“And when I reached the ocean
There were a thousand ships of war
And the lake was frozen in a lightning flash
I was struck by seasickness
Living on a tiny island
Took advantage of it
Set it free
I set it free
I set it fre-”
The first thing he hears is the droning of the fan, its blades cutting through the smoke that’s drifting upwards from his hands, which are resting (thankfully) palms up over the blankets kicked aside during the night. It’s happening again, he thinks, and before his eyes have focused, he pulls himself up from his bed and into his room’s adjoining bathroom. Turns the light on; and then he finally fixes his gaze on his sparking, smoking appendages.
Bakugou Katsuki stares at the new blister on one of his palms. It’s bright pink against the less vivid network of more or less healed scars, which he got after — well, when — his explosive power left him, something which then happened to everyone else who’d had a Quirk five years ago. That’s the official line: As mysteriously as those supernatural Quirks had first appeared in the world, they seemed to shut off overnight, and now the world was still in the midst of adjusting back to a pre-Quirk stasis. Except that this was the third time this week that Bakugou had dreamed disturbing visions of endless fire and ash, and a familiar figure calling and reaching out to him, and then awakened to hands that thrummed with the power (however faint) that, even five years out, felt like another kind of blood rushing through his body.
Shakily, he steadies himself on his sink and fixes his gaze on his reflection. Red eyes, naturally so and bloodshot from the “sleep” that hasn’t come easily for him in years, and faint traces of black, from what? He hasn’t worn eyeliner in ages. No; it’s ash, maybe from when he touched his face while he was sleeping.
Bakugou breathes deeply. Then, he wills himself to make a spark. But no matter how much he focuses on his hands, the only remnant of his once-Quirk is the smoke dissipating through the apartment.
To no one in particular, he growls, “What the fucking fuck.”
“-shima, run!” The voice is urgent, and the man in question pushes himself harder in response, grunting involuntarily as he suddenly switches into a slide. He immediately regrets the move; the dirt of the old field is pebbled throughout, and given the intensity of the slide, a few of the rocks are sharp enough to leave thin trails of blood on his shin.
But he’s safe. The umpire makes the call, and Kirishima Eijirou stands up in triumph. A narrow victory for the Red Team! He beams as his students in the crowd shout out to him from the stands: “Senpai, you were awesome!” “Senpai, you should be a baseball player!"
It’s only later, as he locks up his classroom after chatting with the other teachers — “Seriously man, you should’ve tried to become a pro,” says the principal/umpire who oversaw the staff exhibition game — and giving high fives to the students filtering out of the building — “Seriously man, you’re the coolest teacher in history” (clever!, his subject) — that he ducks down to carefully raise his pant hem.
The bandages were overkill, courtesy of the school nurse who kept lingering and batting her lashes over him. He runs a hand over the white cloth and imagines the thin lacerations underneath. In another life, he would’ve just hardened the skin there
but instead he’s teaching fifth grade history to kids who were born into a world where their Quirks never really materialized. In the silence of the cleared out hallway, Kirishima balls a hand into a fist and fruitlessly punches the floor.
“Did you do it yet,” Todoroki asks in a blank voice, but his mouth is pulled down into an almost-frown. Kirishima groans and slumps on his side of the booth, his ponytail fanning behind his head like a peacock’s tail. “No, I didn’t,” he finally sighs, “I just… don’t know how to bring it up. Like, ‘Hey bro, I know shit hit the fan a while back, but do you want to see me bright and early every morning of your future working life?’ Yeah, that’ll work really well.”
Since the Revision, the terrible government-approved name for the whole Quirks disappearing thing, the most infamous Yuuei class had drifted apart. Whereas before, hero work would keep people in somewhat close contact with each other, the occasions to meet and catch up began to fall into more unpredictable patterns. Many people moved out of Tokyo, no longer tied to the rigid agency infrastructure and rules demanded by the government.
There were exceptions, of course. Uraraka and Asui were roommates now, the former working as a (naturally, beloved) teacher at the neighborhood dojo and the latter, whose body now more or less functioned and appeared as a normal human woman’s, acting as a lifeguard and swim coach at the city pool. Yaoyorozu was working on her, like, tenth PhD. Midoriya and Todoroki were living together now too, and on top of Midoriya’s librarian and Todoroki’s med school work, both were volunteer firefighters. (Something no one, not even Kaminari, joked about to Endeavor’s son.)
Kaminari, Jirou, and Sero had opened up a venue space near the local university. When Tokoyami’s metal band came into town a few months back, they’d hosted the show (with Ashido manning the graciously open bar), and almost all of Class 1-A reunited to catch up and enjoy the still quite goth man’s, uh, passionate screaming.
Kirishima couldn’t quite get himself to rock out, but he remembers the only other time he’d seen Tokoyami’s show. It had been maybe a year pre-Revision; Bakugou had still been around regularly, and he’d really relished the music, even almost dressed up for the occasion (Kirishima swallows hard, remembering the shock and… something else at seeing the scowling man in tight black jeans and carefully smudged eyeliner)
but now Bakugou only sporadically appears in town, almost always without warning and only for a day or two. Everybody had taken the loss of their Quirks hard, but some of them…
Kirishima thinks back to his last pre-Revision fight with Bakugou. They’d been arguing about a mission that’d gone badly but ended triumphantly; when Kirishima was finally released from the hospital, Bakugou had been waiting at his apartment. The two had fallen into a familiar pattern: Bakugou seethed at Kirishima’s bullheadedness and seeming inability to keep himself out of danger, while Kirishima deflected his friend’s literally explosive nature.
At the peak of his lecturing, Bakugou had let off a modest explosion from his hands, and then Kirishima brought up his own to counter, Quirk activated, and then the blonde had just ripped
“Hello? Earth to Red Riot?” Ashido snaps her still lightly pink-tinged fingers in front of Kirishima’s face, her still mostly black eyes staring into his. “You know, I promised my cousin that we knew someone who’d be perfect to sub in as a chem teacher, but if you don’t get Baku to apply, she’s gonna fill that spot with someone who actually has a teaching degree and lives in one place and doesn’t just, you know, know this science stuff…” she waves her mostly empty glass around for emphasis, “in his bones or whatever.”
“Eiji, bro,” Kaminari drawls, sucking on the straw of… How many drinks had he slammed back in the past hour?, Kirishima wonders. “You gotta man up and tell Baku to slam the brakes and get a real fucking job. How long is he gonna keep riding around like a hateful, gas-guzzling ronin while you struggle and wait for his ass to finally accept, like, everything?”
Kirishima barks out an uncomfortable laugh. “Man, you’re on one. I’m not struggling! I carried our staff baseball team to victory and now I’m definitely gonna get Teacher of the Year.” He can feel his friends’ eye rolls at his response (which pointedly ignored most of Kaminari’s actual question), but he doesn’t want to poke the unsettling feeling that comes up when he thinks of Bakugou. “Mina, when’s the like, absolute last day you can get your cousin to hold up on a new hire?”
“Kirishima…” Midoriya hesitates, his hands fidgeting with his glass (of seltzer, of course). “Are you sure you want to do this? Are you sure Kacchan would even want to do this? Because it’s probably not good to deprive these students of their education, after all these ‘traditional’ subjects are back to being the foundation of all future studies and occupations they might want to pursue, and maybe if you-” He peters out as he falls into a full mumble.
“Damn, Deku,” Kaminari mutters, and almost everyone else at the table snorts a little. Todoroki rubs Midoriya’s shoulder in comfort. “He would be right,” Ashido interjects, “Except that we all know Bakugou is a frickin genius when it comes to science-y stuff-” (“Debatable,” Yaoyorozu murmurs; Kirishima’s pretty sure he’s the only one who catches her) “-and more importantly, he’s our friend, and he needs a real respectable job and to just chill, and Kirishima is still the only one who can get his ass to do anything. Sero, Kaminari, preemptively: Shut up.”
“You know,” Uraraka muses, finger curled around a lock of Asui’s hair, “Even if he says no to the teaching gig, which would be in-character to say the least, he could at least do some part-time work at the dojo. He’s still fit as shit.” The last line is said as an aside, and Uraraka immediately shoots Kirishima a guilty look and mouths, Sorry.
“Look,” Kirishima sighs, tapping the side of his drink, “I’ll ring him, again, in the morning and, if he picks up, I’ll ask him, okay? But he hasn’t been answering my messages, and I don’t want to seem like, desperate to talk to him.”
Even Todoroki can’t wipe the combo expression of skepticism/pity off of his face when everyone turns to Kirishima. “Oh, honey,” Yaoyorozu reaches across the table to gently pat Kirishima’s hand, “When was the last time you, you know…” The awkward pause holds; in the corner of Kirishima’s eye, Jirou mimes jerking off, which does make him laugh a little.
“You guys!” Kirishima is nearly as red as his drink now, “Come on, that never happened, and, it… It’s not…” Shit, am I turning into Deku?, he wonders, But then Bakugou would somehow hate me even more…
“Y’all, stop.” Ashido slams her palm on the table. “Eiji, sorry about bumming you out, but you’ve been… distracted the last couple of times we’ve gone out together. We just want to make sure you’re okay, which means making sure that Bakugou is okay, but we know that’s kind of a sore spot right now. Just…” She sighs and gently paps Kirishima’s head. “Know that we worry about you, and that you can trust us with your feelings and stuff. Yeah?”
Kirishima’s heart swells, both in love from his friends’ concern and in a strained tightness from the memory, known only to him, of his last conversation with the rogue blonde. “I…” He swallows, then plasters on a smile. Get it together, man. “You’re being nicer than I deserve,” he chirps, and then he pulls out his wallet. “Next round’s on me — even you, Deku,” Kirishima says as he brandishes a chiding finger in front of Midoriya’s face.
“Fuck yes, Kirismashed is coming out tonight!” Sero cheers. (“Dude,” Jirou mutters, “That’s a terrible nickname.”) The rest of the table lets out whoops and whorls of laughter, but as Kirishima scoots his way out of the booth, he listens for a particular scruffy, bass cackle. With his back to his friends, Kirishima lets his smile fall.
“Dude, if we got our Quirks back, the first thing I’d do is make Kaminari charge my phone,” Ashido mumbles, her hand pulling at the hem of her dress. “How did I go down to 3% from 71% in three hours! What gives, electronics gods?” She shakes her fist at the night sky, her other arm draped across Sero’s shoulders.
“What the fuck,” Kaminari responds, “That’s what gets you going? Even without my powers, I’m still,” and here he goes with the finger guns, “electric.”
Jirou punches him in the arm, and Kirishima lets out a full laugh. It’s good to be around his former classmates, and as he links arms with Uraraka and Asui, he lets himself sink into the fuzziness of the love in his heart and the alcohol in his veins.
“Eiji,” Uraraka giggles, “You’re so cute, it’s really not… fair...” Her voice trails off, and Asui grunts in some kind of agreement, but her big eyes dart to Uraraka’s face, and then Kirishima’s. “Ochako, don’t… kero,” she suddenly hiccups, which makes Uraraka giggle again.
Kirishima laughs along too, but hugs the two women’s arms closer to his body to stop his shivering, which is definitely only because of the cold. “C’mon, it’s not… I’m doing alright, really.” He fights down his own hiccups and offers, “My horoscope this week says that big changes are on the way, for like, everything! My job, my love… life…”
Yaoyorozu turns around to say, “Horoscope? You’re into astrology?” With that, everyone slows down to keep pace with Kirishima; even Todoroki seems to be turning his head to listen in.
Kirishima blushes. “It’s not, like, that I believe it!” he protests, unwinding his arms to hold his palms out in appeasement. “I just… Mina got me into it!” and he points at her accusingly.
“Eiji,” Ashido groans, “You remember why you were asking me about it, right? I don’t mean to be a broken record but,” she sighs, “You keep bringing him up…”
That’s right. Kirishima wants to smack himself; he’d only “gotten into” Western astrology in their senior year after he overheard Ashido talking about different kinds of foreign love fortunes to a gaggle of underclassmen. He’d then pulled her aside and asked about advice for when and how he should confess. To, well, You know, he thinks to himself. And you know how that went.
“Hey.” Asui shakes Kirishima’s shoulder gently. “You don’t have to talk about it, but,” and she fixes her gaze firmly on his, “You shouldn’t just not talk about it, kero. That’s not, kero, going to help you in any way, no matter what – kero – happens in the future between you and him.”
“And,” Yaoyorozu places her hand on his other shoulder, “If there’s anyone you should be able to talk to, it’s us. Obviously, your relationship is your relationship-”
“It’s not a relationship,” Kirishima mutters, “And you don’t know… You weren’t there when he lost it. His Quirk. It just…” He shakes his friends off his shoulders and shoves his hands into his pockets. “It messed him up." It messed everything up. I messed everything up.
No one speaks for a while, until
“Kacchan isn’t blameless.” Everyone turns to Midoriya, who’s staring at the ground while rocking back and forth on his heels. He sighs, a long puff into the winter night. “Kirishima, I know… No one knows him like you do. But we all knew what happened, during senior year, then when we first started working as pro heroes, and then when the Revision happened…” He lifts his eyes to Kirishima’s. “You were only ever honest and upfront and sincere with him, and his failure to understand why you might want to be that way and how he should treat one of the most important people in his life, especially through conflict and pain, is his fault, not yours. It’s not your problem that he keeps chasing an impossible and ill-advised future, when everyone else has more or less figured it out.”
He blinks owlishly, then stammers, “N-not that, you know, it’s on him to have to react a certain way, or whatever! Just, it’s easy…” And here he softens his tone. “…to lose sight of the people important to you, during these times. But it doesn't make you selfish or a bad... friend, if you want to take care of yourself, Kirishima, and you shouldn’t f-feel guilty or, um, whatever…”
The only sound, for a while, is of the wind stirring the frozen world; the remnants of 1-A hold their breath, and Kirishima feels the ache he’d been burying all night threaten to climb out of his chest and drag him into the center of the earth. He screws his eyes shut and conjures his last memory of Bakugou: That broad back turning away from him at Kirishima’s doorstep, his low voice intoning flatly, “Well, I guess I’ll see you when I see you, again.”
“Don’t you know,” Kirishima whispers, emboldened by the drinking and the cold snap of winter and the bitter feeling that, if he's feeling really honest, has been hounding him for years and is now nipping at his heels, “That we’re at the start of our Saturn return?” He sees Ashido open her mouth, probably to explain, but she closes it again. Everyone is waiting for him.
“It’s like,” he continues softly, stretching his hands up toward the full moon, “The time in our lives when things… settle. All the shit settles, and we like… level up. As people. As adults. Saturn completes its revolution around the sun, and we get what’s coming to us.”
He pauses and laughs acidly, “Which is all good, right? After all that’s happened, don’t we… shouldn’t we…” None of his former classmates can meet his eyes, which are starting to fill with tears. But hey, even manly men are allowed to mourn the things that… That what? That were supposed to happen? As though every time he’d tried to follow his heart, he hadn’t instead shredded it to pieces-
Suddenly: “What is he doing here?” Jirou barks, and a beat after, they all hear, and finally see it. Bakugou’s bike, glittering black and chrome and dark, bloody red, screeches around the corner. As soon as it stops, its rider unceremoniously leaps off and bellows, “YOU FUCKS, I’VE GOT NEWS.”