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You were not the first person he saved. Not even the tenth or twentieth. But it was early enough in his career that he only has vague recollections of the villain, the place, the time of day. What he remembers is you.

He meant to put you down in some out of the way alley after rescuing you from imminent death; cut and dry, another notch in his hero belt. Suitable location achieved, he attempted to lower you to the asphalt, steadying you with hands on your shoulders before pulling away. But then— 

You didn’t let go. Your fingers dug into the back of his suit, every cell in your body trying to get closer to the safety he embodied. You wanted to be—comforted. He wasn’t sure what to do with that. He gave you some gentle pats on the back which shifted into a kind of stiff-handed rubbing. He was vaguely aware that the bad guy was probably getting away, that he was still on the clock, but none of that seemed to matter so much. You were so small in his arms, so delicate. He was amazed you trusted him, anyone , to handle you at all.

You came back to yourself in increments, detaching from him as if you had to peel yourself off. “Shit. Sorry,” you said finally, hands still resting on his shoulders. You were shaking, ever so slightly. “Sorry.”

You were toneless, if slightly abashed. Still a little shell shocked. He found himself reluctant to turn away. You obviously still needed something. Something from him. But a medic was approaching, attempting to quietly herd you towards the rest of the savees, and you were stepping out of his grasp, calling out to the others that you’re “absolutely fine ”.

When you tell it later you were very brave, you let the hero get back on with heroing with minimal fuss and absolutely no clinging. You didn’t cry at all . It’s a fun story, for a couple months. Then it simply blends in with the other things that keep you up at night.

But for Bakugou it was a paradigm shift. He was always only valuable for his abilities, his quirk. How strong and fast and smart he was, how good at making people hurt. But you—soft body, glassy eyes, gentle tremors— wanted him for something else. You wanted him for what came after.

...

 

He thinks about you often. Not everyday. Sometimes not even every week. But years go by and he can still clearly recall the shape of your face, the weight of you in his arms, the soft damp heat of your tears soaking into his uniform. The material is moisture wicking; still he imagined he could feel the wetness you left behind in the fight that ensued, on the journey home when it was done, every time he puts it on. 

He doesn’t know why, but you’re on his mind as he dresses for the gala tonight. Some charity event, he doesn’t know. PR told him they’d burn the agency down if he skips this one. 

So he arrives at the Regal Hotel Ballroom in the three piece suit his assistant picked out for him, plus a frown that manages to scare off all but the bravest of networkers. They don’t last long, after he opens his mouth, anyway. 

It’s one of the biggest event locales in the city, and it’s packed. Most of the big heroes are here. Some of the small-fry too. It will give him a chance to ghost, maybe find a nice quiet corner to hole up in with a good bottle of liquor, maybe hide behind the wall of his selected people. 

If only his friends weren’t such fucking extroverts. Kirishima, one of the nights only saving graces, is talking to some rescue hero, fascinated by everything he’s saying. Ashido is schmoozing with someone who might fund her next venture. Kaminari is in the corner where Bakugou would like to be, selfish. He’s leaned over some mousy thing, smiling how he does when he wants something. 

Bakugou never goes out of his way to pry, not in personal matters. People tell him what he needs to know—the rest? None of his business. 

It’s mere chance that he happens to be scowling in that direction when Kaminari pulls away, giving up on coaxing whoever out of the dregs of the party. And the left over body as he saunters away—

You. 

You look different. Not only that you’re wearing something party-appropriate instead of the serviceable work-clothes he’d last seen you in. Not even that you changed your hair. You hold yourself differently. With more confidence. Less to lose, maybe.

He feels Kaminari draw up beside him, but his eyes are still glued to the spot where you’re leaned up against the wall, taking small sips of champagne as your gaze traipses across the crowd. 

Kaminari slaps a hand on his shoulder. “Why so glum, Bakubro? It’s a party!” 

He scoffs. “It’s a fucking dog and pony show.”

“Still not a fan of dress up games?” Kaminari lets out a wistful sigh. “Well, I guess there’s not much you can do with a face like that—“

“Who’s the broad?” 

“The what?” 

Bakugou ignores the heat in his cheeks. He shoots Kaminari a dry glare. 

Dude . Don’t let her hear you say that.” He turns to glance back to where he’d left you, as if you could have heard him from across the room. “That’s…my assistant.” 

Hah ?” 

“Well...administrator? Clerk? She doesn’t really have a job title, we’ve just kind of been going with the flow.”

The thought nearly makes Bakugou cringe. His agency is a well oiled machine, fine tuned and purposeful. He’d seen to that himself. The idea that someone could simply be… free floating? Doesn’t make sense to him. 

Then again, nothing about you does. 

The mere fact that you’re here, not a hero or an executive or a spouse is strange in itself. 

A hundred questions are lodged in his throat. The biggest, most vital one: how is she

But he can’t ask that, it’s inappropriate, and beside that, asinine. What a worthless measure of a person. All he would get is, fine . The thought makes his jaw clench, his throat work down a dry swallow. 

“How long?”

“Hm? Oh— I think it’ll be...half a year? Soon, anyway. 

Half a year. You’d been here, hovering around the peripheral of his life. Shouldn’t he have known? Felt it, or something? 

Of course not. That’s absurd. 

Bakugou turns and begins to make his way through the crush of people. 

Kaminari is yelling after him, “You just got here—you can’t leave!”

But he’s not leaving. He’s snagging a handle from the open bar, he’s sauntering through the doors to the unlit service hallway. 

There are a lot of smaller conference rooms back here. He chooses one at random, already yanking the cork to the cognac with his teeth. Only the light from the gala down the way illuminates the space, casting a square ream of light over a smattering of spare tables.  And there, in the corner... you. 

You must have crawled out right before him.  

He’d come here to get some privacy, but fuck . He wants to poke at you, see what happens. He wants to pry.

Then you notice him. “Oh, thank god. You brought booze.”

You approach with your glass raised in askance. He pours you a generous drink, and you slink back over to the table where you had set up camp.

You take a sip before announcing your verdict. “Oh, that’s the shit. You got good taste.” You nod. “You can stay.”

He shuffles fully into the room. “Thanks,” he says, but it’s not as snippy as he intends. He can’t get a read on you, baffled by your blasé attitude, your carelessness in the presence of one of the most intimidating men in the country. You don’t seem to care. 

You don’t seem to recognize him. 

“Anything for a fellow hide-away.” You raise your glass to him. He doesn’t follow suit, just rolls his eyes and takes a swig from the bottle, watches you grin in response. 

It’s unlike him to initiate anything with someone new. He has enough people crawling all over him that he never wants for cliche smalltalk. His true social circle remained small after UA, and mostly the same. And yet—

“Didn’t expect to find someone back here with her tail between her legs.” 

You peer at him. He’d never thought much about what color your eyes were, but seeing them now, he must have always known, even before he met you. That’s how it feels. 

He expects you to say something snappy. You’re one to talk . But you turn toward him, open yourself up for conversation.

“Oh, I like parties. I like people in general,” you say breezily. “But I need to take a second to recharge at big events like these.”

He leans himself against another table, a fair enough distance away. He doesn’t know why keeping his space here is so important, but he feels a distinct need for it. “Denki lets you play hooky?” 

You give him a sly grin. “Denki lets me do what I want.”

There’s an implication there that he doesn’t like. He pushes it down. He presses on. “You a fan of his or somethin?”

You hum. “Of Denki? Yes. Chargebolt, I could take or leave.”

He frowns. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

You shrug. It sends the delicate fabric of your dress rippling. In the dark it looks like smoke. “Not the biggest fan of the hero game. There’s too much anonymity that goes with an alter ego. And when people are anonymous… Well. They tend to take things for granted, that’s all.”

He turns that over in his mind. You’re more than happy to fill the empty air.

“What heroes do is important, I’m not implying otherwise.” Your tone isn’t confrontational or backtracking. You’re simply airing out your feelings for him. Katsuki’s not sure what to make of it. “I just think we could all use a little more humanity.”

“Including you?”

You smile at that, but your face is downturned. You take a moment to straighten out your dress. “All of us.” 

A shout from the party down the hall interrupts the quiet of the room. You meet his gaze again.

You say, “Speaking of, I saw a clip of you and that girl. It was good. Restored some of my faith.”

The event you’re talking about happened seventeen days ago. It wasn’t supposed to be caught on camera at all. It was just a strange and volatile moment. He’s still reeling from it. 

In the deontological sense, they had failed. They couldn’t keep the fight tight enough. It spread over five whole city blocks, havoc and havoc and havoc. Three people died. Citizens, innocents. One of them didn’t have a quirk at all. Her daughter hadn’t, either.

The girl was silent in his arms as he rushed her out of the melee. He didn’t have time to stay at first; they needed his firepower too much in the battle. It took him thirty minutes to come back to her. She’d stayed exactly where he left her, staring listlessly into the hazy orange-red sky. 

He’d stayed with her until medic arrived. He tried to talk to her, at first. But it was pointless. He was a stranger, and she was going into shock. Still, he was reluctant to leave her as the EMT wrapped up her limp body in a big blanket and carried her off. What if she got scared? Or lonely? It wracked him with nerves, tightened his body, his throat, until he had to sit down.

Eventually, though, he had to rise again. There was paperwork to do. It was already dark.

“It’s my job,” he tells you.

“No. Protecting lives is your job. Keeping bodies safe, not hearts.” You finish off your drink, rise and stretch your back in a sinuous curve.“I’ve met a lot of heroes. Quite a few of them that excel at their work—folks who deserve their place at the top of the chart. But being a good hero and being a good person aren’t the same thing.”

“What’s the difference?”

You creep toward him, languid, unhurried, until you’re eye to eye, close enough that he could reach out and grab you. “The difference, my dear co-conspirator, is kindness.”

You give him a smile, a soft pat on the arm. A perfect way to diffuse the tension of the conversation. It doesn’t work. He still feels leadened with your declaration, tethered by it. You turn toward the door, a dozen or so feet away.

You say, “I should go check on Denki. He gets a little weepy when he’s had too much champagne.”

And Katsuki knows that. And he knows that events like these eat sincerity alive, chew it up and spit it out. You should go do your job, it’s probably bad form that you left him alone for so long in the first place. But—

His feeble call stops you. 

Am I —”  His voice is shot. Coarse with emotion he can’t name, doesn’t understand.

But you look at him, your eyes so bright and keen, full of such tender gravity. Like you could hold the world in the cup of your palms, make it into something guiltless and pure.

You shrug. Then you’re gone.

...

 

Nothing much changes, after the gala. There’s no reason it should have, only that his whole life seems shifted on an axis, with you at the crux. Whatever. 

He goes on being the number two hero, and you go on… doing whatever it is you do for Kaminari. Bakugou’s still not sure. Your boss brings you up, sometimes, just passing comments when the group is out for drinks.

Said the funniest thing today .

Won’t stop nagging me about getting a second copier

Told me about this new dinner place—we’re going next week, if anyone’s interested.  

So he goes to dinner. 

It’s not some place he would have chosen, a little too quaint, too intimate. But watching your face as you chat with the server, as you dig into your food, as you have just a little too much wine, he starts to see the appeal. 

You’re seated directly across from each other, which gives him ample chances to observe you. That’s why he notices immediately as you try to slip a slice of eggplant onto his plate. 

He lets you, one brow raised. 

You give him a sheepish smile, but seeing that he’s not going to stop you, you give him another piece. 

“You fucking ordered it,” Bakugou says. “Why didn’t you just choose something else if you hate eggplant.”

“I don’t hate it,” you counter. “It’s just the texture. Too squishy. And, this is really good. Minus the squish.”

He just shrugs, scooping up your discarded fare and taking a bite. He snorts at the look of pure joy on your face, strangely grateful, elated. He wants to offer to eat all your cast offs if you’ll smile like that every time. He doesn’t. 

The rest of the table is immersed in conversation, too into their latest argument to notice the quiet rapport occurring between you. 

“The squish is fine,” he rumbles. You laugh. 

“There’s a good hero,” you say. 

He doesn’t know why the tease makes his cheeks heat. He doesn’t know why your answering grin only makes it worse. But he eats the damn eggplant. 

And he listens to you ramble, offers quiet comments every now and again. He doesn’t expect you to be paying such close attention to him, his little remarks just under his breath, but you pick up on all of them, answering him in kind, sometimes changing the whole route of your thoughts to answer him. He finds himself offering up information in turn. Nothing secret or vital, just things about him that only his friends would know. A band he likes, a coffee shop he frequents. You two get into it over the merits of eggplant versus other vegetables, and before he realizes, the rest of the group is packing up. 

Kaminari is by your side as soon as you have your coat on, arm casually slung over your shoulder. “Ready to go?” 

You lean into him, easily, so trusting. Then Kaminari blows a raspberry on your forehead and you swat at him, but the two of you come back together easily, calling goodbyes in the clutter of everyone taking their leave, and stepping out into the night. 

And Bakugou watches you go, something coiled in his chest, like a live-trap about to snap. 

...

 

“You should take a break,” Kaminari says. He’s seated beside you on the couch, some dumb movie playing. 

He started walking you home months ago; it soothes both your nerves. Sometimes he just stays, when you arrive at your place. You have a guest bedroom. His toothbrush is in a cup under your sink.

“From what?” you shift to look at him. He has a young face, but in the dark all the stress lines and tiny scars are deepened by shadow. 

“Like...everything?” he glances down at his lap, frowns. “It’s just a lot. Maybe it would be good for you to step away.”

You hum. “ You step away.” 

“Uh….No?”

You nudge him with your foot. That turns into kicking when he retaliates with a soft slap against your calf. 

“I’m not leaving you,” you say through laughs. “Idiot.”

He shoves your foot off him finally, sinks back into the couch cushions. His eyes are bright with an emotion you can’t parse. “Okay.”

...

 

Bakguou sees more of you, now. You’re part of the gang, get invited out on their weekly benders. All of his friends love you. 

Even if they all have the same thing to say about you. 

Quirkless

It’s not derogatory by any means. Just a fact, the kind of thing you’d use to introduce two strangers at a party. “She likes expensive tea and she’s utterly defenseless. I’ll leave you two to get acquainted.”

He’s reminded of this every time you’re brought up in conversation. And every time it makes him antsy, like he’s running late, like he’s missing something important. 

He finally snaps after Kirishima pulls that tidbit out. He hadn’t been paying close attention for most of the conversation, focused on his strict workout routine. But something in his friend’s tone regains his attention. 

“She recommended this recipe. Really old school, her grandma’s or somethin’.” 

Bakugou pauses mid rep, dumbbell clenched tight. “Who?” 

Kirishima is inspecting the line of resistance belts hung on the wall. He doesn’t meet Bakugou’s gaze as he answers, “Kaminari’s friend. She’s quirkless, you know.” 

The weight falls to the mat with a deadened thud. Bakugou stands. “What the hell does that matter.” 

Kirishima scrambles for an answer, surprised at the sudden ire. “It doesn’t! Of course not. But she seems really close to Denki—she’s getting close to all of us, really.” He takes a peek at Bakugou. Seeing that the other man isn’t going to explode again, he continues, quieter now. “It shouldn’t matter. Y’know? But we—fuck, this is messed up, but, what if something happens? What if she gets caught in the middle?”

The words sit heavy in the empty gym. The lights are all off but it’s early enough that the sun slants through the high, vaulted windows, rays shining down like bars on a cage. 

Bakugou picks up his weight and returns it to the rack. He shakes his head. “She’ll be fine.” 

Kirishima’s eyes follow him, gaze keen. “I thought— know what? Nevermind.”

“Spit it out,” Bakugou snaps. 

Kirishima cocks his head. His inspection of the other man is frank, curious and knowing all at once. “Thought you didn’t like quirkless people, anyway.”

Bakugou scoffs. “That a fucking accusation?”

Kirishima raises his hands in surrender. “Nope. Just an observation.”

The tone is light, but the words are loaded. He hasn’t made a condescending remark about those weaker than him in years. All of the snide little comments turned rancid in his mouth, the thought of that alley, that day, you, tainting everything. 

He turns and heads for the locker room, leaving Kirishima staring after him. 

“She’s fine,” he throws over his shoulder. Just to set things straight. 

It’s pure chance he spots you that morning on the way to the agency. You’re running late, he knows because Kaminari has told him almost everything about your schedule to convince him what you do is all above board. But he would have known anyway, your hair missed, shirt wrinkled. The papers you were looking over last night are shoved into your bag haphazardly, sticking out at a dozen angles. You’re a mess. 

And you’re shuffling along beside an old woman who was caught in the middle of the street when the light changed. Cars are honking at you; you don’t care. You’re saying something to the old woman, she’s smiling in response. 

How cliche, how absurd. But he watches you perform this small act of kindness, waiting until you’re safely on the other side, parting from the old woman with a smile and a wave.

And he’s turning and walking the other way, his whole body simmering, hot like a new sunburn. 

He doesn’t mention that day during your next group outing. He couldn’t, anyway. You’re seated between Ashido and Kaminari, trading jokes with either one of them, laughing so hard you cry.

He leaves early that night, doesn’t even bother with an excuse, just throws a handful of bills on the counter and walks away. 

You watch his back during the whole retreat, feeling a little cheated. You didn’t get a chance to give him your eggplant. 

...

 

Your friends tease you about leaving your phone ringer on, but it’s needed on nights like this. The generic ringtone wakes you, the time pushing close to dawn. 

Denki needs you. You’re at his place in under an hour. 

He’d had a late patrol tonight. Not a big deal; his middling rank often got him pegged with the less desirable time slots. He was a night person anyway.

Of course, night crime tends to be a bit less glorious. Seedier, is the word you throw around. The things your boss complained about the next day ranged from tedious to flat out gross. 

His shift began with a couple of drunks disturbing the peace, a few petty robberies. Nothing too extravagant. A few hours in he got a call about a domestic disturbance on the poorer side of town. 

It wasn’t from a dispatch service; the call had gone directly to his agency, despite being an emergency. Unsurprising, in a lot of ways. The cops don’t like to answer calls out that way. No point , they’d often say. There’s no saving them.  

Fuck that. 

Denki answered the call, crossing half the city to get there. He was sweating when he arrived, out of breath. He was given very little information, just that help was needed, and busted open the door at the address with little fanfare. It wasn’t hard to guess what was going on. A shivering woman, two kids hiding behind her legs. A big man looming over her, a belt in his hand with a big, metal buckle. 

You’re in his bed, his head on your lap, fingers pressing into his eye sockets so hard the blood drains from them, he tells you that he must have blacked out. 

“It wasn’t in defense of anyone anymore, I was just beating the shit out of him by the end,” he tells you. His voice is oddly steady, but there’s no inflection to it. No emotion. Just words. “And the others were just watching. And I could see the outline of the buckle on her. Like, bruises. On her arms. I just lost it.”

You don’t know what to say to that. You’re so far out of your depths with him sometimes, just floundering under the weight of his work, of all hero work. 

You brush your fingers through his hair, peel his hands away from his face when you think the pressure might be starting to bruise him. He turns onto his stomach to bury his face into your thighs. 

A secret, vindictive part of you is pleased. The guy deserved it, you think. Abusers should be afraid. Strong, righteous people should make them afraid. 

Most of you is focused on how strange and hard it must be for Denki, how heartbreaking everything, everything is. 

“I know,” you say, pointlessly. No meaning to it, no end or beginning. “I know.” 

You feel the wetness of his tears, the way they make your pants warm and then cold. He’s quiet, almost silent. You trace his nape with soft fingers, let yourself be patient with him. 

It goes on for a while. The sun has started to rise by the time he peels himself off you, rubbing at his sore eyes. 

His voice is hoarse. “I was supposed to meet with Bakugou to go over plans for the raid.”

You pat his arm. “I’ll call him.” 

You leave Denki sprawled on the bed, step out and away, into the foyer so he doesn’t have to hear you talk. You were planning to leave a voicemail, something succinct and unarguable. You don’t expect him to actually pick up.  

He has your number -- it’s not the first time you’ve had to call to arrange a meeting. He greets you by name, and then, “What’s wrong?” 

You stutter impotently for a moment, your carefully crafted script suddenly defunct. “Why are you awake?”

Stunned silence meets you. “The fuck?” he demands gruffly. “It’s morning, isn’t it?”

You pull the phone away from your ear to check the time. A few minutes before six. “Barely.”

You hear him breathing, the stirring of something that sounds like water. You think maybe he’s going to just hang up, put an end to this, but he says,“You sleep late?” 

“Sometimes.” 

“How late?”

“Is that an accusation?”

“Fucking no ,” he says, but there’s no fire to it. It’s too early for banter. “Just a question.”

“Late,” you admit, “Too late, sometimes.”

“It’s not good for you. You ought to keep a regular sleep schedule.”

“Yeah,” you say. “I know.”

You can’t bring yourself to tell him what you need to. It doesn’t matter, anyway. The next thing he says is, again, “What’s wrong?”

“It’s--” You let out a clipped sigh, wondering how to word it in a way that won’t garner further explanation. “Denki can’t make it to your meeting today.”

“He’s canceling?”

“Rescheduling.”

You expect a rebuttal, some kind tirade about how as the No. 2 his time is too important to waste like this.

He says, “Okay.” And then, “Is he alright?” 

He will be. Maybe.

You can’t expose your friend like that, want to keep him safe, let him be fragile in peace. 

“Whatever,” Bakugou says when it takes you too long to answer. “Just make sure he doesn’t do anything stupid.”

“Always,” you promise.

“And you too,” he says. 

You have to swallow before replying. “And me too.”

 

...

 

You make breakfast for the two of you, something simple and wholesome. Denki takes the day off at your insistence, but you decide to go in anyway. You figure it will be an easy day, all paperwork and emails. 

But it’s not. You’re exhausted. You can’t stop thinking about Denki, if he’s okay. You send him frequent messages, each of them received with his signature insouciance, a little joke, an outdated emoticon. You know he’s still hurting, under all the false bravado.

You can’t stop thinking about what he said. The mother. The family. Are they going to be okay? Who’s going to look after them, when all is said and done. There’s no one left to hit. There’s nothing left for the heroes to do.

Selfishly, horribly, you can’t stop thinking about packing up for the day, stopping by the nearest bar and getting tipsy on rail stuff. You can’t stop thinking about quitting, never talking about any of this, the hard things, ever again.

You don’t do anything, though. You in your little corner office. You wait in line for the copier. You finish off the pot of coffee and forget to refill it.

You get the text around noon.

 

Received: How is he?

 

You’re only slightly aghast that Bakugou is texting you. Your tired brain can’t muster up much shock.

 

Sent: Fine.

 

He doesn’t respond for a long while. You think that must be the end of the exchange, but then your phone pings again:

 

Received: Have you eaten?

 

Sent: Not yet.

 

Received: Which office is yours?

 

Sent: The one at the end of the hall?

 

You feel jittery, after the exchange. On the edge of your seat as you wait for whatever it is he’s about to do. You’re so wrapped up in trying not to think about it that you don’t even notice the knock, only the solid thump of a bag dropping onto your desk. Reusable , did you expect anything less?

He’s dressed in civilian clothes. You know from scheduling Kaminari’s day that his patrol won’t start for another couple hours. Their meeting was supposed to have been starting in a few minutes.

You look up at Bakugou, hands frozen above your keyboard. Whatever is in the bag smells amazing, but you can’t even look at it, too caught up in the way he’s looking back at you as he stands before your desk.

It’s intense. Everything about him is intense, but the way you catch him staring is something else entirely. Like scrutiny, but less cruel somehow. Observation the way an etymologist does it, the kind of careful gaze you would apply to something as delicate and ephemeral as a butterfly.

His voice breaks your trance. “It’s that thing you like, but without the eggplant.” 

You reach for it. Part of you is afraid your hands will shake, but you’re steady. You peer inside the bag, find a big tupperware container and a set of silverware. “Did you make this?” 

“Yeah,” he murmurs. “It’s cold but it should still be okay— hey, why the fuck are you crying?” 

He takes a step forward, around your desk. His hands hover in the space between you. He looks like he wants to shake you, or maybe grab your face. You don’t know. You don’t know what’s happening to you. 

He looks to the door, shut tight against the rest of the office. Then he looks back at you.

Silently, he slips the bag from your grip. He puts it behind the monitor, where you can’t see it anymore. When your hands remain limp and floating, he presses them back into your lap. He doesn’t let go.

His hands are calloused and tough. They grate over your skin slightly, but it’s not unpleasant. The sensation is almost like a cat’s tongue, strange and intriguing. 

And warm. So very warm. 

The emotional wave is over an instant after it starts. 

You let out a watery laugh. “I can’t believe I’m crying over eggplant.” 

His expression is bewildered, but not annoyed. He’s still holding onto you, leaning over you a little bit. You don’t feel claustrophobic with him in your space though. Just pressure, like being hugged tightly, like being anchored by someone else. 

He says, “There’s none in there, I already told you that.”

“Exactly,” you tell him. Then sigh. “Sorry.”

He frowns. His grip tightens around your wrists. “You--”

“What?”

“Don’t be sorry,” he says. “Don’t ever fucking apologize to me about anything.”

And you don’t know what to say about that, if he wants you to say anything at all. It doesn't matter, anyway. He’s pulling away as soon as it’s out, heading for the open door. 

“Don’t starve. Eat your meals,” he throws over his shoulder. Then he’s gone.

You stare at the tupperware for twenty minutes before digging in. 

It’s the best thing you’ve ever tasted.

...

 

They meet about the raid two days later. Three days after that it goes down as planned. Chargebolt and Ground Zero are hailed for their efforts at taking down one of the largest weapon smuggling rings in the country. 

There’s a night out to celebrate. 

You think about skipping this one, just going home and sleeping after the long week you’ve had, but the promise of booze in abundance draws you out.

You make a pointed effort to sit next to Bakugou, knowing that he’ll stave off the brunt of the conversation just with his mere presence. He pretends not to notice that you tug his sleeve to steer him toward the end of the long table. You feel his gaze as you order, that thing with the eggplant. He keeps watching as you spoon pieces of it onto his plate, as you pay him a secret smile.

“Next time just get something else,” he mutters. You know, somehow, he doesn’t mean it. 

“So, how did Wednesday go, on your end?” you ask when you’re done transferring your unwanteds. 

His gaze is unreadable when it meets yours. “Got it done, didn’t I?” 

“Yeah, of course you did dumbass. What I mean is how do you feel about it?”  

He blinks at you for a minute. Like no one had ever asked him to self reflect. Maybe they haven’t; it would make a lot of sense. 

“Felt...fine. Long.” 

You want to point out that long isn’t a feeling, but his face warns you off it. His brow is creased as he stares at you. Through you, you think. Examining again. The attention is unsettling; you try to redirect it. 

You roll your eyes. “Your descriptive powers rival Thoreau.” 

He scoffs. “Never trust a poet. Why does everything have to be a call sign for something else? Why can’t they just say what they fucking mean?”

You’re laughing. “He wasn’t a poet, Bakugou.” 

“Exactly. That bastard,” he says, but he’s fighting down a smile. 

The following conversation is startlingly mundane, but...fun? You have the same taste in music and snacks. You have a secret, wicked sense of humor that draws out his smiles despite himself. Sometimes your outright silliness does too. 

Every time you get up to grab another drink, you feel his eyes on you. But he says nothing as you throw them back.

“What are you?” he asks as you return to your seat. This makes it… four times? Maybe five. As many drinks. Your body has that warm drunken glow and you are basking in it. The company, too.

“What kind of question is that?” you ask, but it’s funny. Everything about him is kind of funny. Kind of not funny, too.

“I mean… what do you do?” he glances down toward the other end of the table. Your friends are deep in the throes of a very loud conversation. None of them notice you two, having your private chat. “What the fuck is your job?”

“Oh, everything?” you say. “Or, y’know, nothing.” You peer at him over the rim of your drink. He’s hunched over the table, leaning toward you. “What do you think?”

“I think you keep Kaminari in line.”

“Maybe.” You shrug, a cheeky smile on your lips. “Or maybe it’s the other way around.”

He huffs. “I don’t get you.”

Your smile turns soft. “Yeah, you do.”

As the night is winding down, Kaminari is needed elsewhere. Bakugou is a little too quick to volunteer to get your wobbly ass home. 

Kaminari shoots a quick glance between the two of you, brow furrowed. “Are you—“

“Leave it,” Bakugou snapped. That was the end of that. 

Now he’s walking you back to your apartment, keeping a safe measure of distance between you. That distance is dissolved the moment you start to veer off the sidewalk. He swings an arm around your lower back, hauls you against his side, scoffing when you laugh, when you reach up to pinch his cheek. 

“Eyes on the road, princess.” 

But he doesn’t take his own advice, and neither do you. You both steal glances at each other, your gazes meeting serendipitously a few times before you finally ask, “What are you thinking about?” 

“Come work for me,” he replies immediately, and you laugh, but he’s not joking. 

Still, you’re tipsy. You try to make it silly. “And why would I do that, Ground Zero?”

He’s got his answer ready, “Better pay, better benefits. Your own office, with its own printer.” You sigh at the reminder that you have to share a printer with the entire floor. It’s been one of your biggest complaints since you started working there. “And you’d be working for a top hero, instead of sparky’s middle grade agency.”

You don’t take offence at the comment of Chargebolt’s hero standing, he certainly doesn’t. You can’t help but tease, though. “Hey, thirty-six is a perfectly respectable position. The limelight is no place to do honest work. Too many brand deals.”

Of course none of that matters to Bakugou. The fame and money are all secondary. His primary motivation is being a good hero, and he knows you know. 

He says, “Join my agency.”

You just smile.

You’ve reached your place, but you’re not done talking. You unlock your door and Bakugou follows silently after you. He remains standing after you dump yourself on the couch, face first. A little pout creases his features. It’s cute , though he’d probably bite your head off for saying so. Then again, maybe not. He’s always given you a bit (lot) more leniency.

“You’re gonna catch a cold if you fall asleep out here, dumbass,” he tells you.

“I won’t and I won’t,” you return, muffled by the cushions. You turn your face just enough to side eye him. “And I won’t.”

“Why not?” he demands. “What do you want?” 

“It’s not about that, Bakugou.” You throw an arm over your eyes, then immediately lower it so you can see his expression. His jaw is clenched. “Duty, y’know? Aren’t heroes supposed to be experts at that?”

“Are you and Kaminari an item?”

You snort. “A what ?”

His posture is vaguely underwhelmed, slightly haughty. But you can see the fine lines of tension in him, the places where his foundation is weakest. “You heard me.”

You say, “Why would you ask me that?”

“You guys spend all your time together. And you—”

“Love him?” You pull yourself to a sitting position, but your body is so heavy with the alcohol and the weight of the week that you immediately slump against the couch back. “Yeah. I do. He’s a good person. One of the best.”

“How did he—” He lets out a clipped sigh, turning to glare at the floor to his right. “Why?”

“It’s just who he is.” You shrug. “Y’know, he let me sleep on his couch. Not just for a few days. It was months . My place burnt down, and he just...”

Bakugou is stone faced where he stands. So you keep going.

“We got started together. I was probably the first person he hired. The first person he tells everything to. Good or bad. Been through it all. Together.” 

It’s cold in your apartment. It almost always is these days. You sleep better like that. Wake up less, in the middle of the night.

You say, “He makes me feel safe. And that’s pretty damn special.”

Bakugou shifts, his weight coming forward as if to take a step. And he does. Just one. 

His voice is so quiet you almost don’t catch it. In your sleepy daze, you think you might have misheard. But he’s looking at you, fiercely, honestly. “I could take care of you.”

Your chuckle is dusky and exhausted. “You got bigger fish to fry, number two.”

Then he’s walking over to you, towering over your boneless form, reaching out to rest a big, warm hand on your forehead. “Yeah. But you’re my fucking fish.” 

You cup your hand over his, marveling for a moment at the difference in your sizes. You drag it down your face, sloppily, until you can kiss his palm. You hardly have the energy for it, eyes fluttering closed as your lips place the barest pressure against his skin. “I’d get in your way, you know.”

His voice is the cliffside-drop before sleep. “I don’t know shit.”

...

 

This is not your job -- that’s why you’re so awful at it. 

You’re going over the stats from Denki’s last mission; something isn’t adding up. You can’t quite put your finger on it. It’s more intuition than anything that has you checking the security footage from that night. 

You only have a few angles from a few locations, and it’s all grainy and out of focus. Still, you can make out the milling bodies of the gang members. Most of them are young, from what you can tell. That makes your stomach turn, but you can’t say why. 

The actual fighting lasts less than five minutes. There’s complete darkness and then a thousand bursts of light. You can’t see anything, just a scramble of figures, bullets, explosions, electric currents. A door to the outside opens and shuts. More light. More dark. You make it through about two minutes before you close out of the tab, and thinking better of it shut off your whole monitor. 

You feel like you want to throw up. God, do you need a drink. 

Wracking up your willpower, you text the one person you’d be ashamed to get drunk in front of at three pm.

 

Sent: Do you have dinner plans?

 

Received: No.

 

Sent: Can I come over?

 

Bakugou’s place is not what you were expecting. None of the spartan, metal frame furniture or bare walls. He has art hung up, in actual frames. He has decorative pillows on the couch. It makes you a little nervous. 

He doesn’t seem to care that you’re less talkative than usual, just steers you to where you need to go with a jerk of his chin or a casual hand on your back. The latter makes you flinch, but he doesn’t acknowledge that either, just tells you the direction of the bathroom so you can wash up before he puts out the food.

It’s delicious, of course it is. You don’t know how he got your preferred spice level exactly right, or how he knew the precise portion you would want, but he did. You eat in relative silence. Only when you’re finished and he’s quietly gathering up the plates do you finally gush about how good he is at cooking.

He ignores your extraneous compliments, not looking at you as he asks, “So, what happened?”

You snort. “That obvious?”

He doesn’t humor your attempt to postpone the conversation, coming back to lean against the table and crossing his arms, giving you his full attention. “Tell me.”

“Why?” you ask, but you know. “It doesn’t matter. It’s stupid.”

“Not stupid.”

You don’t know why that assurance, so simple and mundane, makes you give it all up. You can’t meet his gaze as you admit what’s wrong, eyes trailing over the corded muscle of his forearms. “I’m scared.”

“Of what?”

“I don’t even know.” You search for something to grab onto, to clutch, but everything is too delicate or small. You end up digging your fingers into the material of your shirt, squeezing until you can feel the blood leech from them. “Isn’t that pathetic? I’m surrounded by people who can take down entire crime syndicates in five minutes or less and I --” you cut yourself off with a clipped breath. Your fingers are starting to go numb.

Bakugou just watches as you take deep steadying breaths. There’s something in that look he’s giving that’s deeply unsettling, and you’re not sure if you want to run or want to bury yourself in it. 

“It’s weakness,” you say. “That’s all.”

He shakes his head. “The fuck does that mean?”

“I can’t protect myself the way you can, Bakugou. And I have to walk around everyday knowing , and it’s exhausting.”

He rises to his full height. His eyes are glinting. “Just because you can’t throw a punch doesn’t make you weak.”

“You don’t have to lie. I know you don’t like quirkless people. And it’s not okay, and I’m not gonna tell you it’s okay, but…” you shrug helplessly. “I like you anyway, asshole.” 

“I don’t—“ he cuts himself off, gaze darting to the side. Where did you even hear about all that? That was supposed to be left in the past; he’d moved beyond it, done his self searching and repented. 

But you don’t know any of that. You don’t know that he couldn’t care less that you don’t have a quirk, or that you drink too much, or that you always pick out the pieces of your food you don’t like. And it matters and it doesn’t. He doesn’t care .

All he cares about is you. Keeping you safe, pleasing you. But you don’t know that either. 

“You feel things,” he says suddenly. He crosses the table, so he’s standing above you, again. And just like last time you don’t feel caged by his presence. Just wrapped up, just kept together. “And you-- you understand them. And you understand other people. You just get it . That’s pretty fucking powerful.”

His fingers brush yours. You don’t even realize you’ve been picking at your nailbeds until he stops you, hands so big and warm around yours. 

“Not weak,” he says. “You’re something else entirely.”

“What am I?” you ask.

“Haven’t figured that out yet.”  His fingers slip between yours, and you use them to leverage yourself up to standing. 

Now you’re chest to chest, breathing the same air, staring each other down. You’re not quite sure what to do with yourself. Bakugou is. 

With a tug he has you falling against him, held up with an arm locked around your waist, his fingers buried in your hair. His mouth slips against yours, half open in a silent gasp.

He just keeps you there for a moment, lips trembling against yours, breaths coming rapid and hot. 

“Fuckin’ enigma,” he whispers. 

You’re open mouthed, the both of you. It’s simple for his tongue to slip in, testing, teasing. The tip brushes against the inside of your lower lip, easing into the kiss in slow, wet swipes until you finally take it all in, sucking slightly, laving against it with your own.

He dominates you gently, pressing deeper into the kiss, pushing you back and back with soft pressure until your hips hit the wall. Then he’s pulling away, only slightly, to look you in the eye. “I want you,” he says.

You fist a hand in his shirt, drag him back down. “ Good .”

You can feel him against your thigh, already starting to get hard under his sweatpants. You lift your leg to press against it a little, smiling into the kiss when you feel him jerk. 

His hands trail down your body, sneaking behind you to grab your ass, squeezing once before lifting you. Instinctively you wrap your legs around him and -- oh

Your low groan makes him smirk. He’s not doing anything particularly fancy, just slow, hard grinds against your core, but it’s enough to make you throw your head back. 

“Yeah? Like that?” His mouth is right against your ear, teeth nipping you lobe when you don’t answer quick enough.

“Yes,” you say, rolling your hips back against him. “Like that.” 

He’s hotter now than any other time he’s touched you, his skin sweltering against your fingers as you scramble to hold on anywhere you can reach. He takes your hands from where they’re scratching at his back, brings them to rest on his shoulders. 

Then he’s dropping to his knees, fingers hooking into the elastic of your leggings, drawing it down one inch, two. He presses his lips to the newly revealed skin, leaving nibbling kisses in a hot trail. 

“You want this?” His voice is muffled against you. “Want my tongue in your pussy?”

His phrasing makes you want to bury your face in your hands, but you force yourself to meet his gaze. “Yes.” And he stares back at you, those gleaming red eyes boring into you until you say, again, louder, “Yes, god . Please.”

With a long, dark groan, he tugs your leggings and panties all the way off, pulling your leg up to rest on his shoulder, planting wet, open mouthed kisses up and up your thigh, dragging his teeth along the crease of your pelvis, letting a hot, ragged breath out against your entrance. 

Just that is enough to make you buck. 

He starts off slow. Long, wet licks against your opening, dipping slightly every time he feels you throb. Your fingers wind through his hair, gripping lightly, nails scratching against his scalp a little. 

It spurs him on, has his tongue slipping through your folds, aiming directly for your clit. You gasp at the sudden sensation, and he lets out a shallow laugh, giving it a quick suck before going back to prodding your entrance. It’s nice, sensual and good . But it’s not enough. 

“Bakugou,” you say, slightly unhinged after his teasing. 

He pulls back to look you in the eye. You groan at the loss. “Call me Katsuki.”

You have to swallow around the thickness in your throat before you can speak. It comes out rasping and deep. “ Katsuki .”

“Good girl,” he murmurs, before sinking back into your pussy. 

There’s no more teasing. His lips are a constant pressure against your clit, two of his fingers sinking into your wet heat, hooking against that soft spot almost instantly. 

You’re quick to reach your climax, sighing his name, clenching around him. 

Fuck ,” he hisses, fingers continuing their steady rhythm, working u through it. “Yeah, that’s it baby. God, that’s good.”

Your high wanes, but he keeps going for a moment, only drawing away when you let out a shuddering whine. 

He presses a last kiss to your pussy. Before reaching for you. He wraps your arms around his neck, rising and scooping you up in one motion, quickly carrying you to the bedroom. 

His bed is big , but neat. You bounce a little as he tosses you down, watching as his big frame leans over you. 

He’s quick to strip your shirt and bra, tossing them negligently to the floor. He climbs off you to remove his own clothes. 

You’re naked, and the realization draws on you like a wave. You bury your face in your hands, overwhelmed and uncertain. 

Bakugou, now naked himself, climbs back on the bed, crawling up to straddle your thighs. 

“Hey,” he says, poking you in the ribs. “Look at me.”

You slide your hands down just enough to peek at him. 

The finger poking at you turns to stroking, finger trailing over the rise of your stomach in long, soothing stripes. 

“What do you want?” he murmurs.

You’re distracted by his ministrations, how good it feels to be touched, how startling and intimate it feels to be undressed with someone else. His hard cock brushes up against your hip. You feel the heat and weight of it like a brand. 

“Tell me,” he insists. His voice is louder, but no less patient. 

You grab one of his hands, drag it up your abdomen, between your breasts, up to the flat plain above. He must be able to feel you heart racing, the quick beats of your breaths. You want him to. You’re glad to be naked with him. 

“I want you to take care of me,” you tell him. 

His grin is all teeth as he flips his hand to take yours. He grabs the other as well, and drags them down to rest at your sides. You’re laid out before him, completely open. 

“Keep them right there,” he says.

So you do. 

He takes his time with you, touching places that seem not to matter at all, the backs of your knees, the crease of your hips, the curve of your shoulders, but feel so vital and tender as he runs his fingers over them. 

The whole time you clench your fists, struggling against his order, sinking deeper into his soft manipulation of his body until everything feels so hot and big you don’t even notice him spreading your thighs, lining himself up. 

“Hold onto me,” he says, and you groan, thankful to be released finally. 

“You want me to fuck you?” he asks. 

You nod. 

“Nah, say it,” he tells you, running the slick head of his cock up and down your slit in a slow glide. 

Your grip around his shoulders tighten. You pull him closer. He lets you. 

Your lips are just a breath away from his when you whisper, “I want you to fuck me, Katsuki.” 

So he does. 

His thrusts are long and firm, tilted up to reach that gummy spot inside you that has you keening, arching up against him. 

His teeth drag your neck, linger to bite and suck, and you’re sure you’ll be littered with bruises when this is over and it only makes your gut clench tighter. 

“God. Fuck,” he murmurs, gaze hazy as it takes in your gooey expression. “So fucking good. You’re so fucking good. ” 

A hand snakes down between your bodies, fingers circling around the place where you’re stretched around him before coming back up to brush against your clit. 

You arch again, lift until his weight presses you down, closer, as close as possible. His whole body presses against yours, into yours, and it feels so good, so grounding. His arm must be falling asleep, caught between you both like that, but he keeps up that constant tension on your pussy, stroking and pressing, answering your high keens with gruff sighs and choked moans. 

He feels your peak coming, in the way you clench around him, in the stutter of your chest against his. Somehow, he gives you even more of his weight, his frame grows even tighter against yours. “That’s it baby,” he says. “Give it to me. C’mon, cum.”

Two more strokes and you’re there, bucking against his firm hold on your hips, taking his final thrusts before his own release, face pressed against your neck, long, deep groan coming from his chest. 

You run your hands down his back as you both catch your breath. His thumbs trace up and down your thighs. 

When he finally rolls off you, he’s smiling. “ Something fuckin’ else .” 

...

 

He’s heavy, an arm and a leg curled around you, keeping you flush against him. 

He answers your waking wriggles with a series of kisses against your nape. “Go back to sleep.”

“What time is it?” 

“Early.” 

You trail your fingers over the forearm snug around your waist. “I have to get up.”

He pulls you closer, buries his face against your neck. “No, you don’t.” 

“I have stuff to do.”

“It can wait.”

“Nooo,” you say, drawing out the word as you turn into your side, curve your hands around the column of his neck. Yours thumbs find his pulse points, rubbing circles into the soft skin there. 

He grabs your phone from the pocket of the pants left on the floor from last night at your request. You scroll through a series of notifications. No emergencies, but a message from Kaminari makes your breath catch. 

He hadn’t seen you home for the first time in a long time. You hadn’t wanted any questions about your destination, and he seemed happy enough to let you go alone. But…

 

Received: r you ok

Received: just

Received: wherever you get this, will you just tell me if you’re ok

 

You shoot back a quick apology, your mood instantly clouded by worry. 

Bakugou grabs you by the hips, tugging you into a sitting position between his legs. One hand rests on your thigh, the other smoothing circles against your stomach. His forehead thumps against your shoulder.

“Is it Kaminari?” he asks. You can feel the rumble of it in your palms. 

You tilt your head to press a kiss to his nose. He catches you on your retreat, slotting your lips together. It’s chaste compared to what you’ve shared, but your body still heats as he pulls away. 

Your thumb sweeps up to flick his chin. “Jealous?”

He gives a pointed look down, where you’re naked and pressed against each other. 

“Nothing?” You sigh dramatically, slipping your hand out of his to throw it over your eyes. “You’re gonna make me cry, Bakugou.”

He flicks the fingers covering your face. “Gonna make you do more than that, princess.” You feel his weight shift, feel him creep down your body, pausing to nuzzle your midriff. “And call me Katsuki .”

...

 

Kaminari is not doing well. If you didn’t know him so well, there’d be no way of knowing. But you can see the shallow grooves of tension around his eyes, the shadow of a flinch that runs through him when you call his name in greeting.

He won’t tell you what’s wrong, but you know, intrinsically, quietly. It’s all of it, everything. Being a hero is just weighing on him from all directions. You don’t know what to do about it, how to help him. You’re not sure that there’s anything you can do, just lean into your codependency, hold him tight when things get rough. 

You spend the morning sitting together on the floor of your shared office, going over numbers together. Neither of you are very good at this part of the job, and it devolves into pushing and laughter within a half hour. 

When he leaves for patrol he seems lighter, but only by a little bit. Only enough to assuage the worst of your fears.

You’re clearing out a copier jam when you get the text.

 

Received: I’m gonna make that thing you like. 

 

Received: Come over.

 

Sent: I’ll be there. 

 

Dinner is perfect. You’d expect nothing less. You can feel his eyes watching you the entire time, his gaze so bright and unnerving. Afterwards you help him wash dishes, the both of you crowded around his sink. The quiet is starting to gnaw on you. He wants you to say what’s on your mind. You want to ask how he knows anything is. You want to ask why you know he knows.

“I wish everyone could just take a break.” You hand him a dripping dish to dry with a sigh. “Just for a few days. A week, tops.”

He quirks a brow. “You need a vacation?” 

“Not me,” you’re quick to assure him. “Just… everyone. The whole world. Villains and heroes and innocent bystanders. I think we all just need to lay down for a little bit. Rest.”

He dries his hands on a nearby towel, coming to wrap his arms around your stomach as you finish rinsing the final pan. “What’ll that solve?”

“Nothing, maybe.” You shrug. It jostles him slightly. Makes you more aware of everywhere he’s pressed against you, how firm he is against your softness. “I just think it would be nice. Good for us.”

“And villains and randos,” he adds.

“All of us.” You agree. He takes the pan from your hands when you’re done, reaches over to set it on the drying rack as you pull the plug to let the sink drain. And then you’re just standing there, nothing to hold on to, nothing to distract yourself with. “You know when you wake up and you can’t remember your dreams? But that time still kind of exists in your mind. The darkness, the nothingness. That’s what we need. A chance to be nothing.”

He has to lean down to press his face against your shoulder. It creates space between your back and his chest, cool air settling in the gap making you shiver. He clutches you tighter at the quiet movement, presses his lips against you. It’s not a kiss, exactly. Too firm and unyielding. Just pressure. Weight.

“You know what that sounds like?” he murmurs.

You do. You pretend you don’t. “Reset button.”

His sigh is long and warm against your bare skin. “What happened?”

“Nothing.”

He squeezes you, almost too hard. He lets out a gruff sound.

“Just tired,” you say. “And Denki is too.” 

“He okay?”

“I don’t know,” you admit. “And I don’t know what it’s  like to be a hero. He’s my best friend and I don’t know how to help him.”

His hand trails up. Between your breasts, over your collarbone, your throat, stroking you gently. A reward for your honesty. “I’ll talk to him,” he says.

“Ok.” You lean into his touch, the rasp of his fingers against your jaw so soft. “Ok.”

...

Kaminari takes the next week off. You don't know what Bakugou ended up telling him, if it worked at all, but when he arrives at the agency to change before his shift his first stop is your office. 

He scoops you up in a big hug, pressing a kiss to your temple. “Missed you,” he says. 

When he pulls away, he’s smiling. 

...

You get your second copier. It’s the weekend, and almost no one is in the office, so Kaminari presents it to you with cake and a big bow, like it’s your birthday. It might as well be. You could almost cry into the double chocolate frosting as you run your hand over the lid.

“And it even laminates ,” he tells you giddily. 

You press a big, sticky kiss to his cheek.

You’re flicking through the handbook when the building jerks. You think about crawling under your desk, gradeschool lessons about earthquakes drilled into your psyche, but something doesn’t feel right.

You stumble out into the open floor, looking for someone to tell you what’s happening, but everyone has left by now. Even Denki must have wandered off. You’re alone.

The shaking is more pronounced -- you’re almost certain it’s not an earthquake at this point, but you’re stuttering thoughts won’t let you examine the implications of that. You just stand at the center of the office, gaze darting. You can’t tell if you’re shaking, or if it’s just the building. You don’t know what to do.

The building begins to tremble harder. Something -- explodes? 

The lights flicker, then shut off. 

The emergency lights cast everything in a red glow. An alarm is going off somewhere on a floor below. The wails of it are faint, as if they’re just echoes. Maybe you’re just going deaf.

There’s protocols for situations like this. You can’t recall any of them, too steeped in foggy panic to bring up any details. Get to the stairwell, that’s all you know, all you can do as you slog through the kaleidoscope of it all.

You’re hands are out, like you’re blind, trying to navigate it all sightlessly. You’ve just reached the stairwell when someone grabs you by the upper arm.

“Not that way, the fifth floor stairs are gone. We gotta go-- the building’s gonna give out any minute.” 

You’re pulled, maneuvered away, toward the fire escape. You can’t make it down all the steps, as steep and perilous as they are. You take one step before you’re hefted up, breathing in the familiar scent of Kaminari’s cologne, the smell of smoke, and gunpowder. 

It’s not comfortable as he carries you. You’re constantly jostled. His wrist console digs into your rib cage. But it lets you let the fear fade away to a hazy backdrop. Lets someone else take the reins.

Your eyes are closed. You feel when you two are on solid ground, no longer descending stairs. Then you’re being -- handed off? 

Kaminari’s presence is gone, replaced with someone with heat like a hearth, whose arm wraps around your shoulder so they can cradle your head, whisper to you, “ I gotcha .”

And it’s all you can do to clutch at his shirt front, whisper back, “ Yeah .”

...

You watch the news real from Bakugou’s couch. 

The building collapsed just a few minutes after you made it out. The bottom half of the structure was mostly stable, but the top offices were completely decimated. Where you were , your brain reminds you. All rubble, now.

He makes you a smoothie, entirely too sweet, and makes you drink the whole thing. He peels your boots off for you while you sip and watch the aerial shot of the place you used to work, overlayed with dry reporting.

Bakugou’s hand is warm on your calf as he kneels before you. “Can you handle a bath?”

You’re not sure. You say yes, anyway.

He’s filled the tub with bubble bath -- good, you’re not really in the mood to scrub yourself. It’s been a long time since you’ve had the chance to just soak. You can’t revel in it, though. Everything has taken on a kind of unreality. You hardly feel the warmth of it. 

He knocks on the door twice to check if you’re okay before finally setting himself on the edge of the tub. Takes a moment to just look you over, your form hazy in the water. You let him, want him to see it, want him to know. 

He’s slow as he reaches for you, fingers threading through your hair, pulling slightly. He tosses something to the floor. Debris from the building. 

You wait patiently as he methodically picks it all out, until finally he’s just stoking you, untangling. 

He reaches over you to grab a bottle of body wash, dumps a generous amount into his palm before reaching for your own hand. He starts with your hands, rubbing the ball of your palms, each knuckle of your fingers. He works his way up your arms in small, diligent circles. 

He has you lean forward so he can get at your back, massaging the tension out of your shoulders, waiting for you to relax when you flinch at the deep touch. 

You’ll smell like him, when you get out. That thought is pendulous in your mind, flitting through over and over as he finishes washing you. You’ll carry his scent. 

He leaves you to soak for a few more minutes when he’s done. You close your eyes and just listen to him move around the penthouse, his presence quiet and enveloping, even from a distance. 

When he returns he simply plucks you from the water, lifts you up and out of the tub and wraps you in a big, fluffy towel, leads you to the bedroom with an arm around your shoulders. 

He’s left out clothes for you. A pair of his shorts and a big long sleeved tee. He doesn’t leave the room as you get dressed, just turns his back. You’re quietly grateful.

“I’m staying?” you ask, fiddling with the ties on the shorts. 

“Yeah,” he says simply.

He helps you into bed. Hands at your hips, he just lifts you up and into the sheets, tucking the blankets around you before crawling in himself. He gives you a decent amount of space. It’s a big bed, and he’s all the way at the other side. But you don’t want space.

You turn onto your side so you can look at him. He’s scanning your face. You must look all disaster right now. You don’t care.

Your hand creeps across the mattress, toward him. He takes it in his. 

“You saved me once,” you tell him. “I never said thank you.”

“Don’t want it,” he murmurs.

“Then what do you want?”

He looks at you, eyes so dark, so full of something inexplicable, unexplainable. Something reflected in you.

“I’m in love with you,” you tell him, “you big idiot.” Then you’re gone.

 

...

 

Your hands are clasped when you wake. You’d moved in the night, gotten closer, shifted. He must have grabbed it again when he woke up. 

He’s watching you, the rise and fall of your chest, the flicker of your eyes over his face, the parting of your lips. 

“Go back to sleep,” he tells you.

“Can’t,” you reply. “I’m awake now.” You take a deep breath. Close your eyes again. “The building…”

“Everyone made it out okay.”

“Okay,” you say. “Okay. Good.”

His thumb is tracing circles in the dip of your palm, the motion hypnotic, soothing. You’re drifting off again despite your claim. When you wake up again you’ll have questions. You know he’ll have answers. Maybe you’ll have that dry niggling of fear all around you, creeping in like always. Maybe not. Maybe you’ll trust him, despite yourself, to be here in the aftermath of every bad thing. Maybe you’ll trust him to be here, always.

“You’re gonna look after me?” you ask. Your voice is heavy with growing sleep, the words quiet and deep.

His fingers squeeze around yours. “Yeah.”

You shuffle closer, your legs bumping under the covers. “It’s a lot of work.”

There’s the smallest quirk in his lips. “Would expect nothing less.”

“My hero,” you say.

You don’t even know.

The truth is, he searches for you in everyone he saves. The uncertainty, the humanity. He thinks about that scene in the alley all the time, how he would do it over if he had the chance, the things he would have said. The promises he would have made.

You make him want to be something else, something more. 

He’s all refuge, now. A place to roost, to land soft. A place for you.

"Yeah," heh says. "I got you."