Warning: This chapter includes some non-graphic mentions of off-screen (original) minor character death, as well as a reference to child abuse (Kirishima takes part in a mission to bring down a child trafficking ring; it's not described in detail).
The TV mounted on the wall above the register is showing the news, rehash of the shit we've said previously edition. Several customers glance briefly at the screen before returning to their conversations or busying themselves with their food, but a few have stopped on the way to their tables, trays in hand. The chick behind the counter discreetly clears her throat, trying to get the attention of a guy suspended mid-motion with his card held out just short of the terminal as he listens to the woman in the studio go over the today's top story.
After a stakeout, a group of heroes managed to stop a large-scale human trafficking operation, succeeding in capture of what's believed to be the core of a villain organization targeting orphaned children for their quirks. Two deaths have been confirmed on the side of the villains, with several injured on the side of the heroes, including one hero in serious, but currently stable condition after being transported to the nearest hospital. Thanks to the bravery and team-work of the heroes, supported by several outstanding students of the UA Hero Academy holding provisional licenses, the children have all been recovered and taken into custody with minor injuries.
Portraits and aliases of the heroes involved in the operation flash across the screen; the outstanding students aren't mentioned by name, but Katsuki knows exactly when to look up to see Eijirou in the background of the on-scene footage after the capture, herding the frightened brats away from the press together with Ealf Ears, who's blocking the kids' faces from the cameras with huge, feathery wings. Significantly thinner Fatgum is seen asking a reporter to piss off, only more politely; then, the scene changes to bound criminals being led into police vehicles. A sound of an ambulance siren can be heard before the broadcast cuts back to the studio.
It's the extended coverage version; three hours ago, when the story broke, the sparse footage showed nothing more but a few blurry takes from the scene with a ton of screaming and running around, the loses and injuries on both sides haven't been fully identified either, just 'at least one death' confirmed. Katsuki had almost blown up his phone - the metal case just held - trying to get through to anyone involved, heart hammering out of his chest, until finally, Frogmouth's nasal voice assured him that No, Bakugou-chan, it wasn't Kirishima-chan, he's fine. He didn't even manage to choke out the question, but he didn't need to; she answered right after picking up, unprompted. If not for the wave of relief that crashed over him right then, turning his thoughts into mush and his knees into jelly, he'd be pissed off that she could read his mind.
Only Eijirou was allowed to do that. His mother could do it, too, but she didn't ask anyone for permission, and no one was ever going to tell her she couldn't do something, short of the law. Or dad, sometimes, but dad thought their 'special connection' was 'cute'.
His talk with Eijirou was almost as brief, even though the call lasted about five minutes. It was Eijirou who called him, but at first, he just breathed into the receiver, somewhat shakily.
"Hope you're not fucking thinking of crying when I'm not there," Katsuki said brusquely, finally breaking the silence, "or who's gonna beat up everyone if they look at you funny."
Eijirou laughed. It was a good laugh, sincere, loosening up something in Katsuki's chest and clearing the metaphorical air. Katsuki heard some sniffling, as if Eijirou was hastily wiping his nose, but when he spoke, his tone was close to normal.
"They did it. They did it, Katsuki. It looked bad for a while, but..."
"Bullshit." Katsuki cut in. "You all did it. I saw you on tv, you can't fucking lie your way out of credit."
Eijirou made a sound like he wanted to be a little shit and argue, so Katsuki added, "I'm gonna get everything out of Legolas, anyway, so just tell me when you're getting back. And if you need anything. Dumbass."
There was some yelling in the background as Eijirou called someone over to ask about the trains; Katsuki hastily dug through his pockets for anything to write on, ending up with some crumpled receipt. On any other day, he'd have no problem remembering the whole timetable, but his head still felt like someone gouged out his brain with a spoon. They were both idiots, he realized later, Eijirou could've fucking texted him the time. Whatever, though.
"Okay, so? Want me to bring anything? That gross stuff you love to drink? Your fucking Crimson Riot hoodie?"
"Just..." Eijirou hesitates, taking a deep breath. "I just... wanna see you. I wanna go home," he says quietly. Katsuki can fucking see his lip quiver from a prefecture away. In his fucking heart's eye, or something.
"That's a fucking given, doofus. Like I could be anywhere else. I'll fucking take you home, so just hurry up back and don't choke on snot on the way."
They stayed on the line for a while after that, without saying anything. It wasn't a total silence, not even close; from what Katsuki could hear, Eijirou's group must've been at the station when he called, probably stocking up for the Shinkansen ride, and then making their way up to the platform. There was something companionable to it still, listening to stuff happen on the other side. Katsuki was still at school, and the familiar sounds seemed to be helping Eijirou; Katsuki heard him exhale deeply when he passed by the cafeteria. Then, from Eijirou's side came the announcement of the train rolling in to the station and Eijirou's quick "We're boarding, see you, love you!" before the call cut.
Katsuki gave himself ten minutes for the idiotic blush to recede from his face before he poked his head into the teacher's office to tell Aizawa to go fuck himself today and hurried to the dorms to pack. He was taking the goddamn Crimson Riot hoodie anyway; he had enough time to pick his route along the vending machines that stocked Eijirou's favorite neon puke drink. It was bound to be available somewhere, and it was, thank fuck. There was still some hope for this country, though, considering he only found it in the third machine he checked, it wasn't fucking much. Now, the bottle is in his bag under the table; Katsuki really hopes it's not radioactive.
He digs his pockets for the scrap he wrote Eijirou's ETA on. The train should be arriving any time now. Katsuki gets on his feet, grabbing the wrapping from the fries he got as an excuse, when the automatic door opens and Eijirou barrels through it, flushed and panting, eyes searching frantically. He stops abruptly when his gaze locks with Katsuki's; then, just as abruptly, he makes it across the restaurant in a few long strides.
"Why the fuck didn't you text-oof" Katsuki starts, but is interrupted when Eijirou crashes into him, wrapping his arms around Katsuki's neck. Katsuki sighs. His hand - wiped thoroughly on his trousers, beforehand - goes up to cradle Eijirou's skull, the other rests at his back. Because Katsuki is who he is, that hand has the middle finger up. Against Eijirou's white T-shirt, the gesture stands out rather fucking nicely, he thinks. He takes extra care to stare down every motherfucker who thinks they're entitled to fucking stare, or that they - Katsuki and Eijirou - should have anything to be embarrassed about. He fucking hopes someone will try to start shit, just so he can remind them who's risking life and limb for their sorry assess.
Breathing does get uncomfortable after a while, though.
"Okay now?" He mutters into Eijirou's ear. Eijirou all but jumps away.
"Yeah-yeah. Sorry. Thank you. I'm back."
"You wanna eat?'
"Yeah - wait, I'll order! Can you find us somewhere - and this, I don't wanna clock anyone in the queue -"
Katsuki walks around Eijirou's back and unceremoniously takes off his backpack. Suddenly relieved of the weight, Eijirou sighs in relief.
"I can fucking order, you know," Katsuki says, but Eijirou dismisses it with a wave. "I'm fine now, all fine! You want the usual?'
Katsuki considers for a while. "Nah, just a shake or some shit. I ate."
Katsuki looks after him for a moment before turning to look for a free table. Before, he's been sitting at the bench with the high stools, but that's only good when you're alone and looking to not make the staff want to throw you out for staying too long. He finds a booth off in the corner, next to the window. Fucking perfect.
Or not so, he considers, looking towards the counter to find some fuckers crowding around Eijirou, who's trying to pass through, clutching onto his tray for dear life. He's either starving or ordered something Katsuki didn't ask for, again, but that's not the fucking issue, the issue is that with the buzz from the overlapping conversations around him, the sound system and the goddamn TV, at this distance Katsuki can't tell who to punch away from Eijirou first.
Eijirou ends up sorting it out, somehow; Good fucking job, Katsuki berates himself inwardly, watching him hurry towards the table. He seems to be forcing himself not to run. Gold star, Bakugou.
"That so awkward, man," Eijirou moans, setting down the food and the drinks. "I didn't want them to see me like that...You know," he tugs at his air, laying soft and flat, gestures awkwardly to his clothes. Katsuki stares at him dumbly for a hot second. Following Eijirou's eyes, he looks at the two cups on the table and finally, it clicks.
Katsuki's milkshake cup is, of course, blank. No fucking surprise there. But someone has taken a black marker to the smaller cup, scrawling 'Thank you, hero!' across the side.
He's quiet as they eat, only giving Eijirou a pointed look when he pushes a huge burger towards him.
"You'd never get it for yourself," Eijirou explains, to which Katsuki replies with his eyebrows, that's my fucking point, "since you say they're too pricy, but it's the new super-spicy one! C'mon, try it!"
It turns out to be decently spicy, at least, the meat chewy enough that tearing through it feels satisfying. The salad and tomato, miracle of miracles, aren't even wilted, either.
I should thank him, Katsuki thinks, but for now, he's content to listen to Eijirou talk animatedly about the operation. He learns that the guy who got fucked up on their side is a local hero who's been working to dismantle the child trafficking ring for years, and he was the one to take down their boss, turning the tide of the battle; that the second of the dead villain scum tried to take a kid hostage, so Snipe-sensei had to, well, snipe him. Frogmouth was great help getting the brats out, apparently; did Katsuki know she has a bunch of siblings? Katsuki didn't, because Katsuki didn't fucking care. Now he knows they're all frogs, though, so that's a mystery solved. Nothing's gonna combine into a frog other than two frogs. That one bothered him for a while.
Two more people come up to their table; one, an old man, compliments Eijirou using vocabulary that went out of style in the last century, while the other, some tomboy of maybe middle school age, almost vibrates out of her skin from the excitement. Eijirou stammers a lot, scratching the back of his head, but one-on-one - well, two on one, but Katsuki's presence can't count for that much - seems to be easier for him to deal with. Watching as the initial look of panic on Eijirou's face transforms into a shy smile, Katsuki forces himself to leave it, ignore the impulse to glare the fucking interlopers away, say nothing and focus on his damn food. It's fine. Eijirou's happy, so it's fine.
He doesn't notice they're alone again until Eijirou tugs at his sleeve, repeating a question about exams Katsuki didn't quite catch the first time. Ah, right, he thinks absently; it's only a week and then, they're going to be third years.
It's just a year left. A year until Eijirou is be out in the world; a professional, licensed hero. He could go independent - he had the skills for it, he was already regularly taking part in missions with pros, and it might've been only a bunch of people in a family restaurant now, but his popularity was going to snowball from here. He could move to work somewhere far away. Just the thought was enough to make Katsuki's shirt stick to his back and turn his hands clammy. Soon, the rest of the country will open their damn eyes and see Eijirou charging head-first into danger, refusing to crumble under any onslaught, not leaving the scene until the last civilian is safe. They will see the way he looks at people, the way he smiles, like he believes every single one of them is worth rescuing and fighting for until the end, and Katsuki will never manage to hold on to him.
If Katsuki doesn't do something, someone will take Eijirou away.
"There's a fucking last minute essay for Mic, I'll tell you the fuck about after I get my notes," Katsuki says sluggishly, feeling a headache coming on. "Rumors go it's rescue for hero practical, so you're set - nothing new, other than that."
Eijirou nods and leans over the table, peering into Katsuki's face. "Babe, you look tired... Wanna get out of here?"
And it's fucking bullshit, who's the tired one? Who was supposed to be taking who home? Eijirou hasn't even finished his, whatever it was that he had in that stupid cup. He knows he should say no, but it's getting close to another repeat of the news and his traitorous mouth is saying Yeah before he can stop himself.
"Sure!" Eijirou agrees easily, getting up. He must really be reading Katsuki's mind because he smiles widely and grabs his drink, saying "Don't worry, I'll finish on the way!"
He tries to reach over Katsuki to take his backpack, but Katsuki is faster, standing up to block his way. "Don't fuck around. You've been on your feet for how long?"
"But you got your own!" Eijirou pouts. Katsuki is having none of it, not after how relieved Eijirou looked to take it off. Katsuki is going to have to take a look at his back when they return to the dorms; someone could've got him there.
"Then I'll fucking carry two. Reminds me," Katsuki digs in his bag for the rolled up red fabric; the hoodie is stupidly soft, worn out from frequent use and frequent washing. The first week after it came in the post, Eijirou wouldn't take it off even to sleep and despaired being prohibited from wearing it over his uniform. Later, it's become somewhat of a wearable blanket; Katsuki saw Eijirou pull the hood low over his eyes and hide his hands in the sleeves after missions that went less than ideal and after that legendary fight with Ashido at the beginning of the second year, the one which ended with both of them dropping honorifics and starting to act like, ugh, bffs from some icky movie for girls - Katsuki's mother watches those to feel younger, sometimes. They even do each other's hair now, for fuck's sake.
Katsuki throws the hoodie over Eijirou's head, leaving him scrambling for light and to find the arm holes. In the meantime, Katsuki slings his bag over one shoulder and one strap of Eijirou's backpack over the other - he must look fucking dumb, but whatever - and dumps the wrappings from their meal into the nearest trashcan.
"Found your limbs already? Let's go, then."
Eijirou almost skips out after him, into the station corridor and then the street smelling disgustingly of the pink shit flying around. Fucking spring.
At least, once the exams are over, they're finally going to get some time for themselves.
Or so he fucking thought.
He knows it's the old hag calling from the ringtone - he knows because there's a ringtone. No one but Eijirou - right there with him - and Aizawa - out of necessity, different song though - gets a ringtone. They can either deal with Katsuki choosing if he wants to ignore them, or not call. Mitsuki couldn't have that, though; she must've stolen his phone out of his pocket when he last went home and set the goddamn thing herself. Katsuki just knew that hug at the door was suspiciously long.
"Is that your mom? Better pick up, dude, she's gonna know."
Of course she's going to know. She always fucking knows. "You don't fucking have to fucking tell me."
"Okay, okay," Eijirou says appeasingly, going back to slurping his drink. Katsuki taps the green icon on the screen with a long-suffering sigh, secretly hoping for the screen to crack and die. It doesn't.
"Katsuki! I just saw your boy on the news! The fuck have you been doing, huh? These days, when I tell someone my son's a hero in training, no one believes me!"
Katsuki's finger's twitch.
"Complain to the Mummy Bastard, old hag. You fucking know why. Now, if that's all, I have a date to get back to." Katsuki grits through clenched teeth. Mitsuki, completely unruffled, pounces onto that immediately.
"Great! Did you invite Kirishima-kun to our trip yet? I'm gonna have to reserve the train tickets soon, the damn site is giving me a headache, who fucking designed this shit..."
Katsuki stops in the middle of the sidewalk. The trip. The fucking trip. How could he forget about that? Was he really stupid enough to think his folks would let him grow up, now that he's almost an adult?
"Who said I'm going anywhere?" Katsuki growls into the phone. The roar that resounds in response doesn't lose to Present Mic's attacks. Wincing, Katsuki holds the phone away from his ear.
"What do you mean you're NOT GOING?! Who do you think we're doing this for?! Your father and I have been slaving away to clear the time, you ungrateful little...!"
A few curious passersby turn their heads; Eijirou looks at Katsuki quizzically. Fucking shit, Katsuki grimaces, it's as if I put her on speaker. Grudgingly, he brings the phone back closer. He briefly considers flicking the mute button, but he knows Bakugou Mitsuki has a sixth sense to alert her when she wasn't being listened to. Too fucking bad it wasn't one that told her she was being a pain in the ass.
"You just thought I'm a pain in the ass, haven't you!" Mitsuki shrieks into his ear, and Katsuki revises his statement. Not only his mother could read his fucking mind, she was probably watching his every move in some sort of magic glass ball. She just didn't give a damn about not ruining his life.
"If you and Pops wanna go, who's fucking stopping you? Ever thought I may have my own plans?" Katsuki is definitely getting a headache. He can already feel the telltale pressure behind his eyes.
"Oh, no. Hell no." Mitsuki voice goes from a yell to one full of quiet fury, boiling just below the surface. "If you don't want us to celebrate your day and encourage your hobbies, fine. But if you want to be an adult," Katsuki hears a bang of a fist against a table and a clatter of pens falling to the floor, "you'll have to learn a thing or two about responsibilities. Step one: don't expect people to drop everything and rearrange their lives at your whim. Not when they're already doing everything for you."
Katsuki's eyes widen in surprise. He could swear old hag's voice just cracked; for a second, she sounded genuinely hurt. Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck.
He's so dead.
On the other end of the line, Mitsuki clears her throat. "So, you're going. You don't have to like it, but you're not hurting your father's feelings. Text me what food Kirishima-kun likes; I want at least him to have fun."
Katsuki's throat feels bone dry; he swallows with difficulty, but before he can get out a word, a beep signals the end of the call.
"What was.... that about?" Eijirou asks cautiously, reaching for his hand. He runs his thumb soothingly over Katsuki's knuckles; his hand isn't hardened, even though small sparks are starting to crackle at Katsuki's palms. They're going to have to have a fucking talk about it, again, which Katsuki is probably going to lose. He always has, before.
"It's this fucking tradition," he spits out, mouth curling in distaste, "each year during spring break, they take me up a fucking mountain somewhere. It's supposed to be an early birthday present, or some shit. And for passing the finals, too, as if it wasn't a fucking given."
Eijirou blinks at him in confusion. "But... you love that, don't you? Hiking and stuff?"
"That's not the point!" Katsuki wants to scream in frustration. He doesn't even know why he adds, "They want you to come, too."
"Really? That's sounds like so much fun, when-"
"It's not fucking fun!" Katsuki raises his voice unconsciously. Eijirou doesn't understand anything, doesn't get that his parents are the most embarrassing folks on Earth, that they wouldn't let them live. They'd never get a second to themselves, and then spring break would be over and they'd be back to their internships, only seeing each other during classes they absolutely had to attend and late at night, in one of their rooms, too exhausted to do anything but exchange a few short words before crashing. And he'd wanted.... he'd wanted...
Before his mind can catch up to his fucking filthy, traitorous mouth, before he can realize what he's doing, he says, "I wish I haven't told them about you."
It's like the temperature outside instantly tanks by a ten degrees. Everything seems to happen in slow motion; Eijirou drops his hand and makes a step back, wordless shock painting over his features. His eyes look like empty, bottomless wells.
He looks as if Katsuki just shot him.
In a surge of panic, Katsuki steps forward, grabbing his shoulder. "Wait- that's not what I meant! That's not what I fucking meant, Ei, please-" Katsuki pleads, his heart hammering deafeningly in his ears, "They're just- so lame, they'd embarrass you, it'd be awful! Sure you have better stuff to do?" he finishes lamely and he can already tell it's wrong, that he should've said that either. He should've just kept his fucking mouth shut.
Eijirou shakes him off lightly and in a lifeless, dull voice that scares Katsuki more than anything he can remember, whispers, "Yeah. You're right. I'm going ahead, sorry."
Frozen in place, Katsuki watches him pick up pace, getting further and further away, until he breaks into a run towards the school. Soon, he completely disappears in the crowd.
As the earlier vision of a holiday without a minute to talk, with his parents butting in and monopolizing Eijirou's attention at every opportunity echoes ironically in his head, Katsuki thinks that he'd do anything, absolutely anything, to have it back.
He's afraid he's already done enough, though.
Katsuki is almost back at the gates of Yuuei when he realizes he's still carrying Eijirou's backpack. He looks at it in the dim glow of the evening as if seeing it for the first time, without understanding. The road back to the school seemed never-ending, as if the distance increased a few times over. It's hard to believe that it was still the same day when he heard about the conclusion of Eijirou's mission on the news, that it was hardly two hours since Eijirou ran into his arms in the family restaurant at the station. It feels as if it all happened in a different lifetime.
The door to Eijirou's room is, predictably, locked. There's light coming from the gap between the bottom and the floor, so he makes himself walk up to it on stiff legs and knock.
"Eijirou..." Katsuki tries, but the words get stuck in his throat. "I brought your backpack," he finally manages, setting it down against the door. After a moment of hesitation, in which his ears strain to pick up any kind of sound from the other side, Katsuki gives up and goes into his own room.
The light in his room is turned off, the bed immaculately made. He hadn't caught a wink of sleep last night, pacing the length of the room, then the corridor, even scaling the stairs a few times, only feeling his restlessness double when he finally returned. Katsuki remembers thinking that his room - the whole floor really - felt cold, what with Eijirou far away and in unknown danger.
Now, Eijirou is behind the wall, but the place feels ten times colder.
There are notes to review on the desk, a shower basked and a change of clothes prepared at the foot of the bed, but Katsuki ignores both and throws himself on top of the covers, staring blankly at the ceiling.
Somehow, it doesn't surprise him, what happened. If he's to be honest with himself, it felt inevitable, for a while, maybe even since they first started dating. Hearing Eijirou's friends ask in hushed tones if he's really sure, if it's a good idea, as if Katsuki didn't fucking have ears, seeing his mother's expression go from blank to disbelieving at the news - which she freaking dragged out of him, in the first place - Katsuki couldn't help but agree with them, against himself. Stumbling blindly through all the shit that seemed to come to every halfwit in their year as easily as breathing, Katsuki quickly realized that there was no winning strategy, no skill to train, not even a way to measure if you're moving in the right direction. Looking around, he started to think that maybe, it came down to being a decent person.
Well, that ship's fucking sailed, then.
Before, he always thought Eijirou easy to read; an open book, with a heart on his sleeve. He could only laugh bitterly at how fucking stupid he was. Being Eijirou's friend was... confusing, at times, but still incomparably fucking easy against the whole guessing game that dating him was. Katsuki looked at other couples from afar until it was creepy, borrowed Mitsuki's dumb movies in secret, taking notes in the middle of the fucking night, headphones lodged in his ears and a blanket drawn over his head, he even broke and asked Ponytail for advice, once - she was the only damn person he could trust not to babble, but the experience seemed even more distressing for her than it was for him, so he let it go and dropped a new book onto her desk later, to make up for the fright. All that, and when Eijirou looked at him with a smile on his face, he still couldn't tell what he did to put it there. Nor why Eijirou still bothered with him, for that matter.
Still, he couldn't give up, and not only because a Bakugou didn't simply give up. Even with all that confusion, with the frustration that there was something he couldn't just learn, it was still...
Each time they went out, Eijirou tried to find him the spiciest food possible and made a face like a puppy wagging his tail each time Katsuki found it tasty. Eijirou didn't mind the sound of his laugh, or his twisted sense of humor; sometimes, he would even laugh along and when asked by a startled Katsuki if he actually got it, he'd say no, but seeing Katsuki laugh made him happy. He didn't get mad even if Katsuki accidentally kicked or punched him in his sleep, didn't make a huge deal out Katsuki's occasional nightmares, instead of handling him with safety gloves; then, both of those seemed to be happening less and less often, Katsuki sleeping deeper and longer when Eijirou was near.
Getting physical with people, unless it was in a fight, had always made Katsuki uneasy. It wasn't fear, more like being pulled into a conversation in a language he didn't know how to speak. Affection was a question; it awaited an answer, required it, even. An answer could be wrong. If there was anything Katsuki didn't deal well with, it was being wrong.
But Eijirou never made him feel wrong, not even once. It went from Katsuki being stiff like a board, reminding himself to breathe and try to not blow anything up, through this fucking mind-blowing discovery of what all the damn noise about hugging was, to the warmth of Eijirou's hand inside his and the weight of his head on Katsuki's arm or chest as they fell asleep, becoming the most natural thing in the world.
It's not like he hadn't realized it, before, like he didn't wish his stupid damn feelings could show up on his forehead in neon script so Eijirou would know. It's not like he could give up on it, even if he wanted.
It just always felt like borrowed time, that's all. It couldn't have been anything else, Katsuki being who he was. It's a miracle it lasted this long - that's what they're all going to say, aren't they?
Katsuki doesn't know how long he's been laying there when he finally hears movement on the other side of the wall. He scrambles to his feet, but by the time he throws his door open, the corridor is empty again, Eijirou's backpack gone.
Damn it all to hell.
Katsuki remembers that a vial of sleeping pills still lives in the bottommost drawer of his desk. See, Ei, he thinks bitterly, it pays to not be too optimistic, sometimes.
He takes two pills, just in case. He really doesn't want to be awake right now.
He still hasn't fully woken up by lunch, which is just fucking typical, he supposes. He barely has a chance to set his tray down and force off the cap of the fucking yoghurt drink when he's accosted by Eijirou's entourage.
This is going to end so fucking well.
When they sit down and Katsuki gets a chance to get a good look at their faces, he decides they haven't talked to Eijirou yet. He can't decide if that's better or worse; ends up tentatively going for 'worse'. He's supposed to have good instincts in the face of danger, or so he's heard.
"Hey, Blasty," Ashido starts; just when he got persuaded to drop hers, she started using the damn nickname she ganked from Eijirou. Katsuki called spite. Or karma. "Ei isn't coming out of his room OR answering my messages! Is he sick, or something? I'm so skipping the next period if he is, gotta buy jelly and ice packs and stuff! Unless you did that?" she cocks her head like a curious bird; Katsuki averts his eyes. Her bff telepathy with Eijirou wasn't a very high level, yet, but he wasn't taking any fucking chances.
"We thought you'd know," Flat Face butts in. Zappy is just watching him suspiciously with his eyebrows drawn. Katsuki has a bad fucking feeling.
"He's not sick, isn't he." Zappy says, tone almost conversational, but with something dangerous lurking beneath the surface. So yeah, bad feeling? Right on the money.
"I think he's avoiding me," Katsuki drags out, and it almost isn't a lie, though it should be definitely avoiding and because he hates me now. The devil's in the fucking details.
The table goes very, very quiet.
"What. Did. You. Do." Zappy grits out slowly, sounding more and more pissed with each word. Katsuki feels himself getting tense. Not that he has any right to be defensive, but habits die hard.
"How's that your fucking business?"
"Oh, it is my business," Zappy replies. Katsuki notices the fork on his tray shaking slightly, as if it was being affected by magnetism. "That's my best mate we're talking about, a guy who loves you so damn much he doesn't even notice shit a sane person would've dumped your ass for ages ago. So yeah, I need to know what you did."
"Or what, you're going to beat me up? Fucking try it, Zaps."
"I am going to beat you up," he growls, and Katsuki is so taken aback by his utter confidence he forgets to retort, "I just need to decide if I can stand to wait to call you out behind the school, or if we're doing it right here."
Flat Face jumps to his feet to put a hand on Zappy's shoulder. "Dude, chill, let's listen first, ok?" he pleads, while Ashido grabs onto Katsuki's sleeve. "Just tell us, Bakugou. It could be serious."
Her eyes are full of concern, rather than accusation; that's what gets Katsuki talking, more than anything.
He's still saying the last words when Ashido springs up. "What did you do! Damn, didn't you know?"
"What the fuck didn't I know, can someone tell me shit already?!" Frustration builds up within Katsuki; what fucking memo did he miss now? If it was the one that said: don't make the guy who's the best thing that ever happened to you feel like you're ashamed of your relationship, he's gathered this much already, thanks for nothing.
"Ei... he doesn't have parents," Ashido whispers, her face stricken. "I don't know the details, we were in different classes, but he got called to the principal's office on the school speakers, in our first year... and then, there was the joint school trip."
She frantically taps something into the search engine on her phone and shows Katsuki the screen. It's an old article from a local newspaper; as he reads on, he feels his heart drop to his stomach and then down, through the floor.
"After his dad... When his mom was left on her own, she worked so hard, she had like, three jobs. But all that time, she just wanted to spend time with him, so she signed up as parent supervisor, and then..."
School bus crashes as result of damage to road from villain fight; parent and driver dead on impact.
"I didn't know," Katsuki breathes. There's a void in his chest, in his head, all around him, fucking void. Screaming, black void, trying to consume him whole.
It won't be that fucking easy and pleasant, though, because Ashido keeps talking.
"Ei's not stupid, you know? But he had to take all these part-time jobs, and he never had time to study. He was so relieved when they gave us the dorms for free, but he never ever complained. I thought it was awful," Ashido digs her nails into her forearms, eyebrows drawn in frustration, "He should be ranting and raving, and asking us for help, but he never did! I got so mad at him back then! And he still wouldn't let any of us invite him over for the break... he was going to stay here, all alone."
Everything falls into place, as if Katsuki has just been handed a missing piece of the puzzle. All the times he would just disappear in the evenings without saying where he was going, before he got his provisional license; Eijirou's huge fight with Ashido that neither of them would speak about; how invested Eijirou was in the rescue of those orphan kids, fuck, Eijirou calling the school "home" so naturally, and Katsuki never noticed. It just seemed like the kind of person Eijirou was.
"It was your damn job to know!" Zappy yells; if people weren't staring at them yet, they were, now. "We all knew, what sorry excuse of a boyfriend are you? Damn," he exhales, wrenching out of Flat Face's grip, "let's go, Hanta. We should check up on him; someone's gotta."
He storms out of the cafeteria, Flat Face on his heels. Ashido faces Katsuki.
"Did you apologize?"
When he doesn't answer, she smacks her hands against the table, staring at him with a mixture of disbelief and anger.
"Don't tell me you're just giving up - after everything! Ugh, guys are such IDIOTS!"
Then, she runs off, too, leaving Katsuki to stare after without understanding. It's almost funny; wasn't she the one who just told him exactly how badly he screwed up? Is that supposed to be some sort of a sick joke? How could he just, after that-
He knows it's over, he fucking knows, but Ashido's words get under his skin. It'd have been better if she didn't say anything.
There's no point returning to class, after that. Not like they're going to bother with any new material, this close to the exams and with half of the class fucked off somewhere to catch pickpockets and save kittens from trees, or something. The last week of the year is basically for bullying the weak and boring the few that actually bother to study to death with endless reviews and reminders of another trial that will decide their future. Katsuki was fine to take the stupid tests a month ago.
His concentration is fucking shot now, anyway.
He sees Ashido and the others run out of the dorms as if they were being chased; looks like they aren't skipping, after all. Katsuki idly wonders if Eijirou didn't let them in, or if he sent them back, worried about their grades. He can almost imagine Eijirou standing in the doorway, putting on his best my eyes are red? oh, that's just allergies, man, face. "I'm fine, guys," he would say, forcing on a grin that'd come out lopsided and wrong, "just go; I'd feel awful if you failed because of me."
Katsuki knows the exact tone Eijirou'd use. He could map out the exact placement of the worry line that'd show up on his forehead, hidden under conveniently messed up hair. It makes everything that much worse.
There's no light coming from below Eijirou's door, this time; is he sleeping? Katsuki raises his fist to knock, but after a few seconds of hesitation lowers it again. Going back to his room feels unpleasantly like running away.
He ends up lying on his back again, taking out his phone and flicking mindlessly through the apps until somehow, he ends up at his contact list. He doesn't really mean to dial the number, but when Mitsuki's voice, more surprised than anything, asks "Katsuki? Shouldn't you be in class?" it's too late to disconnect. She'd just call and call until he picked up.
"Good timing, though; window or aisle seat for Kirishima-kun?
It takes Katsuki a moment to understand what that means. Right, the damn trip. That was a thing.
"He's not coming," Katsuki says stiffly. Mitsuki makes a noise of surprise.
"Huh? Did he say no? Don't worry, Katsuki, we can still.... Damn it, I bought food already, but you can get his share!" She doesn't sound mad, just worried; worried for him. Katsuki realizes she must think it was Eijirou who ditched him, that it was Eijirou's fault, as if that was the more probable scenario by any stretch of imagination.
"Mom," he chokes out, the word strange and foreign in his mouth, even thought she was right there, all this time. His thoughts go to Eijirou, who didn't have anyone to say it to, listening to him talk like a family that spoils him at every turn is the worst fucking bother.
Katsuki is so, so stupid.
He's waiting for Mitsuki to be shocked, or ask who he is and what he's done with her son. It'd have been much easier, Katsuki thinks, if she did; they could laugh it off and pretend Katsuki doesn't feel smaller and weaker than a little lost brat. It would be more convincing, with two people.
What he doesn't expect is for Mitsuki to ask solemnly, with concern, "Baby, what's wrong?"
It's a bit too much to take. Just a fucking bit.
"Why are you so nice to me," Katsuki hears his voice shake, which makes his voice fucking shake more out of pure fucking disgust, "when I'm a fucking bastard that can't even say sorry when I fuck everything up?"
Off at home, Mitsuki inhales sharply. For a second or two, Katsuki hears only his own pathetic, shaky breath.
"I don't know what you did," Mitsuki says evenly, "and I don't think you're going to tell me, you stubborn punk. But I want you to listen to a story."
"Is that really fucking necessary right now-" Katsuki moans, but Mitsuki cuts him short.
"Yes, it fucking is. Now, shut up and listen!"
Well, that was more like his mother. The world wasn't ending yet. It was weirdly reassuring.
"There was that time I caught some nasty fucking flu picking you up from preschool," Mitsuki starts; Katsuki tries to figure out what incident it might be about, but ends up drawing a blank. "You were trying not to show it, but you were so worried, I think you thought I was going to die or something. It was a Saturday; Masaru was sleeping off a deadline, but you were always an early bird. You decided to make me breakfast."
"What woke me up was a crash. I dragged myself out of bed, and I found the remains of a disaster all over the floor, but you were nowhere to be seen. I called and called until I almost coughed up my fucking lungs, and you wouldn't come out - I found you hiding in your closet, crying your eyes out." Mitsuki's tone is fond and a little nostalgic. Katsuki's face is a hundred fucking degrees; he thinks that right now would be a pretty good moment to die. Preferably instantly.
"At first, I thought it was your hand, since you were bleeding pretty badly, but you still wouldn't stop wailing after I patched it up. My head wasn't on right, what with the flu and all, and I couldn't figure out what the hell was going on, or why didn't you come to get that hand treated. You were still trying to run away from me, too!" old frustration echoes through her voice. The memory still doesn't come back, nor is Katsuki any closer to figuring out what the hell is his mother getting at.
"Can you get to the damn punch line already?" he asks weakly, turning restlessly on the bed. Mitsuki shushes him.
"I'm trying, you impatient little... Well, you kept babbling something, and I finally figured out it was all about the stupid china that fell off the tray. You were so afraid of telling me you broke it - and wasted the food, too - you'd rather sit there in the dark and bleed." Mitsuki exhales slowly, and when she speaks up again, her voice is softer and warmer than Katsuki can remember it being.
"It's not that you never feel sorry, baby. You're not some awful, heartless monster. But you've always heard how great you are, and you got into your head that's all you can ever be. You set this ridiculously high standard for yourself, and when you slip up, you think you can't be forgiven... If you just came out and admitted it, everyone would tell you it's bullshit - but your silly pride won't let you, so you run away and lock yourself up in a closet, thinking it's the end of the world. But it's not; it's really, really not."
Shut up. Stop it already, Katsuki begs wordlessly. Just stop it. Don't say anything more.
"Really, who do you think you are, thinking of yourself like that?" Mitsuki asks, frustration again edging into her voice. For a moment, it sounds like she's trying not to cry, too. "Thinking you don't deserve forgiveness... that you can't make things right, if you try? You're my son - my proud, strong hero! Since when do you care what anyone thinks you can't do? Didn't you throw it back in their faces, over and over again? You never give up fighting for what you care about, and you'd never lose, even if you had to fight against yourself. Isn't that who you are, Katsuki?"
There's something hot and wet streaming down Katsuki's face, some of it flowing down onto his mouth; he reflexively licks his lips and by the salty taste recognizes tears. His nose is all stuffed up, making it hard to take a deep breath. Something seems to be stuck in his throat, too. He can't utter a word.
It takes so ridiculously long before the steel grip around his chest disappears and his lungs can properly expand that he wouldn't blame Mitsuki for disconnecting the call, or at least complaining about phone bills, but she's still there, waiting patiently, silently. She's not letting him off without an answer, Katsuki realizes.
"Yeah," he manages somehow, though still not sounding quite like himself, "yeah. And, mom..."
"Thank you. And... sorry."
"That's my boy!" Mitsuki bellows; Katsuki winces at the volume. Ow fuck. "That's why, Katsuki? I'm getting four tickets. So get off your ass and fix your mess, okay? Your mom believes in you."
Katsuki wants to fight whoever invented tear glands. He would kick their fucking ass.
He wakes up at the edge of the bed, curled against the wall so closely as if he was trying to pass through, with the sheets all rumpled around him. There's a fierce pounding in his temples and a deep sense of disorientation; he has no idea when he's fallen asleep.
Must've been all those fucking waterworks, he thinks. Pathetic, to lose to something like that. He's about to push himself up - he's been laying around wasting time way too fucking long - when he hears Zaps, as clearly as if he was right there.
"Dude, I can't believe you locked yourself up instead of talking to us, again - we talked about this! Bros don't keep each other in the dark like that!"
Eijirou's room is the mirror image of his, Katsuki recalls, with their beds standing on the opposite sides of the same wall. The very same wall Katsuki currently has his ear pressed against. Just, you know, by a fucking coincidence. He knows should move away, not add to his tab and stop eavesdropping like some asshole, but then, Eijirou speaks and Katsuki couldn't move a muscle, even if he wanted to.
"Sorry, sorry! I was just... kinda embarrassed, I guess?" Eijirou replies sheepishly. An electric shock runs through Katsuki at the sound of his voice; audibly tired but still fake-airy, it's not his of course I'm okay tone, it's the I'm not, but I'm sick of it already so I'm not going to acknowledge it anymore. And they say he and Katsuki have nothing in common. "I hated how much I let something like that get to me, you know? I kinda made a scene back there, hehe..."
"Ei!" Ashido gasps, scandalized, "Are you trying to take the blame? Because it sounds to me like you're trying to! Are you? Are you?!"
"Hear, hear!" Sparky cuts in. "You better not be thinking of letting him get away with this! That was awful, even for his standards - and like, we all knew about, well, you know," he falters, "and he's the one supposed to be your boyfriend!"
"You know because you overheard Mina and me," Eijirou points out levelly, "and then I had no choice but to spill. And guys, calm down, that's no and no on both counts," (damn nerd vocabulary, Ashido fumes) "but I'm a bit guilty, too. I should've talked to him more. Katsuki always supports me so much, too..."
On the other side of the wall, Katsuki draws in a sharp breath. His heart clenches painfully. There's a mumble that he almost doesn't catch, something like, "I can't really see it."
"Denki, I know you're worried," Eijirou says, a steely note in his voice that Katsuki's never heard before, "and I'm glad. I love you guys, I really do. But that's enough. Thank you for checking up on me, but I'm fine, and I won't be making any rash decisions before I talk stuff out with him, I promise. You should just go back to studying; don't you have a meeting with Yaoyorozu?"
In that instant, Eijirou's "that's enough" pierces through Katsuki like a knife. It cuts away at the useless armor that seems more like trash and scrap stuck to him, and it's - painful, but freeing, somehow. The mess in his head clears up; what seemed completely impossible just before becomes what he has to do. He can see it now, with sudden clarity. A strength that comes from making a decision rushes into him, making him stand up and head for the door, head held up high. Determination, resolve - weren't those his trademarks?
Makes sense. Eijirou always kept him on the right track, after all.
The light in the corridor stabs at his eyes; blinking it away, he sees the retreating backs of Kirishima Support Group, and - Eijirou, there, so close. He looks fucking terrible, and simultaneously, so fucking beautiful it should be illegal.
"Katsuki?" Eijirou startles. "Did you hear us? We were kinda loud, I guess... Sorry, I didn't hear you come in," he scratches his head nervously, looking sheepish again. Katsuki can't fucking believe any of this. How was he feeling sorry?
"Yeah, I did. And I got... stuff to say."
Eijirou looks at him searchingly for a second, then nods and wraps his arms around himself. Katsuki notices he's still wearing that damn red hoodie. Fuck. "I'm listening," Eijirou says evenly.
There it fucking goes. Katsuki gulps, steeling himself. There's nothing else to do, now.
"I hurt you," he starts, not terribly astute. No shit, Sherlock. It's no surprise when Eijirou replies, in the same even, quiet tone, "Yeah. You did." Hearing it still stings, but Katsuki forces himself to swallow it and not drop his gaze.
"But you still protected me." It is and isn't a question.
"That's what you do," Eijirou says simply, "for people you love." A luminescent blush rapidly makes his way up Eijirou's neck and onto his face; Katsuki is sure he must be sporting one to match. He's also pretty sure he's having a heart attack. It's hardly the first time Eijirou's said it, what with Eijirou treating it like a damn greeting some days; when they woke up and right before they fell asleep together, when they departed for mission and first thing off a bus or train. Sometimes, he even said it at the weirdest, most stupidly irrelevant moments, like when Katsuki laughed at something he said, or stopped to fuss with his appearance, but what baffled Katsuki the most was that it always sounded equally sincere. No matter how much Eijirou repeated it, his eyes would always shine equally brightly, his expression turn ridiculously soft and warm, even with who he was looking at.
Now, though, it seemed to have a completely new weight. Circumstance's a bitch, huh?
"I mean," Eijirou adds awkwardly, "it's not like I'm not mad, but... I just couldn't stand listening to it, either, you know? It just seemed unfair. And it's true that I wasn't being honest... I didn't just want to worry you, and it turned out this... way," he trails off miserably. Katsuki is shaking with the effort to not hug him.
Stupid, stupid idiot. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
"They were fucking right. When they said I don't deserve you - no, don't, let me finish!" Katsuki waves Eijirou off impatiently; he feels like if he stops now, his throat will fucking close up and his vocal folds will just nope out and hand in a resignation. He has to do it. He has to. "You've always been so fucking good to me, tried so damn hard for no reward, and I couldn't even- I didn't even chase after you. I just watched you go!" his voice breaks; his arms are trembling like crazy, useless fucking things that couldn't even reach out when they were supposed to. "As if none of this-" he makes a sort of sweeping gesture between the both of them, "didn't fucking matter at all. You probably thought that's what I was thinking, too. I wouldn't blame you, if you did."
"And then. I thought I knew how much of an asshole I was, but then it turned out it was actually so much worse. I didn't know how to face you, after that - there's no way I could. I was sure you'd never want to, too - but that was. so. fucking. half. assed!"
The words are rushing in like water through a broken dam, now, coming in shaky sobs. Katsuki's voice is rising uncontrollably; any minute, someone's gonna hear and come running, but fuck it. Let them come. It's the last fucking thing he could care about right now.
"So what if it was hard! So what if it'd fucking kill me! So what if it was hopeless... You're so, so! So important to me!" he forces himself to look up, look into Eijirou's eyes; it's so important that he gets this, that he understands. It feels like the most important thing in the world, right now. "If it was going to kill me, I should've fucking died! You deserve it, you deserve fucking everything... I have some nerve, trying now, but. I have to! Because it's you! Because," he stutters weakly, "I love you so, so fucking much- I'm sorry. Please. Please, forgive me."
Through the heartbeat hammering in his chest, he hears a soft, quiet gasp, and then, there are arms around him, gripping tight enough to bruise. Eijirou is holding him against his chest, hiding Katsuki's face in his shoulder.
"Shh, it's okay, Katsuki, baby, it's okay," Eijirou whispers frantically, enveloping him in warmth he doesn't deserve, "it's okay, I forgive you, it's okay! It's all fine now, believe me - shh, it's fine, don't cry any more, please," his voice is as gentle as the hand stroking Katsuki's hair, but easier fucking said than done, don't cry. It's like he's already cried two buckets onto him, but then there's the snot and the damn hiccups. He's forgotten how to get air into his lungs, but Eijirou is still holding him. He continues to hold him until it finally feels like he could breathe and use his voice again.
"There," Eijirou breathes, running his fingers through Katsuki's hair, "all right, now?" His grip around him is more relaxed now, but still there, so comforting and safe. "Mhm," Katsuki somehow manages to mutter and then, because he just has to ruin the mood, whispers, "Will you come to the damn trip?"
Eijirou's arms shake; he's laughing.
"Of course! But you know, I don't have any stuff at all. I'm gonna need shoes and things, right? So you gotta take me shopping, first. And maybe treat me to something. Doesn't matter what, just something good, okay?"
Katsuki straightens up. "It's gonna be the best meal you ever fucking taste-" he swears earnestly, but doesn't quite get to finish, since Eijirou pulls him into a deep, enthusiastic kiss that feels like their first. "Thank you."
"For what?" Katsuki grumbles into his shoulder, once he regains use of his damn brain and regains a hold on language. It takes a while.
"For everything!" Eijirou chirps, dropping another kiss onto his cheek. For now, Katsuki figures, the least he can do is accept it.
Katsuki slowly breaks away from the hug, just enough to stay within the circle of his arms. His eyes are red and puffy, with a tightness around them suggesting soreness and a budding headache. Tears still cling to his eyelashes, and for a moment, Eijirou feels the urge to brush them away, before the look Katsuki gives him, tentative but unwavering, makes him forget how to breathe.
His face is gray with exhaustion deeper than physical, but something is shining through, lighting a fire in his tired eyes; courage that never failed to amaze Eijirou, heart-wrenching earnestness, and...
Something desperate, fierce with longing and very, very warm. It was a look that was reserved for Eijirou alone, dear and familiar.
As he meets his eyes, Eijirou's heart feels scrapped raw, but it's not his apology or even his confession; it's not even the tears. Well, maybe a bit of everything coming together, but most of all, it was the fear; the fear Eijirou can see him fighting, even now.
Katsuki looked so frightened. As if he thought Eijirou didn't know; as if he could possibly not know.
The same Katsuki who used to freeze at the touch of Eijirou's fingers brushing against his in public, only to grab onto them with frantic strength seconds later and hold on stubbornly until they got home. Katsuki, who melted into hugs at the speed of an iceberg, but still refused to let go, who pulled Eijirou into his arms without a word whenever he thought he needed it. Katsuki, who could tell Eijirou needed to talk not just from the tone of his voice, but from the wrong curve of his smile, the messed up angle of his hair spikes or the hue of the dye he brought the other day being a tone off.
The very same Katsuki who only cried in front of him; who, Eijirou was sure, has never apologized to anyone else, before.
I may not be as bright as you, but I'm not dumb, you know? Have some faith in me, huh, love?
Suddenly, his thoughts are interrupted by the sound of heavy steps up the stairs. Eijirou gropes blindly behind his back for the door handle and hooking an arm around his waist, hastily pulls Katsuki into his room.
"What the fuck was that?" Katsuki asks, a little dazed. Eijirou flashes an apologetic smile.
"Shouji-kun, I'm pretty sure? He does live up here... Sorry, I didn't want him to see you like that."
"Because it's fucking embarrassing?" Katsuki breaks away and stops in the middle of the room, looking around for something. Eijirou tosses him a box of tissues; Katsuki pulls up his legs onto the bed and starts attacking the box furiously. In no time, a small pile of used tissues forms beside him, and his nose turns completely red from rubbing.
"Well, did you want to have to explain what happened?" Eijirou asks, dropping onto the bed beside him. The fragile moment of complete honesty from back there shattered at the mention of Shouji, but Katsuki still isn't wearing the face he shows to the outside world. As far as Eijirou is concerned, it's still his duty to protect it from prying eyes. "It would be tough on you."
"Who the fuck cares," Katsuki mumbles into a tissue, blowing his nose noisily at Eijirou's "I do!". Convenient timing, Eijirou thinks fondly, my ass.
"Hey," Katsuki says; his voice is carefully controlled, and aside from a slightly nasal tone, sounds as normal as ever, "I bet you couldn't make a shot from here."
From the small pile next to his crossed legs, he picks up a balled up tissue and wasting no time to aim, tosses it across the room in an arc. As the tissue lands perfectly in the center of the rubbish bin, Katsuki looks Eijirou in the eye and asks provokingly, "So, Red Riot?"
The look at his face already changed; his eyes are glinting in challenge, the undefeated grin returning to his lips. Suddenly, Eijirou's insides turn all light and fluttery, as if he accidentally swallowed a bunch of butterflies. Like turning on a light, the room becomes instantly brighter.
It was so dark here, yesterday.
But, but! Yesterday was yesterday; now, a challenge has been set, and a real man always picks up the thrown gauntlet!
"You're on!" Eijirou calls out enthusiastically, quick to forget that they weren't alone on their floor anymore. He tries to reach for the pile of used tissues, but Katsuki moves faster, pushing a clear one against his nose.
"Don't get so fucking worried over others you don't even notice you're sniffling, idiot." Katsuki is looking away, but Eijirou can see his exposed ear turn slightly pink. He's struck by an urge to kiss it.
"You're going to do it or not?" Katsuki asks impatiently, making another perfect shot. "I'm way ahead of you!"
The first tissue Eijirou throws hits the wall above the bin before falling in; Katsuki huffs in disapproval, using up the last of his ammo with a flourish. His expression seems to be saying, that's how it's done. Swept up in the atmosphere, Eijirou wiggles on the bed to get into a better shooting position. Scrunching up his face in concentration, he takes a second shot.
"Too much force," Katsuki comments, just as the tissue ricochets off the pull-up bar Eijirou meant to put on his door but ended up leaving against the wall when he couldn't find a screwdriver, and falls in, too. The save earns but a frustrated click of tongue.
Shit was getting real now. Giving in to a surge of excitement, Eijirou breaks into a passionate narration.
"This one will decide everything! Will Kirishima even out the score? The stands are going crazy!"
"I will go fucking crazy if you ever do this voice agai-" Katsuki sucks in a deep breath; Eijirou holds his as well, as the very last improvised ball of the game is balancing on the brim, wavering back and forth,
"It went in!" Eijirou cheers, throwing his arms around Katsuki's shoulders and squeezing tightly. Paying no heed to his sputtering and weak protests, Eijirou nuzzles against his cheek affectionately. "That was super cool, right? Like in a movie! So I win, riiight?"
"You and your flashy shit," Katsuki complains, but there's no real heat behind it. Before he says so, Eijirou knows he got it in the bag, but presses a kiss to the corner of his mouth anyway. For extra points.
"Wait," Katsuki says, his tone suddenly serious. Giving Eijirou a suspicious look, he sniffs at the air - the comparison to a fluffy, sulky bunny his brain comes up with almost makes Eijirou squeal - and runs a hand through Eijirou's hair. "You dyed it. I can feel the fucking smell now; the fuck did you do that for? Your roots weren't even showing."
Eijirou gulps. It was dumb, it sounded dumb even to him; the dye was a waste, the mess in the bathroom took a solid hour to clean and the headache from the fumes wasn't even worth it, but still -
"It's a habit..." he mumbles awkwardly, hanging his head, "I just needed to... boost my fighting spirit, okay?" Katsuki probably wouldn't understand; he didn't need any rituals and stuff like that.
A very careful, gentle hand touches his jaw, tipping it up. His fringe is brushed to the side.
"You have stains all over your forehead, idiot," Katsuki says softly. There is no hint of derision in his voice. "Wait here, I'll get rubbing alcohol."
He untangles their arms and legs and briskly walks out into the hallway, leaving Eijirou with a stupid sensation of loss when his body heat disappears.
"Come back quickly, okay?" Eijirou whispers to an empty room, the uneasiness that Katsuki's presence chased away rearing its ugly head again. It should be all okay now, and yet... Why couldn't he believe it when Katsuki wasn't there?
If someone asked him if he trusts Katsuki, he'd have answered without thinking; he has, always have. When did it even start? Back at USJ, maybe... It was hard to put into words, but even if he couldn't be honest with himself, when you fought alongside a real man and trusted him with your back, you could tell there was no lie behind his fists. Crimson said something like that; you will know a hero by their actions, not by the face they show to the media. And once you knew how to look, once you knew to look, Katsuki's real face wasn't that hard to see at all.
He wanted to shout it out, sometimes; at all the people paying too much attention to Eijirou and passing Katsuki over when it came to praising them for their hero activities, at everyone looking at Eijirou as if he was some sort of a saint or martyr for dating him. Tell them, you're looking at the wrong person, don't you realize? There was no way he was the better half; he knew it better than anyone.
So why did he still have no idea what happened yesterday? Why did that raw, painful expression Katsuki had out there startle him so much? Where did this awkwardness creeping under the surface suddenly come from?
The door opens with a creak; Katsuki is standing in the doorway, a small bottle in one hand and a packet of cotton pads in the other. Their eyes meet, and Eijirou knows something must be showing on his face because Katsuki's eyes darken in guilt, his mouth forming a thin, tense line.
Hey, Katsuki, I don't like this. I want us to be a team, again.
His thoughts take a rapid turn from the serious conversation hanging over them as Katsuki, instead of sitting back down next to him, unceremoniously climbs onto him and straddles his lap. Eijirou only manages to get himself back under control when a cotton pad smelling sharply of alcohol is brought up to his face.
"Babe, why are you...?"
"So you won't run away when it stings," Katsuki deadpans. Eijirou sputters in indignation.
"You would, too," Katsuki replies calmly, starting to work on the corner of his forehead, his other hand resting against the side of Eijirou's face to keep him still. "You're a goddamn baby." With the dye stains not being that fresh anymore, he has to use some force, but with his thumb absently stroking Eijirou's cheek and his face and scent so close, Eijirou is actually enjoying this.
Yeah, he exhales shakily, really enjoying this.
Katsuki sighs in irritation and flicks his forehead. Ow. "Stop staring," he grumbles, "or I'm going to get this shit into those pretty eyes of yours."
Oh. Oh. Eijirou can feel his face growing even hotter.
"B-but, babe," he stutters out, "you're the pretty one... When you're close like this, it's hard to look away, you know?"
Now Katsuki is bright red, too. It shouldn't be possible, and surely shouldn't be allowed, but somehow, it makes him look even cuter. This is really bad.
"Idiot, if you keep fucking up my concentration I'm going to fall off-"
"Then I'll hold you like this, so you won't!" With a daring grin, Eijirou wraps his arms around Katsuki's waist and tugs him closer. If anyone else heard the sound Katsuki makes, Eijirou thinks, they wouldn't live to tell the tale.
Eijirou distracted him. The thought makes him want to giggle, excitement bubbling up in his chest. Okay, they are getting close to their second anniversary, so that's probably a little silly, but he couldn't imagine that seeing Katsuki look at him like that would ever grow old. It is such a shame to close his eyes.
Somehow, blushing and fidgeting like complete loons, Eijirou keeping Katsuki steady and Katsuki flicking and pulling at his cheeks for peeking, they manage to get all of the dye off his face. However, as Katsuki tosses aside the last, now completely reddened, cotton pad, another issue arises.
"It fucking stinks in here."
"It does, right?" Eijirou laughs, once again a little transfixed by the way Katsuki's nose scrunches up. "Wanna go for a walk while the room airs out?"
"Sure," Katsuki replies offhandedly, getting down to collect the mess. Eijirou is struck by an odd mixture of relief and disappointment. "You want to talk anyway, don't you?" he adds, meeting Eijirou's eyes with a quiet, fond look. Eijirou's heart skips a beat.
Maybe they were still a team, after all.
"In a bit," he breathes, pulling Katsuki close until their lips meet. The kiss is gentle, softer than the one in the one in the corridor, but the way Katsuki's hands come to rest over his, shaking just a tiny bit but unmoving, makes Eijirou feel that much lighter.
The gravel crunches under their feet as they slowly make their way through the mysteriously empty campus. Despite the reassuring feeling of Katsuki's feelings linked with his, Eijirou can't help looking around anxiously once or twice. Was it still class hours?
"Hey, what time is it?"
"Afternoon something, who the fuck cares?" Katsuki throws back nonchalantly, and as if reading his mind, adds, "They're probably all cramming last minute, like fucking morons they are."
"And we're not? I mean," with his free hand, Eijirou makes a sweeping gesture, meaning to indicate the two of them and their surroundings, "we aren't exactly studying, either."
Katsuki rolls his eyes; it's such a theatrical gesture that if Eijirou didn't know better, he'd think Katsuki practiced it in front of the mirror. No amount of practice could've beaten this show of innate talent. "Of-fucking-course not. We're the fucking best."
"You mean, you are," Eijirou points out, "I'm just getting tutored by you."
Katsuki glares him down. "Bullshit. I didn't rise nine class ranks for you. Now you just gotta beat fucking Deku and you can sit at the elite table." He stops to think something over for a moment before continuing, "Make sure to take Todoroki's seat. I can't wait to see his face when he can't make guppy eyes at his crush anymore."
A laugh escapes Eijirou's lips. "Babe, don't you mean 'puppy'?
"Nah," Katsuki replies decisively, perfectly serious, "guppy. I fucking know what I said."
Even though they aren't exactly getting close to the topic, it still feels just fine, somehow. The afternoon is calm and sunny, with air smelling of freshness and new, growing things. It seems like wind like this could only bring about something good. All that is left is to wait for a right moment.
Eijirou doesn't have to wait long. A sudden strong gust hits them from behind, messing up their hair and making their shirts billow. Countless tiny, pink petals Katsuki pretends to hate swirl around them, but instead of groaning and grousing, Katsuki closes his eyes and takes a few deep, slow breaths.
Spellbound, Eijirou watches the transformation occurring in front of him as Katsuki rolls back his shoulders, his posture straightening, the lines of his face smoothing out, frown disappearing. It's for a moment - just a moment - that he looks so perfectly peaceful and content that Eijirou feels a wave of calm wash over him as well, as if emotions were flowing between them through their touching palms.
He wonders if that's love, too.
Before, he didn't really know it at all. It was something from sappy movies and gossip magazines, the whispered talks of girls that died down as soon as he walked closer. Sometimes, it was a frustrating essay assignment, a boring part of a book, but mostly, an open secret he, of all people, wasn't privy to. He learned to ignore it; there were other things to focus on.
Now, it was in Katsuki's tears, his worry and concern, in his trust. It was in his rare laughter and smiles like hidden treasures, his sleepy, defenseless face, even in the expression he made when trying his hardest to not compliment food that unexpectedly hit the spot. And maybe moments like this, too, just quietly being there, together.
Katsuki made him discover so many new things, and Eijirou didn't want to let go of even a single one. He wasn't going to.
"The fucking cabin fever was driving me crazy," Katsuki sighs. That's when Eijirou knows, now.
"Hey... why didn't you want me to go? To that trip and stuff? Actually, why didn't you wanna go? You love this stuff so much..."
Katsuki looks down at the path, or somewhere through it. Very softly, he asks, "Is that important?"
"It is!" Eijirou squeezes his hand tightly to punctuate the words; it was his turn, now, to make sure he can get everything across. "When you came to apologize, it made me really happy! I know it was hard for you -"
"It shouldn't fucking have been," Katsuki cuts in. Eijirou squeezes his hand again.
"But it was, right? And I appreciate it, I'm not trying to say it wasn't enough, or something! But...!" The words rushing out of his mouth so fast he almost bites his tongue. Doing his best to steady his breathing and heartbeat hammering away in his ears, he goes on, trying to put his thoughts in order, "At first, I was just stunned; I mean, it was really rude. And hurtful, too. I wasn't thinking at all. But when the shock passed and I started to, it just got worse. Because it wasn't like you at all - let me finish!"
Katsuki stares at him in surprise, his mouth half open. Eijirou gives him a wan smile.
"It just wasn't like you. I knew you could never say something so cold and cruel and mean it; I know, I know you!" Katsuki is pulling his tell-me-another-one face, but Eijirou counters it by puffing up his cheeks and draws his eyebrows, in what Mina calls the angry hamster. A threat to the serious atmosphere of the situation, but a worthy gamble. There it is, the struggle; the corner of Katsuki's mouth twitching until he has to look away, and the victory is his. Eijirou clears his throat. "Anyway. It was as if someone swooped in when I wasn't looking and swapped you for someone else... Like I was looking at a stranger wearing your face. I had no idea what happened. It was... scary. I didn't know what to think, or what to do. So I just want to understand, you know? I want to understand you," he says earnestly, " I hate it when I can't."
At some point, they've stopped walking, ending up in a part of the campus Eijirou doesn't know. Was there always a stream on the grounds? Over the small concrete bridge, between the overarching trees, Eijirou can see another one of the countless sport fields around; this place is just an in-between. He wonders how many of such wonders Katsuki knows.
"It's fucking stupid," Katsuki finally starts, looking down at the burbling water. Eijirou leans against the railing next to him. "You've been so damn busy this year; me too, I fucking guess, with all that stupid secret shit. You train with your team, I train with mine..." Katsuki's expression - complicated, unreadable, sparks Eijirou's curiosity all over again. It wasn't clear like or dislike; there was awkwardness, but on the other hand, loyalty in the effortlessly uttered 'mine', and a tinge of concern. Eijirou could hardly wait to hear more about the people who made Katsuki look that way. "The point fucking is," Katsuki speaks up, trying to cover the way his voice shakes slightly, "there's hardly any time to talk, much less be a decent fucking boyfriend. So I just. Wanted to spend some time with you. Just with you. Worst possible fucking way to go about it, though," he spits, his grip on the handrail tightening until his knuckles turn white. A moment passes in silence; just when Eijirou thinks that's it, he adds, just above a whisper, "I'm sorry. Again."
It's as if a weight he didn't notice he was still carrying from Eijirou's shoulders. All of sudden, he feels like he could float. A bunch of different impulses tug at him; to laugh, to spin around, to hug Katsuki as tight as he can, kiss him until he can't breathe. Instead, he cups his face in both hands and with a widest grin, asks,
"Babe... Do you mean, you felt lonely? Why didn't you just say so?"
"I'm not. Supposed to," Katsuki mumbles, his face heating up under Eijirou's palms. Eijirou smirks slyly.
"You're not supposed to miss me, either?"
"Yes, fair!" Eijirou laughs, pressing a gross, wet kiss to his forehead. Katsuki groans in disgust. "Okay, new rule! Any time you feel lonely, you tell me right away! So nothing dumb like this happens again."
"And you'll do what, come to my side like a fucking knight in shining armor?" Katsuki grumbles, trying to shove his hands away. The ensuing playful tussle leaves Eijirou on his back, pinned down by his hands and knees. There is a tiny chance he might've not been trying too hard.
"Yeah!" he beams up at Katsuki, taking in the view. Panting and blushing, with his hair tousled up, he was a sight for sore eyes. "We're a team too. We were one first! I'll always be here, when you need me."
On their way back, Eijirou swings their hands back and forth happily; Katsuki rolls his eyes once or twice, but soon breaks into a story of the first moments after Eijirou's mission ended. There's a lot to read between the lines of his nitpicking of the chaotic media coverage and online panic, but for now, Eijirou is happy to watch him go on so animatedly. The gestures he accents his complaints with are a bit exaggerated, but sharp and in a way, graceful; there's nothing delicate about them, but they're purposeful and exact, not a single movement wasted.
"Those fucking headasses kept reposting the same blurry clip from someone's phone - of course there was someone with a phone, civvies never know to get the fuck out of the way - and making up the most outrageous shit! And then the fucking second biggest news outlet can't even get the number of people involved right - fuck."
Abruptly, he stops in his tracks, going slightly white in the face. Just slightly. Eijirou follows his line of sight, and stops as well; there, heading towards the gate comes Hanta, whistling with hands in his pockets. Eijirou's only heard of Katsuki's confrontation with his friends, and what he supposed was the edited version, but this was Hanta. Eijirou couldn't remember hearing him ever yell at anyone.
And surely, Hanta casts one glance at their linked hands, then at Eijirou's face and breaks into an easy grin, greeting them with a wave. "Hey, guys! Want something from the conbini? I'm on shopping duty!"
"Alone?" Eijirou asks, walking up to him. Katsuki reluctantly lets himself be tugged along.
"Yeah, there's some sorta crisis situation there right now... The list goes, comfort food and energy drinks for all, and something for Yaomomo? But I don't know what she'd like... She got so upset over Denki not getting Math's she can't find her Zen, looks like she thinks it's her fault..." Hanta scratches at the back of his head awkwardly; Eijirou notices Katsuki's hand twitch in his. "When Mina-chan send me out, she looked about to cry."
Unexpectedly, Katsuki steps forward. "Give me your phone," he demands, holding out his hand, "yeah, you."
Hanta obliges; nonplussed, they both watch Katsuki tap furiously at the screen before presenting the phone back. "There. That's her favorite off-brand tea. Don't ask how I know, or I'll fucking kill you. Get a move on. And..."
"Thanks for not letting Zappy off me." Katsuki forces out, slightly pink in the face. "If he keeps being hopeless, send him up. I'll beat it into him."
Hanta laughs, putting his phone back. "You're welcome, but it'd be a shame if you killed each other now, huh? Let him cool off first. Hey, it's gonna be fine!"
"Who asked you?" Katsuki replies haughtily, turning around on his heel. "Eijirou, we're going!"
Hurrying after him towards the dorms, Eijirou smiles to himself. It looks like it's really going to be.
It's long since gotten dark outside when the door to Eijirou's room is abruptly thrown open, revealing one Ashido Mina. She's dripping all over her pajamas and the towel slipping off her shoulders.
"Ei, can I borrow your hairdryer? Mine's dead - aaah, you're here?!"
Bakugou Katsuki looks up from the notepad he's balancing on his knee with deliberate slowness, pointedly raising an eyebrow. He's half sitting, half laying on the bed, with a bunch of pillows stacked behind his back and the room's actual owner snuggled up against his hip, arms around Katsuki's waist. He's fast asleep. "You wake him up, you're dead," Katsuki deadpans, returning to his writing, "Bottom drawer, bath basket."
Mina blinks at him in confusion, slow to connect the dots. Katsuki lets out a long-suffering sigh. "There," he points, "the fucking hairdryer. Don't you dare rattle, or..."
"Or you'll kill me, okay, okay," Mina replies, unaffected. With some careful work, she manages to get out the cable without making any noise. "So, you made up?"
"You think you'd be seeing this beautiful picture if we hadn't?" Katsuki asks, in the same even, mild tone. Mina's never heard him speak so calmly; it was odd, but to her surprise, it suited him. She's never noticed how nice his voice sounds.
Mina invites herself to sit at the desk chair; she swivels idly back and forth, following the movement of his pen. "I'm glad. Ei looked really bad earlier, but you didn't look much better... It's not like we hate you, you know? "
"You just think I can't be trusted with the heart of your friend," Katsuki's voice doesn't waver, but he jabs the paper with his pen a bit too strongly. "I know."
"I never said that, geez! So dramatic," Mina rolls her eyes. "It's just... you could try to be our friend again, too."
The sound of scribbling stops. "Who said I ever was?"
Mina sighs. "Ooo-kay, I'm going to chalk this up to your poor social skills, but you don't say that. People get upset when you say that. But yeah, you were. Den-chan is feeling really bad, you know."
"Who cares how that asshole's feeling like?
"Oh, boys!" Mina gets to her feet, stomping in irritation. Katsuki frantically shushes her; On the bed, Eijirou shifts in his sleep. Both Katsuki and Mina freeze, holding their breath until the sound of calm, measured breathing reaches their ears again. Mina exhales shortly in relief, crossing her arms and facing Katsuki again.
"He saw both of you as his best friends; I bet he still does, with how torn-up he is. But then, you and Ei started dating each other, you focused on him so much, and now he doesn't just feel abandoned, but like you're stealing Ei away from him, too."
Katsuki gapes at her in stunned silence. There's something deeply satisfying about it.
"That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard," he says finally. Mina nods vigorously.
"Right? It's soo stupid! But solve it between yourself, I'm done with boys and their stupid pride! Anyway," her tone suddenly shifts to that of keen curiosity, "what are you writing?"
"I'm copying my notes," he answers automatically, glancing down at the page half-filled with neat script. With an incredibly gentle gesture, he brushes Eijirou's fringe away from his face, tucking it behind his ear. Mina smacks a hand over her mouth to suppress a squeal. "I may have to fucking work before the finals. He missed a lot."
"On your super secret internship? Is that even a thing?"
Mina ducks the pen cap Katsuki throws at her, sticking her tongue out playfully. "But really, that's nice of you. Don't look at me like that, I mean it! You know," she says, pretending to busy herself with Eijirou's new posters, "We may not talk a lot, Blasty, but Ei looks so happy with you... And the way he's always talking about you makes me think you can't be that bad. Women's intuition! Heheh." She swiftly turns to him, leaning over to pinch his cheek, "I'm glad Ei has you!"
Katsuki swings at her, but with sleeping Eijirou still pinning him down, he hits empty air. Mina pokes out her tongue at him again, and she's about to duck out of the room, when she hears,
"Wait," Katsuki whispers forcefully out, careful to avoid looking her in the eye, "You're important to him, too. Don't you fucking dare get done in."
"Aww, Blasty!" Mina chirps, "That's so cute! Don't be a stranger, okay? I won't let the Math demons get me, don't worry!"
She leaves a small water puddle behind; at the very least, Katsuki thinks, she remembered to take the damn hairdryer.
When the polite, robotic voice announces they're approaching the station, Eijirou bolts out of his seat, scrambling for the luggage shelves. He fumbles with the locked chain with sweaty hands; meanwhile, Katsuki casually rises and walks over to stand beside him.
"What the fuck are you so nervous for?" Katsuki asks, watching Eijirou struggle to unlock the mechanism. "You looked better at the finals."
"I could study for the finals!" Eijirou panics. Finally, the chain gives way, freeing his brand new backpack, loaded to bursting. Just looking at it, he could feel his back blister. "I can't study for meeting your parents! And why don't you have a backpack, anyway?" Eijirou glowers at Katsuki's nonchalant posture. Something didn't seem right, there.
"I came back in the middle of the fucking exam, remember? When the fuck was I supposed to get it from home?" Katsuki sighs, helping Eijirou put the load on. Once he regains his balance, he tries to move towards the train doors, but Katsuki tugs him back by a strap and starts to adjust them, one by one. "My folks are bringing it with them. There you go."
Eijirou blinks in surprise. Now that Katsuki is done, the weight does sit on his back more comfortably; it even seems lighter. It was as if Katsuki had Uraraka's quirk.
"D-did you take something out?"
"Don't be stupid. And move over, people are getting their shit."
It feels like forever before the train rolls into the station and opens its doors, but once Eijirou realizes he's the first one to get out, he's seized by an urge to go back in, hide in the bathroom and ride to the final station, anything to not have to face the Bakugou family. It's too late, though; people are already pushing at him from behind, and there's nothing to do but step onto the platform and be a man.
Be a man, Eijirou chants in his head, be a man, Kirishima.
As soon as Katsuki's feet touch the platform, a shout comes from somewhere to their right, voice deceptively similar to Katsuki's voice, but an octave higher.
"Ka-tsu-ki! Get your ass over here, I'm not hauling your shit around!"
Eijirou gulps, nervously craning his head. Next to him, Katsuki twists his lips in a grimace.
"She hasn't even begun charming you, yet. There."
Looking in the direction he points out, Eijirou spots a blonde woman, shouting with her hands around her mouth, and a tall, brown-haired man fidgeting behind her, shooting apologetic glances at the passing travelers. Both of them were clad in comfortable hiking clothes, similar to those he and Katsuki were wearing.
Katsuki shoots forward, giving him no time to prepare mentally. "There's no way to prepare for her," he mumbles, covering his mouth with a hand; soon, it becomes clear why, as his mother greets him by whacking him upside the head and asking, "What were you saying about me, hmm?"
From up close, the family resemblance is even more striking. Mitsuki-san's hair isn't just blonde, Eijirou notices; it's the exact same shade, falling around her face the same way as Katsuki's does. Hers is just a bit longer. The man who must be Masaru-san, at the first glance seems nothing like his wife and son, but the longer Eijirou looks...
"Yeah, I know, I'm like a clone of the old hag, let's save ourselves the time and skip over that, huh?" Katsuki groans, earning himself another whack. "Don't be fucking rude to your boyfriend, you little -"
"That's not it," Eijirou cuts in, causing both mother and son to turn to him in unison. "It's not obvious, but you know the face you make when you're calm and focused?" he looks at Katsuki, reaching for the image-memory, just to make sure, "You actually look a lot like your dad, then! So that's where it comes from, huh?" The excitement at learning something new about Katsuki yet again quickly gives way to awkwardness as he realizes that there are now not two, but three Bakugous gaping at him, although in the case of Katsuki's father, it's much more discrete. Eijirou shifts his weight nervously. "Did I say something wrong?"
"Katsuki," even though Mitsuki-san addresses her son, her eyes are still glued to Eijirou, her voice strange, "why haven't you pro..."
She's cut off when Katsuki and his dad move simultaneously to cover her mouth. The rest of the question comes out as a mumble and gets lost completely in the hustle and bustle of the station. Eijirou cocks his head in confusion; for some reason, Katsuki's face is burning up. While he furiously whispers to Mitsuki-san that he's working on it and please, don't say another damn word, his father looks at the two of them with fond exasperation before extending a hand towards Eijirou.
"We haven't introduced ourselves yet, have we? Please forgive them, they haven't seen each other for a while. I'm Bakugou Masaru, Katsuki's father; you must be Kirishima-kun."
"T-that's right!" Eijirou stutters, gripping Masaru-san's hand; it's strong and manly, and somehow, super reassuring. "Kirishima Eijirou, I'll be in your care!"
After Mitsuki-san sidesteps Katsuki and catches Eijirou's hands in hers too - stunned by how pretty she looks face-to-face, Eijirou can only answer in monosyllables - the party finally makes their way down to the taxi parking lot. The driver doesn't seem to be happy to see their luggage - Katsuki now properly carrying his - and neither does the trunk of his taxi, but with combined effort and only one call of "Plus Ultra!" they somehow manage to fit everything in. Eijirou's never dived in the sea, but getting out of the cab, he thinks that this is how decompression must feel like.
"Good that we got supplies beforehand, huh?" Mitsuki-san looks around the parking lot; aside from a couple of cars with drivers nowhere in sight, the place seems to be right in the middle of nowhere. There's no shop to speak of, nor even a concrete road from there on. Even here, the forest is dense enough around them that even looking up, Eijirou can't see the peak they're supposed to climb. "Okay then, team - shall we go?"
From the parking lot, a paved path wide enough for two leads into the trees. As soon as he ducks under their shade, following after Katsuki's parents, even though he could still see the concrete if he turned around, the lot feels weirdly far away. The hue and intensity of light changes, compared to "outside"; with every step up the road, the air seems to get into his lungs more easily. It's like there's more air in air; it's crisp, fresh and somehow, delicious. A river curls around the path, murmuring soothingly, but what catches Eijirou's attention the most are the trees, hanging down their branches down into the water and creating a green roof over their heads.
Each of them seems to be different; no matter how much he looks around, he can't find two that'd have the exact same shape. Twisting and bending into strange poses, some of them look like dancers, spreading their arms wide, some resemble old men, hunched over with age. Here and there, a branch takes the appearance of an animal; Eijirou startles when something he took for a big gnarl on the bark jumps to life and in quick, long hops makes its way up to the top of the tree. A squirrel?
"Watch your feet," Katsuki scolds him; he catches Eijirou by the elbow just as he is about to step onto a loose rock. "This isn't a beginner trail."
The path was already getting stepper and stepper on their way up, but Eijirou notices that they've come to a crossroads, where the road didn't just fork, but narrow to a trail allowing just one person at the time, marked out only by the steps of those who traversed it before them. Mitsuki-san and Masaru-san are discussing something in hushed voices; they don't seem any worse for wear at all. To the disbelief of Eijirou, whose breath is starting to come in short, Katsuki also appears to be perfectly fine, without even a drop of sweat on his forehead. He looks so... peaceful, even a bit lost in thought; he's looking off into the thicket, toying with the strap of his backpack, a green, black and orange thing that reminds Eijirou of his hero costume. That was probably why he got it, Eijirou surmises. It fit him just as well.
Looking back at the last two years, Eijirou can't recall ever seeing him so free of worry, not while awake. There was that time walking around on campus, there was how he always gravitated to places that had at least some greenery, but it all paled in comparison to the face he was making now. Entranced, Eijirou tries to commit it to memory, down to the smallest detail, and then, his eyes slide down to Katsuki's lips - to the small smile playing at the corners of it.
Katsuki was happy, here. Suddenly, Eijirou feels like he can understand why no one spoke on their way to this signpost. In this strange, secluded world where even the light and air were different, was quiet enough that even all of the dark, grumbling clouds and pesky voices in and out of Katsuki's head had to take heed and shut up. Emotions well up in Eijirou's chest; gratitude, for being able to see this, but also something else, something new.
I want to be your forest, and your mountains. I want to hide you in my arms and block off everything bad, so you can breathe. So you can be free.
"Looks like we're going this way," Katsuki says, abruptly bringing Eijirou back to earth. "Hey, what the hell? Your face's all red; you can't be that fucking tired?"
"I'm fine! Completely fine! Absolutely fine!" Eijirou rambles, his skin growing even hotter at the unconvinced look Katsuki gives him. He takes a swig from his water bottle just to do anything with his hands and face that isn't talking, and almost drops it into the undergrowth. "The climb was just... a bit more intensive than I expected, that's all!"
"Well, it's going to get worse," Katsuki points out, matter-of-factly. "You should fix your breathing. Ooh-ing and aah-ing like a moron, you're not going to last."
This just wasn't fair. This was supposed to be nice and relaxing, and Eijirou is being attacked. "You heard?" Eijirou whines, hiding his face in his hands. There he was, acting like a preschooler and slowing everyone down. If it was just Katsuki with his mom and dad, they'd have probably gotten here long ago.
"Of course I did, the fuck do you think I am? So come here," Katsuki tugs him close until their sides are pressed together, "and breathe. It's not a fucking race. We aren't coming down today, anyway."
"We aren't?" Eijirou parrots; this is the first time he's heard of this. "You mean, we're going to sleep in the forest?"
"What, you scared?" Katsuki smirks devilishly. "Nah, in a clearing. If any bear tries to eat you, I'll fuck it's shit up."
Eijirou isn't sure if that's a joke or not, but slowly, the rhythm of their breathing synchronizes. When they fall into the new formation - Katsuki and his dad, as the most experienced ones, closing and leading the party, respectively - with Katsuki watching over him from behind, Eijirou feels a new surge of energy.
"This place seems great, don't you think, honey?" Mitsuki Bakugou inspects a large clearing before nodding in satisfaction and setting down her baggage. "Hey, you two, get over here and help! We have a camp to set!"
The words seem to reach Eijirou from very far away. They're at the opposite edge of the clearing, standing hand-in-hand with Katsuki at a spot where a break in the trees allows a look out below. Even though it's no summit, Eijirou still finds himself swallowed up in the view spreading before him; a colorful patchwork of sprawling cities, dotted with spots of greenery, decorated with ribbons and round jewels of water sparkling in the slowly setting spring sun. His lungs are burning, supposedly breathable clothes sticking to his skin with sweat in places, an ache already settling into his muscles, but all of it fades into the background against the magnetic pull of the scenery. Eijirou can't tear his eyes away.
"This is so... beautiful," he whispers, as if his voice could somehow disturb this place. "It's so beautiful, Katsuki."
"Heh, wait until you get to the top," Katsuki replies, for some reason in a matching whisper. Eijirou can hear the grin in his voice. "You haven't seen anything, yet."
The moment is broken up when Mitsuki-san strides over and bodily drags the two of them by their necks to help in setting the tents. Through the sting of longing for the viewpoint he's forced to leave, Eijirou can't help but admire her strength. Mitsuki-san enlists her son's help to set the tent for her and her husband, with Eijirou being left in the care of Masaru-san. "This way, Kirishima-kun can learn something, too!" Mitsuki chirps, but once she's out of immediate earshot, by the look of it, she starts talking Katsuki's ear off. He scowls and shoots back, looking exasperated or... embarrassed? But despite the ongoing argument, they work swiftly and efficiently. With a small smile, Eijirou turns away to Masaru-san.
Thankfully, the tent poles are connected, sparing them the puzzle-assembling work Katsuki's father jokingly mentions as part of the reason for getting a new tent. "There was always one part missing - they're numbered, you see, but it was like losing the last piece of the puzzle under the couch."
Looking at the tarp and the tent laid out flat on top, Eijirou takes note of the size. The tent Katsuki and his mom are in the middle of setting appears to be twice as big. Masaru-san notices his appraising stare, and flashes him an apologetic smile.
"This one is what Katsuki uses; it's on the bigger side, but technically, it's still meant for one person. I hope that won't be a problem?"
"N-not at all, I mean, we'll make do, I mean, can-we-please-start-putting-these-in?" Eijirou stutters, pointing at the tent poles. Thankfully, Masaru-san just smiles and nods. While showing Eijirou the corresponding flaps and the trick to avoid the poles getting caught on the fabric inside, naturally, he weaves in questions about school and hero work. By the time they're raising the tent, Eijirou finds himself chattering away about Fatgum and Tamaki-kun, about the serious hero with graying hair he met on his last mission who refused to retire before bringing down the child trafficking ring, about Katsuki bursting into the hero history exam, still wearing the gloves from his hero costume, after finishing the English final in fifteen minutes. He doesn't even notice when all that's left is to secure the tent to the ground.
"Looking good! Now, son, can you hold this - Kirishima-kun?"
It's stupid. It's silly, it's just a mistake; Masaru-san usually goes on these trips with Katsuki, of course he'd slip up and call Eijirou that. It's nothing big; they don't know, there's no need to make a scene out of it and turn it into, in Katsuki's words, a federal fucking issue. There's no need. Eijirou just needs to breathe, swallow the treacherous tears attempting to spill out from his eyes, and stop feeling so stupidly, baselessly happy.
"Kirishima-kun, are you alright?" Masaru-san places a hand on his shoulder; of course, he wouldn't make the same mistake twice, but why does Eijirou feel so disappointed?
He completely misses the crunch of steps behind him. When Katsuki slides his hands under Eijirou's armpits and tugs him to his feet, the touch startles him enough to make him remember how to talk.
"It's nothing, really," he tries, but Katsuki interrupts him with a curt, "Sorry, dad. Give us a minute," and leads him away from the camp, a little down the slope from where they came. There's a flat rock laying at the side of the path there, like a natural bench; Katsuki sits at one end and pats the space next to him, inviting Eijirou to do the same.
"I heard that," he says cryptically, but Eijirou can tell exactly what he's talking about. "Just happened to. You ok?"
"It was just a slip-up, right? It's fine. Just... took me by surprise, that's all," Eijirou manages to reply, hating the way his voice shakes. "We should be going back."
Katsuki ignores it. "It probably wasn't one. A fucking slip-up," he adds, seeing Eijirou look at him without understanding. "I bet those guys already think of you that way. They fucking loved you long before today," Katsuki says softly. "That's just the way they are."
Eijirou's thoughts are a scrambled mess; it still doesn't make sense, it just doesn't. "But... they didn't even know how I look, or who I am, or anything...."
"They're disgustingly accepting like that," Katsuki says simply, as if that just settled it. "They're fucking embarrassing and clingy, but it's a good family. And I know it's not the same, but..." he reaches for Eijirou's hand, holding it carefully in both of his, "there would be space in it for you, too. If you wanted."
It can't be. Katsuki can't be... Can he? He's looking into Eijirou's eyes, unblinking, unwavering. Serious. Eijirou decides he must be dreaming; there is no way, no way...
"You can't mean...?"
"I do," Katsuki replies immediately, strongly. He grips Eijirou's hand a little tighter. "I wanted to, for a long time, but... It was for all the fucking wrong reasons," he spits out, a shadow of guilt running over his face. "I only realized it then. When I almost lost you for how fucking stupid I was."
"I was always," he says bitterly, "so fucking scared. That one day, you'll open your eyes and leave, that someone will take you away. I was only thinking how to keep you for myself, but it was wrong. It was so fucking wrong. Because this is who you are, right?" The smile he shows him is warmer and softer than any Eijirou's ever seen, and he can't. Can't think, can't breathe. Any time, he will wake up and return to reality. "You'd never abandon anyone; you'd fight tooth and nail for every last person in need. That's why I love you, too. You want to help everyone, want to save everyone, but you're always trying to shoulder all of the heavy shit by yourself... I kept recalling all the times you've been there for me when I didn't deserve it, and I just thought. That you, of all people, should never have to be alone. That I want to be the one to make sure you aren't. That's... not wrong, is it?" Katsuki asks quietly, suddenly sounding uncertain.
Eijirou's heart feels too big for his chest, like it's going to burst and explode at any moment. He can no longer hold back the sobs threatening to strangle him, nor the way his whole body shakes like a leaf. Throwing his arms around Katsuki's neck, he chokes out, "No... No, it's not! It's not!" He can't do anything but repeat that, like some stupid chant. Katsuki finally hugs him back, stroking his back gently. It just makes Eijirou sob harder.
"I'm sorry... this is shitty, isn't it? I wanted to do it properly, with rings and shit... I will, once we come down. It's going to blow you away, okay? It's just... these fucking things take so long to custom make, and then, I saw how happy you were when dad called you that... I didn't want you thinking you'd have to lose it," Katsuki breathes into his hair, "not even for a moment. Hey, stop crying already!" he asks, a little exasperatedly, "someone could think you're sad!"
Who? Who could ever? Eijirou is seized by a hysterical urge to laugh. "I'm so happy," he says shakily, "I'm so happy I could die, you ass. Babe, I... I love you so much, how can you say that, this was the best propo..."
"Shh," Katsuki puts a finger to his mouth, "Save the big words for the real thing. Oh damn, okay, this was the real thing, don't you start crying again! The proper thing! Round two! We should really be going back now, she's going to..."
Just as he says that, Mitsuki-san's shout of "That was way longer than a fucking minute, you brats!" makes a cloud of terrified birds raise up from the trees above them. Eijirou must've gone insane because he's laughing now, happily, madly. When they approach the camp and Mitsuki-san asks, "The fuck were you doing out there, anyway?" without thinking, he calls back, "Getting engaged! Provisionally!"
The adorable groan of misery at his side is so funny, too. Why shouldn't he laugh? Mitsuki-san has her hands on her hips, pouting in the exact same way Katsuki always does, because the bonfire is already crackling away, all done. Katsuki's parents did everything by themselves.
"Oh, finally!" Mitsuki gasps; Eijirou wonders how did he ever fear her. "But what's that provisional crap? Come sit, there's going to be food soon!"
"You see, since Katsuki didn't have a ring..."
"WHAT?! Give him over here, I'm going to kick his ass!"
But Katsuki's ass remains unkicked, as Eijirou, curled into his side, couldn't be happier to tell his parents just what happened. At first, he glances up at Katsuki uncertainly, but he just moans, "Oh, do whatever you fucking want," before hiding his face in his hands, so Eijirou does just that. He leaves out some wording that should remain private, but telling the story once doesn't remotely feel like quite enough. He wants to repeat it over and over; idly, he wonders if there'd be phone reception up there.
Suddenly, he's crushed from both sides by the biggest, warmest group hug he ever received, with Katsuki getting caught in the crossfire. Masaru-san's simple, hearty, "Welcome to the family!" makes tears spin in Eijirou's eyes again, while Mitsuki-san, sounding like she's on the verge of crying herself, rambles into his ear, "Call me mom! Or not, Katsuki hardly ever does, so it sounds a little weird - no, do it, or don't, call me whatever you want! Holy shit, your name sounds awful with our surname, but we'll think of something! Don't worry, it'll be fine!"
It's already fine, he wants to say, but the words won't come out, getting stuck in his throat. It's more than fine. Drowning in the warmth and love, he slowly lets it sinks in; he has a home. He has a family, he has a... has a fiancée, rings or no rings. Jewelry doesn't matter; what matters is the person at his side, who gave him the whole world and thought it wasn't enough. But it's okay; he'll have a lot of time to prove him wrong.
"Katsukiii... I can't sleep, after all!" Eijirou whines, poking Katsuki's cheek with one finger. Lazily, Katsuki opens one eye.
"Want a goddamn lullaby? We're going to be on the road all day, go the fuck to sleep already."
"But I'm too excited! How could I possibly sleep? Hey, could I get signal here?"
"If you got up high... wait, don't fucking tell me you want to call someone." Katsuki has both eyes open now, staring him down incredulously. "It's after midnight."
"They won't mind! I have to tell them, I can't wait! Come on, babe..."
Katsuki rolls his eyes, letting out a long suffering sigh. He seems to be fighting with himself. "You're gonna call them one by one?"
"Oh, no," Eijirou is quick to reassure him, "if I remember right, they're having a party at Kyouka-chan's house today! They should all be there together!"
"Isn't that fucking great for you. Have fun, don't die -"
"Nuh-uh, you're going with me!" Eijirou insist, tugging at the sleeve of Katsuki's T-shirt. "It's your news, too!"
It takes a lot of grumbling and cursing the world as a whole, but Katsuki finally untangles himself out of the sleeping bag and follows him outside.
The night is almost ink black; with no man-made lights around, only the moon and the stars are lighting their way. Looking up, Eijirou nearly gets lost in the dizzyingly brilliant starry sky. Was there always so many of them up there?
"Are you looking for the freaking signal, or are you just gonna stargaze all night?" Katsuki asks impatiently. He seems to be hoping to get the call over with as quickly as possible. "We shouldn't go off on our own in this fucking darkness; best to climb a tree."
"Climb a tree? Is that safe?"
Katsuki rolls his eyes again. "See that one? Million fucking years old. You think those branches wouldn't hold you? Give trees some fucking credit."
Blinking to adjust his eyes to the lack of light, Eijirou looks up at the tree Katsuki indicated. He doubts it's literally million years old, but it does look very sturdy. Going by touch and instinct, the climb is easier than he expected, and soon, they're seated on a huge branch growing parallel to the ground. Hidden among the tiny, young leaves, Eijirou feels a strange sense of safety wash over him.
Despite his doubts, one, and then two bars of signal appear on his screen. With fingers shaking from excitement, he taps in Mina's number.
Luckily, Mina stepped out of the heat of the party to answer, and Eijirou doesn't have to yell. "Mina? Can you get Denki and Hanta? I have something I got to tell you guys!"
"Ei!" Mina exclaims in surprise, "aren't you in bugfuck nowhere? How did you get signal?"
"You see, we're sitting in a tree now, Katsuki and I!" Eijirou replies happily. On the other side of the line, Mina whistles. "Now, that sounds interesting - give me a sec."
There's a sound of a door opening, and a loud burst of music assaults Eijirou's eardrums. He holds the phone away from his ear; once the music quiets down again and he hears a muted, "Ei? You still there?" he flicks on the speaker button.
"I'm so glad I caught you, guys! You see, there was something I just couldn't wait to tell you, okay, Katsuki, on three?"
"He's there?" Denki startles; Eijirou hears Mina hush him.
"No fucking way," Katsuki complains weakly, but quickly agrees "oh, fucking fine. On three."
"Guys, we're... one, two, three..."
"..'re getting married," Katsuki mumbles, out of sync. Eijirou would laugh, if he wasn't so busy trying to not fall off the tree. "What, idiot, you forgot what comes later?"
"I... didn't, just... but yeah, everyone, that's the gist of it!"
The stunned silence on the other side of the line suddenly erupts into an avalanche of congratulations and questions. Mina wants to know when the hell, Hanta is wondering out loud what to wear for the wedding - "That's not going to be in a while," Eijirou assures, and then, from Denki, comes a single "What the fuck."
He doesn't sound angry, just surprised, but Eijirou still can't quite find the right words. "That thing from before, it's completely fine now, you know? We talked it all over ages ago, and the way he asked me, I thought I'd die - I'd tell you now, but I don't want him to get embarrassed and fall off - "
Cutting his ramble short, Katsuki takes the phone out of his hand. "Hey. Zappy. Kaminari. You there, asshole?"
"No, my grandmother, taking a break from picking up girls at the dance floor! Course it's me, you dick! If you think you can just go and propose -"
"Next time," Katsuki cuts in, "you feel fucking lonely, come over for a spar. I'll wipe the floor with you until you feel fucking appreciated, deal?"
"Who the fuck would miss you!" Denki sputters. Mina giggles in the background. "And you're on!"
"Come at me whenever you want, Zig Zag!"
"Oookay!" Mina calls out, "That was cute, in a way. But while we can sleep until midday tomorrow, you lovebirds can't, can you? Go and snuggle under the... starry sky," she muffles her laughter with a hand, "we'll talk when you're back. I'm sooo happy for you guys!"
Before either Katsuki or Denki can protest, she cuts the call. Katsuki shoves the phone back at him; Eijirou ends up staring at the screen for a while, soaking up the memory of his friends' voices. He wanted to see them again soon.
"You could've made the damn call alone," Katsuki says suddenly, "or fucking listen and wait until morning. But you dragged me out there."
"Thanks," Katsuki whispers, looking down at his hands, "for believing I can change."
Eijirou's heart grows three sizes. That wonderful, stupid idiot.
Carefully, he wraps an arm around his shoulders. "Thank you," he whispers back, right into Katsuki's ear, "for always trying so hard, and doing your best for me. I know you love me. I always did."
They don't fall off the tree, but it's a near thing.
With three hours of Kirishima's Birthday left, it's done! Kirishima, my sweetie, Happy Birthday, I love you so much and I'm so happy I get to write about you! I hope you had the best possible one!
Chapter 3: Epilogue
A small warning - the first half of the epilogue gives more focus to Kirishima's late parents, which obviously means discussion of non-canon character death.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"I never thought you'd be so nervous to visit a grave," Eijirou chuckles as they make their way up the hill on the outskirts of his hometown, which, as Katsuki learned, housed the local cemetery. The obelisks have yet to come into view, but Katsuki can already feel the quiet, contemplative air of the place surround him.
"It's not just some grave," he huffs, bandaged fingers closing over the small, square box in his pocket. The very moment the results of the mission he's been working on under Aizawa are revealed to the press tomorrow morning, his life is bound to turn into chaos. There's not going to be a better time. "It's your mom. You think I got no respect at all?"
"No, no," Eijirou strokes his wrist soothingly. He's being stupid about it, just because Katsuki failed to suppress a wince when Eijirou tried to touch his hand earlier. As if he didn't have it worse before. "I'm happy you care."
"Why are they not together? Your mom and dad?"
"It was my grandmother. From dad's side. Dad had just died, I had a week off school for all the formalities and stuff, but I didn't really have... that much to do, before the funeral." A lopsided, humorless smile appears on Eijirou's face. "I was trying to watch TV, but the commercials kept playing, and I sort of just sat there... And mom, mom was a super cheerful person, you know? She would always smile, no matter what. Even then, when she must've been hurting the most, she was keeping it together for me. She brought out my hero DVDs, and started asking all these questions as they played - before I realized it, I ate all the food on the coffee table. I didn't even notice she put something there. And that was when grandma showed up."
Eijirou gulps, licking his lips nervously. Something tells Katsuki that he should already start counting backwards in his head. Deep breaths, and think of Mount Fuji.
"She waltzes in and starts yelling all that awful stuff... That mom is a bad wife, that she should be grieving, that she should keep me away from this hero nonsense, since that's what got dad killed... That she's not raising me properly."
It's not fucking working.
"What did your mom say?" Katsuki manages to ask through the anger threatening to choke him. Ssshh, goes Eijirou, stroking Katsuki's wrist again. "She said, I could just let myself fall into despair, but what good would that do? I would only be hurting myself and my son. Who's going to show him that life goes on, if not me? So I'm going to be happy; with what we have, and what my darling left us."
Katsuki could swear that for a moment, he saw a different face overlaying Eijirou's; a bit rounder, with longer hair, but alike. He shakes his head; he doesn't know what Eijirou's mom looked like. It's just imagination.
"Then, grandma called her a heartless monster, and informed us that her son would be buried at their family plot. So, we got disinherited, you could say."
"She wasn't, Katsuki declares strongly, grabbing Eijirou's hand despite the pain shooting up his arm. As long as he still has skin on his palms, this is nothing. "Your mom. She wasn't heartless. She was just pragmatic. And strong."
It's a real smile this time, bright and warm. "You get it. And when dad's family ignored us, she kept her word - we were happy. She always said she didn't regret anything. I wish you could've met her."
"I kind of have, haven't I? I mean... " The trees lining the road suddenly seem like the most interesting thing in the word; it's not like Katsuki is looking away, or trying to hide his face. It's not. "She sounds a lot like you - Fuck, ouch, not this arm! Don't hang off me, idiot!"
It takes two scandalized cemetery goers and ten more minutes before they reach their destination, half of the time Katsuki spends adjusting his ruined tie. The spot is remote, nestled among greenery at the end of a branched off path. Despite the tranquility of the place, Katsuki's heart starts hammering away in his ears again, so loud he misses Eijirou introducing him as he lays down his bouquet.
"... I told you about him before. He's got something important to tell you. He's a bit skittish, so look at him kindly, okay?"
"Fuck off, I'm not skittish! Don't distract me!"
Eijirou bends down close to the stone and in a scenic whisper adds, "He's totally skittish." He's lucky Katsuki loves him.
"Yeah, I am!" Eijirou chirps, moving off to the side; fuck, did Katsuki just say that out loud? That's it, he's getting this over with right now.
He faces the simple, elegant grave, straightening out his posture. Eijirou hangs back; a quiet, comforting presence. Katsuki doesn't think he could do this alone; but that's why Eijirou was there, right? And he wasn't going anywhere.
"I'm Bakugou Katsuki. Eijirou and I will be getting married. I don't look like it, but... I'm going to take care of him properly . We will become the best heroes out there and make you proud. I promise."
The words come out awkward, crude; wrong, all wrong. As if to highlight how horribly bad he did, fuck, he can't even do this much, a small leaf flutters down from the tree above and plasters itself to his sweat-slick forehead. He's about to brush it off when Eijirou calls out, "I think - I think she accepted you!"
"What the fuck are you saying -"
"No, look!" Eijirou points at the grave, running his fingers over the single kanji making up his late mother's name. "That tree, that's a maple - look! She would always pat my head - or maybe that was a forehead kiss?"
Still unsure what the fuck Eijirou's going on about, Katsuki squints at the inscription. The characters read: Kirishima Kaede.
It might've been the wind, it might've been anything, but Katsuki still digs out a tissue - thankfully, one he hasn't sweated through, thank fuck for small mercies - and wraps up the leaf carefully before putting it in his pocket.
The time until their train is running out, as are the corners of the local park they haven't traversed yet; it's long past when Katsuki could pretend, even to himself, that he's not stalling. Eijirou is either playing dumb, or convinced that Katsuki dressed up for his mom; not entirely wrong, but... Oh, damn it all to fucking hell, he's done this once before, hasn't he? He promised to do it right, or whatever fucking version of right he can muster up. Eijirou deserves it.
He's going to do it right now, for fuck's sakes.
"Wait." He stops in the middle of the path, digging into his pocket and grabbing onto Eijirou's sleeve. As he spots the box in his hand, Eijirou's mouth forms an O. "Woah - is that now?"
No. No, no, no.
Katsuki fucking wishes it was now. Katsuki wishes, because his stupid, fucked up fingers can't get the fucking box open. Tears of frustration well up in his eyes, stinging and blurring his vision. He nearly jumps when Eijirou gently, but decisively pries the box out of his hands. He pops it open effortlessly, taking out the ring with only a small, strangled sigh and hands both back to Katsuki separately.
"No hurting yourself for me, that's a rule. And babe, don't make that face, come on... Nothing's ruined, okay? There's no way I would think that. Just start again."
His tone is so fond the traitorous tears try to spill out again. Easy for you to say, Katsuki thinks bitterly.
"I really wanted," he chokes out, forcing himself to look into the ocean of warmth in Eijirou's eyes. Oddly enough, that helps, grounds him enough that he's no longer at risk of dropping the damn ring from shaking too much. His throat opens up, just enough for the words to come out. "I really wanted to do this perfectly. It was supposed to be rehearsed, fucking beautiful, but no matter how hard I tried... No matter how long I thought about it, I couldn't find the right words to tell you how much you mean to me. Because, you..."
Katsuki exhales shakily; Eijirou nods at him encouragingly with a small, patient smile.
"You trusted me when no one believed I had a future. When they wondered if I could even love someone, you said that you knew... I don't know what I did to deserve you, but I think the best thing I've ever done was taking your hand that day. I'd do it all over again, I always will. So..." Ignoring the burns on his bandaged palms, he holds up Eijirou's hand in one, the ring in the other, hovering just a hair off Eijirou's ring finger. "Will you take mine?"
"Yes." Dazedly, Katsuki thinks that he's never seen anything brighter, anything more beautiful, than Eijirou's smile at that moment; the sun was just a piss poor copy. "Yes, of course yes - will you slip it on already!"
The ring slides on effortlessly; a perfect fit, true to the measurement Katsuki took one of the times Eijirou fell asleep on him. Eijirou is staring at it, love struck expression on his face; the pang of jealousy Katsuki feels may be a bit irrational, but come on, who was the main focus here, a piece of metal, or -
Without warning, Eijirou grabs his face and kisses him right on the lips with such heat and verve Katsuki's head spins. Distantly, he hears some clapping and cheers; were there people watching? But there are Eijirou's hands, holding him like a most precious treasure, there's Eijirou kissing him with enough love and affection to drown out the voice in his head saying he's not worthy of any of it. Let them stare.
Note: The name Kaede, in Japanese, means maple.
Edit: As I've mentioned before, Bakugou's Super Secret Intenrship Mission will be getting it's own, long fic (possibly longer than this one) where everything will be adequately explained - the idea developed as I was writing, but the plot should start much earlier, so it was impossible to combine them without mudding everything up with ten thousand flashbacks. As both plot threads are dear to me, I decided to give proper focus to each one; which, technically, makes this story still incomplete... I hope I can interest you in coming back for the other half of it! It will focus more on plot, friendships and Bakugou's hero career, but kiribaku will still be present and important.