Dropping his last box onto the floor with a thud, Kirishima took a proper look at his new apartment, trying to maintain the upbeat optimism he’d managed on the drive here. The catchy pop music had helped. Maybe that was all he needed. A little pop music and he’d be back on track, back to normal, back to feeling confident in his decision to move out to this quiet, idyllic, seaside town to assist his grandmother after she’d had a nasty fall. It wasn’t like there was a different decision to be made. She was family, his parents were too busy to do it themselves, and Kirishima was young. Though he’d quite enjoyed his job as a physical therapist in the city’s hospital, his life had been the least stable, and it would be easy to put back together once his grandmother could look after herself again. It was the right thing to do.
Besides, she was paying for his housing and his food. It could be a lot worse.
But, the bare white walls of the apartment were glaring, reminding him of just how blank a slate his life had suddenly become. He didn’t know his grandmother well—she rarely left her house on the sea, preferring to be cloistered away—but she was still the only person he knew within a three hour radius, driving, and Kirishima thrived around people. Already, he was feeling a bit lonely.
Internally shaking his head, dispelling his thoughts, Kirishima grinned and murmured to himself, “Nothing a guy like me can’t change,” and started unpacking boxes, wondering if he’d be able to find a place that sold what furniture he didn't have besides a dinky little antique shop. Antiques weren’t manly. They wouldn’t do.
He was hanging posters up on his walls—a more difficult task than he’d imagined, having never done it alone before—when his phone buzzed. Slamming his fist against one corner of the poster he was putting up, hoping it wouldn’t fall, Kirishima snatched his phone up from the floor and smiled. It was Sero.
S: How’s the new pad?
K: its great!
K: once ive given it the ol kirishima treatment itll be perf
S: Glad you’re alive
K: sorryyyyy shouldve texted
S: I was only a little worried
S: When’s the xbox gonna be set up?
K: now. yesterday
K: i dont kno who imma hang with
K: u kno how i do w/out human interaction
S: Dude, everyone loves you. I think my mom’s still crying. You’ll be fine
S: Met your grandmother yet?
K: yeahhh no. i should do that
S: Probably takes priority over the xbox
S: Toss up, really
K: fuck i already miss u
S: Yeah, yeah, miss you too
S: Go do your thing
K: shes not gonna hate me right
S: Don’t make me slap you
K: have 2 be here to slap me
S: Bye, Ei
Grabbing his keys, Kirishima glanced around at his progress, and nodded, the posters enough to help him picture what the room would look like when he was finished. There was potential. This place could be home.
The drive over took some time. All over the small town, the speed limits were low, and Kirishima kept getting distracted by the ocean and the way the sun was glinting off of it. He had seen it before, but not for years, and it was a sight that did not hold well in the memory.
Then he got lost in a maze of gravel roads that were not on his GPS. Somewhere back here was his grandmother’s house and it took him twenty minutes of circling and pulling very illegal u-turns before he found it, nestled away among the trees.
Parking, Kirishima hopped out of his car and strolled to the front door and saw a scribbled note taped there. Taking it down, he read: The door is unlocked. Come in.
Pulling his shoulders back, Kirishima turned the knob and went in, greeted with a simple and dark foyer, a set of old, wood stairs to the left. Closing the door behind him, Kirishima called, “Baba?”
“Kitchen,” his grandmother’s voice replied, old and creaky. A lot like this house.
Heading towards the back, where he thought the voice had come from, Kirishima’s eyes caught on the windows lining the sitting room, the ocean and beach only a short walk away. If he closed his eyes, he could hear it, even through the walls. He supposed it was possible there was a window open somewhere.
The kitchen was at the very back of the house, a doore leading out onto a small patio, and his grandmother was sitting at a small black table, hands folded on top, staring out the window at the ocean. Taking the chair across from her, Kirishima said, “Hey, Baba.”
Dark eyes flitted to him, narrowing. “Your hair. What did you do to it?”
“Oh,” Kirishima laughed shyly, touching the tips. “Dyed it? Used some gel?”
“Thought it looked cool. Manly, you know.”
“It makes you look like a delinquent,” she said.
“Guess I’ll have to redeem it, then.”
She hummed low and then pushed him a list she’d had folded underneath her hands, veins prominent under thin skin. It had been a long time since he’d seen her, but it was hard to ignore how old she was and how bad the fall must’ve been. “These are the things I need done. The numbers indicate how many times a week they need to be done. Plan accordingly. I can move around the lower level of my house by myself and I prefer to do it alone. For the grocery shopping, I will leave a list on this very table, along with recipes for dinner. I can fend for myself every other meal, but I expect you to cook dinner. I prefer to eat by seven.”
“Baba, I can’t cook.”
“Time to learn, then.”
Nodding, trying not to feel daunted, Kirishima said with determination, “I’ll do my best.”
“Good. Your cousin left this morning, so I’m fine for today, but you will be here tomorrow.”
“Sure you don’t want me to stay and keep you company for awhile? It’d be no trouble. All I’ve got to do is unpack, check in with the landlord, boring stuff. I don’t wanna do it anyway.”
“Alright, well…” Kirishima stood and tapped a finger against his thigh. “Guess I’ll go, then. Call me if you need anything. Anytime. Can’t promise I’ll wake up if I’m asleep, obviously, but know I want to if, you know, I don’t.”
His grandmother simply stared at him and he flashed a quick smile, before heading back towards the front door as fast as he could. When he was halfway there, her voice wound its way to him, strangely loud, as though the house was helping carry the words. “Thank you, Eijirou.”
Grinning, he curled his right hand into a fist and pumped the air. That had gone much better than he’d anticipated. She hadn’t kicked him out or insisted he find another family member to help her. She’d even been grateful there at the end, despite her disapproval of his hair and the number of stupid things he’d said.
On the drive home, after only getting turned around once, Kirishima spontaneously parked on the side of the road, not entirely sure he was allowed to park there, and got out of the car, cold wind blowing in hard from the ocean. Tugging his jacket close, Kirishima strolled to a pile of rocks elevated above the beach and sat on one, watching the waves flow in and out. It felt right to get to know the place he was going to live for the foreseeable future and the ocean was definitely a big part of that.
His heartbeat slowed and Kirishima got the sense that’s how life was going to be here. Slow, safe, and a little too boring.
One thing at a time, Kirishima thought to himself. You’ve got lots of unpacking left. And Sero’s right. People seem to like you.
Taking one more breath of salty sea air, getting accustomed to the smell, Kirishima returned to his car and drove back to his new place. Home. The second he did, he filled it with loud music, something to help him forget he was alone.
It was so loud, he almost didn’t hear the knock on his door. Setting down his punching bag, still absolutely clueless as to how he was going to hang it up, Kirishima opened the door and grinned at a short, old man, back hunched over. He didn’t return the smile and shoved the boxes in his arms into Kirishima’s. “They’re flooding my office,” he said. “Deal with them.”
He shouldn’t have mail yet. He’d just arrived today. Taking a peek at the label, he saw a name. Bakugou Katsuki. “This isn’t my mail, sir.”
“Are you the landlord?”
“What do you think, kid?” Then he turned and walked away.
Looking down at the packages in his arms, Kirishima promptly dropped them and chased after the landlord, completely forgetting to even shut his door. This was an opportunity and he was going to take it. It literally didn't matter who this Bakugou guy was. He was a person and Kirishima suddenly had a reason to talk to him. “Wait, sir!”
“What?” he growled.
“You must have a forwarding address for this guy. Give it to me. Please.”
“Can’t do that.”
“I’ll take him his mail. All his mail. Including whatever you get in the future. I’ll even check in every day if you want, make sure it doesn’t clog up your office.”
There was some grumbling, but then the man waved his hand, continuing down the hall. Following him, practically bouncing with excitement, Kirishima said, “So, like living around here?”
The man grunted, heading into the office at the front of the building. Going behind the desk, he started clicking away on his computer and then wrote down an address on a scrap of paper. He gave it to Kirishima and said, “Check your mailbox, too. Bet there’s more for him in there.”
“Do you remember him? What’s he like?”
“I guess I’ll find out,” Kirishima grinned and hurried back to his apartment, laughing at himself for the open door. Checking the time—a little after five—he decided he’d go now. The street was one of the main roads, or what was considered a main road in a place like this, so he was relatively confident he could find it. Throwing the packages into one of his empty boxes, Kirishima grabbed his keys, and flew down the hall, remembering to check his mailbox in a side room at the front of the building as the landlord had suggested. There was quite a bit of mail in there, most of them magazines, and Kirishima threw them into the box, wondering what kind of man subscribed to both gardening magazines, woodworking magazines, and literary magazines.
It was a short drive and Kirishima found himself in front of a small house, painted gray, with an extremely overgrown garden. Clearly, the gardening magazines were more wishful thinking.
Knocking on the soft pink door, Kirishima prepared himself for someone much nearer to middle age than he was, which was why he practically let go of the box when the door opened. The man standing there was around the same age as Kirishima and he was…hot. Really fucking hot. And manly. There was confidence in the tilt of his head, his tank top did nothing to hide his massive arms, and he was scowling. Then he spoke, voice low and gravelly, and Kirishima realized he was grinning. This perpetual stay in this quiet town was suddenly looking a lot more bearable.
“Who the fuck are you?”
“Kirishima Eijirou. Nice to meet you. Are you Bakugou Katuski?”
Bakugou grunted in acknowledgement. He didn’t say anything and neither did Kirishima, still slightly in shock. It wasn’t that he got off on being glared at, but holy god, this guy was attractive and really skilled at the whole glaring thing. Lots of practice had gone into that. Bakugou huffed loudly, clenching his fists, and said, “Did you fucking want something?”
Extending his arms, holding out the box, Kirishima said, “Nah, man, just delivering your mail. Moved into your old apartment this morning and the landlord was not thrilled about all the packages.”
Taking the box, Bakugou threw it down by his door, shot Kirishima one more glare, and then slammed the door. “Hey, wait,” Kirishima said, knocking on the door. “I changed my mind. I do want something.”
The door flew open, just as aggressively as it had closed. “Fucking what?”
“You like that word, don’t you?”
That seemed to flip a switch. Bakugou had already been disagreeable and displeased, but now he was angry, honest to god yelling as he said, “You and your shitty hair had better get off my goddamn doorstep in the next five seconds or I’ll fucking kill you.”
It felt wrong to laugh, but Kirishima desperately wanted to. While the anger was undeniably real and sort of mystifying, the words themselves didn’t worry Kirishima in the slightest. Fighting down the laughter, he said, “Won’t be necessary. I just wanted to know if you were busy. We could grab something to eat. I’m kind of here for awhile and I don’t know anyone and it’d be cool to know someone, you know? Plus, I bet you totally know the best places to eat.”
“Not my fucking problem, shitty hair.” Then the door was slammed in his face for the second time that night.
“Kirishima! And if I have shitty hair, so do you.”
There was no response this time, so Kirishima went back to his car, disappointed. Bakugou was apparently someone who had no interest in making more friends. Maybe he’d just leave the mail on the doorstep next time.
At the talk of food, though, Kirishima realized he was starving. It had been a long, tiring day and, though it was early, he’d never been one for set eating times anyway. Since he didn’t know any good places, he went to the first place he found, desperately wishing Sero was here with him. Or any of his friends. Grabbing dinner alone was not a fun feeling.
It was a largely empty seafood shack and at the front, there was a sign saying he could sit wherever he wanted, so he did, grabbing a booth to the immediate left. There was already a menu on the table, so he started to scan it as he waited for a waiter.
A couple minutes later, a young woman with short bubblegum pink hair and a bright smile untucked a pencil from her ear and said, “Hey, there! What can I get you to drink?”
“Water it is. Is there anyone else coming to join you?”
“No,” Kirishima groaned, feeling distinctly unmanly.
His disappointment must’ve been obvious, because she patted him on the hand and said, “How about this? I’ll go get you that water and then I’ll take your food order and by the time I bring it to you, my shift’ll be over and I’ll hang out with you if you share.”
Grinning, Kirishima said, “Deal.”
“I’ll be right back with your water, then.”
“Thanks,” he said, returning his gaze to the menu and quickly deciding he’d just order the local catch. As he waited for his waitress to return, he tapped his fingers against the table and absentmindedly thought of Bakugou, with his red eyes, spiky blonde hair, and truly magnificent arms. It was a small place. Maybe he’d run into him somewhere.
His waitress was back, a glass of water and coaster in hand. She put both down, wrote down Kirishima’s order, delivered it to the kitchen, and then sat across from him, sighing happily. “I haven’t sat in hours. I’m Ashido Mina, by the way.”
“I haven’t seen you around before. Did you just move here?”
“So what’s your story? This isn’t really a place people decide to move to.”
“My grandmother had a bad fall a week ago. My cousin had to get back to work, so I came to take over. I’m just doing all the basics until she’s back on her feet,” Kirishima said. “No idea when that’ll be, but it’s not like I have anything better to do. Had to quit my job, so…”
“What did you do?”
“That’s awesome. I bet you know all sorts of cool relaxation techniques.”
“Sure,” Kirishima shrugged. “I’m pretty good at massages, too. Let me know if you ever want one. I’m your man.”
“You and I are going to be very good friends,” Ashido said.
“Sounds like you’re using me.”
“Got a problem with that?”
Kirishima laughed and shook his head, admiring her friendliness and spunk. “Nah. I’ll take whatever friends I can get.”
“Then you’ve got yourself a friend.” She stood, stretching, hands linked above her head, and then said, “I’m going to go check on your food. I’ll be back in a second. Don’t make any other friends while I’m gone. There’s only so much food.”
Laughing again, Kirishima felt lucky that he’d walked into this place. It was nice to have someone to call in a crisis and Ashido seemed a relatively safe option for that sort of thing, unlike Bakugou, who was definitely uninterested and seemingly perpetually angry. Not that Kirishima actually believed that. No one was what they showed the world. He was proof of that.
Ashido came back, food in hand, and the two dug in, sharing. As they ate, they chatted about her life. She’d been raised in the city about twenty minutes away and this was the first job she’d had and now she’d been at it for five years.
“I have friends here, you know. And I don’t hate my life. It’s comfortable, I love the ocean, I’m close to my family, but…I’ve always wanted more, I guess. As a kid, my dream job was never a waitress. Not even close. I wanted to help people and I still could, I think, but I’m scared. I mean, you’re amazing. I don’t think I could ever do what you did. Move away from everything you know and hope it works out.”
Swallowing, Kirishima smiled and said, “Didn’t have much choice.”
Leaning over the table, she said, “There’s always a choice. Your family knew that and they decided to keep their lives. You were the one that gave yours up.”
“Someone had to.”
Ashido smiled at him and dropped the topic, reaching over and fingering the tops of his hair. “Wow, that is seriously stiff. How much shit is in that?”
“I like it.”
“Yeah, me too,” Kirishima grinned.
“It reminds me a lot of that guy in those superhero movies. Crimson Riot? Doesn’t he have a similar hairstyle?”
Kirishima nodded, amazed at how much he liked this girl. “Yeah. I basically worshiped those movies as a kid.” She smiled, slipping off her shoes and throwing them down on the floor beside her. Then she tucked her legs underneath her and the first awkward silence of their newly minted friendship passed. Though, they still had food left, so it could’ve been worse. After taking another bite of fish, Kirishima said, “Do you know Bakugou Katsuki?”
“Of him,” Ashido replied. “I’ve never officially met him. Or seen him. I’ve been told he’s left his house, but I don’t actually have proof of that.” Resting her elbows on the table, she cradled her head in her hands and started to whisper. “But he’s apparently an artist. Like, a famous one. He’s apprenticing under Toshinori Yagi, so how could he not be famous, right? He’s been here for almost a year, though, so it’s entirely possible that fell through. I have no idea.
“He definitely keeps to himself. My friend, Kaminari knows him from childhood—apparently his family would come here in the summers—but they haven’t talked since he moved here more permanently and Kaminari doesn’t seem interested in trying. Why?”
“Did you meet him?”
“Kind of. I mean, yeah. Mostly, he just shouted at me. Nice to know it’s not just me.”
“Definitely not just you,” Ashido said, leaning back. “I have heard he’s grumpy. Everyone agrees on that.”
“More like explosive,” Kirishima said, sighing.
“Why do you say that like it’s a good thing?”
Laughing the question away, not sure how to explain it, Kirishima told her he should probably get home and finish some packing. Her expression fell into a magnificent pout, but then Kirishima asked for her number and her brightness came back. She handed over her phone and he typed his number in. Immediately she texted him, sharing her number, and they laughed at each other as they said goodbye.
When Kirishima got back to his place, he managed to get all that he could done, riding on the wave of a successful night. Sadly, there wasn’t much he could actually do considering the furniture he did have was unassembled and in boxes.
Finding the air mattress he’d brought for this moment, Kirishima blew it up, threw a pillow and some blankets on top, and then flung himself down, texting both Sero and his mom until they both went to bed. Not long after, he did the same himself, despite the earliness of the hour. It had been a long day and it was likely tomorrow would be similarly long.
Very long, it turned out, because Kirishima had spent most of the night tossing and turning, trying to get comfortable, but unable to do so simply because it was much too quiet. He was used to the noises of the city—a small city, but a city nonetheless—and he was used to the muffled sounds of Sero playing video games into the night. There was none of that here. It hadn’t really occurred to Kirishima before he moved how much of a lifestyle change it would be living alone, but he was starting to learn.
Getting out of bed, a crick in his neck, Kirishima styled his hair, ate a granola bar, and splashed cold water into his face, hoping it would wake him up. He wasn’t sure he was up for his grandmother this morning, but she was what he was here for, and Kirishima didn’t like to give up.
On the drive over, he ran over more than one curb, distracted by either the ocean or his inability to keep his eyes open for longer than five seconds at a time.
When he let himself into the house, he searched the main level, looking for his grandmother and found only one door closed. Assuming it was her bedroom and that she was still asleep or ignoring him, Kirishima got to work, starting with the daily tasks—washing dishes, cleaning countertops, refilling ice trays—and finished with some of the other more frequent ones, like watering her plants and checking the laundry basket to see if any laundry needed to be done. None did. It took quite awhile, as Kirishima didn’t know where most anything was or went, but eventually, he’d done what was asked of him. His grandmother still hadn’t come out, but he was too tired to stay and wait. Finding a piece of paper and a pen, hoping it was okay to use them, Kirishima scribbled out a note, stating what he’d done and that he was sorry he’d missed her. He didn’t add that her notable absence made him worry that she didn’t like him. That was for him alone.
On his way home, he stopped at a grocery store, loaded up on the basics, and engaged the clerk in a longer conversation than she likely wanted.
Once back, he unloaded his groceries, and slumped back down onto his makeshift bed. Lazily, he stared at all of the furniture he had to assemble and wondered when he would get there, before he fell asleep, the exhaustion finally catching up with him.
When he woke, he checked his phone and saw some missed texts, including one from Ashido, who’d said hi. He sent everyone a text back and then wiped his eyes clear of gunk. It was only eight. There was enough of a night left that he could do something. He thought about asking if he could hang out with Ashido, but then he looked at one of his posters, a print of one of Toshinori’s works, and he remembered Bakugou and his mail. There was no harm in checking if there was more. Besides, it might put him in a productive mood, one that could at least get a bed frame together.
Leaving his apartment, stumbling and yawning, not quite awake, Kirishima knocked on the door of the landlord’s office, hoping he was still around.
The man opened the door, looking disgruntled until he saw it was Kirishima. It lessened his scowl and he grunted appreciatively. “Glad you’re taking your promise seriously,” he said. “I’ve got two packages for you. Wait here.”
When he returned, he handed two small packages to Kirishima, said a surprisingly polite good night, and then closed the door. Glancing down at them, Kirishima noticed they were both from companies and that one seemed to indicate it was a free trial of some kind. Retreating to his apartment, Kirishima pulled out his phone and googled the companies, laughing out loud when he discovered one was a beauty box and that the other was a box filled with all the basics a witch needed for the ritual of the month.
Forget leaving these on the doorstep. Forget building his furniture. This was too good. Apparently, Bakugou was a man who not only gardened, worked with wood, and was interested in sports, but he also wore makeup and did rituals. Kirishima had to know this guy. And maybe tease him. Endlessly.
Alight with an energy he hadn’t had all day, Kirishima drove over to Bakugou’s and knocked on the door. It took a few minutes, but the door opened and Bakugou froze when he saw Kirishima, blinking, before he said, “Shitty hair,” voice more subdued than it had been last time. Kirishima wondered if it was because he caught him by surprise. Bakugou probably didn’t get many repeat visitors.
“Hey,” Kirishima smiled. “Got some more mail.”
“Is this going to be a daily thing?”
“Why not? Don’t you want your mail?”
“Not this fucking badly,” Bakugou said, holding out a large, calloused hand, gesturing for the packages.
Kirishima handed them over and said in a rush, before Bakugou could slam the door closed, “You’re into witchcraft? That’s pretty cool. Do you do rituals and stuff?”
The lines of his frown deepening, Bakugou glanced down at the packages and then mumbled a string of curses under his breath, throwing them onto the floor and stamping them with his foot. There were definitely things breaking inside the cardboard boxes. It was frankly impressive that he was putting so much force into smashing an inanimate object.
While he was stomping, frequently telling the boxes to die, Kirishima said, “So I guess you aren’t a witch, huh?”
“Do I look like a fucking witch to you, dumbass? Of course I’m not a fucking witch. I’m going to wring that fucking…”
“Alright, hey,” Kirishima interrupted. “You’re not a witch. I got it. No makeup, either. Although, honestly, it’s not a bad idea to reconsider that one, cause you’d look pretty good in eyeliner.” Kirishima internally gave himself a high-five. That was one of the smoothest compliments he’d ever given.
“I’d be the best fucking thing eyeliner ever touched. Doesn’t mean I want a fucking pencil thing anywhere near my goddamn eye.”
“Fair enough. So…that’s not your mail?”
“No,” Bakugou yelled. “Are you done with your stupid ass questions? I have shit to do.”
“Just one more question.”
“What, shitty hair?” He said it with such vitriol, that Kirishima began to understand why he isolated himself. It would be hard to make friends if you acted like this. Still, his grandmother intimidated him more.
“Can we come up with a new nickname?” Kirishima asked.
“No,” Bakugou replied, moving to close the door.
“Wait! That wasn’t my question.”
“Do you get off on irritating the motherfucking hell out of me?”
Feeling a piece of himself curl up, that comment hitting a little too close to home, Kirishima walked backwards down one of the steps, and said, “Hey, sorry. You’re right. I’ll just…I’ll leave your mail, or well, not-your-mail, on the doorstep next time. Maybe I’ll see you around. Have a nice night.”
Then Kirishima turned around and bounded down the rest of the steps, hurrying to his car. The silence as he did so was strange and Kirishima listened intently, waiting for a door to slam. Instead, Bakugou’s voice rang out. “Shitty hair!”
“Yeah?” Kirishima asked, hope flaring bright and warm in his chest.
“What the fuck was your question?”
“Oh. Are you any good at assembling furniture?”
Kirishima couldn’t see his face from down here, the light in the house casting shadows, but given the silence, he could imagine his eyebrows crinkling in a mix of anger and confusion. Definitely anger. That seemed to be all this guy could feel.
“It’s fucking furniture.”
Grinning, Kirishima jogged back up the steps, greeted with a scowl and fingers clenched white around the edge of the door. “Is that a yes?”
Bakugou grunted in affirmation.
“Cool, cause I’ve got a lot of furniture that needs assembling and some help would be great. Would you want to? Help? I can pay you in takeout and beer.”
“Sure,” Kirishima shrugged.
“Fucking fine. When?”
“Whatever,” Bakugou said. “If you order before I get there, order the spiciest shit they’ve got. If it’s some weak ass shit, I’ll fucking leave.”
“Spicy. Got it. Anything else?”
“Fucking leave before…”
“You kill me?”
Picking up one of the stomped packages, Bakugou threw it at his face hard, letting out a magnificent shout as he did, and then the door whammed shut behind him. He hadn’t taken much off that throw, but the box wasn’t remotely life threatening, and Kirishima laughed to himself as he returned to his car, throwing the box into the backseat. Maybe there was something good in there that hadn’t been smashed to pieces.