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Katsuki will not deny that he maybe, possibly, might someday meet his soulmate.

He’s not sure what to call the higher power that sorts these things out. Fate, maybe, or providence, or the universe. But however people want to label it, Katsuki’s sure that if it has any common sense, his soulmate will be someone worth his time. Of course, he’s also sure that sense isn’t quite as common as he’d like it to be, so if he ever meets the person with whom the world insists he’s meant to spend his life, he’ll decide for himself if he agrees. That’s it. 

His mother says he shouldn't be so picky. It'll take a special kind of person to put up with his bullshit, let alone love it, so he should worry more that his soulmate will want nothing to do with him than the other way around. Katsuki informs her that she's a miserable hag, and if she managed to find someone who tolerates her, then he can, too.

When he locks himself in his room, he tries to rationalize the dark, clutching weight in his chest. It exhausts him. He refuses to give his mom the satisfaction of responsibility, tells himself there’s no way he cares that much. If his soulmate doesn’t like him, they can get fucked. He doesn’t need to find his other half. He’s enough on his own. Sometimes he’s too much on his own.

Life goes on. Katsuki doesn’t talk to his mother about soulmates anymore.

 


 

When Katsuki is twenty, he starts his third year of college. He has yet to dream of his soulmate, but he often dreams that he’s falling.

There have been cliffs, and planes, and buildings, but tonight Katsuki’s in dark, empty freefall. Despite the pitch-black void that surrounds him, he can still see his body, like there’s light shining from somewhere but he’s the only thing around to reflect it. Interrogation-bright. Like a spotlight. He’d rather a spotlight than an interrogation, but this one’s colder than any spotlight he’s ever been under. Real white and clean. Definitely an interrogation.

It’s awful at first. He feels like he’ll keep falling forever, but if the laws of physics have kept up with him, he knows he wouldn’t be falling without something down below to pull him. He’s breathing, albeit with difficulty, so there must be an atmosphere. If there’s an atmosphere, he’ll eventually reach a terminal velocity. He thinks he’ll feel a little better once he does. The acceleration’s always the worst part.

He has the morbid thought of emailing his intro kinetics professor. Thanks for the fucking A minus. I’ll revisit week three in my nightmares.

Sometimes the whole ordeal concludes with him hitting the ground, an impact so fast and decisive he hardly has time to feel it. But other times the end is more like a midair vacuum suffocation, the split-second rip of an airlock opening and tearing out his breath through his ribs. That’s tonight.

He wakes up, sweating and disoriented and half-convinced that he’s dead, and he can’t help but think his mother was right. Maybe he should hope he never sees his soulmate. He wouldn’t want the sorry bastard in his dreams. He wouldn’t want anyone in his dreams.

 


 

It’s difficult to fall back asleep, and it’s just past four in the morning, which Katsuki objectively considers the worst hour of the day. If you’re staying up that late, your life probably sucks. If you’re waking up that early, your life probably sucks. It’s liminal. He can’t picture a circumstance in which someone who’s awake at four in the morning would be happy about it.

He drags himself out of bed and decides he’ll go for a run to clear his head. The gym opens at five-thirty, so if he wanted to wait, he could. He doesn’t.

Instead, he throws on whatever running clothes he can find, fishes his second-favorite pair of headphones out of his backpack, fills a bottle with lukewarm water from the sink in his hall kitchen, and slips out the front door of his dorm building with his angriest playlist blasting in his ears.

The beginning of the run is always the worst part, especially with Katsuki so painfully aware that he was fast asleep in bed half an hour ago. Eventually, though, he breaks past the plateau and falls into a familiar autopilot rhythm that carries him through the roads surrounding his dorm. He ends up on the outskirts of downtown Tokyo, serenely ghostlike with most of the shops and restaurants dark and empty. Cars occasionally pass him, and if he had more attention to pay to them, he’d wonder what they're doing out this late. Early.

If he had more attention to pay to them, he’d also notice the one that’s on the warpath to flatten him in a crosswalk. But he doesn’t, at least not until the last second, and he’s convinced that if it weren’t for the bright glare of the headlights and his own impeccably fast reflexes, he would’ve been a goner. He manages to twist around and stagger a few steps back as it skids to a stop, though, and with its front wheels planted incriminatingly in the middle of the crosswalk, Katsuki just stares for a second. He can make out the driver’s blanched face and the shadowy outline of someone in the backseat. 

Katsuki slams his hand on the hood of the car and yells, loud enough to be heard through the windshield, “Learn how to fucking drive, dumbass!”

The driver holds up her hands and Bakugou reads sorry on her lips. His eyes flicker to the backseat. The passenger is far too large to be a child, so Katsuki concludes that his near-death experience was either with an Uber or someone really goddamn weird. But he’s less concerned about the car’s occupants and more about the fact that it’d nearly wrecked his shit, so he just shoots the driver a withering glare for the road and carries on with his run.

It’s five-thirty when Katsuki finally gets back to his dorm, sweaty and residually pissed off. It’s six by the time he takes a lazy shower and crawls back into bed. He has class at nine, and briefly the thought crosses his mind that he shouldn’t bother sleeping at all, but a few hours is better than nothing.

(Allegedly.)

 


 

He’s always wondered, in the back of his mind, how he’s supposed to know.  

It’s easy to dream about people, it happens all the time, so Katsuki has never really understood how anyone can see a face in a dream and say with certainty that they’re looking at their soulmate. He asked his dad once, and the answer was vague and unsatisfying. You’ll know, kid. You just will.

At the time, he adamantly called bullshit. But maybe his dad really was onto something, because tonight, when Katsuki dreams, he isn’t falling.

He isn’t falling, and he isn’t breathless or terrified or morbidly bored or any of the other odd, unpleasant feelings that run their cycle as his body waits to hit the ground. He’s standing on the sidewalk by the intersection where he’d nearly been mowed into the pavement, the sky is dark, the streets are empty, and for the first time he can remember, Katsuki feels completely and utterly at peace.

The peace is almost more alarming than the panic would’ve been, like a sudden silence after two decades of ringing in his ears. He’s not really sure what to do with it, and he’s waiting for that to bother him, but it doesn’t. He hasn’t realized he’s dreaming yet.

“Hey,” says a voice behind him. He’d thought he was the only person on the street, but when he turns around, he sees a guy about his age standing a few meters down the sidewalk with his hands shoved into the pockets of his sweatpants.

And this must be what his dad was trying to tell him all along, because he locks eyes with this stranger on the street, this shaggy-haired bastard with his broad shoulders and smiling eyes, and the peace feels so vast and deep that Katsuki wants to drown in it.

“Oh, shit,” the guy breathes. Already halfway to a grin, he takes a few steps forward and squints at Katsuki’s face. “It’s you. No way. This is crazy.”

“You recognize me?” Katsuki demands. The calm, safe feeling takes a backseat to a flare of annoyance. “Where--stop smiling like that, fucker! Where do you know me from?”

“Fuck, I’m--I’m sorry. I’ll stop.” He doesn’t. “It’s just, you’re gonna be so pissed when I tell you.”

“Tell me what?”

“Were you out jogging at, like, five in the morning or something?”

Katsuki narrows his eyes. “Yes?”

“First of all, that’s disgusting,” the guy says. Katsuki agrees, but not out loud. “But second, did you almost get hit by a black Corolla?”

“What--you think I remember what kind of car it was? How the fuck do you know that, anyway? Are you--”

Katsuki cuts himself off. When it clicks, it must show on his face, because the redheaded bastard flashes a sheepish smile. He’s got a mouthful of sawblades for teeth.

Slowly, Katsuki says, “If you tell me that you were the one who almost bodied me in a motherfucking Corolla, I’m gonna lose my shit.”

The guy stares for a moment, lips pursed like he’s holding back laughter. He’s bad enough at fighting it that Katsuki wishes he’d just quit trying, and definitely not because he kind of wants to know what that laugh would sound like. Definitely fucking not.

“In my defense, it was an Uber,” he says. “I wasn’t driving.”

“I know you weren’t driving. The driver was some spaced-out old chick,” Katsuki snaps. “What the hell were you doing in an Uber at five in the morning?”

“Train station. I was seeing some family in the city, but I had to get back in time for an appointment,” says the stranger--Katsuki’s soulmate, apparently, he reminds himself, what the fuck--and it’s about the most benign answer he could’ve come up with, considering. He runs a hand self-consciously through his hair, then glances down at his outfit. Grey sweatpants, a well-loved zip-up hoodie. “Which… it looks like we’re in the same clothes as when we saw each other, which is completely unfair. I look like a Goodwill dumpster.”

“You say that as if I wear my Sunday fucking best to run around at the asscrack of dawn,” Katsuki says, gesturing vaguely at his own body. He’d hardly had the presence of mind to turn on his bedroom light that morning, let alone pick out an appreciably well-matched set of workout clothes. Not that it matters.

“Dunno,” the guy says, glancing down at Katsuki’s legs. “I mean, my first impression was you look fantastic in those pants.” His eyes go wide, like he hadn’t meant to say it out loud. “Shit, sorry. Was that too forward?”

Katsuki considers that. They’re already soulmates; that much is established, at least, and he wonders if it’s as obvious on the other end as it is on his own. This guy hasn’t given any outward indication that he’s aware of it, but then again, Katsuki hasn’t, either.

“Maybe not if I knew your name,” he decides.

Katsuki’s soulmate straightens his posture and flashes a grin.

“Well,” he says, sticking out a hand. The left one. He must be left-handed, and Katsuki thinks absently that someone should’ve taught him to give handshakes with his right one regardless. It’s common knowledge. “It’s great to meet you, then. Kirishima Eijirou.”

“Bakugou Katsuki,” Katsuki says, reaching out to return the stupid lefty handshake; the moment they touch, though, he jerks his hand back in shock. “The fuck? Why’re your hands so cold?”

“What?” Kirishima looks down at his own hand, then up at Katsuki. “My hands aren’t cold. Your hands are cold.”

“The hell are you talking about? Give me that,” Katsuki says, reaching out and snatching Kirishima’s wrist. Kirishima doesn’t resist. He just watches, like he trusts Katsuki’s judgment more than his own.

Cold might’ve been the wrong word for it, but it’s close--it’s more like some missing element of vitality, the absence of whatever nuance makes touching a person feel different from touching any random object in a room.

Slowly, experimentally, Katsuki drags a finger over Kirishima’s palm. Back and forth, tracing the lines, skimming over the pulse point, skirting the wrist. Light, the ghosting kind of touch that should leave shivers or trails of goosebumps. Katsuki takes his time. Maybe more time than he should.

“Can you feel this?” he asks. When he looks up, Kirishima’s eyes are already fixed on him.

“Not like I normally would,” Kirishima says. “I mean--I can feel the pressure, but you don’t feel… alive. I don’t really know how else to describe it.”

“You don’t feel alive either.” Katsuki drops Kirishima’s hand. “That’s fucking freaky.”

Kirishima smiles weakly. “I’m guessing you don’t feel like that in real life.”

Katsuki presses his fingers to the side of his neck. His skin is warm, his pulse steady. “I think it’s just when we try to touch each other.”

Kirishima mimics him, feeling his own skin. “Yeah, guess it’s just how this whole soulmate thing works. Bummer. I think my mom mentioned it to me once, but I didn’t know it’d be this weird.”

Of course Kirishima’s the first one to drop the s-word. Katsuki hasn’t been avoiding it, necessarily, but he hasn’t been going out of his way to say it, either. It’s all so surreal.

“Anyway,” Kirishima continues, when Katsuki is silent for just a little too long. “This is so exciting. Tell me about yourself.”

“That’s what you’re asking me? I feel like I’m at a job interview,” Katsuki says. “Be more specific.”

“More specific? Man, I don’t know,” Kirishima says, scratching the back of his neck. “This is hard.”

“Is it?” Katsuki huffs. “You seem like the type who’d have spent a stupid amount of your life preparing for this.”

“I am! Damn, you could tell that already?” Kirishima crosses his arms and nearly pouts. “Are you really perceptive or am I just really transparent?”

“Probably both.”

Kirishima laughs. Katsuki’s surprised it’s taken him this long.

“Yeah, probably. Oh, here’s a question. How old are you?”

“Twenty,” Katsuki says. He doesn’t bother asking back. Kirishima’s bound to tell him anyway.

“Really? I'm nineteen! When’s your birthday?”

“April twentieth.”

“You’ve probably heard way too many weed jokes about that, so I’ll refrain, but not without effort,” Kirishima tells him. “Mine’s October sixteenth, by the way.”

“That’s soon,” Katsuki remarks.

Kirishima nods earnestly. “Yeah, I can't wait--oh, I thought of another one, too. Are you a cat person or a dog person?”

Without hesitation, Katsuki says, “Cat person.”

“Cool,” Kirishima says. Katsuki’s not really sure what’s so cool about that, but he doesn’t ask. “I’m a dog person. I like both, though. My mom has like, three cats. And a dog. And a snake.”

Instead of saying shut up, Jesus fuck, I didn’t ask, Katsuki feels an odd smile creep onto his face at Kirishima’s enthusiastic word-vomit. “Snakes are badass.”

“Right? My brother’s so freaked out by her, but I don’t get it at all. She’s an albino python, and she’s actually super cuddly if you--” Kirishima cuts himself off, frowning. “Sorry. I’m talking too much. You look kinda bored.”

“That’s just my face,” Katsuki tells him, and apparently that’s funny, because Kirishima laughs again. There’s a bench pushed up against the wall between a café and a consignment shop, and when Katsuki sits down, Kirishima follows suit and looks at him.

“Well, it’s a nice face,” he says. “Congratulations.”

Katsuki snorts. “‘Congratulations on your face’? You’re weird as hell.”

“Yeah, so I’ve heard,” Kirishima says, half-smiling. “Sorry again about almost killing you and stuff. Must not have been the greatest first impression.”

“Shut up, it’s not like you did anything,” Katsuki says. “Not your fault Uber hires incompetent drivers.”

“She wasn’t that bad! She was a good driver, you know, aside from the obvious. Her playlist was pretty solid, too. It’s not like she meant to go all GTA on you.”

“First of all, if you play GTA by almost killing people, you’re a little bitch,” Katsuki tells him. Kirishima laughs, but it’s true. “And second, I’m pissed at you for defending your homicidal Uber driver.”

“You’re smiling,” Kirishima says. “Just a little bit. I can see it. You’re not really that pissed about it.”

“No, I’m not smiling, and yes, I’m pissed,” Katsuki insists. It’s not true on either count, even if it should be, so he leans away and covers the bottom half of his face with one hand. “I’m serious. Stop looking at me. I am deeply, irredeemably mad at you.”

“You’ve either got a really cute sense of humor or a really bad case of denial, but I feel like it’s the first one,” Kirishima says, grinning. He lunges forward to grab Katsuki by the wrist and pull his hand down. “Ha. Knew it.”

“Get your clammy-ass hands off of me,” Katsuki says.

“Sorry,” Kirishima says quickly, withdrawing his hands and resting them in his lap. His fingers curl around the ends of his sleeves. “I’m still not really used to that yet.”

“It’s fine,” Katsuki tells him. He tries to soften his voice at the anxious grimace on Kirishima’s face, because it makes him feel vaguely guilty and he kind of hates it. “I’m just… not really used to it, either.” He shifts on the bench, slouching down with his arms folded over his chest. “And I'm not a touchy person in general.”

“Noted,” Kirishima says. He pauses briefly, then adds on, “Hey, can I ask you kind of a personal question?”

Katsuki shrugs. “Whatever you want. Doesn’t mean I’ll answer it.”

“I’ll take my chances,” Kirishima says. “How did you feel when you first saw me? Like, in this dream thing, I mean?”

Safe, Katsuki’s head supplies, so quickly that he shocks himself. Calm, grounded. Relieved, but from something that there aren’t quite words for. Like I’ve known you for years, but you’ve always been just out of reach.

“Weirdly comfortable,” he decides.

“Weirdly?” Kirishima repeats. “What’s weird about feeling comfortable?”

“That’s a stupid question,” Katsuki deflects. It’s not. “What, was it different for you or something?”

“Kinda. I mostly just felt excited,” Kirishima tells him. “Like, y’know that kid-on-Christmas-morning kind of excited? Like that, except instead of Christmas presents it’s just you standing there like, hey, I’m your soulmate, you stupid bitch,” he continues, dropping into a brief, artificial scowl to imitate Katsuki. Poorly. “I read this article once that said the feeling you get when you dream about your soulmate for the first time is supposed to be whatever you’ve been missing the most in your life. Do you think that’s true?”

Katsuki takes a moment with that one. Peace. And when he considers it, maybe it is true. He’s never had a peaceful life, in nature nor in nurture. He’s never wished for one, either, because it’s naive and stupid to wish for the impossible, but maybe it’s even more naive and stupid to decide so rashly what is or isn’t impossible.

He wonders if everyone's soulmates give them existential crises the first time they meet, or of Kirishima's just a real piece of work.

“Of course you read dumbass articles about soulmates,” Katsuki mutters. “And I definitely didn’t call you a stupid bitch.”

“Yeah, I took some creative liberties with that. You also didn’t answer my question, though.”

“I’m taking the creative liberty to ignore it.”

Kirishima doesn’t push, just smiles. “Okay.”

Katsuki narrows his eyes and searches Kirishima’s face for a moment. There’s a decisive lack of indication that he’s being underhanded or passive-aggressive, which is more surprising than it probably should be. Either the kinds of people Katsuki is accustomed to are particularly shitty, or Kirishima’s just a statistical outlier in a world of shitty people. Maybe a bit of both.

Either way. “Tell me your phone number.”

Kirishima blinks, apparently shocked. “What?”

“You heard me,” Katsuki says. “If you don’t want to, it’s fine. I just don’t know how this dream shit works, or when’s the next time it’ll happen or whatever, and I kind of don’t hate talking to you.”

“No, I definitely want to,” Kirishima reassures him. “Are you gonna remember it?”

“Probably not the first time,” Katsuki says. “Say it again in a few minutes. Maybe another time after that. I’ll get it if you repeat it.”

“You think so? That’s impressive,” Kirishima tells him. “You must be a lot better with numbers than I am.”

Katsuki stares at him for a second, eyes sharp. “If you’re gonna give me a compliment, don’t use it to backhandedly shit-talk yourself. Do you do that a lot?”

“I don’t know. Maybe?”

“Well, don’t,” Katsuki says. “It’s a useless thing to do.”

“I know it is. I’ll work on it. Anyway, though. About that phone number.”

Kirishima recites it slowly, watching Katsuki nod as he repeats back each set of numbers. It’s not a difficult one, but Katsuki’s never been so goddamn determined to remember anything in his life.

“Where are you from, anyway?” he asks. “I don’t recognize the area code.”

“Chiba!” Kirishima says. “What about you?”

Chiba. Katsuki had applied to two universities in Chiba. He’d been accepted to both. He’d seriously considered one.

Life’s funny, he thinks. Really fucking funny.

“Ah, I’m from Shizuoka, but I go to school in Tokyo.”

“That’s so cool! What school?”

“Waseda.”

“Seriously?” Kirishima says, grinning. “That’s super impressive! I mean, I guess I shouldn’t seem so surprised. What are you studying?”

“Short answer, I’m double majoring in chemistry and sports science,” Katsuki tells him. “Long answer, I want to go into physical therapy, but more on the medical end of it. Researching new treatments and rehabilitation methods and all that shit.”

“That’s awesome,” Kirishima says earnestly. “Man, I could’ve used that stuff in high school. I did track, baseball, and weightlifting, so at any given time I was probably messed up in one way or another. Kept me busy, though.”

“Track? What events did you do?” Katsuki asks. He despises small talk with a passion, so the only thing this could mean is that he actually, genuinely gives a shit about Kirishima’s answer. It’s an interesting development.

Kirishima smiles. “Javelin and the 800-meter.”

“Javelin? Isn’t that the one where you throw spears and shit?”

Kirishima nods.

“Badass,” Katsuki remarks. “Were you any good at it?”

“Ah, kind of. I could get a lot of distance ‘cause my upper-body strength was good,” Kirishima says. It’s a peculiar use of the past tense, because even under Kirishima’s loose hoodie, Katsuki can make out broad shoulders and sturdy arms. “My form wasn’t great, though. Didn’t always have the best aim. So I guess you could say I was alright when I actually managed to keep the thing in bounds.”

Katsuki smirks. “Never accidentally skewered someone?”

“Fortunately, no, but there were a few close calls,” Kirishima laughs. “Do you do any sports or anything? Like, in college?”

“I’m into MMA, if you count that,” Katsuki says, shrugging. “It’s good. Helps me stay in shape, get out tension, kick the shit out of some guys for fun. Well, not just guys, I guess. Couple of the chicks are fucking powerhouses.”

“Really? That’s sick,” Kirishima says. He cocks his head and playfully raises his fists with a sharp grin. “You’ll have to teach me some tricks sometime. I bet I could take you.”

“You bet? Don’t throw all your chips on that one,” Katsuki tells him. “I’d crush your ass into the next century.”

“And I’d love every second of it.”

Katsuki’s not sure if Kirishima is flirting with him, and judging by the vague smile on Kirishima’s face, he might not even be sure of it himself. But whatever it is, whatever it’s intended as, Katsuki isn’t opposed. He wants more.

“What do you do, anyway?” he asks, pointedly letting his eyes sweep Kirishima’s torso. “No way a meathead-looking bastard like you is just an ex-high-school athlete.”

“I’m taking that as a compliment, so thanks,” Kirishima declares. “Anyway, yeah. I go to the gym a lot, I guess, but I also work with my mom’s construction company, so that definitely keeps me busy. Can’t go around building houses with noodle arms, y’know?”

“I’d say so,” Katsuki agrees, mildly amused. Noodle arms. “So is that like, your job or whatever?”

“Yeah, kinda, during the day. Nights I bartend. I guess both are pretty fun in their own ways.”

“A construction worker and a bartender,” Katsuki muses, examining Kirishima’s face for a moment before deciding, “Explains a lot, I guess.”

That earns an (impossibly cute) puzzled smile. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Well, you’re friendly as hell and weirdly good at keeping up conversations, even though I’m definitely not tipping you for this,” Katsuki says. He risks another appraising look at Kirishima’s upper body, then locks eyes with him and grins. “But then you’ve got those strong-ass hands and you’re built like a brick shithouse.”

That manages to get a slight flush on Kirishima’s face, which Katsuki chalks up as a victory. But the ball returns to Kirishima’s court quickly enough, because he slaps on a confident smirk and says, “Well, I’ve definitely been told that I’m good with my hands, so I guess the assessment’s not too far off.”

Told by whom, exactly, Katsuki wants to ask, but he’d have to strip off a solid three layers of pride before he’d ever manage to get it out.

“I’ll take your word for it,” he says instead. For now, adds the sharp smile that he tacks on at the end.

“Good,” Kirishima says. He doesn’t draw back from the strange, charged physical closeness between them, but his posture relaxes as he gives Katsuki a blatant once-over of his own. “I mean, I guess I gotta have something to compete with Mr. ‘I double major at Waseda but I’ll still find time to kick your ass’, right?”

Katsuki rolls his eyes. “Well, I sure as fuck can’t build a house, and my drink-mixing prowess barely surpasses a bottom-shelf vodka cranberry in a Solo cup, so at least give yourself some credit where it’s due.”

Kirishima smiles. “You’re weirdly sweet when you want to be, you know that?”

“I’m not being sweet, dumbass, it’s just the truth,” Katsuki says. “Now tell me your phone number again. I swear it’s gonna stick this time.”

(It does.)

Shortly afterward, at eight-fifteen Real World Time, Bakugou’s alarm wakes him up for his nine A.M. class. He’d showered after his run, so he’s got a bit of time to spare before he needs to get out of bed. Normally, he’d hit the snooze button a few times, but when he picks up his phone, he shuts off the alarm and opens his browser.

Just before the end of the dream, when Katsuki and Kirishima could both describe the feeling that something was starting to slip, Kirishima had extended his hand as if to ask whether touching him really bothered Katsuki that much. Katsuki had answered by taking it, had even gone so far as to lace their fingers together, but even if it made Kirishima happy, there was something about his clammy palm and dead fingers that Katsuki still couldn’t quite reconcile.

In the search bar, he types, cant feel soulmates body heat in dreams.

The general consensus goes that it’s just an unfortunate condition of the existence of soulmates in the world, a motivator for people to go back out and find each other instead of growing complacent with meeting only in their dreams. It checks out just fine, but that doesn’t mean Katsuki likes it any better.

Either way, he’s never felt less happy to be right.

 


 

Katsuki saves Kirishima’s number, and after nitpicking his words for a frankly embarrassing amount of time, sends a simple Hey it’s bakugou.

The reply is quick and enthusiastic, just like Katsuki would’ve expected, and he thinks he spends more time texting in class over the following eight hours than he has in his entire life. The conversation rarely steers toward talk of love and soulmates and relationships, and when it does, it does so briefly and lightly, for which Katsuki is grateful. He’s still not quite sure how he feels about that side of the situation, and he’s not sure how Kirishima feels about it, either.

Things are fine where they are for now. They’ll figure the rest out eventually.

A few of Katsuki’s classmates start remarking that he seems different, somehow. Distracted. He tells them that they can quit talking shit until the day they start getting better grades than him, though, so they quit talking shit. He sees Kirishima in his dreams a few times a week, but they text often. Occasionally Kirishima even calls him, and the one time he drunkenly asks to Facetime after a night out with his idiot friends, the sight of his flushed cheeks and lazy smile through a grainy cell phone camera wallpapers the back of Katsuki’s head and monopolizes his mid-lecture zone-outs for days.

Katsuki wants to say it’s enough, but it isn’t.

He’s not sure if Kirishima feels the same way, and he hasn’t managed to work up the nerve to ask, but he looks for signs and thinks he finds them. He reads Kirishima better than he should, better than he reads people he’s known for years, and he finds his answers in the way Kirishima’s smile slips when his cold hand touches Katsuki’s in their dreams.

Still, something holds Katsuki back from voicing the fact that he’d really, really like to know what Kirishima’s skin feels like when it isn’t deadened by this shitty double-edged sword of a dream-world. He’d be lying if he said he didn’t know exactly what that something is, if he tried to deny the paralyzing fear that Kirishima might not share the same desperate curiosity. All signs point to yes, he does, he should, but signs aren’t enough to make Katsuki trust.

He doesn’t have to wonder for long, it turns out, because Kirishima is eventually the one to break the ice. It seems like he always is.

“We’ve been talking for awhile,” he says one night, sitting cross-legged in the middle of a dream-park as he stares down at the ground and plucks clover flowers from the grass. It’s an obvious observation, obvious enough that there must be something he’s waiting for Katsuki to extrapolate from it.

Fortunately, Katsuki isn’t stupid, but Kirishima needs to learn that if he has something to say, he should just fucking say it.

“I know we have,” Katsuki says.

Kirishima looks up at him, smiling wryly. He gets it. “I just mean, like… have you thought about trying to meet each other? Like, for real? I know it’s hard, with the distance and us having our own lives and stuff, but I think… I feel like we could definitely make it work, somehow.”

“Of course we could,” Katsuki says. “People do it all the time.”

“People with time and money, usually,” Kirishima says. “I don’t have much of either, and you’re in college, so I can kind of fill in the blanks on that one.”

Bakugou leans back on his arms, hands planted on the ground. The damp grass makes his palms itch. “Have I ever told you that I almost went to school in Chiba?”

“What?” Kirishima cocks his head, frowning. “No, you definitely haven’t. Which one?”

“Chiba Prefectural.”

“That’s a good school,” Kirishima says. “They have a solid physical therapy program, don’t they?”

Katsuki nods. “Waseda was just… more what I was looking for. But Chiba was a pretty close second, I think.”

And you’d be right there, he doesn’t say, but Kirishima must pick it up anyway, because he breathes out a laugh that’s just short of happy. “Guess that would’ve made things too easy for us, huh?”

“Maybe. Maybe not, though. Maybe we wouldn’t have even met.” Bakugou raises an eyebrow. “You ever been in an Uber that almost hit someone at five in the morning in Chiba?”

“Well, when you put it that way, no,” Kirishima says. “I haven’t.”

“Didn’t think so,” Bakugou says. “I think the whole point of this soulmates thing is the people who really give a shit about each other will figure it out eventually. I give a shit about you, and you give a shit about me, so we’ll figure it out.”

Kirishima’s silent for a moment, and when Bakugou looks, his eyes are glossy. “I’m sorry,” he says, wiping at the tears with the back of his hand. “I’m sorry. I’ll stop.”

Katsuki rolls his eyes. “I don’t know what’s worse, you crying, or you apologizing for crying.”

Kirishima lets out a watery laugh at that, and that’s when it hits him. Like a freight train, or a punch in the gut, or maybe a black Corolla in a crosswalk at five in the morning, but whatever it is, it hits Katsuki hard and fast and entirely without warning.

Katsuki likes making Kirishima laugh. He likes it so damn much that he wouldn’t mind doing it for the rest of his life.

 


 

Kirishima proves to be very, very good for Katsuki’s health. Namely, his abysmal sleep schedule.

He mentions it one night, during a dream that’s set on a beach. He’s sitting with Kirishima at the end of a long rock jetty, and there are a few people scattered along the distant shore, but they’re too far away to be more than a handful of dark smudges on the sand.

“I’m about to say some gay shit, and I know it’s gay shit, so don’t bother telling me,” Katsuki prefaces.

Kirishima grins. “Oh, I can’t wait.”

“I was gonna stay up all night to finish this stupid fucking lab report, but I decided to sleep for a few hours because I’d rather see you.”

Katsuki watches Kirishima’s smile brighten, which he’d expected, then falter slightly, which he definitely hadn’t. “A few hours?”

“Yeah. A few hours.”

“I’m saying this as much for you as I am for me, but you should be getting more sleep than that.”

Katsuki watches a wave break against the the rocks. “So I’ve heard.”

“I’m serious,” Kirishima presses.

“I could get more sleep. I just don’t.”

“You should try harder, then. For both of us.”

“I just told you, that’s exactly what the fuck I’m doing,” Katsuki says, lightly smacking Kirishima’s arm. “Shit’s just kicking my ass right now. Work isn’t gonna do itself.”

“Have you been eating well? Taking time for yourself and stuff?” Kirishima asks. “Everything will just feel harder if you burn out.”

“Fuck, I know that, shut up,” Katsuki groans. “Remind me why I wanted to see you so goddamn badly. All you do is nag me.”

“Someone’s gotta do it.” Kirishima shuffles closer until his arm bumps against Katsuki’s. “And you like me.”

Katsuki looks at him. Soft eyes, crooked smile, his entire soul on his sleeve. Of course Katsuki likes him. Anyone with a beating heart and half a brain would like him.

“You’re alright,” he mutters.

Kirishima laughs. “Maybe you’d like me better in real life.”

There are a number of snarky things Katsuki could say in response to that: you wish, or maybe I’d like you less, or you can buy your own damn train ticket, then.

Instead, he just sighs, leans his head against Kirishima’s shoulder, and tries not to think about how warm he’d feel if he felt warm at all.

“Yeah,” Katsuki says. “Maybe I would.” He pauses for a moment, then continues, “Hey, Kirishima?”

Kirishima shifts slightly so he can rest his head against Katsuki’s. “Eijirou,” he says. “Call me Eijirou.”

And it’s ridiculous, it’s absolutely goddamn ridiculous, because--

“Fuck you,” Katsuki says. “You stole my line. I was gonna tell you to call me Katsuki. What, you can read my mind now?”

“No,” Kirishima laughs. Eijirou. “I guess we’re just on the same page.”

“Whatever, Eijirou,” Katsuki says. “Maybe I just want you to call me by my own name instead of my shitty family’s.”

“Maybe I’m perfectly fine with that, Katsuki," Eijirou shoots back. “Maybe I just knew I’d like how mine sounds in your voice.”

“You’re the gayest bastard I’ve ever met,” Katsuki says.

I love you, he means.

 


  

Katsuki's going crazy.

He loves Eijirou, he knows he does, but dreaming about him is like loving him through a glass wall. And Eijirou must be feeling his own brand of frustrated sentimentality, because one night, during a dream that for some reason has placed them in the lobby of a deserted shopping mall, he says, “I really want to kiss you.”

He doesn’t sound happy about it. He sounds like he’s announcing he’s got three weeks to fucking live or something. The dimmed fluorescent lights above his head flicker.

Katsuki blinks at him. Raises an eyebrow. “Why haven’t you?”

It must be the wrong answer, because Eijirou's face drops, like he’d said I love you and Katsuki didn’t say it back. He turns away, as if there’s anywhere to go. “Forget it.”

“Hey,” Katsuki insists, catching Eijirou by the shoulder. “I’m serious. I’m right here. You think I don’t like you or something?”

“No,” Eijirou says. “It’s not that.”

“Well, what is it, then?”

Eijirou grabs Katsuki’s wrist and jerks his hand up to eye level. “Would it be like this if I touched you in real life?” he asks. “Do you have some weird condition I should know about that makes your skin feel like a dead person’s? Because I really don’t think that’s a thing, Katsuki.”

Katsuki’s fingers twitch, but he doesn’t pull his hand away. “Don’t be a smartass,” he says. “Kinda thought we’d been over this. We both feel like room-temperature cadavers, and if it grosses you out so fucking badly, just quit touching me.”

Eijirou winces slightly at that. “It doesn’t gross me out. I mean, maybe don’t say room-temperature cadavers again, but it’s just…” he trails off, slowly raising his free hand to Katsuki’s face. It hovers, uncertain. “Is this okay?”

The hand lurks in his peripheral vision. Katsuki tries not to look. “It’s fine.”

He doesn’t want to flinch at Eijirou's palm settling on his cheek, but as gentle as the touch is, Katsuki still can’t get over the eerie lifelessness of lukewarm skin. Eijirou's hand is rough, supple, and Katsuki tries to focus on that instead of the fact that every time they touch, a small part of him hopes it’ll feel warm.

Eijirou holds Katsuki’s face in that one hand as if it’s something fragile. Katsuki’s too curious to protest. He looks at Eijirou, and Eijirou looks back, but it’s not quite eye contact. There’s an agenda to the way he searches Katsuki's face, frowning in deep concentration like he has something to say but hasn’t found the words for it yet.

And then, there’s the sudden feeling of a thumb pressing at Katsuki’s lower lip. Chaste, innocent, but Katsuki can’t help wondering what would happen if he opened his mouth for it. Maybe Eijirou would go along with it. Maybe he wouldn’t.

“Even your lips are cold,” Eijirou says quietly. “I don’t want it to be like this. I want to kiss you, but I want to kiss the actual you.”

“That doesn’t mean you can’t do it here first,” Katsuki says. It feels obvious. Eijirou's thumb falls from his lips as he speaks, but the hand doesn’t leave his cheek.

“Yes, it does mean I can’t do it here first,” Eijirou insists. “It’s my first kiss with my soulmate. I've gotta do it right.”

Katsuki sighs and rolls his eyes, but a fond, traitorous smile makes its way onto his face. “Out of all the people I could’ve been stuck with, of course I’d get a goddamn hopeless romantic.”

“You love it,” Eijirou says, which Katsuki neither confirms nor denies. “I’m not saying it needs to be perfect. Just real.”

“Fuck you. It’s gonna be perfect.”

Katsuki expects Eijirou to have some dumb shit to say to that, but he doesn’t. He just smiles, all sharp teeth and bright eyes.

“Okay,” he says. “I’ll just have to trust you on that one.”

 


  

He’s flat fucking broke, and his schedule leaves him exactly zero hours of personal time per week, so it’s out of sheer curiosity when the first thing Katsuki does after he wakes up is grab his phone and search train tickets to chiba. That’s it.

Katsuki learns that train tickets are very expensive.

He considers asking his mother for money. He hasn’t told her about Eijirou yet, but he thinks maybe he should.

Look how wrong you were, he’d say. I do have a soulmate, and he doesn’t hate me, and he does put up with my bullshit, or maybe he just makes me want to be a less of a bullshit person altogether, if you can fucking believe it. The first time we saw each other, he was in a car that almost ran me over, and don’t you fucking tell me that he probably wishes it did, because he doesn’t. I know he doesn’t.

On second thought, maybe he shouldn’t get so carried away. He’s got a point to make. He’s not usually a rambler, like Eijirou’s a rambler, but maybe there’s some merit to all that romancey bullshit about picking up the traits of people you love.

Katsuki thinks he could live with that.

 


 

In the end, Katsuki doesn’t need to ask his mother for anything. He doesn’t need a train ticket to Chiba at all.

Exactly three nights after he spends a dismal hour crunching the hypothetical numbers of travel costs and missed classes, he’s sitting on a dingy linoleum floor with Eijirou’s head in his lap. Ironically, the dream has decided to place them on a train tonight. The compartment is dimly lit and empty except for the two of them, and the world outside the windows is so jet-black that Katsuki wouldn’t even know the train was moving if not for the steady rumbling under the floor.

Eijirou looks up at him. “Hey, Katsuki?”

Katsuki combs his fingers through Eijirou’s hair. It’s the only part of him that feels normal here in the absence of body heat, soft and slightly brittle from years of bleach and dye. “Yeah?”

“Can I come visit you? Like, in real life? Soon?”

“Train tickets are expensive as hell,” Katsuki says, belatedly realizing his admission that he’s looked into it already.

“I know they are,” Eijirou tells him. “But I’ve been working a lot, and I’ve been trying to save up--I’m the worst with money, honestly, but I’ve been trying--and I can do it. I want to.”

“Could you get the time off from work?”

“Yeah, I think so, as long as I gave some notice. I know my mom would understand,” Eijirou says. “Honestly, I’ve talked to her about it, and she even offered to help me pay for the ticket, but I’d rather pay for it myself either way. And my manager at the bar is pretty chill, too. I really don’t think it’d be a problem.”

“Alright, then,” Katsuki says. He keeps playing with Eijirou’s hair, smiling fondly at the way Eijirou leans into his touch like a cat. “Just let me know. I’ll clear my whole schedule.”

“You don’t have to do that.”

“I don’t have to do anything, which means I’m going to do exactly what I want. Don’t overthink it.”

Eijirou blinks up at him. “Sorry.”

With a playful tug at his hair, Katsuki says, “You apologize way too damn much, angel.”

It just slips out, as naturally as his own name, and Katsuki freezes. The look on his face must be funny, somehow, absolutely fucking priceless, because Eijirou breaks out in a warm, sunny laugh.

“I swear to God, Katsuki,” he says. “I’ve never believed in soulmates more than I do right now.”

 


 

He’d say he isn’t the crying type, but it’s better to cry than to lie about it, so from the bottom of his heart, Bakugou Katsuki is the goddamn crying type.

He tears up at the blurry snapchat of Eijirou posing next to the ticket receipt on his laptop, and at the excitement buzzing in his voice over the phone two weeks later, and at the string of desperately bored texts that he sends from the back of his train car. When Katsuki feels heat prickling behind his eyes as he waits on the platform, he knows the tears are just holding off until the moment he sees Eijirou’s face. Half of him wishes his brain would just get it over with already.

When it finally happens, it’s picturesque, almost comedically so; Eijirou steps out the door of the train car and blinks into the slant of the late afternoon sun, then shields his eyes with his hand and starts searching the crowd. Katsuki raises an arm to wave him down, and the look that washes over Eijirou’s face when they lock eyes is the final straw. Eijirou starts walking toward him, gives up to break into a full-on run, then collides with Katsuki’s chest, and Katsuki cries like the day he was born.

If it’s not Eijirou’s phosphorescent smile that does him in, or the clean, comforting scent of his hair, then it’s his warmth. Katsuki feels flooded by it, perfectly full and content, like it’s the missing piece to the odd, beautiful puzzle that is his relationship with Kirishima Eijirou. Katsuki holds him like he doesn’t plan on letting go, Eijirou holds him right back, strangers on the train platform stare as they part around the two of them, and nothing has ever felt more right.

“You’re so warm,” Eijirou tells him, and even with his face half-buried in Katsuki’s jacket, Katsuki can still hear the grin in his voice.

“I’d fucking hope so,” Katsuki says, and he doesn’t tack on a you are, too, but it’s implicit in the way his arms tighten around Eijirou’s shoulders, the way he shivers at the feeling of hot breath against his ear. Even through their combined layers of clothing he can feel the heat radiating off of Eijirou’s body, true and solid and alive in a way that’s more addicting than he ever thought a person could be.

If this is love, if this is fate, he thinks he understands.

Eijirou finally leans back, just far enough to playfully reach up and poke Katsuki’s cheek with a silent laugh in his eyes. “You’re even cuter in person. How’s that possible?”

“Die,” Katsuki says, grabbing a handful of Eijirou’s scarf to pull him closer. “Just kiss me already.”

Eijirou grimaces. “In that order?”

“God, you’re impossible,” Katsuki growls, and since apparently he has to do everything himself, he closes his eyes and leans forward to kiss Eijirou like he’s been dying to for months.

Eijirou clutches at Katsuki’s waist as he kisses back, slow and clumsy with the way he can’t help grinning into it. Katsuki remembers seeing him for the first time and feeling a happiness that was calm and mellow, like a soft blanket or a campfire at night. But this happiness is brighter, more vibrant, it’s sunshine on Katsuki’s skin and fireworks against his lips, it’s the wide-open floodgates of all the warmth his dreams have been holding back from him.

It’s real. It’s the realest thing he’s ever felt in his life.

Eventually, Eijirou is the one to break away. His eyes are glossy with tears, and Katsuki’s selfishly relieved that he isn’t the only one. “You were right, by the way.”

“Right about what?”

"Our first kiss." Eijirou runs a hand up Katsuki’s chest, over his shoulder, down his arm. When he laces their fingers together, his hand is warm. “You promised it’d be perfect.”