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Infamous

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The only light in his dark room was coming from the phone he held in his hand. The brightness was turned up so high that it was hurting his eyes, and yet he still couldn’t bring himself to turn it back down. Bakugou’s phone vibrated, buzzing softly in his hand; for the second time that minute. It wasn’t his parents calling. They never did nowadays. And he knew for a fact that it wasn’t one of his fans. Since he had no friends, and his agent just called him last week, there was only one option left. Haters. It was the only option, really.

Every time his phone buzzed, it was always the same exact thing. He bit his lip and reloaded his Twitter page, dread already making him catch his breath. And, guess what? He was right. Again. Bakugou was getting tired of this sick guessing game he played with himself.

Why are you even still singing, piece of trash? See that knife in your kitchen? It’s dull, just like you. Why don’t you fucking sharpen it with your neck, asshole.

His eyes lingered on the last word, repeating it over and over again in his mind. Asshole. Asshole. Asshole. Spelled, a-s-s-h-o-l-e. Every time he ran the word through his brain, he felt a familiar spark of anger flare in his chest.

Buzz.

Bakugou jumped up from his bed, a screech ripping itself from his throat and echoing in his small empty apartment as he flung his phone across the room. It rammed into the opposite wall, a loud crash joining the echo of his voice before dropping to the ground with a clatter. In its wake, it left a decent sized dent on the white wall. He collapsed back onto his bed and flung his arm over his eyes. When his most certainly cracked phone vibrated again, he stood up and walked right out of his apartment, not even bothering to lock the door behind him.

The older woman who shared his left wall peeked out from her own doorway, her eyebrows crinkled in concern. But when she laid eyes on Bakugou, that concern immediately turned to disgust, and she slammed her door closed with strength a person her age shouldn’t have. For a moment, he paused, staring at the older woman’s locked door. But he turned away just as quickly. That woman looked too much like his high school’s kind nurse for his liking.

The bright lights of the apartment didn’t match the mood he was in. Wondering what kind of mood it was? Not a good one, that was for sure. Bakugou stalked past the elevator toward the stairway. He never took the elevator anymore. He couldn’t stand the idea of being in such a small room with another human.

Right as he was about to rush down the flight of stairs, he felt a hard push from behind him. Bakugou caught the railing just before he could tumble down the steps. What the actual fuck? He whirled around, fists clenched with an angry scowl twisting his features.

Standing there was a girl with her lush black hair tied into a high ponytail. A bang covered one of her dark pretty eyes. She was shooting him a dirty glare, her teeth clenched and jaw tense. “What the fuck is your problem?” He shouted, raising his hands and shoving her back. His hands caught her shoulders and she stumbled backward a few steps before she regained her balance.

“I should be asking you that!” She yelled, throwing a punch. “What is wrong with you? You’re the result of a mistake!” Bakugou stepped out of the way and lunged forward to grab her neck. He threw her onto the ground, a sickening crack reaching his ears.

“See?” She hissed through her clenched teeth. “A mistake.” One more kick at her pretty face knocked her out.

Bakugou glared down at her for a long moment. On a spur of anger, he stomped on her limp hand as hard as he could. “Mistake my ass,” he sneered, resisting the urge to kick her one last time. “Shouldn’t be talking like that when you’re on the fucking ground.”

He spun around and walked down the stairs, muttering under his breath.

Each time he moved down a step, it felt as if another large stone was added onto Bakugou’s shoulders, until even swaying back and forth made him feel ready to topple over. It was hard to put one foot in front of the other. The heaviness held him back, weighing him down. It had him pinned. He tried to bury the awful feeling with rage, but eventually, even his trustworthy anger wasn’t enough. He hadn’t even realized that he was out of his apartment and trudging down the streets until he bumped into a small boy, barely out of his toddler stage. His mother caught him before he could fall into the heavy traffic. Bakugou ducked his head and pulled on his hood to avoid eye contact with the woman. He made a sharp turn into a store he didn’t recognize.

When the warm air from inside the store blew his hood off and he looked back up, Bakugou realized he was standing in a local drugstore. His feet forced him to head to the medicine aisle. His eyes watered at the tangy bitter smell of medicine. It had been so long since he went outside, just this small change made his body react.

All around him were small boxes and containers, filled with pills ready to be taken. Bakugou wondered what would happen if he popped one of them in his mouth right now. His eyes searched the shelves for words he had seen so many times floating around on the internet. Not to mention on all of his social media feeds. His eyes were beginning to get blurry with how quickly he scanned the words when he spotted them. Bakugou picked up the small cylinder. Sleeping pills.

He was twitchy when he was so close to death. People said that these an overdose on these tiny pills could lead to death. How many would it take to kill him? 10? 30? 60? Or more? Each container contained twenty-five of the little pods. They looked so small and innocent.

The voice that was constantly at the back of his head nagged at him. The quiet whispering grew louder, until he began to wonder if he was going crazy. Just take them. Nobody wants you here anyway, not even if your parents. If they did, they would have called a year ago. A painless death, just like going to sleep, Do it. Do it. DO IT.

But an imaginary angel peered over his shoulder whispered in his ear as well. Don’t. You won’t. You can still change things. Life gives second chances. People give second chances.

Bakugou wanted to fling the non-existent angel off his shoulder. He had already used his second chance a long time ago. Life definitely wasn’t about to give him a third. He was going to fucking hell. Maybe he would recognize a few people there. He swallowed around the lump in his throat. How would the small blue pills feel like sliding down his throat? He wondered if anybody would find him there, dead and lifeless, lying on the ground in the middle of a drugstore. He was sure there were cameras watching him right now. Would anybody even bother to help him?

Bakugou licked his lips, thumb brushing against the seal. He ran his fingers across the plastic ridges, until they got a grip. He was about to open it, right there, in a goddamn drugstore. Bakugou would be stealing his own fucking death. But then he stopped. This was a coward’s way to go. He wasn’t weak or a coward. Not in the slightest.

No, he wouldn’t be dying today.

But he still walked over to the cashier register, three bottles to insure death in his hand. The scarred cashier sitting behind the counter grinned at him as Bakugou pulled out his wallet. The bastard even gave him a 50% discount. Fucker, Bakugou thought, anger making him flush scarlet. He wants me to fucking die, doesn’t he?

As Bakugou walked out of the drugstore, he made sure to slam the door behind him as hard as he could. The three small containers in his pocket felt heavy, even though they couldn’t weigh more than a pound. But.

Just in case.

Chapter Text

The numbers on his laptop soared. He couldn’t believe his eyes. Kirishima blinked a few times, his brain still having a little trouble catching up with this very interesting development. Today, the numbers jumped from a million to almost three million. He gained about two million subscribers in a day. Was it a hack? Did something go wrong at Youtube’s headquarters? With just four videos in a span of two months, his once pathetically tiny channel was slowly starting to gain fame. No, not slowly. Quickly starting to gain fame.

Kirishima rubbed his eyes. He still couldn’t believe it. Who would have thought all that practice in the cluttered, empty café he worked at paid off?

Online, he was a pop artist by the name of Red Riot , with his only platform being Youtube. Kirishima never showed his face in any of his four videos. All the viewers could see was a pitch-black background with his stage name in bright red right in the center. But right now, on Kirishima’s face was a stupid smile as he ran his fingers through his red hair. He really liked the color red. Go blame his obsession with Crimson Riot. He got influenced after staring at the rock singer with wonder in his eyes for so many years.

He scrolled through the comments of his new video. It had already collected so many views, and he had just posted it this morning. They praised him in the comment section, either talking about how famous he was going to be in the near-future or asking for a face reveal.

In fact, there was a whole discussion on the latter. Kirishima read the first two:

You should do a face reveal! I bet you’re super hot ;)

Nah, he won’t do one. He’s probably some guy with an ugly facing sitting behind a computer screen. There’s no way he’s blessed with both a handsome face and a pretty voice.

Kirishima laughed. They thought he had a pretty voice? I was going for more of a manly tone, but I guess this okay too , he thought, grinning. If he showed his face, what would they think? Probably ugly, to be honest . I mean, have you seen the size of my eyebags? he joked to no one in particular. Although it was tempting sometimes.

He ripped his eyes away from the screen and rushed to his bathroom. He looked into the mirror and tried for a smile. Oh God, those shark teeth. They were so pointy and sharp. Just like… a shark’s teeth. He wondered if he could bite right through his arm. Would that be cannibalism? Nevermind. His shark teeth made him so insecure. His hair wasn’t gelled up at the moment, but it was still as bright red as ever, and he was going to style it in a bit. Kirishima squinted at the mirror. Well, the scar made him seem manly… kind of?

If you took his shark teeth away from the equation, his smile would be his favorite part of himself. There was this girl back in high school, he forgot her name, but he knew he had charger-like things for earrings, who once told him she was in love with his smile. Kirishima wondered where in the world she was now. Most likely not hiding behind a computer screen because she was self-conscious.

Kirishima picked up the tub of gel he had sitting on the counter and quickly styled his hair into those trademark spikes. He had work in a few minutes, and he couldn’t be late for the third time. He pulled on a jacket before he left the shabby basement he rented. He owed the owner of the place a lot of money, and hopefully, he could pay it all back at once with the amount he earned from his Youtube videos. Hopefully. Because eventually, they would all realize how boring and untalented he really was.

Maybe he could beg the owner for another pack of ramen when he got home.

It was a dark day. It had rained like there was no tomorrow last night, and it looked like it was going to start pouring again soon. It made the world look sad, depressed. If only he could will the sun to come out and shine upon all of these lost people. But he was just Kirishima.

The ground was wet under his feet, and the liquid was quickly soaking his shoes. Yes, shoes, not crocs. Not only would his feet freeze, but Mina would literally slit his throat for his supposedly horrible fashion sense. Hey, he thought his fashion sense was pretty okay.

On the other side of the street, he noticed a guy with a black hoodie pulled over his eyes bump into a small child. Kirishima inhaled sharply, silently urging himself to run over and stop the little boy from falling into the streets, even though the traffic was heavy, and cars were barely moving. But he didn’t need to, because a woman who was probably his mother pulled him away.

Kirishima sighed in relief and continued on. Teenagers going through their emo phase should be more careful on the sidewalk.

* * *

Ten minutes later, Kirishima slumped over a cashier register, fiddling around with the slightly cracked phone in his hands. He was dimly aware of the way the sharp edges of the machine he leaned on dig into his arms, undoubtfully making marks. He was bored, there was no other way of saying it. He wasn’t even using any of his phone’s apps. Not as if was many. His phone was so ancient that it didn’t have enough storage to download anything new. Kirishima mindlessly scrolled from one home screen to another.

Eventually, he had the brilliant idea to take a look at all the pictures he had collected over the years and smiling at the ones that made him nostalgic. This small scrap of metal had been with him through thick and thin, all the way back to the beginning of middle school when his parents first bought it for him.

He remembered taking most of them. There were some forgotten people that mutely registered in his mind. A boy with dark hair that looked almost green in the light. Another boy with rectangular glasses yelling at Kaminari. What were their names? After four years, he couldn’t remember.

Kirishima stopped on one particular image, from way back, dated during the year he was in… 7th Grade? His hair was still jet-black then, long and hanging into his eyes. If he weren’t so skinny and pale, he would have looked like a gang member. In the picture, his mouth was opened in what looked like surprise. There was a boy with blond hair standing beside him, tuffs of it sticking out in every direction. The blond boy was glaring off to the side, trying to shove something into young-Kirishima’s hands.

“Did I take that?” Kirishima muttered to himself, squinting to see what was being given to him. Obviously not, since it wasn’t posed like a selfie. Unlike the others, he had absolutely no recollection of the angry blond-haired boy.

But before he could dwell on it, the dirty glass door of the café was pushed open and Kirishima glanced up to see who had walked in. It was a tall guy, with pale skin and rather pointy ears. He had a bit of a problem with slouching, and his thin, tired-looking eyes were partially covered by dark hair. For a moment, Kirishima froze under the intimidating look of the man’s shadowed eyes, but he quickly recovered.

“Welcome!” Kirishima called, feeling a wide grin spread across his face. Because Mina, Kaminari, and Sero were all away overseas visiting their parents in Japan, he was unbearably lonely and ached for any sort of human interaction. He waved the dark-haired guy over cheerfully. “What would you like to order?”

The man’s eyebrows scrunched together, and he glanced up at the large board above Kirishima’s head, where the menu hung. His eyes darted around nervously as Kirishima waited patiently, the smile never fading from his face. Every second that passed, the customer looked increasingly uncomfortable. When he started swallowing too many times to be considered normal, Kirishima finally suggested, “want a cup of hot chocolate? They’re my favorite!”

The man let out a small sigh of relief and nodded. “How much?”

“$2.75, please,” Kirishima replied, turning around and grabbing a cup out of the stack sitting on one of the holders. From the corner of his eye, he could see in one of the customer’s ears was an earbud, the rest of the cord tucked into his sweater. “What are you listening to?” He asked curiously.

He stammered for a second before finally muttering, “Red Riot.”

Kirishima felt a thrill jump up his spine. He almost wanted to yell at him in excitement. But he merely hummed as he filled the paper cup with sloshing water. “Oh, I’ve heard of the guy,” Kirishima said casually, silently proud at himself for his acting skills. “What do you think of him?”

“His singing makes my days a little brighter,” he mumbled.

Now, this really made Kirishima want to jump with joy. Knowing that his music made people happy pulled him a little closer out of his tunnel of insecurity. Was this what singers felt like when they met their fans? The first-hand experience was so damn special. Kirishima nodded, too excited to say anything. He finished up the guy’s order and slid it across the counter towards him while taking the money.

“What’s your name?” Kirishima asked as he handed the customer his receipt. “My name’s Kirishima Eijirou.”

He looked up, surprised. “My name’s Tamaki A-Amajiki.”

Kirishima grinned, leaning forward, still dizzy with happiness at the thought of meeting somebody who knew his online presence. “Gem, huh? That’s manly,” he commented. The tips of Tamaki’s ears flushed red and he quickly choked out a thank you before taking a seat farthest from the cashier register. Kirishima let out a huff of amusement when even after a few minutes, Tamaki’s ears were still the same shade of red.

When no customers came in, Kirishima took a seat on the stool he kept behind the counter and pulled out a piece of paper to muse over lyric ideas.

Chapter Text

Red Riot. Red fucking Riot. Yes, Bakugou knew him. Everyone fucking knew him. It was disgusting how everybody worshiped him. Absolutely disgusting. It was like people sending Bakugou death threats, except, you know, with praises. Didn’t these dickheads have better shit to do? The cold, slightly damp wall he was leaning on dug into his back through his hoodie. He squeezed his eyes shut and pushed his fists against his eye sockets. He was so damn tired. It hurt to even keep them open. He had walked for who knows how long, crossing random streets when the light was still green, and taking unplanned turns.

He was standing in a deserted alley, away from all the bustle of Manhattan. Litter was everywhere; it had been hard for him to find an area to stand without stepping on an empty can or a dirty piece of paper. This was not the type of place a person like Bakugou belonged. He should be standing on the Red Carpet or on a stage singing. A year ago, he probably would have been.

But now, he couldn’t even walk out of his apartment without a kind old lady slamming her door on him. Once, people mobbed him on the streets for signatures or a photo with the oh-so-famous, oh-so-handsome Ground Zero. How things have changed.

To the left, where human civilization actually walked, he could hear girls chatting on and on about something. Bakugou glanced over to see two of them, standing just under a yard away from him. They both held plastic sticks with sharps points on their ends and dragged large paper bags with them. They looked like they were still in high school, with high-pitched voices and young faces. Freshmen, perhaps? Maybe even middle schoolers.

“This place is so gross, why are we here?” The first one, a girl with brown hair complained, kicking away a stray can, only to have it hit an alley wall and bounce back at her. She let out a small yelp, leaping out of the way of the liquid that flew out.

The second one, a taller girl, with pretty gray eyes scowled. “This is what we get for volunteering for community cleanup, dumbass.”

The brunette huffed in annoyance. Bakugou didn’t know if it was just him, but those two definitely weren’t doing anything related to the word ‘cleanup’. He doubted that they even volunteered themselves. What did they do to piss off their principal enough to be sentenced to community service? “Not only is this disgusting,” the brunette started. “But it’s boring too. How about we just say there was no trash to clean up?”

The second girl paused for a fraction of a second before agreeing. “No snitching, okay?”

“’ Course not. You may call me a dumbass, but I’m not an asshole.”

The second girl rolled her gray eyes. “They both have the word ass in it, I don’t know what you’re so proud of.”

The brunette sighed in exasperation. The two of them threw down their tools. “By the way, Ava, have you heard of that Red Riot guy?”

Internally, Bakugou wanted to scream and bash somebody’s head together. Preferably this stupid Red Riot and one of these girls. This new singer was cropping up everywhere- just yesterday Bakugou was compared to him, for what felt like the millionth time. All this talk about some talented singer was making him sick. A sense of déjà vu was also mixed in there. People used to talk about him like that too before his career spiraled out of control and was completely ruined nine months ago.

The second girl, Ava, nodded. “Yeah, Anne was swooning over his hot voice last week, remember?” She rolled her eyes and made dramatic finger quotes at the word hot. “Are you addicted too?”

“Psh, as if,” the brunette scoffed. “I haven’t even heard his songs yet. Hey,” she said slowly, her lips spreading into a grin. “Why don’t we have a listen to this Red Riot right now?” Without waiting for her friend to reply, she excitedly pulled out her phone and a pair of earbuds.

Bakugou looked away. He didn’t need the first-hand experience on people comparing him to Red Riot. And, with the way that radio stations talked about this new singer, Bakugou doubted he was one of those untalented fakes. Just the thought of somebody more gifted than him left a bitter taste in his mouth.

“Here,” he finally heard the brunette say. “Take a listen.”

For a long second, Bakugou tensely waited for their reaction. This meant so much more to him that he thought it would. Please hate him, he wanted to tell them. As he was gathering haters every day, Red Riot was doing to the exact opposite. To witness the exact moment that two easily influenced young girls became the anonymous man’s fan… Bakugou couldn’t take that. Especially when the possibility that they were probably his own admirer once. Fucking shit.

Ava sighed, and Bakugou dared to let a flare of hope burn in his chest. But it was quickly diminished. “Wow,” she said in such a quiet voice he could barely hear her.

“Yeah, I don’t think wow covers it,” the brunette said sarcastically. “More like, ‘oh my God, I think I know who my new idol is.’”

Ava snorted. “That really is some voice though.”

“Right? Like, he actually sings, unlike the music we hear nowadays. It’s so unique. Can you hear autotune?”

“Either he’s a computer genius, or he’s just gifted, don’t ask me.”

“He sounds like an angel.”

Bakugou glared down at the Lays bag of chips at his feet. What the fuck? He sounded like an angel? What was so special about him? All singers are described as an angel at least once in their career. Bakugou wished so badly for Red Riot to be just an overrated Youtuber that it almost hurt. Is he better than me? Bakugou thought sourly. He couldn’t be.

“He’s so much better than that stupid Ground Zero.” Bakugou froze. It was still autumn, but his fingers were numb.

“Yeah. I dunno how jerkface Bakugou even became famous in the first place. And all that stuff he did? He deserves all that hate.”

“God, I wish we could just walk up to him and tell him to stop breathing.”

Wretched giggling that made Bakugou want to rip their throats apart. “That’s so mean, I love it.”

Bakugou swallowed harshly and forced his feet to walk him away from the two girls until their voices barely even echoed in the alleyway. Even middle schoolers hated him. Did toddlers hate him too? Was it really that bad? It is, he answered. As the kid said, you deserve it.

Did he really? All he could hear now was the honk of cars on the other side of the deserted alley. When he looked up again, Bakugou found himself standing on unfamiliar streets, with signs he didn’t recognize. Fuck, was he lost? Fuck, he was lost. Everywhere in New York looked the same to him. The roads weren’t like Tokyo’s at all. Same old gray buildings, same old gray people. He must have really been an idiot to get lost after what, like ten minutes of walking?

Bakugou would have pulled out his phone for directions, but he didn’t want to see the next onslaught of awful tweets and notifications. He was sick of it. But then he realized he literally couldn’t pull out his phone. It was lying on his apartment’s floor, almost certainly with a cracked screen. Did he lock the door to his room?

It wasn’t as if he could ask anybody either. It would cause a big commotion, and all he would gain out of it would probably be another accusation. No, he wouldn’t ask anyone. Couldn’t.

When he wove through the crowd, Bakugou pulled his hood down a little lower and kept his eyes on the shoes that marched around him. There was a middle-aged businessman that he bumped into that gave him a second glance, but Bakugou was already long gone before he could put two and two together. Somehow, he managed to find his way back. The roads started to become familiar until finally, he recognized the words on signposts. His stomach growled loudly enough that the little girl who passed him raised her eyebrow, and Bakugou was reminded just how long he had spent outside, just wandering. Probably more time than he had all together for the past few months.

God, he was hungry. He sure as fuck couldn’t go home; no food awaited him in his empty fridge. Bakugou risked a glance up, and to his relief, spotted a beat-up café squeezed in between two more beat-up stores. He squinted at the sign above the café’s door. Fatgum Café? What a fucking idiotic name. The word ‘fat’ already scared away so many insecure teenage girls. Whatever, it wasn’t as if he gave a fuck. Bakugou pushed past a particularly slow man and stomped up to the glass door.

As he pushed the door open, an annoying little bell chimed above him, alerting basically everybody in the café that a new customer was here. Which, to be honest, were only two people: an employee and some elf-eared guy. Stupid bell.

The café was too small, too cramped. Even five tables and one counter seemed like it could barely fit in the place. The single other customer who sat at the very corner of the café glanced up as Bakugou walked in. He took one look at Bakugou, flinched, leaped out of his seat and walked out far too quickly.

Bakugou ground his teeth for a moment before he forced himself to stop. Whatever. He stormed up to the counter and reached into his pocket. A nervous shiver ran through him when his fingers bumped up against one of the three plastic containers. He quickly grabbed some money and slapped the bill onto the fake marble table. But the anxiousness quickly disappeared when he heard the employee’s cheery voice.

“Welcome!”

Chapter Text

Fuck, he’s hot.

Shit, I looked up.

When the cheerful voice rang through Bakugou’s ears, he couldn’t help but jolt up in utter surprise. He couldn’t believe it. How long had it been since somebody talked to him like that? He couldn’t help but let his eyes linger for a few beats too long. Perhaps way too long. And he wasn’t even gay. The employee had bright red hair, spiked up in such an odd way Bakugou took a second to question the worker’s intelligence. He had a wide grin splitting his face, with a mouth full of strange, razor-sharp teeth that looked remarkably like the ones that a shark owned. His red eyes were like Bakugou’s own, except they burned in a way that sucked people in. Bakugou could probably stare at them for a long time

The employee’s voice was rough and deep, but still in a way music to his ears. After a few long seconds of staring combined with an awkward-turned grin, Bakugou wretched his eyes away and lowered his gaze. But it was already too late. The redhead saw, and now, he was probably going to be kicked out of the café.

In the corner of his eye, to Bakugou’s disbelief, he could see that the employee’s large smile didn’t falter in the slightest. In fact, he even sounded even more chirpy when he asked Bakugou what he would like to order. “The hot chocolate here’s always awesome!” He sang, waving his hand over his head at the menu board.

Hot chocolate? What a fucking wimp. Only children drank hot chocolate willingly. “Iced coffee,” he grunted. “Medium.”

If the employee thought drinking such a cold beverage when it was so close to winter, he didn’t show it. “One medium iced coffee coming right up!”

Bakugou waited at the counter, hands stuck in his pockets. His fingertips were still cold from wandering around out on the streets of New York. He clenched them, hoping that the warmth of his palms could heat them up a little. It worked, but barely. His knuckles were pushing up against the pill containers, but all he felt was muted nervousness. The soft sounds of the warm café made him feel safe; the slow classical music in the background and water hitting a plastic cup. To be honest, Bakugou thought such a battered store would have a heater.

“Staying or to-go?” The redhead suddenly asked.

“Staying,” he muttered. It wasn’t that hard of a decision, really. Stay with this oblivious hot chocolate drinker or go back out there to deal with whatever consequences he was tackling for showing his face in public. Fuck, now that anger wasn’t blinding him, he realized he really shouldn’t have gone and beat up that girl in the stairwell. It would be even worse if she suffered from permanent mental injury or trauma because of him. His agent was going to kill him for this.

The employee hummed softly under his breath as he finished up Bakugou’s drink. He was handed the cup and met with an anxious face waiting for his reaction. Bakugou panicked for a moment, but it quickly turned into annoyance. Since when did he care about what other people thought? Mentally, he snorted at the irony, suddenly recalling his near breakdown in the deserted alley.

Bakugou swallowed, his throat parched dry. He opened his mouth, trying to make a sound and get the word out. When was the last time he said it? Bakugou cleared his throat and tried again.

“T-Thanks.”

Did he fucking stutter? He fucking stuttered.

But still, from just a single, fucking stuttered word, the redhead’s face lit up like a lantern. “No problem!” He beamed at Bakugou.

Bakugou could barely breathe as he backed away from the counter to retire to one of the tables near the window. It had been so long since he had seen a smile like that directed at him. He hated to admit it, but the warmth of it made him catch his breath. He hated to admit it, but he missed those kinds of grins. Bakugou peered outside, only to have his spirits lowered by the sight. It was raining. Pouring cats and dogs. Damn. If he had known that the clouds would be spitting out water droplets as hard as this, he would have brought along an umbrella. Damn.

He didn’t have enough money to call a cab or a phone to call somebody to pick him up. Although if he had either of those things, it wouldn’t really have mattered. What a fucking depressing thought.

Whatever. Bakugou turned his eyes to his drink, hoping to distract himself from this new problem. He brushed his fingers along the plastic cup, feeling the cold seeping into his already freezing fingertips. It was when he rotated the drink around when he saw the little cartoon the redhead had drawn. It wasn’t good by any means, but he could still tell what it was: a small explosion scribbled in red marker. When had he added that?

Bakugou risked a glimpse at the employee, who sat behind the counter staring intensely at a notepad with a pencil in his hand. The redhead didn’t recognize him. This should have been bad. Insulting. He was known all throughout the country, all over the world, by everybody. It should have been so humiliating that some young adult in the middle of everything didn’t know his name. So why did it make him feel warm with relief?

As he downed his drink, Bakugou kept an eye on the rain outside. It was still as heavy as when he first looked out, and it didn’t look as if it would be getting any better. By the time the sky had started darkening, he was done with his drink and just waiting for the rain to stop. He was a little nervous. Could he just run home right now? His apartment was a good thirty minutes away from here, maybe less if he really put his legs to work.

He cursed under his breath, glancing around the café for a clock; he found one, right above his head. Nearing seven. Great. Awesome. Just absolutely spectacular.

“Uh, hey?”

Bakugou looked up. The stupid hot chocolate drinker was talking to him.

“I was wondering, do you have a ride home or something?” The employee asked, nervous, but a smile still stuck on his face. He jabbed his thumb toward to window. “’ Cause it’s raining pretty hard.”

Well, no duh. It didn’t take much of a genius to notice that. Bakugou scowled. Who did this gelled hair guy think he was? A weakling who couldn’t even afford his own car? He could buy twenty if he wanted, and it wouldn’t even make that big of a dent in his savings.

“I can get home perfectly fine,” he growled, standing up. He was a little stiff from sitting for such a long time, but he tried his absolute hardest not to show it as he walked over to the recycling bin to toss his plastic cup. “Mind your own business.”

The employee’s smile faltered for a fraction of a second before the tips of his mouth shot up just as quickly. “Do you have an umbrella?” He asked persistently.

“I don’t need a fucking umbrella,” Bakugou snorted, rolling his eyes and walking to the door with as much grace as he could with sore legs. “A little rain’s not going to crack my head open.”

He was about to push the dirty glass door open when the redhead pipped up again. “But you’re going to get wet,” he protested, closing down the machines around him with record speed. Bakugou watched him, slightly awed at how quickly the employee’s fingers flicked the switches. He must have worked here for a long time to know everything by heart. “Plus, I have an umbrella!”

The fuck?

“You’re not going to walk me home,” Bakugou said through clenched teeth. His dental hygiene was going to ruins with the way he was grinding his teeth together. Before he could change his mind, Bakugou pushed open the door.

“Wait!”

Bakugou groaned and glanced over his shoulder once more. The redhead jumped over the counter and crossed the room with a few steps to reach Bakugou, flipping off the café’s lights as he went. Leave me alone, his mind told him to scream. But he wasn’t going to mess up again. No, not this time. This was life giving him a third chance, in the form of an idiot, and he was going to take it. All he needed was one person in this miserable world who didn’t see him as the villain.

The redhead pulled on his disgustingly bright orange jacket and pulled out an umbrella from one of its pockets. He held it out to Bakugou. “C’mon, the man flashed his blinding smile again. It was the only thing that lit up this dark room. “You know you want to.”

“No,” Bakugou tried one last time, the hard edge fading away from his voice. “Do you fucking English? No means no.”

But the redhead had already won. “I want to walk with you!”

The last of Bakugou’s resistance crumbled down. The blood that was pounding in his ears drowned out the sound of heavy raindrops splattering against the streets. He was sure that if he spoke then, he would have stumbled over his words. So he just grunted and pushed open the door for both of them.

If the employee could grin wider, he did. “What’s your name?” He chirped, looking satisfied with Bakugou’s grunt of an answer. “I’m Kirishima Eijirou!”

Kirishima. That was the name of the mountain his parents used to take him to climb when he was younger. He repeated the name in his mind, the words twisting around in his thoughts. Kirishima Eijirou.

“Bakugou Katsuki,” he muttered, hating the fear that shot through his veins at the idea of Kirishima connecting the dots. But his smile never faded as he locked up the café.

“An explosive name for an explosive person,” Kirishima joked, laughing. Bakugou rolled his eyes. “That’s a nice name, Bakugou Katsuki.”

His name on the redhead’s tongue sounded so right. It felt like they were in the movie when Kirishima opened the umbrella and handed it to Bakugou. He glanced at the oblivious man humming beside him. His ridiculous hair made them almost the same height.

When they started walking in the rain, it was as if there were nobody else in the world except the two of them.

Chapter Text

After that day, Bakugou found himself coming back to the ratty café.

On one of his bad days, just seeing the redhead’s grin could make warmth bloom in his chest. Of course, it wasn’t as if he would ever admit it. On days where the sun was covered by dark clouds and the presence of the pill bottles was vivid, walking into Fatgum Café would relieve it all. After just a few weeks, the little battered shop became his sacred place. Now, Bakugou was just dreading the day when Kirishima took a look at the newspapers and realized just who he was.

“Hey, Bakugou!” Kirishima called, shooting him a wide grin and taking his breath away for what seemed like the millionth time. The redhead set down the notebook that was always in his hands and stood up to greet him. Bakugou walked up to the counter, and before he could even order anything, Kirishima slipped a cup of black coffee into his hands. Its heat burned his fingertips, but the sensation was welcome after his long walk in the cold.

He frowned down at the paper cup. “How the fuck do you know what I’m going to order?”

Kirishima laughed and puffed out his chest, obviously proud of himself. “On Tuesdays and Thursdays, you want iced, and every other day, it’s black,” he said, pushed a tiny plastic spoon towards Bakugou. “Today’s Friday.”

Bakugou stared at the swirl of black for a moment before pulling out his wallet. He couldn’t believe that airhead Kirishima noticed his pattern. There was a very practical reason behind his logic. Black coffee was needed when he was dealing with his agent, just to ease the oncoming headaches, even though he hated the bitter taste. Out of the seven days of the week, he had two off. Sometimes, even three cups of black coffee weren’t enough to keep him energized. He wanted to tell this to somebody, anybody. But he bit back his words.

“Stalker,” Bakugou muttered, shoving the bill across the counter.

The employee grinned. “Not my problem if I’m the next Einstein,” he joked, tapping a finger against his temple.

Bakugou snorted.

Kirishima leaned forward. “Are you going to be staying or leaving?”

Bakugou peered at Kirishima’s face for a moment. There was a small scar above his right eye that he hadn’t noticed. Bakugou wondered how the incident happened. He wanted to ask, but he swallowed his curiosity and lowered his eyes. “Leaving,” he mumbled. “I have a meeting.”

Kirishima tilted his head and frowned for just a second. But then, as quickly as it disappeared, his brilliant smile was back and directed toward Bakugou. “Okay!” He chirped. “I hope you do well! Remember not to drop any f-bombs.”

“Whatever.”

 

It wasn’t exactly a lie. Bakugou really did have a meeting to attend. Just not the type that Kirishima would expect. No, he wasn’t sitting in some important business office, discussing politics and shit. He wasn’t important in that sense. Instead, he was sitting in a large truck, listening to the man sitting beside him talk on and on about the mistakes he had made.

“How many times have I told you to control your anger?” The man was saying. He cut Bakugou an annoyed side glance through long eyelashes. He was tall and slender, with an unnaturally long neck that he so often covers up with a long, jean turtleneck. In fact, his entire strange jacket was jean, as well as the rest of the clothes he wore. The only thing he and Bakugou had in common was their blond hair, and even that had several differences. In Bakugou’s eyes, he looked ridiculous. This carefully styled man was named Tsunagu Hakamata, or otherwise known as Best Jeanist. What a fitting name it was.

Tsunagu was his agent, the guy who manned all of Bakugou’s paperwork and dealt with all the problems that Bakugou caused. One might feel sorry for the guy.

“Are you listening, Bakugou?” Tsunagu asked sharply.

“Yeah,” Bakugou grunted when in reality he had tuned out long ago. His agent had always been giving him lectures like this, even before the incident broke out. Bakugou leaned his head against the truck window.

In the reflection, he could see his agent’s eye twitch in annoyance. “Sit up straight,” he said. “As I have told you before, outward appearance is a key factor in everything. Maybe if you fixed up that hair of yours, you wouldn’t be recognized as a criminal.”

Bakugou just scowled. He would rather deal with Mic’s dramatic shouting than Tsunagu’s calm ones. He sighed and pulled out his phone to read the time. It was cracked, so cracked that he could barely see the numbers. He should have fixed it earlier, but he didn’t. He couldn’t stand the thought of being kicked out of the Apple store of all places. Fucking coward.

It was nearing five. And he could tell by the dying light too. He didn’t want to walk home in the dark.

“Why did you punch the girl?” Tsunagu asked him. “Why, even when you knew the consequences and damages it would do to your already fragmented reputation?”

“She fucking said- “

“There are no excuses,” Tsunagu interrupted. “You did what you did, and no excuse you make can fix it up.”

Bakugou glared at him. “Then why did you ask?”

His agent gave him a level stare. After a few moments of silence, Tsunagu sighed. “You can go now. Do me a favor and fix your form, please.”

As if that was ever going to happen. Last time he let Tsunagu style his hair, he almost exploded after seeing how stupid he looked. Bakugou thought of muttering a goodbye, but he realized he really didn’t have the energy to. Although, he somehow did mass up his strength enough to slam his agent’s car door shut. Conversations with Best Jeanist always left a sour taste in his mouth. Maybe it was the perfection of his nature that annoyed Bakugou. Or perhaps it was merely the way the agent looked at him- as if he was a berserk criminal that would cock a gun at any given time.

What he wouldn’t give to see Kirishima’s grinning face and shitty hair again.

 

“So, what do you do for a living?” Kirishima asked curiously, propping his chin up with his palm. In his other hand, he twirled a chewed-up pencil, while on the counter sat a notebook with barely distinguishable handwriting.

Today, Bakugou held an iced coffee between black gloves. The chill of the drink was welcome. It was the first hot day in a long time, even though it was nearing winter. He could go outside in just a shirt if he wanted. He had been studying the way Kirishima wrote his name on the side of the cup when the sudden question cropped up.

He froze. To lie or to not lie? He should just come out and tell the truth. As if, Bakugou scoffed. This rundown café was his only relief. Without it, his days would be spent locked up in his apartment and staring at nothing in the dark. There was no way he could come clean. Not as long as he could find a way around it. Bakugou didn’t look up as he spat out the first job that came to mind. “IT manager.”

Kirishima nodded, his eyebrows raised with surprise. “I thought you would be in a band or something,” he commented. “Your voice is deep in that hot way, you know? I can’t imagine you sitting around a table with a laptop all day.”

As shocking as it might have been, Bakugou was a little familiar with that kind of work style. Editing songs and putting autotune in places where it virtually could not be spotted took a long time. It strained his eyes, and he would never let his agent mess with the cords. It was his least favorite part of the creation process, no surprise there.

Bakugou scowled and pulled the lid off of the plastic cup. Kirishima watched with amusement as Bakugou chugged half of the cold liquid down. The chill of it seared his throat and numbed his teeth. When the sensation became too much, he slid the cap back on and muttered, “what do you do?”

“Wow, you’re engaging in conversation!” Kirishima laughed. Before Bakugou could curse at him, he patted the fake marble counter lovingly. “I work here.”

“You can’t possibly survive even if you worked your ass off here, shitty hair.”

Kirishima grinned widely. “But I do.”

Bakugou squinted at him suspiciously. The redhead was hiding something, no doubt about it. The income that he earned annually from this worn-down place probably couldn’t even pay for a few months' rent, let alone feed him properly. Kirishima didn’t look as if he was dying of hunger, but perhaps that was just the way his body was built. Seriously, what job could he be working that he couldn’t say? Prostitution? Bakugou snorted to himself. But after a second thought, he shivered. Let’s not think about that.

So he let it drop.

After a few beats of silence, Kirishima causally stood up and said, “Can you hold my phone while I go to the bathroom? I’m expecting a call.” Bakugou raised an eyebrow but took the phone when the redhead handed it to him.

Kirishima grinned. “And put your number in it while you’re at it.”

That soothe fucker.

Chapter Text

That day when the blond singer walked into Fatgum Café, Kirishima realized that the world was wrong. Wrong about anything and everything related to Bakugou Katsuki. Perhaps they had been right at one point. But that point had already disappeared in the distance long ago.

And, yes, of course, he knew who the Bakugou Katsuki was. Who wouldn’t? You would have to be really living under a rock to not know him. Even the smallest towns had newspapers with his picture on the front page. Saying he was popular was an understatement and possibly an insult to his name.

So, why was it that, the oh-so-talented Ground Zero was in the café he worked at? It wasn’t exactly a secret that he lived in New York, but to think that Bakugou Katsuki was within walking distance to Kirishima’s own battered workplace was a bit of a surprise. If just one person saw the infamous singer in Fatgum Café, the shop’s non-existant reputation would be completely destroyed. They would be forced to close shop within two weeks. It was a risk to let Bakugou even step foot in here. His boss would be horrified to know somebody with a background as tainted as Ground Zero’s stomped through the doors almost every day.

And yet, Kirishima couldn’t find it in his heart to kick him out. Kirishima sneaked a glance to the blond, who had fallen asleep at one of the far tables again. He didn’t understand why Bakugou chose to come here when he had a million-dollar penthouse a few blocks away. Not that he minded, to be honest, despite the fact that the café’s future was sitting on a tight line.

The usual frown imprinted on Bakugou’s face was gone, as well as the stress that Kirishima hadn’t noticed was there before it disappeared. All there was was a man that could only be relieved from society’s hatred when he was asleep. A little sad, if Kirishima were to put it in words.

Bakugou looked as if he wouldn’t harm a fly. Which, was definitely not true, at least in his waking state. Kirishima would never forget the way girly way he screamed when Bakugou chucked a chair across the room to kill a small spider. But even so, he found it hard to believe that this man was the person who destroyed hopes and dreams across the country. Although with that secretly recorded conversation between the famous actor Midoriya Izuku and the anonymous interviewer, it became slightly more convincing. More unsettling was the fact that every accusation directed to the blond was neither denied nor confirmed.

But then there was the time when Bakugou tipped a total of three hundred dollars to the café. Enough to replace the creaky door at the entrance that Kirishima dispised.

Hero or villain?

It was impossible to tell.

Bakugou sturred in his sleep and Kirishima frowned. This too confusing for my two brain cells, he thought as he slouched over the counter with a long sigh. The cold of the table leaked into his cheek and he closed his eyes.

“Everything okay, Kirishima?”

Kirishima jumped up so fast the cheap stool he sat on tipped backward and crashed into one of the machines. When water started flowing from the tap, Kirishima yelped and leaped over the fallen stool to flip the switch close. Thankfully, the old, rusty machine was still functioning and the water stopped. Kirishima let out a breath of relief. Fatgum would have killed him if he broke that thing.

Somebody cleared their throat. Kirishima looked up to see Tamaki frantically glancing back and forth between him and the mechanism behind him.

“Nothing’s broken,” Kirishima assured him, picking up his stool and taking a seat on it again. Tamaki’s tense shoulders relaxed. “Good morning, Tamaki!” He almost added senpai before he remembered he wasn’t in Japan anymore. Habits are hard to break, I guess.“You gonna order anything?”

Tamaki paused, gaze flickering to the board above the counter. “Same as usual, please,” he said, sliding the bill across the counter.

“Hot chocolate coming right up!” Kirishima sang.

“Is- ” Tamaki began in a low voice as he jerked his head toward the only other customer. His voice seemed to get stuck in his throat and he cleared it before starting again. “ -Is that who I think it is?”

“Probably,” Kirishima guessed. He eyed the dark-haired man from the corner of his eye as he prepared the warm drink. Now that he thought about it, Tamaki never seemed to be here at the same time as Bakugou. His elder was more twitchy than usual, tracing small figure eights on the counter and biting down on his lip as if it owed him something. His slouch was twice as visible; he seemed to shrink under the presence of the infamous singer.

There was a comfortable silence between them as Kirishima topped the drink off with a few tiny marshmallows. As routine, he felt an urge to pop on in his mouth. But he resisted the instinct, for fear of how Fatgum always seemed to puff up when he was angry. He wouldn’t have a job if his boss exploded.

“You know,” Kirishima suddenly said, sliding the drink into Tamaki’s hands. “He’s not as bad as they say.”

Tamaki blinked, surprised. “You think so?” He looked down at the table, his fingertips shuffling nervously against the counter. “There’s a lot of articles out there about him. I’m not sure, Kirishima.”

Kirishima hummed thoughtfully. “If it looks like a duck, acts like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.”

The tips of Tamaki’s ears flushed red in embarrassment. “I-I didn’t mean it that way,” he whispered. His figure-eights looked more like rushed scribbles now. “I’m sure he must be an okay person if you think so. Maybe even a great person! Although people never really change,” He added darkly. He looked like he wanted to say something more, but Tamaki clamped his mouth shut and turned several shades of red.

“I didn’t mean he was bad,” Tamaki muttered. Kirishima wondered what his soft-spoken friend really thought of Bakugou.

“Yeah, maybe,” he mused. “Who knows?”

 

When Tamaki left, Kirishima got himself a cup of water. As he sipped the clear liquid, he glanced out the window. It usually wasn’t windy, but today, harsh currents of air blew against the thin glass that threatened to shatter with just a bit more pressure. He learned the hard way last year that there were cracks at the bottom of the window. They never found the time or money to patch it up. Outside, the sky was dark gray, which occurred frequently nowadays. Storm clouds brew in the distance, promising the unforgiving storm that would fall in a few hours.

Kirishima shivered. In just under a month, winter would officially arrive. He would have to turn up the heater soon if he didn’t want to turn into a Kiri-sicle. There was no doubt in his mind that he loved Fatgum Café, even it wasn’t the best coffee shop in the city. But the pressure of the money he owed was enough for him to actively consider taking on another job. Youtube certainly helped. Student debt, the three surgeries that had all failed, and not to mention, overdue rent.

He would have never expected to get himself in such a mess back in high school. If only he had studied harder. If only he hadn’t been so bent ongoing international.

Kirishima turned his gaze to the notebook on the counter in front of him. He didn’t even know what his next song was going to be about. He stared at the paper. It stared back at him. Oh my God.

“What’s your problem now?”

Kirishima almost cursed in surprise as he looked up to see Bakugou, who was asleep a moment ago in the corner of the café, now standing in front of him. The blond gave him a slightly confused scowl and picked up the scratched up notebook from the counter to examine it more closely. “What kind of shit is this- “

“Nothing!” Kirishima yelped, rushing to grab it out of Bakugou’s hands. He could feel nervous sweat dripping down his back, even though it was freezing in the café. As he gave Bakugou an unsteady grin, he covertly shoved the notebook into a drawer under the table. Heart pounding quickly in his chest, he said, “Don’t worry about it, man! It was nothing at all!”

Kirishima laughed anxiously and he rubbed the back of his neck casually- not at all casually, really. He knew he was acting fishy, and he wanted to slap himself for his awful acting skills. Bakugou raised an eyebrow in what was clearly disgust. “What the hell, shitty hair?” He grumbled. “I saw how fucked up that thing was, idiot. Its pages are almost out of its fucking bind. Do everyone a favor and get a new one. While you’re at it, pay for my eye trauma.”

Inside, Kirishima let out a long sigh of relief. A weight he hadn’t noticed that had been added on his shoulders for a few moments lifted. “Y-yeah, it’s a little beat up, isn’t it?” He smiled, swallowing through his closed throat when the blond squinted at him suspiciously. “Uh, yup.”

After a moment of intense staring, Bakugou just scowled and shook his head. A heartbeat later, he pulled out an impossibly cracked phone. When he clicked it on, his scowl deepened. “I gotta go,” he muttered, a muscle in his jaw ticking. He shoved the phone back into his pocket. “Later, loser.”

“Bye!” Kirishima called as the blond marched out, waving even though he didn’t look over his shoulder. As Bakugou reached for the wobbly entrance door, Kirishima quickly added, “You should get a new phone, too!”

Bakugou rolled his eyes, snorted, and stalked out.

As Kirishima began to finally loosen up after that near-discovery of his little online career, a muted scream from outside made its way to his ears. He stood there, frozen and unsure if his imagination was playing tricks on him. When shouting followed, he snapped out of his uncertainty and jerked his head up, just in time to see a little girl burst into tears right next to the front doors of the café. A woman standing dangerously close to the edge of the sidewalk flailed her arms before crying out and plunging into the rush of cars. Kirishima didn’t even have to sort through the people in the scene to know who caused this.

He stood there, not knowing what to do. Bakugou was already disappearing into the crowd. Kirishima ran his fingers through his hair, completely forgetting about the way he was destroying his hairdo, and took a seat. What was that, three seconds? Three seconds of walking out of Fatgum Café before causing a scene. Kirishima could literally smell the scent of police arriving.

An annoyingly familiar screech pierced the air and Kirishima straightened. Holy shit, was the police actually here? He gazed out the window. And, sure enough, a heartbeat later, he could see flashing lights in the reflection of glass windows.

What a fucking mess.

 

That night, Kirishima continued on with his normal activities, always keeping his eyes open to anxiously watch the news. He was sitting in the kitchen at his small plastic table while eating a package of frozen fries when he saw it. Bakugou’s frantic face, captured in a video on a shaky phone’s camera. People holding up hand gestures that would have made the devil frown. The little push. A car running over a woman’s leg in the background. Kirishima winced when he heard the audible crunch of bone cracking. Why would they put such a scene on the most popular television channel?

This disgustingly large mess, all because a little girl through Ground Zero was the villain in a superhero movie.

But Bakugou was far from a villain. At least, not from what Kirishima could see. How could he get everybody else to see that too?

The screen changed. A black background with familiar red letters appeared in the place where the graphic video had been, and his own music played from the box television. Something people could relate to and draws people in- being misunderstood. Something that caught people’s attention- revealed truth.

He’d do what he did best nowadays. Kirishima picked up his pencil and scratched a few letters into his notebook, before coming to an abrupt stop.

What should be the song’s title?

Chapter Text

Just as Kirishima’s heart began to pound at the prospect of releasing such a controversial song and the idea of joining all this drama, his phone rang on the counter top. His ringtone filled the quiet atmosphere of the room, soft music reaching all corners of the kitchen. It was one of Ground Zero’s less popular songs, Among Them. Unlike many of his other songs, this one was gentle and not unlike a lullaby. Kirishima usually wasn’t into tender music like this; he was more about the rock and roll. But something about this particular piece- perhaps it was the odd undertones that the music emitted, or the rare way Bakugou’s voice sounded delicate. It drew him in. One of those songs you have no reason why you love, but all you know is that you do, and you’ll loop it on repeat for the next few weeks.

Bakugou’s music didn’t stand out from the rest of the industry. They were usually fierce, and about either getting to the top or a love story. When Kirishima was back in Japan, he didn’t think Ground Zero’s music could ever be subtle. It was rare to hear one of his less explosive songs on the radio, especially after the huge commotion a few months ago. Kirishima ignored the caller, and just let the Bakugou’s deep voice fill his ears.

When Kirishima first heard the old song, like everybody else, he thought it was another about how Bakugou clawed his way up the competitive music industry. Bakugou sang about his young self, dreaming about living with the first-class. It ended with a slightly discouraging note: now that I’m among them, I’m not happy in my own home.

For all he knew, Bakugou could have been secretly depressed this whole time. As much as it was hard to imagine the angry blond being so miserable, it wasn’t as difficult as he thought. Kirishima pursed his lips and picked up the phone.

As soon as he saw the blond-haired boy who wore a smile as if he just won the lottery, Kirishima scrambled to press the accept button. In the dark background of the call screen, he could see his own face lifting up to a wide grin. Human interaction! He missed it so much. Just seeing Bakugou and Tamaki for a few minutes a week wasn’t enough for his extroverted soul. He could picture his friends gathered around a phone excitedly on the other side of the planet.

“Hey, man!” Kaminari’s cheerful voice called from the other side of the phone. With the wonky connection of Kirishima’s apartment, his friend’s voice broke off in random parts of the sentence. After a few years of living here though, he had learned how to piece together the scratches of sound that rang from his phone. “How are you managing without your saviors?”

Simple way to put it, not the best. Without his friends’ optimistic perspectives, it was easy to get caught up in the pessimistic dark corners of his mind. Working as an employee whose job was to interact would have helped- if he had more than just seven customers a day. The thought of money stressed him out to no extent. Talking to people was his go-to distraction, but striking up a conversation with the busy people on the streets of New York was no easy task.

Instead of saying all that, Kirishima just snorted, getting up to make some last-minute hot chocolate. He put the phone on speaker and placed it back onto his wooden table. “You sound like you expect me to miss you guys,” he retorted, grinning. In the background, he could hear Mina and Sero yelling their lungs out in protest. Kirishima laughed. “Kidding, kidding! You guys are coming back soon, right?”

“Yup,” Kaminari confirmed. “In three days, I’m pretty sure.”

Kirishima raised an eyebrow. “You don’t sound too sure, man.” He let the water boil and sat back down. He was teasing his friend, but secretly, he so desperately wanted them back. He wished he could have gone back to Japan with them- but alas, he was, just like always, short on money. Mina had suggested that they push their trip back another year, until things were more stable. Kirishima, of course, felt horrible, and literally had to force them onto the airplane while wearing a fake smile and saying he would make a hundred new friends before they came back.

“Of course I am!” Kaminari snapped indigently. “Anyways… Did you happen to hear about the infamous blondie? Hey, now that I’m thinking about it, wasn’t that incident really close to the café you work at- HEY!”

Kirishima scrunched his eyebrows together in confusion when the sentence came to an abrupt stop. When Mina’s voice replaced his, Kirishima guessed that she probably grabbed the phone out of his hand. “You good, Kirishima?” She asked while Kaminari’s voice complained in the background. “Kaminari’s an insensitive idiot, sorry about him. It was right in front of the shop, right? Did you see Ground Zero?”

“I’m fine, it’s not like I was that lady,” Kirishima said, rubbing his neck sheepishly under her affection. “And, yeah- I saw him. He… He’s not as bad as they say, man.”

For a long, breathtaking moment, there was silence on the other end. But then distantly, Kaminari, the first to recover from the surprise, let out a little gasp of astonishment. “Do you hear yourself, Kirishima?” He demanded, he and Mina grunted, no doubt wrestling over who got to hold the phone on the other side of the earth. “This is that blondie we’re talking about! Remember what Deku said?”

“Deku’s an actor, it’s what he does best! He could be lying for all we know, just to boost his popularity!” Sero argued, his voice suddenly loud in Kirishima’s ear. He winced. Mina said something he didn’t catch. “What? No! He’s still my favorite actor of all time, I would never betray him, but-!”

Kirishima didn’t get to hear the end of Sero’s sentence, because the call ended. He glanced down at it, frowning. Was it the connection or that one of his friends accidentally pressed the end call button? Confused, his frown deepened. Of course he was beyond happy and excited that his best-friends-forever-and-ever were coming back, but part of him really wished Kaminari hadn’t said that, because he did remember what the fragile-looking actor said.

I have twenty-nine scars from Kacchan and I remember the exact moment he gave them to me. Three by accident and twenty-six on purpose.

From what the reporter got from the interview, apparently Ground Zero and Deku had been very close when they were children and spent their entire childhood together. They were really good friends, until Bakugou began his journey to fame.

I think it’s sad, really, what being famous can do to you. Kacchan used to be nice, still a bit of a bully, yes, but still nice. I sometimes wish that neither of us became famous at all.

To Kirishima, the famous actor Deku seemed like a kind-hearted person who would travel to the edge of the world and back for the people he loved. Not at all like the type of guy who would talk shit behind another person’s back just to be noticed. But perhaps Bakugou wasn’t the only person changed by fame. Kirishima glanced down at his notebook, filled with scribbled writing even he could barely read, and wondered. Would he end up just like the tired blond man he saw at the café? He should stay away from all this, like that sculptor Tsuyu, who had half the brains to know to avoid people who brought bad luck.

If he was smart, Kirishima would abstain from interacting with Bakugou. He would put the blond’s name on the blacklist and hire security guards the café couldn’t afford to keep the infamous singer out of his proximity. He would block Bakugou on all social media platforms, delete his number, and never let him see one of his sharp-toothed smiles ever again.

But he just couldn’t stay away.

Kirishima sat back in his chair. He let a sigh be dragged out from his throat and threw his pencil onto the table half-heartedly. He startled when there was a knock on the basement door. Kirishima resisted the urge to let out another sigh as he quickly stood up. The idea of a kitchen was incinerated from his imagination when he realized, for the millionth time, it took only about five steps to get from where he sat in front to the television to his “front door”. As he laid his hand on the rusted doorknob, his foot brushed against a scrap of paper on the floor.

Kirishima bent down to pick it up. His renter, who, unfortunately wasn’t a fan of social interaction, must have slipped the paper under the basement door.

He didn’t even need to read it to know what kind of content it contained. But he did anyway.

Mr. Kirishima,

You’re a good kid, but you’re several months behind in rent. I’m sorry to say this, but if you don’t have the money by the end of this year, I’m going to have to ask you to leave. With a debt on your shoulders. So, please, do us both a favor and get your shit together.

Kirishima grimaced at the last sentence. Mr. Renter had a good point. He should really get his shit together.

New year was in two months. He had a measly two months to pay up. Well, it looked like rent was going to be a higher priority than all the other payments that must be met. Could his current income from Youtube be enough? It should be, right? He hoped so.

Chapter Text

Fourth Kind <fourthkind@justanagent>

To me

Hello Red Riot, I know that you’ve turned down my previous offer to perform at a live concert, but I hope you’ll reconsider. This will make a great impact on your career – for the better. It’ll help you get your name out there and around the world, instead of just circulating in America. Mysterious Canada and faraway China should have a chance to hear your voice.

This time, I’d like to offer you a spot at a festival in Los Angeles. I’ve attached the official proposal with this email. You’ve written many new songs these months. You would be one of the other ten artists to perform there. Of course, I would have to know your identity for this contract to be official. Legalizations are also attached to this email.

If you accept, we could work out a way to mask your identity. Think about this. The world wants to know your name, Red Riot.

Sincerely, Fosu Kaindo.

 

“Are you in school, Kirishima?” Tamaki asked.

Kirishima shook his head. “Nope,” he replied. “Do I look like I am?”

Tamaki scrunched his eyebrows together, fingers picking at the edge of his paper cup. Kirishima wondered how the heat of the coffee he finally decided to try didn’t burn holes into his hands. “Not really,” the man replied. “You just always seemed to be writing in a notebook, so I just assumed. Sorry.”

“No reason to apologize, man,” Kirishima said, grinning. He tucked the notebook that sat on his lap a little closer. “I just like to write, that’s all.”

The two of them sat at the table Tamaki usually occupied. Kirishima’s eyes hurt from squinting at the messy words he scribbled; there were no customers, so he figured he might as well keep his only patron company. Only when he sat down on one of the chairs did he realize just how sturdy it was. Actually, the word sturdy didn’t quite cover it. Words like wobbly or unsteady were more fitting.

“How old are you, Tamaki?” Kirishima asked. He’d been curious about this for a while, but the right time to ask never seemed to come up. The regular looked like your average college student, but with the mature feeling that he carried with him, Kirishima wouldn’t be surprised if he was much older. “I’m twenty-four.”

Tamaki fiddled with the string of his hoodie. For once he wasn’t in any type of formal wear. “I’m a year older than you,” he said in a low voice.

“That’s so cool! And here I thought you might be some serious businessman!”

 

Red Riot <redriot@gmail>

To Fourth Kind

I’ve thought a bit about your offer and looked over the attachments. Sounds good.

Your agency seems legit from your website. This contract binds us for one year, right? Is there any chance we can meet up over the winter break to discuss the details in person? If everything seems alright, I’ll sign it.

Best regards, Kirishima Eijirou

 

“You should get a new job,” Bakugou remarked, finally looking up from his phone and setting the device face down onto the counter. That was a habit of Bakugou’s, Kirishima noticed. He had a few guesses as to why the blond wouldn’t want to see the screen of his phone and none of them were any good.

“What do you mean?” Kirishima asked.

“Look at this place,” Bakugou said with a snort, waving his hand around the café. “Do you starve? Are you even eating every day? Your boss can’t possibly supply you with enough money to pay rent and feed yourself.”

Kirishima shrugged. “You’d be surprised.” After a second thought, he added, “I have a side-thing going on. It helps a lot.”

Bakugou looked curious but didn’t push it. “Well,” he grumbled. “That side-thing must be paying you loads of money.”

“It’s enough to keep me relatively healthy,” Kirishima said. Before Bakugou could reply, he sped on. “You know, Bakugou, my friends are coming back to New York tomorrow. They’re pretty good people if I do say so myself.” He laughed. “They’re my friends, after all. Wanna get to know them?”

The blond’s eyes narrowed. “Your friends? Knowing you, they can’t be much better. No thanks.”

Kirishima clutched his chest in horror and feigned hurt. “How could you, Bakubro? I thought we were bros!”

“We were never even close to bros. And stop calling me that.”

“Aw, c’mon! Let’s become bros right now, Bakubro.”

They joked about this, but Kirishima knew that deep down, it wasn’t just some personality issue that stopped the infamous singer from making new friends. Kirishima could tell that the idea of meeting people made the blond jittery and beyond terrified. When you were hated by pretty much everybody you know and everybody that you would get to know later on, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see how much it destroyed self-confidence.  

“No way in hell.”

 

Fourth Kind <fourthkind@justanagent>

To me

I’m glad to know. And, yes, the contract is dated for only one year. After that, if we both agreed, a new agreement could be formed, for a longer period of time if preferred. It all depends on the situation we are in.

Would you like to meet at my office in a weeks’ time? I could put aside two hours to discuss the terms and explain the festival to you farther. Let me know the precise time you are free.

Speak to you soon, Fosu Kaindo.

 

For the entire week, Kirishima was nervous. One could even argue that he was even more nervous than Tamaki. Every time that the little bell attached to the door rang, he jumped up so quickly and so high that hitting his head on the board above was a possibility. Fatgum would definitely slit his throat for that. A billboard for a restaurant wasn’t exactly a cheap thing that could be bought from the dollar store. But perhaps, one day, Kirishima would be able to make enough money to fund it.

His future-agent, Kaindo, seemed like the serious type. He was a large man, with broad shoulders and a face that carried a glare that could rival the ferocity of Bakugou’s. On his website, a stitched scar could be seen marring his left eye. Kaindo’s hair was shaved to a buzz cut and he never seemed to be wearing anything other than a black suit and an odd-looking tie.

Fosu Kaindo. His would-be first-ever agent. What a wonder it was to think about.

Chapter Text

To be completely honest, Bakugou was jealous of the easy-going way that Kirishima lived his life. Always wearing a smile wherever he went, no matter the things he faced. In the very same way, he admired the redhead. How could you smile when your home was in the basement of a shady fifty-year-old man? How could you possibly laugh when half of the days, the only thing you could afford to eat was the cheapest frozen food you could find in the market? How, how – why could you be happy when you sat in a run-down café for most of your day?

Bakugou didn’t get. Not in the slightest. Bakugou was rich. It wasn’t even a brag either. Search up the top ten richest men on earth and the first article that would appear on the page would be of him, officially claiming the second-place spot, right beneath that wretched famous actor. Not only was he fucking sad every damn day; he couldn’t even manage to get first in anything he did. People would always be better than him, superior in every way imaginable, smarter, more talented, more creative.

So when he glanced at Kirishima, who always seemed to be full of joy and laughter, who was in the lower-class, poor, and had awful luck, still grinning at cat videos, he was in awe. How much positivity could one possibly radiate?

Perhaps that was why he kept on coming back to that worn café, just to be near the positivity that he so craved. Bakugou wanted to be part of why Kirishima smiled. He didn’t know when he had gotten so soft.

Bakugou sunk back into his bed. The silence in his apartment was nice. No buzzing of his phone, he had deleted all his social media platforms and put it on airplane mode, no neighbors who yelled their lungs out at each other because of some fallen plant – not even the sound of his laptop’s fans whirling after hours of editing. Silence was underrated, he decided. The serenity of hearing nothing but his own breath was miraculous. Ever since he had been thrown into the world of music and fame, it was as if his life had been on a constant run, to catch up to others, to get ahead, to be the best singer the world could provide.

He thought he could handle it all of it, from the interviews to the hate to the stalkers.

And, and, he could! Bakugou sat up, running his fingers through his messy hair. Just like that, his rare moment of peace was gone, and in replacement, he got a pounding heart and panic racing through his veins. Not a fair trade. But he could handle it. He could handle everything the world threw at him. Anything and everything.

Madness wasn’t a choice. Backing down wasn’t a choice. Giving up wasn’t a choice. There was no room for failure; no option of failure. If he saw another disappointed face, he would fucking die.

Bakugou lay back down onto his bed, throat dry and skull tingling from the fierce way he dragged his nails. His hands trembled, and if he kept his eyes open any longer, tears would –

God, he was going crazy. No, no, no. He wasn’t. No way, no fucking way. He could take anything on, anything

Perhaps this was what his mother meant when she commented on how stubborn he was.

Bakugou groaned and flung his arm over his eyes. It made no difference really. His room didn’t have any windows, and his door was closed. He couldn’t tell whether or not he had his eyes opened anyway with how dark it was. Everything was so unnecessary. Eating, sleeping, taking a shit, so unnecessary. Living was so unnecessary. Why do it when the only thing it gave him was such pain? What was the point of all this? Useless, useless, useless…

I should just –

I want to fucking –

The world doesn’t even need me –

They don’t want me –

They wouldn’t give a shit if I –

I just want to -

To just –

Just –

D –

His phone buzzed. And buzzed again.

Bakugou slammed his fist into the soft bed he lay on and dragged himself to a sitting position. Had he not silenced his phone? Don’t tell me my own fucking phone is a traitor. Bakugou picked up the device and roughly jammed his thumb against the power button on the side carelessly. The screen blinked open, and two texts were there to meet his eyes.

If u have 10 apples in one hand and 12 in the other, what do u have?

Really big hands

From Kirishima. For a moment, he couldn’t do anything. Couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe. And then it all came rushing out. The two simple texts that Kirishima sent were probably offhand and an afterthought, but it was the oxygen Bakugou’s lungs. The air he needed. Like the ladder he could climb or rope he could grab onto to drag himself out of the shithole he dug himself into. A beacon of hope. It was all that he needed for a lifeline. Just two texts. That was all it took.

He barely noticed the way teardrops splattered against his phone or the way he was struggling to breathe through the lump in his throat because all he couldn’t think about was Kirishima’s brilliant smile that lit up his life. Kirishima, so bright, so energetic, like the sun he couldn’t live without. Bakugou didn’t know what to call this feeling, this feeling that made it hard to draw in air and made his eyes bubble with unwanted tears. The numbness that wrapped around his body like a baby to a suffocating pillow was slowly dissipating. It was odd, how something so insignificant could make such a huge impact. He could feel his own lip chin tremble with the need to cry, but he didn’t want to, not when the last time he’d felt so, so, what was this feeling – was years ago.

Years of turning anything he felt into a burning rage that threatened to consume him made him unfamiliar with new emotions. Bakugou stood from the warmth of his bed and stumbled his way to the bathroom, where water was, where it could wash away the evidence that he had an episode. It was near the sink that the sobs hit him harder, and he had to reach out with a hand to steady himself. Bakugou knelt down, clenching the edge of the sink with his hand so hard there was no doubt that his fingers were turning white with the pressure. All the imaginary mental walls he had built up over the past few years came tumbling down. With his free hand, he comprised it into a fist and pressed against his eyes, until his vision exploded with stars, but even then, the tears didn’t cease to fall.  

He wished he had known Kirishima earlier, met him earlier. He wished they were closer, better friends, closer, so much closer. The world was a blur. He could barely think. The last time he had seen the redhead was two days ago. Bakugou missed him already. Closer. He wanted to share conversations every day, many times a day, with no barrier of fame or any of that shit acting as walls.

Bakugou swallowed between gasps. But for now, just two texts containing horrid dad jokes were fine. More than fine.

Idiot.

From Bakugou.

Chapter Text

Chapter 10

Mental breakdown.

Those two words left Bakugou ready to scream his lungs out at the world in pure frustration. His fingers were trembling as they scrolled down an article that only bookworms read, and this time, the trembling was from horror and disbelief instead of… whatever that was earlier. 

A mental breakdown. There were three words highlighted in bright yellow and linked with a website right at the beginning of the first paragraph. Depression. Anxiety. Acute stress disorder .

Excuse me? He was shocked. Whoever wrote this article didn’t know what they were talking about.

Bakugou Katsuki was the best. The best of the best. He was so much more talented than everyone else, so much smarter than everyone else, just better in general. He did not have anxiety , much less depression . What was there to be sad and nervous about? His life was perfect. He was rich, he was famous, he had the house, the cars – heck, he even had the fanfiction! There was nothing to be afraid of. He could overcome anything and everything that was thrown at him. 

A period of intense mental distress , the article stated. 

“Intense mental distress?” Bakugou asked aloud. He paused and listened to his voice echo off his empty apartment walls. He tried to not notice how dark and hollow it all looked as he snorted at how ridiculous his voice sounded. How ridiculous how that sounded coming out of his mouth. Was there even anything to worry about?

- isolating yourself in your home , the paragraph read. His eyelid twitched.

“Fuck you!” Bakugou yelled, jabbing his finger at his phone screen angrily. He tried not to think about how his phone screen was cracked into tiny bits of glass just a few weeks ago. “I have friends! I talk to people! I’m not a fucking hermit!”

The zero messages in his contact list seemed to be mocking him. He could feel his vein begin to throb beneath his neck, and dimly, he wondered how much anger it would take for the vessel to explode in red. At least, at least, anger made him alive. Compared to the aimless feeling that weighed on his shoulders, the rage that made him want to shriek in frustration was welcome. 

Yes, he just needed to feel a little more alive . Self-diagnosing on the internet was never good, and there was no way his pride would allow him to go see a professional. There wasn’t anything wrong with him. Life was just boring him a little.

It was okay. He was, dare he say, happy.

Maybe punching a few people on the streets would liven up his spirits. The idea waned when his agents’ warnings came echoing back to him in waves and he winced. Perhaps not the best solution, but it was a start. Bakugou nodded to himself, skimming past the words on the article without really reading any of it. He was fine, all good, okay, nothing to worry about – 

- many don’t even realize they have matching symptoms until another person points it out.

It was taunting him. He wanted to cry.

Fuck, wait no – 

Bakugou buried his face into his hands with a small groan. He just needed a little fresh air. Yeah, a little fresh air.

 

 “Why are you doing that?” Bakugou asked in annoyance. 

Kirishima glanced up. “Doing what?” The blond had dark circles beneath his eyes – larger than normal, and with the way his hair was pushed back, it seemed likely that he hadn’t gotten any sleep in the past few days. You would think that one of the richest men in the world would always look his absolute best and have his own, personal stylist, but there was a first for everything, he guessed. 

Bakugou’s lips twitched downward. He pointed at Kirishima’s hands. “Making that horrid noise with your nails.”

Kirishima looked down. He stopped. He hadn’t even noticed he was scratching his fingers against the table. When he ceased the motion, his fingertips were a little numb and Kirishima flipped his hands over to examine the damage. Because of the rough wooden surface that the table in the café provided, he expected to see raw skin, scrapped away by the chipped wood, but they were just a little red. “Jeez,” he muttered. “I gotta take a chill pill. Next thing you know, I’m going to be bouncing off the ceiling.”

“What are you so damn nervous about?” Bakugou asked, hesitatingly offering him a few bandages. 

Kirishima waved them off. “I’m picking up my friends from the airport in a few hours,” he replied. Just thinking about it made his heart jump in anticipation. They’d been away for so long. He would see their familiar faces by the end of the day, and that was enough to make him brimming with excitement. 

“I know,” Bakugou said, his frown growing. “You’ve been going on and on about it for ages. I don’t give a shit, but after how many times you yelled it on the top of your lungs, I think anybody would have it etched in their minds.”

Kirishima laughed, a little sheepishly. “Sorry about that,” he took a deep breath and rubbed his hands against his face. “I’m just really – “

“Excited, I know.”

“See, you get it!” Kirishima exclaimed. Before he could burst out with more words, he grabbed the coffee he had poured for himself and chugged the remaining half down. It was cold from sitting on the table for so long and it strained his throat to continuously swallow the liquid, but he ignored the feelings. Nothing could ruin his spirit right now, except perhaps his friends’ plane being delayed.

“What’s a mental breakdown?”

He almost choked. Perhaps choking would have been slightly better compared to spewing out his drink right into Bakugou’s face. The blond gaped at him for a moment before leaping back to avoid the coffee. A little splashed onto the singer’s very expensive-looking jacket and Kirishima wondered if selling his organs would be enough to pay for the damage.

“Watch it, shitty hair,” Bakugou grumbled, shooting him a glare before snatching a few napkins off the pile offered on the fake marble surface and dabbing at his jacket.

“Shit, I’m sorry,” Kirishima yelped, scrambling to leap over the counter to help. He felt even more guilty when he accidentally kicked Bakugou’s shin with haste. “Sorry, sorry, sorry, I’ll pay for it, I know I look cheap, but I’ll go on the bones beauty diet, sorry, I – “

“Bones – what now?” Bakugou sputtered.

Kirishima wasn’t one to blush often. He was never ashamed of his actions or embarrassed. There was no reason to prove himself to anyone, so why both to dwell on it? But with the way his face felt hot even to himself, he was beginning to wonder if it was too late to begin a prayer for serenity. “A goal of zero pounds,” Kirishima mumbled, ducking his head to hide the redness as he furiously whipped the jacket. “Organ diets, lungs, liver, heart are all included…”

“What a fucking absurd joke! Is that your way of saying you’re selling your organs just to pay,” Bakugou raised his eyebrows and waved his arm in the air, “for this?”

“Well, this job doesn’t pay very well,” Kirishima muttered. He was digging himself deeper and deeper into a hole. 

Bakugou actually laughed. Kirishima bit his lip and urged the ground to open up and swallow him whole. It was rare for the blond to even smile, much less laugh. Normally, he would be proud, but right now, it just made the blood rush into his head quicker. “I have three more of these at home,” Bakugou said with a grin. “With you being the clumsy idiot you are, I’m surprised I even managed to last so long without coffee splashes.”

“Sorry.”

“Calm the fuck down,” Bakugou told him. To his surprise, Bakugou reached out and roughly patted his cheek. “My face is up here, dumbass.”

He forced himself to meet the blond’s eyes. There was a fiendish grin on his face. It made him look much younger than the scowl would ever hope to achieve. Even if the smirk was devilish and told of nothing but onward teasing, Kirishima wished Bakugou would make that face more often.

To return the gesture, Kirishima gently tugged on one of those blond locks and pulled his lips into a smile. “Did I ever tell you I’m jealous of your hair?” Flawless change of topic , he congratulated himself internally.

In response, Bakugou rolled his eyes. “Who wouldn’t be?”

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but you’re cocky and arrogant.”

“I’ve lived with myself for twenty-four years, don’t think I’m oblivious.”

“We’re the same age, man!”

To that, Bakugou furrowed his eyebrows. “You didn’t know?” Under his breath, he added, “dumbass.”

“I’m not a stalker!” Kirishima retorted indignantly. 

“What coffee do I have on Tuesdays?” 

“Iced.” Ah. Shit.

“Heh. Stalker.”

 

It wasn’t until after Bakugou bid goodbye that Kirishima realized he had forgotten about an important chunk of their conversation. As he mixed a coffee for one of the more unfamiliar customers that went to Fatgum Café, he wondered why Bakugou would want to know the definition of such a term.

---

Mina was still Mina, Kaminari was still Kaminari, and Sero was still Sero. When Kirishima picked the three up from the airport, it was as if nothing had changed. Nothing had, really. It had seemed as if they were gone for years instead of a few months. Perhaps it was simply because of the sheer number of life-turning events that had happened while they were gone. He hadn’t realized how alone he had felt until they pulled him until a tight hug. It crushed the air straight out of his lungs and hurt his sides, but he didn’t mind, because, his most favorite people on this entire pile of dirt were back in his life.

They shoved countless souvenirs into his arms and slapped his back heartily. There was one charm of a bomb that suited Bakugou’s fiery personality. Kirishima wished Bakugou would agree to meet them, even if it was an idea stupid to its core.

They spent the rest of the day lounging around Mina’s apartment. It was the biggest out of all of theirs, by far; a result of her successful job as a real estate agent in the big city. In ways, Kirishima was a little jealous of how easy her path to the top went. But it faded the moment he saw her dazzling smile accompanied by her odd choice of dark eye shadow. To her, he was beyond grateful. All those times he fell onto his knees after a harsh hit from life’s baseball bat, Mina opened her doors with a generosity that he had thought faded from humanity and offered him her spare rooms or fold-up leather couch. 

 “One day,” Kaminari announced dramatically from where he lay sprawled out on the floor. “One day! I will be the president! You hear me?” He sighed and mumbled in a daze, “I’ll buy you all a house. Three houses!”

Kirishima laughed and hauled the blond onto one of Mina’s pink beanbags. “I think jet lag is messing up your head, mean,” he told him.

From the kitchen, Sero could be heard snorting loudly. “That’s just Kaminari being his idiot self!”

Kaminari huffed. “Says you! Shut the hell up and cook our food.”

Sero poked his head out from the doorway leading into the living room and shot Kaminari a nasty glare. “You shouldn’t be talking in that manner to a guy who’s handling your food,” he warned, waving a plastic butter knife around threateningly.

“Mina, he’s bullying me,” Kaminari whined, tugging at the girl’s sleeve in complaint. 

Mina grinned and batted his hand away. “Going to Kirishima for help is a better idea.”

“Kirishima, my bro, save me from that monster.”

Kirishima patted his friend’s soft blond hair. “After he makes the food,” he replied with a smile. Kaminari groaned about their betrayal and lay limp on the beanbag, feigning death. 

If he was writing his own story, he would have described this moment as happy. A memory stored away in the back of his mind, not conscious, but still there, without even a hint of being ready to disappear. It would be warm-toned with domestic red and orange tints, faded around the edges, like an old photograph. This is how life should be lived , Kirishima decided in that instant. Happily

As rich scents of coffee began floating from the kitchen, his mind was drawn back to the few hours he spent working at that little café, chatting about things that didn’t matter with Bakugou and avoiding the elephant in the room.

Bakugou, who looked tired and angry and lost every time he pushed his way into the shop. Bakugou, who had spent weeks now, subtly hinting that he was more than willing to lend money if Kirishima ever needed it. Bakugou, who, just two days ago, dumped four red notebooks with styles that looked as if it cost as much as Kirishima’s monthly rent onto the fake marble counter with eyes that darted to the side nervously.

Kirishima’s fingers brushed against where his phone sat in his hoodie’s pocket. He wanted to see the singer’s fiery red eyes. He wondered what Bakugou was doing right now. 

He hoped that Bakugou was happy where he was, wherever he was.