Bakugou woke suddenly just before dawn to a rustling sound in his camp. His eyes opened just enough to take in the dying embers of his fire and the figure bent over his saddlebags, rummaging through them. Bakugou glanced toward where he’d tied his horse, only to find the animal gone. He grimaced; he’d traded one of the dragon teeth from his trophy necklaces for that horse. Bakugou shrugged off the red cape and white fur mantle that doubled as his blanket and rolled to his feet, silent as he watched the intruder straighten and turn toward him, a triumphant noise passing the thief’s lips the instant before their gaze landed on Bakugou’s crouched form across the fire. Bakugou caught a glimpse of wild red hair and a wide-eyed look of surprise and fear and smirked, teeth flashing in the dim firelight. The thief yelped and turned to run, but Bakugou was faster. He lunged over the embers and slammed his shoulder into the thief’s back, sending him tumbling over Bakugou’s bags with a cry of shock and fear. Bakugou crouched over the fallen intruder and placed his knee between his shoulders, putting enough of his weight into it to keep him from trying to escape. He seized the thief’s arms and wrenched them behind his back as he tried to squirm, only to cry out as he twisted one harshly.
“Hold the fuck still, or I’ll break your fucking arm,” Bakugou growled. The thief went limp, breath coming in sharp gasps as he struggled through terror and Bakugou’s weight to breathe. Bakugou scowled and muttered, “What were you even after, you…” Bakugou trailed off when he noticed that the thief appeared to have dropped something - or several somethings - that he’d gotten out of Bakugou’s bags and then lost in his haste to escape. Bakugou’s trophy necklaces were laying in a tangled heap near the thief’s head. Bakugou shifted his grip, holding both of the thief’s wrists in one hand, and reached out to snatch up his trophies with the other. “Did you seriously fucking think you could steal those and get away?” Bakugou hissed. “Do you know how many dragons I had to fight to get all of those?” A shudder ran through the thief’s body, and he lifted his head just enough to glare at Bakugou, sharp teeth glinting in the low light as he bared them in a show of defiance that almost impressed Bakugou.
“I know exactly how many dragons you killed to get those,” the thief snapped, his eyes shining crimson for a second. Bakugou tensed, unnerved despite himself. Bakugou was still, silent for a moment. Then his expression shifted, becoming a little confused.
“You’re shit at fighting. How have you survived?” Bakugou grumbled. The thief didn’t answer. Instead, his skin rippled, gaining a rough, hard texture for a second. It distracted Bakugou just enough that the thief managed to squirm halfway free before Bakugou pinned him again. “Fucking hold still, you’re not gonna get away from me.”
“Then just kill me and get it over with!” the thief snapped, glaring over his shoulder at Bakugou again. Bakugou considered it. He really did. But there was the fact that this thief had managed to get into Bakugou’s camp without waking him up, and he did seem to have some intense determination underneath his frightened squirming.
“There’s no fun in beating someone who can’t fight for shit,” Bakugou complained, making sure he’d reclaimed all of his trophies before he lifted his weight from the thief’s back and stood. “Learn how to actually fucking fight before you start taking people’s shit.” The thief scrambled to his feet and turned to face Bakugou, attention darting from the teeth dangling from the necklaces in his hand to Bakugou’s face and back again.
“If I’m so bad at fighting, why don’t you teach me?” the thief demanded. Bakugou snorted. Him, teaching this thief how to- The thief took advantage of Bakugou’s momentary distraction and lunged, making a grab for the necklaces. Okay, at least the guy had some intelligence. Bakugou grabbed his wrist easily and twisted, stepping toward the thief and pinning him against Bakugou’s chest, one arm twisted behind his back as he glared at Bakugou, who held him easily and shook his head over the thief’s antics.
“I don’t even know your fucking name. Why should I train you when you’ll just fucking use it to steal my damn trophies and then galavant the fuck off?” Bakugou growled.
“Because I scared your horse away and you need someone to help you carry all your stuff?” the thief replied. Bakugou resisted the urge to glare in the direction his horse was supposed to be in.
“You know what? You’re right. You do owe me a horse. So you’re gonna be my horse and carry all my shit until I can get a new one. Just remember I can kick your ass if you try to steal my shit again,” Bakugou warned. The thief nodded seriously, then beamed like Bakugou wasn’t considering just killing him and saving himself the trouble.
“Deal! I’m Kirishima! Happy to be traveling with you!”
“Wipe that fucking grin off your face and pick up the bags,” Bakugou snapped. Kirishima blinked.
“You mean...we’re heading out now?” he asked. “But the sun isn’t even up!”
“Too fucking bad! You’re the asshat who woke me up!”
“I wasn’t trying to!” Kirishima whined. Bakugou shrugged and looped his necklaces around his neck, then picked up his bags and shoved them into Kirishima’s arms.
“Like I said. Too. Fucking. Bad,” Bakugou growled. “I’m awake so I’m ready to get the fuck on the road.” Kirishima pouted at him, or tried to, but ended up just grimacing at the weight of the packs.
“What do you even have in here? Rocks?” Kirishima complained as Bakugou went back to where he’d been sleeping, dusted off his cape, and slung it around his shoulders.
“No, but that’s a goddamn good idea. Make you carry a fuckton of rocks to build up your skinny as shit ass,” Bakugou replied.
“Don’t you even eat breakfast?” Kirishima tried one last time to delay their departure.
“Usually, yeah. But some shithead trying to snatch my fucking trophies kinda killed my fucking appetite,” Bakugou snapped as he stomped out the last few embers of his fire and then kicked dirt over the smoldering remains. He cast one more glare over Kirishima, then added, “The packs are fucking heavy cause they’ve got supplies and my weapons in them. Don’t fucking touch anything or I’ll kill you.” With that, Bakugou turned and started walking away from his temporary camp. Kirishima shared at him for a second, then groaned and slung the saddlebags over his shoulder in an attempt to make them easier to carry.
Kirishima really, really just wanted to kick this arrogant human’s ass, but his goal was more important. Those teeth were more important. Besides, he did need to get stronger, since Bakugou had beaten him so easily. Kirishima settled the saddlebags a little more comfortably and hurried after Bakugou.
He’d bide his time for now, get what he could out of traveling with Bakugou, and then when he had a chance to reclaim the teeth, he’d take it and leave this pesky human behind.
Since I got such an awesome response, I had to go ahead and post the next chapter even though I wasn't planning to even write it before Kaminari Week ended.
Bakugou had four necklaces. One was a simple string with three gray dragon teeth - decent sized, and just slightly different shades of gray, meaning the dragons they had been taken from were roughly the same age and coloring, but all three were from different dragons. It was the longest necklace, and then one that bumped Kirishima’s chin as Bakugou leaned over him.
The shortest one was orange, with five teeth, and decorated with beads that were almost the same shade of orange as the teeth. Again, if he looked closely, Kirishima could see that all of the teeth were from different dragons.
The third necklace had three blue-gray teeth, larger than any of the others, obviously from larger - older - dragons. The beads on that necklace were gray and black, more decorative, as befitted the trophies of what had to be a more difficult kill. Those were all the same shade and size, however, so Kirishima was reasonably sure that they came from just one dragon.
But it was the fourth necklace, the red one, with small crimson beads and three different teeth - different shades, different sizes, different dragons - in the center, that was the one that caught and held Kirishima’s attention. The red of the middle fang was just slightly darker than the shade of Kirishima’s hair, and the tiny, bright beads hung above his eyes like drops of blood about to fall on his cheek.
Kirishima couldn’t take his eyes off of that necklace, couldn’t make his body move even though he should be trying to break out of Bakugou’s hold, not just laying on the ground letting himself be pinned. He should be focusing on getting stronger, learning the fighting techniques Bakugou was trying to teach him - or, more accurately, beat into him, considering Bakugou had decided about a week ago that carrying saddlebags all day for three days was enough to wear him down so he wouldn’t try to steal the necklaces and would be receptive to Bakugou grouchily trying to teach him.
And he was. He really was. In the week and a half since he’d completely failed to steal Bakugou’s necklaces, he’d done everything Bakugou said, because he wanted to learn, he needed to get stronger, but...
Kirishima squeezed his eyes shut, but visions of more dragon teeth, images of what the dragons they came from might have looked like, danced on the back of his eyelids. Those red teeth were so, so small, and the dragons they came from must have been-
“The fuck is wrong with you?” Bakugou’s voice and a harsh grip on his chin brought him back to reality. Kirishima’s eyes flew open, and he drew in a ragged breath - which wasn’t made any smoother by Bakugou’s knee on his chest, or the fact that his hands were pinned uncomfortably over his head by Bakugou’s other hand - as he forced his attention to Bakugou’s face instead of his neck and chest.
“Nothing. Let me up and let’s go again,” Kirishima insisted, tugging uselessly at Bakugou’s grip on his wrists. Bakugou didn’t move, an unimpressed look pressing his lips together. Kirishima managed what was supposed to be a growl but came out too weak and unsure to really be called more than a groan. “What do you even do when you’re not killing dragons, anyway?” Kirishima had learned very quickly that asking questions about Bakugou was the quickest way to get one of two results. Either Bakugou shut him down and made dinner for them both for the night before going to sleep and managing to snore angrily, or he insisted on another round of sparring, also known as Bakugou trying to beat some combat skill into Kirishima’s head. Bakugou scowled, released Kirishima’s wrists, and dug his knee into his ribs one last time as he stood.
“Stand the fuck up. And this time when I punch you, try not to double over like a fucking idiot. You’re supposed to be avoiding my fist, not absorbing it through your goddamned stomach,” Bakugou growled, taking a few steps back and sinking into his favorite half-crouched stance that Kirishima was learning was a sign that Bakugou was more eager than usual to beat someone up. Kirishima grimaced to himself, then settled into his own stance, which was the only thing Bakugou had tried to teach him so far that Kirishima had actually mastered.
So Kirishima stood with his knees slightly bent, his arms up and ready to block a blow, his fingers curled into fists so he hopefully wouldn’t break any of his fingers if he fell or got hit wrong, and tried to watch Bakugou’s body language instead of, you know, his body. Well, the necklaces on his body were what Kirishima was distracted by. Definitely not the fact that Bakugou always fought without even his usual cape to cover his bare, muscular torso, and Kirishima had always had an appreciation for humans that his clan said would get him killed one day.
“Pay fucking attention!” Bakugou roared as he threw himself at Kirishima, who was completely caught off guard. Kirishima stumbled backwards as Bakugou’s fist flew toward his face instead of his stomach for once, and his arms came up a little higher to take the blow.
He knew it would hurt.
In a fraction of a second, Bakugou’s fist was going to make contact with his forearms and probably send them back into his own face with the force of the blow and Kirishima would probably end up with a bloody nose like he had the first night Bakugou had started training him.
Instead, he felt the pressure of the blow, but no pain. Instead, Bakugou drew back with a hiss of surprise and discomfort, his eyes narrowed into furious slits as he put distance between them. Kirishima hesitated, reluctant to lower his arms in case this was some kind of training exercise - never let your guard down, both his clan and Bakugou had chanted at him at various points - until Bakugou spoke.
“What the actual goddamn hell fucking hellshit is that?” Bakugou snapped. Kirishima blinked, confused, and then focused on his forearms, where his skin was rippling, rough, a regular rigid texture showing like something was pressing up beneath his skin to shield him. Kirishima’s whole body went tense. Terror shot through him, sharp and bitter enough to make the strange texture on his arms vanish.
“It’s nothing,” Kirishima blurted out, putting his hands behind his back like that would make Bakugou forget what he’d seen just because Kirishima’s forearms weren’t in his direct line of sight anymore. Bakugou’s eyes narrowed, and Kirishima knew he’d ruined it. He’d forgotten that he had to consciously not use his-
“What the fuck did you do to get cursed like that?” Bakugou demanded. “Or is that some kind of shitty protection spell that some asshead seriously fucked up?” Kirishima blinked. What? Cursed? Spell?
“What? No, my whole clan can-” Kirishima snapped his jaw shut. He shouldn’t say anything else. Bakugou’s gaze glinted in interest.
“So it’s an ability? Some kind of bloodline shit?”
“I...guess so?” Kirishima answered weakly.
“So you’ve got a fucking mage ancestor or some shit like that, right? But you can’t fucking control that creepy-ass skin thing, or you wouldn’t even fucking need to learn how to actually fight.” Bakugou’s words were still phrased like he was talking to Kirishima, but he seemed to be more convincing himself that his explanation was right.
“Something like that, yeah,” Kirishima agreed instead of correcting Bakugou, trying to pass his relief off as embarrassment by turning away.
“Then we’ll fucking find a way to train that, too,” Bakugou decided. Kirishima froze.
“What?” This was bad, very bad, because now he’d have to figure out what Bakugou expected from his creepy-ass skin thing, based on Bakugou’s assumptions of what it was.
“Yeah. That could be strong as fuck even if it is creepy as hell,” Bakugou replied. “You could even back me up on jobs or hunts with something like that.”
Kirishima absolutely did not want to go on a hunt with Bakugou.
Kirishima’s gaze settled on Bakugou’s chest, where the trophy necklaces hung. Kirishima closed his eyes, swallowed his misgivings and his fear and the truth about what had happened with his arms. When he opened his eyes, he met Bakugou’s squarely.
“All right. What do I have to do?” Kirishima asked. Bakugou’s mouth twisted into an expression that was half smirk and half grin.
“First, learn how to fight like you’re fucking supposed to be doing,” Bakugou answered. “I need to figure out how the fuck to trigger that damn skin thing and how you’re supposed to actually control its ass.”
Kirishima took a steadying breath, eased into his stance, and fixed his attention on Bakugou.
He could do this.
He had to.
When Kirishima spoke next, his tone left no room for argument or second thoughts from either of them.
A weird smell had been bothering Kirishima all day. It was like, every time the breeze shifted to carry the air from behind them, it carried a new scent with it. There was sweat - Kirishima was uncomfortably familiar with the smell of human sweat from the last few weeks traveling and training with Bakugou - and a hint of copper that threw him off. It was almost like blood, but stale somehow, or maybe just more metallic, less organic?
Kirishima shook his head and exhaled sharply through his nose, then slowly inhaled, trying to clear it to get a better handle on that smell.
“The fuck are you doing snorting over there? You’re not actually a fucking horse, you goddamned idiot,” Bakugou complained, pausing and turning to scowl at Kirishima.
“Don’t you smell that?” Kirishima had been dying to ask Bakugou all day, but he hadn’t wanted to stop traveling in case Bakugou decided to pause and investigate. They were supposed to be reaching a town soon - well, they’d passed through several towns, but this one Bakugou had declared ‘big enough,’ though he hadn’t said what it was big enough for.
“Smell what, your lazy ass trying to put off sparring tonight?” Bakugou snapped. Kirishima shook his head, deciding that now that Bakugou had stopped anyway, he should probably take the time to sort out that stupid smell. Kirishima turned in the direction the smell was coming from, closing his eyes to try to focus on the scent. “What the fuck are you- Get down!” Bakugou shouted, seizing Kirishima’s shoulder and yanking him off balance. Kirishima yelped as he fell, dropping the bags he was carrying and landing on his back. Kirishima groaned and rolled onto his side to glare up at Bakugou, who was crouched over him.
“What was that for?” Kirishima complained. Bakugou leaned to one side, and Kirishima glanced past him, eyes widening as he took in the arrow that was embedded in the dirt just beyond Bakugou. “Where did that come from?” he squeaked.
“The local fucking welcoming committee,” Bakugou sneered. “Goddamn bandits, fuckers always relying on shitty ambushes instead of actually fighting face to face,” he grumbled as he leaned forward, resting one hand on the ground and tossing his cape to the side with the other, revealing the hilt of the curved sword he carried. One smooth pull, and the weapon was unsheathed and glinting in the sunlight just in time to deflect another arrow. “Their archer is fucking shit,” Bakugou added, like he was insulted by the bandits’ incompetency.
“What do we do?” Kirishima regretted the question as soon as it was out of his mouth.
“Charge them. Try not to fall and die, shitty thief,” Bakugou growled, teeth bared and eyes lighting with anticipation. Kirishima gulped, but didn’t have a chance to reply because Bakugou straightened from his crouch and stalked around Kirishima, who still lay on the ground. Bakugou didn’t get far from Kirishima before a group of strangers emerged from the trees along the road. Kirishima counted four, plus the archer made five. He scrambled to his feet as the smell that had been bothering him all day swelled, nearly overwhelming him - sweat and metal from the bandits and their weapons, plus that stale-blood smell that he recognized now, the same stench of death that hung around the places his clan members had died, the smell that meant that the blood soaked into the ground and the aura of those who lived to kill - and Kirishima staggered, then pulled the bandana he wore around his neck up over his nose to block at least a little of stench.
“Leave your belongings in the road and surrender, and we’ll-” The bandit who was probably the leader since he was the closest and also the only one talking broke off as Bakugou broke into a sprint, half-crouched to be a smaller target for the archer, sword gleaming with the same menacing light as Bakugou’s eyes as he closed in on the lead bandit.
“Like fuck we’d do that shit!” Bakugou spat as he reached the bandits, his sword singing through the air, only to have his first blow met with the bandit’s own weapon. Two more of the bandits moved to flank Bakugou, and Kirishima started forward, because three on one was just wrong - and anyway, he told himself, he couldn’t just let them kill the human, not if he wanted those necklaces back, and besides, he thought he was finally starting to get the hang of Bakugou’s training, and it would be a shame to let him die before Kirishima could properly protect himself - only for the last bandit to get between him and Bakugou. Kirishima lost track of what Bakugou was doing as he slid into the fight-ready stance he’d learned, and noted that the bandit was armed with a pair of long knives - too long for daggers, not long enough to be short swords - that Kirishima should probably avoid being cut by.
“Don’t even think about it,” the bandit warned, tossing his braid over his shoulder and shifting his grip on his knives. “It would be a shame if I had to gut you and ruin those lovely abs of yours.” Kirishima blinked, caught off guard, because was the bandit threatening him or hitting on him? Or...maybe both? In that instant, the bandit surged forward, one of the strange knives moving sideways, parallel to the ground, right at the level of Kirishima’s stomach. Kirishima shifted back, just barely avoiding the swipe as he brought his arms up to block an overhead blow from the second knife, his forearms hardening just a second too late - he’d spent too long trying to control what had been instinct once upon a time - and the blade bit into his arm.
Kirishima hissed, his skin hardening around the intrusion. The blade wasn’t deep enough to really do anything, and it had only caught one of his arms, but it hurt. He twisted away, and the bandit shouted in surprise as his blade stuck fast in Kirishima’s hardened skin and was yanked out of his hand. Kirishima yelped - he hadn’t expected that, either - and stumbled backwards one step too far. His heel caught the strap of one of the bags still laying in the road where he’d dropped them, and he went down with a cry of shock and sudden fear as the bandit leaned over him, still with one knife at the ready.
Kirishima braced himself - his foot was tangled in the strap, he couldn’t roll away, and with one arm injured already, he wasn’t sure he could block too many more blows - and his eyes squeezed shut automatically.
There was a swish, a thud, and Kirishima’s arms and face were sprayed with a fine, warm, metallic-scented mist. A strangled cry reached Kirishima’s ears, and he opened his eyes and lowered his uninjured arm just in time to see the bandit crumple to the ground as Bakugou removed his sword from the man’s midsection.
“Well, you didn’t fucking die, so that’s a half-shit better than I expected,” Bakugou announced, staring down at him. Kirishima’s eyes widened.
“Bakugou!” he cried, his words catching in his throat as the motion he’d noticed behind the human registered. Bakugou scowled, then roared and fell to one knee, one arrowhead protruding from his upper arm and another from his thigh. His sword clattered to the ground. Bakugou seized the knife from the fallen bandit with his good arm and twisted just enough to hurl the weapon in the direction the arrows had come from.
For several tense moments, there was only the sound of Bakugou’s harsh breathing and the sticky, sickly warmth of blood spreading and soaking the ground and Kirishima’s clothes.
When no more arrows came raining down on them, Kirishima assumed Bakugou had killed, injured, or scared off the archer, and probably the other bandits, too, so that was that problem solved.
His attention caught on Bakugou’s wounds, the arrows sticking out of him and an assortment of other bruises and scratches. The bandit problem was solved, but there was another one in front of him.
Kirishima glanced at his own wound, and his eyes widened in horror as he realized that he was bleeding. And since his blood was the same burning orange-gold of a flame instead of red like a human’s, that was two problems he needed to handle immediately.
For several excruciatingly long heartbeats, Kirishima was frozen in place, on his back, staring at Bakugou who was on one knee, hunched forward as his breath came in harsh, rattling gasps and his blood dripped onto Kirishima’s legs. Kirishima’s arm stung, and his heartbeat sped up at the thought that Bakugou would see his wound - and more importantly, the orange-gold blood leaking from it - and realize the truth about him.
Bakugou groaned and shifted onto his good side, his uninjured leg and arm taking his weight. The dragon tooth necklaces dangled from his neck, catching Kirishima's attention.
Bakugou was wounded. In pain. His mobility was seriously limited. Kirishima's wound was painful but not crippling the same way Bakugou’s were. That meant that for the moment, Kirishima was stronger. He could sit up, snatch the necklaces, take off and never look back. He could finish his mission, and Bakugou wouldn't be able to stop him.
Bakugou’s eyes fluttered shut, and he fell to the side with a growl that was partly pain but mostly fury - at himself, at the archer who might be dead and therefore immune to Bakugou's rage.
Bakugou tried to prop himself up and reach for one of his bags - Kirishima knew it was the one stocked with bandages and ointment for wounds - only for the movement to jostle the arrows lodged in his arm and thigh.
He'd taken those arrows because he'd been too focused on taking down the bandit trying to kill Kirishima to pay proper attention to his surroundings.
Kirishima couldn't leave him alone, injured, at the mercy of whoever came across the carnage that was all that remained of the bandits that had attacked them. That would be wrong, even if Bakugou was, well...Bakugou.
Kirishima pushed himself to his knees and settled himself next to Bakugou and the bag with the medical supplies. He'd tend to Bakugou's wounds - and his own - and then when he was sure he wouldn't be repaying Bakugou saving him by leaving him to die, but before he was back to full strength, Kirishima would take the necklaces and leave.
“The fuck are you doing?” Bakugou hissed, forcing one eye open to watch Kirishima pull bandages out of the bag and set them on top of it so they wouldn't get dirty before turning to eye Bakugou’s wounds.
“Helping you,” Kirishima answered shortly. “Now hold still, okay?”
“Fuck off, I don't shitting need any goddamned help from a shitty-” Bakugou broke off with a shriek as Kirishima broke off the head of the arrow sticking out of his arm, then yanked the arrow out and hastily slapped some of the bandage cloth around the wounded limb. Kirishima grimaced; it wasn't a tidy bandage, but it would hold for the moment and hopefully stop the bleeding. “Fucking hell! What the shitdamn hell fucking fuck do you think you're-” Bakugou’s tirade was cut off - again - as Kirishima repeated the process with his thigh, pausing only to tear Bakugou’s pant leg off just above the wound so it wouldn't contaminate the wound. Bakugou's eyes glazed over with the pain, but he still managed to glare at Kirishima, who just rolled his eyes and packed up the unused supplies. He hesitated, then briefly fiddled with Bakugou's bandages - ignoring the human’s continuing expletive rant, now including insults to Kirishima because he'd ruined Bakugou’s pants - making them tidier and more secure.
Once he was satisfied with Bakugou’s bandages, Kirishima hastily wrapped another around his own arm, then started packing up everything. They needed to move, and quickly. He wanted to be a safe distance from the scene of the battle and set up in a new camp for the night before the sun set.
Kirishima checked on Bakugou again, then hefted their bags over his should and turned to continue down the road.
“Where the hellish shit do you fucking think you're going?” Bakugou ground out, lifting his head to scowl at Kirishima as fiercely as he could manage when he was still laying on the ground, his eyes still slightly glossed over with pain.
“To find a safe place for us to camp for the night,” Kirishima answered, tilting his head in confusion.
“Like fuck I'm gonna let you fucking wander off to fucking pick some shitty campsite,” Bakugou spat. Kirishima set the bags down and shrugged, advancing on Bakugou with open arms.
“Fine. I'll leave the stuff here and carry you so you can pick the site,” Kirishima offered. Bakugou sat up halfway gave him a look that was partly scandalized, partly furious, and partly regret because his injuries must have screamed their protests about the movement. Kirishima watched as Bakugou’s body trembled once, twice, and then collapsed as his eyes rolled back in his head. Kirishima watches him for a moment, waiting to see if Bakugou would wake up again, and then shrugged and reclaimed their bags. He needed to locate that campsite and hopefully find a decent spring or something for water to wash Bakugou's wounds. And wash out the bandage around his arm so he could clean that wound and rebandage it neatly enough that Bakugou wouldn't notice his blood’s inhuman color.
Bakugou dreamed of fire and flame-colored blood and woke shaking, in pain, and confused.
He didn't recognize his surroundings. He couldn't feel his trophy necklaces around his neck. He didn't remember why his arm and leg were throbbing. He didn't-
There was someone in his campsite. Or maybe he was in theirs. They were sitting next to him, a blurry figure with hunched shoulders, attention fixed on something they were turning over and over in their hands, running the object through their fingers, crimson eyes and matching crimson hair catching the firelight and reminding him of the fire in his dreams. He blinked, and Kirishima came into focus, studying something he held, his fingertips delicate - reverent - as they caressed the object’s surface. Bakugou scowled, tried to sit up to see better - and demand to know what had happened and where he was - but hissed in shock and pain as the arm he was using - his injured arm, damn it - protested being moved.
“Bakugou!” Kirishima’s body was turned toward him, leaning over him, when Bakugou’s gaze refocused. “Don't move. You'll pull your stitches.”
“The fucking shit do you goddamned shitty fucking think you're talking the hellfuck about?” Bakugou hissed, fully aware that his choice of explosives made even less sense than usual but not caring enough to rephrase. His message must have gotten across just fine, anyway, since Kirishima shrugged and explained.
“You were still passed out when I got back from finding a place to sleep, so I carried you here, cleaned your wounds, and luckily found some thread in one of your bags that should be fine for stitches. One of the arrow wounds got cut when I pulled the shaft out, so it was longer and needed-”
“Fuck you and whatever shitty damned fucking reason you have for-”
“For what?” Kirishima interrupted, his eyes narrowing and his fingers clenching around the object in his hands - it was the red tooth necklace, Bakugou realized - as he actually loomed over Bakugou. “For not ripping your battle wounds open farther and leaving you to die? For not just taking off with what I came for in the first place without a care for you or whatever family you might have hoping you come home alive? For treating you like a living thing that was vulnerable for once instead of a trophy or a thrill or whatever the hell you think this is?” Kirishima snapped, shaking the necklace clutched right in his fist for emphasis. Or maybe his hands were just shaking in rage. He wasn't making sense. Bakugou’s scowl deepened as he tried to figure it out. Kirishima's words were too specific. Something had touched a nerve, and Bakugou didn't know how his necklace was involved, but it had to be, right? “They were just kids, Bakugou. Not that you're much more than a kid yourself,” Kirishima added with a humorless laugh.
“I'm a goddamned adult,” Bakugou hissed.
“You're what? Twenty, max?” Kirishima snorted.
“Like you're any older than I am,” Bakugou retorted. Kirishima looked like he wanted to say something, but stopped himself. Bakugou wasn't sure if he was relieved or disappointed about that, because if Kirishima continued, maybe he would be able to figure out what was going on, but since he stopped there, Bakugou could redirect the conversation to something that interested him and would hopefully help him ignore the pain or his wounds while he mulled over what could be wrong with the redheaded thief in the back of his mind.
Not that he cared, even if Kirishima had apparently taken decent care of him. Especially if Kirishima had taken care of him. It didn't matter.
“What the fuck did you mean about shitty little kids anyway?” Bakugou grumbled, eyeing Kirishima warily. The thief slowly unclenched his fist and ran the necklace through his fingers.
“These teeth. My two best friends and I heard a story about dragon teeth once. The colored ones, anyway. They're from the inner row of teeth in a dragon’s mouth. The color and size match their scales and age, respectively. These are different colors, but all about the same size.”
“Well they're from different dragons,” Bakugou huffed. “And I knew the color thing. I'm not a shitting idiot.”
“Well, teeth this small would have to be from a really young dragon. Just barely old enough to even have the second set actually,” Kirishima explained. There was something steely in his voice, blended with sorrow and a grim tone Bakugou was pretty sure he didn't like the sound of.
“What are you talking about?” Bakugou didn't even notice that he hadn't bothered to swear. There was a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.
“Well, according to what I heard...the dragons you killed for these teeth would be about the equivalent of a ten-year-old human child.”
Lots of people had lots of questions, so here's a short lil chapter to answer a few of them.
Bakugou stared at Kirishima, fury and disbelief and horror swirling through his mind.
“The fuck are you talking about?” Bakugou snarled. “There’s no way.”
No way Kirishima was right.
No way those dragons had been that young.
They were big enough to take down horses and other livestock.
They were nuisances, threats to villages he’d passed through. He’d taken the job of hunting down those dragons for the prestige, the challenge, and fighting them hadn’t been easy.
“It’s true.” Something in Kirishima’s eyes hardened, and he held out the red necklace to Bakugou. “These teeth are from kids, Bakugou. Dragons, yeah, but they were just little. Still learning to hunt.”
“They nearly roasted me alive!” Bakugou protested. Kirishima was just wrong. He had to be. “It took everything I had to…”
“To kill children?” Kirishima finished for him. Bakugou snarled and tried to lunge at the thief.
“You’re fucking wrong!” Bakugou shouted, batting the necklace out of Kirishima’s hand and forcing himself to put weight on his injured leg as he tried to tackle Kirishima. “I’m a warrior, not a goddamned kid-killer, you fucking asshole!” Bakugou roared, fists battering Kirishima’s chest. The thief caught his wrists, pushed him away like he was nothing. And really, Bakugou was so furious - at himself, at stupid goddamned Kirishima and his shitty wrongness - that it wasn’t even difficult for Kirishima to force Bakugou to lay down again.
“You didn’t know,” Kirishima said grimly.
“You don’t fucking know either!” Bakugou hissed, clawing at Kirishima’s arms. “Just because your shitty clan or some damned fool who told you a story once said so-”
“I lied,” Kirishima interrupted. “It wasn’t a story I heard. My best friends I mentioned before? Their names are Ashido and Tetsutetsu, and they actually are dragons. They know. They told me.” Bakugou stared, frozen in place. Kirishima knew dragons? He was friends with them? But that was impossible, wasn’t it? Dragons couldn’t communicate with humans. They weren’t intelligent, were they?
Bakugou’s gaze fell to the red necklace on the ground.
Kirishima had called them children.
The equivalent of a ten-year-old human.
He had friends who were dragons.
Bakugou rolled sideways, his stomach churning, and threw up everything that was left in his stomach. Thankfully there wasn’t much since he hadn’t eaten since before the ambush, but it didn’t stop him from dry heaving a few more times in his revulsion.
Bakugou sank back, away from the mess he’d made, his body trembling. The pain from his wounds hardly even registered, his mind too full of disgust to process anything else. A few feet away, Kirishima wrinkled his nose at the stench, then sighed and picked the necklace up out of the dirt. He rubbed his thumb over one of the teeth, brushing away a smudge of dirt.
“Just take them.” Bakugou's voice startled him, and Kirishima blinked, then tilted his head in confusion. “Those goddamned teeth. Just take them. All of them. I don’t fucking want them,” Bakugou growled, refusing to look over at Kirishima. Kirishima was quiet for a moment, then pressed his lips together and shook his head.
“Nope. You did the killing,” Kirishima told him. “You have to carry the weight. I’m staying until you get better and finish training me. When I can beat you, I’ll take the necklaces myself. But I’m not going to let you just get rid of the teeth and ignore what you’ve learned because it makes you uncomfortable.” Bakugou’s shoulders hunched, and Kirishima could practically feel the waves of hostility rolling off of him. Kirishima reached over to Bakugou’s bags and pulled the other necklaces out of the pocket he’d tucked them into. He laid all of them in front of Bakugou, then returned to his place nearby. Bakugou stared at the necklaces for a long moment.
“I don’t want-”
“Those kids didn’t want to die,” Kirishima interrupted. Bakugou shuddered, but Kirishima pressed onward. “You took that away from them. It’s time for you to face that and take responsibility. So we’re going to stay here until you’re healed, and then we’re going to keep traveling, and you’re going to wear those, and you’re going to think about what you’ve done, and decide what you’ll do once I get good enough at fighting to take them from you and let you start over.” Before Bakugou could process Kirishima’s words enough to reply, Kirishima added, “Go back to sleep. Or lay awake and reflect on life or something. But I’m going to keep watch, so stay quiet so I can focus.” Bakugou wanted to protest, or maybe throw up again when his gaze landed on the necklaces as they dimly reflected the firelight, but suddenly, he didn’t have the energy. The discomfort from his wounds, the weight of what he’d learned and what it meant he’d done, were too much.
Bakugou shuddered one more time, eyes and throat burning, and curled up a little tighter, desperate to sleep and forget everything for a few hours.
Bakugou was sick and tired of being injured. His wounds were healing, enough that he could sit up, but it was impossible to get comfortable with all those bandages, and he was bored out of his mind. Kirishima kept insisting that he needed rest, and Bakugou wasn’t strong enough yet to physically fight the thief - that was a testament to his pathetic state in and of itself - so all he could do was wait.
By the time two weeks had passed, they were running low on supplies despite Kirishima’s efforts to find fresh meat and water, and Bakugou knew they would need to do something to make money soon, because he was pretty sure Kirishima wouldn’t let him trade one of his dragon teeth. Honestly, Bakugou had accepted that those teeth were his burden to bear until he’d successfully trained Kirishima.
Which meant he needed to get into town and see what work there was for a travelling warrior, and he had to do it when Kirishima wasn’t there to stop him.
Town was closer than he’d thought when they were ambushed. Or maybe Kirishima had carried him farther than either of them had thought after the battle. Bakugou waited until Kirishima had gone to fetch more water from the river, which usually took him a while, and then heaved himself up and pulled his cape close around himself to hide his bandages. He hesitated, then scooped up the necklaces that had laid beside him as a constant, silent reminder for the last...had it been a week and a half already? Two weeks? Bakugou had trouble keeping track of time because of how much he’d slept the first few days, recovering from his injuries. He started to fasten his curved sword at the small of his back, but it ended up being too much weight too close to his wounded thigh, so he slung it over his back instead, so the weight was on his uninjured shoulder. It would be more difficult to draw the weapon, but he told himself he wasn’t worried. He’d fought and won enough battles while injured worse than this, he could handle a walk into town to gather information.
Bakugou was limping by the time he made it far enough down the road that he thought he was close to halfway to the village, and his wounds ached fiercely enough that he gave in and leaned against a tree to rest - just for a minute, he promised himself - and mentally berate Kirishima for not just carrying him the rest of the way to town, because this would be a hell of a lot easier if he’d done that.
Bakugou shut his eyes and focused on breathing evenly, fighting down his awareness of his own pain as well as the nagging thought that maybe this hadn’t been that great of an idea after all.
“Are you a dragon slayer?”
Bakugou’s eyes flew open, his hand flying to his hip for his sword, then shifting up to its temporary location over his shoulder when his fingers closed on nothing but air. There was someone standing in the road, beside a donkey harnessed to a cart. Fuck, how had he not heard them approaching? Was he that out of it from the discomfort of his wounds?
“Sometimes,” Bakugou answered, eyeing the man warily.
“Perfect! My farm has been losing livestock,” the farmer told him. “My neighbors have, too. We keep finding huge claw marks on the trees and some of the livestock turned up charred almost beyond recognition, so we were going to pool money to hire a dragonslayer. One of my fields even caught fire a few days ago. It’s got to be a dragon. So if you’re interested…” The farmer trailed off hopefully, not put off at all by Bakugou’s scowl. He was tempted to refuse the job - he didn’t want another fucking baby dragon on his conscience, damn it - but then he sighed. Maybe he could just scare the thing off or something. If he didn’t do something, they’d just hire someone else who would kill it, and then it would still be on Bakugou’s conscience, especially if Kirishima ever found out.
Bakugou took a moment to marvel at the fact that he was considering someone else’s opinion before making a decision for the first time since he’d left home, then refocused on the farmer.
“I’ll take the job. Show me where you’ve seen the claw marks,” Bakugou ordered.
“But we haven’t figured out how much money to-”
“Feed and resupply my companion and me once I’ve gotten rid of the damn lizard, and I’ll consider us even,” Bakugou interrupted. The man blinked, then beamed and nodded eagerly.
“I’m sure we can manage that much in return for you saving our farms!” he exclaimed. “If you follow this road until you see a path through the forest branch off toward the river, then take that, it’ll take you right into the area we think the dragon’s hiding. If you come into town with proof that monster is dead, we’ll give you all the supplies you and your companion can carry.” Bakugou’s heart sank. Shit, he’d forgotten about having to prove the dragon’s death. Maybe he could get a few scales or something.
Bakugou nodded numbly and waited until the farmer and his donkey were far enough down the road that they wouldn’t be able to see him well before he pushed away from the tree and headed after them.
The path was easy enough to find and follow, although by the time he could hear the river, his whole body hurt like hell. When he reached a clearing along the riverbank, he didn’t even bother looking for signs of the dragon. Instead, he trudged to the water, kicked off his boots, and stepped into the water, grimacing at how much better his sore feet felt. He’d been off his feet too long, and that combined with the way he was limping because of the wound on his thigh meant his was more exhausted and achey than he should be considering he’d only been up and moving for a couple hours at the most.
Bakugou considered just sitting, relaxing for a few minutes, but a snuffling sound caught his attention, and he tensed. First the damn farmer and his goddamned shitty donkey, and now something was moving around and sniffing things not too far behind him, and he hadn’t heard it approaching.
Bakugou slowly turned and looked over his shoulder, lifting his hand to the hilt of his sword. The source of the snuffling was instantly made clear to him. It was kind of hard to miss, actually. There was a dragon, smaller than any other he’d ever seen, only about twice the size of that shitty donkey from earlier, with delicate pearly scales and wide, curious orange eyes that were fixed on one of Bakugou’s boots, which the dragon was sticking its muzzle in.
“Well, fuck,” Bakugou muttered. That dragon was going to get snot or something in his boots, he just knew it.
“Well, fuck,” Bakugou muttered. That dragon was going to get snot or something in his boots, he just knew it.
The dragon’s head came up at the sound of his voice, his boot falling to the ground as the creature blinked at him, orange eyes blazing with curiosity. Bakugou stared at it, considering his options. He could try to convince it to go away, or maybe scare it? The farmer and whoever else was planning to go in on paying for this dragon to be killed would probably want proof of death, which meant he needed to figure something out for that. Maybe he could pass off one of the teeth on his necklaces as coming from this dragon?
A soft chirp pulled him out of his thoughts, and he realized the dragon was extending its neck toward him, head tilted and gaze fixed on him.
“You little shit, quit staring at me and get the fuck out of here,” Bakugou growled, glaring at the creature. The dragon blinked, then took a cautious step toward him. “No! Shoo! Go away, you-” Bakugou broke off, thinking maybe he shouldn’t swear at the thing, if Kirishima was right, and this was the equivalent of a ten year old. Or younger, considering it was even smaller than the others he’d fought. “Get out of here. The next human who comes here will kill you!” Bakugou snapped, advancing on the dragon. He threw his arms out and waved them madly - he’d spooked plenty of horses into bolting like that, maybe it would work with a dragon?
Instead of turning tail and flying away, however, the little pearly creature let out what sounded like an excited trill and flapped its wings rapidly, creating enough wind that it blew Bakugou’s boots a few inches toward him, and kicked dust up in his face.
Bakugou coughed and choked, bringing his hands to his face, trying to wipe dust out of his eyes and wheeze it out of his lungs. There was a quiet, nervous chirp - he would have called it worried if it wasn’t coming from a tiny pearl-colored death machine - and then a nudge on his arm. Bakugou lowered his hands, eyes watering and throat raw from the dust, and realized the touch had been the dragon, nuzzling his arm.
“The fuck?” he choked, forgetting not to swear in front of the giant scaly child for a second. The dragon let out another chirp and nudged him again, its eyes wide and dark with something he might have called concern. It lifted its wings slowly and then tucked them tightly against its body, then shuffled its feet and lowered its head, almost like it was actually sorry for kicking up so much dust. Bakugou was speechless, gaping at the creature, wondering how the fucking hell he was going to get this thing to leave humans alone when it apparently worried about making him cough. “Are you naive? Or just stupid?” Bakugou grumbled, pushing the dragon’s head away when it tried to nuzzle him again. He had to get this thing to leave. It wouldn’t even take a warrior like him to kill it; this dragon would probably walk right up to the farmers and coo at them while they figured out how to hurt it.
The tiny red teeth around his neck felt like they were digging into and burning his chest at the same time, a weight he couldn’t stand the thought of adding to. He couldn’t have another kid on his conscience. He just couldn’t.
Bakugou steeled himself; he had to teach this dragon to stay away from humans, for its own safety. He’d tried talking to it, and it had just decided he was fun to watch and imitate. He had to scare it.
The dragon moved closer again, it’s muzzle hovering just in front of him, nostrils flaring as the creature sniffed him. Bakugou grimaced as an idea came to him.
“Sorry, you little brat, but you didn’t listen the first time,” Bakugou muttered, curling his fingers into a fist and bringing his knuckles down sharply on the dragon’s nose, where experience had taught him the scales were smallest, least protective. The creature let out a whine of surprise and jerked back, its head coming up and sparks shooting out of its mouth as it took several steps backwards. “That’s right. Humans are mean and they’ll hurt you! Get out of here!” Bakugou shouted, stepping toward the dragon, fist raised. The dragon shrank back farther, another whine rising in its throat, wings half raised in preparation to fly away, tail curled protectively around itself. “What are you waiting for? Go!”
“Bakugou! What-” Kirishima’s voice made him freeze, and the moment of silence when he cut off made guilt shoot through Bakugou. He must look like a monster, shouting at and threatening a dragon smaller than any he’d ever considered a threat before, a dragon that was basically a child.
“If it stays here, the farmers will find someone who’ll kill it for real!” Bakugou spat, keeping his glare on the dragon and refusing to look around to see what Kirishima’s expression was.
“You’re scaring her!” Kirishima snapped. Bakugou heard movement, and then Kirishima was visible as he walked around the dragon and laid a hand on the pearly scales of its tail.
“Well I tried talking nicely and it wouldn’t listen!” Bakugou replied, letting his hands fall to his sides.
“That’s because you don’t speak dragon, and she’s too little to know human languages,” Kirishima explained, watching as the dragon turned its - her, apparently - head toward him. “Hey, there. It’s okay. Bakugou’s just grumpy. He didn’t mean to hurt you. Lemme see,” he murmured, glancing pointedly at Bakugou, who considered stomping over to whack Kirishima, because that idiot thief had just said the dragon didn’t speak human languages, so why… A soft rumble rose in Kirishima’s throat, followed by a series of low, soothing sounds that Bakugou could only describe as crooning. The little dragon blinked, then let out a little whine and lowered her head until Kirishima could take her muzzle in his hands and examine her nose. Kirishima rested his forehead gently on the spot Bakugou had hit, his crooning becoming almost more of a purr, and the fear and pain seemed to drain out of the little dragon’s body. She crouched, nuzzling at Kirishima, letting out a tentative chirp. Kirishima laughed and chirped back, bringing his forehead to the dragon’s and his hands to her jaw, using most of his upper body to shake her head back and forth a little, like Bakugou had seen people do with dogs sometimes. The dragon let out a high-pitched trill and nudged Kirishima so hard he staggered back a few steps, mirth still spilling from his lips.
Bakugou could only watch, mesmerized, unable to even really process what he was seeing. Kirishima was communicating with the dragon, but Bakugou had no idea how. Being friends with dragons was one thing. Apparently knowing their language and being good with their kids was a whole other thing, and Bakugou wasn’t sure he liked the funny feeling he was getting from the knowledge that Kirishima had these skills.
After a few moments, the dragon turned back toward Bakugou, hesitant but curious once more. Bakugou glanced at Kirishima, wondering what he was supposed to do. Kirishima grinned and crooned again, and the dragon moved toward Bakugou, who still had no idea what was expected of him. Another soft noise from Kirishima - this one more human-sounding - caught Bakugou’s attention.
“Do what I did. Put your forehead on her nose where you hit her,” Kirishima told him, moving with the dragon, staying close to her head. Bakugou hesitated - what if Kirishima had told the dragon to bite him in half and be done with this whole mess? - but Kirishima’s gaze was soft, encouraging, and Bakugou couldn’t turn away from or deny those gentle ruby eyes that really didn’t look like they belonged to any kind of thief. Bakugou swallowed hard, trying to push down whatever was clogging his throat - probably leftover dust from earlier - as he faced the dragon again.
She ducked her head, and Bakugou slowly brought his hands up the way Kirishima had, placing them on either side of the dragon’s head. Her scales were warm beneath his palms, smaller and softer on her face, not the hardened overlapping armor the scales on her body formed. Large orange eyes blinked at him, and Bakugou realized he was holding his breath. He had to keep himself from rushing - he didn’t want to accidentally headbutt the dragon and have Kirishima pissed at him, not when he was still injured and Kirishima and the dragon could probably team up and destroy him - as he lowered his head.
The sensation of the dragon’s almost pebbled snout against his forehead was strange, but after a second, the warmth of the dragon’s breath washed over him, and Bakugou wrinkled his nose at the smell - dragons didn’t seem to be big on oral hygiene - but couldn’t bring himself to pull away until the dragon pushed forward, nudging him with a little chirp. Bakugou lifted his head and carefully patted her cheek before he turned his attention to Kirishima, who was beaming like Bakugou had just made his whole week.
“Tell her to get out of here. She’s not safe here,” Bakugou grumbled before sighing and letting the dragon sniff him happily and then push her snout under his arm.
“I know. I just wanted you to do that forehead thing first,” Kirishima explained. Bakugou opened his mouth to ask what that whole thing was even about, but Kirishima let out a sharp chirp. The dragon whined and pushed her head farther under Bakugou’s arm. A sharper noise from Kirishima, and the dragon huffed and pulled away from Bakugou. She glanced at Kirishima, then back at Bakugou. Kirishima reached up and patted her shoulder, crooning softly. After another huff, the dragon ducked her head and trudged a few steps away.
“Bye, little shit,” Bakugou said before he could stop himself. Kirishima shot him a glare, and that moment of inattention was enough for the dragon to dart back and push her forehead against Kirishima’s, then Bakugou’s.
Kirishima started to make another noise, but stopped, blinking in surprise as the dragon pulled back and stretched her jaws wide, showing her teeth - not just the outer row of sharp white fangs, but the inner row of pearly teeth behind them, too. For a second, both of them held still, shock on Kirishima’s face and confusion on Bakugou’s. Then the dragon made an impatient little sound, and Kirishima reached forward, into the dragon’s mouth. Bakugou tensed, afraid that any second those jaws would close and Kirishima would lose his hand. But then Kirishima was withdrawing his hand, something clutched in it. Bakugou stared from the dragon to the redhead and back, tired of being confused but not wanting to ruin whatever the fuck was happening. Then there was a rush of wing and the sound of sharp wingbeats, and the little dragon was gone. Kirishima turned to face Bakugou and held out the object in his hand - a tiny, pearly white tooth, smaller than any of the ones on Bakugou’s necklaces.
“She said she wants you to have this, since you’re the first human she’s made friends with,” Kirishima told him. Bakugou was too shocked, too busy trying not to be ridiculously touched, to question that statement. Bakugou reached out, traced the curve of the tooth almost reverently. “But if you take this, you have to give me the red necklace.” Bakugou paused, looked up, studied Kirishima’s solemn expression.
Wordlessly, Bakugou lifted the necklace over his head and held it out to Kirishima.
“This is a gift, given out of trust and youthful belief in friendship. Don’t soil it,” Kirishima told him, his tone heavy as he took the necklace and handed Bakugou the pearly tooth in return.
“I won’t,” Bakugou promised, voice rough. The burning, prickling feeling of those little red teeth from dragons he’d killed was gone. The weight of the other teeth remained, and now the little tooth in his hand felt even heavier than the ones hanging around his neck. “Hey, Kirishima?” Bakugou began as he tucked the tooth into his pocket and retrieved his boots.
“That forehead thing. What was up with that?”
“That? Oh. You hit her nose, so I figured it was only fair you kiss it better, dragon-style,” Kirishima answered cheerfully as he tucked the red necklace into his own pocket. Bakugou blinked one. Twice.
Then the clearing was filled with his indignant shriek and Kirishima’s gleeful cackling.
So, between school and health issues and other projects, I know I haven't been updating as much as I want, but hopefully things will be back to normal soon and I'll be able to update once a week at least, hopefully two or three times a week.
Also sorry not sorry ahead of time.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Kirishima’s laughter filled the clearing, making Bakugou break off his outraged tirade about being tricked into “kissing” the pearly baby dragon. Bakugou Katsuki was not a touchy-feely person, and he was pissed about being tricked into acting like one. However, he couldn’t cling to too much of his irritation, because the way Kirishima doubled over, clutching his stomach, a grin splitting his face and showing his sharp teeth, was something Bakugou wasn’t sure how to process. Something in his chest warmed and swelled, and Bakugou wasn’t sure he liked the feeling. It was...strange, and the feeling made his cheeks too warm, too, which he definitely didn’t like.
“How did you even manage all those ridiculous sounds, anyway?” Bakugou demanded, trying to stop Kirishima from laughing so Bakugou could stop feeling...whatever this was. Kirishima’s mirth faded a little, and he straightened up, still grinning as he lifted a hand to wipe at the corner of his eye. Apparently he’d been laughing so hard he’d teared up. Bakugou wasn’t sure what the word for that was but he refused to believe it was cute.
“I told you, my best friends are dragons,” Kirishima reminded him. “Of course I learned their language. It would be rude to expect them to just learn mine.” There was something off about Kirishima’s voice when he said that, but Bakugou thought maybe it was the lingering effects of how hard he’d been laughing - Kirishima was still a little out of breath, and it made his cheeks just the slightest bit flushed, and - fuck, Bakugou needed to stop that thought right goddamned there. Bakugou shook his head and scowled at himself, trying to make himself focus.
“Those squeaks and shit didn’t sound human,” Bakugou insisted, too caught up in keeping himself from just focusing on how good Kirishima looked when he was so happy to notice the way Kirishima’s body tensed. The thief’s eyes widened, and his teeth caught his lower lip, and that snagged Bakugou’s attention. For a second Bakugou’s gaze was fixed on Kirishima’s lips, but then it registered that the laughter had drained away completely, and Kirishima was biting his lip from nervousness. “Kirishima?”
“I- Bakugou, look out!” Kirishima shouted. Bakugou’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. Was Kirishima trying to distract him?
Something hit the river’s surface, and Bakugou whirled at the sound, only to stagger and nearly lose his footing as water surged over the riverbank from the impact. Bakugou regained his balance and glared at the river, only to freeze in shock at what he saw before being knocked off his feet by the huge pink tail of the giant fucking fushia dragon that had dropped into the river. The creature was enormous, easily ten times larger than any of the dragons Bakugou had fought before, and he got an unpleasantly good look at its fangs - which were nearly the size of his forearm - as it loomed over him and roared.
“The fuck?” Bakugou yelped as he scrambled backwards, only to stop and look over his shoulder, past Kirishima, who hadn’t moved an inch, because the ground shook with a second impact. A slate-gray dragon even larger than the pink one had landed on the other side of the clearing, its hind feet and tail crushing a few trees because the clearing wasn’t quite large enough for this. “Shit! Kirishima! Behind you!” Bakugou shouted, rolling to his feet. Kirishima hadn’t turned, hadn’t reacted at all. Was he in shock? Bakugou had to get him out of there, because these dragons didn’t seem nearly as sweet and friendly as the baby.
“Eijirou!” the gray one exclaimed, surging forward, making the ground shudder with each step. The dragon’s use of Kirishima’s given name didn’t even register as Bakugou screamed and lunged for the thief. He had to get Kirishima out of the way, he couldn’t let him…
But Kirishima was gone, and instead, there was an enormous crimson dragon rushing to meet the gray one’s charge. The dragons collided and tumbled to the side, rolling around in a wrestling match that made the earth shudder. Bakugou gaped at them in shock. Where had the third dragon come from? Where was Kirishima? Bakugou felt nausea rise in his throat; had Kirishima been crushed? Bakugou couldn’t see him anywhere, and with the red and gray dragons now accidentally crushing a few trees as they rolled around on the ground causing minor earthquakes, Bakugou didn’t see another option. His heart stopped, his throat closed, like his body refused to function for another second because if it did he’d have to face the fact that Kirishima was…
“Tetsutetsu!” the crimson dragon shrieked in a voice that sounded like a deeper, louder version of Kirishima’s. The two dragons stopped moving, the crimson one pinned, panting beneath the gray one. “What are you two doing here?” Bakugou’s head swam. It had to be lack of oxygen, right? He was imagining this. He’d passed out from the pink one’s tail swipe or something, right? He couldn’t be hearing this, could he?
“We came to rescue you! We had to wait until Shinju was clear, since we saw her heading home on our way here, but as soon as she was a safe distance away, we came to free you from the child-killing dragonslayer,” the pink one announced, its voice making Bakugou’s whole body shake with its volume.
“Shinju? Is that her name?” the crimson dragon asked. Then it tensed and wriggled out from under the gray one. “Wait. Free me? What are you talking about?” The red dragon shifted, backed up until it nearly stepped on Bakugou, who instinctively crouched and covered his head with his arms as though that would protect him from a giant fucking dragon stepping on him.
“We’re going to kill the human for you so you can finish your mission and then come home, Eijirou,” the gray one insisted. There it was again. Eijirou. Kirishima’s name.
“You think Bakugou enslaved me?” That definitely sounded like Kirishima, but the tone was still...wrong. Too loud, too deep, coming from a set of lungs that was way too big to produce the voice Bakugou was used to.
“Why else would you be traveling with him instead of just taking the teeth back and coming home?” the gray dragon snapped, lowering its head to glare underneath the red one at Bakugou, who slowly lowered his arms and stared up at the belly of the dragon standing over him.
“You guys have it all wrong! Bakugou would never-”
“He murders children, Eijirou! You can’t honestly believe someone like that wouldn’t enslave an adult dragon if he could!” the pink one piped up, the ground shaking as it stepped out of the river toward the red one.
“He didn’t know! He had no idea they were kids until I told him!” the red dragon insisted, curling its tail to block the pink dragon’s view when it stretched its neck to peer under the red one, trying to glare at Bakugou.
“That’s no excuse!” the gray one protested.
“I won’t let you two kill him! He saved my life!” the red dragon snapped. “You can see his injuries for yourselves. He got them protecting me during a bandit attack!”
Well, fuck. Bakugou didn’t know what was happening, but his mind was slowly piecing things together. The voice. The red dragon defending him, and apparently referring to things Bakugou and Kirishima had done together. Bakugou swayed, reached out to brace himself automatically, and touched the dragon’s foreleg. The scales beneath his hand were warm, hard, the same shade as Kirishima’s hair, and...now that he was staring blankly at the overlapping scales, he realized that was the pattern that emerged from Kirishima’s skin when he used his “bloodline ability.”
“Kiri...shima?” Bakugou rasped, voice hoarse with disbelief. “You’re...is that you?” Silence fell.
“He really didn’t know?” That sounded like the pink one, but Bakugou couldn’t be sure because he wasn’t sure of fucking anything right then.
“Bakugou?” the red dragon rumbled as it lowered its head, peering at the human leaning against its leg. His leg, if this really was Kirishima. If it was Kirishima? Bakugou shook his head. It was impossible. People couldn’t just...turn into dragons, could they? He had to be wrong.
Even if people turning into dragons was ridiculous and impossible…
What about dragons turning into people? Dragons were magical creatures, right?
Bakugou’s knees gave out.
The hardening. The fact that he had zero fighting ability. He’d scared the horse away that first night. His weirdly sharp teeth.
The attachment to dragons, the fixation on the necklaces, the knowledge and being able to speak their language.
Hell, he’d even told Bakugou a while ago that his two best friends were dragons, hadn’t he?
The signs had been there from the beginning. Bakugou just hadn’t put them together.
How had he been so stupid?
Bakugou’s knees buckled, and he hit the ground still not quite believing what was right in front of him.
Maybe Bakugou was wrong. Maybe the dragon wasn’t Kirishima, because that was the redhead’s normal voice, and it wasn’t scales Bakugou fell against when he tilted sideways, it was the thief’s chest.
The thief. Kirishima. Bakugou had gotten used to traveling with him, training him, being constantly chattered at on the road. He’d gotten used to Kirishima being with him. He’d protected Kirishima, and Kirishima had stuck with him when he was injured.
Kirishima had told him that the dragons he’d killed were kids.
Kirishima had helped him actually interact with the little pearly dragon and helped him send her on her way safely.
Bakugou had considered Kirishima’s opinion before he’d taken the job to get rid of the little dragon.
Bakugou had started to make room for Kirishima in his habits, his thoughts, everything.
It was the first time he’d had someone to travel with that he’d actually started to consider a companion.
“Bakugou, are you okay?” Kirishima’s voice pulled him out of his swirling thoughts, and Bakugou realized he was leaning against the thief’s chest.
“And you claim he hasn’t enslaved you,” the pink dragon growled.
“You’re the one who taught me that sometimes understanding and befriending the enemy is the best way to handle them!” Kirishima snapped. Bakugou tensed at that.
Befriending the enemy, huh? He couldn’t blame Kirishima, not considering Bakugou’s past, but it still hurt more than it should have to know that Kirishima had just been doing all of this, carving himself out a place in Bakugou’s life, because it was the best way to neutralize an enemy.
Bakugou hated the feeling in his chest that realization caused. It felt worse than when Kirishima had pulled the bandit’s arrows out of him. The pain was sharper, centered in his chest, and Bakugou just wanted to curl up in a ball and let the dragons kill him because that would hurt less.
Bakugou refused to give any of them - especially Kirishima - the satisfaction, though. He refused to show any weakness, even if he felt weaker than he had while recovering from being shot with actual arrows.
“Don’t touch me!” Bakugou hissed, shoving his elbow into Kirishima’s ribs and rolling away from him. Bakugou forced himself up, making it as far as one knee before he couldn’t make himself move any more. Damn, he’d pushed his wounded leg too far already, and now it was refusing to support his weight when all he wanted was to run far, far away, until he didn’t have to remember Kirishima, much less look at him. Bakugou didn’t even want to be reminded that dragons existed.
“Bakugou, what are you-” Kirishima broke off as Bakugou’s hand came up to the teeth hanging around his neck.
“I kept these damn things because you said you would take them eventually. Well, fucking take them, you damned shitty lizard, because I’m done letting you fucking torture me with them! You wanted them so badly you had to make me mothershitfucking care about you so it would hurt more when you told me the truth? Well, shithead, it hurt plenty when you fucking told me I murdered children! Why couldn’t you have just fucking left it there and gotten the goddamned hell out of my life?” Bakugou screamed, yanking the necklaces off and throwing them at Kirishima, who was frozen where he was when Bakugou was leaning against him, staring at Bakugou with wide, liquid red eyes. Bakugou reached into his pocket for the pearly dragon’s tooth and clenched his fist around it so hard that the sharp point pierced his palm, drawing blood. He pulled the little tooth out and held his bleeding fist up, just enough of it showing that Kirishima’s eyes managed to widen even further in recognition. “Did you tell that kid to give me this, huh? Was that just another way to handle me best?” Bakugou snarled. “Well, fuck you, asshole. I hope you fucking fall out of the sky.” Bakugou hurled the tiny pearly tooth at Kirishima, who stayed frozen in place, statue-like, as the tooth landed in the dirt in front of him. Bakugou struggled with his body for a second, rising halfway to his feet before falling back to one knee.
“Bakugou!” Kirishima’s tone was rough, distressed, as he finally moved, like he was going to go to Bakugou and help him up, only to stop again as Bakugou sent him the most venomous glare he could manage. “Bakugou, please. You’re going to hurt yourself. You’ll reopen your wound,” Kirishima pleaded, concern oozing from every inch of him.
“Don’t you dare follow me,” Bakugou spat. “I’d rather bleed to death than have to hear your shitty fucking voice or see your ugly lizard face any more.” Kirishima flinched, biting his lip until a bead of brilliant orange blood appeared at the point where his tooth dug into his skin. No wonder he was so careful with his own bandages, Bakugou realized distantly as he forced himself upwards again. This time, he made it to his feet, and he staggered as he turned his back on the dragons, but he didn’t fall. He couldn’t fall. Not again. He had to get away.
He considered not even going back to his camp, but since he didn’t have anything to prove he’d gotten rid of the dragon in the area, he was going to need those saddlebags. Bakugou clenched his fists and jaw and forced himself across the clearing and then down the path, every step sending shooting pain through his thigh.
Not that he objected, really. The agony from his overworked and still-recovering leg helped distract him from the huge, aching swirl of pain in his chest.
Bakugou didn’t even make it back to the road before his leg gave out again, and he collapsed. Gratitude and relief washed over him as his head hit something on the way down - a tree root maybe, or a rock - and darkness swept over him.
I've been waiting for AGES to write this chapter and I'm super excited to see everyone's reactions, so please fuel my motivation and leave me a comment!
Kirishima stared into the woods after Bakugou for a long time, frozen in shock and dismay. He couldn't believe everything had fallen apart so fast. One moment, he was bursting with pride for Bakugou because of how he'd handled Shinju, the little dragon with the pearly scales. The next, he was caught between excitement because his best friends had showed up and fear and frustration because they wouldn't listen and stop trying to kill Bakugou and then…
And then Bakugou realized he was a dragon. Kirishima had known he wouldn't be able to travel with Bakugou forever. He knew he couldn't keep his true nature secret forever. But...Bakugou had made so much progress. When Kirishima saw him with the little dragon, lowering his forehead to her nose… Bakugou had trusted Kirishima. He'd been working to prevent another young dragon’s death. Kirishima had let himself think that maybe, just maybe, he could tell Bakugou the truth and maybe they could stay friends. But now…
Now it was all ruined. Kirishima leaned forward and slowly picked up the necklaces Bakugou had thrown away, shoving them into his pocket. He paused, staring at Shinju’s tiny pearl tooth, and wished that he'd explained everything to Bakugou while he was injured.
“Eijirou?” Ashido’s pink muzzle nudged his back. Kirishima wanted to lash out, to be angry, but he knew that his friends hadn't been trying to hurt anyone. They thought he was in trouble, and they'd been trying to help him. They didn't know Bakugou, not like Kirishima was starting to. They hadn't seen the way Bakugou silently added more food to Kirishima’s share after a particularly rough training session. They didn't know Bakugou had started taking the spot with the best view of their surroundings, even when it was more uneven, instead of claiming the most level, comfortable spot in their temporary camps. They hadn't heard the heartbroken noises he'd made in his sleep after Kirishima told him about the teeth belonging to children. They hadn't seen Bakugou trying desperately to convince Shinju to leave the area so she wouldn't get hurt.
They looked at Bakugou and saw only a dragonslayer, a child killer, just another cruel and selfish human. They didn't see what Kirishima had started to: sure, Bakugou was rough and rude and grouchy, but Kirishima was increasingly sure it was a defense mechanism. He didn't know how long Bakugou had been traveling alone before Kirishima found him, but he knew that even someone as tough as Bakugou couldn't be alone forever.
“Eijirou, talk to us,” Tetsutetsu was crouching in front of him, the tip of his tail curling around to poke at Kirishima’s leg. Kirishima closed his eyes for a moment, took a deep, only slightly shaky breath, and then opened them.
“We can talk later. I need to make sure Bakugou gets back to his camp safely,” Kirishima told them.
“Why? He's just a human. It's better for the clan if he doesn't get back anywhere safely,” Tetsutetsu pointed out. Kirishima was shaking his head before his friend was even finished.
“You don't understand. Bakugou didn't know what he was doing,” Kirishima told him. “And...I hurt him. Finding out that way, it really upset him. I've never seen him like that. And this…” Kirishima held up Shinju’s tooth and swallowed hard before continuing. “You should have seen his face when that kid gave it to him. That moment, helping Shinju, that was his lifeline. I think in that moment, he thought maybe he could really do something to help himself bear the weight of the kids he killed.”
“It can’t have meant that much to him,” Tetsutetsu scoffed. “He threw it away like garbage.”
“Only because he was hurt and upset!” Kirishima insisted, curling his fingers tightly around the pearly tooth. “He feels betrayed, and he’s trying to get rid of everything that could remind him of that.” Kirishima’s expression hardened, and he got to his feet. “I have to talk to him. I can’t let it end like this.”
“Eijirou, he’s human. He’ll get over it. He probably doesn’t want to see you right now, anyway,” Ashido pointed out. “Let him go. Come back with us. You got the teeth back; you did what you set out to do. The little ones miss you.” The little ones. The hatchlings and fledglings of his clan. He hadn’t seen them since he set out to find Bakugou and take the teeth back from him.
“Ochako is taking care of them,” Kirishima replied stubbornly. “She even promised to give them flying lessons.”
“Eijirou, they still miss you. The only reason they haven't revolted and tried to run away to look for you is we still have Inasa’s clan visiting while you retrieve the teeth from Bakugou, so the kids are making new friends,” Ashido insisted. “Please, just come back. The fledglings will be taking their first flight outside the valley soon, and I know you wouldn't miss that for anything. And this year’s clutch is almost ready to hatch. Eijirou, your life is waiting for you. You got the teeth, which means I'll be able to convince Inasa to make a pact with us. Don't throw everything away because of one selfish human.”
Kirishima stared at the pearly tooth in his hand, conflicted. While he traveled and trained with Bakugou, in human form, he'd been able to push away thoughts of the life that was waiting for him with his clan, but Ashido’s words tugged at the memories and the ache in the back of his mind, the desperate longing to be home.
Bakugou probably wouldn't forgive him anyway, and Kirishima had never intended to stay forever.
If the little ones really were on the verge of revolting and trying to go off on their own, some of the older ones could easily end up like Shinju, lost and hunted by humans. Kirishima would never forgive himself if any of his little charges ended up lost, injured, or dead because he wasn’t there to keep an eye on them.
“Okay. I'll come home. But you have to give me a few hours. I have to make sure Bakugou is okay. He saved my life, and he deserves an explanation. I have to find him and at least try to talk to him.” Kirishima looked up at his friends, who exchanged wary looks, then nodded reluctantly.
“Two hours,” Tetsutetsu growled. “After that, we’re coming to look for you again. And I swear, if that human hurts you, or even tries…”
“I’ll be fine, Tetsu,” Kirishima assured him. “I’ll be back as soon as I can, okay?” Tetsutetsu growled, then sighed and lowered his head to nudge Kirishima’s shoulder. Kirishima had to put some effort into returning the gesture since he was in his human form, but he did his best to nudge Tetsutetsu back. Ashido shouldered Tetsutetsu out of the way and ducked her head to press her forehead against his face, the closest she could come to their usual greeting and farewell without him switching back to his true form. Kirishima laughed and stepped to the side to rest his own forehead against her scaled cheek for a moment. “See you guys soon,” Kirishima said, waving as he headed for the path.
Now he just had to find Bakugou.
Bakugou woke in his own camp and hissed at the ache from his wounds. He forced himself to sit up, swearing under his breath when the movement made everything hurt more, and scanned the camp. For a second, worry shot through him, because Kirishima wasn’t there. Then Bakugou’s memory came rushing back. The baby dragon. The two big dragons. Kirishima was a dragon.
“Fucking shitstain motherfucking hellfuck,” Bakugou growled, hating the way that last bit of memory hurt. He shook his head and reached for his cloak. With Kirishima gone, he needed to...well, lots of things. He needed some way to move, to carry supplies. He’d thrown away the baby dragon’s tooth, so now he couldn’t trade his supposed kill for supplies with the village.
Bakugou’s fingers closed around his cape, pulled it toward him, and a handful of objects fell out of the folds. Bakugou froze, staring. There was an envelope with his name on it, which he hardly noticed. There was a scrap of paper wrapped around something large and heavy-looking, some sort of curved object that Bakugou had a nagging suspicion about. And then there was a tiny, pearl-colored tooth, the same one the baby dragon had given him. Bakugou hesitated - he didn’t want anything to do with dragons, he really didn’t - but then...that tooth was the first encounter with a dragon he’d felt good about, and since it was supposed to be a sign of trust, it would be wrong to throw it away a second time, right? Bakugou carefully picked it up and slid it into his pocket, then picked up the paper-wrapped object. The paper fell away, revealing a second tooth, this one significantly larger than the pearly one. It was the largest dragon tooth Bakugou had ever seen, and it was the same bright shade of red as Kirishima’s hair...the same color as Kirishima’s true dragon form.
Bakugou considered dropping the tooth and never looking at it again, but writing on the inside of the paper wrapping caught his attention. Bakugou almost balled it up without reading it, but the presence of the big red tooth made him curious.
I’m so sorry you had to find out like that. I wanted to explain in person, but you didn’t wake up in time, and I had to go. There’s a full explanation in the envelope. Your saddlebags are loaded with all the supplies the town could spare, and there’s a horse just past the treeline. That’s where your saddlebags are, too. I didn’t want anyone to steal them.
Please read what’s in the envelope. At least think about it.
The red tooth is mine. I’m leaving it for you because despite how upset you were, and what you did in the past, I know you genuinely regret what you’ve done, and I trust you - with my life and the lives of any other dragons you might come across.
I’m returning to my clan. Thank you for teaching me - about fighting, about humans, about how people can change.
Be safe, Bakugou.
Bakugou stared at the note for a long time, his thoughts swirling. He didn’t remember making it back to camp, so Kirishima had to have carried him while he was passed out. Kirishima had also gone to the farmers, gotten Bakugou’s payment for dealing with the baby dragon, and brought it back to him and even hidden it so no one would steal it easily.
Those weren’t the actions of someone who had only stayed around Bakugou to torment him, to take advantage of him.
It was what Bakugou imagined a friend might do.
Bakugou’s fingers clenched, crumpling the edge of the note, and he shoved it into his pocket, along with the red tooth. He staggered to his feet and pulled his cape around his shoulders. As he did, he realized that his bandages were fresh, too. Damn, he’d really been out of it.
He didn’t know how to feel about any of this - Kirishima being a dragon, Kirishima taking care of him, Kirishima leaving him a goddamned letter instead of waiting for him to wake up - but he knew what would help him figure it out.
He needed to get moving. Get back to his routine, or what his routine had been before Kirishima. He needed time to think, and he always processed things best while he was traveling. Bakugou scooped up the envelope, then made his way to the treeline and stepped past it. Just a few moments of searching revealed a thicket where his saddlebags rested in a neat pile, next to a strawberry roan gelding that had the most unruly mane and tail he’d ever seen, complete with a forelock that someone had tried to trim and done a terrible job with, because it was short enough that it stuck up instead of laying against the horse’s forehead.
“Hey, there,” Bakugou murmured, extending his hand for the horse to smell. “The note didn’t say what your name was. So I guess I’m just gonna call you Shitty Hair. How’s that sound?” The horse eyed him, snuffled at his palm, then gave him a baleful glare that could have been because of the unfortunate new name, or maybe it was offended because Bakugou hadn’t offered anything to eat. “I’ll take that as a yes,” Bakugou informed the horse. “Let’s get moving, huh? I need to think. And maybe track down a dragon to demand a face to face explanation, once I’ve figured out what the fuck I’m going to say to the other shitty hair.”
I know it's been FOREVER since I worked on this, and I'm super sorry! I've been stuck on how to handle this chapter for a long time, so I've been working on other stuff. Hopefully I've got it figured out now and I'll have the time and inspiration to work on this regularly again!!
Shitty Hair the horse was not nearly as good at keeping Bakugou company as the original Shitty Hair the Human-but-Actually-a-Dragon had been. Not that Bakugou would ever admit it. But the silence was strange. The lack of a sparring partner felt like something important had been torn out of his life.
It took him over a week to figure out how to only cook enough food for himself when he stopped for the night.
The dragon teeth were a constant weight in his pocket, reminding him of what had happened. The letter beside them weighed more, a reminder of what hadn't.
Bakugou's travel was mostly aimless until he started to run low on supplies and eventually got sick of foraging a few weeks later.
At least his wounds had healed, although he had some new scars that he tried not to think about too often.
So when he stumbled across a pair of fools along the side of the road, he considered just taking their valuables and any food they had on them.
Then the blond one started talking, and Bakugou considered encouraging Shitty Hair to trample them.
“Wait! We need an escort to the next town!” The blond called, approaching the road and leaving his companion hovering in the shade offered by the trees.
Bakugou tilted his head, formulating his reply carefully.
“Just fucking die,” he growled. The blond looked affronted, but not deterred. Bakugou nudged Shitty Hair to move faster, but the horse, much like his namesake, apparently thought the stealing from strangers idea was a great one because he ignored Bakugou’s signals and moseyed over to the blond, then proceeded to try to stick his big horsey nose in the blond’s pocket.
“Well, hello, there,” the blond greeted the horse, pulling out what looked like a lump of sugar, which he proceeded to feed to Shitty Hair. “You’re obviously the brains of the operation,” he murmured.
“I changed my mind,” Bakugou announced. “Don’t bother dropping dead; I’ll just fucking kill you myself.” He reached for his sword, but the blond sidestepped, so he was on the other side of Shitty Hair. If Bakugou unsheathed his sword and attacked, he’d have to attack across his horse’s neck, and he wasn’t about to do that. “Fuck you. And don’t feed my fucking horse that shit. You’ll make him a useless fatass.”
“Look, man, we just need someone to help us get to the next town. It’s only supposed to be a few days away. We have our own horses, and supplies, and plenty of money,” the blond insisted.
“I should just kill your stupid ass and take all of that,” Bakugou informed him. “What kind of fucking idiot tells some damn stranger about all their money and shit? Why the fuck do you even need someone with you, anyway?”
“We will pay you double not to ask,” piped up the blond’s companion. Bakugou blinked at him, frowning as he tried to remember where he’d seen that face before. Oh. Oh, well now it made sense.
“You’re the asshole who’s got fucking wanted posters everywhere,” Bakugou realized. There was no way two men were wandering around with the same unnatural red and white hair and burn scar on their faces. “The fuck did you do?”
“Triple not to ask that,” the companion told him.
“Fuck that shit. I’m leaving you two assholes right fucking here,” Bakugou told them. He tugged on the reins, and Shitty Hair reluctantly turned back toward the road.
“We can pay you in information!” the blond blurted out. Bakugou urged Shitty Hair along, not turning to acknowledge the idiots on the road at all. “Don’t warriors like you usually want to know where dragons live?”
Shitty Hair stopped walking, but Bakugou had no idea if he’d signalled the horse to stop, or if the traitor was hoping for more sugar cubes.
“The fuck do you know about dragons?” Bakugou hissed, finally looking over his shoulder.
“I know there’s a whole bunch of them that lives in a valley in the mountains, and I know where the trail is that’ll take you to them. People are always finding dragons to hunt up there,” the blond answered. “I’m surprised you don’t have some teeth yourself.” Bakugou turned his back on them again, reaching into his pocket. His fingertips brushed over the teeth, and he closed his eyes for a second.
He still didn’t know what to make of Kirishima being a dragon.
He didn’t know if Kirishima’s friendship had been real, or if he was right and it was just some big plot - not that he could imagine what a dragon would get out of making friends with a dragon hunter.
But if these people were right, and those dragons up in the mountains were vulnerable...if these two gave that information to anyone else.
The image of the little pearl-colored dragon nudging at his arm flashed before his eyes, and Bakugou curled his fingers almost protectively around her tiny tooth in his pocket. Dragons her age would be the most vulnerable ones if humans really were hunting a whole group of dragons.
“I’ll take you to the next town. No questions asked,” Bakugou told them without looking back. “You give me supplies and pay me, and tell me about this trail that leads to dragons. I’ll make sure you get where you’re going in one piece.”
Of course, if it turned out that the information panned out, Bakugou might have to come back and kill them so they didn’t send more hunters who either - like him - didn’t know they’d be potentially killing children, or might not care. But he wasn’t going to tell them that.
Bakugou trudged up the path through the foothills, leading Shitty Hair by the reins. He’d dropped the blond and his outlaw friend off in the town they wanted, then followed the directions the blond had given him toward what was supposedly a valley full of dragons. So far, Bakugou didn’t see why even dragon slayers would go to this much effort to hunt dragons when it was much easier to go after the ones who ended up too close to human villages.
Of course, apparently a lot of those were kids who’d gotten lost or wandered away from home, which fucking sucked, so maybe some of the hunters knew that and wanted to take on an adult dragon? Bakugou shook his head and scowled at the path in front of him.
“Fuck this,” he grumbled. If this stupid path got any rockier or steeper, Shitty Hair wasn’t going to make it. Bakugou already had to lead the horse because he didn’t want to risk the horse getting injured trying to carry Bakugou over the uneven terrain. The blond had said it should only take a few hours to reach the pass into the valley once he entered the foothills, but he’d already been on this stupidly rocky path for most of the day. Bakugou glanced back at Shitty Hair, wondering if he should take a break to let the horse rest, since picking his way over the rough ground seemed a lot more taxing on the horse than it was on Bakugou.
The sun vanished, blocked out by a huge object passing overhead. Bakugou tensed and looked up just in time to catch a glimpse of an enormous crimson dragon tumbling out of the sky, clipping the top of a cluster of trees on a nearby hillside with a roar before dropping out of sight on the other side of the hill.
“Fucking hell,” Bakugou growled. “Motherfucking shit. Guess I found a fucking dragon. You stay here, Shitty Hair. I don’t want you freaking the fuck out,” he said, leading the horse behind the closest tree - some sort of evergreen, hopefully large enough to hide his horse so it wouldn’t get stolen or something - and tying the reins around a low-hanging branch. Shitty Hair huffed like he was offended by Bakugou’s estimation of his bravery, but Bakugou just rolled his eyes and patted his pocket, making sure the dragon teeth were still there.
Bakugou gave Shitty Hair one last pat on the shoulder, then started up the hill, scrambling up the steep slope until he reached the crest and stared down at the red dragon, which was crouched defensively, wings lifted to make itself look bigger, claws and fangs bared as it glared in the direction it had come from.
The dragon’s gaze found Bakugou, who stayed where he was, staring at the dragon. He had to be imagining it, but it really, really looked like the dragon Kirishima had turned into. It was definitely exactly the same color.
“I think it went this way!” someone shouted. Bakugou glanced over his shoulder, caught a glimpse of three humans coming over the hill on the other side of the path, and scowled.
“Fuck. Don’t fucking eat me or anything, okay?” Bakugou muttered as he started down the hill. The dragon watched him silently, eyes narrow, but didn’t make a move to kill him. “They’re going to find you if you stay here. Can you fly away or something?”
“And you call me stupid,” the dragon grumbled. “I wouldn’t have crashed if I could fly away, Bakugou.”
Bakugou took a second to register that the dragon knew who he was, sounded like Kirishima, and…
“What the fucking shit? Fuck my luck,” Bakugou complained, peering at him. He knew the dragon looked like Kirishima, but he hadn’t thought it would actually be him. “You’d better not fucking die, you asshole, because you have a shitton of explaining to do.” Kirishima blinked at him, but Bakugou didn’t give him a chance to respond. He didn’t have time to process this - he hadn’t been looking for Kirishima, hadn’t sorted out his thoughts on the dragon who’d tried to steal from him and then ended up as his annoying but also definitely not attractive traveling companion and the closest thing to a friend Bakugou had in a long time. And if Bakugou didn’t have time to process, then Kirishima didn’t have time to talk. “Just shut up. Fucking...play dead or some shit, okay? I’ll chase those assholes off, and then your ass is mine, Scaley,” Bakugou snapped. Kirishima’s eyes widened, then closed a moment later as his lips curled away from his fangs in a low, rumbling laugh rather than the snarl he’d been sporting when Bakugou first saw him. “Shut your goddamned shitty mouth,” Bakugou hissed. “They’ll hear you!” Kirishima tucked his head under one wing - fuck, Bakugou could see a handful of tears in the wing membrane, leaking orange-gold blood in heavy lines down his wing, dripping onto his scales and the ground below - still chuckling. The dragon rolled onto his side, doing a disturbingly good job of looking dead. Bakugou hesitated, then unsheathed his sword and carefully ran the blade along one of the wounds in Kirishima’s wings, coating the metal in the dragon’s blood.
“Hey! Who are you? Get away from our kill!”
Bakugou turned and stared up the hill at the hunters, who had finally located Kirishima and come to finish the job.
“You did a really fucking shit job of finishing the job!” Bakugou shouted back. “I had to kill him myself, which makes this my kill!” One of the hunters started down the hill, sword in hand, while one of his companions drew a bow. Bakugou fucking hated archers, after the last time he’d gotten shot. This time, however, he could use the enemy archer to his advantage.
The archer shot, seconds before the first hunter reached the bottom of the hill. Bakugou spun out of the arrow’s path, his sword following him to slice right through the arrow’s shaft, but he didn’t pause to enjoy the yelp of surprise from the archer or the third hunter on top of the hill. Instead, he followed through on the motion of dodging and lunged for the hunter who’d descended the hill. The man was a poor swordsman, at least compared to Bakugou. He didn’t even get his weapon up to defend himself before Bakugou was on him, seizing the hilt of the hunter’s sword and yanking out of his hand. He slashed the curved blade of his own sword across the hunter’s arm, then twirled his enemy’s sword in his other hand before plunging it into the ground - through the man’s boot, of course.
The hunter screamed, bleeding heavily from his arm and foot, trapped in place by his own sword piercing his boot.
“This is my dragon!” Bakugou announced, stepping back and raising his sword, showing the mingled orange-gold dragon blood and crimson human blood on the blade. “Put down your weapons, then get your friend here and get the fuck away from here before I decide to kill all three of you.” Bakugou leaned casually against Kirishima’s tail as he watched them scramble to obey, a vicious smirk twisting his lips until he was sure they were gone, the two uninjured hunters having to carry their friend up the hill. “Okay, asshole, switch to human form so I can get your sorry fucking ass patched up,” Bakugou huffed, pushing off Kirishima’s tail and turning to nudge the dragon with his foot. Kirishima lifted his wing and blinked at him, way too much amusement in his eyes for Bakugou’s liking. “Don’t fucking think this means anything. I already told you, you owe me a fan-fucking-tastic explanation, and I don’t want you fucking bleeding your nasty-ass dragon blood everywhere or dropping dead for real before I get it.”
“Sure, sure. Because the great dragon slayer Bakugou Katsuki came to the mountains for a vacation,” Kirishima laughed. He shifted to his human form, and Bakugou realized that the clothes Kirishima had worn as a thief must have been part of the magic or whatever that let him turn into a human, because Kirishima was standing there, grinning at him with his pants thankfully intact, though he’d apparently decided to skip the vest and scarf. “Did you miss me that much, Bakugou?”
“I didn’t come here looking for you, Scaley,” Bakugou snapped, grabbing Kirishima’s wrist and turning him to eye the long cuts along his back and arms, mirroring the slashes in his wings. Kirishima let him, curiosity sparking in his eyes as he looked over his shoulder to study Bakugou.
“What happened to calling me Shitty Hair?” Kirishima teased. Bakugou scowled and met hit gaze.
“I fucking replaced you with that horse you left after you decided some shitty-ass letter was a good way to explain what the fuck you were thinking,” Bakugou replied steadily. “I just came to see if some rumors were true. Now that I know they are, I’ll just patch you up, pass on the rumors as a warning for your scaley ass, and be on my merry fucking way.” Kirishima’s eyes were wide, his mouth hanging open a little.
“You...named the horse Shitty Hair?”
“Yeah, well at least this Shitty Hair won’t try to be my friend just to fuck with me and then run off when his real friends come to pick him up,” Bakugou grumbled. He turned and started up the hill, leaving Kirishima to follow. When he didn’t immediately do so, Bakugou glared over his shoulder. “Come on. Your legs aren’t fucking cut too, are they? Let’s just get this the fuck over with so I can just fucking forget I ever met you.” Kirishima ducked his head, not quite a nod but close enough. Bakugou huffed and resumed the trek over the hill, back to where Shitty Hair was hopefully still tied where Bakugou had left him.
Bakugou told himself he was imagining the regret and pain in Kirishima’s expression at his words, and then told himself he didn’t care even if he hadn’t imagined it.
He’d gone this long without figuring out what he wanted to say to Kirishima, what he felt about everything that had happened. He could get through this without having to deal with it, and then he really might be able to move on and forget about Kirishima.
Bakugou was glad Kirishima’s wounds were on his back, so Bakugou didn’t have to look him in the eye while he cleaned and bandaged the dragon’s wounds. Kirishima was silent under Bakugou’s touch, apparently - finally - realizing that Bakugou didn’t exactly want to talk.
“Fucking humans know the route to get here,” Bakugou sighed as he finished with the last of the bandages. “I just came to these fucking hills to see if the rumors were true. You should fucking guard this shitty path.” He gathered the remains of his medical supplies and packed them into his saddlebags.
“You really just came because you were worried about...generic dragons? Strangers?” Kirishima’s words were subdued, and he didn’t turn to look over his shoulder at Bakugou.
“Well I sure as shit wasn’t worried about your goddamn scaley ass,” Bakugou snapped. Kirishima’s shoulders tensed, but Bakugou continued, “You had your shitty-ass friends. Which, by the way, are even fucking shittier if they let a fucking idiot like you out alone.” Bakugou glanced at Kirishima’s back, then shook his head. “I was just...fucking worried about the little shitty dragon brats, okay?” Kirishima glanced over his shoulder then, but Bakugou ignored him and continued, “I can’t be the only asshole who doesn’t fucking know midget dragons are fucking kids.” Bakugou scowled to himself and carried his saddlebags back to where Shitty Hair was waiting.
He didn’t want to reveal so much to a damn dragon he was still pissed at, but he also didn’t want Kirishima thinking Bakugou had been thinking about him at all. Because he hadn’t. He definitely didn’t miss Kirishima’s endless chatter, or sparring with him in the evenings.
He definitely wasn’t glad that Kirishima was alright, and he really wasn’t happy to see him again. Kirishima had lied to him, abandoned him with nothing but some stupid letter Bakugou had never opened.
“I’m glad you’re okay,” Kirishima said instead of replying to Bakugou’s attempt at convincing him that he was not happy to see the scaley asshole again. There was a pause, and then Kirishima asked, “Did you even read the letter?”
Bakugou scowled and fastened the saddlebags in place on Shitty Hair’s back. The horse gave him a sidelong glance that felt a lot more judgemental than any horse had a right to be. Bakugou glared at the horse, who didn’t have any right to be judging him for anything, because horses shit while they walk and that meant they didn’t have any room to judge anyone.
“Of fucking course I didn’t. I don’t need some half-assed excuse from you,” Bakugou snapped. “I don’t fucking know what kind of sick shitty satisfaction you got out of everything, but-”
“I didn’t befriend you to try to hurt you. What kind of monster do you think I am?” Kirishima interrupted, finally turning to face Bakugou as hurt flashed across his expression.
“I think you’re a goddamn fucking dragon,” Bakugou replied shortly, untying Shitty Hair’s reins. “And I’m fucking done with dragons.”
“But you still went out of your way to warn me about a threat,” Kirishima pointed out. “Even if you didn’t know I was here, you still-”
“Fucking hell, Scale-brain, what the motherfucking shit does it take to get you to shut the fucking hell up?” Bakugou snarled, whirling on the stupid dragon. “Were you not fucking satisfied with wrecking the shit out of my life the first time? What the fuck else could you want to take from me, goddammit?” Kirishima’s eyes flew wide, and he wavered, like he was debating whether to move towards Bakugou or take a step back.
“Bakugou…” Kirishima seemed at a loss for words. Bakugou snorted and led Shitty Hair back towards the path, determined to get out of these dragon-infested hills as soon as possible. “Did you really not even...you really didn’t read the letter?” Bakugou rolled his eyes and turned to glare at him.
“Why should I read your fucking shit letter? I don’t need some goddamned piece of shitty paper to tell me that you lied to me. You made me fucking care about your fucking useless thieving ass, and then when your goddamn scaled asshole real friends showed the fuck up, you flew off to get back to your fucking life and left me fucking picking up the goddamn pieces with nothing but some fucking letter and a shitty fucking tooth like a goddamn souvenir!” Bakugou clenched his fists, trying to ignore the way his fingers trembled around Shitty Hair’s reins. Kirishima took a low, steadying breath and then moved forward until he was standing right in front of Bakugou.
“This is why I left you a letter. I didn’t want you to think…” Kirishima bit his lip, his fucking jagged dragon teeth digging into the skin. “Look, I never meant to...to hurt you. I didn’t plan on-”
“I can fucking guess what your goddamn plan was, you asshole,” Bakugou snarled.
“Bakugou, just let me finish. I didn’t mean to make friends or even travel with you. It just kind of...happened. I went into your camp thinking I was just going to steal back the teeth you took from the dragons you killed, but then you showed you actually had, I don’t know, some kind of honor. You could’ve just killed me, but as soon as you realized I couldn’t really defend myself in my human form, you-”
“What the fuck? So you just decided to fucking, what? Worm your way in and-”
“That’s not what happened! Dammit, Bakugou, why can’t you just listen if you couldn’t be bothered to read the explanation I tried to give you?” Kirishima shouted. Bakugou paused, eyes wide, caught by the frustration and pain in Kirishima’s expression. He was silent, wanting to put distance between them but knowing that Kirishima wouldn’t give up until he said what he wanted.
“Fine. Say whatever the fuck you want,” Bakugou growled. Kirishima blinked at him, mouth hanging open like he hadn’t expected Bakugou to agree.
“Wait, really? Okay. Uh, well…” Bakugou was already regretting this. “Look, I think you’re a good person, Bakugou. That’s why I stuck with you, and told you about the teeth. I didn’t want to tell you I was...you know, a dragon. Because I was afraid to mess it up. I liked traveling with you, learning how to fight, it was...nice, you know? It was different than being with my clan, but it was good. And I knew I’d have to tell you eventually, but...I didn’t know how. And then Ashido and Tetsu showed up, and…” Kirishima swallowed hard. “Look, I know you’re upset, and I know I lied to you. I wanted to stay and explain myself, but I couldn’t. I came to get those teeth from you for a reason, and I had to finish my job and get back to my responsibilities to my clan.”
“You couldn’t fucking wait for me to wake the fuck up?” Bakugou demanded.
“Would you have listened to me if I did?” Kirishima replied quietly. Bakugou was silent for a moment, resisting the urge to give in. Fuck, he didn’t want to listen to any more of this. He didn’t want to listen to anything that might make him regret lashing out. He didn’t want to hear anything that might make him want to stay. “I’m sorry, okay? I don’t really expect you to-”
“Oh, shut the fuck up, Kirishima,” Bakugou interrupted. It would be easier to tell himself he was right before, that Kirishima had done this to him on purpose, making his own little space in Bakugou’s heart and then ripping it to shreds just to get back at Bakugou for all of the dragons he’d killed. Unfortunately, there was still part of him - a larger part than he would ever admit - the part of him that missed Kirishima’s company - that wanted desperately to believe that Kirishima hadn’t wanted to hurt him, that Kirishima could be his friend again. “Don’t you have to get back to your shitty clan or whatever?” Bakugou said, figuring he could process Kirishima’s words and crush the part of himself that wanted to believe them once Kirishima wasn’t in front of him anymore. It had been easier to make himself believe Kirishima was just a liar, just trying to hurt him, when he didn’t have to see the way Kirishima practically flinched whenever Bakugou accused him of it.
“Aw, are you worried about me?” Kirishima teased, something that - knowing him - was probably hope sparking in his eyes.
“Trying to get the fuck away from you,” Bakugou retorted. Kirishima definitely flinched at that, and Bakugou tried to deny the little prick of guilt in his chest at that.
“Right. Sorry. I’ll just…” Kirishima trailed off and stepped back. “Good luck with wherever you’re going next.” Bakugou hesitated, watching as Kirishima turned and started walking towards the mountains. Bakugou shook his head and turned in the opposite direction, only to find himself face to face with Shitty Hair’s judging eyes.
“The fuck are you looking at me like that for, you ass?” Bakugou complained. The horse blinked at him once, then flicked its ears in the direction Kirishima had gone. “Fuck you, I’m not going after him. He said his shitty piece, and I’m not…” Shitty Hair shoot his mane, then lowered his head to sniff at the grass, and Bakugou scowled. The horse had definitely been judging him, and now he was being ignored. Bakugou half expected Kirishima to turn around and tease him for talking to the horse, and when he didn’t, Bakugou realized just how stupid this was. “Oh, fuck, I’m arguing with a motherfucking horse, goddammit.”
Maybe he’d been traveling alone a little too long. He glanced over his shoulder, watched as Kirishima reached the bottom of the hill and started up the next one. A rock came loose beneath the dragon’s foot, and he tumbled forward with a yelp. He caught himself with his hands before faceplanting into the ground, but the strain it put on his shoulders as he pushed himself upright was obvious even from as far away as Bakugou was.
“If he falls and breaks his neck, or those hunters come back, he won’t make it back to warn his clan,” Bakugou muttered to himself. Shitty Hair lifted his head and watched Bakugou solemnly. “It’ll be a waste of a trip if he dies before passing on the warning.” Shitty Hair nuzzled at Bakugou’s pocket, where the dragon teeth and unread letter rested.
Kirishima hadn’t mentioned the teeth in his explanation.
But he’d given Bakugou one of his own, and despite his best efforts, Bakugou knew what that meant. He remembered Kirishima’s voice telling him.
“Fucking hell, I’m going after him, aren’t I?” Bakugou realized. Shitty Hair looked way too smug as he nuzzled at Bakugou’s pocket again, tail swishing. Bakugou sighed and scratched behind the horse’s ear, then adjusted his grip on the reins and turned the horse in the direction Kirishima had gone. “Hey! Scale-face!” Bakugou shouted. Kirishima froze, turned to look at him. “Hold the fuck up! You’re gonna get your dumb ass killed and then I’ll have to come back again to warn the other lizards!” Bakugou couldn’t make out Kirishima’s expression, but the dragon stayed where he was, waiting. Bakugou fixed a scowl in place and led Shitty Hair after Kirishima.
He was going to regret this, he just knew it.
But maybe not as much as he regretted some other things.
Bakugou didn’t say anything when he reached Kirishima, and he tried not to notice the grin that stretched across Kirishima’s face. Kirishima didn’t seem to mind, instead falling into step beside Bakugou.
“Did you know I’m actually one of the caretakers for my clan’s hatchlings?” Kirishima asked as they crested the hill and started down the other side. Bakugou grunted, shooting Kirishima a glare before pointedly turning his attention to Shitty Hair, guiding the horse down the easiest route. “I guess that’s a no. I mean, of course you didn’t. Not like I told you or anything,” Kirishima continued, unaffected by Bakugou’s irritation, and Bakugou didn’t bother telling him to shut up.
It wasn’t because he’d missed Kirishima’s excessive chatter, missed another person walking beside him. Not at all. “Remember the little pearly dragon?”
“Kinda difficult to fucking forget,” Bakugou muttered in spite of himself, patting his pocket where he kept the baby dragon’s tooth. The little pearl-colored dragon was a safe thing to talk about though. Not that he wanted Kirishima to keep talking. “How is that little shit, anyway?”
“Her clan is visiting mine,” Kirishima answered. “So if you go all the way to the caves with me, you could see her again. She got a little bigger and grew horns.”
“The fuck makes you think-”
“Come on, you came all this way, and now you’re walking with me. Aren’t you going to deliver your warning yourself? Shinju would love to see you again,” Kirishima added.
“That’s her name?” Bakugou asked before he could stop herself.
“Yeah. She keeps asking about you,” he added. Bakugou hesitated, then sighed. He kind of did want to check on the little dragon, assure himself that it - she - really had made it home safely.
“Fine. I’ll stick around long enough to see the little shit,” Bakugou grumbled. “But then I’m leaving.”
“Alone?” Kirishima asked.
“The fuck is that supposed to mean? Of course, alone,” Bakugou snorted.
“Are you sure you want-” Kirishima broke off with a yelp and pitched forward, having tripping again. Bakugou caught him by the arm and hauled him up before he could land face first on the rocky ground.
“Fuck you, Scales. What the shit is wrong with your feet?” Bakugou muttered, waiting until Kirishima regained his balance before he let go of him, because while a rock or two to the face might serve him right, Bakugou didn’t want to risk any of Kirishima’s friends showing up and finding Bakugou standing over him. He was pretty sure they wouldn’t have forgiven him for the whole ‘killing innocent kids’ bit, and he didn’t expect them to. He hadn’t forgiven himself for it yet, after all.
“I haven’t been in human form since I left you,” Kirishima explained. “It’s a little weird to be on two feet again.” Bakugou scowled and stomped ahead. “Hey, Bakugou, can I ask you something?”
“No,” Bakugou answered shortly. Kirishima was quiet for a moment, but Bakugou knew it wouldn’t last, and he was right.
“What part of fucking no was difficult for you, shit-scales?” Bakugou snapped.
“This is important!” Kirishima insisted, reaching out and grabbing Bakugou’s wrist. Bakugou was tempted to throw Kirishima over his shoulder, like he did when they sparred before. But Kirishima was injured, and there wouldn’t be any satisfaction in seeing Kirishima on the ground. Bakugou shook away that thought; he was supposed to be trying to not like Kirishima, dammit. “Look, just answer this, and then I’ll shut up, okay?” Bakugou told himself it was the promise of peace and quiet - because he still didn’t miss Kirishima’s incessant chatter - and not the pleading note in Kirishima’s voice that made him nod sharply. “My tooth, the one I gave you before I left. Did you…?”
“Did I what, asshole? Sell that shitty fang of yours?” Bakugou snapped, pulling his wrist out of Kirishima’s hold. Kirishima’s expression wavered, like he was going to tear up, and shit, okay, fine, maybe Bakugou was just as shitty at getting rid of his feelings as he was at acknowledging them in the first place. “Fuck you,” Bakugou growled, pulling both dragon teeth out of his pocket, along with the unopened letter. “I didn’t...decide what to do with it yet,” he admitted. “Any of it.” Bakugou wasn’t sure what reaction he expected Kirishima to have, but whatever it was, tackling Bakugou was so not it.
Bakugou yelped and fell back, the rocky ground digging into his back through his cape. Kirishima’s arms were around his neck, his unnaturally sharp grin pressing against Bakugou’s collarbone.
“What the motherfucking shitting goddamn shitfuck?” Bakugou hissed, pushing at Kirishima’s stupid spiky head with his free hand. “Are you fucking trying to kill me, you asshole?”
“You kept it!” Kirishima exclaimed, clinging tighter to Bakugou, who was debating just strangling the stupid dragon right then and there.
“Doesn’t fucking mean I’m going to fucking forgive you,” Bakugou told him, trying to squirm free and giving up when the movement made the rocks against his back dig in harder. “And it doesn’t fucking mean I fucking missed you or any shit like that.” Kirishima sat up, grinning down at Bakugou.
“I never said anything about missing me,” Kirishima informed him, downright smirking as he made himself right at home, crossing his arms and settling his weight more comfortably on Bakugou’s stomach. Bakugou scowled and shoved the teeth and letter back into his pocket so he could shove at the idiot dragon with both hands.
“I fucking hate you,” Bakugou growled. Kirishima’s expression suddenly grew solemn.
“Do you? I mean, I know you’re mad because I lied, and I get it. I don’t blame you for wanting to get away from me once you deliver your message and stuff,” Kirishima said. Bakugou’s first instinct was to insist that yes, he hated Kirishima, he didn’t want to be near him.
Just talking to someone had been nice, though. Not being alone with no one but Shitty Hair for company had been good. And Kirishima had explained himself, and now he was acknowledging that he’d hurt Bakugou. Bakugou wanted to deny that meant anything to him, wanted to push Kirishima away.
But he also kind of just wanted to stay right where he was, even if his back was really starting to hurt, and Shitty Hair was eyeing him judgmentally over Kirishima’s shoulder. The tension drained out of Kirishima’s shoulders, and he grinned, apparently reading something in Bakugou’s face that Bakugou himself wasn’t sure of yet.
“Come on. We’re not far from one of the cave entrances now,” Kirishima told him, getting to his feet and holding a hand out to Bakugou. Bakugou sat up, considered swatting Kirishima’s hand away, and paused, looking up at him.
Bakugou took a deep breath, then took Kirishima’s hand and let himself be pulled to his feet. Bakugou wasn’t sure what this meant, or what he was going to do after he made sure Kirishima’s clan knew about the path and the humans’ awareness of it. He thought he’d go back to adventuring on his own, but…
Even just a few minutes with Kirishima had reminded him what it was like to have a friend alongside him, and he was starting to think that maybe what he was angry about the most was Kirishima ruining that. Bakugou had been a dragon slayer, after all. He had been the enemy when Kirishima met him. Of course Kirishima wouldn’t reveal himself as a dragon. Bakugou grimaced and ran a hand through his hair, trying to sort out his thoughts.
Eventually it came down to one question: was Bakugou willing to forgive Kirishima and consider what that might mean for his future, or was he going to leave angry and spend who knew how long alone again?
“Let’s just...go see your shitty clan or what the fuck ever,” Bakugou growled, already knowing the answer but not willing to admit it to himself yet, let alone say anything to Kirishima about it. Kirishima beamed and led the way.
Bakugou left Shitty Hair just inside the tunnel Kirishima led him to. Shitty Hair hadn’t seemed bothered by Kirishima, but Bakugou didn’t want to risk the horse getting spooked by other dragons. Bakugou followed Kirishima through the tunnel, squinting in the darkness and stumbling along until they emerged into a large, open cavern with one whole open side, looking out over a valley. Had they gotten into the mountains far enough for this? The tunnel hadn’t been that long. Bakugou blinked in the sudden brightness, taking in his surroundings.
“We have ways of keeping enemies away and bringing allies in quickly,” Kirishima laughed, noticing Bakugou’s confused eyeing of the open side of the cave. “Hey, Bakugou, look up.” Bakugou did, turning to survey the rest of the cave, and froze. The back wall was dotted with ledges of different sizes, many with yawning tunnels leading farther into the mountain, but that wasn’t what caught his attention.
There were dragons everywhere, watching him silently. None of them moved, just taking in the presence of a human in their home. An enormous black dragon, with a sweeping crown of horns adorning its head, dropped from its perch toward the top of the cave and landed just in front of them, the rumble of the ground at the impact blending with the growl that left the dragon’s throat. Kirishima stepped forward, an answering croon rippling out of him. The black dragon lowered its head, muzzle brushing Kirishima’s shoulder. The creature’s breath rushed over them as it sighed, buffetting Bakugou enough that he took a half step back.
The dragon was huge, bigger than Kirishima’s true form or the gray giant that was Tetsutetsu. This dragon’s fangs were at least as long as Bakugou’s body, and Bakugou couldn’t help the rush of pure awe that swept through him. Sure, he’d taken down some young dragons, and he could even see how a group of hunters had injured Kirishima. But this monster? Bakugou was pretty sure that if humans knew how absolutely overwhelming dragons could get, they wouldn’t dare try to hunt them.
“Holy fucking shit,” Bakugou whispered, craning his neck to try to see what color the dragon’s eyes were.
“Eijirou, why have you brought this human here? And why are you injured - again?” the dragon demanded, voice so deep and powerful that Bakugou felt his ribs vibrate with the force of the dragon’s words.
“I ran into a group of hunters out in the hills,” Kirishima answered, not seeming unnerved at all by the huge fucking monster whose teeth were mere inches away from him. “Bakugou chased them off and made sure I got back okay. He has a message for you, too, and-”
“You brought the child-killer here?” Ah, shit, Bakugou recognized that voice. When he landed nearby, Tetsutetsu’s gray frame was dwarfed next to the black dragon Bakugou faced now, but he was still big enough to bite Bakugou in half with little to no effort, and Bakugou was beginning to regret following Kirishima into the tunnel.
“Tetsu, cut it out,” Kirishima huffed. “He helped me, and he wouldn’t do that anymore!”
“You have bigger problems,” Bakugou added, his voice a little higher and shakier than normal. He tensed as the black dragon turned its attention on him.
“Please don’t eat him, Elder Shouta,” Kirishima piped up. “He really did come to warn us!” The black dragon, Shouta, snorted and nearly bowled Bakugou over with just the rush of air from his nostrils.
“You, uh, you’ve got a path right into the foothills,” Bakugou said hastily, thinking maybe if he gave his warning quickly enough, the dragon wouldn’t growl too loud and blow him right out of the cave. “Some humans know about it, and there’s one wandering around telling people how to find it.” The black dragon lifted his head, and Bakugou’s neck hurt just from trying to tilt his head back far enough to follow the motion.
“I see. Tetsutetsu, take a patrol and ensure the hunters Eijirou faced have left our territory. Eijirou, go get your wounds looked at so you can return to your true form. As for the human...I see no reason to put the effort into killing him,” Aizawa decided. “Ochako, come babysit the human.” Bakugou didn’t dare protest, despite his apprehension at the idea of being left with a dragon besides Kirishima. A bright copper dragon with white flecks on its face and belly landed beside Aizawa as Tetsutetsu growled and took off, flying out the open side of the cave. There was a roar, and he was joined by a handful of other dragons a moment later.
“Don’t let the little ones bite him,” Kirishima said to the coppery dragon, who let out a sound that sounded distinctly amused. “Bakugou, this is Ochako. She’ll take you to see the kids if you want.”
“You’re Bakugou, huh?” Ochako mused, lowering her head to get a better look at Bakugou. “If you upset any of the hatchlings, it won’t be their bite you’ll have to worry about.” She wasn’t nearly as large as Shouta, wasn’t even as large as Tetsutetsu, but the way she bared her fangs made Bakugou swallow and nod obediently. Besides, even if Ochako was small enough that he thought maybe he could defeat her, he would have to get past Shouta to escape, and Bakugou was pretty sure he wouldn’t survive that.
“I’m not gonna hurt any more kids,” Bakugou snapped, trying to cover his nervousness.
“Good! Then we should get along fine!” she replied. “Follow me, and I’m sure Eijirou will come pick you up once he’s been taken care of!” Bakugou hesitated, and Kirishima made a shooing motion at him. Bakugou reluctantly followed the copper and white dragon toward one of the ground-level tunnels, jumping when he heard the black dragon start rumbling at Kirishima again.
He forgot to be curious what they were saying about half a second later, though, because as soon as he stepped into the tunnel, little spots of color - well, little compared to Ochako and the other adult dragons - swarmed past Ochako’s feet and charged straight at him. Bakugou yelped and went down as the first one hit him, his sore back hitting the tunnel floor and making him hiss in pain.
A soft, worried croon made him pause, because he’d heard that sound before. He blinked up at the dragon above him, and recognized the pearly muzzle pushing into his face, nosing at him as though checking to see if he was okay.
“Hey, little shit,” Bakugou greeted the baby dragon. He completely forgot about the other young dragons, and the horde of deadly adults outside, and the chaperone who was probably glaring at him. “Kirishima said your name is Shinju.” The dragon chirped and wriggled, wings flapping excitedly.
“Shinju!” Ochako chided. Shinju ignored the older dragon and plopped herself down across Bakugou’s chest instead. Bakugou wheezed, eyes watering as he struggled to breathe with a dragon who - while tiny by dragon standards - was still bigger than a horse on his chest. Ochako growled, and Shinju whined and slid off Bakugou, curling up on the ground next to him and dropping her chin on his shoulder instead, a low, apologetic sound coming from her. Bakugou coughed and patted aimlessly at the dragon’s head. “If you die, Eijirou will be mad, and Shinju will be upset too,” Ochako informed him, her coppery face hovering over him. Bakugou flipped her off.
“I’m not gonna fu- uh, I’m not going to die,” Bakugou grumbled, remembering halfway through his sentence that he shouldn’t really swear since there were so many kids around. “Tell her not to worry,” he added when Shinju whined again. Ochako made a soothing sound and nudged Shinju’s shoulder, and the tiny dragon chirped happily and pressed her forehead to Bakugou’s cheek.
Another chirp, this one curious, came from Bakugou’s other side, reminding him that there were other baby dragons, too. A moment later, there was a scaled muzzle pushing against his side, and he flinched away instinctively. Bakugou grumbled and craned his neck, trying to see which dragon was poking him, but his vision was blocked by a third hatchling moving into his line of sight and leaning over him.
Within seconds, Bakugou was at the center of a mass of at least ten baby dragons, all trying to get close to investigate the human without dislodging Shinju from her spot. Bakugou tried to sit up once, but Shinju gave him a heartbroken look, and he flopped back down and resigned himself to being used as a pillow and sniffed by the tiny monsters.
That was how Kirishima found him, grumbling as one of the hatchlings stepped on his leg and then squealed when he yelped.
“Bakugou, dude, are you alive?” Kirishima asked, leaning over him. Bakugou groaned, but the sound became a shout as one of the hatchlings decided to try chewing on his cape.
“Hey! Don’t eat that!” Bakugou scolded, trying to pull the fabric away from one hatchling without disturbing the ones using him as a pillow. Kirishima snickered, and Bakugou glared at him. “Help me! Ochako’s been useless!” he added.
“It’s just so funny,” Ochako explained from a little way down the tunnel, where she had been sitting and watching Bakugou be mobbed by scaley horse-sized dragon kids. “They usually don’t trust strangers, but they’re all over him for some reason.”
“Ah, that’s probably because of what he’s got in his pocket,” Kirishima admitted, gently pushing at one of the hatchlings’ shoulder. “Come on, guys let him up.” Kirishima made a sharp chirp, probably repeating the order in dragon language or whatever. The hatchlings all whined and retreated, clustering around Ochako as Bakugou sat up and groaned at how sore his back was. First the rocky hillside, then the tunnel floor. Kirishima reached into Bakugou’s pocket, making Bakugou sputter out protests, and retrieved the teeth he kept there. “They could probably sense that you got these because Shinju and I trust you, so they figured you must be okay,” Kirishima explained, handing the teeth back to Bakugou, who noticed Kirishima’s bandages were gone.
“Now what?” Bakugou asked, putting the teeth away and holding his hand out. Kirishima’s little dragon friends had gotten him in this mess, so Kirishima could damn well help him up. Kirishima grinned and obliged, pulling Bakugou to his feet without complaint.
“Now I can fly you wherever you want to go,” Kirishima answered. “Elder Shouta gave me permission to take another trip.” Bakugou blinked in surprise. He’d been so busy being squished by hatchlings, he hadn’t figured out what he wanted yet. “You’re also welcome to stick around for a bit while you decide.” Bakugou hesitated, then nodded to himself.
“I need to go take care of the as- uh, the person who told me how to get here,” Bakugou replied. “I need to make sure he won’t tell anyone else.”
“Tetsu’s taking care of that,” Kirishima assured him. “Or he will as soon as you tell him how to find the guy.” Bakugou blinked. Well, without that, he didn’t really have a goal at the moment, he realized. He’d delivered his warning, gotten an explanation from Kirishima, and someone else was going to clean up the whole secret route into dragon territory mess. Without traveling around fighting dragons, what else was he supposed to do? “Come on, just stay here for a bit. I wanna show you around, and I bet the kids would love it,” Kirishima insisted. Bakugou wasn’t sure he wanted to stay anywhere near that giant black dragon, but he also wasn’t sure he wanted to leave Kirishima behind anymore, either.
There was a tug at his cape, and Bakugou turned. Shinju had taken the corner in her teeth and pulled to get his attention. Once she saw that Bakugou was looking at her, she dropped the fabric and rested her forehead against his cheek. Bakugou reached up and patted the side of her scaley neck, puzzled.
The pearly dragon chirped, then stared straight at him and kind of croaked, but it sounded almost like a word.
“Baku!” Shinju croaked again. “Baku! Baku!”
Kirishima’s laughter barely registered as Bakugou gaped at the hatchling. Was she...trying to say his name? He thought she was too young for human languages, though. That’s what Kirishima told him before, anyway.
“Dude, you have to stay now,” Kirishima cackled, throwing an arm around Bakugou’s shoulders.
“I don’t have to-” Bakugou broke off as he glanced sideways at Kirishima, taking in just how relaxed and happy he looked. Bakugou huffed and hunched his shoulders, but didn’t shake him off. “Fine. Just for a little bit. I gotta figure out where I’m going anyway,” Bakugou sighed. Kirishima beamed and let out a series of chirps, and a moment later Bakugou was forced to grab Kirishima to stay upright as Shinju headbutted him in excitement.
“Baku! Baku! Baku!” the dragon chanted, apparently pleased with herself and whatever Kirishima had said to her. Bakugou shook his head, wondering what exactly he’d gotten himself into. Then he realized something.
“Oh fuck, I left Shitty Hair in the tunnel!”
This is the last chapter!! This has been an amazing journey writing this fic, and I just want to thank everybody who's left a comment for me!
This may or may not be the end of this AU; I do have other things I want to do with this world, so I might come back to it later on, when I don't have so many other ongoing projects.
Also!! Check out this adorable fanart for this AU!! https://leimarus.tumblr.com/post/167169810959/i-drew-this-after-a-conversation-i-had-with-a