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Some Nights

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“Are you kidding me?” 

The groan that followed was pointed and full of exasperation, and it was the only answer Akira would receive for the question directed at empty air. 

Her car gave a small rock as she threw it into park. Nothing changed upon reexamining the email. Yup, it was all right there: Deadline pushed back to Friday at 11:59 PM.

With a sigh, Akira hopped out of her car and walked into her house. As she shut the door behind her, she quickly shucked her backpack onto the floor and tucked it into the corner of the foyer.

“Anyone home?” she called out into the house, but nobody replied. Hm, Momo and Ochaco must’ve stayed on campus, she thought to herself. When her stomach gave a little grumble, Akira went ahead and glanced at the time. Normally, she’d chat with her roommates a bit before finding lunch, but today it seemed that wasn’t an option.

12:25 PM. A little early, but he should be home.

The walk across the cul-de-sac was always brief, maybe 20 seconds to arrive at the door two houses down. Akira’s hand gave a quick rap on the door upon arrival, but to her dismay, no answer came. On the second attempt, she went for the doorbell. She figured that would draw his attention if he was upstairs, but silence was her only reward again. 

Akira wondered if she had misjudged her neighbor’s return. Wandering around the corner of the house, a bright orange sport bike in the driveway greeted her eyes.  Just as she suspected. She trotted back to the porch and let her knuckles find the door once again.

“I know you’re home Bakugo, you ain’t slick!” Akira shouted through the door.

Finally, a gravelly voice resonated from the other side. “Alright, alright, loser! You can come in!”

Akira laughed and pressed the door open, stepping through the den over to the blonde-haired guy, in the kitchen. His hair was damp and slicked down, making it apparent that he’d showered not long ago. The look made her chuckle, it was such a contrast to the way his hair normally stuck out in all directions.

“I knew I should’ve put that damn motorcycle back in the garage,” he grumbled, but a hint of amusement that was typically masked by his seemingly permanent scowl shone through.

“Yeah, yeah, don’t act like you don’t enjoy our sandwich time, Bakugo,” Akira plopped into a stool at the bar. 

Akira and Bakugo had a bit of silent agreement. Tuesdays, after Bakugo had recovered from morning football practice and Akira returned home from her first class of the day, was sandwich time. Born from Akira’s realization two years ago, during freshman year, that the sophomore football player in the apartment next door was a shockingly good cook, the ritual then manifested itself at the beginning of this semester when she reacquired the feisty blonde as her neighbor.

Akira huffed as she continued, “I’m so mad, guess what my Human Sexuality prof just emailed us.”

Bakugo gave a hum of mild curiosity, more focused on gathering various ingredients from the refrigerator than actually hearing what had the girl in his house so vexed. Akira paid no mind to this.

“That paper that was due tonight? She pushed the freaking deadline back to Friday! Ugh! I worked my ass off over Thanksgiving break for that thing, for what now?”

Bakugo only cocked a brow and began buttering bread. “I told you Midnight is fickle, dumbass. Couple of kids probably made some bullshit case for her to extend the deadline and she said some weird shit like ‘That turns me on’, and agreed to it.”

Akira snickered into her hand, thinking about the oddly sexual ways the self-assured woman phrased herself. She was glad she knew someone who had taken that class before. If no one could attest to the strange things Midnight said and did, Akira was sure none of their friends would believe the stories.

As soon as Bakugo had one sandwich made, Akira snagged one half and took a bite smugly, claiming that piece as her own. Bakugo, displeased with his neighbor’s impatience, quickly reached over and gave her a flick on the forehead. She cried out in protest and brought her hand up to rub the now-red spot, but Bakugo gave the food thief no sympathy. He didn’t even spare her a glance up as he finished assembling a second sandwich and took it for his own.

Akira spun around in her seat when Bakugo moved to the couch and propped his feet up. She spent the next 50 minutes munching on the sandwich and conversing as best she could with the blonde. Akira didn’t mind one bit that she usually did the majority of the talking during their sandwich time, and though Bakugo typically found chatterboxes like her insufferable, there were a few he’d grown to tolerate. Perhaps it was because she wasn’t always insisting that he give back to the conversation just as much as she put in.

Akira perked when she finally noticed how much time had passed. “I’m gonna head back to campus,” she told Bakugo and stood up.

“Kay,” he stopped before calling after her again. “Hey, tell Shitty Hair that I’m cooking tonight. I don’t want him stopping for food on y'all's way home and wasting mine!”

Akira chuckled, she’d heard Bakugo call his roommate that rude nickname since she met him. “Got it. See ya later!”

Bakugo just gave her one last grunt of dismissal as she closed the door behind her.

Akira ducked back into her house to grab her bag and lock the door before taking off for the nearby UA bus stop. As much as she didn’t like riding the bus, the walk from her assigned lot on the west side of campus to her physics class was way too far to justify driving her own car.

As she waited for the bus to arrive, Akira’s phone lit up with a notification. An Ecampus notification? She paused what she was doing to look into it. Oh, the physics exam from last week! Her fingers bounced about the screen to find out what kind of grade she got, heart pounding a bit. Physics was by far her toughest class this semester, so she always got a little nervous when a new grade went in.

51/80 points. 63%.

Akira’s heart sank. That was not the kind of grade she wanted to see. Physics was taking a toll on her, but she had to keep her GPA up if she wanted to get into the vet school here. With a sigh, Akira looked over the schedule for the remainder of the semester. Her nose scrunched in mild dissatisfaction to see that all there was left was the final exam. Anxiety jumped into her throat, replacing the sadness in her shoulders her bad grade created. That meant she’d have to study her ass off and kill the final if she even hoped to get the grade she wanted.

But for now, the arrival of her bus was a good enough excuse for Akira to distract herself from that looming giant.

 


 

“Hey, Kirishima,” Akira waved as she slid into the seat next to a broad, almost unnatural-looking redhead. He reciprocated the greeting happily. Akira settled into her seat and slid off her jacket before turning to him again. “Oh, Bakugo told me to remind you he’s cooking tonight, so you don’t eat before and spoil dinner.”

Kirishima rolled his eyes a bit. “So overdramatic. He knows I’ll eat his food anyway.”

Akira shrugged and laughed. Yeah, Kirishima could put away more food than Uraraka, Momo, and herself combined.

“By the way, how was that blonde asshole?” he continued. “Coach Toshi pushed him pretty hard in practice today.”

Akira blinked and thought back to earlier, but nothing had seemed out of the ordinary. “He seemed fine. I didn’t notice anything.”

“That’s good. I just like to keep an eye on him, I know he’d just try to fight through it if he was hurting at all,” Kirishima sighed.

Akira just nodded and admired how he looked out for his teammate. That certainly sounded like something Bakugo would do.

They still had 5 minutes until class started, so once Akira pulled out her notes in preparation, she found herself scrolling through Instagram. Every once in awhile she’d chip in on the conversations around her, but for the most part, she stayed tuned into the social media. Her feed was still littered with photos from Thanksgiving break. There was a mundane rhythm to her scrolling, uninterrupted for minutes on end until one post caught her completely off-guard.

“Oh, fuck me.”

Akira couldn’t believe what she was seeing: her cousin Emi, hand extended toward the camera, showing off a stunning diamond ring on her left hand. Akira’s mouth hung open as she swiped through the photos, each capturing a different angle of the ring, the girl, and her boyfriend--well, fiance now, apparently. 

“Hm? What’s the deal?” Kirishima asked from the seat over. His words were just enough to pull Akira from her dumbfounded state. 

“My uh,” Akira stammered a bit. “My cousin got engaged.”

“Oh, good for them then! Right?”

Akira only sighed in response before their professor, Aizawa, kicked off his 50 minute lecture on torque and angular momentum. Akira knew she needed to be paying close attention to everything he said after that last test, but she couldn’t focus at all. She was still consumed with the news of her cousin’s engagement. 

Instinctively, Akira screenshotted the post and shot a text to her roommate, Ochaco. If anyone would understand why this was such a catastrophe, it would be her best friend of two years. They’d been side by side since freshman year of college. 

Under nearly any other circumstances, Akira wouldn't have been this distraught. Sure, she probably would have been mildly annoyed, but that was more fueled by Emi’s perpetual high-and-mighty attitude. But getting engaged right after Thanksgiving, with only a few weeks until Christmas? The timing couldn’t be worse.

How on Earth was she going to survive Christmas this year? She could see it now: Emi shoving her ring in everyone’s faces, all of her aunts sticking their noses in her relationship business, her mother breathing down her neck. Akira was going to be the last in her generation of the family to not have some kind of significant other.

Her phone giving a brief buzz pulled her eyes to the device in her lap. 

 

ochaco

➥ well big congrats to her !!

➥ but also. oof

 

Akira pressed her lips together in displeasure and typed out a quick response. 

 

akira

➥ we’re never gonna hear the end of it at xmas

 

ochaco

➥ maybe it won’t be as bad as youre imagining?

 

Akira sighed in despair. If only she could be as positive as Ochaco. Even if she was being a bit dramatic, Akira couldn’t shake the mindset that her family was going to be overbearing this year, and that there must be something she could do.

Her mind immediately wanted to just find an excuse to stay at college over holiday again, but Akira knew skipping out on the family Christmas trip wasn’t an option. Sure, her mother had given her a pass this year for Thanksgiving, but missing Thanksgiving and missing Christmas were two entirely different things for her family.

She was distracted all class, spending the first half still a bit shell-shocked at the news, then for the remainder of the lecture, locked in an internal back and forth, weighing her limited options. Akira was still absorbed in thought when class was dismissed; she was occupied by an idea that had suddenly popped in her head, too busy scoffing at the crazy thought to realize the lecture hall was emptying. Stupid, that only works in the movies.

 For the second time that day, Kirishima tugged her out of her headspace.

“You coming?” he said, giving her a little nudge on the shoulder. Her eyes darted up to his form standing over her, obviously ready to leave.

A thought clicked in her brain. He could pull it off. Kirishima: amicable, outgoing, level-headed. If anyone, him.

“Oh, yeah, sorry,” Akira mumbled before quickly shoving her notebook and pen into her backpack. She slipped her fuzzy sweater on and rose to follow him.

Normally, the two chatterboxes would hardly let a quiet moment pass around them, but now they navigated through campus in relative silence. Akira couldn’t speak for the redhead, but she was busy wondering if she should actually try this moronic idea. It would probably never work, but the thought if it did was so tempting. But, how would she even propose it to him without freaking him out? Or herself.

“Soooo," Akira finally broke the silence, trying to bring the topic up nonchalantly. "What have you got going on over Christmas?”

“We just got back from Thanksgiving and you're already thinking about Christmas?" Kirishima laughed teasingly before continuing. "Actually, I’ll probably still be here,” he paused, but knew it would be strange to leave it at that. “Um, family issues,” he finished a bit uncomfortably.

“Oh,” Akira softened sympathetically, briefly forgetting the whole reason she had brought the question up. She wanted to ask what it was and if he was okay, but hesitated too long.

“Why? You up to something?” Kirishima chirped up again in an attempt to brush off the awkwardness.

“Oh! Uh,” Akira yelped. Oh yeah, there was a reason she’d brought up Christmas in the first place. She fumbled over her words a bit, trying to figure out on earth she could phrase this without sounding like an absolute maniac. There was probably no escaping that, though. “Would you, uh. Maybe, well. Um.”

Kirishima turned to look at her as they walked, cocking an eyebrow in confusion. He wondered what could have her so jumbled, usually she seemed so chill and confident.

At her friend’s strange look, Akira took a deep breath. Come on, just out with it.

“Would you maybe be willing to come spend Christmas with my family and pose as my boyfriend?”

Chapter Text

Kirishima stopped and blinked slowly, very obviously confused as he tried to process what the girl next to him had just said. Surely he must have heard her wrong.

“Sorry, do what?”

Akira internally cringed, she was sure she was going to sound even crazier the second time she said it. But she had committed to it by now, there was no backpedaling at this point. Hesitantly, and with a big sigh, she repeated herself. 

“I said, would you come pose as my boyfriend to my family over Christmas?”

Yup, he heard her correctly the first time. Kirishima continued to stare at her wide-eyed, only letting out a small, hesitant, “Umm,” in response.

“I’m sorry, that was a crazy thing to ask! Forget I ever brought it up!” Akira spouted out before beginning to hurry ahead through the parking lot.

Kirishima finally broke from his shocked state and quickly moved to catch up to Akira. He brought his pace to match hers and looked down at the girl. “Woah, where is this coming from? Why would you want me to pretend to be your boyfriend?”

Akira glanced up at him, and she wasn’t sure if she was relieved or troubled to see he wasn’t poking fun at her. He was curious, and she couldn’t just leave him hanging. With another sigh, she tried to explain.

“You know how I said my cousin got engaged earlier?”

Kirishima nodded.

“Well, it’s been kind of feeling like my family’s been up my ass about bringing home a boy these past few years.”

“But, you’re still young,” Kirishima scoffed. “You don’t gotta know who you’re marrying or something by 20, that’s crazy!”

“That’s what I think!” Akira brightened up a bit, pleased that the red-head agreed with her on the matter. “But every time I see them, my aunts pester me about getting to meet a boyfriend. Even my mom has started to join in.”

There was a moment of silence that urged Akira to continue.

“It’s just, now that my cousin Emi’s got a ring, I feel like it’s gonna be all eyes on me. I’m the last in our middle generation to be, like, really single.” Akira’s voice grew softer and more unsure as she went. 

Kirishima pressed his lips together, noticing the unusual meekness that accompanied his friend’s words; he hadn’t known her as long as maybe Bakugo, or her roommates, but it didn’t take a genius to see this must bother her. Poor girl.

Finally, the two reached Kirishima’s truck, tossing their backpacks in the bed and hopping in (although, Akira more so climbed). Kirishima quickly cranked it, letting it rattle to life and begin to heat the cabin up.

“Want the aux?” Kirishima offered the cord, hoping maybe it would help fix the awkwardness. Somehow.

The girl cocked her head before accepting it with a small smile, quickly absorbing herself in finding a good song. The action made Kirishima feel better, so he began to back out of the parking lot and head back to the cul-de-sac they both lived on.

During the drive, Kirishima pondered Akira’s situation. Was her family really as bothersome as she made them out to be? If that really was the case, he could imagine that reunions could get pretty overwhelming and irksome. It seemed odd though, surely her family understood that long-term relationships weren’t something you just stumbled upon everyday. And it’s not like Akira would invite home any of her short-terms, that’d be weird. 

Well, honestly, I can’t even think of any flings she’s had, Kirishima thought to himself. He risked a glance over, seeing Akira still idly absorbed in her phone and finally relaxed now that the heater had really kicked in, not giving any more input on the awkward topic. 

They drove on, the most prominent sound being the songs Akira queued up, and underneath the music was the thrum and hum of the truck engine. Kirishima didn’t show it outwardly, but he was rolling over her words in his head.

“Sure, why not,” the redhead said abruptly, not even pulling his eyes from the road.

Akira blinked and looked over at Kirishima in confusion. She'd lost the subject in her head, mostly for hope that he had too. “Huh?”

“I said I’ll go with you,” he reiterated, the statement coming off so matter-of-fact one would think he’d only been asked for a simple favor. But to him it practically was. He wanted to help his friend, it was just in his nature.

Akira stared at him with her mouth hung open in surprise. It took her a moment to process, but when she finally did, she was spouting out retractions. “No, you don’t gotta do that! It was just a stupid idea that I spitballed out loud, you know? Please, don’t take it seriously!”

“Why not?” Kirishima cut her rambling off. “I mean, I’m not going back home, so I should be free.”

Akira’s furrowed her brows, confused why Kirishima was so willing to agree to such a crazy act. Most people wouldn't even consider the notion, why was he? She was failing to realize it was for some of the same reasons she'd even brought herself to ask him. He was kind, understanding, magnanimous; the kind of guy who could be a knight in shining armor.

“What day were you planning on going home? Christmas Eve?” Kirishima asked.

“Um,” Akira shook her head and opened up the calendar app on her phone. She peered at the dates and replied, “The 22nd.”

Kirishima’s eyebrows popped up, but he didn’t say a word.

“I know, it’s long, it’s a 5 day trip. Kirishima, I mean it, you don’t have to help me,” the girl went on trying to refuse his offer.

“So, we’d come back, what, the 27th?”

“26th.”

“Bakugo and I don’t leave for Vail until the 29th,” Kirishima shrugged. “It’s not a problem. Besides, I want to help.”

The smile he flashed her was momentary, just a reassuring glance before he drew his attention away to pull his truck into the driveway, but it did wonders to make Akira feel better. She grinned to herself, twisting to let her spine fall to the seat and sit straight again. As the redhead threw the gear-shift into park and the vehicle rocked, Akira turned to him once again.

“Y'all are going skiing over New Years?”

Kirishima laughed and hopped out of the truck, of course that was the part that piqued her curiosity . “Yeah, with Kami and Sero.”

“Where was my invite?” Akira yipped incredulously and followed suit.

“Boys trip, dummy!” 

“Lame,” the girl chuckled, already slipping back to her normal, giggly self. “Hope Bakugo doesn’t try to kill those frat stars.”

“Oh, I’ll probably be on Baku-Watch by day two.”

They laughed again and Akira peeled away toward her own house, waving goodbye. Her grin had barely fallen by the time she reached her door and unlocked it, tossing her bag in the foyer and waltzing in. She was happily greeted by the sight of Ochaco and Momo.

“How was class today, ladies?”

Momo looked up from the kitchen table, “I aced my last finance test.”

Akira wolf-whistled and plopped on the couch next to Ochaco. “‘Atta girl!”

“You know my yoga instructor, the really pregnant one?” Ochaco piped up from right to Akira. Both her roommates hummed in affirmation.

“She had to cancel our Kines class bc she was having Braxton Hicks contractions.”

“That’s false labor, right?” Akira asked before finding her eyes deviating to her lap. She would have heard Ochaco’s confirmation if a text from Kirishima hadn’t distracted her.

 

kirishima

➥ Talk about the deets later this week or something?

 

Akira’s thumb hovered over the keyboard. Even after Kirishima had made it clear he was willing to go along with this absurd plan, the whole concept felt weird.

“There a party this weekend or something?” Ochaco peered over Akira’s shoulder.

“Oh, uh, no,” Akira tucked her phone away.

Ochaco perked up, twisting in her spot to face her roommate. “What, then?”

Akira groaned and slinked into the couch cushions. She knew her roommates were going to tell her she was out of her mind, and they wouldn’t be wrong. “I may have done somethin’ a little crazy.”

At this point, Momo’s intrigue had been gained, and the tall girl padded over and slid onto the couch on the opposite side of Akira. “Well?” she prodded when her roommate didn't elaborate.

“K’shma c’minome me for Chrsms,” Akira sighed and muttered incoherently, sinking down even further to try and bury her chin in her own chest.

“Speak up, Kira!” Momo urged with an air of professionalism.

“I asked Kirishima to come home with me and pretend to be my boyfriend over Christmas!” she spouted out, quickly, as if maybe they wouldn’t process it if she said it super fast.

A hush fell over them. Momo and Ochaco’s eyes slowly panned and found each other, their shared disbelief written all over each other’s faces.

“Pardon?”

“You what?”

“You heard me,” Akira squeaked. She couldn’t help that the corners of her lips wanted to curl up, their reactions were kind of amusing.

“Why on Earth would you ask him that?” Momo asked incredulously.

“Is this about,” Ochaco began connecting the dots. Yes, it was starting to make sense to her, about as much sense as it could. “Your cousin, Emi?”

Akira nodded guiltily, glancing between the two girls. Momo was very clearly lost, eyebrows furrowed as she tried to decipher what was going on. I should've sent that screenshot in the group chat, she thought to herself. With a sigh, Akira launched into an explanation of her earlier discovery, the frustration, the moronic idea it brought her to, and the incredible fact that Kirishima had agreed.

Momo and Ochaco both cocked an eyebrow and gave each other a look that Akira missed as she excused herself upstairs to go shower. 

“I don’t see this ending well for her,” Momo sighed and ran her hand through her ebony ponytail. She was speaking her logistical mind, and though she had a tendency to second-guess herself, Momo was confident about this.

“Maybe it’ll all work out!” Ochaco chirped, trying to throw in her usual positivity, but a trace of doubt wove its way into her words. Yes, she was an optimist, always tried to look on the bright side, but Ochaco wasn’t a fool. 

Neither was Akira’s family, and that is where their doubt lied.

Chapter Text

Kirishima could hardly recall the last time he’d talked to Bakugo on the phone. Bakugo just wasn’t one to call people; you were lucky if you even got civilized texts from him. So when the fiery blonde’s name popped up on Kirishima’s home screen at 8:04 AM, he couldn’t think to do anything but pick up and answer with a confused, “Hello?” Perhaps that’s why Bakugo chose to call in the first place.

“Oi, Shitty Hair, don’t forget to lock the door this time,” Bakugo’s voice barked from the other end of the line.

Oh, he was calling to make sure he didn’t leave the house unlocked like he did over Thanksgiving. That made sense, kind of.

“Wait, you woke up at 8AM just to call me and tell me that?” Kirishima asked, a bit of grogginess still evident in his voice. Couldn’t he have just sent a text?

“No, dumbass, it’s 9 here and I’ve got shit to do today,” Bakugo snapped before continuing more calmly. “Have you guys left already or not? Lock the back door too!”

Kirishima patted himself for his keys, finding them and treading back up the steps to make sure all the doors were locked. “No, I’m still here, just waiting for Akira.”

There was a moment of silence before Bakugo grumbled. “I know I’ve already told you, but I think this is idiotic.”

“I know you do. Look, it’s not that deep, dude,” Kirishima sighed, an uncharacteristic hint of annoyance laced into it. “We’ve got a plan. We’ve already put up pics together on social media, she brought up me coming to Christmas with her mom like two weeks ago, and we’re gonna ‘break up’ in like a month,” he held up air quotes as if his friend on the other end of the line could see them.

“I want to help her, man, she’s our friend. Besides,” Kirishima continued trying to get the blonde on his side. “Her family is gonna be feeding me all week, and I can get everyone else off my back about Tokage.”

Bakugo pressed his lips together and grunted, “Whatever.” So, he’s trying to justify this with the Tokage thing?

Bakugo would never admit it, but he worried about his redheaded friend. While Kaminari and Sero and just about anyone else who knew the nitty gritty details of his on-again, off-again relationship with Tokage harangued Kirishima about it, Bakugo tended to stay quiet. He figured the guy heard it enough already. That was probably why Kirishima wasn’t always pushing to convince Bakugo that he wasn’t hung up on Tokage. Deep down, Bakugo wanted to beat some sense into him; he wanted to yell until Kirishima finally got it through his thick skull that the girl was using him, that she would always go running back to that Shiozaki chick, that damn it, he was better than second choice.

There was an awkward moment of silence before Kirishima spoke up again. 

“Alright, well, Akira is walking out. I’m gonna go,” he said as he shoved his keys back in his pocket. From the other end of the line, Bakugo grunted a farewell and hung up.

With a shake of his head, Kirishima padded back to where he left his bag and picked it up, trekking across the cul-de-sac to Akira’s house. He greeted her with a smile.

“Sorry if I made you wait,” she gave a quick apology.

“Nah,” Kirishima halfway reassured her, more focused on throwing his duffel bag in the back of Akira’s small SUV. “So, how long’s the drive again?”

Akira grunted as she heaved her suitcase into the back. It was quite a bit larger than Kirishima’s bag. Once satisfied, she stood back and replied, “Like, six hours.” 

Kirishima went ahead and closed the hatch of the car. “Why don’t I drive the first half?” he offered.

The girl blinked and gave the tiniest cock of her head. “Really?”

“Yeah, c’mon,” he grinned and strode over to the driver’s side without another word. As the larger man crawled in and adjusted the seat to his liking, Akira made sure she didn’t forget anything and locked the house. With her breath still puffing out clouds in the chilly morning air, Akira was glad the heat was already running when she took her newly assigned spot in the passenger seat.

The first half of the drive was relatively quiet. During the first 30 minutes, Akira voice spoke up only to direct Kirishima to the main highway they’d be using for the first leg; beyond that, the two made a bit of idle chit chat, but music filled the silence for the most part. The longer they went, the more they spoke, but it wasn’t until ⅔ of the way through the trip, after Akira had assumed the driver’s wheel, that conversation really picked up.

“So, does your family do Christmas at your grandparents’ place every year?” Kirishima pondered aloud, head leaned against the window to view the scenery. Not that the land was particularly interesting, just growing suburbs as they approached the last big city on the way to their destination. Somewhere way far in the distance, the hazy silhouette of a mountain range could be distinguished. 

“No,” Akira explained, “we only do this every other year. Just easier on everyone, you know?”

Kirishima nodded, that made sense. He didn’t know where all of her family members were from, but if most lived in different parts of the country, he could imagine it’d be hard for them all to come home for Christmas every single year. Plus, a lot of pressure on her grandparents to host.

“Is your family close?” he let his thoughts flow aloud again.

The girl driving hummed a bit in thought. “My mom and her brothers are definitely close. They visit a lot, never moved too far from where they grew up. I don’t think any of them are more than an hour or two from my hometown.”

“Oh, well, what about you and your cousins and stuff?”

“I’m not super close with the older cousins, there’s kind of an age gap. Most of them have got kids by now,” Akira told him. “Ray, Emi, and I are the younger group. Don’t tell him this, but Ray is my favorite cousin,” she chuckled a bit through a smile. “I never really made a connection with Emi, probably because she’s always been trailing after the older kids.”

With that notion, she gave a small shrug of her shoulders.

“Emi is one that just got engaged, right?” Kirishima asked. When Akira nodded and grinned, clearly pleasantly surprised to see he remembered, his chest swelled a little with pride. 

She was still grinning when she said, “I hope Conny will be there.”

“Who’s that?”

“She’s Ray’s girlfriend. They’ve been dating since their freshman year of high school, it’s kind of the cutest thing ever.”

With the way Akira’s eyes hazed dreamily, Kirishima just had to ask how long that was.

“They’re both freshman at Shiketsu College, so fours years now.”

“Wait, I thought you said you were the youngest in your family?” Kirishima cut in quickly.

“I never said that!” Akira laughed, “You’re imagining things.”

Kirishima tried to argue otherwise, but they soon came to the conclusion that he had just made an assumption. 

For the next hour and a half, Akira’s car was filled with banter, questions, and at one point, strange Christmas songs that neither could resist laughing at. An hour and a half, until Akira was turning down less of a road, and more of a long driveway.

Through a smattering of cypress and maple trees, a two-story home sat at the top of a winding driveway about 75 yards up the way. As they approached, pea gravel crunching under the weight of the car, the driveway split. Curling around the right of the house, the path dipped into what Kirishima could only assume was a garage or basement. Instead, Akira steered them left, where the path rose a bit and she pulled up beside a small slough of other cars parked side by side. 

Unbuckling, Kirishima sat up in his seat and stretched his legs, stiff from the long car ride. His eyes quickly cast over to Akira and he waited to follow whatever her instructions might be.

Akira let out a huff before turning to face Kirishima. “You ready to be my boyfriend?” She cracked a small smile.

Kirishima mirrored her and gave a small grin as well. “We’re here, so I’d better be.”

Akira watched him for a moment longer. He didn’t waver, still cool and easygoing as ever, which encouraged her to nod and finally exit the car. Kirishima followed suit and trailed after her.

It wasn’t until now that Akira started feeling nervous. She had been so sure in her planning for their ‘relationship’; from putting it up on social media, to creating a timeline for it, to ensuring she had a valid reason for not mentioning him before, they had gone over every angle they could think of. Yet still, as she stepped up to the front door, her heart was beginning to thump a little harder and her lungs were catching in the center of her chest. The worry that someone was going to see right through this act gave her reason to pause with her hand raised to knock.

“Uh, wait!”

The words caught Akira off-guard, and she whipped her head around to look at their source.

“I look presentable, right?” Kirishima asked with a blank face, patting imaginary dirt off of his jeans then running a hand through his dark red hair to fluff it. “I want to make a good first impression.”

Akira just blinked at him for a long moment before a grin graced her face once again and she gave him a playful swat on the arm. “Didn’t know you were a method actor,” she chuckles, all but forgetting about her nerves.

Seeing her tenseness slip away gave Kirishima a sense of satisfaction. He snatched his arm away and laughed, “I’m serious!”

Akira rolled her eyes, “You look great,” and though it was meant no more than to appease him, Kirishima couldn’t help but appreciate it.

Knock, knock, knock.

They waited, and Akira was about to just go ahead and walk in when it cranked open finally. Eyes travelled downward until they found whoever answered the door: a barefoot little girl, maybe four years old, whose face lit up upon spotting the newcomers.

“Akira!” the young girl nearly screeched before launching herself at Akira.

The brunette she was addressing caught her under the armpits and hoisted her onto her hip. “Look at you! You’ve gotten so big since I last saw you, Naomi!”

Naomi unraveled her arms from their vice grip of a hug around Akira’s neck. She just giggled before her gaze found Kirishima and stared up at him doe-eyed. 

“Who’s that?”

“That’s Kirishima,” she turned so they could both face him. 

The redhead in question offered a soft smile and a wave.

The little girl leaned in and whispered, “Is he your boyfriend?” in Akira’s ear, still watching Kirishima curiously.

It took Akira a lot of willpower not to laugh, instead only responding with a, “Mhm.”

Naomi gasped dramatically and turned to stare at the girl holding her with a sparkle in her eyes.

“Alright, kiddo, why don’t you go find your brother or something? Let’s let these two settle in.”

The voice that cut in from the doorway was aged yet comforting, homey almost. Akira recognized it immediately and set Naomi down. The little girl tried to complain, but was only met with an ‘Off you go,’ from the elderly woman that originally spoke. With a huff, she scampered off out of sight.

Standing up once again, Akira said, “Hi Nana, hi Mom,” and immediately drew both in for a hug. 

Kirishima blinked at the sight of the two older women. They all bore a striking resemblance to each other: all 5’6”, with the same shade of brunette hair and emerald green eyes. The only major difference was that Akira was darker complected than the other two, but even then, not by much. He thought the tan skin really suited her, though.

“And this must be the boyfriend,” the middle aged one spoke up and turned her attention towards him.

“Ah, yes ma’am!” Kirishima piped up quickly. His ears burned a bit at the fact that he had been so intrigued by their similarities that he hadn’t been quick to introduce himself. No duh they look alike, asshole! They’re family, he thought to himself.

“I’m Eijiro, but everyone just calls me Kirishima,” he shook their hands one by one. “It’s nice to finally meet you.”

Akira watched the interaction thoughtfully. It was kind of heartwarming the way Kirishima introduced himself to her mother and grandma. There was an extra air of respect around him, different than that she was used to ever seeing him give off when meeting people back at UA.

Her grandmother ushered them all inside, insisting that they’re letting all the warm air out. 

Kirishima tried not to gawk as he walked in. Dark walnut hardwood floors contrasted against light, warm grey walls. Immediately to his right was an open archway into a dining room; just past that, a curved staircase hugged the right side of the foyer and opened to a narrow landing at the top. A lengthy, wood entryway table was pressed against the left side of the foyer. A door was not far past the table, and beyond the foyer opened up into what he could only assume must be the living area. On top of all this, garland was skillfully strung up the railing of the stairs and landing.

“Are we the last ones here?” Akira asked the other women.

“No,” her mother told them, “Mirai and Emi and them haven’t gotten here yet.”

“Are Missy and Niko coming? Or did they decide not to since the baby and all?”

“No, they didn’t want to make the baby travel that far so young.”

Akira simply hummed in response. She was secretly glad, infants stressed her out and on top of that, her cousin’s husband Niko never failed to grate her nerves by day three of being around him.

Her grandmother scurried off as best she could, saying she needed to let the dog back inside. Her mother then dismissed her, urging her to go see the rest of the family before they settled them in.

The archway at the end of the foyer opened up to a large open layout, with the living area to the left and the kitchen to the right. Kirishima was practically glued to Akira’s side as she wandered around, greeting a few family members and introducing him. He couldn’t help the mild awkwardness he felt deep down, and for what might be the first time in his life, he detested his 6’3” frame and red-dyed hair. It screamed for attention towering behind Akira’s smaller form. The feeling was odd to him, he couldn’t remember a time when he’d felt so self-conscious about having people’s eyes on him.

He briefly met Akira’s cousin, Lucien, and his pregnant wife, Hana, as they headed out to where they were staying at Lucien’s father’s house (Akira’s Uncle Dan, who lived only 20 minutes away). Hana joked with Kirishima that it was nice to have another redhead in the house, and he laughed along, keeping to himself the fact that his hair wasn’t exactly natural. Naomi and a little boy named Elijah tagged along after them, though apparently they were Lucien's brother's kids.

They were still waving goodbye when a new voice greeted them.

“How ‘bout a hug from my favorite granddaughter?” said a man even larger than Kirishima, with thick, silver hair and a mustache he would later tell Akira he was highly jealous of. Akira was dwarfed by the man as she laughed and squeezed him in a hug.

“And you’re the fellow I heard she was bringing?” the man turned his attention to Kirishima now.

“Yes sir!” he shook his hand, and he might have been awed at how his hand was nearly swallowed had he not been distracted by the stern, protective look the man gave him. “Call me Kirishima, Mister--” Kirishima trailed off a little nervously, unsure what to call him.

Akira’s grandfather paused a moment, and Kirishima almost worried he had said something wrong, before his mustache curled up into a warm smile.

“Well then, you can call me ‘Pops’! It’s what everyone else calls me around here.”

Kirishima nodded as the large man trodded away. He had just found his place nearly pressed against Akira’s side again when the girl scampered away once more. 

A lanky blonde man who she referred to as ‘Uncle Jean’ seemed caught off guard, if not a bit uncomfortable, when Akira bounced up and embraced him. When she finally let go, she chuckled and told him, “I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen you without one of your denim jackets.”

“Yes, well, little Molly spilled her milk on it earlier. I had to wash it immediately,” the man replied. He made a point to straighten his shirt and brush invisible dirt off of his jeans.

“Uncle Jean has a crazy denim collection. Ironic, huh?” Akira leaned over and muttered to Kirishima teasingly. Kirishima wanted to laugh because, that was a pretty funny coincidence, but he shoved it down as best he could and introduced himself instead. As they spoke, he learned that Uncle Jean was Ray and Maya’s father (he only recognized the former name, though). 

“Forgive me, but it’s about time I take my jacket out of the wash,” Uncle Jean dismissed himself quickly and disappeared around a corner.

With no more strange faces in their vicinity, Kirishima finally got a moment to breathe and take in the people he had just met. There were a lot of names to remember, and he wasn’t even sure he’d met half of the family yet. Their reprieve ended up being quite short, though.

“Akira?”

Chapter Text

“Akira?”

The sudden sound of her name from the backdoor where the kitchen led out into the yard caught Akira’s attention quickly. She whipped around and immediately her face lit up.

“Ray!” She yipped excitedly, scampering off to greet a dark-haired boy, her cousin. Kirishima padded after her slowly and watched as they wrapped each other into a massive hug, the boy shaking them side to side dramatically. 

“It’s been too long!”

“Well, maybe if you had come to Thanksgiving,” Ray teased her with a smirk, causing Akira to scratch her neck guiltily.

Now, a small blonde girl who Kirishima assumed was Conny spoke up from behind Ray, albeit almost timidly, “What about me?”

Akira laughed and moved past the boy she had been hugging, giving the freckled girl her own hug. “I need to come visit you guys at Shiketsu sometime.”

She broke away from the hug when Ray spoke up again.

“And who’s this you’ve brought along?”

Kirishima started a bit, remembering he was there too. “Oh! The name’s Kirishima, I’m Akira’s boyfriend,” he introduced himself, smiling brightly and shaking both their hands. He took extra care to give Ray a good handshake, he wasn’t sure why but he wanted to make sure he had a good first impression of him. Perhaps he was falling into his role more naturally than he expected.

Ray introduced himself with just as much vigor.

“Say, don’t you play football for UA?” he placed his hands on his hips and quirked an eyebrow.

Kirishima was used to being recognized as an athlete back at UA, but it took him off guard momentarily in a setting like this. “Uh, yeah I do! I’m a tight end.”

Conny leaned into Akira’s ear and whispered into her ear so only they could hear, “Why haven’t I heard about this hunk?”

Akira blushed a bit, she knew she was going to feel the worst about lying to these two. “I know, I’m sorry. You know I’ve just been real busy this semester,” she whispered back. Thankfully, that wasn’t a lie; this semester, Akira hadn’t been able to keep up with Conny or Ray as much as she normally did, not only because of her own course load, but also due to them adjusting to their first semester in college.

Akira and Conny then chatted about school, mostly how Conny was adjusting to college life and how Akira needed to come visit them at Shiketsu soon. When they looked back to the boys, her heart warmed to see Ray and Kirishima getting along swimmingly. Ray was asking him all kinds of questions about the football team and their famous head coach, Yagi Toshinori. 

“So where are you guys staying?” Ray turned and directed his question at Akira.

The brunette paused, they hadn’t gotten around to that, had they? 

“Oh, we’re not sure yet,” Akira blinked and glanced between Conny and Ray.

“Well, we’re in the small guesthouse,” Conny informed them, but the look she and Ray shared gave Akira the hint that the two were up to something.

The younger couple nudged them into a tight circle and the other two leaned in curiously before Ray lowered his voice a bit. 

“You two should room with us,” he muttered to them deviously, “otherwise, I’m pretty sure we’ll have to share it with Emi.”

Akira was taken aback momentarily, cocking her head in surprise. “Woah, you don’t have to have parental supervision anymore now that you’re bigshot college kids, eh?” she teased the teens.

Ray snickered and gave her a playful elbow jab. “Just, just, go find out where you’re sleeping, loser,” he pestered her with nudges to leave.

Akira smiled cheekily as she jumped away to escape the prods, grabbing onto Kirishima’s hand to drag him after her. Kirishima just blinked and padded after her, unconsciously looking at her fingers entwined with his before she finally dropped his hand once they were a safe distance from the younger couple.

Kirishima just followed right behind Akira as she wandered between rooms, searching for someone. Kirishima let his eyes wander as they walked around, taking in the layout. It seemed like a big house for just an elderly couple, and he wondered why. When they finally stumbled upon her mother upstairs, Akira spoke.

“Hey Mom! Where are we supposed to be staying?” Akira chirped up as they approached the woman.

Akira’s mom turned and put a hand on her hip. “Well, we were thinking probably the other spare room up here,” she trailed off a bit, clearly expecting some comment from her daughter.

“What about the guesthouse with Conny and Ray?” Akira suggested with a grin, almost giving puppy dog eyes. 

“Hm, Emi and Mirio were supposed to be in there. They can keep an eye on them.”

“Oh c’mon, Kiri and I are just as qualified for that!” Akira argued.

Her mom just shrugged her shoulders and said, “I don’t care if y’all move. Take it up with Jean.”

Akira pumped her fist at the small victory before grabbing Kirishima’s hand once again and skipping off. She called out for her Uncle Jean as they descended the stairs. Kirishima nearly stumbled on a step as he tried to keep up with her excitement. They found the lanky man in the laundry room, inspecting a denim jacket thoroughly.

Akira bounced up to him and presented her proposition. Kirishima noticed that same pleading look he thought she had given her mother, only this time turned up to the max. He smiled to himself, he could imagine she must’ve learned to use that precious look when she was younger.

Uncle Jean took quite a bit more convincing than Akira’s mother, not because he wanted they older couple to keep watch of his son and his girlfriend, but more because he knew Ray and Akira could be troublemakers together. He finally agreed when Kirishima piped up with a chuckle and told him that he would keep those two out of mischief.

Akira squealed in excitement and scampered off again, and for the third time in the past 10 minutes, dragged Kirishima after her. They were just emerging into the foyer when Akira came to an abrupt halt, nearly causing Kirishima to knock into her.

“Oof!” Akira yelped as she bumped into a tall girl with brunette hair so dark, it could be mistaken for black. Akira blinked, deflating a little as she realized who it was.

“Oh, hi Emi,” she smiled at the girl, but Kirishima noticed it wasn’t the same as the one when she greeted her grandparents, or Ray, or her Uncle Jean. It lacked the genuine excitement that emanated from her when she saw them.

“Hello, little Akira! How are you?” the dark-haired girl, Emi, grinned back, and though it was certainly genuine, her words gave an uppity air to it. 

“I’m good,” Akira replied instinctively, but before she could get another word out to return the question or possibly introduce Kirishima, Emi beat her to it.

“Wonderful! Have you met my fiance, Mirio, yet?” she stepped to the side and let a beefy man with his blonde hair quaffed up nearly perfectly walk forward.

“Howdy! I think we met briefly last Thanksgiving, but we didn’t get to talk. Bummer! Your name is Akira, right?” His words were enthusiastic and pure, and almost too loud to be appropriate as he held his hand out.

Akira slowly took his hand before he shook it vigorously. She had forgotten how exuberant he cousin’s fiance was.

“Uh, yeah, nice to meet you again, Mirio,” she said. The words were more sincere than before, just slow and hesitant in comparison to Mirio’s. She opened her mouth to introduce Kirishima once he dropped her hand, but she was beaten to it once again.

“I’m Akira’s boyfriend, Eijirou, but please, call me Kirishima,” the redhead replaced Akira’s hand with his own in Mirio’s, smiling brightly. Mirio shook his hand with even more vigor than before. “Nice to meet you, man.”

Akira looked at him in surprise. He had waited for her to introduce him to every other family member, but this time, Kirishima had jumped in and took the initiative. She had no clue if he had done it because he could tell she wanted to bring it up before Emi, or if he was spurred to match Mirio’s energy. Either way, she was grateful.

“And you’re Emi, right?” Kirishima turned his attention to the girl. “I’ve heard a lot about you, congratulations on the recent engagement.”

Emi seemed a bit taken aback as she blinked before shaking his hand gingerly. “Oh, thank you. Nice to meet you, Kirishima,” she replied.

Kirishima nodded and stepped back to Akira’s side. He looked down at her smaller form at his side. “Wanna go find Ray and Conny?”

Akira perked and looked up into his crimson eyes. “Oh, yeah!” she yipped and took the lead as they walked away. 

The girl gave the news to Ray and Conny as soon as she found them, and they matched her excited energy. It wasn’t but a moment later that she was off again, back out the front door and heading for the car. They passed her grandmother on the way and told her they were going to move their stuff into the guesthouse. The elderly woman informed them that the gravel path had been fixed, so they could drive down there instead of lugging their bags through the grass. The whole while, Kirishima trailed a few feet after her contently with his hands shoved in his pockets.

He took his place in the passenger seat of her car. Though they hadn’t been here for more than an hour, the leather seats we already chilled. It made him glad that the guesthouse was close. Akira steered the car down a gravel path that veered to the left of what was essentially a backyard, but just a large open space since they were on a bigger piece of property. The trees from the front of the house created a natural edge to the open space, and the gravel path they were on dipped maybe 100 yards into them. Near the end, the path forked and Akira took them to the right, where they were greeted by a small, wood-slatted guesthouse. Akira parked off to the side, next to a sedan that Kirishima assumed must be Ray’s.

Akira hopped from the car and Kirishima followed suit. She cranked open the back and began pulling things out.

“So, what was off the the left?” Kirishima pondered out loud as her helped her drag her suitcase from her car so it didn’t scratch anything.

“Oh, another guest house,” Akira said nonchalantly. She began trudging to the door of the guest house with her suitcase in tow.

“How come your grandparents need all this extra housing space?” he asked as he followed, trying to make sure it didn’t come across as judgemental. It was clear they had money, but he really was just curious.

“Well, they’ve lived in that house for a long time, my mom grew up in it.”

“Really? It looks so new,” he trailed off as he thought about the interior. The best he could describe it as was ‘modern farmhouse’.

“Mhm. A few years ago a pipe burst and flooded the entire downstairs, so they decided to go ahead and just remodel,” she explained. “They use the guest houses like AirBNB’s when the family isn’t in town. The mountains are like two hours away, so they make a little extra money by letting people who are traveling up there rent them out for a night.”

Kirishima gave an ‘ohhh’ and a nod. As they entered the guest house, he noticed the interior was definitely older than in the house, but not overly outdated. He wondered if they had always been here or if they were a more recent development.

Akira set her stuff down and walked to the left, tossing open one of the few doors in the whole place. It was a single small bedroom, and as she peeked in she saw a few bags strewn about the floor.

“Ugh, those two already claimed the bedroom,” she groaned, but there was more amusement in her voice than there was ire. “Okay, well, I guess we’re gonna be in the loft,” she grabbed her bag before walking across the open space of downstairs. Kirishima turned and followed her towards the back right of the small building. Against the wall was a small set of steep, almost ladder-like stairs that led to a loft that half overhung a small kitchen, and half laid overtop a small room jutting from the wall that must be a bathroom. 

Akira clambered up the steps, but it was slow-going as she heaved the big suitcase after herself. Kirishima had offered to do it for her, but she insisted she was ‘a big girl’ and could ‘do it myself’. So, Kirishima watched in amusement as Akira tugged her bag up one step at a time, slowing with each step. She made it up ¾ of the way, just far enough that she could sit down on the top step, before she stalled with the bag still hanging over the edge perilously. She sighed and gave in, not because she wasn’t strong enough to pull it up, but because she couldn’t find her footing well enough to finish the job.

“Kirishima,” Akira whined and looked at him with pleading eyes.

“Yes?” he smirked, not moving from his spot leaned against the wall.

Akira huffed before hanging her head defeat. “Will you help me?”

Kirishima laughed, “Of course,” and placed his hand on the bottom of the suitcase, pushing it up so she could drag it the rest of the way to the top. He followed suit by swinging his duffel bag over his shoulder and ascending.

The low vaulted ceiling provided just enough room for Kirishima to stand up for the most part, though he had to crane his neck down a bit near the wall.

“So, it looks like we’re gonna be sharing the bed,” Akira sighed as she slid her bag against the far wall. 

Kirishima turned to her in realization. He really hadn’t thought about the bed arrangement in detail until now. Perhaps he didn’t have this as intricately planned as he had thought.

“If we had been in a bedroom, I had planned to sneak in the spare air mattress for you,” Akira went on, “I’m sorry, I didn’t think through the whole guest house thing.”

“Oh! Well, there’s enough space for me to sleep on the floor up here, I don’t mind!”

“First of all, I am not gonna make you sleep on the floor for five days,” she cringed inwardly, her back ached just thinking of that. “Second of all, any coming in or out could see you. How would we explain you refusing to sleep in the same bed as me?”

Kirishima scratched his head, that would be a tough one, huh? 

He was broken from his thoughts when Akira apologized again, but he assured her it wasn’t a big deal. It was just going to be a little awkward, surely he could deal with that.

“I promise I’ll stick to my side!” Akira chirped up to lighten the mood, and it worked, because Kirishima chuckled along with her. She moved and began to descend the stairs once more.

“C’mon, let’s head back.”

The walk back to the house wasn’t too far. Even though the trees were thicker down there, Kirishima could still see it through the trees from the guest house. They trudged along the gravel path, huffing a little since it was slightly uphill. Akira led him in through the back door this time, which opened up in that space between the living room and kitchen where he had met Ray and Conny.

With not much left to do, the two seated themselves on one of the couches in the living room. Popping her shoes off, Akira leaned into arm and tucked her legs to the side. Kirishima took a seat next to her, leaving enough space so as not to intrude. Ray sat on the couch perpendicular, creating an L-shape around the coffee table. 

It wasn’t long before someone Kirishima hadn’t met plopped down next to Ray. She had the same face as him, but short, dirty blonde hair that was buzzed on the sides. He learned her name was Maya, and that she was Ray’s older sister.

“I’m gonna go to the kitchen real quick, I’ll be right back,” Akira told him suddenly. Kirishima nodded as she stood and walked off. He was settling in with the people around him, chatting away happily as he learned more about her family. He didn’t realize how long Akira had been gone, nearly 10 minutes, until his ear caught something odd.

“Akira and her boy,” said a hushed voice from a ways behind him that he couldn’t quite identify.

“Kirishima? What about ‘em?”

Now that voice he did recognize, even as laughter rocked the conversation around him. Mirio’s voice was too loud, too positive even if he was trying to whisper. Why are they talking about us?

“I dunno, they’re weirdly aloof. They don’t touch each other.”

Shit, I haven’t really been acting like her boyfriend, have I? He let his eyes wander the room, searching for Akira. He spotted her, still in the kitchen, fiddling with something on the counter.

What could he do to dispel Emi’s doubts? He racked his brain for a solution, and when he finally thought of something good, he moved into action immediately. 

Kirishima excused himself from the conversation and stood up, walking around the couch and heading towards the kitchen. He could feel Emi and Mirio’s eyes on him (specifically Emi’s) and he was starting to get an idea why Akira didn’t really get along with her.

As he was approaching, Kirishima realized his heart was beating in his chest and he was suddenly nervous. His idea was bold, and he hoped it didn’t scare the shit out of Akira. Or piss her off. But at this point, he’d committed.

Akira was still leaned with her stomach against the counter, munching on pita chips and hummus while scrolling on her phone. Kirishima reached his hand out and pressed it to her side to announce his presence. He didn’t want to startle her too badly when he leaned over her shoulder and whispered in her ear, “Can I kiss you?”

The question took Akira off guard and she turned her head to look at him, face merely inches from his as she stammered, “W-what?”

Kirishima resisted the urge to glance up and see if Emi was watching them. “Trust me?”

Akira blinked at him wide-eyed. She knew there must be a reason he was asking this, and she tried to speak, to tell him ‘yes’, but her mouth felt oddly dry. So instead, she just nodded up at him, to which he swiftly swooped down and latched onto her.

His lips were surprisingly soft, both in texture and method. Soft, and gentle, like she was a nervous deer and he didn’t want to spook her off. Kissing Kirishima wasn’t quite as awkward as she expected, though that’s not to say it wasn’t awkward at all.

It was over as soon as it started, more of a peck than a full on kiss. Kirishima moved to Akira’s side and leaned against the counter as well, this time ensuring he was close enough that their hips brushed.

“What happened to ‘be right back’?” he grinned playfully, but on the inside he was screaming.

“I uh, got distracted talking to Isabella,” Akira answered him, although hesitantly, still trying to process why Kirishima would have just done what he did. She turned the other way and gestured to where a woman had taken a seat next to Maya. “She’s married to Maya.”

Kirishima’s eyes followed her hand to the living room, but instead took the moment as an excuse to spot Emi turning awkwardly, nudging Mirio to go sit down with the others.

“Sorry,” he lowered his voice as he rushed out an apology. “I heard Emi making a comment that I didn’t really act all boyfriend-y and I didn’t want her getting suspicious.”

“Oh,” Akira turned back to face him, still a bit taken aback. “Thank you, then.”

“Of course, anything for my girl,” he grinned and played up the boyfriend act, trying to be smooth. He succeeded for the most part, but underneath his words was a hint of nerves. Even so, the term ‘my girl’ made Akira’s heart flutter, but she ignored it and just giggled as she munched on another pita chip.

A shout caught both their attention.

“Kirishima! You’re gonna come down to the river with us tomorrow, right?” Ray called from the living room.

Kirishima glanced up but didn’t move, instead shifting his eyes back down to look at Akira’s inquisitively. She yanked her head back as if to motion him to go on, and so he stood and padded away. Akira put her snack away and trailed after him.

Standing behind the back of the couch where Ray was, he noticed nearly everyone he’d met so far had gathered in the living room.

“The river?”

“Yeah! We’re going fly-fishing down at the river for some bonding with the boys,” Ray explained.

“Uh, fishing?” Kirishima’s eyes went wide and he held his hands up. “I’ve never gone fishing, I’d be no good at it.”

“Nonsense! We’ll teach you,” Akira’s grandfather piped up, mustache stretched in a wide grin. Damn, he’s so manly looking.

Kirishima scratched his neck and chuckled nervously, replying, “I don’t know.”

Akira appeared under his raised arm and peered up at him, “You should go! I bet you’ll have more fun than you think.”

“Yeah?”

“Mhm,” Akira nodded up at him.

“Well, alright then.”

“Hell yeah!” Ray pumped his fist excitedly, but Uncle Jean quickly cut in a stern, “Language,” and Ray apologized.

“Let’s go find you a spare pair of waders,” Ray then jumped up and waved Kirishima to follow him. “Pops, wanna come help?”

The large man laughed heartily and rose slowly, leading the two young men out the back door.

The rest of the evening was leisurely, the family ate bourbon chicken and rice for dinner before most retired to where they were staying. Akira and Kirishima walked down the gravel pathway side by side with Ray and Conny as the sun sank below the horizon. Akira shivered when a gust of wind blew newly chilled night air around them, and Kirishima instinctively wrapped his arm around her side and tugged her closer.

It wasn’t long after that before everyone was wandering off to bed. Akira stepped from the bathroom after taking a shower, massively oversized t-shirt dropping just below her running shorts and making it look more like she was wearing a dress. She clambered up the steep steps before running a brush through her sopping wet hair, then practically leapt into bed.

“You cool with that side?” she asked Kirishima quizzically, but was already settling in under the covers by the time he nodded. She seemed a lot less weirded out by sleeping in the same bed than he did. Maybe I’m just overthinking this, he told himself.

“‘Night, Kiri!” she clicked the lamp off and curled up with her back to him, though he could the light from her phone as she scrolled on it.

Kirishima mirrored her actions, turning his back to her and mumbling, “Goodnight, Akira.”

Chapter Text

Kirishima was groggier than he expected to be when he peeled his eyes open at 7:30 AM. Early mornings were no stranger to him, but it seemed that spending the previous day travelling and meeting most of Akira’s family was more mentally draining than he realized. Still, after giving himself five more minutes with the snooze button, he rolled himself from under the covers and got ready to go fishing.

Fishing. Kirishima had no clue how this little adventure was going to go. He grew up in the city, in a family where ‘backyard camping’ was about as outdoorsy as they got. Sure, he didn’t mind getting down and dirty, contact sports tended to do that to someone, but nature felt like a whole different ball game to him.

He was just tediously descending the steep steps of the loft when Ray appeared from the bathroom.

“Ready?” he smiled, and Kirishima was glad to see the same look of sleepiness on Ray’s face that he was sure adorned his.

“I think so,” Kirishima replied, holding up the old pair of waders Pops had found him and glancing down at his clothes. He wore a pair of track pants that he thought would fit under the waders nicely, as well as a hoodie and a windbreaker type jacket (he was glad he brought it with him now that they had told him he needed a shirt that wouldn’t soak him to the bone if it got wet). Atop his head was a baseball cap to cover his messy hair; he would have preferred a beanie, but opted out of it for fear it would make him look even more like a city boy than he already was.

Ray gave him a thumbs up and led him out the door.

If the two boys weren’t awake before, they certainly were now that the crisp morning air bit their faces. As they trekked back towards the main house, they finally stepped into the sunlight at the treeline that marked the edge of the ‘yard’. It certainly felt better with the warmth hitting their skin, even though their breath puffed in the air still and frost crunched under their feet.

Ray led him towards the shed where his spare pair of waders were found, and Kirishima could see several people already there. Pops and Mirio were strapping boxes and fishing equipment to the back of a couple of old four-wheelers. There was also a small UTV that was already running.

Gravel crunching from the side of the house caught all of their attention, and they all turned to see a car parking and three men jumping out. Kirishima only recognized one of them: Lucien. When they saw everyone else already gathered across the yard, they broke into a jog to reach them.

“Sorry if we made ya wait,” the middle-aged one chuckled before turning to Kirishima with a quizzical look. “Don’t believe we’ve met before, my name’s Danny,” he held his hand out.

“Oh! I’m Kirishima, I’m Akira’s boyfriend,” the redhead told him.

“Ah, the one I heard Akira was bringing. Nice to meet you!”

Kirishima returned the pleasantry before turning and repeating the action to a blond man with a scruffy chin who introduced himself as Keigo. He explained that Danny was his and Lucien’s dad.

The transportation arrangement was interesting, to say the least. The UTV and two four-wheelers were typically perfect to get them to the river, but the addition of Mirio and Kirishima threw it off. Ray and Kirishima were assigned to one four-wheeler, while Danny and Jean shared the other (which Jean seemed less than thrilled about). Pops took the wheel of the UTV and Mirio sat in the passenger side of the bench seat. Lucien and Keigo were somewhat seated in the bed of the UTV with their backs against the front seats and feet hanging out the back.

The ride down to the river was also entertaining. It was no more than seven minutes to the back of the property through a fenced pasture, following a dirt trail that crossed a small field and then wound through more maple and pine trees. The two brothers, Lucien and Keigo, hooted and hollered excitedly as they bounced around in front of them, nearly falling out a couple of times around the bends. The trees finally thinned and they crossed the back fence. He could hear the river from there, and the bank ended up only being another 100 feet or so ahead. It wasn’t huge, bordering more on a creek than a river, but Kirishima was still taken aback by its beauty.

The water sprung over and around the rocks seated firmly in the bed, the drowning pebbles below flitting about, yet the flow had an almost leisurely pace. A ways up the bank to his left, he could make out a spot where the river widened and created a pool; the water captured there swirled nearly imperceptibly while the rest streamed past unbothered.

And the sound, it was delightful. Constant, consuming, yet reposeful, it had that same soothing feel to it that a late night storm did.

His admiration was put on pause when the engine of the four wheeler was cut off and Ray nudged him to dismount. Kirishima swung his legs to one side, being careful not to accidentally kick the tackle box strapped down behind him before standing.

“So, never been fishin’ before, huh?” Pops lumbered up to Kirishima. He wondered if he would ever get used to having to look up at the man.

“No, sir,” Kirishima scratched his neck and smiled guiltily. “My family was never the outdoorsy bunch.”

“No worries! I’ll teach you some things,” the man gave Kirishima a hearty pat on the shoulder. “Grab that pole there and put on those waders, then come down to the bank.”

Kirishima nodded as Pops walked away. He took a minute to shimmy into the waders, finding it felt awkward to get his feet into a pair of mud boots attached to his pant leg. Once they were on, he picked up the fishing pole in question and turned to follow before someone caught his eye.

“Mr. Jean, you’re not coming down?”

Jean was settling into the bench on the UTV, propping his feet up with a book in his gloved hands.

“Absolutely not, I do not fish. They’re slimy and unsightly, but I would never hear the end of it if I didn’t at least come with everyone.”

Kirishima blinked and gave a quiet, “Ah,” before treading to the bank where the others had gathered. As he approached, he saw that Keigo and Lucien were focused on tying something to their fishing line, while Mr. Dan watched Ray with an amused look. Ray was practically sat on the ground, hunched over and laser-focused on the end of the line in his lap. He had his tongue stuck out in concentration.

“Need some help there, bud?” Mr. Dan patted Ray’s dark head, holding back a chuckle.

Ray paused before collapsing fully into the grass and holding out his hands in defeat. Mr. Dan finally let out a guffaw and took the items from him. Kirishima could finally see what Ray had been so focused on: tying a tiny hook with a colorful feather to the end of his fishing line.

His attention was pulled away when Pops spoke to him again.

“Alright, we’ve just got fly poles around here, but don’t think fly fishin’ is any harder than regular fishin’. It just a different way to do it,” he said. “C’mon, I’ll show ya how to cast over where it’s calm.”

Pops began making his way over to the stream pool. Out of the corner of his eye, Kirishima could make out where Mr. Dan and Lucien had headed down river in the opposite direction. They were currently picking their way across the river at a shallow point, little more than ankle deep. He could also see Keigo beginning to toss his fishing line in and out of the water from where they had just been standing at the water’s edge. Ray stood at his side and chatted.

Standing on the bank, Pops showed Kirishima how to cast a fly line. He talked about how each cast was broken into three parts: forward, backward, forward. Kirishima then mimicked his movements, praying he didn’t accidentally hook the man in the process. Pops was a good teacher. He corrected his method when he was off, reminding him to keep the tip of the pole parallel to the ground instead of arcing it, to not reel in too quickly, to set the hook if he did get a bite. At the same time, the man was incredibly encouraging when Kirishima was doing something well. Eventually, Pops was confident enough in Kirishima to leave him on his own. 

Kirishima was slightly startled when Mirio took Pops place at his side. I almost forgot he was even here. 

“You look like you’re catching on real quick!” Mirio piped up, big smile plastered on his face.

Kirishima cranked the reel, pulling in the lure and preparing to cast it out for the first time on his own. “Yeah, I think so,” he mumbled back, concentrating on flicking his arm, forward, back, forward, as he tossed line into the calm pool once more. Once set, he looked at Mirio and asked, “Have you fished before?”

“Oh yeah! My family is big on the outdoors,” he exclaimed. “I grew up kind of out in the country. I always felt bad when I went hunting, so my parents took me fishing a lot instead.”

“I guess I’m really the odd man out, huh?” Kirishima laughed, but a part of him was serious. He kind of wished he had someone to be out of his element with him.

“Nah, you can’t think about it like that,” Mirio reassured him before continuing. “So, you and Akira both go to UA, right?”

Kirishima nodded, “Yeah, I’m supposed to graduate in spring, though. Akira’s still a junior.”

“That’s exciting, man! What’re you majoring in?”

“Geology.”

“Woah, coolio! What are you planning to do?”

Kirishima would have thought about how he hadn’t heard someone say coolio since he was in middle school if it weren’t for the fact that Mirio’s question made him shift uncomfortably. 

“Well, I’m actually having a lot of trouble there,” the redhead reeled his line in once more, but didn’t recast, instead turning his attention fully to the conversation. “I’m actually invited to be part of the draft to play pro football. I’m expected to be a late first-round pick.”

Mirio’s face shone with admiration and he grinned even wider. “Dude, that’s awesome!”

“I know, it’s an amazing opportunity that so many people would kill for, but,” Kirishima paused and fidgeted with his pole before continuing. “I don’t know if that’s what I want to do for the rest of my life, you know?”

Kirishima wasn’t sure why he was telling Mirio about this, he had hardly told another soul about his dilemma. Perhaps he kept quiet because he worried if he asked people for their advice, they would only give him the answer that deep down, he didn’t want to hear. Sure, he loved football, and upon hearing that, most people would probably highly encourage him to go pro. They’d remind him how few people even get the chance to do that, and that he could earn big money with his kind of talent, and they would be right. But Kirishima also loved geology; if he wasn’t such a rock nerd, he never would have put forth so much effort to maintain a decent GPA in such a highly competitive STEM major while also being a student-athlete.

“Well, just do what feels right to you. Your career is nothing to settle on,” Mirio told him, giving him a pat on the shoulder. “Follow your heart, man.”

The corners of Kirishima’s mouth curled up into a small smile. He may not be sure why he told Mirio all this, but he was glad he did. There was something so confident and well-meaning about his advice, it put his mind at ease.

“Thanks, Mirio.”

“Ah, I’m just you telling the truth!” Mirio waved it off nonchalantly, but he was glad he could help the redheaded kid, even just a little.

Kirishima and Mirio continued chatting, soon abandoning their place by the water to meander about the clearing. As they moved back in the direction of the other guys, Kirishima learned that Mirio was actually a first year graduate student at UA studying law, though he earned his undergraduate degree at a much smaller, less prestigious school. Mirio told him that while he would have loved to have gotten his undergrad degree at UA, he actually wasn’t accepted to UA back then because his grades in high school were pretty poor. Kirishima couldn’t help but wonder aloud what changed, and Mirio gladly explained that he buckled down and figured out how to make learning work for him.

Boisterous whooping interrupted them, and they both turned to see Keigo hoisting a small silver fish from the water. He seemed to be laughing triumphantly in Lucien and Mr. Dan’s direction, while they both seemed to be groaning in defeat from across the river.

Curiosity drove Kirishima’s feet to move, carrying him to Keigo’s side. The scruffy blonde held up the creature and posed as Pops took a picture on a phone that was criminally undersized for his meaty hands.

“So what do you do with it? Keep it?” Kirishima inquired.

Once Pops was satisfied with a picture, Keigo turned and started wiggling the hook from the fish’s mouth. “Nah, this guy’s too small to be worth cooking,” he replied, “Besides, we don’t have a license to keep any right now.”

Kirshima’s brows raised in surprise, he knew to kill animals you needed a hunting tag, but he hadn’t realized it applied to fishing too. He watched as Keigo finally finegled the hook free and then gently plopped the fish back into the water. It was gone in a heartbeat, just one small splash from its tail before it disappeared.

“Wanna steal my spot? I was feeling a lot of nibbles out in the middle,” Kiego offered Kirishima.

“Oh, sure,” Kirishima spun in his place a few times, searching for his pole. When he spotted it, he grabbed it and turned back to the blonde, “Thanks.”

The water was fairly shallow here, but the river was a bit wider than it was further downstream. His cast wasn’t exactly far-reaching, so Kirishima figured he could put the waders to use. As gingerly as he could be with his hulking frame, he placed one foot into the water, then another, then took a few steps further. Realizing that the current wasn’t strong enough here to truly put any pressure on all 202 lbs of him, Kirishima straightened his back and stood more confidently.

He spent more time than he realized just flicking the line up and down the river peacefully, music humming from his pocket just loud enough for him to hear over the water. There was something about the rhythmic routine of back and forth that almost put him in a trance.

He might of been startled when Ray appeared at his side had the boy’s footsteps been quieter. He at least took more care with his foot placement in the water, trying not to make a ruckus that would scare away the fish.

“Where’d you come from?” Kirishima spoke up, but didn’t stop his pattern of back, forth, reel.

“Pops and I were seeing if we could get any bites way up stream.”

“Catch something, or did you give up?”

Back, forth, reel.

Ray chuckled nervously, “No, but I did hook Pops.”

Kirishima snapped his head to the side. “Shit, dude, really? Is he alright?”

“Yeah, I didn’t get him bad, but he did revoke my fishing privileges for the rest of the day.”

Kirishima blinked before shaking his head and letting out a snort of amusement. Back, forth, reel.

“I wonder what the girls are up to,” he pondered aloud. He was starting to realize he did an awful lot of that.

“Hm, it’s already 10:30 so most of ‘em are probably helping Nana start prepping food for tomorrow.”

“Damn, I didn’t think we’d been out here that long!”

Back, forth, reel.

Ray nodded and fell quiet for a moment, just watching Kirishima’s process before speaking up again.

“You know, I’m real glad you gave Akira someone she could trust again.”

Kirishima cocked an eyebrow, “What do you mean?”

“Well,” Ray hesitated, “you know her last boyfriend was from back in high school, right?”

Back, forth, reel.

“Yeah, that was her last serious relationship.”

“Or last relationship at all,” Ray said this more quietly, almost to himself, but Kirishima still caught it before he got louder again. “They dated for a long ass time, and he was great to her in the beginning--”

Kirishima’s eyes flew to Ray and his brows knit together tightly. He practically snarled, “He wasn’t abusive, was he?”

“No, no!” Ray realized that he had worded himself poorly and was quick to reassure the redhead. “I didn’t mean like that.”

Kirishima relaxed again, but now his attention was fully on whatever Ray had to say.

“Look, it’s not my place to tell you the nitty-gritty details, but basically, she trusted him and he let her down,” he paused, “a lot.”

This was all very new information to Kirishima, but he kept his face steady as best he could so as not to give himself away too much.

“I mean, I knew he wasn’t the best, but,” he trailed off.

“No matter how much the family has tried to encourage her to put herself out there again, Akira hasn’t really had the confidence to put her trust in anyone new since.”

There was that strange notion again, the idea that the self-assured and outgoing Akira had a diffident and insecure side unknown to the world. Kirishima could hardly wrap his head around it, and he probably wouldn’t have believed Ray’s words had he not seem glimmers of it in the past few weeks.

He was lost in thought, having completely forgotten about reeling in the line he had thrown out. He didn’t even register the tug, tug, tug on the line.

“Hey Kirishima, I think you got something there,” Ray muttered and hit his hand on Kirishima’s shoulder. His eyes were fixated on the spot where the line suddenly dove under the water’s surface quickly.

It surprised Kirishima how instinctual it was for him to yank the fishing pole up and set the hook. His right hand fumbled to find the reel, and when he did, began cranking it in circles as fast as he could. In a split second, Ray had darted from his side, and Kirishima shouted, “Hey!” in distress.

“I gotta get a net for that sucker, just keep reeling him in!”

Kirishima complied, not knowing what else he could do. His arm pumped frantically, and he watched as the fishing pole bent and dipped with the movement of the fish. He hadn’t thought about it before, but now he prayed the pole wouldn’t snap in half.

Man, this fish is strong! The fish was putting up a hearty fight, Kirishima never expected to have to use so much strength to reel one in.

“You almost got him man, put your back into it!” Ray shouted encouragement as he ran back up to Kirishima’s side and waved a net excitedly. Kirishima grunted in reply, doing his best to comply with Ray’s demand.

The fish was so close now, just a few feet in front of them, and he could just barely make out glinting scales darting about under the flowing water. It suddenly flipped its tail wildly, sending water flying, and in his surprise Kirishima had to fight the urge to drop the fishing pole.

“Okay, easy now, reel ‘em in slower now!” Pops’ voice suddenly rang out from upriver, getting closer, and it took a moment for Kirishima to process the command before he complied.

Ray stepped forward further into the current and grabbed ahold of the fishing line near the water’s surface to steady it before sliding the net underwater. After a moment, he yanked it back up and held the net with the fish now in it over his head, giving a triumphant whoop.

“Look at that sucker!” Pops awed as he moved to take the fish out, tugging it from the net by its mouth. He began to wiggle the hook from its lip. “That’s a big ‘ol River Bass, nice first catch!”

Kirishima just watched in amazement at the fish he caught. His chest heaved from the exertion and adrenaline, and the thrill made his lips curl into a smile. The fish was bigger than he expected, he didn’t even realize a fish that big could be in a river this small.

When Pops finally pried the hook free, he began handing the fish over to Kirishima. 

“Here, put you thumb in his mouth and hold his lower jaw like this,” the burly man explained, “And hold under his belly here.”

Kirishima was hesitant at first, gingerly placing his thumb in its mouth and hand underneath, but committed fully when the older man dropped its full weight onto him. It wasn’t heavy per se, probably 25 lbs, but it was heavier than he thought it would be.

Where’s your phone, I’ll take a picture,” Ray said, already having thrown the pole and net on the bank. Kirishima told him it was in the chest pocket on his waders, and Ray fetched it quickly since his hands were full. “Pops, get in there with him, you taught him everything!”

Pops complied and took a place to Kirishima’s left, giving a thumbs up and big smiling stretching under his gray mustache. Kirishima locked his elbows and held the fish up by his chest and smiled excitedly as Ray took the pictures.

“Now you got to take a photo kissin’ ‘em!” Pops then told him, gesturing to show his how to hold the fish up to kiss it.

“For real?” Kirishima’s face dropped in shock, glancing between Pops and Ray to see if they were pulling his leg.

“Yes! Everyone’s gotta kiss the first fish they catch,” Ray laughed at Kirishima’s look of mild horror, Pops joining in.

“Okay,” Kirishima muttered, turning the fish to face him and hoisting it up level with his face. He puckered his lips and leaned in hesitantly, eyebrows screwed in disgust. As soon his face brushed against the fish’s slimy skin, it suddenly began to thrash wildly.

“Shit!” Kirishima yelped instinctually and desperately tried to wrap his arms around the fish and bring it to his chest, but he was no match for the creature’s flailing. It’s strong body combined with his surprise knocked the red-head off balance, so he took a step back to steady himself, but a rock caught his heel. Kirishima and the fish both went tumbling backwards, landing with a splash. He yelped again at the shock of cold water across his body.

Kirishima laid flat on his back, propping himself up on his elbows to keep his head above the shallow water; not that it would make much difference, his hair was now soaked and sticking to his forehead. The fish was long gone by now, but out of the corner of his eye he did spy his baseball hat about to be taken by the current, and he reached out and snatched it up before it disappeared forever.

Wild guffaws and cackling brought his attention back to the bank. Pops held his belly has he laughed, and Ray had both hands on his knees to steady himself. From way behind them, Kirishima could make out Mirio jogging over, a look of concern scrawled across his face, but it melted into amusement when he realized that Kirishima was alright.

Ray trudged over, being sure to place his feet carefully to avoid the same fate as Kirishima, and held a hand out to help him up. Kirishima happily obliged, letting Ray pull him up from the icy cold water. Now soaked to the bone, Kirishima grit his teeth when the cold breeze hit him.

“C’mon, we gotta get you out of those wet clothes. It’s about time we head back, anyway.”