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Kirishima wakes to the ever-lingering smell of overcooked bacon and burnt eggs, and a fond smile climbs onto his face.

 

The image of his husband—his actual husband, holy shit—waddling across their new, rubix cube of a kitchen at six pre-sunrise and watching helplessly as his breakfast goes up in smoke because he turned the wrong dial again runs through his mind. He grins helplessly at the picture, a sugar-sweet mood settling over him as he thinks fondly of tussled red and white. He misses the early days of their careers when they sidekicked at the same agency, rising with the sun together and ending each evening with a clockwork kiss, but their popularity at their respective jobs makes all the moments they do have together a treasure to tuck away into a picture book for lonely nights.

 

God, he sounds like a sap.

 

He really has fallen prey to that dreaded ooey-gooey mushiness just like Mina claimed he would back when he worked himself up to ask the Todoroki Shouto out on a date—the ethereal, dorky, ice prince with a melted heart—Todoroki Shouto.

 

At first, it had almost been a dare to himself, a mental tug-of-war to see if the son of the number one hero would accept him of all people. To see if he would sit down and eat crappy ramen and watch the stars on a cheap blanket under the low-hanging summer moon. 

 

(Turns out, he won’t, but that’s only because he’s a loyal soba enthusiast. The stars and the scratchy blanket, though? They spend a night alone with the sky every year in honor of their mosquito-filled, rainy, magical first date—and that pivotal day was when Kirishima stopped dating the number one hero’s son and started seeing a boy called Shouto—Shouto who cuddles with every stray cat he encounters on the street, rubs his hands together for warmth despite his temperature quirk, and carries the house roaches outside in his cupped hands, hoping that he doesn’t hurt them too much).

 

Now, this post-wedding phase truly has Kirishima oozing outrageous amounts of sentimentality and domestic internal dialogue at every little thing that happens between them, no matter how miniscule.

 

He can’t help it, though. Shouto is the daydream he never thought he’d be able to touch, much less adore the way he can now—concrete and solid like a wish granted to a man who hasn’t done nearly enough to deserve it. Every day he marvels that he can hold and kiss and love

 

(And then there’s the memories he can’t believe he has the honor of locking away in his heart forever—memories of wedding bells and red and white roses—of Shou in that beautifully tailored suit, hand-in-hand with Todoroki Rei in all her goddess-like grace—of Izuku bawling so hard that his mother had to read out the end of his best man speech, followed by Yagi subbing in for her when she couldn’t continue either—of Katsuki ranting for thirty minutes and still managing to bring the entire room to tears with his aggressive insult-complimenting duo of a commemoration—of the perfectly chaotic reception and Shou’s waltzes with his sister and brother and other brother, in a turn of events—of a languid late night tainted with giddy happiness and goddamn reverence—)

 

Kirishima is a tragically whipped man, and he’s that much better for it.

 

He wouldn’t have it any other way, really—because this path his life has taken? This is the one-in-a-million. The best-case scenario. His heaven on earth, decorated in pink bedhead and cold fingers and a tiny, show-stopping smile.

 

Swimming contententedly through these last few weeks—years—with Shou in his mind, Kirishima freshens up, stealing his husband’s awful faux strawberry toothpaste and then meandering outside their bedroom. He certainly maintains far more grace than Shouto earlier, who sleeps with his eyes open until twelve and can hardly walk in a straight line unless his veins run hazel with caramel-spiked coffee—three sugars, two creams, or no deal. Added honey puts him in a nostalgic mood; he says it reminds him of his mother—so, naturally, whenever Kiri wakes up first, there’s a steaming brew waiting on the table as he leaves for patrol.

 

Kirishima flips an egg for himself, tossing veggies (the ones Shou blanches at as he rummages past them to reach the overly-processed string cheese packets) alongside properly cooked bacon onto a plate and settling down onto the awful placeholder couch that Katsuki lended them until the nice one comes in. Its surface contains more holes and rips than it does cohesive fabric, and it’s reminiscent of the wonderfully disastrous months he and Katsuki lived together—and all the furniture they pummeled through with their destruction-oriented quirk combination, seemingly tailored to property damage.

 

He flickers through hero-themed television channels, swelling with pride at the numerous headlines: Chargebolt’s Third Capture This Week, or Cellophane Rounds Up Another Elusive Villain: Backbreaker Finally Caught, or Frog Hero Froppy Executes Underwater Rescue With No Casualties—everything of that sort that reminds him just how amazing his friends are, how they’re all heroes now and not just hopefuls who cower as soon as Aizawa throws something of substance at them. He still has residual fear come wintertime, body teeming with the desire to spontaneously stick his face in a textbook and cram six months worth of information down his own throat.

 

Eventually, as the weather and news of Hawks’ upcoming fashion-line blips by, the edges of his vision start to grow fuzzy, and he moves to switch off the TV for his obligatory off-day nap. 

 

He tends to spend these hours without Shouto catching up on the only pleasant thing he can do without his husband. Anything else can wait for the blue moon overlaps in their schedule. Those are the days packed with aquarium trips, starry picnics, and hero memorial museums.

 

Just as he’s dozing off, and as his finger hovers over the power button, a set of words flash vertigo bright on the television screen. Their meaning almost doesn’t register in the foggy maze of his brain, but the audio accompanying shoots dry ice into his bloodstream out of nowhere, because that name—that face—that—that

 

His mind snags on the information, and he cranks the volume up, unable to comprehend the dismal headline crawling across the screen, taunting him.

 

“Pro Hero Shouto is in critical condition after a villain raid gone awry in downtown,” a reporter drones over Breaking News text, as if he’s not ripping Kirishima’s very being apart at each syllable, hooking into his chest and yanking hard, “The hospital has yet to release any information on his current status, but it is confirmed that Heroes Ground Zero and Deku are uninjured and managed to apprehend the villain after Shouto…”

 

Like a resounding gavel on death’s row—a sickening confirmation that this isn’t some sort of deranged nightmare conjured from trauma in his mind—Kirishima’s phone starts to ding ding ding. He can almost see the nagging noise, a pendulum counting down seconds on the watch of an angel just out of sight. 

 

Legs locked suddenly into a dead sprint, he hardly thinks at all.



*** 



Kirishima barrels through the hospital waiting-room doors in a frenzy, panting and gasping, sucking in air that only crumbles under the weight of the panic whirling in his gut. He’s brittle—the man who can flatten steel, skin itching to flake away.

 

“Izuku,” he breathes when he spots his friends in a secluded corner next to one of the operating hallways, donning tattered suits and purpling bruises, “Izuku, please—oh God—where is he? Where’s Shou?”

 

Izuku tilts his head up, eyes brimming and wet, and Kirishima feels as if fingers are gripping him by the neck and squeezing, squeezing, squeezing. Katsuki’s there too, rubbing a hand over his shivering shoulders (and isn’t that a sign in itself?), but he hardly feels the gesture over his heartbeat banging cymbals against his eardrums. The sound cancels out the waiting room chatter—the mothers and the fathers here for someone else, someone who isn’t Todoroki Shouto, in critical condition and down for the count (Todoroki Shouto—the boy who crawled through hell and came out holding Kirishima’s hand, critically injured from a rudimentary day of villain fighting. How—who—why?).

 

“He’s still in surgery,” Izuku chokes through silent sobs. He lets out wheezing whimpers in between his words, cracking Kirishima’s resolve further, “I’m so, so sorry, Eijirou, but—they don’t think he’s going to make it. And even if he does—it’s—his face is—”

 

“It’s bad,” Katsuki finishes for him, firm—ever their perpetual pillar, even with the shakiness coating the cadence of his tone, “It’s really fuckin’ bad, Ei. I’m not gonna lie to you. But he’ll pull—”

 

And Kirishima sinks.

 

(—of square-patterned tablecloths and red velvet cake smearing over Shou’s pretty laughing lips—of Denki stealing the show from the DJ and blasting raunchy American pop over the loudspeakers—of Kirishima’s mom smiling wider than he’s ever seen her, stroking his face and muttering about how he’s found the one and you should keep him, Ei, don’t let him go—)

 

Oh,” his legs waver and collapse onto off-white tiles. Salt pools between his lips, and his lungs constrict in pure agony as he processes his wish —his clock striking twelve and the illusion melting away—and all he can think is why Shou, why him? as he breaks, “Oh God, you guys. That’s—that’s my husband.”

 

Izuku only sheds more tears in response, fracturing into a million pieces, looking like an arrow is embedded in his heart. Katsuki pulls Kirishima to his chest as he openly weeps.

 

That’s my husband!” Kirishima wails before completely dissolving, shriveling into stricken incoherency. His babbles and cries draw numerous gazes towards them, and someone tugs him into a separate, quieter room.

 

The carpet in this private area is violet—like the wedding invitations, courtesy of Kirishima’s mother and her fondness for pastels. They had little shark stickers as the stamps in honor of his baby cousin and his sharp teeth that match Kirishima’s. Shouto would probably mention all of this out loud, because they’re both goddamn saps—but Shouto’s in emergency surgery, and Kirishima is hyperventilating on a wedding-invitation carpet, and the love of his life might be dying

 

We just got married,” he stutters into Katsuki’s damp shirt, “The invitations were that purple we both hate. He—he danced with his mom, Touya came, and now—now—”

 

“I know,” Katsuki’s voice cracks, and Kirishima practically has a Pavlovian panic reaction to that at this point. A born and bred Bakugou never cries unless the situation is truly dire, and it is, it is, it fucking is—

 

(—of ornate chandeliers hanging from the ceiling like giant snowflakes on flurrying winter nights—of Hanta getting ordained the night before on their dirty bathroom floor because the other priest cancelled—of Ochako sitting with him in the dressing room while he panics, wondering if he’s not good enough—)

 

“He’s only twenty-five! He can’t—it’s not supposed to be him, Katsuki—”

 

“Hey, Ei. Shh,” Katsuki cradles him close and traces soothing circles over his shoulders, and Kirishima is acutely aware that he’s not the only one crying, “It’s okay. It’s okay. Icyhot’s a fuckin’ trooper, okay? He’s not going down without a full-fledged war. Deku, could you—”

 

He whispers something to Izuku—or maybe he screams; Kirishima wouldn’t be able to tell over the blaring terror running rampant in his psyche. All he knows are the hands holding him steady and the fear and the memories—

 

(—of his own white suit standing stark against Shou’s silky black one—of opening horrendously taped, increasingly ridiculous wedding presents from each stark personality of their old classmates—of the shaky vows exchanged between two souls so intertwined that surely not even death could pry them apart—)

 

“It’s okay. Come on. Breathe with me, Ei.”

 

At some point amidst his sorrow, someone presses a plastic water cup to his lips, dry from dehydration—and how long have they been here? How long has his husband been in emergency surgery

 

“—Ei! Ei, listen to me! You need to calm down. You’re hyperventilating—”

 

(—of a deal-sealing kiss, too early for tradition and too perfect to happen anywhere else—of dipping his gorgeous groom on the dancefloor and treating him like a princess—of skin on skin, so familiar, yet so different on this golden night—)

 

“—It’ll be okay. It’ll be okay—”

 

(—of packing boxes and flopping on mattresses at furniture stores until they find one suited to both of them—of agreeing that, as much as they want a puppy, they ought to wait at least a couple months before becoming a family—of embracing each other close when they realize that, holy fuck, they do want a family—)

 

The voices around Kirishima are muffled, but the ones in his past ring like a drum; he clings desperately to a string of hope and prays to every god he knows.

 

He pleads, he basks in the memories, and he sinks.

 

***

 

When they tell him Shouto’s still breathing—pumping blood and fucking breathing—it feels like everything and nothing all at once.

 

It’s just at the twenty-four hour mark, seemingly years since he was first admitted. They say he’s stable, and Kirishima can’t help but question what that truly means, agony coloring every inch of his being.

 

(Is he ever going to wake up? If he does, will all his memories be there? What did Izuku mean about his face—?)

 

He’s alive, though—and that’s enough for now. He’s alive and there’s a doctor here saying he might be fine—and relief is literally burning through him like a blue wildfire—and—

 

“You can see him if you want,” the woman says, as if he would ever refuse that offer, even before this. She’s dressed in white, a nauseating color after staring at cream-blank walls for so long. A soldier line of a medical team lines up behind her, prepared to march into the war going on inside his husband right now.

 

Kirishima follows them, because it’s the only thing he can do. Two hands tether his spirit to his body, one light and comforting and one worry-tight. Katsuki and Izuku talk at him, reassuring him. He pays them no mind and brushes off the anxious gazes they exchange, one goal shining resolutely for him to follow. It’s a light at the end of this rotting tunnel—but its true colors are yet to be seen.

 

They reach a trodden wood door labelled Room 204, the window peeking in smeared and cheap—and Kirishima’s thankful for its blurriness, because he isn’t sure he’ll ever be ready for this next part. 

 

A static choir of doctors sings sorry, family only to his friends, and Katsuki flips them the bird as all three of them step inside.

 

It’s here that Kirishima offhandedly realizes he never asked the exact details of what happened to Shouto in all his cascading grief. He knows the extent of the damages—generally speaking. He knows that there’s essentially a noose wrapped around Shouto’s neck, loosening and tightening with all the potential infections and complications.

 

(At least he’s stable. He’s stable).

 

When the door shuts with a deafening click, he is suddenly, starkly sure that Izuku forewent the gritty details of the fight on purpose. 

 

Kirihsima is thankful, in hindsight. If there’s one thing that he can’t handle, it’s his loved ones in pain; it’s there’s two, it’s the gore that’s unfortunately synonymous with hero work. He’s a squeamish person already, but the guts and the rinding red decorated on Shou of all people? 

 

(But then, maybe he deserves to play that self-flagellating audience in some convoluted way—for not being there the one time it mattered—for not getting there faster).

 

Nevertheless, a mere semi-detailed description of the event would rake him like a tasseled whip a thousand times over. 

 

He finds that the aftermath does much the same:

 

What hurts the most about the scene is that he wouldn’t recognize his husband if not for that loop of silver on his finger—a precious band teetering awfully between a memento and a morbid identifier, searing a calligraphic Always into the surface of both their hands. He thumbs the golden version adorning his own ring finger.

 

The rest takes longer to process, each blink a memory made, and then blotted out instantaneously and shoved alongside all the other traumatic events in his lifetime. He forces them back up, choking on the images as he makes himself observe.

 

Crisscrossing wires slide taut into every free vein, breathing life into his husband’s weak, weak body. One of Shouto’s legs bears a heavy-duty cocoon of a cast—the kind he associates with wholly crushed bones, thanks to Izuku’s increasing tally of similar wounds. The only visible skin on his body glimmers green and blue and swollen, and so many machines stand like reapers over him, hissing and beeping perpetually, always one step away from reading out his will in robotic medical jargon.

 

And then Kirishima gets it: that horrible, foreshadowing comment about Shouto’s face.

 

And there’s a chasm in his ever-shattering heart, because there’s really not much to comment on. Bandages wrap around all of Shouto’s features, a tube and cracked lips being the exception, raw and open to the unforgiving air. Kirishima would cry if he could, but by the sounds of it, Izuku is doing enough for the lot of them. 

 

(And he knows it’s not what’s important right now, but he sees the way Shouto traces the seams of his scar some days—how he glances away when presented with a too-close mirror, and Kirishima breaks a little thinking about the flayed skin and how his stunning husband will mull over it for the rest of his life. The life he will have—he has to have—).

 

And then, sick and twisted in his gut, the urge to drag the acid-quirk villain who did this out of jail and seize him by the neck festers deep inside of him. It bubbles and brews with the abundant worry, concocting a well of anxiety that he draws from over and over again the longer he stands still. He’s restless and jittery like a jack-and-the-box that never pops, lever cranking in an endless cycle.

 

Somehow they all end up in shoddy plastic chairs, scared to touch but needing to, if only just brushing against their friend’s—his husband’s—phantom fingertips. The bandages are rough and pulled tight, some parts stained by pink—the exact shade that Shouto’s hair makes when it blends together at the part.

 

Katsuki’s face is schooled as hums in that deep baritone of his—it’s a soulful traditional song, just Shouto’s brand of music taste. The notes waver every so often, the indicator of his shortcomings that no one will point out, because at least Katsuki’s eyes are dry.

 

Conversely, Izuku overflows. He mutters in that typical tangled way of his, tinted with pleading prayers and reminiscing. It’s like he’s begging Shouto to grasp these little vignettes he keeps bringing up—their old study groups, the flirty festivals, the sleepovers—and use them as a rope to pull himself up from the pit his body has him molded into.

 

Kirishima doesn’t hum or mumble at all. He merely closes his eyes and treads water.

 

The bedside vigil forms, and so begins a waiting game—both for crystal eyes to open, and Kirishima’s world to return to color.

 

***

 

In the end, it takes three weeks.

 

Kirishima’s there the moment the spiking thrum of the heart monitor shifts its pace, and he’s never heard anything so wonderful in his life.

 

Izuku and Katsuki aren’t far behind; they’ve been working in this part-time sort of lull that guarantees nothing more than petty thievery and simple patrols that leave room for them to visit the hospital after hours. Kirishima sends off a text while nurses file in, and minutes later, the Wonder Duo busts in, out of breath and hopeful.

 

Shouto,” Kirishima leans forward, tentative happiness budding in his chest as he sheds rivulteting tears that he didn’t know he had left, “Hey, baby. Hey.

 

Bandages rustle, and Shouto’s arm fucking moves.

 

Kirishima coughs out a hysterical chuckle, choked and guttural as he watches helplessly while his husband panics, eyes covered by gauze with a machine taking his breaths for him. He aches to remove the paper barrier between them and cup Shouto’s beautiful face in his hands.

 

The doctors flock around the bed, and someone inexplicably pulls Kirishima away.

 

No!” he growls on instinct, hardening his skin and shoving Katsuki’s hands off viciously, “No, please! Let me see him! Let me—get out of my—!

 

“Red Riot!” a petite nurse points angrily at him as green-sparking hands grasp his elbows, pulling him away, “Sir, calm down, please. We’re working as quick as we can to get the bandages off. You can talk to him when we’re done, but first, let us do our job.

 

No—” Kirishima hisses through his teeth, short and ragged, and he buries his face in his hands, “I’m sorry, I just—I just…”

 

“It’s okay, Kiri,” Izuku hugs him gently as Katsuki stands guard, enveloping both of them in his too-warm spirit, “It’s okay now. He’s awake. Focus on that.”

 

The three huddle together in a grounding, almost ritualistic circle (they’ve done this before—the bedside waiting and weeping—but it’s been years and never quite this gut-wrenching). White jackets filter in and out for hours, obscuring their view. They wield sharp instruments, presumably to cut away the confines holding Shouto’s head in place. The commotion stretches on, and Kirishima grows wearier. He can tell his friends are the same. Izuku’s in tears again, shuddering and sniffling, and Katsuki’s agitation is palpable.

 

And then eons later, after Kirishima’s head is nothing but sirens and frenzied humming, the sea of white parts. He dashes through the opening, lone and determined.

 

“Don’t excite him too much,” someone recites, and Krisihima wants to holler that he doesn’t care ; he just wants to see his husband, “He’s going to be very out of it, so don’t be alarmed if his memories are fuzzy.”

 

“Shouto,” he ignores them and kickstarts the mantra from earlier when he finally reaches his bed frame, latching on and gripping it tight under his weary palms—and yes, the gory sight is awful and sickening and inconceivable, but he doesn’t care and he can’t think about that right now or he might fracture for real, “Can you hear me?”

 

“Ei?” the familiar scratchy voice doesn’t fit with the planes of shuttered skin and swollen eyelids, but it’s there and it’s Shou.

 

Kirshima’s knees hit the ground, rock solid.

 

The nurses all jolt, but he holds up a hand to placate them as rasping sobs tremble through his limbs. His very bones tremor underneath his skin, and the world falls away around him, a single bed waiting for just him. His fingers twine with a hand he’s known all his life (from before he came to be and for centuries after), and he yanks himself back up to meet glimmering blue and grey.

 

“Eijirou,” Shouto—his perfect Shouto—lifts a wavering palm to his husband’s cheek, and Kirishima holds it there, pressing kiss after kiss to the flawless scarred skin, “Don’t cry, love.”

 

“How can I not, you beautiful idiot?” Kirishima’s laugh is wet, his teardrops running the bedsheets darker; he hugs Shouto’s arm, terrified of touching anywhere else, “You scared me so much, Shou. We didn’t know if you would—we didn’t…”

 

“He’s sayin’ don’t you ever fuckin’ do that again, you goddamn rat bastard,” Katsuki appears on the other side of the bed, a rare hint of unrestrained joy sparking over his features, “I’ll kick your ass if you die without the rest of us.”

 

“Of course, Katsuki. I’ll be sure to call on you next time—we can go out in a blaze together,” Shouto’s voice cracks from overuse and disuse, but the faint teasing grin is there—that banterous Shouto-Ground Zero dynamic is there, and Kirishima has no heart to tell him to rest when he’s happy after so long of being nothing at all.

 

Shouto …” and there’s Izuku, blubbering so constantly that Kirishima had registered it as background noise until now. 

 

“Izuku,” Shouto rolls his eyes fondly, mock exasperated, “Come here.”

 

Izuku all but throws himself onto the bed (though he’s careful not to jostle any healing wounds), fingers hovering over Shouto as he cries his heart out for the world to see. 

 

Shouto meets Kirihsima’s eyes and squeezes his hand with all the love of a jubilant soulmate.

 

And—despite the scars and the insecurities and the tears to come—as Kirishima hears the clank of their wedding bands ringing together, he starts to swim again.


(After all, it’s right there in the memories—of our past and our present, and of our forever).