Kirishima’s been approached about a lot of weird things in his day.
There was, for example, the incident where he ran messages between Denki and Jirou forweeks until they finally realized that the Game Boy was just out of batteries, not broken. There was the Catastrophe, as his classmates liked to refer to it as, involving Mineta, some Sharpie markers, and the upstairs girls’ bathroom. There was that time last year that he helped Sero bury thirty pounds of Gushers underneath the compost pile.
Kirishima’s used to weirdness. At this point, he sort of expects it, to be honest.
What he does not expect is for the words, “I need you to ask Bakugou Katsuki out on a date,” to come out of Todoroki Shouto’s mouth.
Kirishima slowly, carefully puts down the burger that he’s holding, suspended halfway between the plate and his mouth. “Um,” he says. “What?”
Todoroki lowers his eyes to the table in front of them, reaching up to tug anxiously at his bangs. “As a personal favor. Repayment for that time I did your chem lab,” he says, his voice low and fervent.
“Right, yeah, I got that part,” Kirishima says. “But, like… what?”
Todoroki just shifts back and forth on his chair, fiddling with the sleeve of his sweater.
“Listen,” Kirishima says, picking up a fry and pointing it at him like a sword. “When you did the lab and I said I owed you one, I figured you’d ask me for ideas on an AP Lit project. Or to help you pick out clothes that don’t make you look like a lost J. Crew model.”
“I’d never ask if I had any other choice,” Todoroki assures him. And then he blinks and glances down at the pressed white lines of his collar. “What do you mean, a lost J. Crew model?”
Kirishima waves off the question and pops the fry in his mouth. “Why do you care who Bakugou Katsuki dates?” he asks.
Todoroki’s ears go pink. Kirishima raises an eyebrow.
“You know Midoriya Izuku?”
Kirishima takes a bite of his burger. “Yeah. Bakugou’s adoptive brother, right? Midoriya’s cool, he always gets me out in dodgeball and then apologizes.”
“Yeah.” Todoroki’s expression settles. Goes gentle. The lines in his mouth seem to soften. “I’m in love with him.”
For lack of a better response, Kirishima says, “Oh. Okay.”
Todoroki’s face snaps back to neutral. He finally looks up and meets Kirishima’s eyes. “You’re wondering what this has to do with Bakugou.”
Kirishima just blinks, because, yeah, obviously.
“I don’t know if you know this, but Bakugou was adopted later than Izuku. Like, years later. So he sees himself as an afterthought and thinks Izuku is their father’s favorite. That he gets everything Bakugou deserves.”
Kirishima makes a face around a mouthful. “Yikes.”
Todoroki nods and takes a fry when Kirishima offers it. “Their dad really, really wants them to be equals. Brothers. The thing is, Izuku is Izuku. Everyone he meets falls in love with him. And Bakugou is… well, to be honest, he’s really, really bad at being likable. So their dad decided that Izuku can only date after Bakugou starts getting out and meeting people. He doesn’t want Bakugou to feel even more inferior.”
“Crikey,” Kirishima says, which is, admittedly, probably not a super appropriate response in this situation.
“I’ll be honest with you. Bakugou’s kind of an asshole. At this point, I think he’s purposely pissing off anyone who so much as looks in his direction just because he doesn’t want me and Izuku together.” He sighs, gives his bangs another tug. “Kirishima. You’re the only one I can think of who could deal with him. Please. It just needs to be long enough to convince his dad that they’re on equal footing, now.”
Todoroki drops into a low bow, forehead almost touching the table, his hands fisted at his sides. “I’m begging you. Please, help me.”
Kirishima’s turned down a lot of absurd requests in the past.
This time, though, he says yes.
Bakugou is in Kirishima’s fourth period French class. He sits in the back of the room with his feet up on the table, and he glowers at people who take seats too close to him.
Kirishima takes stock. Big, dumb combat boots; ripped, pitch-black jeans; eyes like a nuclear fallout.
He’s never really looked at Bakugou before. He’s never really had occasion to.
Their eyes meet as Kirishima crosses to his usual table and drops his bag next to Denki. Bakugou’s stare feels like a challenge. Like he’s sizing Kirishima up and figuring out the best way to take him down.
Kirishima smiles at him.
Bakugou’s face goes slack with surprise.
Next to him, Denki tugs at his arm and whispers, “What the hell are you doing, dude?” Kirishima holds the eye contact for another second, then turns and takes his seat.
Denki punches his shoulder. “Are you trying to start a fight? He’ll kill your ass dead, buddy. I’ve seen him punch someone hard enough to put them in the hospital.”
“En français, s'il tu plaît,” Kirishima says, primly. Denki’s eyebrows furrow as he tries to remember the French word for fight.
When the bell rings to signal the end of the period, Bakugou is the first one standing. He sweeps past Kirishima’s desk without so much as glancing in Kirishima’s direction; Kirishima hoists his bag onto his shoulder and is about to leave when he notices the pen left on Bakugou’s desk.
Kirishima sweeps it up and jogs after him.
“Bakugou,” he calls, once they’re in the hallway. Bakugou’s shoulders go stiff, but he doesn’t turn around. The current of students heading to their next class drags Kirishima forward, until he’s close enough to reach out and touch Bakugou’s arm.
Bakugou spins around to face him with a snarl. His eyes are even more startling up close. Red-gold.
“You dropped this,” Kirishima says, extending the pen.
Bakugou rips it out of his hands, announces, “Fuck off,” and stalks away.
Okay, Kirishima thinks. This is maybe going to be a little harder than he originally thought.
A week passes like that - Kirishima smiles at Bakugou when he walks into French, and Bakugou glares at him in a way that probably shaves years off his life. It’s kinda scary at first, but then it becomes sort of like a game. How can he make Bakugou drop the facade?
Winking, he discovers, does the job pretty well. The first time he does it, Bakugou’s ears go scarlet and he clutches the pencil in his hand hard enough that it snaps in half.
And then, about midway through the second week of their silent war, their teacher announces a group project with voluntarily chosen partners. When she tells them to get up and sit next to whoever they want to work with, Kirishima pats Denki on the shoulder and practically skips to Bakugou’s table.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Bakugou demands, as Kirishima pulls a chair out and sits next to him, dropping his bag on the floor at their feet.
“Being your partner,” Kirishima says. “Duh. Unless you were going to partner with someone else? In which case, I’ll get out of here.”
“You know I usually work alone,” Bakugou growls.
Kirishima tips his head and bats his eyes. “Do I? Well, there’s a first time for everything, right?”
Bakugou’s mouth twists into a scowl, his expression a mixture of baffled, infuriated, and horrified. Kirishima gives him his best smile.
When Kirishima shows up at Bakugou’s house that weekend, it’s Midoriya who opens the door. He’s wearing sweats and an old t-shirt that proclaims UA Varsity Boxing. When he meets Kirishima’s eyes, something like disappointment flickers across his face for a sliver of a second. And then his bright smile is back in place, and he’s stepping away to let Kirishima in.
“You’re here for a project, right?” he says. When Kirishima nods, Midoriya’s smile spreads wider. “Great! Let me know if you need anything, okay? I’ll be around.”
“Were you expecting someone else?” Kirishima asks, toeing off his shoes at the door.
Midoriya eyes go wide. “Oh,” he sputters. “Oh, no, I was just - um. Todoroki-”
“Ah,” Kirishima says. “Tell him I said hi.”
“It’s the first bedroom at the top of the stairs!” Midoriya calls after him.
Kirishima flashes a peace sign over his shoulder before starting upstairs.
Bakugou’s door swings open before Kirishima can knock, his mouth studiously curved into a deliberate scowl and a snapback low enough on his head to hide his eyes.
“You’re late,” he mutters.
Kirishima lifts up the box of donuts he’s carrying. “I got the goods, though.” And Bakugou’s death stare lifts before he can stop himself.
They spread out on Bakugou’s floor, pulling out their resources for the project and opening up their laptops. His room’s actually surprisingly neat; there’s a pile of dirty clothes in the corner and a haphazard pile of books on his desk, but his floor is generally clear and his bed has been carefully made.
He probably doesn’t have people come over very often, Kirishima thinks. And then, I wonder if he has friends.
Bakugou throws a pillow at Kirishima and says, “Let’s fuckin’ start already.”
Kirishima learns a couple things that day, none of them with anything to do with the French language or culture.
First, he learns that Bakugou can eat six donuts in the span of three minutes without batting an eye. Second, he realizes that Bakugou not only keeps really neat notes, he’s actually… pretty good at speaking French, to the point that his accent sort of does weird things to Kirishima’s stomach. Third, he learns that Bakugou has seen Fall Out Boy in concert five times. Fourth, he discovers that once you get past the hard, venomous shell, Bakugou’s pretty funny and awkward and sharp.
Fourth, he learns that Bakugou Katsuki is actually sort of beautiful.
(His eyes have flecks of onyx in them, and when his hair catches the light it looks like a crown, and his forearms are really, really distracting when he rolls his sleeves up.)
Kirishima is trying very, very hard not to overthink that particular revelation.
There’s this moment, in the couple minutes before the sun breaks over the horizon in the morning, where the universe feels different. Changed. Where you look at things, and suddenly they don’t really look like they did before.
Kirishima Eijirou’s world has shifted, and he’s really, honestly not sure how it happened.
He and Bakugou start hanging out more. At first just because of the project, but then the project is done, and Kirishima is still dropping down in front of Bakugou at lunch or swinging by the corner store with him after school or daring him to drink his whole coffee in one go.
And then Bakugou starts to instigate.
The first time it happens, Bakugou is making his usual beeline out of the French classroom when he stops at Kirishima’s side. Head down, he begrudgingly mutters, “I’m going to the gym after school. You can come, if you promise not to annoy the hell out of me,” and leaves.
Kirishima stares after him. He does not feel himself drop his textbook until it slams down on the table in front of him.
“Do you have a death wish, fam?” Denki hisses, next to him.
Kirishima says, “He. I. Um.”
Days pass like this. A week. Two.
They are sitting outside a food truck, eating gyros and trying to catch spills in their hands, when Kirishima wonders if this maybe counts as dating.
Honestly? His conversation with Todoroki had almost entirely slipped his mind.
It does not escape anyone that Bakugou Katsuki has officially rescinded his status as resident loner. At first, people just sort of stare at them as they walk by in the hallway, Bakugou bending toward Kirishima to show him something on his phone, Kirishima trying very, very hard not to be distracted by the way he always smells warm and burnished, like fire.
And then, like an avalanche follows snow, other people are talking to him, too. Uraraka Ochako, first. Then others. Iida. Asui. Denki.
“He’s actually kind of okay,” Denki admits, a little reluctantly. “I mean, he’s still an asshole. An enormous, enormous asshole. But he’s not completely horrible to spend time with.”
He’s smarter than he wants you to think, Kirishima doesn’t say.
He doesn’t like when people see him smile because he’s got dimples, Kirishima doesn’t say.
When things happen in his life, he feels them all serrated and enormous. All-consuming, like an explosion, Kirishima doesn’t say.
His eyes are the color of sunset, Kirishima doesn’t say.
“Everyone thinks you’re dating,” Denki points out casually, his eyes on the notebook in his hands.
Kirishima says, “I know.”
He stays after one day in early May to help Yaoyorozu Momo set up for the student body elections the next day. When he gets out, it’s pouring, lightning forking along the horizon, the sky the color of a bruise. He sprints to his car and covers his head with his bag, but he’s still soaked by the time he’s safe in the driver’s seat.
He drives home slowly, watching the road with careful precision, because if he hydroplanes and wrecks the car his mother’s going to murder his ass. Even so, he almost misses seeing Bakugou, hunched on the side of the road, his hair stained blonde-brown with rain.
Kirishima pulls over immediately, hopping out of the car and shading his eyes with a hand so he can see. Bakugou doesn’t hear him approach, doesn’t look up from what he’s doing - and what he’s doing is wrapping his coat around a kitten, which has been left in a box and abandoned at the side of the road.
Kirishima looks up at the sky.
You’re doing this on purpose, he thinks furiously, at God, at Fate, at whoever’s listening.
Bakugou looks up.
“What the fuck?” he says, but Kirishima is already making the loudest groaning noise he possibly can and sweeping his own jacket off his shoulders, chucking it at Bakugou before stooping down to pick up the kitten’s box.
“Get in the car,” Kirishima says. “I’m driving you home.”
Bakugou stares at the jacket in his hands for a moment before slinging it over his shoulders, his mouth turned down into a pout.
Inside the car, Kirishima blasts the heat and lets Bakugou pick the radio station, even though he knows full-well his choice is going to end up being the worst alt-rock option the area’s got. When he pulls up outside Bakugou’s house, Bakugou doesn’t look at him. He just jerks his chin towards the door, and Kirishima smiles, and they both sprint for shelter together.
Inside, the house is warm and stained silver-gray with rain. Bakugou chucks a towel at Kirishima’s face. Kirishima dries off the kitten.
Bakugou’s clothes cling to his skin as he moves. His shirt seems especially obscene, lines of water running down his throat, the fabric clinging to his torso. Kirishima’s eyes follow the lines of his muscles, the movement of his stomach as he bends to peel off his socks, the planes of his shoulders juxtaposed against the curve of his bicep.
Then he glances up, and realizes with a horrible plunging sensation that Bakugou is watching him stare, his face serious and maybe a little thoughtful. Kirishima decides he’s ready to die. Anytime now. Immediately would be best.
“So,” Kirishima blurts, “you’re a cat person, huh?”
The moment shatters. Bakugou’s expression goes back to his usual, default murderous.
“Not a goddamn word,” he mutters, reaching forward to take the kitten out of Kirishima’s arms. Their hands bump. His ears are red. “I’m naming her Baron of Explodo-Kills,” he announces, smoothing the kitten’s fur down.
Kirishima thinks about kissing him.
The next day, he pulls Todoroki aside after lunch, dragging him between the shelves at the library. Todoroki looks a little alarmed and a lot understanding, so Kirishima figures he already knows what he’s going to say.
“I don’t know if I can do this anymore,” Kirishima announces.
Todoroki presses his eyes shut. “I thought you might say that,” he sighs. “What happened? It seemed like everything was going all right. Was it something he said?”
“No,” Kirishima says. And then he winces, “I’m… sort of falling in love with him?”
Todoroki’s eyes snap open.
“With Bakugou?” Todoroki says. “Bakugou Katsuki? That Bakugou?”
“That’s the one.”
“Jesus,” Todoroki says, and he looks a little bit alarmed and a little bit wonderstruck.
“Tell me about it.”
Todoroki shakes his head, pushing his hands through his hair. “So, what’s the problem, then? Isn’t it better now that you actually like spending time with him? Why do you want to stop?”
“I feel like I’m lying to him.” Kirishima grits his teeth down, curling and uncurling his hands into fists. “Because of our agreement. It feels dishonest. I don’t like it.”
Todoroki says, “Oh,” and he nods, and Kirishima immediately feels terrible for assuming he wouldn’t get it. Probably no one in the world would get it more than Todoroki.
“You should be honest with him,” Todoroki says. “You can tell him I approached you. He’ll probably be furious with me, but he’s always furious with me, anyway.” He winces. “He’ll probably be furious with you, too.”
“I know,” Kirishima says.
Todoroki pats his shoulder. “Good luck, Kirishima,” he says. “I hope you don’t die.”
They are at the gym the day things fall apart. Bakugou likes fighting - violence is, Kirishima thinks, something that is inscribed inside his veins - and Kirishima is the only one dumb enough (and good enough) to be willing to be his sparring partner.
Bakugou is better, though. Which is why Kirishima ends up pinned to the mat, Bakugou’s knee between his legs, Bakugou’s fingers wrapped around his wrists.
This close, Kirishima can see the gold in Bakugou’s eyes. The soft smattering of freckles across the bridge of his nose. The scar that tugs at one side of his mouth. The way his lips part when he breathes, deep and fast. Both of them, panting.
Kirishima imagines he can hear their heartbeats.
“I,” Kirishima begins, but his throat is dry and his voice cracks. Shatters.
Bakugou’s eyes land, slowly and blatantly, on his mouth.
“No, no, nonono,” Kirishima says, and then he’s squirming away, half-launching himself across the mat, until there is several feet of space between them. Bakugou looks alarmed, his breath still coming heavy, his eyes wide and frantic.
“Sorry,” Bakugou blurts. “Fuck. I’m sorry. Fucking-”
“I need to tell you something,” Kirishima says.
And he does. He tells Bakugou everything. From the beginning. And, as he talks, as Bakugou’s expression goes cold, as his eyes begin to close off, Kirishima has the distinct, painfully strong sense that the world is ending. Crumbling around him.
He wants to touch Bakugou’s face.
Bakugou, stony-faced, lets him talk. It is only when he says Midoriya’s name that he snaps, fire flashing in his eyes, hatred twisting the line of his mouth.
Kirishima’s voice dies in his throat.
“Of course,” Bakugou says, low and deep and dripping with venom. “I should’ve figured. Nobody wants to fucking talk to me anyway.” And then he adds, like an afterthought, “Fuck you.”
Kirishima flinches. “Please. Just let me-”
Bakugou shakes his head, and his eyes look ignited. Combustable. “Get the hell away from me,” he snarls. “Never fucking come near me again.”
“Bakugou,” Kirishima begins.
Bakugou says, “Get out.”
Kirishima goes. He goes, and he has seen enough action movies to know that, this? This feels like armageddon.
“Why does Bakugou look like he’s about to commit homicide again?” Denki asks him.
Kirishima shoves his hands in his pockets and does not answer.
That evening, Kirishima drives in circles. He takes random turns, gets himself onto the freeway, drives too fast and for too long.
He turns around when he hits the next town and heads back, but he’s barely gotten off at his exit when he notices that the car’s just about on empty, and that it’s starting to rain.
Kirishima pulls over and slams his head against the steering wheel.
The horn blares. He gives a little squeaking sound of surprise.
He makes it another mile or two before the car sputters and stops, giving him just enough time to pull off onto a side road. It isn’t until he’s clambering out of the car, pulling his hood up over his head, that he realizes where he is.
The lights of Bakugou’s house look golden, tonight, through the rain.
“Fuck me,” Kirishima mutters. “Goddamn.”
He could just turn around. Call home and wait in his car for his mom to come and pick him up. But he needs to fix this. He knows he needs to fix this.
He can’t live with himself until he fixes this.
So he trudges across the street and knocks on the door, rubbing his arms to try and push the cold away. He steps back as the door swings open, then lunges forward to catch it when Bakugou immediately tries to slam it shut.
“Let me explain,” he says. “Please.”
“I thought I told you to leave me alone,” Bakugou hisses through clenched teeth.
“I know, you did, but… please, Bakugou-”
“No. Fuck you-”
Bakugou goes still.
“I’m in love with you,” Kirishima says. “That’s why I told you. That’s why I wanted you to know. Because I’m in love with you.”
Bakugou says, his voice weak and thin, “Stop.”
Kirishima shakes his head, and it sends rain flying in every direction. “I am.”
“Don’t fucking lie to me!”
“I’m not! I’m serious. I’m so, so serious, I’m serious like the plague, please, Katsuki-”
And Bakugou’s eyes flash and he steps forward and grabs Kirishima by the collar, and for a second Kirishima thinks maybe he’s about to deck him.
Instead, he crushes their mouths together.
At first, it’s not much of a kiss. It’s more of a scream, another fight, a punch that bloodies their lips instead of their fists. Kirishima has to reach up and guide Bakugou’s head into a better position, tipping them both so that their mouths slide together. Bakugou’s tongue burns warm against Kirishima’s mouth. His hands trace fire across Kirishima’s skin.
By the time they pull away, they’re both panting, Bakugou flushed a delicate shade of pink. He mutters something unintelligible, glaring at the ground, so Kirishima leans forward again and kisses first his top lip, then his bottom one.
“I’m sorry,” Kirishima says. “Do you forgive me?”
Bakugou says, “Shut up, you fuck,” and draws their mouths together again.
Kirishima pauses and turns to face Midoriya, jogging down the hall to catch up to him. He dodges a teacher neatly and nods his apology before falling into step at Kirishima’s side.
“Thank you,” he says, “for everything. To be honest, I’ve never seen Kacchan smile like he has been. It’s nice.”
“Kacchan,” Kirishima repeats delightedly, both eyebrows raised.
Midoriya runs off, waving as he goes. Behind Kirishima, Bakugou’s voice growls, “What the hell did Deku want?”
Kirishima spins around and beams at him.
“What are you grinning about?” Bakugou demands. “You look dumb.”
“Hmmm. Nothing,” he says. And then he pats Bakugou’s cheek and croons, “Kacchan.”
Bakugou goes scarlet. “I’m going to fucking kill that kid,” he says.
Kirishima laughs and says, “Why? Do you prefer Katsu?”
Bakugou looks apoplectic. Kirishima pulls him down for a kiss.