The second Bakugou wakes, it becomes clear that it’s going to be one of those days.
His eyes sting and itch. He rubs at them clumsily, limbs heavy. There’s a particular weight blanketing his body, an exhaustion that should’ve been cleansed with rest.
His hand falls back onto the bed and he stares at his wall, the echoes of his dreams still bouncing around in his head.
The specifics have faded, but he remembers feeling frustrated beyond belief. Remembers doing back-breaking work and receiving nothing. It had felt so hopeless towards the end.
Mostly, he remembers just wanting to sit down and breathe.
He heaves an irritated sigh and throws the covers off.
Whatever. He’s not going to let a stupid dream make him late.
He gets ready on autopilot, though his feet drag no matter how much anger he forces himself to feel. The familiar emotion seems to be failing to fuel him. He feels sickeningly tender. To remedy it, he slams his bedroom door on the way out.
Noise seeps out from the room next to his and the thought of having to be around another person while he’s like this propels him down the stairs and out the dorms.
Kirishima can walk to class with someone else; he’s too…too raw to do anything but the bare minimum today. What little energy he has left is going to be saved for training.
It’s not until he’s standing outside the classroom door that he realizes how early he is.
His hand hovers over the handle as he thinks about all the minutes from now until Aizawa arrives. All the opportunities for people to talk around him and at him. All those chances for him to blow a fuse, quicker than normal, and the complaints and ribbing that he’ll get; nothing he couldn’t brush off on any other day, but today…
He turns on his heel and heads for the vending machines. He needs breakfast anyway.
Bakugou is well aware that the size of his ego in first year was enough to put Tokyo Tower to shame.
He knows he’s been lauded beyond reproach and simultaneously given nothing concrete to stand on. Just flimsy platitudes that went up in smoke the moment he lost to Deku.
Since then, it’s been hell to rein in the voice that said he was owed the world, and the newer, sharper one that said—well, turns out you’re worthless. Turns out everyone got the jump on you, made you the butt of a joke.
“His whole life, people praised him for every little thing he did.”
Yeah, that includes you too, Mom, Dad.
Not for the first time, Bakugou wishes they had adored him a little less.
Surely it would’ve felt better, right? To have to work for the praise? To sweat for it and have a hand sink into your hair and hear, good job, Katsuki.
Maybe then he would’ve had something to stand on when obstacles cropped up. Maybe his confidence would’ve been able to pull out those moments and hold them up like a shield. One that said, I’m good. I’m a hero. You’re wrong about me.
It would’ve been…satisfying to know that they genuine. That those who praised him really meant it, and not because they were scared of him.
Deku went his entire childhood without a single nice thing said to him and now every time he succeeds, every time a teacher or a peer compliments him, he glows. He knows the value of a sincere word, and collects them like the gold they are.
Bakugou had to realize that all he’s ever gotten were nothing but paper-thin play money. Participation prizes at best. Impossible standards at worst.
But he’s dealing with it. Working ten times harder, wringing out all the use he can get from the headstart he was born with, and had cultivated in his backyard until his palms bled and cracked.
He won’t let Deku catch up to him just yet.
Sometimes it hits him all over again, that he’s not yet what the world demands he should be. That he’s been lied to. That there’s a dissonance between his now, his then, and his will be. He struggles to reconcile them.
Sometimes, in those moments, a kind of desperation carves itself into his chest, knocks around in his mind. One that he can’t banish by hitting the gym, or by cooking himself something spicy and warm. On those days, not even his mom’s rough voice talking smack about some client over the phone is enough to silence it.
Today is one of those days.
Bakugou’s body gives a small jerk. His eyes flash up to the front of the class where Present Mic stands. Blood rushes through his ears, deafening, as he realizes he’s zoned out.
“You with us?” Present Mic asks, brow raised. He points at an English sentence on the board. “Want to tell me what’s wrong with this one?”
Bakugou takes it in with a flick of his eyes. “The subordinate clause is using the wrong auxiliary verb. It’s ‘has,’ not ‘had.’”
Present Mic stares at him just a second too long, enough for doubt to nudge at him. However, all Mic does is drop his gaze to the textbook on the desk and call on the next student. He doesn’t correct Bakugou, so that must mean he got it right.
And yet, a wave of—of something wraps itself around Bakugou, tightening around his throat. He finds himself thinking, that’s it?
He bites his tongue to shake himself out of it. Of course that’s it; what he did was hardly worthy of notice. Honestly, he was already caught not paying attention. Where does he get the right to demand things he hasn’t earned?
He picks up his pencil and jots down a few notes. The words are carved a stark black against the paper; he eases up on his grip before the lead snaps.
Behind him, Deku answers a question, smile evident in the way his words seem to curve up happily. Present Mic says something back, jovial.
Bakugou hunches his shoulders and prays lunch comes faster.
He isn’t able to dodge his friends when class lets out.
A flare of irritation rips through him when Kaminari drapes himself on his back. His hands fist the material of his pockets, nails digging into his palms through the fabric. He roughly shrugs him off, though Kaminari doesn’t seem to mind or notice a difference from his normal behaviour.
Sero comes up on his other side, conversing with Kaminari over his head, which is stupid because neither of them are much taller than him. It’s irritating as fuck. He considers turning on his heel and forgoing lunch completely.
But of course that’s the moment Kirishima nudges Kaminari over to Sero and takes his place beside Bakugou.
In one move, he’s redirected the noise around Bakugou, creating a pocket of quiet that Bakugou finds himself leaning into. Kirishima’s steady gait and bright red hair has the hallway traffic flowing around them. Like a boulder in the sea, smoothed around the edges but not any less immovable.
Bakugou realizes his shoulders have dropped, just the slightest.
“Didn’t see you this morning,” Kirishima says.
There isn’t a hint of disapproval in his voice but Bakugou feels his hackles rise all the same. A muscle in his jaw jumps. He considers replying but his lips won’t peel open. Suddenly, it seems like too much work to acknowledge anything happening around him.
He places one foot in front of the other, gaze fixed forward. Don’t, he thinks savagely when Kirishima opens his mouth again. Don’t you dare.
Life shows a little mercy then, when Ashido bounds up to them. “Kirishima!” she grabs his arm, shoving her phone in his face. “I did it! I texted her! Look what she sent back.”
“Dude! That’s awesome! See, what’d I tell you?”
With his friends’ attention taken, Bakugou is left undisturbed in the middle of their procession to the cafeteria. And sure, he’s relieved that he doesn’t have to speak, but still...he feels odd in his skin. Unsettled. Like he might just crawl out of it. Adrift, among all these voices.
They all line up for food. When it’s his turn, he points at what he wants, nodding and shaking his head when needed. It’s uncharacteristic of him, he knows. Usually, he’ll bark his orders out, clear and concise so there’s no mistaking what he wants.
Kirishima is looking at him.
Bakugou disregards it. So what if he’s noticed? Bakugou doesn’t care. He’s just going to eat and go back to class. Maybe he can put his head on his desk and bask in the sun that’s undoubtedly shining through the windows before the bell rings.
God, he hates these days. Hates how his brain switches from being ticked off at the smallest things to feeling so damn slow and lethargic that he thinks he wants to just curl up right where he is and block out the entire world.
“Dude, you good?” Kirishima asks a couple minutes into lunch. Bakugou’s resolutely swallowing down mouthful after mouthful even though he can’t taste any of it. “You’re really…quiet, today.”
Bakugou slants a look at him.
“Mina just tried to snort a line of tobiko and you didn’t even flinch,” Kirishima clarifies, a crease between his brows. “Did something happen last night?”
Bakugou swallows, hand falling back on the table.
No. Nothing happened. It’s just him and a stupid dream that he can’t even remember.
Just him, being weak. Being bad and wrong and less.
He can’t even handle a single nightmare. Can’t do anything right. He’s good at everything except what actually matters. And here he is, on edge and falling. Here he is, all the damn time, thinking about how much a failure he is. That in and of itself is pitiful—what, he can’t handle a couple setbacks? Pick yourself up, Bakugou, can’t you do that much?
Across the room, a chair scrapes against the floor.
He jolts, an automatic scowl falling onto his face. Shit; zone out for a second and those dumb thoughts will latch onto him like leeches.
Kirishima is still waiting, the worry on his face more pronounced now.
Bakugou looks at him and wishes, just for second, that Kirishima would just understand him without a word said.
After all, how can he even begin explaining what he feels?
“S’ none of your business,” is what he settles on. He shoves rice into his mouth and chews methodically, gaze fixed straight ahead.
Kirishima follows suit, after a moment.
“Is there anything I can do?” he asks hesitantly.
Is it ridiculous of Bakugou to be a little proud of the fact that his first instinct isn’t to brush the offer off? Like a mark of growth, or something? That’s got to count for something. On a day like this, can’t he take the small victories?
Then again, if it were anyone but Kirishima asking, if it were anyone implying that he couldn’t deal with his stupid baggage on his own…
“No,” Bakugou says finally, because it’s true.
Unless Kirishima has a quirk that can make his head go silent, that can banish that weird desperation under his skin, then there’s nothing he can do.
Bakugou’s tried everything.
Honestly, at this point, he has no clue what he needs, let alone how to ask for it.
Maybe he’s not the only one having an off day, because Aizawa lets them self-train that afternoon as he curls up in a cocoon near the entrance.
Bakugou’s not going to complain. He cordons off a space in the back of the gym for himself and gets to work.
After an hour, the terrain around him has been blasted to dust. The air is thick with it and he takes the unintentional obstacle in stride as he works on his long-distance precision shots.
The repetition lulls him into a meditative state; he doesn’t let himself rest any longer than needed to charge up between sets. Doesn’t give the insidious voice in his head a fucking chance to speak up. Just focuses on the burn, the sweat, the steady thud of his heart. Things he doesn’t have to analyze, doesn’t have to assign reasons to. Things that are just facts.
He takes a deep breath, lets it out nice and slow. He eyes the boulder across the field. Behind it are two others, staggered a couple feet off-center. He takes a couple steps to line them up.
The goal here is to bore a hole through all three with a one-handed AP Shot. It’s a lot of nitro, condensed and sharpened like a needle, fired off at six times the speed of a regular explosion and twice that of a normal AP Shot.
It’s a borderline obscene show of control, if he’s honest. It’s fantastic.
When he can pull it off, that is.
Sliding his foot back to brace himself, he raises his right hand to form a finger gun, middle and index extended, pinky and ring curled in. His thumb comes down to touch his ring finger and his palm forms a hole. The explosion will come from there, and his fingers will guide its course.
He wraps his other hand around his wrist and blocks out the world around him. Ignores the sharp whistle of Todoroki’s ice in the distance, the tumble of rock as Uraraka cancels her quirk, the shrill singing of Aoyama’s navel laser.
He breathes in. Out.
And lets his palm detonate.
The kickback is killer. If not for years of conditioning, he’d have flown across the field. As it is, it wrenches a grunt from him as his arms are flung upwards.
But he knows this one is a good one.
With a deafening crack-boom, the shot slices through the dust and slams into the targets with three successive smashes, so close together it might as well be one continuous sound.
When the air settles, the evidence of his success stares him right in the face. It pulls a truly manic grin onto his face.
A tennis-ball-sized hole is blasted into all three boulders, burnt black at the edges. Bakugou has a clean view right through them to the other side.
In the distance, Tsuyu hops into the air. He sees the flicker of her green suit through the hole.
He shakes out his hands, satisfaction bubbling in his stomach and threatening to spill out between his grinning teeth.
“Dude! That was awesome!”
He turns to see Kirishima sprinting over, blinding smile in place. He’s covered in filth, lines of hardening still drawn across half his face and torso. Trailing behind him is Kaminari.
He skids to stop beside Bakugou, shoulders bumping. Bakugou grabs his forearm to stabilize them. Kirishima is too busy gaping at the boulders, head nearly knocking against Bakugou’s in his eagerness to see through the hole.
“Holy crap,” he breathes. He laughs, amazed. “Bakugou, how long have you been hiding this badass move from me?”
Bakugou blinks, taken aback. “Uh…”
And then, before he can recover from that, Kirishima lurches forward and—hugs him.
“You’re seriously the best,” Kirishima says, happy and warm against his ear.
There’s no other word for it. It’s like a getting wrapped in a towel fresh from the dryer after a shower. Kirishima’s words and body heat sink into him like he’s water and Bakugou is desert sand, starved and craving.
He goes limp in Kirishima’s hold; an strange, instinctive reaction. Somewhere in the back of his head, he’s screaming at himself, but he can’t find in it himself to hold back.
Because Kirishima is someone he doesn’t hate. Kirishima is someone he respects, someone he has trusted before. Someone who has taken his volatile hands before and showed no fear.
And most importantly, Kirishima doesn’t lie.
He said Bakugou is the best.
If he said it, then it must be true.
If he said it, then Bakugou isn’t wrong to think that of himself.
“Say…say that again,” he mumbles against Kirishima’s shoulder. He stares at the ground without seeing it, vision hazy.
“Hm? Oh, that you’re the best?” Kirishima laughs, pulling back to grin at him. “Do you think I didn’t mean it? I’m serious, you know? You’re so good at this, Bakugou.”
Bakugou bites back a shiver. He looks into Kirishima’s red eyes, helpless. Again, again, again, tell me I’m good, tell me I’m—
“Oh, stop it, man,” teases Kaminari as he joins them. His hair buzzes with static, electricity fizzling at the edges of his eyelashes. “It’s not like he needs any more praise.”
It’s just a joke. He knows it is. Knows it’s just a fucking throwaway comment, one he’s heard a million times before. He’s had worse, in fact, so his body has no goddamn right to react the way it does.
A sense of suffocation hits him like a super-powered punch to the chest. So visceral is the emotion that Bakugou can’t stop how his hand instinctively presses down on his sternum. His breath stutters, mind whirling over the urgency in his body, the wrongness, struggling to understand an enemy to his system that he didn’t see coming.
It takes a second to identify. But when he does, for the first time, he doubts his instincts.
It’s, why can’t I have that?
That screaming in his head takes over. Vulnerable, it hisses, you’re vulnerable! It urges him to detach himself, to ice over, to back up and sneer and let his palms pop hot enough to discourage anyone from taking a closer look at him. It’s familiar. It’s safe, the voice.
Bakugou obeys. He takes a step away.
Kirishima’s (rough, gentle, comforting) hands fall from his arms, hovering uncertain between them.
“Bakugou?” he asks.
He’s looking too closely. He’s staring too much. He’s seen more than he should’ve.
Kaminari looks between them, confusion on his face. “Uh…Blasty, you good? You look a little pale.”
“Fuck off,” Bakugou replies, rote. His ears feel like they’re submerged in water. Did he say that with enough gruffness? Was that normal enough of him? Is he scowling right? “Class is ending. I’m heading out. You fuckers should stay and train some more; hell knows you need it.”
Kaminari pouts. “Aw c’mon, you didn’t see me electrocute a whole lake, dude. It was a shocker! Haha, get it?”
“Lame,” Bakugou scoffs. He takes another step back. It’s not a retreat, it’s not.
But Kirishima takes one forward, and that feels like an assault. “Bakugou.”
The suffocation rises to Bakugou’s throat. Vulnerable.
“If either of you fuckers bother me tonight, I’ll blow you up,” he says.
He doesn’t wait for their responses, spinning on his heel and blasting off across the gym. He feels eyes on his back all the way to the entrance. It makes him want to explode everything around him until the pressure disappears. Until it stops feeling like he’s exposed. Scrutinized.
The vice around his ribcage doesn’t ease, even when he’s back in his room.
He tries going to the internet for answers.
That proves to be difficult when you’re not even sure what you’re looking for.
All he gets are child-rearing articles talking about how much praise you should be giving kids; sketchy BDSM roleplay blogs; and cringy ASMR audios. He clicks on one after scowling at it for the longest moment and within two seconds has already backspaced the fuck out of there.
The sound of some stranger’s voice telling him intimate, mushy shit has his lip curling in disgust. How the hell is he supposed to accept that when he doesn’t know these people, let alone trust them?
Still, he tries. He wants answers so bad he wastes an hour on it, only to get absolutely nothing.
There’s no magic website that lets him type in all his symptoms and gives him a cure. There’s no handy WikiHow article to teach him how to grow the fuck up and stop craving shit he shouldn’t need.
In the end, he’s left feeling…despondent, and not any closer to a solution.
He lets his phone clatter onto his desk and rests his forehead against his fist. He presses down on the bridge of his nose, eyes squeezing shut. Tries to focus on the sensation, the pressure on his skin. It doesn’t work. Desperation clamps a hand on his nape.
He curls into himself, legs tucking up in his seat, arms wrapping around his knees. An unexplainable instinct urges him to rubs circles into his skin, to nuzzle into the crook of his elbow. It doesn’t do shit; just makes that need cry louder. A pressure builds in his throat.
Maybe he should go for a run. Or blow something up again. Fuck, if he works himself to the point of passing out, that’ll have to shut his brain up, right?
He stumbles to his feet, barely having enough sense to grab his water bottle before lurching for the door.
It opens before he even touches it.
Kirishima stands on the other side. His hair is down, his scent clean and fresh. Inexplicably, the sight of him makes Bakugou’s breath stutter.
You’re so good at this, Bakugou.
“Oh,” says Kirishima, “are you heading out?”
Bakugou opens and closes his mouth. “Yes. The hell are you doing here?”
He enters the room, forcing Bakugou to step back. The door clicks shut behind him. “It’s just, I was wondering if we could talk.”
“Talk?” Bakugou blinks. Frowns. “I thought I said to leave me alone.”
Kirishima nods. “You did. Except you didn’t really mean it, did you?”
The confidence of that statement actually has Bakugou’s mouth parting in incredulity. He snarls. “The fuck? Think you know me better than myself, huh? Get the fuck out.”
Whatever Kirishima is here for, Bakugou is not entertaining it today. He’s stressed and on edge and if he doesn’t blow something up in the next five minutes, nobody is going to get any peace tonight.
He shoves past Kirishima, but he doesn’t even get to the doorknob when he’s promptly caught around the waist and yanked back.
The water bottle drops to the floor as he claps smoking palms against Kirishima’s hardened forearm. “The fuck do you think you’re doing?!”
Kirishima is unfazed by the explosions, tightening his hold as Bakugou squirms and thrashes. “Just hear me out, dude.”
“Hell no! Get your hands off me!”
“C’mon, Bakugou, stop, you’re going to ruin our clothes. Dude—hey.” He grabs Bakugou’s wrist and spins him around. He frowns down at him. “I said stop.”
Just like that. Against his better instincts, he goes completely and utterly still.
The rage vanishes, the tension in his body drains out, and—most damningly—his head goes dead silent. There’s no thinking, no decision-making, just…him, reacting. Him, obeying.
Kirishima did that, with just one look, one word.
What the fuck. What the fuck.
“Thank you,” Kirishima huffs. He backs up and lets Bakugou go, but his eyes are still fixed on him, considering, evaluating. “You’ve been so off today, man. What’s going on?”
Bakugou doesn’t respond. Just continues to stand there, wide-eyed. His heartbeat is so loud in his ears. The urge—the desire—is even louder.
Tell me to do something. Tell me, tell me, Kirishima, tell me—
He can’t say it. He really can’t. He needs it but he won’t ask for it. He doesn’t know how.
So he just stares, begging, pleading with his mind, for something he doesn’t quite understand himself. For someone to understand for him.
And it looks like he might get it.
Because the longer they stand there in silence, the sharper Kirishima’s gaze becomes. The longer Bakugou keeps still, stays open and willing for dissection, the softer Kirishima’s expression becomes.
The moment Kirishima curls a hand around his nape, Bakugou knows he’s got it.
Kirishima has never let him down; this time doesn’t seem to be any different.
“You…you need this,” he says.
Bakugou closes his eyes, pressing into the touch. It’s a wordless admission. His face burns.
“Alright,” Kirishima says easily. He tugs, pulls Bakugou under his chin. “You just have to say so, Bakugou.”
“K-Kiri,” Bakugou croaks, overcome. I don’t know if I can, I don’t know—
Calloused fingers slide into his hair, gentle but firm. The bubbling panic dies a swift death.
“Just one word,” Kirishima says. “One word, and I’ll take care of you. I know you can do it.”
He gathers Bakugou up in his arms, enveloping him in his scent. The sensation of it all is so intoxicating, so right and perfect and relieving. All this, for him.
All this and more, Kirishima said, if he can just say one word.
I know you can do it.
Kirishima doesn’t lie. If he says it, then it must be true.
Bakugou gives in.
Kirishima moves them to the bed.
He doesn’t let Bakugou have a moment to doubt this, manhandling him into position and taking liberties with his hands, pulling and pushing him however he wants. Bakugou’s not sure if that’s just his natural clinginess, or if he somehow already knows that physical touch is like a drug to Bakugou right now.
They end up against the headboard, his back against Kirishima’s chest. Kirishima’s arms are wrapped around him like a band, his legs caging him in, and he feels—feels small. Feels held.
“This alright?” Kirishima asks, voice soft and low. His breath washes over Bakugou’s ear; Bakugou lets his head loll to the side, inviting. “Huh. Okay.”
There’s a second of hesitation before he nuzzles into Bakugou’s neck. His lips are soft, gliding easily over Bakugou’s skin and leaving heat in its wake. Tears prick at Bakugou’s eyes.
Kirishima is just—so warm.
It’s like sinking into a hot spring. Like having a million pillows stacked around him.
Kirishima is comfort, personified. Is safety, is a port in the storm, is everything Bakugou didn’t know he was missing. Kirishima feels like—
He feels like home.
He hums against Bakugou’s skin. His thumbs brush over Bakugou’s arms soothingly, leagues better than Bakugou’s own attempts earlier. “Can I ask you something?” he whispers into the hinge of Bakugou’s jaw.
Bakugou swallows. Nods; just a tip of his chin, reluctant to make any motion that might detach Kirishima from him.
“Does this happen often?”
“…No,” Bakugou rasps. “It…builds up.”
Bakugou bites his lip. He doesn’t—how does he even begin—
Kirishima pulls the neck of his shirt down and noses along his collarbone. Bakugou immediately deflates. “Take it easy. Whatever you can tell me, okay?”
“‘Kay,” he mumbles, blinking sleepily at the wall. God, that feels so good.
“Is it school? Do you miss your parents, maybe? Or did we just get on your nerves today?”
As he speaks, Kirishima grounds him with touch. He smooths his palms down Bakugou’s chest, then up to his neck, fingers tipping his chin back so his head drops back against Kirishima. They trail over the curve of his shoulder, dipping into his shirt to run the backs of the knuckles against his sternum.
It leaves him in a daze. It loosens his mouth.
“M’ not good enough.”
Kirishima stills. “What?”
His voice carries a dark note to it that Bakugou can’t identify. His gut twists in on itself. “Sorry, m’ sorry, I didn’t mean—”
A hand cups his cheek, turning his head so Kirishima can meet his eyes. “Whoa, hey, it’s not like that. I’m not mad. Just confused. What do you mean you’re not good?”
He chews on his lip, lowering his gaze to the bed.
Kirishima leans in until their foreheads are touching. “Katsuki,” he says, and fuck, Bakugou almost whimpers— “I won’t understand if you don’t tell me. Use your words.”
The command rips through him, gives him the strength—no, the permission—to confess. To go soft, to lay himself bare, and just let Kirishima do the thinking.
“I’m not a good person,” he whispers. “I’m not a hero. I’m loud and angry and mean. I’m not strong, not when it matters. I fucked up and got All Might hurt. I failed so many times, couldn’t let go of my stupid ego, couldn’t accept help, couldn’t be what people said I should be and I—I don’t—I don’t deserve to be here, I—Kirishima—”
“Shh, shh, hey, it’s okay. You’re okay. I got it, you don’t have to say any more,” Kirishima coos. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you upset. You did so good, Katsuki, so good.”
Bakugou shudders. He makes a noise at the back of his throat, a sound so soft and pliant, so telling, that Kirishima pulls back to look at him.
“Is that what you need?” he asks. “You want me to tell you that you’re good?”
“Please.” He grasps at Kirishima’s arm, shaking. “Please, Ei-Eijirou, please.”
The expression that steals over Kirishima’s face right then is one Bakugou has never seen on him before. It’s something close to wonder, something just left of surprised satisfaction. Like Bakugou has just given him something without being asked. As Bakugou watches, it transforms into one he does know. One that nearly unravels him.
“Oh, Katsuki,” he says, eyes warm. “You’re perfect.”
There is no combination of words to describe the sheer elation that spreads through Bakugou’s body. His mouth drops open, pupils blowing wide as a flush takes over his face.
“Of course you’re good,” Kirishima continues. He holds Bakugou in place, forces him to accept the praise even as he shakes. “You’re the best, Katsuki.”
“Shh, it’s my turn now. Stay quiet for me, okay, baby?”
Bakugou whimpers. He’s going to faint. But he wants to be good, so he nods and presses his lips shut.
Kirishima smiles. “Look at you. You make me so proud, you know that?”
Oh god, oh fuck. He’s not going to survive this.
“Okay, here, let’s do it this way. Turn around, let me see you.”
Bakugou is coaxed into straddling Kirishima’s lap, flushing when Kirishima has to rearrange his fumbling limbs for him, weak as he feels. Kirishima doesn’t seem to mind, hands roaming freely to grip Bakugou’s waist and thighs, moving him how he wants.
“Now, I need you to listen,” he begins. “Can you do that for me?”
Bakugou nods, fingers clinging tentatively to Kirishima’s shirt.
“Good boy,” Kirishima says. Bakugou physically can’t stop the startled whine that slips out from him. “Jeez, aren’t you cute,” Kirishima huffs, endeared.
Bakugou weakly knocks his hands against Kirishima’s chest, a plea. To stop or to keeping going, he doesn’t know.
Kirishima grabs them and brings them to his mouth, laying kisses on the knuckles. “Seeing you like this, so sweet and soft—god, Katsuki, what you do to me.”
Bakugou chokes back a sob. Quiet—he promised he’d stay quiet.
“Look how hard you try,” Kirishima continues. “You do your best, see? Being so good for me.”
He’s good, Kirishima said he’s good. Bakugou sways in place, eyes lidded, and Kirishima cups his face to hold him still while he brushes kisses over his cheeks. He feels drunk.
“I’m going to tell you something now. Are you listening?”
He nods. He’ll listen. He’ll be quiet and be good and he’ll listen so well—for Kirishima, he’ll do it all.
Kirishima smiles, gentle, affectionate. All that, just for Bakugou. He pulls Bakugou closer, one arm around his waist while the other threads into his hair. Nails scrape lightly over his scalp; his mouth parts on an exhale.
“Remember what I say, okay?” Kirishima runs his mouth up Bakugou’s jaw to his ear, kissing the sensitive spot behind it. “You’re amazing, Katsuki. I admire you so much.”
It hits like a knee to the stomach. He’s winded.
“And you are good. You’ve worked to be good.” Kirishima kisses his ear, his cheekbone. “And you’re the strongest person I know. Your drive, your passion, your unwavering conviction.”
He moves across his face to kiss his nose, then his eyelids, his other cheek. Bakugou squirms, panting.
“You’ve done nothing but rise higher and higher since first year, and watching you do it has made me so, so happy, don’t you know? Everyone in class sees you as a source of motivation, as a standard.”
He leans back, brushes the hair from Bakugou’s face and kisses his forehead, oh so painfully tender. Bakugou’s eyes flutter open, vision swimming with unshed tears.
Kirishima is looking at him, eyes bright and fond. Looking at him, like he’s something to be cherished.
“They see you as a friend, too, Katsuki. Because you let them,” he whispers. “You accept help now, as easy as breathing. You offer your hand when Momo trips, you cook when Sero gets homesick. You let Todoroki heat you a blanket in the winter and you share it with Tsuyu without a thought. All Might loves you like a son, treats you and Midoriya like his own, and Aizawa won’t stand for anyone badmouthing you.
“You’re good. You’re strong. You always get back up and you care for the people you fight for. We see that, and we love you for it. Of course you deserve to be here.”
Bakugou closes his eyes. A tear slips down his cheek.
Kirishima thumbs it away. He lets his hands travel down Bakugou’s neck, over his shoulders to fully wrap around him, tucking Bakugou into the crook of his neck.
“Katsuki,” he says, “you deserve the world.”
That’s all it takes.
Five words, one simple sentence—and Bakugou shatters.
He goes limp with a sob. Tears spill freely down his face and he grasps weakly at Kirishima’s shirt. Kirishima hears the silent plea for what it is and hugs him tighter, just on the right side of suffocating.
This—this is what he needed.
This was the release he’s been craving. To be held, to be cherished and told that he isn’t bad. To just leave it all up to someone else to make the judgements, the decisions, so that he could just—be.
And Kirishima gave it to him, just like that.
Now that he’s got it, he doesn’t think he can ever give this up.
“Too much?” Kirishima asks, nuzzling into his neck. Then, belatedly, when Bakugou doesn’t immediately respond, “You can talk now, Katsuki. God, you’re so obedient, aren’t you?”
Bakugou whines. “Eiji—rou—”
“So sweet, Katsuki. So good. Tell me how it feels, baby. You okay?”
Wiggling his arms up to wrap them around Kirishima’s neck, Bakugou sighs shakily. “Mm. S’ good. Feels nice.”
“Yeah? I’m glad.”
Kirishima shifts around and lays them back on the bed, turning them over so his body covers Bakugou’s. It’s grounding. Bakugou goes boneless under the weight, blinking sleepily as Kirishima lavishes attention on his jaw, his neck, his shoulders.
“How…” His voice peters out, throat raw. How did he know, he means to ask. How does Kirishima know exactly what he needs?
“Been watching you,” Kirishima mumbles into the dip between his pectorals. His eyes burn dark when they flick up to catch Bakugou’s gaze. “You hide it well, Katsuki, but I know you.”
Better than himself, apparently. Bakugou turns his wet face into Kirishima’s palm, speechless. God, he’s lucky. So damn lucky that Kirishima is here. With him.
It's quiet for a bit, the both of them comfortable and relaxed. Kirishima touches him easily, casually possessive, and Bakugou stays nice and pliable for him. He could drift off like this. He might not even have nightmares if Kirishima does this every night.
“You wouldn’t do this with anyone, would you,” Kirishima muses. At Bakugou’s affronted look, he huffs a laugh. “Thought not. I’m pretty special then, hm?”
Bakugou blushes, though he refuses to look away. “Isn’t…isn’t that obvious?” he whispers. “This…m’ like this ‘cause of you.”
Kirishima stares at him for what feels like centuries, before dropping his head and groaning. He crushes Bakugou to him, rocking them side to side so suddenly that Bakugou yelps.
“You’re so cute,” Kirishima bemoans. “How are you this adorable? It should be illegal.”
Bakugou sputters. “What—m’ not cute! Stop moving, dammit, cuddle me properly!”
Kirishima makes a high-pitched noise. He slumps into the bed, forcing the air from Bakugou’s chest and making his eyelids flutter. “You’re killing me, Katsuki,” he whispers, strained. “Cute. Lethal cute. Of course you'd make a combo like that possible.”
Bakugou’s lip wobbles. His stomach does a somersault and he’s not sure if it’s out of embarrassment or pride. He threads his fingers into Kirishima’s hair, petting hesitantly.
“You make no sense,” he mutters. Then, face blazing red, he leans in and kisses the crown of Kirishima’s head. “I guess you’re kinda cute too or whatever.”
Kirishima doesn’t react. In fact, Bakugou thinks that the idiot might’ve just fallen asleep for a second. He’s about to check when Kirishima lurches up, grabs his face and kisses him right on the mouth.
It’s so soft and so right. Bakugou moans into it, dizzy all over again. The sound makes Kirishima kiss him harder, bear down on him more, pulling back and darting in again, over and over so Bakugou is left panting when he’s done taking what he wants.
“I like you so much,” Kirishima breathes, “in case that wasn’t obvious. You—I can’t get enough of you, Katsuki.”
The sincere adoration in his eyes is almost too much. Bakugou is stunned for a heartbeat—but only because he wasn't exactly expecting it right then. Kirishima liking him, romantically, isn't...that much of a surprise.
Although he's never explicitly said it, he doesn't hide it either. His smiles, his hugs, the way he perks up when Bakugou walks in the room—it's obvious now that Bakugou thinks about it.
What's also obvious is how happy this makes him.
He turns it over in his head for a second and comes to the conclusion that huh, well, it's always been Kirishima for him, too.
There's nobody else who can calm him, nobody else who grounds him, who reminds him to look around and take the view in when he starts moving too fast. Nobody who he can lean on with the unshakable faith that they won't topple.
There's nobody else Bakugou would ever trust this much to.
“Saturday,” he says.
He takes a deep breath, arms tightening around Kirishima’s shoulders. “This Saturday. Let’s go out.”
Kirishima blinks. A dazzling grin starts to grow on his face. “Really?”
“I don’t do things I don’t wanna,” Bakugou replies mulishly. “Yes or no, dumbass.”
“Yes!” Kirishima cheers. “It’s a yes, of course it’s a yes, Katsuki!”
He rolls them over so Bakugou’s on top and wraps his legs around him, clinging like a koala and blabbering happily. About where to go, what to do, what to wear, about everything and nothing. Bakugou lets him chatter, feeling no need to shut him up this time.
Instead, he cushions his head on Kirishima’s chest and closes his eyes, listening to the rumble of his words under his ear.
His head goes quiet.