t want to end up eating raw egg.

Midoriya looks Kirishima up and down, then nods. “Sure— why don’t we sit down?”

He leads Kirishima to one of the benches that lines the pathway, sitting down and then shifting over so that Kirishima has room to do the same. Once they’re both situated, he looks at Kirishima expectantly.

It’s at this point that Kirishima realizes he hadn’t properly thought this through. How does he start this conversation? He can’t tell Midoriya that he’s been reading articles about him and Bakugou on the internet, can he? And bringing up what Bakugou had said seems like running, eyes closed, into a minefield.

“Ah, what was it you wanted to say to Bakugou, that day? When you came over to our house?”

Midoriya’s expression immediately grows guarded, though when he speaks his voice is still calm and even. “It’s really something that’s between me and Kacchan, Kirishima-kun.”

He figured as much. Still, Kirishima persists. “I’m not trying to pry, I swear. It’s just that— if I don’t understand, I can’t help. Please?”

The silence that follows drags for a few painful moments. Midoriay presses his lips into a tight line, his brows drawing together with concern for a moment before his expression evens out. Then, he holds out one arm towards Kirishima and begins to roll up his sleeve. Over his wrist and part of his hand is a black medical brace.

“I wanted to show him that I’m healing,” Midoriya says, finally. “I broke both my arms, a few months ago, and this one was a lot worse than the other. I hadn’t seen Kacchan in a while, so he wouldn’t have known…”

Kirishima waits as Midoriya’s voice trails off into indistinct muttering. Then, he looks up and smiles apologetically, picking up the thread of his thoughts once more.

“Kacchan and I were in an accident, right at the end of high school. And I think Kacchan probably blames himself, for what happened to me.”

“Er,” Kirishima can’t help interjecting, “Not to be rude, but it doesn’t seem like he really cares. I mean, it didn’t seem like he wanted to see you, at all.”

Now, Midoriya’s smile is entirely self-deprecating. “Kacchan doesn’t like me,” he says simply. “But what happened was partly my fault, too.”

Not according to anonymous internet commentators, Kirishima almost says.

“Our high school wasn’t the best,” Midoriya continues, wrinkling his nose at the memory. “I mean, it isn’t known for sending many kids to good, or even decent schools. And Kacchan and I, we were both determined to get into Yuuei. It’s sort of a miracle we both managed it.” He reaches one hand behind his head, idly scrunching up his hair.

“Kacchan… he took it badly, that I got in, too. And it really wasn’t expected, so I think that didn’t help.” Midoriya looks off to one side for a moment, in the direction of the math and science quad, like he’s deciding how much he should say. “Anyway, Kacchan started spending hours and hours in our high school’s lab building, as a way to work off his frustration, I think? And one night, when he snuck in after the building was closed, there was a chemical fire.”

Now, the story is starting to sound familiar. Kirishima nods, leaning towards Midoriya like he can absorb more of the details, that way.

“It was pretty late. Neither of us were supposed to be there, but I knew Kacchan hadn’t left yet so I stayed behind, too. I felt responsible. But then the whole lab was on fire, and part of the wall collapsed— it’s hard to remember, exactly, what all happened. But then the police arrived, and got us out, and then they started asking questions. And it seemed obvious, to them, that Kacchan had hurt me on purpose.”

Kirishima shudders at the thought of being trapped in a burning building. He doesn’t know if he’d be able to talk about it as calmly as Midoriya is.

“If that’s true,” Kirishima asks, “then why try and talk to him?”

Now, Midoriya shakes his head. “The police thought it was obvious, but. Kacchan hadn’t wanted me to stay, in the first place. He wasn’t trying to hurt me. Not that time, at least.” Midoriya mumbles the last few words.

Kirishima tilts his head to the side. “I’m sorry— I don’t really follow you.”

Midoriya shrugs, spreading his hands. “Kacchan is a complicated person. But, you know, I’ve always admired him. And I still do. I don’t hate him, no matter what happened between us. And I don’t want him to hate me, either.”

Kirishima thinks he understands that. Bakugou is like the warmth of a flame, attracting attention and strangely enticing. But if you grow bold enough to touch a flame, you’ll surely be burned.

“I don’t think Bakugou knows what to do with his feelings,” Kirishima says, thinking aloud. “Or even how to sort out what he’s feeling.”

Midoriya chuckles softly. “Kacchan would say that he doesn’t have any feelings.”

He and Kirishima share a knowing look. They both know that that can’t be true. Bakugou suffers from, if anything, an excess of feelings. But like that burning fire, too much fuel sends the flames burning hotter and growing uncontrollable.

“Kacchan is hard to get along with,” Midoriya is saying now, “and I’ve never really managed to talk to him, properly. But I think he needs someone to talk to.” He looks at Kirishima as he speaks, that shrewdness back in his round, dark eyes.

Kirishima laughs, smiling wanly. “I won’t argue with that.” But that doesn’t mean that he understands Bakugou any more than Midoriya does.

Kirishima gets home that night with too many thoughts rattling around in his head. After lying in bed for an hour without sleep, he jumps up and goes to sit at his desk, grabbing for his stack of red notecards. Slowly, he fills a small pile of them with messages.

Hey, Bakugou. It’s me, again. You don’t have to respond to these, but I wanted to tell you something. Just, read to the end, okay?

When I was a kid, I was sort of a nightmare. Probably nothing compared to how you must’ve been, but. I had a lot of trouble focusing in class and I caused a lot of trouble. My parents and the teachers didn’t know what to do with me.

One of my aunts had the idea to sign me up for judo lessons at this dojo. And I loved it, right from the start. Before, I always felt like I was ready to jump out of my skin, or something. But when I went to judo, I could do something— I could move and learn and keep trying, instead of sitting around and feeling useless.

I’ve been practicing for years and years, now. I don’t have the most elegant style, or the flashiest moves. But working at it makes me really happy. And Yuuei always attracts Olympic scouts, so I have a real dream that I can work towards. I get knocked down a lot, but I’m learning from amazing people, and I can always get back up and try again. Even if I don’t reach my goal, it’ll still be worth it.

I don’t really know where I was going with this. But you’ve shared a lot with me, I think, so I wanted to share something with you, too.

Kirishima frowns over the notes when he’s done, not quite satisfied. Still, he scoops up the cards and walks across the hall to Bakugou’s room, shoving them under the door one by one. He goes back to bed after that, not expecting a response.

When Kirishima is leaving his room the next morning, he’s shocked at the amount of orange post-its covering a large portion of his door. Slack-jawed, he pulls them off one by one to read them.

You’re a fucking idiot.

Well. That one isn’t much of a surprise.

You beat me, didn’t you? Pinned me on the ground for fucking hour.

And if you’re the one who wins, in the end, that means you’re strong.

Who cares what your style looks like, or if you’re flashy or not? If you beat their asses, who can tell you you’re not the best?

If you’ve got a dream, go and achieve it, shithead. Don’t half-ass things like a loser.

There’s probably something seriously wrong with Kirishima, but he finds himself smiling over each and every one of the notes. He stacks them up in order, then briefly returns to his room to tuck them safely into his desk drawer.

The weekend arrives before Kirishima sees Bakugou, again. They run into each other in the hallway— Kirishima arriving home, and Bakugou looking like he’s getting ready to leave.

“Where are you going?” Kirishima asks, before he can think of a more tactful way to start a conversation.

Bakugou grunts at him. “My parents’ house. For dinner.”

“Oh.” Kirishima tries to hide his disappointment, but he really wants to get Bakugou alone so that they can talk. He wants to ask if Bakugou is okay, but also to explain what Kirishima has learned. It doesn’t seem right that Bakugou doesn’t know that Kirishima is privy to so much of his past.

Bakugou starts to walk past him, and then pauses mid-step. Kirishima can practically hear him grinding his teeth before he turns around half-way.

“You can come,” Bakugou says, forcing out the words like each one is painful, “if you promise not to be weird or say fucking anything.”

It takes Kirishima a moment to realize that Bakugou has just invited him to dinner. And another to process that the dinner will be at his parents’ house. Which Bakugou would be taking him to of his own free will. After weeks of trying to crack Bakugou’s shell, Kirishima is suspicious of this sudden good fortune.

“Are you sure?” Kirishima asks.

Bakugou rolls his eyes, face going slightly red. “Do you want to come or not?”

“I do!” Kirishima says. “Hold on, let me just— put on a nicer shirt, or something?”

Bakugou clicks his tongue against the back of his teeth. “You look fine. I’m leaving now. Come if you want, or don’t. I don’t give a shit.”

“Wait, wait, I’m coming!” Kirishima says.

They end up sitting side by side on the back of a bus that takes them further into the city. Bakugou spends the ride staring out the window, until Kirishima nudges him.

“What?” Bakugou snaps.

“Are you feeling any better?” Kirishima asks in a low whisper. His discretion doesn’t stop Bakugou from stomping on his foot.

While Kirishima hisses in pain, Bakugou says, “No. I’m not.”

Biting his tongue, Kirishima just nods. It’s not the right place to talk about the rest of it.

The bus ride takes longer than Kirishima expects, and then Bakugou is leading him through the streets of a crowded corner of the city. High-rise apartment buildings and small houses line the streets, and Bakugou makes his way through them with the unconscious knowledge that comes from living in a neighborhood your whole life. As they pass some of the fenced-off houses, dogs begin to bark.

Finally, they reach the right apartment building. Bakugou is silent as they ride the elevator up to the top floor, and Kirishima is too busy drinking in the details to bother making conversation. He grew up in a very different place— a bigger house, outside of the city. His childhood had been slightly provincial, but he hadn’t lacked for anything. Now, occupying the space that Bakugou grew up in, he tries to imagine a younger version of the person beside him. He ends up calling up an image of a child with round cheeks and a furious scowl, which is more endearing than it should be. Maybe Bakugou’s parents have pictures.

“It’s over here, shitty hair,” Bakugou mutters as they get out of the elevator, leading Kirishima down the hall. The Bakugou family name is mounted on the wall next to the door. Bakugou fishes a key out of his pocket and lets them inside.

Bakugou pushes the door open and announces, “I’m here,” in a voice loud enough to carry. Then he steps out of his shoes and nudges them against the wall, motioning for Kirishima to do the same.

No one comes running to the entryway to meet them, so Bakugou leads Kirishima into the apartment, towards the kitchen. It’s not a small home, and the decor is simple and stylish. As they approach the kitchen, Kirishima smells the heavenly aroma of cooking meet and spices.

“Ah, Katsuki. Welcome home.” There’s a man cooking dinner in the kitchen, wearing glasses and a kindly smile. He’s heavier set than Bakugou, his hair darker. He doesn’t carry himself with Bakugou’s brash confidence, and when he turns to Kirishima there’s nothing hostile about him at all. “You brought a friend?”

“Sorry for the intrusion!” Kirishima says, immediately. “I’m Kirishima Eijirou, I live with Bakugou and—”

“It’s fine,” Bakugou mutters, elbowing Kirishima in the side. “It’s just dinner, you don’t have to freak out.”

Bakugou’s father smiles wanly. “He’s right,” he tells Kirishima. “We’re happy to have you.”

Before Kirishima can say anything else, someone else enters the small space of the kitchen. Her hair is the same ashy color as Bakugou’s, but Kirishima can’t make out much more than that. She moves across the room too quickly, coming up behind Bakugou and smacking him lightly on the back of his head.

“You couldn’t have called ahead?” she asks, and though her voice is far and again higher than her son’s, their intonations are identical.

Bakugou sidesteps away from his mother and rubs at the back of his head. “Was I fucking supposed to?”

Now his mother turns, and Kirishima gets a better look at her. Bakugou has inherited nearly all of his features from her— the angle of his eyes, the thin slope of his nose, even the lines of their jaws are similar. Kirishima blinks rapidly, his mind unsettled by the uncanny familiarities.

“Some head’s up would’ve been nice, brat,” Bakugou’s mother says, crossing her arms over her chest. Then, after a barely perceptible sigh, she says, “Welcome home.”

Bakugou glares at her, but says, “I’m home.” After a moment’s pause, he continues, “This is Kirishima.”

Kirishima half-bows. “Kirishima Eijirou,” he confirms. “It’s nice to meet you, Bakugou-san.”

Bakugou’s mother barks out a laugh, and when Kirishima looks up she’s grinning at him. She’s a beautiful woman, and her smile is strong and blinding. Kirishima wonders if Bakugou has inherited that from her, as well.

“It’s nice to meet you, Eijirou. I hope our son hasn’t given you too much trouble.”

“Not at all,” Kirishima says.

Bakugou and his mother share a look, and then they both roll their eyes.

“Liar,” they both mutter, at the same time, and then look at each other again. Bakugou grumbles, but his mother laughs.

“You boys want to set the table?” Bakugou’s father asks. “Dinner’ll be ready in a minute.”

The dinner is bafflingly normal. The four of them sit around the Bakugous’ dining table, which is almost completely covered in dishes of food. Kirishima ends up sitting between Bakugou and his father, across from his mother.

“So,” Bakugou’s father says, after they’ve been eating for a while, “how was school this week, Katsuki?”

Bakugou bites off half of a tempura shrimp before muttering, “How should I know? I haven’t been to class in three days. Or to the rest of it.”

Immediately, the atmosphere chills. Bakugou’s mother chokes on her water before setting down her glass in a room so silent that Kirishima would be able to hear a pin drop.

“You. What?” she asks, voice completely blank.

“I didn’t feel like going,” Bakugou says, throwing out the words like a challenge. He shrugs. “Don’t make a big deal of it.”

His mother looks at him incredulously. “Just what is going through that head of yours? It is a big deal! You’re not supposed to miss any of those appointments, or community service—”

Bakugou’s father places a restraining hand on her shoulder before turning to his son. “Did something happen, Katsuki? Is everything okay?”

“Obviously not,” his mother snaps, pushing aside her husband’s hand. “What were you thinking? How are you going to fix this?”

“Stop freaking out,” Bakugou says, voice rising. “I’ll figure it out. I’ll fucking fix it, okay?”

Both of his parents pause and stare at him.

“I will,” Bakugou says again, with more conviction and less anger. He moves rice around in its bowl with his chopsticks, not looking at any of them. Quietly, he mutters, “It can still be fixed.”

His parents are still gaping at him. Kirishima shifts awkwardly, wishing he didn’t have to be here to see it if Bakugou’s parents are about to go nuclear on him. Given the way that Bakugou can scream, he’s sure his parents can, too.

But then Bakugou’s mother looks down at her plate, and her expression softens. “Fine,” she says, coming to a decision. “But don’t just blow this off, Katsuki. That school is goddamn expensive, and we expect you to try your best. With the rest of it, too.”

“I know,” Bakugou groans.

His mother shrugs lightly. “Then I’m not going to nag you about it, brat.”

“Hag,” Bakugou mumbles, under his breath. Then he pushes his chair out from the table. “We’ll do the dishes later. C’mon, shitty hair.”

“Oh, that’s charming,” Bakugou’s mother says, but she doesn’t stop them from leaving.

Because the Bakugous live in a top-floor apartment, they have access to the roof. It’s there that Bakugou leads Kirishima, out into the cool night air. Kirishima steps out onto the roof and looks up at the sky, dotted with indistinct lights that might be stars or airplanes.

Bakugou walks past him, standing close to the edge and looking down over the city.

Kirishima clears his throat. “Your parents seem really nice.”

Bakugou lets out a harsh, mirthless laugh. “Are you surprised?”

Of course, Bakugou would know what he was thinking. Kirishima laughs, too, a little embarrassed. “A little, maybe.”

“Ha.” Bakugou shoves his hands into his pockets, pacing slowly back and forth. “If they weren’t, I’d make more sense. Is that it?”

“I never said you didn’t make sense,” Kirishima says. He doesn’t understand Bakugou fully, but that doesn’t mean anything. There are many things that Kirishima doesn’t understand, but they make sense to other people. A small part of him hopes that Bakugou won’t always be such a mystery, though.

“I know I don’t,” Bakugou retorts. “I don’t care.”

Kirishima wonders if that’s true. Bakugou claims to not care about a lot of things, but he’s in a program that requires endless passion and dedication. He comes home to have dinner with his parents once a week. He’s surprisingly gentle with Riot. Someone who doesn’t care about anything at all wouldn’t behave that way.

“I need to tell you something,” Kirishima says, voice coming out like a squeak. It’s embarrassing, and not manly at all.

Bakugou is still facing away from him, but he turns his head so that he can fix Kirishima with his intense, impenetrable stare. “What?”

Kirishima swallows. There’s a very good chance that when he tells Bakugou, he’ll explode again. But Kirishima can’t not tell him.

“I talked with Midoriya,” Kirishima says, speaking quickly so that Bakugou won’t have the chance to interrupt. “He told me about what happened, when you two were in high school.”

Kirishima closes his eyes and braces for impact. But a moment passes, and then two, and Bakugou never starts screaming. Kirishima blinks open his eyes to find that Bakugou has turned away from him again, and gone quiet and pensive.

Then, Bakugou points across the street. “That’s fucking Deku’s apartment. The one with the light on— his mom must be home.”

Bakugou does not offer any new information. He doesn’t ask Kirishima what Midoriya had told him, or give his own explanation. Instead, he tilts his head up to look at the sky and says, “Are you sure you want to be out here with me? I could fucking push you off the edge.” He says this simply, like it’s just a fact.

Kirishima snorts. “I could take you.”

He tries to reconcile all the pieces of Bakugou he’s seen— from the first crash he’d heard through the wall, to the image of Bakugou curled up on the couch with Riot, to the angry handwriting on the notes, to the calm way Bakugou had explained calculus to him. And then there’s Bakugou screaming at Midoriya, and standing in his room with furious tears pooling in his eyes, and the Bakugou who came from a home with two expressive parents and lots of spicy curry. He’s made up of all of those facets, and whatever happened between him and Midoriya, whatever he did in high school, those are just two small pieces among so many others.

“And,” Kirishima continues, “I don’t think you’re a bad person.”

Bakugou turns around so quickly that the motion just looks like a blur. He stares at Kirishima, wide-eyed and disbelieving. His mouth parts slightly, and his brow furrows, and his entire face is caught between anger and some other, softer emotion.

“Fuck,” he says lowly, but with great intensity. “Goddamn.”

Kirishima’s not sure what to make of that, so he continues. “I mean, I don’t know if you’re a good person, either. But that’s not really a fixed judgment. So, cook me something, and watch a movie with me, and come to dinner once or twice and we’ll see.”

Bakugou blinks rapidly, then shakes his head like he’s trying to dislodge a persistent thought. Then, his familiar scowl returns to his face. “Don’t you mean or?”

“Nope,” Kirishima says cheerfully. “You tried to punch me. It’s definitely and. You’ve got to do all of it.”

Bakugou scoffs. “You’re such a freak.”

Kirishima takes that in stride, walking over to Bakugou and throwing one arm over his shoulders. Bakugou tenses, but doesn’t move away.

“Lucky for you, one of my many freakish qualities is that I like to stick around.”

Bakugou looks at him again, the scowl melting from his face and replaced again by that same expression— almost confused, like he doesn’t know how to feel anything besides anger.

“Shit,” he says, looking away.

“What is it?” Kirishima asks.

“Fucking nothing,” Bakugou says, ducking out from under Kirishima’s arm. “Come on, we’ve got to go clean up. Then let’s go home, shitty hair.”

“Ki-ri-shi-ma. I have a name, you know.”

“Kirishima’s shitty hair. I know, I got it.”

“Fuck you, man,” Kirishima says, but he can’t stop himself from chuckling.

Bakugou laughs, too— a harsh and discordant sound that melts into the night air like smoke. And even if the joke is at Kirishima’s expense, it’s worth it to see that Bakugou has, in fact, inherited his mother’s fierce and defiant smile.

Chapter Text

He wakes up to the sound of birds chirping, and to the warmth of the sun hitting his face through his window. Bakugou blinks open his eyes blearily, but his limbs don’t feel like they’ve been weighted down by lead this morning. They’re still heavy, and it takes effort to roll himself out of bed. But for the first time in many months, he can’t remember what he’d dreamed of, and hadn’t woken up at all through the night. He’d woken naturally, almost peacefully.

Of course, there was no alarm to wake him. His phone is still fucking broken, destroyed since he’d hurled it against the wall. Eventually, he’ll have to do something about that. But for now, he just has to get to class.

His Monday morning chemistry lecture is held in one of the biggest lecture halls on campus. Bakugou sits in the back, propping his feet up on the seat in front of him as opens his textbook out in front of him and sets his notes to one side.

But when class starts, it isn’t the usual professor who walks to the front of the podium. Instead, it’s a man who hunches over to hide his considerable height, who has gangly limbs and messy blond hair. Yagi Toshinori.

What the fuck, Bakugou thinks. But as he looks around, he sees that none of the other students are surprised to see Yuuei’s finest at the front of the classroom. The regular professor must’ve mentioned it last week, during one of the classes that Bakugou had skipped.

Bakugou schools his expression and tries to pay attention. Professor Yagi goes off script, talking about some branch of his own research and his heavy reliance on the most basic chemical principles to make it a success. Bakugou has heard this story before— somewhere in his parents’ house is a shelf full of Professor Yagi’s lectures on DVD, plus a stack of books written by him that is half as tall as Bakugou is himself.

Anything Bakugou does, he does well. Anything he takes an interest in, he becomes obsessed with. There is no halfway point for a person like Bakugou Katsuki. Yagi Toshinori has been his aim, his inspiration, for most of his life.

But when Bakugou looks at him now, from behind rows of other students, he can’t remember what it’s like to feel anything other than resentment. Seeing all the other students hanging on Professor Yagi’s every word, seeing the way he smiles at them, the way he explains principles that Bakugou had memorized in middle school— he wants all of them to melt away, to disappear.

Didn’t this shit used to make him happy? So why is his heart beating so heavily in his chest, and why are his palms sweating so much? Why can’t he focus on the content of the lecture, instead of the pounding in his ears and the subtle movements that reveal that Professor Yagi is limping?

He doesn’t make it to the end of the lecture. When the clock strikes the half-hour, Bakugou shoves his books under his arm and stalks out through the back of the classroom. But even when Professor Yagi is out of sight, the feeling lingers. Bakugou feels like he’s being buried alive, like the walls are closing in.

It’s midmorning by the time Bakugou decides to do at least one productive thing today, and marches himself to the cellphone provider store nearest campus. They charge him an arm and a leg to replace his phone, but as he stands there the clerk reloads all of Bakugou’s apps, and his stupid online calendar, and everything else that had been on his broken phone. Bakugou still sneers at him as he pockets the phone and leaves the store.

On his way back to campus, he passes the now-familiar red awning of Fatgum Coffee. Bakugou pauses across the street from the coffee shop, staring at the stupid, smiling emblem on the sign. Maybe if he glares at it enough, it’ll spontaneously combust. He has no such luck, however, and eventually his mind circles back around to what he’s been trying to avoid.

He doesn’t even know if Kirishima is working, right now. He could walk in and check, but that would mean admitting how thoroughly fucked he is. Even acknowledging that he wants to check is a step in the wrong direction.

Bakugou has never met a more infuriating person in his entire life. He’d railed at Kirishima, screamed at him and fought him, and the stupid fucker hadn’t even asked for an apology.

If he ever had a heart, whatever is there now is burned-out ashes. But last night, up on the rooftop, he’d felt something starting to grow amidst the hollow, charred remains.

But whatever would grow in such circumstances cannot be healthy. Bakugou knows this, and yet he can’t bring himself to stamp it out.

According to his calendar, he’s supposed to be at the construction site in the afternoon. But he’d never told his stupid, shitty calendar that he’d walked off the job last week, and hadn’t been back since.

He does want to fix things. He wants his life to move forward. But that seems to require Bakugou acknowledging and accommodating various people, and whenever he thinks about doing so he feels like he’s drinking hot tar.

But somehow, he ends up at the half-built park, anyway.

When Uraraka sees him, she stomps over to stand in front of him, hands on her hips. “You’ve got some nerve.”

Bakugou sneers at her. “Well, so do you.”

Uraraka blinks at him, because of course she’s a fucking idiot who doesn’t understand what he means. So, he explains.

“I don’t need you butting into my business.”

She’s still glaring at him, expression surprisingly fierce for someone whose cheeks are always rosy. “I’m not butting in,” she tells him. “You and Deku-kun are my friends.”

Since when does anyone else call Deku that? Let alone someone who claims to be his friend? Is the entire world just backwards, now? Is it not that Bakugou doesn’t fit, but rather that the world itself is too stupid to function and he’s the only one seeing things clearly?

And he’s no one’s friend. Uraraka is delusional.

“So?” she prompts. “Are you going to stay and work?”

Bakugou looks up, distracted from his thoughts. He had thought that he would have to grovel. If their positions were reversed, he would have made her get down on her knees and beg.

“Don’t get me wrong,” she continues, lifting her chin the air. “It’s not like we need someone so uncooperative helping out. But to replace you, we’d have to hire someone we’d actually have to pay.”

She sniffs, affecting a haughtiness that looks completely unnatural on her face. “I mean. I guess your work wasn’t terrible, when you were trying.”

“Fuck you,” Bakugou mutters. “I’m amazing at everything.”

“Except at not being a jerk,” she says, arms crossed over her chest.

“Maybe I don’t want to not be,” he informs her. “Maybe I want to be the best at being a jerk.”

“Well, congratulations!” She throws up her hands. “You succeeded!”

“And you’re the best at being a nosy, meddling asshole!”

“Maybe that’s what I want to be!”

She’s laughing. Bakugou sort of hates her for it.

After a moment, Uraraka rolls her eyes and points a thumb back towards the work site. “C’mon. We’ve got to knock down some older structures, today. Good old fashioned demolition.” She laughs, again. “I know you’ll be good at that.”

He doesn’t admit it to her face, but smashing things up with a sledgehammer does feel pretty damn good.

But once he gets home for the night, all of the energy he’d managed to scrape together throughout the day leaves him abruptly. He manages to get up the stairs and ends up sitting on the floor of his room, back against the wall. He tries to cling to the deep, satisfying feeling of watching something break apart in front of him, of his mind going peacefully blank as his muscles had grown sore and well-used. But he can feel those sensations slipping away, as hard to hold onto as smoke.

He has three days of missed classes to catch up on. But he hasn’t bothered to learn the names of anyone in his classes, much less talk to any of them. He can’t just text some asshole for their notes.

He knows he has to fix things, to get back on track. And he has to do it himself.

His bedroom door is still slightly ajar, and he hears the soft thup-thup-thup of tiny feet against the floor outside before Riot peaks into the room. The ginger cat approaches Bakugou with his tail in the air, climbing up into Bakugou’s lap like he’s entitled to be there.

“Stupid cat,” Bakugou says to him, even as he reaches down to scratch under Riot’s chin.

Fuck, he wants to get out of this room. Or better yet, this house, or the city entirely. He desperately needs to clear his head. He wants to climb an entire goddamn mountain, get to its peak and know that there’s no one else around him. He wants to breathe in the air at high altitude, and know that no one can touch him or impose on him or say fucking anything to him.

He’d felt this way a few days ago, too. After he’d blown up at Kirishima. When he’d stalked out of the room, he’d marched down the stairs and kept going, until he was out on the street. It was only once he was staring at the sidewalk that he realized he had nowhere to go.

If he’d been smart, he would’ve just ditched this entire fucking city. Not a few days ago, but months ago, after the police had hauled him into the station to ask him why he’d blown up his shitty high school. He should’ve just laughed in their faces and left. He should’ve gone to live on a goddamn mountain, where no one would ever be able to find him again.

But something is still holding him here. So now, as then, he cannot leave. And if he can’t leave, he has to find a way to move forward.

He’d come to the same conclusion a few days ago, after he’d picked a direction and just started walking. He’d ended up several blocks away, but the ghost of Kirishima’s face and voice had still haunted him.

Even now, the world feels so heavy. And Bakugou can no longer hold up its weight.

Someone is brushing their fingers through his hair, and Bakugou is still asleep enough that he doesn’t question it. It feels good, a gentle and soothing touch that he can’t help but lean into. His eyelids flutter and he makes a vaguely questioning noise, but as soon as he does the touch is gone. Bakugou grumbles, still half-asleep.

“What’s going on,” he says, blinking into more awareness. His room is filled with sunlight, and Riot is gone. Instead, Kirishima stands in front of him, one hand held towards Bakugou, as though he’d just pulled away from him.

“I heard your alarm going off like an hour ago,” Kirishima says, “but it didn’t seem like you woke up. And you left your door open. You okay?”

Bakugou looks up at Kirishima and swallows down a curse. Kirishima is wearing a truly hideous green shirt that clashes horribly with his hair, which is spiked up as usual. He’s half-smiling, one corner of his mouth a little scrunched as he shows his concern. Bakugou really, really fucking hates him.

“Were you sent by the universe to destroy me?” he asks, not quite awake enough to avoid saying something so stupid.

Kirishima blinks, then laughs. “Nope. But remember what you said to your mom? She’s gonna be mad if you don’t make it to class.”

As if Bakugou needs the reminder. He gropes around on the floor until he finds his phone, glancing at the time and then biting down on his tongue. “Fuck. I’m late.” The bus he normally takes to campus left ten minutes ago. He’s going to miss at least his first class, at this rate. He grinds his teeth together, willing himself to get up and get moving so that he doesn’t miss the rest of them. But his body still feels so heavy, and he can’t make himself move.

“Chill,” Kirishima says easily. “We can catch a ride with Kendou and Tetsutetsu.” He reaches down and grips Bakugou under the shoulder, hoisting him easily to his feet.

Even though Bakugou now knows there’s a reason that Kirishima is so strong, it still rankles to be manhandled. But the entire action happens so quickly that Bakugou is on his feet before he has a chance to complain.

“Fucking who?” Bakugou asks. The names aren’t familiar in the slightest.

It turns out Kendou is one of his housemates, who lives on the third floor along with the frog girl. Bakugou stands on the curb with Kendou and Kirishima as they wait for their ride.

Kendou looks put-together, but not like she’s thought too hard about it. She wears a teal-colored dress and maroon sneakers, and has a denim jacket on. Her hair, a color similar to Riot’s fur, is pulled all to one side in a ponytail. When Kirishima explains that Bakugou also needs a ride to campus, she cheerfully and immediately agrees.

“There’s always extra room in the car,” she explains, tossing her ponytail over one shoulder. “Do you always head to campus around this time? You can carpool with us, if you want.”

Bakugou does not want to explain to this person that he leaves an hour earlier than them because taking the bus slows him down. He does not want to tell her that he likes the long, convoluted bus ride, because it allows him his solitude and independence. He does not want to be reliant on her and whoever the fuck Tetsutetsu is.

He’s saved from answering when a car pulls up, so shiny it might as well be chrome-plated. In the driver’s seat is Tetsutetsu, one of Kendou’s friends. As soon as Bakugou meets him, he decides he’s the worst fucking person on earth.

It’s definitely not because Kirishima races around the car to high five Tetsutetsu through the rolled-down window.

Gnashing his teeth, Bakugou piles into the backseat with Kirishima once Kendou explains his presence. Testutetsu takes everything very much is stride, though Bakugou can tell that he’s eyeing him critically through his aviators.

Kendou takes shotgun, and as the car heads towards campus they blast the radio and share inside jokes and won’t stop laughing. Kendou bemoans the fact that some other asshole, Monoma apparently, is in her creative writing elective and has never learned the meaning of constructive criticism. Tetsutetsu is in engineering, and goes into great detail about the upgrades he’s made to his car, all done himself.

Kirishima interjects here and there, and seems to know every detail of both Kendou and Tetsutetsu’s lives. He doesn’t have to ask who Monoma and Shiozaki and Tsunotori are, and seems to know them so well that he can guess where an anecdote is going before Kendou’s even finished telling it.

No wonder he fucking sucks at math, Bakugou thinks. There’s too much useless shit about other people clogging up his brain.

And throughout all of this, Bakugou says nothing at all. It’s like he’s floating somewhere above the car, watching what’s happening but not actively present. he doesn’t make any effort to bridge the gap.

When they pull up at Yuuei and get out of the car, Kirishima turns to Tetsutetsu and says, “Thanks for the ride!” He looks pointedly at Bakugou, like he expects him to echo the sentiment.

Bakugou clicks his tongue against his teeth and stalks off towards the math and science quad.

He sits through class and knows he isn’t learning anything. But he fucking made it into the building, and he refuses to leave before class is over. That has to count for something, doesn’t it? Isn’t that good enough?

As soon as he has the thought, Bakugou startles. Since when does he think good enough is a term that applies to him? He’s supposed to be exceptional, the best. Good enough has never been a term he’s used in relation to himself, about anything. He doesn’t like how it feels.

Professor Yagi is lecturing again, today. Towards the end of the hour, he says, “I thought we could take a break from substance, now, and talk more about next steps for all of you. You’ve already shown your potential by making it to this point. But there are always new opportunities to look out for.”

Get to the point, Bakugou thinks.

“Many faculty members will be looking for research assistants over the summer, including myself. I encourage all of you to apply.”

For a brief second, quick as a lightning-strike, Bakugou imagines himself working in Yagi Toshinori’s lab. He imagines wearing the stupid fucking lab coat and goggles, and taking notes on the results of experiments, and being surrounded by the smells of various chemicals day in and day out. He imagines, and he wants.

As soon as he’s had the thought, it fades. But like lightning, it leaves an impression, like Bakugou had stared at the light and then closed his eyes to see the distorted impressions of color against his eyelids.

Before, when he wanted something, he knew with certainty that he could get it. Too often, lately, he thinks about things that he wants and why they’re impossible rather than inevitable.

In the hallway of the building is a large noticeboard where faculty have begun posting about research positions. Bakugou stands against the opposite wall, staring at the sheets of brightly-colored paper without really seeing them.

But he’s not the only one there.

Deku freezes when he notices Bakugou, but he doesn’t immediately take a step back, the way he would have when they were younger. He glances at the noticeboard, eyes lingering for a moment on a goldenrod sheet of paper. Then he turns to face Bakugou.

“Hi, Kacchan. Please don’t start yelling.”

His blood boils when he looks at Deku. He can smell smoke, and the taste iron in his mouth. He wants to yell. He wants to grab Deku by the collar of his shirt and slam him into a wall. He wants to do worse things, than that.

He clenches his hands into fists, but keeps them at his sides. “Are you mocking me?” he growls.

“No,” Deku says immediately. Then he mutters, “Not entirely.”

The hallway is mostly deserted, aside from the two of them. The other students had all come by in a rush, ripping the tabs of information off the notices and going about their way. But Bakugou had lingered, and now he’s faced with the one person who never fails to get a rise out of him. But if he starts screaming at Deku here, someone will notice. And Yuuei’s administration won’t be as forgiving a second time.

“I fucking hate your guts,” he seethes.

Deku nods, his expression pinched. “I know.” He turns back to the noticeboard for a moment, then asks, “Are you going to apply?”

He’s not speaking in generalities. Bakugou has known Deku his entire goddamn life, and they’re both familiar with each other’s aspirations. Bakugou is studying chemistry, Deku biology. Yagi Toshinori is a biochemist. Like so much else in their lives, once again Bakugou and Deku are coming at the same problem from entirely different angles.

“I’m not going to apply,” Bakugou sneers. “I’m going to get it.”

He lets the words spill from his mouth like a declaration, with a certainty he hasn’t felt in months. But this had always been his goal, and maybe Bakugou just has to pretend until he’s himself, again. He knows he’s backing himself into a corner— he won’t be able to live with the humiliation if Yagi rejects him, even if Deku is the only one who knows of his ambitions. But maybe this is what Bakugou needs— the threat of something worse coming up behind him, to keep him moving forward.

Deku considers this, and then nods. “Thank you.”

“Hah?” Bakugou’s nostrils flare, his eyebrows arching.

“You always give me something to measure myself against,” Deku says, not scared or backing down. There’s a hint of frustration in his voice, like he’d say more if he thought he could get away with it.

“I’m not doing anything for you!” Bakugou says, and he can’t control the way his voice rises.

Deku smiles apologetically, then shrugs. Whether or not Bakugou does anything with him in mind, he’ll still use what he needs to for his own advantage. That was how he’d gotten into Yuuei in the first place, the sneaky little fuck.

On either side of the noticeboard are framed posters, and when he looks away from Deku’s defiant smile, Bakugou notices them for the first time. They demonstrate different scientific concepts, most of which Bakugou is familiar with. But one shows a photograph of a forest fire, burning hot and uncontrollable. Underneath that photo is another, of the charred remains of the forest. But growing out of the dark earth is something small and green. Bakugou stares at the poster like his gaze could burn a hole through it.

Deku follows his line of sight, then perks up. “There are some seeds that don’t germinate until they feel the heat of fire above them,” he mumbles, and it’s unclear if he’s saying this for Bakugou’s benefit or just voicing his thoughts aloud. “They know they won’t grow well with competition, so they wait for natural fires to clear the spaces above them. Then, they grow. And the ones who sprout first are likely to be the strongest, because the soil is still rich in nutrients and now most of the competition has been cleared—”

Something strong growing out of charred soil, Bakugou thinks. He bites down hard on the inside of his cheek.

“Fuck off, Deku,” he says.

Deku laughs sheepishly, then looks at Bakugou with a challenge in his eyes. “Good luck, Kacchan.”

“You’re the one who’s going to need luck,” Bakugou informs him.

Even though Bakugou is constantly shuffling back and forth between appointments with people he has to talk to, there’s no one he can really talk to. What he’s recently discovered is not the type of thing that can be shared with Aizawa or Dr. Shuzenji. And he’d rather die than let his parents know about it. And that leaves only one option, because if he doesn’t voice these thoughts aloud they’ll keep haunting him until he snaps.

“I’m probably just projecting,” he mutters, defiant. Like if he finds a logical reason for these feelings, he’ll be able to control them or dismiss them entirely. “One person sticks around for more than a minute, and my stupid fucking brain gets tricked into thinking I like having him around.”

Uraraka, who’s painting the other end of the jungle gym, takes a step back to wipe the sweat off her brow. “Please don’t talk to me about this,” she says, voice caught between amusement and a kind of muted horror.

Bakugou glares at her. “You said we were fucking friends, didn’t you?” And while Uraraka can’t be trusted to keep out of his business, he has figured out who she is crushing on, so he’s got blackmail to keep her quiet.

“Yeah,” she says, picking up her paintbrush again, “but that was before I realized you had feelings and you were capable of talking about them. Now, it’s getting weird.”

“Fuck,” Bakugou says, painting his own side of the jungle gym with slow, deliberate strokes. He’s not going to leave any uneven patches, or dried drops of paint laid on too thick. These stupid neighborhood kids are so lucky that he’s building them the perfect park. “I don’t have feelings, weren’t you listening? My brain’s being an asshole.”

“Is that what you call it,” Uraraka says dryly.

Bakugou groans. “Can’t we smash something today, too? I’m sick of this painting shit.”

“Nope,” Uraraka says. “No one’s going to arrange the constructions schedule to fit your mood swings, Bakugou-kun. Sorry!”

He flicks paint at her. She paints the tip of his nose pink in retaliation. This is why he doesn’t have fucking friends. Everyone is an asshole.

A hot shower takes care of most of the paint, and Bakugou’s skin is rosy with heat as he drapes a towel against the back of his neck and leaves the bathroom, jeans slung low on his hips. Because fate is conspiring with the universe to fuck with him, Kirishima is leaving his room at that exact moment.

“Ho-oly shit,” Kirishima says, coming to a screeching halt. He’s dressed in loose sweats and has a bag slung over one shoulder. His hair isn’t spiked up, today; instead, he’s pulled it back into a low tail at the base of his neck. Bakugou hates his life.

“What,” Bakugou growls, because Kirishima is staring. Bakugou glances down at his bare chest and arms, wondering if Uraraka had managed to tag him with paint under his shirt when he wasn’t looking. But he doesn’t notice anything.

“Nothing,” Kirishima says, too quickly. “Actually— are you doing anything, tonight?”

“No,” Bakugou says, even though he has a mountain of homework and readings to get through.

“Great,” Kirishima says. “I mean— I’ve got a match, tonight. It’s not a big deal, but Ashido and the others come watch, sometimes? And if you’re not busy you can come, too!”

It takes Bakugou a minute to realize that Kirishima is talking about judo. He’s never actually seen a match live, doesn’t really know much about the martial art beyond what he’s picked up via osmosis. But he can imagine Kirishima wearing a judogi and knocking a faceless opponent off his feet, and he swallows roughly.

He reassesses the situation. Bakugou has yet to apologize for freaking out on Kirishima, and he doesn’t think he ever will. Kirishima probably know this. Inviting Kirishima to dinner had been Bakugou’s peace offering, and maybe this invitation is Kirishima’s way of showing that he understands and accepts that.

This gnawing feeling in Bakugou’s stomach is probably guilt. Maybe doing something for Kirishima will satisfy it.

It doesn’t help that the image of Kirishima in a judogi is slowly ruining Bakugou’s life.

“Fine. I’ll go.”

“It’ll be awesome, I promise. I mean, everyone else generally has fun? And then we go get food after and if you try it I’m sure you’ll— wait. Really?”

“Don’t freak out about it,” Bakugou snaps. Then he walks past Kirishima to his room, rubbing at his neck with the towel and trying to get his mind to focus on anything that isn’t Kirishima. He doesn’t find much success.

That is how Bakugou ends up stuffed into a van with Ashido, Kaminari, a flat-faced asshole named Sero, and some girl named Jirou who apparently also lives in the house. Kirishima had gone on ahead, but assured Bakugou that Ashido would get him to the match and not make too much of a fuss about it.

After a short drive in the direction of Yuuei’s campus, Bakugou ends up sitting between Ashido and Kaminari in the stands overlooking the gym floor. Various competitors are milling around on the mats before anything gets started, and the seats around Bakugou and his unwelcome company fill in gradually.

Kaminari turns to Bakugou, chin propped up against his hand. “So. Are you actually a super villain?”

Bakugou blinks at him. Kaminari’s question seems earnest, which irritates Bakugou more.

“If I was, you’d already be fucking dead, dumbass.”

Kaminari takes this very much in stride, throwing back his head and laughing. “What, no monologue, first?”

From next to Kaminari, Sero scoffs. “Villains in real life wouldn’t monologue. At least, not after the first few times they got taken out that way.”

Bakugou remembers playing heroes and villains as a kid, with the gaggle of kids from his neighborhood. He’d never played the villain, had always insisted that he was the indestructible, invincible hero. He’d believed it then, too.

“Shh!” Ashido says. “It’s starting!”

Kirishima is easy to pick out, with his flaming red hair. He wears the white canvas pants and thick coat required for competition, his feet bare against the tatami mats, black obi tied at his waist. He goes through the requisite formalities with his opponent, glancing up only once at the stands. But when he does, he catches Bakugou’s eye and grins.

The match lasts for less than five minutes, but it’s exhilarating. The two opponents circle the mat, making grabs and jabbing at each other. Just when Bakugou thinks nothing will happen, Kirishima gets a grip on his opponent and flips him overhead and onto the floor, flat on his back.

“Holy shit,” Bakugou breathes out.

Ashido laughs lightly beside him. “He’s pretty cool, huh?”

“Whatever,” Bakugou grumbles, crossing his arms over his chest.

“Don’t worry,” Ashido says, patting Bakugou on the shoulder. “That was just the first match. There’ll be more.”

“Move your hand if you don’t want to lose it, black-eyes.”

But Bakugou leans forward in his seat, eyes narrowed as he tries to take in all of the movements happening down below. As he watches the various matches, he becomes incensed. Why the fuck doesn’t Kirishima brag about this? He has a bench full of supporters, so his friends clearly know what he does, but still. Kirishima is amazing. He keeps his focus on his opponents, and when he plants his feet he’s almost impossible to move. He is slow and deliberate in his attacks— he doesn’t go in for complicated maneuvers or feints. But his strength is so solid that he’s impossible to beat. And when Kirishima lifts an opponent, or flips them, or manages to pin them, the surging feeling of victory rises in Bakugou’s throat.

And the stupid fucker still has the nerve to be self-deprecating about this? How dare he not believe in himself, when he can display his strength and superiority so plainly?

But Bakugou thinks he’s gotten the measure of Kirishima, by now. The idiot spends so much time facing outwards, thinking about other people, that he doesn’t stop to recognize all of his own strengths. And it does take strength, to be as even-tempered and patient as he is. To remember every stupid detail of his friend’s lives. To be so good at one thing, and yet to still try and master shit like calculus that he doesn’t have to bother with.

Down on the mats, Kirishima falters as his opponent makes a grab for him.

Bakugou clicks his teeth together, but then he can’t help it. He rises in his seat and screams out, “Kirishima! If you dragged me all the way here and you don’t fucking win, I’ll—”

Kaminari grabs Bakugou by the arm and pulls him back down. “Dude,” he says, “Chill out.”

But Bakugou just bats him away, eyes still completely focused on Kirishima. Bakugou doesn’t know if Kirishima had heard him, but something in his stance changes as he maneuvers out of his opponent’s grip. Then, he steps forward with one foot and quickly turns his whole body, coming up behind his opponent to grab him from behind and force him down. In a blur of motion, Kirishima has the other guy thoroughly pinned.

When the result is announced, he glances up at the stands and grins, all sharp teeth and starry eyes.

But of course he was going to win, Bakugou scoffs inwardly. There was never a doubt.

After the event is over, Kirishima’s friends crowd around him, clapping him on the back and ruffling his hair. He smiles widely, embraced by them on all sides. Bakugou hangs back and observes this display, unwilling to enter it.

Jirou spins the keys to her van around her finger. “So, where should we go get dinner?”

Ashido and the others begin calling out suggestions, but Kirishima lifts a hand and clears his throat to get their attention.

“Actually, I think I’m going to hang back here for a bit. You guys go on without me.”

“What,” Ashido whines, tugging on his arm. “You always go out with us—oh. Actually. That’s fine. Let’s go, guys.”

Kaminari looks like he’s about to protest, but then Jirou jabs him in the stomach and nudges him towards the entrance. Sero and Ashido follow behind.

Bakugou, leaning against the wall of the gym with his arms crossed over his chest, looks up at Kirishima as he approaches and lifts one brow in question.

“It’s actually not too far to walk back to the house,” he says to Bakugou, by way of explanation. “Do you want to head back together?”

Maybe he’s still running off the second-hand adrenaline of the match, but Bakugou nods. He pushes himself off from the wall and heads for the entrance. Kirishima easily falls into step beside him.

The night air is warm as they walk down the street. It’s not so late that the streets are completely deserted, and Bakugou appreciates the subtle background noise that the passing cars and other pedestrians provide. At least he has an excuse not to turn and look at Kirishima.

“I’m really glad you came, tonight,” Kirishima says. He fiddles with the strap of his bag, adjusting it on his shoulder.

Bakugou keeps his gaze fixed on the ground. “Why?”

Kirishima huffs out a little laugh. “Because I like spending time with you? And I wanted to share something that’s important to me with you?”

Bakugou rolls his eyes. “That’s stupid,” he says. “I’m not even fucking nice to you.”

Kirishima nudges his shoulder against Bakugou’s. “I think I’m starting to figure you out,” he says. “If you were nice all the time, and to everyone, it wouldn’t have been as special that you agreed to come, tonight.”

The universe is really, really fucking with him.

Bakugou pauses on the sidewalk, looking determinedly downwards. He can’t look up at Kirishima’s face right now, not when he’s just said something so goddamn stupid. Bakugou knows that this is where he went wrong, last time. When Kirishima started spouting shit that was sentimental, that meant something, Bakugou had turned to look at his face.

“You okay?” Suddenly, Kirishima is in front of him, crouching to get a good look at Bakugou’s face. But that’s the worst thing that he could’ve done, because now Bakugou’s vision is overwhelmed by the sight of him.

His face is slightly red from exertion. He’d retied his ponytail at some point, but it’s still messy, strands of his bright hair falling down to frame his face. His expression, when he looks at Bakugou, is expectant. He’s half-smiling, like he can’t let go of his excitement even when he’s concerned. One sharp tooth pokes out from between his teeth.

Bakugou knows, then, that he is completely and utterly fucked.

He grabs Kirishima by his collar, dragging him up and towards Bakugou. Kirishima blinks at him, but Bakugou doesn’t see anything else because he leans in and presses his mouth against Kirishima’s. He hasn’t felt anything, and certainly nothing good, in what feels like years. But when he closes his eyes and kisses Kirishima, he feels everything in him light up like fireworks.

Chapter Text

Bakugou’s mouth moves against his, rough and insistent. Kirishima presses back into the kiss before his mind registers what’s happening— the sensation comes first, the feeling of Bakugou’s hand against the back of his neck, the way the space between them shrinks to nothing, the soft huff of Bakugou’s breath against his face as they move in the kiss.

Kirishima’s eyes flutter closed and he thinks, there’s something manly about knowing what you want, of being sure of your own desires.

He’s not sure that he knows what he wants. He can’t think past this moment.

But instinct has always served him well, and so he follows it now, too. He lifts his hands first to Bakugou’s shoulders, then to cup his face. He angles Bakugou’s head slightly so that he can deepen their kiss, not minding when their teeth get in the way of lips and tongues.

Just as Kirishima is finding his rhythm, Bakugou pulls back abruptly. His lips are a furious red. His eyes, under the strange glare of the moonlight, blaze like fire.

Kirishima is hit with this image and a realization, like the ones he’s been having all day. Bakugou cuts an intimidating, enthralling figure. But there’s a beauty in his displayed ferocity, and now Kirishima can’t look at anything but his eyes, and his lips.

Bakugou is breathing heavily, more so than could be caused by just their kissing. As Kirishima tries to collect his thoughts, Bakugou’s eyes dart from side to side, like he’s looking for an escape route.

“Wow,” Kirishima says, finally, though the words to describe what he’s feeling are still eluding him. “I—”

But Bakugou does not let him get the rest out. Instead, he shoves against Kirishima’s shoulder, pushing him bodily out of the way. Then, he darts down the sidewalk towards their house. Kirishima’s eyes barely catch him disappearing into the shadows.

An uncomfortable mix of emotions wells up inside of him. He’s— frustrated, confused, sad, angry. How is he supposed to understand, or make Bakugou understand, when he keeps running away?

Kirishima growls under his breath, then kicks at the sidewalk. “Fuck.”

By the time Kirishima gets back to the house, there’s no sign of Bakugou. Kirishima climbs the stairs quietly, and when he’s reached their floor Bakugou’s door is closed. His lights are off, too, and Kirishima assumes he’s gone to bed. For someone who seems so fearless, Bakugou really is a master avoider.

He doesn’t think he’ll get anywhere by demanding Bakugou’s attention tonight. And in any case, Kirishima is still unsure of what he wants to say. He lifts a hand, trailing his fingers over his bottom lip, where he can still feel the heat of Bakugou’s kiss.

Sleep doesn’t come easily. He’s coursing with the adrenaline of his earlier matches, even after a shower and a quick dinner. As he climbs into bed, all he can think about is hearing Bakugou’s voice above the din of the crowd. He’d had the same fierce, defiant kind of pride in his voice tonight as he’d had when he’d helped Kirishima with his calculus homework. And Kirishima, perhaps foolishly, thinks that that’s something special. He’s earned that from Bakugou, both his approval and the ability to recognize it. It lights him up in ways he’s never felt before, makes him feel proud and elated. He feels a tenderness, when he thinks about all the things Bakugou keeps hidden from the world but has let Kirishima see.

Kirishima rolls over onto his back to stare at the ceiling. “I’m an idiot,” he says aloud.

He gets up early the next morning, forgoing his usual run in favor of trying Bakugou’s door. Luckily, he hadn’t bothered to lock it last night. So, Kirishima steps gingerly inside, glancing around to see a lump under the covers of Bakugou’s bed. On his toes, Kirishima heads to the bed and sits down lightly.

Only Bakugou’s head peaks out from beneath the covers. Kirishima sees his face in profile— half covered by his downy, pale hair, his lips pulled into a frown even in sleep.

Kirishima reaches out, and not for the first time, strokes his hand lightly over Bakugou’s hair. The last time he’d come in here, he’d found Bakugou asleep but huddled up on the floor. He’d been hugging his knees against his chest, and looked so vulnerable. Kirishima had wanted to embrace him, then, but knew that’d be overstepping a boundary. And maybe the gentle affection he’d offered instead hadn’t been wanted, but he couldn’t help it. Just like he can’t help it now.

He still wants to hug Bakugou, and he thinks it would probably help. Doesn’t everyone need physical affection, at least every once in a while? Kirishima has always been a tactile person— he gets hugs from Ashido and Kaminari, high-fives Sero and Jirou and ruffles Tsuyu’s hair. Tetsutetsu will nudge Kirishima as they’re walking to class together, and Amajiki claps him on the shoulder when he’s done a good job at the coffee shop. People are always reaching out to Kirishima, and he meets them more than halfway.

But Bakugou holds himself away from everyone. Kirishima wants to be the one who gets close, and now, as he brushes the hair back from Bakugou’s brow, he doesn’t know whether that desire is for Bakugou’s benefit or his own.

Bakugou makes a low, plaintive noise, and Kirishima immediately pulls back his hand. But as he sees Bakugou’s eyes start to flutter open, Kirishima adjust his position on the bed until he’s sitting on Bakugou’s legs, keeping him effectively pinned.

Half-asleep, Bakugou thrashes until he blinks up and recognizes Kirishima. Before he can open his mouth, doubtlessly to curse Kirishima’s existence, Kirishima presses one hand over his mouth.

“Are you freaking out?” he asks.

Bakugou yanks Kirishima’s hand away from his mouth and snarls, “Fucking no. Why would I be? Why the hell are you in my room?”

Kirishima offer a smile. “Well, I wanted to talk about last night—”

“I have to get to campus,” Bakugou interrupts. “Get off of me.”

“But—” Kirishima starts to say, before Bakugou kicks out with his legs and knocks him off the bed, catching him off-guard. Kirishima lands on his feet, but Bakugou is able to push his covers aside and get out of bed, glaring at Kirishima as he tugs up his sweatpants and straightens his t-shirt.

Bakugou looks at the door, waiting for Kirishima to leave. But Kirishima is still trying to swallow his disappointment, trying to figure out a way to say what he needs to and getting Bakugou to let him.

After a moment, Bakugou makes a frustrated noise and turns away from Kirishima. “I have to go,” he repeats. “But we can… talk later. Tonight.”

He stalks off to the bathroom after that, not waiting for Kirishima’s response.

Bakugou Katsuki is a little bit infuriating. But Kirishima Eijirou enjoys a challenge.

It’s hard for Kirishima to concentrate all day. He makes it to campus with Kendou and Tetsutetsu, sits through his classes and manages to absorb nothing at all from them. He doesn’t really think that one day of inattention will hurt him too badly, but he still wonders if he can impress upon Bakugou the fact that this is his fault, and that he should help Kirishima catch up as repayment.

Kirishima imagines them with their books spread out on the kitchen table, again, Bakugou leaning over to point something out in one of Kirishima’s books. Then he imagines Bakugou leaning over to kiss him just before he turns away.

“I’m completely doomed,” he groans, rubbing one hand over his face. By some miracle, he’s made it to Fatgum for his afternoon shift. Behind the counter, he’s supposed to be refilling the flavored syrup pumps. Instead, he’s thinking aloud and growing increasingly frantic.

“I tried to warn you,” Ashido says. She’s sitting to a table just to one side of the service counter, sketching lightly as she sips from her raspberry iced tea.

“Don’t tell me you told me so, just tell me what to do,” Kirishima whines at her. He doesn’t really know what sort of advice Ashido can offer— she goes on dates all the time, but he’s never seen her hang onto a boyfriend or girlfriend for more than a few weeks.

“Don’t ask me,” she says, moving the straw around in her cup to shift the ice around. “I mean, by my read you’ve got nothing to worry about. At least, not in the way you’re thinking of. You didn’t see the way he was looking at you, last night.”

Kirishima feels his cheeks color, but Ashido isn’t done.

“Honestly? My advice is do not try and date this guy. Remember that news article I sent you? What if he’s like, dangerously unstable?” She doesn’t mean it badly, Kirishima knows. Ashido’s not a judgmental person, but she can be blunt. And she’s probably doing her best to look out for Kirishima.

But even still, Kirishima glowers at her for that comment. She doesn’t know the entire story. “You were sitting next to him all night,” he counters. “Did he seem dangerous to you?”

“No,” Ashido admits. “Very grumpy, and in need of some new vocabulary. But otherwise pretty okay. But Kirishima—”

“I know everything I need to know, about that other stuff,” Kirishima says, all in a rush. As he speaks the words, he realizes they’re true. Knowing what happened between Midoriya and Bakugou hasn’t changed his opinion.

Ashido slurps up the last of her drink, then sets the empty cup down on the table. “Then it sounds like you’ve already made up your mind.” She gets to her feet, coming over and reaching across the counter to ruffle Kirishima’s hair. “I know you’re a big, tough guy who can handle himself. But I am a little concerned about your taste.”

Kirishima shrugs. “Even looks-wise?” he asks, already knowing her answer.

She rolls her eyes at him, lined as they are in dark coal and layers of shimmery eyeshadow. “Oh, shut up. You know he’s good looking, otherwise you wouldn’t be here sighing over him. If he becomes your boyfriend, ask him if he’ll model for me.”

Kirishima, Kaminari, and Sero have all been rejected by Ashido as models because they can’t sit still. Kirishima can’t imagine Bakugou would fare much better. Poor Ashido will be stuck drawing Todoroki until graduation, even though Kirishima still isn’t sure how the two of them came to such an arrangement.

“Anyway, I’ve got to go.” Ashido pinches Kirishima’s cheek. “You’ll figure it out, you know.”

“I hope so,” Kirishima says, as she walks out the door.

Amajiki chooses that moment to return from the backroom, a fresh tray of pastries balanced in his hands. He takes one look at Kirishima’s face and sighs softly. “Are we still talking about your neighbor?” he asks in his quiet voice.

Kirishima grins sheepishly. “Yes. But maybe you can give me some advice, senpai. I trust you.”

Amajiki just shakes his head, setting down his tray and then turning back to Kirishima. “I’m not very good at giving advice.”

“Please?” Kirishima says, batting his eyes and smiling his most winning smile. He really does value Amajiki’s opinion, on basically everything.

Amajiki shakes his head, then lets out another sigh. “I don’t know the person you’re talking about,” he says. “But, from personal experience, I know that people can change a lot. Sometimes having just one person on their side can give them the right kind of push.”

“Do you really think so?” Kirishima asks. He’s already on Bakugou’s side, he thinks. No matter what happens next, that’s not going to change.

“I know it,” Amajiki says. “Just—um. Make sure it’s for you, too. And not just that other person.”

The bell over the door chimes, heralding the arrival of a new customer. When Amajiki and Kirishima turn towards the sound, they both recognize the new arrival—he’s a regular, after all. He’s tall, with broad shoulders and golden-blond hair that has the same curl as Superman’s. He comes straight to the counter, leaning against it and grinning at Amajiki.

“Yo, Tamaki,” he says, “Are those cranberry scones?”

Amajiki presses his lips together to hide his smile. “Go sit down, Mirio. I’ll bring you some.”

Amajiki’s words stick with him as Kirishima makes his way across campus. He knows he’s supposed to be patient, and wait until he gets home tonight to talk to Bakugou. It’s what Bakugou had told him to do, and Kirishima has no reason to believe that Bakugou will go back on his word. And yet, Kirishima would never have gotten anywhere with him if he’d gone by Bakugou’s demands.

He sees someone out of the corner of his eye, like dandelion fluff being carried along the wind. Kirishima turns immediately. He doesn’t bother to think— instead, he runs.

As he gets closer, he gets a clearer look at Bakugou, who’s sitting on one of the benches that line the walkways through the university. Kirishima stops short, feeling a now-familiar tugging at his chest. Bakugou’s been pulling Kirishima in like a magnet from the start. And, like a magnet, he’s just as capable of pushing as pulling. The sensation of wanting to be close lingers in Kirishima, however, no matter what side Bakugou has turned towards the rest of the world.

He stops short, just before he reaches Bakugou.

He’s sprawled across the bench, taking up as much space as he can so that no one else will join him. His legs are extended outwards, his back curled and his head tilted upwards. Bakugou looks like he’s waiting for the sky to crash down on him, and he’s not going to bother trying to stop it.

Kirishima hates the expression on his face. What had happened? Last night, before they’d kissed, Kirishima had been sure that Bakugou was happy. Even if he hadn’t wanted to admit it, he’d enjoyed the time spent with Ashido and Kaminari and the others, and then with Kirishima. He definitely wasn’t imagining that, was he? It can’t have been just wishful thinking.

Unconsciously, Kirishima steps forward. When his shadow falls over Bakugou, he looks up at Kirishima, startled.

Bakugou’s face goes through several emotions in the course of as many seconds— surprise, confusion, panic, anger. They dance across his face until it settles into the familiar lines of a scowl.

Kirishima is sick of Bakugou looking so unhappy. And so, he leans on instinct yet again, crouching slightly so that he’s at Bakugou’s level before he reaches out and presses Bakugou’s cheeks between his hands. Before Bakugou can protest, Kirishima gets closer and kisses Bakugou lightly on the lips.

Bakugou freezes against him, and then his lips part and a soft sigh escapes him. Maybe he always just needs the excuse, to shed his pretenses. Kirishima kisses him again, like he can swallow the sound.

And oh, last night definitely hadn’t been a fluke. The kiss sends sparks down Kirishima’s spine, and he doesn’t want to pull away for anything.

But then Bakugou shifts away from him, and Kirishima has to let him go. Bakugou snarls, cuffing Kirishima on the back of the head with the flat of his hand. Kirishima yelps and reaches up to massage the spot, pouting at Bakugou.

“What the fuck was that for?” Bakugou demands.

“I wanted to cheer you up,” Kirishima says, still rubbing at the back of his head.

“I don’t need cheering up,” Bakugou seethes, crossing his arms over his chest even as his cheeks turn a ruddy pink. He’s still sitting on the bench, legs splayed in front of him. Kirishima is kneeling between them, looking up at Bakugou as the sun beats down on both of them.

“Okay, okay,” he says, appeasing. “By the way, it’s time to pay your tab.”

“Fucking what,” Bakugou grits out.

“You promised,” Kirishima reminds him. “And now I’m calling it in. Tonight. You are coming to dinner.”

Bakugou looks as though Kirishima has just announced the date of his execution. “There is no way in goddamn hell.”

“You said you would,” Kirishima protests. “It’s not manly to go back on your word.”

Bakugou rolls his eyes towards the sky, muttering under his breath.

“What was that?”

“I said, I’m not going back on my shitty word. I’ll come to your fucking dinner, are you happy now?”

“Yeah!” Kirishima grins, and Bakugou turns away from him in a huff.

It’s probably for the best that Bakugou has met most of their housemates by this point. The table was cozy with five people gathered around it, but with six it’s downright crowded. And just like last night, when Bakugou had stood apart from the group after Kirishima’s match, now he sits with hunched shoulders, obstinate and defensive.

Maybe he just isn’t good at groups of this size, Kirishima thinks. There’s an art to the small crowd, more difficult to play to than a single person or a larger group. He can’t really imagine Bakugou having many hangouts with intimate groups of friends.

Still, a half hour earlier, Bakugou had marched into the kitchen and made enough rice for the six of them. As the others had filed into the kitchen, looking at him inquisitively, he’d kept his back turned and busied himself with grabbing plates and utensils for all of them.

Maybe he had just wanted to do something other than talk with everyone, since Kirishima doubts he set the table out of the goodness of his heart.

Now, as they gather around the table, he no longer has any excuse.

“I think you’ve met everyone except Tokoyami, is that right?” Kirishima asks, nodding at their final housemate.

“It’s nice to finally meet you,” Tokoyami says in his grave way. He has hair so black that it shines like crow’s feathers, and Kirishima has never seen him in clothes that aren’t black, dark gray, or maroon. He tilts his head as he considers Bakugou. “You are a very loud housemate.”

“Fucking deal with it, I don’t give a shit,” Bakugou snaps.

Kirishima laughs, and Tokoyami merely shrugs in response.

“Jirou plays her guitar, but usually not late at night or early in the morning.” He nods at his floormate, who shrugs.

“You all knew that when I moved in,” she says. “Besides, my music is good. It can’t be disruptive.”

“When Itsuka-chan has her friends over, they can get very loud,” Tsuyu puts in. “Especially Tetsutetsu and the one who thinks he’s an actor.”

“Monoma,” Kendou says, shaking her head. “And, I mean, he’s in the drama department. All of them are loud.”

“What about him,” Bakugou demands, jabbing a thumb in Kirishima’s direction. “He’s annoying as fuck, too.”

“Kirishima?” Kendou asks with a laugh. “Yeah, right. He’s a model housemate.”

“Always does his dishes,” Tsuyu says with an approving nod.

“Carries my amp to the van when my hands are full,” Jirou puts in.

“Watches horror movies with me, even though they scare him,” Tokoyami concludes.

Kirishima feels his cheeks heating up, and ends up laughing, again. He really loves all of them. “That’s all just normal stuff, you guys,” he protests. “Besides, Bakugou can be a good housemate, too. He can cook! He’s going to cook for us.”

“I never fucking said that,” Bakugou says immediately. “I said I would cook for you.”

The other four share a look between them, and then glance at Kirishima with suggestion in their eyes. His face is definitely bright red, by this point.

“And I’m going to poison the shit, anyway,” Bakugou continues mutinously.

“Anyway,” Jirou cuts in, going back to an earlier thread of conversation, “My band has a gig on Saturday, and you’re all invited to fill the crowd and make me seem popular. Even you, Bakugou.”

“What the hell?” Bakugou glares at her.

Jirou shrugs. “It’s a rock concert. Ever heard of one?”

“Are you even any fucking good?” Bakugou says.

She shrugs, again. “Come, and you’ll find out.”

The dinner dissolves into laughter and splinters out into quieter conversations, after that. Bakugou busies himself with eating while Kirishima turns to chat with Tokoyami. But a few minutes later, Bakugou sits straight up in his chair and points at Tsuyu, alerted by something she’d said.

“Oi. Frog girl. Are you going to ask Round Face out, or what?”

Tsuyu blinks at him. “What?”

Uraraka,” Bakugou says with stressed patience. “You’ve been talking about her for the last five minutes. She’s probably too chickenshit to do it herself, so you should shut up about how much you like her and just fucking do something about it.”

Kirishima has never seen Tsuyu wear that precise expression before, a mix of mortification and quiet thought. Maybe she’s actually considering what Bakugou has said to her, blunt enough herself to recognize the intention of Bakugou’s harsh words.

Kirishima elbows Bakugou in the side. “I think we need to practice dinner table etiquette.”

Bakugou’s lips curl into a ferocious smirk. “Fuck off, shitty hair.”

Looking at that expression, Kirishima realizes that Bakugou is enjoying himself. Maybe he likes butting into people’s conversations, and insulting them, and blunting trampling over the norms of polite conversation. Their housemates don’t really seem to mind, and Bakugou has grown more relaxed as the dinner has gone on. Kirishima bites down on his tongue to hide his own grin.

Bakugou wasn’t meant to be locked away, isolated the way he has been since he moved in here.

“Hey. What the fuck are you smiling about?”

Apparently, Kirishima hasn’t done a good enough job at schooling his expression. “Nothing,” he insists.

Bakugou isn’t very good at smiling, at least not yet. But that’s okay, because Kirishima intends to give him lots of practice.

“Why do we have to do everything tonight?” Bakugou grouses, a little later, as Kirishima hooks his laptop up to the TV.

He’d invited the others to stay and watch the movie with them, but they’d all laughed him off and dispersed for the night. Tokoyami is off to a poetry reading with Shouji, Tsuyu and Kendou are working on homework together, and Jirou has gone out with Kaminari and Yaoyorozu.

“Because you’re being sort of agreeable, and I want to cash in on it?” Kirishima suggests, straightening up once the cables are connected.

“What?” Bakugou snaps. “Fuck you.”

“You keep saying that,” Kirishima says lightly.

Die.”

“That, too.”

Bakugou sputters at Kirishima for a moment, then throws himself down on the couch and crosses his arms over his chest. Kirishima finishes setting up the movie and comes to find a place on the couch, even after Bakugou tilts sideways and kicks him over to the far end. Eventually, they end up with Bakugou’s feet pressed against Kirishima’s thigh, and Riot and Blasty squirming themselves into the remaining spaces on the couch cushions.

Kirishima is chatty when he watches movies. He comments on everything, laughs and gasps at all the right moments, and constantly looks over at whoever he’s watching with to ask, “Did you see that?”

Bakugou is just the opposite. He sits still, and any commentary he makes is muttered under his breath. But he keeps his eyes, slightly narrowed and completely focused, on the TV. Kirishima guesses that if he asked Bakugou to recite all of the film’s dialogue, he’d be able to. Not that the dialogue of this movie is particularly complex, but still.

The sequel ends much as the first movie had, with an explosion and not much resolution of anything but the straight A to B plotline. Kirishima guesses that the director is holding out for a third film that he can fill with explosions and not much else. Maybe, when it comes out in theaters, Bakugou will agree to go see it with him.

He stops the playback on the television and sits back against the couch cushions, wondering what to do next. He can’t strong-arm Bakugou into cooking for him tonight, since they’ve already eaten. Plus, Kirishima wants to keep a few of Bakugou’s promises in reserve. And anyway, they’re home and it’s night, and there’s something else they said they’d do.

“Did you want to talk, now?” Kirishima asks, trying not to sound nervous. He doesn’t think about the way Bakugou’s feet are pressed against his leg, and how he could easily prop them up in his lap.

Just as a too-long moment has passed and Kirishima thinks Bakugou won’t answer at all, he says, “Why the fuck did you kiss me?”

Incredulous, Kirishima turns to face in Bakugou’s direction, leaning against the arm of the couch. “Are you kidding me? That’s totally my line!”

“Hah?” Bakugou looks murderous.

“You kissed me, first!” Kirishima reminds him.

His expression clouds over in thought for only a moment. “Well, obviously. Only because you were pissing me off!”

“I pissed you off, so you kissed me?” Kirishima retracts any previous thoughts he may have had about learning to understand Bakugou. This is too ridiculous, and even though he knows it’s a bad idea, Kirishima bursts out laughing.

Bakugou throws a pillow at his head. “Oi, shit-for-brains, listen. It made sense for me to kiss you. It doesn’t make sense that you’d kiss me.”

Kirishima turns over this latest piece of Bakugou-logic in his head. “Is that a fact?” he asks. He thinks there’s a lot of truth hidden in what Bakugou has just said, even if what the actual words were incorrect. “Hey— you know I like you, right? I wouldn’t have kept coming around, otherwise.”

That’s not entirely true. Kirishima had a friendly interest in Bakugou long before he had a crush. Even if those feelings had never developed, he’d still have tried to make sure that Bakugou was okay. But it seems like the right thing to say, right now, especially if he’s trying to prove something to the most stubborn person on the planet.

“You’re an idiot who’s friendly with fucking everyone,” Bakugou says, seeing right through him.

Kirishima shrugs, smiles guilelessly. “Maybe.”

Bakugou lets out a huff of breath, looking away and grumbling to himself. He’s quiet, then, and Kirishima doesn’t press forward immediately. The silence lingers between them, before Bakugou finally looks up.

“What the fuck do you even see, in me?” He says this in the same caustic tone he uses normally, but his voice cracks just slightly on the last words. He glares at Kirishima, defiant, but the light in his eyes flickers like a candle flame. There’s doubt lingering there.

Kirishima can’t believe that Bakugou doesn’t know. He smiles a little less wide, but no less honest. He leans in, elbows on his knees and chin propped against his hands.

“What most people would see, probably, if they looked. A person who pours everything they can into every little thing that they do.”

Bakugou is like a cup overflowing— with intensity, with intelligence, with rebellion and pride. Kirishima has never met a person like Bakugou Katsuki before. He’s fascinating, and admirable, and underneath everything else Kirishima sees someone who deserves to be loved.

“Plus,” Kirishima continues, nonchalantly, “You’re smoking hot. Not bad to look at, at all. A solid ten out of ten.”

Bakugou kicks him.

“Man, you’re so violent,” Kirishima says, even though the kick hadn’t really hurt. He’s solidly built, and it takes more than the spill-overs of Bakugou’s frustration to harm him. “I think you’re in need of a better outlet.”

Bakugou glowers at him.

“I’m just saying, I spend a lot of time at the gym. You should come with. I’ll show you a few moves.” Kirishima flexes one arm, as a demonstration.

Bakugou doesn’t respond immediately, his eyes getting that distant look, again. Kirishima wonders what he’s thinking about.

“Just a suggestion,” Kirishima says, trying to amend. He doesn’t want to lose Bakugou now that he’s finally gotten him to talk.

“Shut up for a second,” Bakugou orders.

Kirishima snaps his mouth shut, and waits.

Bakugou pulls his legs up so that his knees are against his chest, disturbing Blasty, who hisses at him before leaping off the couch. Riot stays curled up in place, nonplussed.

“What is it?” Kirishima asks, after another few moments of silence.

“You talked to fucking Deku about me, didn’t you.” It isn’t a question.

“I already told you that, didn’t I?” Kirishima wonders if the explosion he’d expected then is coming now. Bakugou has been strangely low-energy today, but maybe he’s been working up the requisite amount of anger to truly punish Kirishima for prying into his private affairs.

Bakugou looks up and past Kirishima, like he’s seeing something else entirely. “I set the fire. At my high school.”

Kirishima swallows. That much he’d known, hadn’t he? Midoriya had made it seem like an accident, but he also hadn’t been there from the start. He’d arrived when Bakugou hadn’t expected him, and Bakugou had been there doing something from before. But what all that matters, now, Kirishima doesn’t know.

Only now does Bakugou turn to look Kirishima in the eye. “I don’t know if it was an accident, or not. I can’t remember.”

He lays this out with bare honesty. There’s no anger in his tone, though he sounds like he’s challenging Kirishima to disagree with him, or scold him somehow. His voice is flat, and Kirishima doesn’t think it’s affected. More like, Bakugou is remembering a time when he was just as blank and void.

How can Bakugou not remember? How can he not know what he’d intended to do? Then Kirishima remembers what Bakugou has said, earlier.

People keep asking me to explain myself, and I can’t!

Kirishima hasn’t always known how to process his own emotions, but he’s constantly been encouraged to talk about them. With his family, with his friends, with his mentors and upperclassmen. Talking about things has helped him figure himself out, and the things he can’t explain he works out of his system through action. But even at those times, he’s felt in-tune with himself, generally knowing how to find where his feelings come from.

But sometimes, he feels trapped inside of himself, and needs to hit out his feelings on his punching bag, or to work them out in a run, or by playing four hours’ worth of Super Smash Bros. with Kaminari and Sero and laughing for no reason at all while they do.

Those moods are few and far between, for Kirishima. But does Bakugou always feel like that? Is he constantly trapped inside of himself, without a way out?

“It’s okay,” Kirishima says, before he’s thought through his reactions. “It doesn’t matter as much as you think it does.”

He and Bakugou are staring at each other, across the couch. Bakugou’s shoulders are shaking, and he blinks rapidly. Having seen this before, Kirishima knows that Bakugou is trying to stop himself from spilling over— he’s holding back frustrated tears.

Kirishima pulls his legs up onto the couch and then crawls the short space over to Bakugou, hovering over him.

Bakugou looks up and snaps, “What.”

“I’m going to do something, and I think you might not like it, but I also think it will help.”

“Kirishima, what the fuck—” His voice cuts off, abruptly, when Kirishima crushes him into a hug.

Kirishima’s arms go around Bakugou, holding onto him as tightly as he’s ever held onto anything. Bakugou squirms against him, stiff as a board, but Kirishima doesn’t let go. Bakugou knocks his head against Kirishima’s shoulder, but then lets himself rest there, breathing heavily.

“It’s okay,” Kirishima says, squeezing him tighter.

“I fucking hate you,” Bakugou says.

“No, you don’t.”

“You were supposed to go away,” Bakugou hisses. “After you found out, you complete fucking idiot, you were supposed to run for the goddamn hills. You were supposed to want nothing to do with me. What the actual hell is wrong with you?”

Kirishima laughs, but it comes out watery. He’s always been a sympathetic crier, apparently even when the other person doesn’t quite get to crying. “I don’t know,” he says easily. “Probably a lot of things. But that’s the same for everyone, isn’t it? We’re all wrong in lots of ways.”

“I’m not supposed to be,” Bakugou grumbles. He hasn’t moved from where his forehead rests against Kirishima’s shoulder. His arms are still limp at his sides, but he’s stopped trying to break free of Kirishima’s embrace.

Kirishima can feel the beat of his heart. “I don’t know about that. But I think you’re pretty great, you know?”

“Because you’re a stupid goddamn idiot with no sense of self-preservation,” Bakugou tells him. One of his hands comes up to clutch at the back of Kirishima’s t-shirt.

“I’m pretty hardy.” Kirishima shrugs. “I don’t have to worry about many things hurting me.”

Bakugou’s only response to that is silence. It’s strange, having him in the space of Kirishima’s arms. He looks bigger than he actually is, when Kirishima can look at him all at once. Now that he’s holding onto Bakugou, he feels smaller, like he might blow away like ashes in the wind. Kirishima holds onto him more tightly.

Eventually, Bakugou pushes him away. His face is a splotchy, mottled red, and he looks at the floor instead of Kirishima. “Sleep,” he says, getting to his feet.

“Yeah,” Kirishima agrees.

At the top of the stairs, he says, “Goodnight, Bakugou.”

Kirishima wakes up the next morning with only one thought on his mind. Once again, he goes to his desk and reaches for his stack of notecards. The message is simple, this time. But he still lingers over it, tapping the back of his pen against his chin until he’s finally satisfied.

He pushes the card under Bakugou’s door, and waits.

Chapter Text

For months, his dreams have been the same, when he’s remembered them. There’s a clenched feeling in his chest, smoke filling his lungs. He can’t see a foot in front of him, and his thoughts are few and far apart. But then there’s a hand extending to him out of the smoke, someone calling out for him, trying to grab onto him and pull him out of the darkness. But Bakugou shrinks away from the hand, screams at it to leave him alone, even though that allows the smoke into his mouth. The room grows hotter and hotter, and as sweat beads down his brow Bakugou curls in on himself and waits for everything to end, alone.

But the dream he has tonight is less distinct. He doesn’t see much of anything, just imagines that there’s someone else pressed against his back as they both lie together. Strong arms go around him, and Bakugou doesn’t want to push them away. Instead, he sighs into the contact. He doesn’t have to move just yet. Whoever this is, they’ll wait here until he’s ready.

Bakugou awakens with a jolt. It’s early in the morning, and his dreams are receding as easily and inevitably as waves rolling back into the sea. Before Bakugou can gather his thoughts, he spots a familiar slip of salmon-colored paper on his bedroom floor.

Kirishima’s handwriting is easily recognizable, at this point. But instead of a proper message, he’s scribbled some kind of nonsense form for Bakugou to fill out.

Do you like me? Please circle YES or NO.

Do you want to be my boyfriend? Please circle YES or NO.

Return soon!

What an idiot. What a stupid, fucking idiot. Bakugou can just imagine his grin, his teeth sharp as his smile splits his face nearly in two. His eyes scrunched closed, his hair stuck up at every angle from his face. The image is burned into Bakugou’s brain.

Growling, Bakugou grabs a post-it from his desk, scribbles a quick message on it, then takes it and the notecard and stomps across the hall to Kirishima’s room. Instead of knocking, he kicks at the door.

It takes only a moment for it to open, revealing Kirishima. And, just like the first time they’d been in this situation, he answers his door wearing nothing but lounge pants. Now that Bakugou knows he’s a top-level athlete, Kirishima’s muscles make sense. But that doesn’t mean he can stop looking at them.

“Yes?” Kirishima prompts, after a moment.

“Do you ever wear clothes?” Bakugou demands. Even during competition, he’d had the lower part of his torso bound, but the coat of his judogi left the upper part of his chest somewhat exposed. Is Kirishima even aware of what he’s doing? Is this some kind of slow, psychological torture?

Kirishima bites his tongue, then laughs. “You’re one to talk!”

“What the fuck does that mean?”

“Like, two days ago,” Kirishima says, waving a hand to indicate Bakugou’s body, the tips of his ears slightly red. “You were wandering our hall without a shirt, or anything!”

Bakugou thinks back, then gives Kirishima a look to indicate just how incredibly stupid he is. “I had just taken a fucking shower, dumbass.”

“And I was sleeping, in the middle of summer! What do you expect?”

Bakugou throws up his hands, praying for the patience that always eluded him. He’s not holding his breath.

“Hey, Bakugou,” Kirishima says, then, sounding sly. “Are you distracted by my abs?”

Bakugou clicks his tongue against his teeth. That’s ridiculous. He’s not distracted by Kirishima’s abs. He just really, really wants to touch them.

Instead of responding to that question, Bakugou waves the notecard in Kirishima’s face. “And what the fuck is this, huh?”

Now Kirishima laughs again, but it’s softer. He seems almost nervous, as he leans against his doorframe. “I thought it’d be easier. You have a hard time talking about your feelings, right? I thought this would help.”

For a moment, Bakugou feels guilty. Kirishima had confessed to him last night, hadn’t he? And Bakugou had been so caught up in his own bullshit that he hadn’t said anything in response. What the fuck. How is he so bad at this? He’s not supposed to be bad at anything.

“Fucking idiot,” Bakugou grumbles. Again, instead of addressing Kirishima’s words, he turns to action. He takes the post-it he’s been clutching in his hand and slams it against Kirishima’s forehead, so that it’ll stick.

“Ow,” Kirishima whines, reaching up to grab the post-it. He glances it at, then looks away, then glances at it again. Slowly, his face turns the same shade as his ridiculous hair.

Bakugou, having written it, already knows what the post-it says.

Bakugou’s boyfriend.

“Does this mean you like me?” Kirishima asks, voice going soft with wonder.

Bakugou cannot handle this situation, anymore. “What the fuck do you think?”

“Please say it,” Kirishima insists. “Just once!”

“No,” Bakugou hisses, pushing Kirishima away, “You’re so embarrassing—”

“Bakugou—!”

Hey!” Jirou’s voice carries up the stairs, sharp and reprimanding. “Will you two shut up, already? Some of us are trying to sleep!”

Bakugou spins towards the staircase and shouts, “No!” at the same time Kirishima grabs his arm and calls, “Sorry, Jirou!”

Having a boyfriend does not repair every crack in Bakugou’s life. There are far too many for that, and anyway, he doesn’t want someone hanging around who just tries to fix him all the time. But having Kirishima, it does change some things, in ways that Bakugou can accept.

Today, he’s sitting at a corner table in Fatgum Coffee. He has a half-empty mug of Mexican hot chocolate in front of him, and a plate that holds the crumbs of a meat patty. He’s crouched over his laptop, typing furiously, but he can look up from time to time to see Kirishima working at the counter, chatting to customers and whistling as he dries off recently-washed mugs. When Kirishima catches his eye, he winks at Bakugou. He’s very, very embarrassing.

When there’s a lull in the line of customers, Kirishima comes over to ask, “How’s the application going?”

He had told Kirishima about applying to be a research assistant for Yagi Toshinori in the quiet of the night, threatening him with death if he told anyone before the results were out. But every few days since then, and more often leading up to the deadline, he’s asked about Bakugou’s progress.

“Fucking fine,” Bakugou grumbles. “It’s done.”

“Yeah, but you said it was done three days ago,” Kirishima says firmly. He plants his hands on his hips. “Have you sent it in, yet?”

He hasn’t. He’s been looking over it for three frantic days, moving around paragraphs and wondering if he should just delete the whole thing. He’s drafted his submission email a dozen times, but can’t bring himself to hit send.

It’s fucking awful, wanting something that’s under someone else’s control. That he’s not sure that he’s worthy of, as much as he wants to be. Wanting anything is a pain in the ass, he’s found.

Kirishima comes to stand behind his chair. “I’ll give you something if you hit send,” he says.

“What?” Bakugou asks suspiciously.

Kirishima shrugs, looking guileless in a way Bakugou knows that he definitely isn’t. “You won’t know unless you send it.”

Bakugou curses him under his breath, but it’s enough of an incentive for him to aggressively click send before squeezing his eyes shut. Fuck. It’s gone, now. Yagi Toshinori is free to reject him.

Before he can get caught up in that line of thought, Kirishima is leaning over him. He grabs Bakugou’s chin to angle his face up, then presses his lips against Bakugou’s once, twice, and a third time.

Before he realizes it, Bakugou’s muscles unclench and he sighs, leaning forward to chase the kiss when Kirishima pulls away. Bakugou lifts his eyes and scowls.

“That was your reward!” Kirishima says blithely. “I’m proud of you, no matter what happens.”

Sometimes, when Kirishima smiles, Bakugou feels like he could blast his way through any obstacle.

“Get back to work, lazy ass,” Bakugou grumbles.

Kirishima ruffles Bakugou’s hair, then steps away immediately before Bakugou can retaliate. “I’ll be done in an hour. Then we can go to your parents’.”

“Yeah, whatever,” Bakugou says, pushing his laptop away and reaching for his hot chocolate. He sips on it sullenly, but now that his application is sent he has the time to just watch Kirishima at work. It isn’t a half-bad way to spend an hour.

Afterwards, Kirishima will change out of his uniform and into an ironed shirt, even though Bakugou insists that his parents do not give a fuck what Kirishima wears. He’s been over to their home enough times, by now. But Kirishima insists, and Bakugou waits more or less patiently as Kirishima makes himself presentable.

It takes several weeks for all of the various professors to decide who they’ll be offering research positions to. Applicants are supposed to be notified via email, but Bakugou stopped checking his two days ago. Now, he stands just beyond the hallway in the science building where the results have been posted.

He hadn’t told Kirishima that the results would be out, today. Kirishima would’ve insisted on being here, even though he has a tournament coming up next week and is supposed to spend most of the day in the gym.

Bakugou waits until the hallway has emptied out. Then he steels himself and marches with purposeful steps towards the noticeboard.

Yagi Toshinori does not take on first year applicants often. There are dozens of students in the various science programs at Yuuei, and all of them will be chomping at the bit for a chance to work with him. Most of them probably don’t have a history like Bakugou’s. Most of them don’t have an attitude like Bakugou’s. Most of them weren’t facing dismissal from the university before they’d even started classes here. He’s gone over these facts again and again, along with a million other reasons why he might not have gotten the position.

But want is like an ache inside of him, gradually becoming more familiar. He’s never wanted anything this badly, and he hates that he’s put himself in this vulnerable position.

Bakugou takes a deep breath and lifts his head to read the notice neatly tacked to the board. He reads Yagi Toshinori’s name, and then his eyes register the two lines of text below.

Midoriya Izuku

Bakugou Katsuki

Suddenly, Bakugou is no longer standing in the hallway. Instead, he’s back at his high school, months ago, when university entrance exam results had been announced. He’d been so prepared to be the only student from his school to get acceptance at Yuuei. It had been an inevitability, the dream he’d been working towards his entire life. And up to that point, he’d never been denied something he’d wanted, before. He never questioned that Yuuei would accept him, even though it’s the most selective school in the country. He’d been that sure of his place in the world.

So, when the students had gathered around to see the displayed results, and Bakugou’s eyes at searched out Yuuei’s name on the list, he’d at first thought that his eyes were playing tricks on him. But there was no mistake— two names were listed there, Bakugou’s and Deku’s. He hadn’t known what to think, or how to react. The very bottom had just fallen out of his world, despite the fact that he’d gotten the thing he’d been working so hard for and wanted so badly.

Is this just like the last time? Instead of showing how exceptional he is, is this proof of his mundanity? If Deku can achieve the same things Bakugou can, what are they really worth? And why the fuck does this keep happening to him?

Why does Deku keep conspiring to ruin his life?

Bakugou presses one hand against his stomach, suddenly feeling nauseous. Wasn’t he supposed to feel happy, now? He’s spent weeks telling himself that once these results came out, everything would be as it should be. Is this how his life is supposed to be?

There’s a shadow creeping up on him, an echo of how he’d felt when he’d gotten into Yuuei. Bakugou doesn’t have very distinct memories of those weeks, just blurred images and haunting feelings. But he knows one thing with certainty— he never wants to feel like that, again.

But he doesn’t know what else to do. He staggers out of the hallway, digging into his pockets for his phone. He acts on instinct, selecting the only contact he regularly uses.

To Shitty Hair (3:12)
where are you right now

From Shitty Hair (3:21)
just taking a break at the gym
what’s up?

Bakugou doesn’t respond. As soon as he sees Kirishima’s answer, he hoists his bag up on his shoulder and rushes from the science building. He isn’t running, exactly, but he walks with quick, purposeful steps that will get him across campus as quickly as possible. He doesn’t know what he’ll do if he stands still for even a moment.

From Shitty Hair (3:26)
are you okay?

Within a few minutes, he’s arrived at the training gym Kirishima spends most of his time at. He wanders through the various set-ups until he finds Kirishima at the punching bags. Kirishima looks up immediately, like he’s got a sixth sense for knowing when Bakugou is near.

“What happened?” Kirishima asks, taking one look at him. He steps back from the punching bag and wipes the dampness from his brow. He must have been working out for ages— he’s covered in sweat and looks slightly winded.

Bakugou doesn’t think. He presses as close as he can against Kirishima, not caring that he’s getting his t-shirt damp and disgusting. Kirishima is a firm, solid presence, an anchor when Bakugou feels like he’s about to drift up into the sky. After a moment, Kirishima wraps his arms around Bakugou and just holds him.

“What happened,” Kirishima asks again, softly.

“Yagi picked two fucking assistants,” Bakugou grinds out. He hasn’t lifted his arms to return the embrace. Instead he just presses against Kirishima, soaking up his comfort and offering nothing in response.

“Who?” Kirishima asks, struggling to keep his voice neutral.

“Fucking Deku,” Bakugou spits, feeling Kirishima tense against him like he’s bracing for impact. “And me.”

“Dude,” Kirishima says. He rests his hands on Bakugou’s shoulders, pushing him back slightly so that he can get a full look at him. “Babe, that’s amazing! I’m so proud of you.”

Bakugou glowers at him. “Shut up.”

Kirishima blinks, trying to assess the situation. Then he takes a step back, and whacks lightly at the punching bag. “You want to hit things for a while?”

That is exactly what Bakugou wants. So, he sets down his things and changes into a pair of Kirishima’s extra gym clothes. Hands wrapped, he punches at the bag while Kirishima holds onto it from the other side.

This isn’t the first time they’ve done this. Kirishima spends so much time here that Bakugou’s started coming regularly, when he can fit it in. Kirishima teaches him technique and shows off for Bakugou, and usually, it’s an enjoyable experience. Kirishima is the prince of the gym, friendly with everyone and able to beat most all of them at anything. Bakugou is fiercely proud.

But this isn’t like those times, at all. Bakugou slams into the punching bag with all his strength, and after the first two strikes he starts screaming as he does so. He yells out loudly, no real words, just an intensity that feels like it’s going to split his vocal chords. He doesn’t know what he’s feeling or what he wants to do about it. He’s angry when he wants to be happy, feels insignificant when he wants to be the best. If he doesn’t destroy something else, he’s going to rip himself in two.

After one particularly hard hit, Bakugou falls to his knees. He’s still yelling, his breath coming out in ragged pants as he tries to get a hold of himself. Why is he so goddamn weak?

“Babe,” Kirishima says, again, and Bakugou doesn’t even have the breath to tell him to quit it with the fucking pet names. “Katsuki— it’s okay. You’re okay.”

Bakugou is still on his knees, and Kirishima steadies the punching bag before coming around it to crouch in front of him. “I know you don’t believe me,” he says softly, “But I can tell you as many times as you need to hear it. You’re amazing. You’re trying so hard. And you just accomplished something incredible. That was you. He chose you, even if he also chose someone else.”

Bakugou looks up at Kirishima, and thinks he hates how much he wants to drink from those words like a someone who’s been in the desert and has just found fresh water.

“You’re amazing,” Kirishima says again. “And tonight, I’m going to take you out, and we’ll celebrate properly.”

Kirishima doesn’t need these distractions, right now. He has a tournament next week, on top of his own classes and his part-time job and the time and energy he invests into all his other friends. Bakugou is like a black hole, sucking him in and away from those other things.

“You’re going to hate me if I keep doing this to you,” Bakugou tells him in a flat voice. His throat aches.

Kirishima chuckles lightly. “Would you do the same thing for me?”

“Tell you you’re being an idiot when you think you’re bad at shit?” Bakugou asks darkly. Kirishima laughs again, and Bakugou grumbles, “Just for you.”

“Then I can do the same for you, as much as you need or want me to.”

Bakugou doesn’t know if he can trust himself, in this moment. But he can trust Kirishima, and that’s good enough, for now.

At his next meeting with Aizawa, they end up back at the park they’d been to once before. They sit side by side on the bench with a person’s space between them, looking outwards and not at each other. Bakugou prefers this; he hates it when Aizawa stares at him with his creepy bloodshot eyes.

“Do you think you can handle this?” Aizawa asks blandly.

Bakugou has his hands clenched into fists in his lap. It’s the same thing he’s been asking himself for the past few days. “He has to fucking know—I wrote it into my stupid application.”

Aizawa turns his head just slightly and blinks. “I thought you didn’t want anyone to know.”

He doesn’t. And it’s not something that Bakugou is going to start advertising to every asshole he meets on the street. But still.

“I didn’t want to be picked based on a goddamn lie,” Bakugou spits out. He thinks back to the two versions of the application on his computer, one white-washed and boring as hell, the other full of reasons for Yagi Toshinori to throw it out immediately.

Aizawa hums, pausing for a moment in thought. “The job doesn’t start for a few months, correct? By then, the restraining order will have lifted.”

“Not as if Deku is fucking following it, anyway.” Bakugou crosses his arms over his chest sullenly. He’d been ordered to stay away from Deku, but he wasn’t the one who kept butting into Deku’s goddamn business. Although he’s not sure what he would have done, if he’d seen Deku in those first few weeks after. He still doesn’t know what he’ll do, if he has to see him nearly every day.

“Yagi Toshinori is an incurable Good Samaritan and a grade-A meddler,” Aizawa says, speaking as though from a wealth of experience. He sounds resigned, as if Yagi’s meddling is a source of many of his own troubles. Fixing Bakugou with a stare, he asks again, “Can you handle this?”

Bakugou huffs out a breath. “Obviously. I’m not going to let either of them get in the way of what I want.”

Aizawa is still looking at him, but now he tilts his head and asks dryly, “And you’re not going to get in your own way, either?”

Bakugou glares at him, but doesn’t argue the point. He might be imagining things, but he swears that Aizawa is looking at him in an almost approving way.

Right now, much of his life feels like slapping a bandage over a wound that will ultimately take a long time to heal on its own. Nothing is a perfect fix, but he has to keep patching every problem that comes up so that he can keep moving forward.

He leaves Dr. Shuuzenji’s office this week and pulls out his phone. He scrolls through his contacts until he finds Deku’s number—he doesn’t even know why he still has it—and his thumb hovers over the “send message” button. What the fuck is he even supposed to say?

They’d spent half an hour in his session talking about this. He needs to say something. But the idea still leaves Bakugou paralyzed. Maybe he just needs to take this one step at a time. Maybe he’s not at a place where he can say anything to Deku, soon. But maybe that will also change, despite him not wanting it to.

Before he has a chance to think on it further, his phone lights up with an unexpected notification. A red window dominates his screen, reading: Go on an awesome date with Kirishima!

He looks up, and Kirishima is standing there like an idiot, grinning at him.

“I thought I’d walk you home,” he says. He’s wearing a dark pair of jeans and a truly awful patterned shirt. Bakugou can’t stop looking at him.

“Let’s go to the store, first,” Bakugou says, walking past him.

Kirishima runs to catch up, throwing an arm around Bakugou’s shoulders.

It’s not the fanciest meal in the world, when all’s said and done. Bakugou has never really learned how to make gourmet marinades or complex recipes. But it’s fresh, and the meat looks fucking awesome when he’s done with it, and when he lays a bowl laden with vegetables and rice in front of Kirishima he maybe feels a certain amount of pride in the way Kirishima looks up at him.

They sit side by side at the kitchen table, eating in companionable silence. For all that Kirishima likes talking, he does know when to be quiet, too. Riot walks back and forth under the table, hoping for scraps like a stupid dog. Bakugou picks out the vegetables that won’t do him any harm and drops a few under the table.

Afterwards, they put away their bowls and pull out their books, studying late into the night. They both have too much going on to spend every moment together, but it’s also easier to accommodate each other than Bakugou would have ever thought.

This is about what Bakugou can handle, right now— fitting the things he needs to do around the amount of time he wants to be with Kirishima, and taking advantage of the times when those things intersect. But having something he wants alongside everything that’s been forced on him makes the rest not seem quite as bad.

“Hey, Katsuki,” Kirishima says, pushing aside his math book. “Let’s take a class together next semester.”

Bakugou seriously doubts that Kirishima can keep up in his advanced science classes, and he conveys this with a derisive expression.

“Not one of your kind of classes, dumbass.” Kirishima waves away Bakugou’s condescension. “Ashido is always saying that art classes are fun, and they offer those ones for non-majors so it’s okay if you suck, at first!”

Bakugou hates that idea. He’s never tried to do anything artistic, but the idea of trying anything he won’t immediately be good at seems like the worst possible thing he could force himself through. “That sounds fucking awful.”

“Well, maybe not painting,” Kirishima considers. “What about sculpting?”

Bakugou considers that possibility briefly. The idea of creating something, building it up in his hands instead of tearing it down— could he even do that? What would it feel like?

“Oh, there’s a history of film class,” Kirishima says, having pulled up the schedule on his laptop. “I bet you could write your final paper about the use of explosions in movies!”

“You could write one about the art of misunderstanding movies because you keep talking through them,” Bakugou shoots back.

Kirishima huffs, and keeps scrolling though the schedule. “What about criminology?”

That’s another possibility that doesn’t seem half-bad. Bakugou wonders what it’d be like to look at such things from an academic perspective, rather than living through his own mini crime show drama.

“We’ll figure it out,” Kirishima decides, after a moment.

Bakugou pushes away his own books and lets his head fall against Kirishima’s shoulder. Kirishima keeps talking, about all the different things he wants to fit into his own schedule, and all the classes that Kaminari and Sero and Asui and the others are planning on taking.

The bottom can’t fall out of his world, anymore. Kirishima is too solid of a presence within it— nothing can budge him, and if he needs to, Bakugou can hold onto him until everything else around him settles.

Midterms eat up both of their time, after that. Bakugou balances exams and papers with everything else he’s responsible for, and spends three weeks feeling bone tired and irritable. But the week that exams end, Jirou invites everyone to her band’s latest show.

It’s a standing room crowd, and Bakugou is smashed towards the stage by Kirishima and Kaminari on either side of him, and Sero and Ashido behind him. Uraraka, Asui, a prissy chick with a ponytail named Yaoyorozu, and a few others hang back further.

Jirou stands at the front of the band, in a cropped leather jacket and combat boots. Bakugou crosses his arms over his chest as they begin to play, determined to find fault with something. But the longer the set goes on, the more he finds that Jirou’s music is actually good, which is infuriating.

At the end of the show, Bakugou’s eardrums are ringing as he steps away from the crowd to covertly pick up one of the band’s CDs, being sold at a merchandize table outside the small venue.

He makes his way back to the group, everyone standing around and laughing and speaking at volumes that are entirely unwarranted.

“I’ll wait until Jirou finishes packing up,” Yaoyorozu says. “It might take some time, the rest of you don’t need to wait up.”

“We’re helping load the van,” Kaminari says, grabbing Sero in a headlock. “Kirishima, you and Bakugou have to do it next time, alright?”

Kirishima is already nodding when Bakugou says, “Why the fuck should I?”

They end up walking home shortly after that. Asui and Uraraka hang back, and as they pass a particular street Bakugou grabs Kirishima’s wrist to pull him to one side. Uraraka catches Bakugou’s eye and gives him a knowing look, but he just flips her off before pulling Kirishima down the side street.

Kirishima follows him easily, still humming bits of Jirou’s songs. Bakugou has been meaning to bring Kirishima here for a while, really. But they’ve both been too busy, and Bakugou didn’t want Kirishima to see it before it was done.

The moon is shining down on the park when they arrive, the lampposts illuminating the space just enough to see the outlines of the jungle gym and other structures that Bakugou has helped put together over the past few months. It isn’t technically open, yet, but Bakugou doesn’t really give a fuck about those rules.

“Wow,” Kirishima says, when they get closer. “This is like— really professional-looking.”

Bakugou wonders what can be professional about ducks and rabbits painted pink and yellow. But he doesn’t stop to comment, pulling Kirishima along until they end up on the swings.

Kirishima takes a seat first, kicking off and swinging back and forth a few times before Bakugou sits down next to him. Kirishima is laughing as he slows his pace, letting his feet drag against the floor.

“Do you ever worry about anything?” Bakugou asks incredulously.

Kirishima turns to him and his lips pull into a frown as he thinks that over. “Sure. Tons of stuff. All the time. But I don’t want to let worrying about things keep me from doing what I want to.”

Bakugou scoffs, but then he can’t stop himself from saying, “How the fuck are you so amazing?”

Kirishima freezes, then turns to Bakugou with red cheeks, just barely visible in the dim light. “Do you really think so?”

“Obviously. I’m dating your ass, aren’t I?” Bakugou rolls his eyes, trailing his feet over the soft padding that makes up the floor of the jungle gym and swing set. “And I— I really like you, anyway. So obviously, I think that.” He says the words quickly, as though they’ll be hidden that way.

Kirishima pitches his swing sideways so that he bumps against Bakugou, setting them both moving like balls in a Newton’s Cradle.

“You’re pretty amazing yourself, you know,” Kirishima says.

Bakugou wants to keep him forever. It’s a desire that’s sprung up recently, given shape by all the sessions Bakugou has to spend with Dr. Shuuzenji, detangling his own feelings. He knows it’s too early to say this to Kirishima, but he doesn’t think the feeling will go away.

Now, when Dr. Shuuzenji asks him what he wants, what might make him happy, he knows. And the idea is somewhat terrifying. He isn’t used to having to deal with other people, because they are so outside of his control. He doesn’t like having something that he can lose. But instead of giving up on it, Bakugou knows he just has to work harder to protect it.

Instead of voicing any of these thoughts aloud, Bakugou reaches to grasp Kirishima’s hand. Thus connected, they keep knocking each other back and forth.

Eventually, Bakugou shifts slightly and lifts a hand to Kirishima’s cheek, letting it rest there. Kirishima covers Bakugou’s hand in one of his own, smiling at Bakugou in the low light.

The kiss is slow and intimate, the two of them leaning towards each other at the same time.

Maybe he doesn’t need to say anything, right now. From the way Kirishima holds onto him, Bakugou is sure that he understands.

Some mornings, Bakugou can barely wake up. His limbs feel weighted down by lead, and he can muster no desire to roll himself out of bed to face the world. Today is one of those mornings, but as his alarm blares at him, the door to his bedroom opens.

Kirishima stands in front of Bakugou’s bed and reaches out with one hand. Then, he waits. He doesn’t pull Bakugou out of bed, or say anything. Gradually, Bakugou pushes himself up and reaches out, grabbing onto the Kirishima’s hand. Only then does Kirishima pull him to his feet.

“You excited?” Kirishima says, like this is a normal morning. “It’s your first day!”

There’s some kind of emotion bubbling up in Bakugou’s stomach, but he’s not quite sure what it is, yet. As he gets ready for the day, shoving his books into his backpack and pulling on clean clothes, he looks over at the newly-printed ID badge hanging off his doorknob. Tucked into a plastic cover and hanging off a lanyard, it grants him access to Yagi Toshinori’s lab.

Bakugou grabs the ID badge before he heads down to the kitchen. Half of his housemates are still at the table, eating cereal or drinking coffee. Kirishima reaches out to sling an arm around Bakugou’s waist, kissing him on the cheek before Bakugou pulls away to pour his own coffee.

“Ready?” Kirishima asks, a few minutes later. Kendou and Tetsutetsu are probably already outside, waiting by the car.

Bakugou takes a deep breath, and then looks up to meet Kirishima’s eyes.

He can do this.

in this life we lead
we could conquer everything
if we could just get the braves
to get out of bed in the morning