“Ooh, put the bookstand in the corner.”
“I’m not putting the bookstand in the corner. It’ll be impossible to clean around.”
“But you have empty space and it’s the perfect size. Wow, you have a lot of photos. Isn’t that your grandma?”
“Get out of there, you nosy bastard.” Bakugou throws a shoe at Deku’s head. Being incorporeal, it just goes through him and bounces off the wall. “Tch. Unsatisfying.”
“I’m not going solid just so you can hit me,” Deku says and floats lazily onto the carpet. There are unopened boxes in the way but he just phases through them. “Are you sure you don’t want help unpacking?”
“I don’t trust you with my stuff.”
“I dropped a snowglobe once. You spooked me, it wasn’t my fault.”
“You’re full of shit,” says Bakugou. The last of his shirts goes onto the shelf, neatly folded. “You’re a ghost. You’re supposed to be spooking me.”
“You came in without knocking!”
“It was my fucking room.”
“Our room, Kacchan,” Deku says sweetly and rolls onto his back. “You sealed the deal when you found my action figure.”
“You’re a creep, haunting a toy and waiting for some kid to pick you up.”
“I can’t help what I was attached to. You’re the one who decided to keep me.”
Bakugou drops a pillow on (through) his head. He supposes the idiot has a point, seeing as Deku can’t remember anything from when he was alive. He doesn’t know how he ended up possessing a Captain America toy in a thrift shop. “I paid good money for that.”
“All of ten dollars.”
“More than you’re worth.”
Bakugou straightens up and huffs. His wardrobe is exactly as he likes it, neat and contents stacked in order of most to least casual. He’s glad he has the bedroom with the big window. The rest of the apartment doesn’t get much natural light, but he supposes his landlord-cum-flatmate’s taste in interior décor makes up for that.
Speaking of which, he said he’d be home around five. There’s a car pulling around the corner two floors down. It’s expensive, by the sound of it. Bakugou glances at himself in the mirror and decides he’s probably presentable.
“Looks like the flatmate’s here,” Deku says, sitting up to peek out the window. “Huh. I think you’re going to like him.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Bakugou asks, but Deku just laughs and disappears into the mirror.
The door opens a little while later. Bakugou takes a deep breath and steps out into the living room, eyes automatically adjusting to the change in light. There’s a boy hanging up his coat in the hall. He’s handsome, albeit in an annoying way, hair dyed two colours to match his heterochromia and skin pale and perfect and smooth. He looks expensive. “Bakugou.”
“That’s me,” Bakugou says. “You’re younger than I expected.”
“I’m older than I look.” He’s got a scar over one eye. It’s honestly kind of cool. “I’m Todoroki.”
Bakugou stares him down. Deku was right, damn him. Pretty boys are his type. “Wanna meet my ghost?”
“I told you about him when I replied to your ad.” A pearlescent head emerges through the wall, the washed-out after image of an owner long dead. The rest of Deku follows. “Idiot’s been haunting me since we were kids. Sharing a place with me is kind of a two-for-one deal.”
“Hi,” says Deku shyly. “I’m Midoriya Izuku. Nice to meet you.”
To his credit, Todoroki doesn’t do much more than blink. “You really weren’t joking.”
“Nope,” says Bakugou, popping the ‘p’. “He’s harmless, so just ignore him. If you try any of that holy water shit I’ll break your neck.”
“I won’t. I promise,” Todoroki says and touches his scar.
“He smells off,” Bakugou says later.
Deku drapes himself across the mattress, ethereal legs dangling off the edge. “Bad?”
“No, dummy. I mean he doesn’t smell human. Not entirely.”
“What is he, then?”
“I don’t know,” Bakugou says, chewing his lip. “But I intend to find out.”
As far as flatmates go, Todoroki’s not the worst.
Mostly he just keeps to himself. He stays up late and does everything silently, with languid movements and exaggerated care. He’s polite. He doesn’t seem to have friends. And he never eats in front of Bakugou, preferring to have meals alone in his room.
It’s annoying. Partly because it doesn’t give Bakugou much info, but mostly because Todoroki routinely eschews Bakugou’s frankly superb cooking in favour of fucking Wendy’s.
“You,” he says when Todoroki dares step out of his room one evening.
Todoroki pauses. “Me.”
Bakugou chops up rosemary leaves with a practised hand. “How do you take your steak?”
The clock ticks. Deku’s off wandering around outside today, so the kitchen is very quiet. Todoroki glances behind him like he thinks Bakugou may be talking to the wall. “Are you cooking for me?”
“Yes. Your diet is shit. You’re doing the dishes.”
Todoroki hums. He drifts closer to watch, footsteps barely making any noise on the hardwood. “Very rare.”
“Good.” That’s the only way to eat steak, in Bakugou’s opinion. One time he’d tried it well-done just to spite the wolf side of him. Tasted like a well-seasoned boot.
Todoroki watches the movement of the knife, quietly impressed. His gaze is somehow heavier than Deku’s ever was but Bakugou goes through the motions without a single misstep. The potatoes go into the oven. The broccoli goes into the steamer. The pan’s coming up to a sizzle, so he prepares to start tossing stuff in.
A hand closes over his fist, and he freezes.
Todoroki’s palm is soft and wide. “No garlic,” he says and lets go.
“Fine,” says Bakugou after a second. He pointedly does not get self-conscious, even though Todoroki smells like iron and cologne and apparently has no concept of personal space. Oil bubbles expectantly in the pan. “You better be hungry.”
The steak smells, predictably, fucking delicious.
Todoroki takes his plate with a quiet thank you and tries to disappear back into his room. Bakugou tosses a napkin at his head before he can get past the living room. “You’re eating with me at the table.”
“Sit down, Raspberry Ripple.”
Todoroki sits. He keeps his elbows off the table top, awkwardly cutting up his steak and watching pink juices flood his potatoes. Bakugou studies his face in the fading evening light. His bangs fall in a sleek curtain over his eyebrows and obscure a bit of his scar.
Purposefully, Bakugou reaches forward to tuck Todoroki’s hair behind his ear. Todoroki stiffens. “What are you doing?”
“Pointy ears,” Bakugou says and puts his chin in his hand. Todoroki’s skin had been cool to the touch. “Averse to garlic. Won’t eat in front of me.”
He says it casually. Slowly, Todoroki nods. “I’m a half-blood. On my father’s side.”
“I’ve seen you go out in the daytime.”
“Sunlight is painful but not lethal. I have to wear sunscreen every day.”
Bakugou pops a potato into his mouth. “Aren’t vampires big on covens?”
“I left mine.”
“My father is an asshole. I live alone here. Until you.”
“Until me,” Bakugou echoes. “Ever killed anyone?”
“No. I don’t need that much blood.”
“Show me your teeth.”
Todoroki opens his mouth. His canines aren’t as sharp as Bakugou would have imagined, more like snaggleteeth than fangs. “Can you shapeshift?”
“No. But I understand bat-speak.”
“Huh. No wonder Deku didn’t spook you.”
“I was hoping he’d be real,” Todoroki admits. “That you really did have a ghost and weren’t making it up. I figured if you knew about ghosts, you’d know about vampires. So you wouldn’t be afraid of me.”
Bakugou snorts. “You don’t need to worry about that.”
Todoroki smiles. It’s barely-there, and he delicately takes a bite of food. Bakugou watches his lips close around the prongs of his fork. “I know. I’m glad I ended up with you.”
“Gonna go spy on the neighbour girl again?”
“Liar. You’re all melty and gross.”
Deku makes a face and phases through the balcony door. “Just because she’s pretty doesn’t mean I have a crush on her.”
“I didn’t say anything about that,” Bakugou calls after him.
Todoroki emerges from the kitchen with a mug of tea in his hand. It’s probably got a few drops of blood in it. Bakugou doesn’t ask where he keeps getting the stuff; Todoroki’s most comfortable when they just let him be, they’ve discovered, even if their apartment sometimes smells like rust. “What are you doing?”
“Jobs,” Bakugou says. He’s seated on the floor in front of the coffee table with his laptop. “You got one?”
Todoroki hums. When Bakugou looks up again he’s upside down on the couch, head almost brushing the floor. He doesn’t sleep upside down, though. He’d been adamant about that. “My father pays for my things.”
“I thought you hated him.”
“I do. That’s why I spend all his money.”
That explains his wardrobe, actually. “Look, even our dead guy gets out more than you do. If you’re going to spend every day inside, alone, in the dark, you may as well just buy a coffin.”
“I like the dark,” says Todoroki mildly. “Also, that’s racist. Not every vampire has a coffin.”
“Just shut up and look at the classifieds,” Bakugou says and slides his Lenovo across the table. “Go meet people even if you don’t need the money. I won’t be home every day to entertain you.”
Todoroki sighs and squirms so he’s lying down. “I don’t want to be a fire fighter.”
“Those are mine. Change the filters,” says Bakugou. Todoroki stares at the screen, then at him. “You don’t know how, do you?”
“I’m old,” Todoroki says, pointedly looking away. “When I was born the telegraph was still new.”
“How’d you put up your flatshare ad?”
“My friend Momo did it for me. She made an effort to keep up with the times.”
“No wonder your emails seemed so normal. Why do you have a vampire friend? You hate vampires. I saw you interrogating a bat three days ago.”
“I hate some vampires,” Todoroki says. Grumbles, really. Bakugou thinks he’s getting good at reading the subtleties of his face. “That bat was a spy from my father.”
“It was a fruit bat.”
“Just because it’s called a vampire bat doesn’t mean it’s the only kind we can turn into.”
“Move out, then,” Bakugou says, leaning back so his head’s brushing Todoroki’s knee. That’s another thing they’ve noticed. Todoroki’s surprisingly cuddly now he’s started coming out of his room to hang out. “Hard to avoid him if you’re living on his property.”
“I’ve never worked before,” Todoroki says doubtfully. “I suppose if I had my own income I would be harder for him to find.”
“You got hobbies? Maybe you can get into something full time.”
Todoroki hesitates. “I take photographs sometimes. I have a camera.”
Bakugou elbows him until he goes and gets it. It’s pretty high-tech for someone who’s never used a laptop. “You could sell these to a magazine,” Bakugou says, sifting through the gallery while Todoroki fidgets. His photos are pretty good. Artsy and mysterious. Exactly what you’d expect from a guy who looks like a romance novel protagonist. “Or call my mom. She’s a designer”
“Would she want me?”
“She always needs photographers.”
“I’m just an amateur,” Todoroki says and curls his knees up to his chest. “My mother had one on her nightstand. A photograph. It was of her parents. I kept it when she died.”
“They were expensive and slow back then. My father never allowed cameras at home. Pureblood vampires don’t show up on film.”
“So you bought a camera with his money to spite him.”
Bakugou grins. “Perfect. I’ll introduce you to my mom.”
“Thank you,” says Todoroki quietly. Slowly, he reaches out. Instead of retrieving the camera he brushes his fingers against Bakugou’s, tracing the callouses on his knuckles with curious fingers. His eyelashes are very long. They cast spindly shadows on his cheeks, and Bakugou watches them shift as Todoroki looks up.
Deku comes hurtling through the wall. “Oh my god, holy shit, I hecked up.”
Bakugou sighs. “What did you do?”
“She saw me! The neighbour girl! I was hanging out at the fountain and she looked out her window, what do I do?”
“Talk to her?” says Todoroki.
“I’m a ghost!”
“You’re weak, is what you are,” Bakugou says and stands. “Which unit is she in?”
“The one left of ours. Where are you going?”
“To deal with it,” Bakugou says, leaving the apartment and striding barefoot into the corridor. Deku tries in vain to pull him back by the sleeve. “Will you calm down?”
“No! Are you crazy? What exactly are you about to do?”
“Talk to her like you’re too afraid to,” Bakugou says and knocks on the neighbour’s door. There’s shuffling for a second before a brunette head pops out. Deku flees into the ceiling. “Hey. You believe in ghosts?”
The girl blinks at him. She’s got wide brown eyes and a bob cut. He can see why Deku likes her. “Excuse me?”
“Ghosts. Do you believe in them?”
She opens the door the rest of the way. She’s tiny but doesn’t seem too perturbed by the stranger at her door. “I guess. Who are you?”
“Bakugou. Your neighbour. Wanna meet one?”
“Do you have one?”
“Yeah,” Bakugou says. “And he’s gonna come out right now, or I’m breaking his totem and sending him to the Otherworld.”
The girl stares at him. Her expression is intrigued, less bewildered than he’d thought she would be. Slowly, with a noise like the whine of a puppy, Deku materialises and says hello.
The girl gasps. Work done, Bakugou leaves them to talk and goes back home.
(Deku starts spending a lot of time outside, after that.)
Bakugou stares at Todoroki. Todoroki stares back.
A handful of uncooked rice sits on the kitchen table between them. A little bit escapes off the side of the mound and scatters with a pleasant rustling sound. Todoroki’s fingers twitch.
“Count it,” says Bakugou.
“No,” says Todoroki.
He obviously wants to, though. Deliberately, Bakugou sticks a finger into the pile and sends more rice cascading onto the table. Todoroki makes a quiet sound like he’s physically trying not to yell. “This is bullying,” he says. “You’re bullying me.”
“What’cha gonna do about it?”
“I could fight you, you know,” Todoroki says sourly. “I’m technically invincible.”
“The usual vampire weaknesses can’t kill me. And I’m stronger than a human.”
“Bet you’d still die if I drove a stake through your heart.”
“That would kill anyone.”
Bakugou snorts. “You’re a useless vampire anyway. You’re supposed to be causing mayhem and destruction. Seducing teenage girls for blood and making their mothers weep or whatever.”
“I’m not one of those medieval perverts. Besides, people are more open about what they want now than they were a hundred years ago. You don’t have to do much seducing, you just have to look pretty.”
“How do you get by, then?”
Todoroki raises an eyebrow. “Do you not find me attractive, Bakugou?”
Damn it, he does. “No.”
“It’s not something to be proud of, necessarily,” Todoroki says, pushing his fingers into the pile of rice and watching it form into dunes. “My father was selective about who’d carry his offspring. I’m not responsible for my face.”
“What, so he made sure to pick a pretty wife?”
“You do think I’m pretty, then.”
For fuck’s sake. “I walked into that one.”
Todoroki smiles. It’s crooked, so much better than the carefully curated indifference he’d had when they first met. He’s not bad to be around, it turns out. Maybe now they’re even friends. “It’s alright. You’re rather attractive yourself, I must say.”
“Now who’s the narcissist?”
Bakugou tosses some rice at him. “Some of us have to work for our appearance, Shortcake. I work out and eat right. And I moisturise.”
He grins despite himself. “You sure you gave up seducing?”
“Well, I already tried looking pretty.”
Todoroki shakes some rice out of his hair. His bangs fall immediately back into place, framing his irritatingly perfect face. “I think it is working, a little. You said you wouldn’t be home to entertain me every day but you haven’t made a job application in a week.”
“I’m not giving you my blood.”
“I don’t want your blood.” Todoroki moves to the seat to his left, so he’s sitting next to Bakugou instead of across from him. Their fingers touch. Todoroki lets out a soft breath. “I think I want something else from you. Even if you are a bully.”
Bakugou lets him lean cautiously nearer, lets Todoroki study his face unashamed. He has nice eyes. Really nice, and they go from Bakugou’s lips to his nose to rest somewhere at the top of his head. “You have ears.”
Bakugou blinks. “Of course I have ears.”
“No, I mean,” Todoroki says. “You have dog ears. On your head.”
Bakugou swears and grabs at them, trying to hide them with his hands. “Ignore it, fuck. This happens sometimes.”
“Oh.” Todoroki stares at him, wide-eyed and fascinated. “Can I touch them?”
“Damn you. Fine.”
He’s very gentle. It’s oddly pleasant, kind of like when Bakugou’s parents use to scratch him behind the ears when he was little. The way Deku manages to sometimes, when he’s got enough energy to go corporeal. “Soft.”
Bakugou tries very hard not to look like he’s enjoying it. “You won’t like this as much when the full moon comes. I shed.”
Todoroki nods. He’s completely forgotten about counting rice. “Why do you live among humans?”
“Because my pack told me not to.” It sounds flippant when he says it, but the memory still brings up ghosts of humiliation and rage. “Not my parents. The elders. They said I had no self-control. That I’d slaughter the humans or whatever.”
“So you thought you’d prove them wrong.”
“They wanted my fangs ground down,” Bakugou says. “So I left. I’m not a monster. I get along with humans just fine.”
“Are you running away?”
“Maybe,” Bakugou says. Todoroki’s long fingernails are hypnotic. “But I don’t care if they find me. I’m happy like this.”
“Maybe,” Bakugou says again. Todoroki’s staring at him, and Bakugou meets his gaze head-on. “Wasn’t expecting you. Can’t say I really mind that I found you.”
Todoroki chews on his lip. “Can I kiss you?”
“Yeah,” Bakugou says and comes closer.
Todoroki’s careful and curious, lips thin and cool and in need of a chapstick. The fingers behind Bakugou’s ears drift down to tangle themselves in his hair. He rests a hand on Todoroki’s knee, and tilts his head to the side to let Todoroki to trail his mouth over his cheek and pepper kisses down his jaw.
He smells good. None of that fancy cologne this time, just him. “Guess looking pretty worked.”
“Thank god. I miss wearing old sweatshirts at home.”
Bakugou huffs a laugh. “Go tell your old man you kissed a werewolf. He’ll be pissed.”
“That he would,” Todoroki says, a little breathless. “But I’m not telling him anything. All I really care about right now is you.”
Bakugou bites his ear. Todoroki laughs and presses their foreheads together. “Don’t worry. I’m a dog person, I think.”
“Did I tell you she’s from a line of witches?” Deku says, doing a slow, dreamy pirouette in mid-air. “I did. But Tsuyu –that’s Uraraka’s familiar, she’s a frog— says I’m the first ghost they’ve met, and—”
Bakugou tunes him out. Todoroki’s scratching the spot right between his ears, a mug of ginger tea in one hand. He never minds Bakugou lying on his lap. Not even when he stretches his paws out and takes up most of the couch and sheds all over the floor. They’ve invested in some lint rollers, anyway.
“You’re getting good with your computer,” Deku says and drapes himself on the back of the couch. “Is that for your portfolio?”
Todoroki tilts the screen of his laptop so Deku can see. It’s an overpriced Macbook, of course. “I got new editing software. I want to start experimenting more with bright colours.”
Bakugou thumps his tail once in approval. The night-time noises of the city filter in through the window, comfortable white noise that he can ignore even with his superior hearing. A cat yowls. A car honks, someone laughs. Tomorrow they’d promised to help the witch set up her old cauldron, but for now Bakugou relaxes in the calm bubble of the apartment and lets Todoroki run his hands through his fur.
“I’m glad you’re both happy,” Deku says. The very tips of his fingers go solid so he can walk them along Bakugou’s back. “I’m glad I met you guys.”
“Me too,” Todoroki says. His hand drifts down Bakugou’s snout to tap the end of his wet, black nose. “I’m… happy, I think.”
Bakugou licks his finger. He can’t talk, but he doesn’t have to. Todoroki looks him in the eyes and smiles, seems to hear what Bakugou tries to think at him. Stay with us. Just like this. This is good.
“I don’t mind so much, being stuck on earth,” Deku says. “Not with you. Not like this.”
“Yes,” says Todoroki quietly. “Yes. This is good.”