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slow it down (go easy on me)

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Bakugou is having a shitty day even before some no-name villain starts kicking his ass.

Never one to accept defeat, he rushes to capture the elusive villain, his allies hot on his heels. As soon as they rush into the warehouse, the power cuts, plunging them into darkness. Kirishima lets out a hiss of frustration from somewhere beside him, and Bakugou can sense Deku drawing up short just behind them. Cursing under his breath, Bakugou lifts his hands and sets off a series of small explosions, lightning the space around them in brief flashes of light.

“Hurry up,” he calls behind him to Deku, “She’s going to get away!”

He sees Kirishima’s face contort with frustration, warped by the flashing lights. “We need a plan,” he says.

Bakugou scoffs. “Here’s my plan.” He lifts his hands upwards and lets off a bigger explosion, letting it illuminate the entire space of the warehouse and controlling the accompanying smoke. He catches movement in the far corner of the room, and runs towards it without bothering to see if Deku and Kirishima are following.

“Kacchan,” Deku calls out, but Bakugou ignores him.

He remembers enough of the layout from the moment of illumination to duck around boxes and support beams, listening to the echoes of his steps.

“C’mon,” he growls under his breath. “Where are you—”

Laughter echoes around him. It seems to come from multiple directions at once, and Bakugou freezes, turning his head this way and that and trying to follow the noise. As though seeing his frustration, the laughter grows louder and richer.

“What’s the matter, little hero?” A cool, feminine voice asks.

Bakugou lets out a hiss from between his teeth, then lifts his hands again and detonates. Hopefully, the stragglers will see it and know where he is—otherwise, he’ll take care of this himself.

In the brief moment of illumination, he sees her just behind him. Her long, dark hair is held away from her face, and she wears a Venetian half-mask over her eyes. Her costume is black and white, lace and loose sleeves. She looks like she’s pieced it together from a dozen different countries and time periods—a European corset over a traditional kimono cut short, lace-up boots and that mask.

Bakugou turns as quickly as he can, lunging towards her.

She laughs, cool and unaffected. Then she vanishes from before his eyes.

“Too slow, hero,” she says, voice now somewhere far above him. “I think that’s your problem, isn’t it?”

“Fuck you!” Bakugou screeches, pivoting again and trying to follow the sound of her movements.

“Kacchan!” Deku runs up beside him, the power of his borrowed Quirk running down his limbs like currents of green electricity. It’s enough to show Bakugou where he is, without giving off enough light to actually be helpful. “Where is she?”

“She teleported, again,” Bakugou grunts out. He hears it when Kirishima joins them, but he doesn’t acknowledge the other’s presence.

“Why doesn’t she just get away, entirely?” Kirishima asks. “Why stay in here at all?”

Bakugou turns back to Deku. “One of us needs to pin her down while the other one knocks her out. We need to corner her.”

“All right,” Deku agrees. “Are you okay? Your movements are off, and—”

“Shut the fuck up, Deku.” Bakugou turns away. “I can light this place up, then you lunge at her as soon as you see her. Got it?”

“I can hold her down,” Kirishima says, like that’s obvious. And maybe it is, since breaking through his hold when he’s unbreakable is nearly impossible. Bakugou knows—he’s tried.

“Fine,” Bakugou grunts out, still not facing Kirishima. “Deku, you grab him and take him with you.”

The three of them nod, though Kirishima casts Bakugou a reproachful look. He crosses his arms over his chest and stares at Bakugou, not looking away as Bakugou’s small explosions spark in and out of existence.

Bakugou clicks his tongue against his teeth and turns away.

“Ready?” he grunts.

Deku looks between Kirishima and Bakugou, then bites down on the inside of his cheek and shakes his head. “Ready. Come on, Riot.”

Kirishima swallows a sigh, then steps towards Deku and grips him around the waist, preparing to be propelled into the air when Deku kicks off from the ground. Seeing them both secured, Bakugou lifts his hands and feels the sweat pooling against his palms.

Go!” he screams, as he lets off his biggest explosion yet. The light is blinding for a moment, but then he hears the impact as Deku kicks off and takes Kirishima with him. A dark blur is moving in the furthest corner of the room, and Deku torpedoes towards her, surrounded by the light of his Quirk.

Bakugou concentrates the power of his Quirk, preparing to launch himself into the air to follow. But then, he hears a laugh lilting like bell chimes behind him.

“That actually might have worked, if I was anyone else,” she says, as Bakugou pivots on his heel to face her.

She tosses her long tail of dark hair over one shoulder. “You’re all still students, aren’t you? It shows.”

“Fuck you!” Bakugou screams, pushing forward and catching her around the waist. She laughs as they hit a wall, Bakugou trying to pin her down.

“Time isn’t on your side, I’m afraid,” she says. Then she disappears from under him and reappears a few feet away.

Fuck. Now Deku and Kirishima are on the other side of the warehouse, and Bakugou is alone with her. But it’s not as if he needs their help—he’s going to finish this.

He kicks off with the force of an explosion and reaches for her, only to have her slip through his fingers again and reappear just beyond his reach as he hits the ground. She’d teleported across the entire warehouse a moment ago, but now she’s staying within the space of a few feet. Is this a limitation of her Quirk? Can he exploit it?

She’s laughing, again. Bakugou grits his teeth and imagines blowing her to pieces.

Then, she appears behind him and swings a kick in his direction, catching him in the back and sending him sprawling.

“Goddamn it,” he bites out, as he tastes bile rushing up his throat.

“You’re not supposed to be this disappointing,” she says, almost whining. “After all the stories I’ve heard, this is it?”

What fucking stories, Bakugou wants to ask. He’s been on the news often enough, but not for any particularly heroic exploits. Even now, almost a full year into Yuuei, he hasn’t measured up in the way he’d initially anticipated. He’s behind, having been the last person in his class to achieve a provisional license. He’s partnered with Deku and Kirishima right now because they’re the ones with the experience, not him. So, what the hell is this fucker going on about?

He hears her laugh again, and has to hold himself back from chasing the sound. He steps back, shuts his eyes, and listens. When he senses movement heading towards him, he reaches out and detonates.

She grunts in surprise, and in the fading light of the explosion he sees her tumbling backwards. Bakugou follows, determined to end this.

“You can’t beat me,” he growls, blowing her back again before she can get her feet under her and teleport again.

She smiles wanly, lips curling beneath the line of her mask. “How disappointing.”

He hears pounding footsteps coming towards him, and knows it’s Kirishima. He’d know the rhythm of those steps anywhere, the weight of them. He swallows convulsively and turns back to his opponent.

“Ah,” she says knowingly. “Distracted.”

Die.” He detonates again, but she’s laughing, teleporting just a few feet away to avoid the explosion.

He pivots, trying to find her, but then she reappears right in front of him. Before he can block, she reaches out and places her hand over his face, sending him staggering back.

“Asshole,” he hisses. “Get the fuck off me!”

But then he’s struck by a feeling of displacement. All at once, he’s falling. She’s teleported them both upwards, into the air, and now she’s still holding onto them as they tumble towards the ground.

Kacchan!”

She gets a hand over his face, again, and Bakugou rears back and screams as he feels the sensation of fire crawling over his face.

“You’re annoying me,” she says, as they fall. “You need to be taught a lesson.”

The pain is so intense that he can’t think past it. He knows he should get his arms behind him, let off an explosion to keep them from hitting the ground straight on. But he can’t move, he feels like he’s being disassembled atom by atom.

Katsuki!”

Oh, that voice. That’s something he can always focus on, even though he’s been trying not to, all day. Because the last time they’d spoken, just a few hours ago, Kirishima had said—

His face is hot and flushed, his muscles loose and sluggish. He floats just outside of awareness, struggling to figure out where he is. He’s lying face-down, his stomach bare against soft sheets. He’s in a bed, but it doesn’t feel like his dorm on Yuuei’s campus, or his bedroom in his parents’ house. Where the fuck is he?

“I’m going to shower first,” someone says, their voice far away. “Get some more sleep, okay?”

He doesn’t know who’s speaking to him, but more sleep sounds heavenly. Bakugou sinks down against the sheets, grunting out something like an affirmative.

Footsteps pad away, and then Bakugou hears a door open and shut.

Five minutes later, he realizes the intense oddity of that exchange, and shoots upright in bed. The sheets fall away from him, and he groans as a headache blooms into existence at the base of his skull.

“What the fuck,” he groans, trying to push through the fog around his thoughts. Slowly, the room around him comes into focus.

It’s a bedroom, with light streaming in from a wide window that takes up most of one wall. There’s a serviceable dresser across from him, a mirror hung above it, and shelving around the walls that hold books, photographs, and other detritus of a life. There’s a closet on one side of the room, and then two doors opposite it, one of which presumably leads to a bathroom.

Bakugou clutches his head in his hands, trying to focus. The bed he’s sitting in is king-sized, made of the same dark wood as the dresser and covered in steel-gray sheets. Bakugou’s wearing only boxers, and had been lying on one side of the mattress. He looks over and sees sheets curled around an empty space, as though there’d been someone sleeping beside him.

It’s at that moment that Bakugou realizes something is very, very wrong. He glances down at himself and sees scars he’s never had before along his arms, little nicks and scratches he’d never have been oblivious to. When he reaches up, his limbs feel longer, and as he staggers to his feet he stands several centimeters taller than he had, last thing he knew. He glances at the mirror, catches sight of his reflection, and screams.

One of the doors on the opposite side of the room bursts open, steam spilling out into the bedroom. A man crosses the room in quick strides, looking around for some enemy he can’t yet see.

No, not just a man. Kirishima. His Quirk is fulling activated, his hair sticking behind him in stiff spikes and his arms gnarled and held before him like weapons. He’s completely naked, hardened down to the tips of his toes, and as he rushes forward he catches sight of Bakugou.

“Katsuki,” he yells out, before coming up next to him. “What happened, are you okay?”

Katsuki, Bakugou thinks dumbly. When the fuck did he give Kirishima permission to use his given name?

Kirishima is still looking at him with concern, evident even through the way his Quirk warps his expressions to look like they’re carved from wood. Then, he lets his Quirk deactivate, standing before Bakugou with dripping hair and water running down his naked body. And just like Bakugou, he’s changed. He’s taller, his shoulders broader and his chest almost perfectly built. There are white scars lining his tanned skin, and his red hair, weighed down by water, falls past his shoulders. But it’s face that’s the most startling—there’s no more baby fat rounding his cheeks, his jawline sharp and his eyes shadowed with age. He’s older—he’s old. He’s not the Kirishima that Bakugou knows.

What the fuck,” Bakugou screeches, rearing away from him. Explosions spark from his hands as he tries to put space between them. “What the hell are you, get the fuck away from me, I’ll—”

“Katsuki,” Kirishima says again, grabbing him by the shoulders, shaking him slightly. “It’s me, babe. What is it? A nightmare?” He lifts his hands to Bakugou’s face, his thumbs rubbing gentle circles against his cheeks.

Bakugou is so shocked that, for a moment, he forgets to be angry. He freezes in his tracks, as Kirishima continues to touch him more gently than anyone’s ever touched him, before. His thumbs are rough and calloused, but he touches Bakugou as if he has a right to, as if he’s done this before.

“I—what?” Bakugou croaks out. This can’t be real. He pushes Kirishima away. “What is this? What did you do to me?”

“It’s okay,” Kirishima is still saying, his voice low and soothing. “Come back to me, okay?”

In combat situations, Bakugou thinks, it’s best to stay calm and analyze the situation before acting. He hears the thought in Aizawa’s voice. And if anything would be useful, right now, it would be the man’s enduring and infuriating calm. He needs to figure out what’s going on, and screaming his head off might not be the way to get himself out of this.

He takes a deep breath, tries to steel himself. He glances up at Kirishima, who looks back with concern in his red eyes. Belatedly, and inconveniently, Bakugou realizes that the years have treated Kirishima well. He’s always been handsome, his expressions eager and inviting and warm. But now, hardened by age, he’s… something else entirely. Bakugou swallows.

“Are you okay?” Kirishima asks. “Breathe with me, okay?”

He sucks in a deep breath, and Bakugou follows along instinctively. Kirishima’s fingers are running through his hair, soft and soothing. It’s then that Bakugou realizes what must have happened.

This is an illusion. The villain they’d been chasing—she’s trapped him here, somehow. And now Bakugou has to find his way out.

On the bedside table, an alarm goes off, the muscled arms on either side of it flexing as the bell sounds.

“Oh, shit,” Kirishima says, pulling away from Bakugou. He slams down on the alarm clock and then sits down on the bed, still dripping. “We’ve got to get ready for work.”

Bakugou nods dumbly.

“You’re okay, now?” Kirishima asks again, eyes wide with concern. And in that moment, he looks just like his younger self, so open and earnest and stupidly sincere.

Bakugou blinks his eyes closed, then growls out, “Of course I am, shitty hair.”

Kirishima laughs, his voice just like Bakugou remembers it.

Work. Of course, they have work—they look about thirty fucking years old.

Bakugou staggers over to the closet, finding a bunch of loose jeans on hangers that must be his. When he pulls out a pair, Kirishima calls out to him.

“Um, Katsuki? You’re not going to wear your costume?”

Work. Of course. He’s a pro hero. Even if this is just an illusion, that stupid villain knew better than to pull him away from his inevitable future. He looks further into the closet and sees his costume—similar enough to the version he’d worn as a teenager to be recognizable, but more streamlined, more elegant in some ways. He reaches and pulls it out of the closet, seeing the ID badge hung around the neck of the hanger.

He’s familiar with Yuuei’s IDs, having carried one since he entered the school almost a year ago—at least, a year ago by his own time and not the time of this illusion. But now when he looks down, he sees his older self staring back at him. Like Kirishima, his face has thinned out, his hair styled slightly differently. But it’s unmistakably him.

Bakugou Katsuki, the ID reads. Faculty.

“No fucking way,” he says, scrutinizing the ID. Why the hell would he be wasting his time stuck at Yuuei when he could be out on the streets, earning himself a reputation as the best hero in the world? What the fuck is wrong with this version of himself?

“Aw, babe,” Kirishima says, coming up behind him. “You promised you’d smile in your ID photo this year.”

This year, as though there’ve been many in the past.

“No, I didn’t,” Bakugou says, by reflex.

“You’re right,” Kirishima agrees easily. “But I still asked.”

“Then you’re an idiot.”

Kirishima pokes him in the side. “You sure you’re okay? You’re mean, today.”

Bakugou crosses his arms over his chest and steps away from Kirishima. “Of course, I am. Fuck off.”

“Okay,” he says easily. “Get dressed, okay? I’m going to go rinse off all this soap.” He leans down and presses a kiss to Bakugou’s cheek, then disappears back into the bathroom.

What the fuck. Bakugou’s vision goes white, the feeling of Kirishima’s lips against his skin burning like a firebrand. This is, perhaps, something he should have realized before this. Kirishima touched him so easily, was so comfortably naked in front of him, and had slept in the same bed. But Bakugou hadn’t stopped to think about what that would mean, before now.

He glances at himself in the mirror, and sees the leather cord hanging around his neck. He reaches up to run his fingers over it, following it down to the small ring hanging from it. He can’t see it properly from this angle, so he pulls the cord off his neck and looks down at the ring more closely.

It’s gold, a plain band embellished by a single ruby. On the inside of the band a date is engraved, followed by the words It had to be you.

Bakugou’s older self, who sleeps in the same bed as Kirishima, wears a wedding ring around his neck.

He thinks of the villain he’d been chasing, of her lilting laughter and mocking comments.

“That. Fucking. Bitch.”

It’s instinctive, getting to Yuuei. Bakugou, dressed in his uniform with the ring back around his neck, hidden under his shirt, gets to the main building five minutes before homeroom usually starts. It isn’t until he wanders through the hallways and ends up in front of the door to classroom 1A that he realizes he doesn’t know where he’s actually supposed to be. This had just been muscle memory, going towards the place he’s spent the most time in, following the same route he’s taken every day for a year.

He stands outside the door, frozen. If this is an illusion, will he just be forced to play out whatever reality that villain had created for him?

“Um, Bakugou-sensei?” A voice sounds from behind him. “Aren’t you going to go inside?”

There’s a student standing next to him, dressed in Yuuei’s uniform and sipping at a cup of bubble tea through a straw. She’s small, even for a first year, and has bubble-gum pink hair in two curling tails on either side of her head.

“Aren’t you fucking late?” Bakugou retorts.

“I was getting tea,” she says, as though it’s obvious. “You’re the one standing outside the door like a weirdo, sensei.” She skips by him to the door, entering the classroom.

Well. At least that tells Bakugou that he’s in the right place.

As he steps inside, he’s met by the kind of cacophony only twenty teenagers can make. There’s so much movement, color and sound that he can’t process for a moment. Instead, he trudges towards the spot in front of the classroom that he’s used to Aizawa occupying.

The girl with the pink twintails is sitting in the front row. She catches Bakugou’s eye and raises her brows, like she’s expecting him to do something.

Now he knows this shit life is an illusion. No one blinks an eye at him being in the classroom, and that brat had called him sensei. He can’t imagine a reality in which he would grow up to this.

“Sensei?” Twintails asks again. “Class?”

He stares out at the classroom as the students shift into their seats. There are four rows of five of them, the same layout he’s familiar with. But he’s never stood on this side of it. He doesn’t know what to do.

After a minute, another student speaks up after raising his hand. He has bright orange hair and wears his uniform loosely, slouching slightly in his chair. “Yo, sensei. If we’re not having class, can you tell us another battle story?”

Another, Bakugou thinks dimly. Has he ever told anyone a story in his life?

“Oh, yes!” Another girl calls out. Her curling black hair is held back from her face, and she reminds Bakugou of Yaoyorozu in the way she sits primly at her desk. “Tell us a story about Deku, sensei!”

“What the hell,” Bakugou hisses, finally finding his voice. “Why would you want to hear stories about him?”

Twintails rolls her eyes. “Because they’re all boring, and only want to hear stories about the Number One Hero.”

She says this as though it’s an established fact, and no one contradicts her. Deku. The Number One Hero. Even knowing his connection to All Might, even knowing about his Quirk, Bakugou can’t swallow that fact. If Deku is number one, what does that make him?

Not number one. Something lesser, inferior.

It’s as though there’s something living inside of him, clawing at his chest and curling around his heart. For a moment, he can’t breathe. Then, Bakugou bites down furiously on his tongue, forcing himself to focus.

“Tell us about a time you worked together, then,” Orange Hair says. “What about that battle from two years ago? You never told us about that one!”

The crowd dissolves into chaos as the rest of the students join in, demanding the same story. Bakugou, who has no fucking idea what happened two years ago, doesn’t know what to tell them. But he does know that they’re all giving him a goddamn headache.

Shut up,” he yells, and immediately the classroom goes quiet. Bakugou frowns, then his eyes fix on the prim girl. “You—Curly Hair. You’re the class rep, aren’t you?”

It had just been a guess, but the girl nods. “My name is Sato, sensei. I thought you’d finally learned our names.”

“Why would I bother doing that?” Bakugou asks, and half the class groans while the other half laughs. “Whatever. You keep track of the lesson plan, don’t you? What are we supposed to be doing, today?”

Sato pulls out a notebook and rattles off page numbers and subject matter. Bakugou breathes a sigh of relief—it’s math. There’s no way math has changed, even if he’s been pushed into an illusion world in the future. Thank fuck he’s mostly done with first year, now, and can fake his way through their lessons.

He pulls out a textbook and starts talking through the concepts, and the class more or less settles down. As he explains the lesson and assigns the work, they watch him diligently. One kid has green skin and hair and seems to grow different animal ears depending on closely he’s paying attention. Another has a wild mess of red, black and yellow hair, and shuffles cards in front of him as he completely zones out. Twintails, in the first row, looks away from the board but is definitely taking quiet notes.

Fifty minutes later, the classroom door opens.

“Oh—Bakugou-san. I thought you’d be done, by now.”

He looks up, startled. He hadn’t even realized how quickly time was going by.

He blinks at her. She’s probably almost as tall as he is, maybe even taller. Her black hair is held back in a familiar, flippy ponytail. Her costume is deep red, a cropped shirt that bares her midriff and short pants that cut off before her ankles. A thick belt drapes at an angle at her waist.

“Obviously not, Ponytail,” he grouses at her.

Yaoyorozu sighs, then smiles at the class. “Time for Chemistry.”

Bakugou brushes past her and exits the room, not bothering to erase the mess of instructions and examples he’s left on the board.

--

The staffroom is blessedly empty when Bakugou gets there. He’s followed Aizawa here enough times to know where it is, and logically, now, it should be his haven. It hasn’t changed much in the years since he’d been a student— that is, assuming those years have actually passed. This could be some kind of illusion created from his own memories, and in that case, it only makes sense that most things are still familiar to him.

At the end of a row of uniform desks is one with a nameplate with his own name printed on it. Bakugou heads towards it and slouches into the swivel chair, peeling off his gloves and gauntlets and massaging his wrists. The gauntlets are much more streamlined than they had been— small and compact, fitting just around his wrists. He wonders if they still offer the same protections and enhancements as the ones he normally uses. His gloves, too, are thinner. Maybe this is just the version of his costume he wears for teaching?

Bakugou sits leaning forward, tension keeping his body wound tight. At his desk sits a high-tech computer, an empty coffee mug, and a series of framed pictures. The pictures seem quaint, compared to the relative technology of this world. He glances at them and startles.

In the first, he’s only a year or two older than he should be— maybe seventeen, eighteen years old. He looks much the same, even though he’s a little taller. His parents stand to one side of him, and on the other is All Might, weakened and frail as he’s been since Kamino Ward. Bakugou swallows down the bitter taste of guilt, looking at him, and wonders if this future version of himself tastes the same every time he looks at the picture. It’s then that Bakugou notices the curled-up diploma he’s holding in the picture, and realizes this must be his graduation from Yuuei. All Might has an arm around his shoulders, and is smiling widely, with pride in his sunken eyes. The Bakugou in the picture is smirking, but there’s also an indent in the side of his face. That means he’s biting down on the inside of his cheek, trying to keep his expression in check. Bakugou scoffs at his younger self.

The next picture looks like it was clipped out of a newspaper. The headline is missing, but two heroes, standing out starkly against a background of destruction, are surging forward with fists outstretched. Even though they’re older, even though they’re seen from behind, Bakugou recognizes them immediately— himself, and Deku. Standing on the same side. Taking on some enemy together. He quickly moves on from that picture, too, unwilling to interrogate it too closely. The creature living in his stomach and clawing its way through him writhes, and Bakugou swallows down his worst emotions.

Finally, there’s a picture of Kirishima. He isn’t facing the camera, and his eyes are closed as he throws back his head and laughs. His skin is sun-warmed, and he looks relaxed and happy. Without a doubt, Bakugou knows this picture was taken at some intimate moment, a candid. Did Bakugou take this picture himself? And if so, does that mean Kirishima is that happy, being around him?

He glances at the coffee mug, again. It’s bright orange, and printed across it in clumsy English are the words “World’s Blastiest Husband.”

“What the fuck,” Bakugou mutters, running his hands through his hair. Nothing about this place makes any sense. None of this was his ambition— he wants to be better than Deku, not standing by his side. He wants to be a hero, not a teacher stuck at Yuuei for the rest of his goddamn life. He wants to be independent, he never wants to need anyone, and yet this version of himself is fucking married? And to Kirishima, of all people?

“I know this isn’t real!” He shouts, at the world in general, at no one in particular. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing, hah? Do you think you can drive me crazy with this, or trap me here forever? I’m not some shitty lightweight. I know this isn’t real! So, cut the shit and let me out of here! Face me!”

His screams are met with no response. Bakugou considers, briefly, just blowing things up until the illusion starts coming apart at its seams. But his power is a physical one, and whatever is happening to him is in his head. That won’t work.

It’s a war he has often, his visceral and physical desires for action battling with the more logical part of his brain. This time, logic wins out.

Bakugou rests his elbows against the desk, and his chin against his hands. He stares at the photographs for a long time.

Later, the door to the staffroom opens. “Oh, Bakugou-san. Would you like to eat lunch together?”

Bakugou looks up and squints at Yaoyorozu. It makes sense that she would end up at Yuuei— she was always too eager to help out their classmates, and was basically already a second teacher. She probably feels more comfortable in the classroom than out in the midst of a battle, even still. It makes sense that she’d have that sort of weakness, not him. So why the hell is he here?

But then he gets a better read on Yaoyorozu’s face. She isn’t asking him to have lunch out of any sort of kindness— there’s a shrewdness in her expression that has Bakugou wondering what she wants.

“Fine,” he says, pulling himself to his feet.

The staff, as it turns out, have their own lunchroom, also catered by Lunch Rush. Bakugou and Yaoyorozu help themselves to their meals— Yaoyorozu loading her tray with enough for two people, to feed her Quirk— and then they sit in a table in the back of the room. It’s early enough that no one else has shown up in the lunchroom, yet.

“The students said you were a bit off this morning,” Yaoyorozu says, apropos of nothing. She sips delicately at her miso soup.

“What the hell would they know about it?” Bakugou snaps.

Yaoyorozu sets her bowl to one side. “I think they can read you pretty well by now. I just thought I’d ask, in case you wanted to talk about it. Or in case there’s something I need to be worried about.”

Bakugou bites down on his tongue. He doesn’t like Yaoyorozu. Her entire demeanor is condescending, and she consistently scores higher than him on exams, which rankles his pride. He knows that people like her, and Todoroki, and Iida, think they’re better than him. It shows through in how they talk, how much experience they have around pro-heroes, how many privileges they’ve been afforded throughout their lives.

But if this is an illusion, why choose Yaoyorozu to populate it? He doesn’t even have that many distinct memories of her. She’s not a member of Class 1A who’s been on the news as often as Deku or Kirishima or Uraraka or Todoroki. So why her?

“Some days I just wonder why the fuck I’m here,” Bakugou grits out, because he doesn’t know what else to say.

Yaoyorozu clicks her tongue against the back of her teeth, and it takes Bakugou a minute to realize she’s stifling a laugh.

“What? What the fuck are you giggling at, Ponytail?”

“My apologies,” Yaoyorozu says, even though she doesn’t sound sorry at all. “It’s just, it seems odd to me that you’d say that, given how adamant you were about being here in the first place.”

“Hah?”

Yaoyorozu shrugs delicately. “Don’t you remember? It was about three years ago, when Aizawa-sensei moved up to principal. And you heard about it, and since he wouldn’t actively be in the classrooms anymore, you said, ‘I don’t fucking trust anyone else to keep those kids safe, so I’m going to have to do it myself.’”

Bakugou blinks at her. “Did you just fucking curse at me?”

Yaoyorozu lifts her chin. “It was for the accuracy of the quote, Bakugou-san.”

Now, Bakugou thinks over her words, and feels as though someone’s just walked over his grave. Does that mean, in this time, that Yuuei students are in as much danger as they’d been in when he was a student? Of course, it’s a reality that Bakugou can’t get away from, in his own present. He’d been the singular target of the largest villain attack, and his own classmates had been injured as a result. Yaoyorozu had been one of them. And the villains had managed to take him, in the end.

Who else would be good enough to protect the next generation of heroes?

Bakugou grinds his teeth and stabs at his lunch with his chopsticks. “Yeah, whatever.”

Yaoyorozu smiles at him, too kindly. “But on most days, I think you enjoy teaching more than you’re willing to admit. Are you just having a bad day, today?”

“All my days are fucking fantastic,” he seethes.

She nods sagely. “Of course.”

They lapse into a somewhat comfortable silence, after that, each attending to their own meal. Bakugou decides that if Yaoyorozu grows up into someone who knows how to shut up, then maybe she gets better over time. Just a little.

“By the way,” she says, interrupting Bakugou’s thoughts, “Have you finalized all the plans for tomorrow night? I know yesterday you were supposed to pick some things up, but your patrol ran long—”

Her words are cut off by a high-pitched chirp that must have been specifically designed to annoy Bakugou. He whips around, searching for the source of the noise, but finds nothing. Then, the chirp sounds again, and this time he realizes it’s coming from his person.

“What the hell is that,” he growls, patting down his pockets.

Yaoyorozu arches an eyebrow at him, trying to bite down on a smile. “Did Kirishima-san change your ringtone without your permission, again?”

He’s about to deny it, before he realizes that’s exactly the kind of shit that Kirishima would pull. Even in his time, when they’re nothing more than— well, whatever the fuck they are, to each other— that shitty-haired bastard takes too many liberties. He’s always on Bakugou to answer his phone more, to respond to the seven group chats he’s been added to (one with Kirishima and Kaminari; one with Kirishima, Kaminari, and Sero; one with the three of them and Ashido; and on, and on), and to generally be more engaged. It’s infuriating. It only stands to reason that he’s gotten pushier over time, and would reprogram Bakugou’s cellphone to annoy him into answering it.

“I’ll kill him.” Bakugou finally finds the source of the noise, a slim piece of orange, metallic fiberglass made up of two cylinders hooked together. It doesn’t look like any phone he’s ever seen, but his body knows what to do— he places his thumbs and forefingers on the edges of the cylinders and pulls them apart, revealing a digital screen between them. On its display, a new message flashes at him.

JK (12:15): Hey, I’ve got the music all set for tomorrow. What time did you want me to set up?

Bakugou stares down at the message, utterly unable to decipher it. He flicks at the screen with one finger, revealing a string of unread texts.

UO (11:10): I’m going to come by around 5:30, tomorrow! Please let me in this time, I won’t be able to call Kirishima-kun for a key! Remember, I’m doing this for *you*!

KD (10:15): I know you’re not supposed to come in, today, but there’re some paperwork we need our Head Hero to take care of. And yes, I mean that very mockingly! Stop by around 4, okay?

KE (9:05): You rushed out of the house pretty quick, this morning. Are you sure you’re okay? If you need to talk tonight— If you want to talk tonight. I’ll be home.

Bakugou keeps staring. He can vaguely make sense of the messages, but at the same time he realizes they aren’t meant for him. At least, not him the way he is now. These people are talking to a Bakugou who has lived an entirely different life. He doesn’t belong here.

He runs a hand over his face and looks up at Yaoyorozu. “What’s going on tomorrow, then?” he asks roughly, trying to reign in his tone. It barely works.

She looks at him with concern in her dark eyes. “Bakugou-san,” she says, huffing out a nervous laugh. “You can’t have forgotten.”

“Why would I ask, then?”

She shakes her head, ponytail bobbing. “The party, Bakugou-san. For your—”

“Are you two seriously having lunch without us? I expect this kind of Class A elitism from Bakugou, but not you, Yaoyorozu.”

Bakugou doesn’t even need to turn around to know who’s entered the lunch room behind him. He does so, anyway, because he doesn’t really want to believe it.

But sure enough, there stands Monoma Neito in his fucking orchestra conductor’s costume, white gloves and all. He looks fresher than Kirishima and Bakugou do, his face not visibly scarred or roughly aged, and his body too covered to tell if his wounds lie elsewhere. When he catches Bakugou’s eye, he lifts both his brows and smirks, the same as always.

Yaoyorozu purses her lips, then shrugs. “Can’t two old friends want to have a private conversation, Monoma-san?”

“Sure,” another voice says, “But some warning would be nice.” This newcomer is dressed in a deep teal dress, with a high collar and no sleeves. The half-mask that she usually wears around her eyes is draped around her neck. Her long, orange-red hair is pulled back in a ponytail.

Another of the 1B kids, Bakugou’s brain supplies. Kendou?

And then, just behind her, dressed in sleek black and purple, is a man with a gaunt face and hair that sticks out from his head like tendrils of smoke and shadow. Bakugou recognizes him from his fight with Deku, months ago— Shinsou Hitoshi. The mind-controller.

“You can join us, now, if you’d like,” Yaoyorozu cuts in smoothly.

And then, as though this is something they do every day, the three of them pull up chairs and bring their own lunches over to the tables. They chatter about their individual classes— Monoma and Kendou are in charge of the second heroics class, and Shinsou manages a program that pulls promising students out of the other departments and helps them catch up and transfer to heroics.

The longer Bakugou sits amongst them, the more his skin begins to crawl. This isn’t right. This isn’t the life he wants. He’d rather die than be stuck here day in and day out, pretending. Because surely no version of him, no matter how old, can live this life naturally.

At some point in the conversation, Monoma elbows Bakugou in the side. “You’re being awfully quiet,” he says tauntingly. “What’s the matter with you today, then?”

Bakugou can see Yaoyorozu’s signals for Monoma to shut up, even though she’s trying to be subtle. He rolls his eyes and feels himself smile as he reaches out and shoves Monoma off his chair and onto the floor.

After lunch, getting through his afternoon classes is almost easy. Now that he has his cellphone, he’s got his own notes on his schedule, as well as the updates that come from Principal Aizawa about what he’s supposed to discuss with his homeroom at the end of the day.

Still, Bakugou is exhausted by the time the day is over. He’d rather spend twice that time patrolling, or fighting the toughest battles of his life. At least villains don’t keep asking stupid questions, like a classroom full of teenagers does.

As he’s leaving Yuuei’s campus, a new message pops up on his phone.

KD (4:05): Just got back from patrol with Riot. You coming or not?

Bakugou has no idea where he’s supposed to go, but his phone seems to know best. It gives him a list of places he and this number frequent, the first being a building not far away from Yuuei.

Bakugou follows the map and gets there within fifteen minutes. The building is sleek and modern, and it reminds him enough of Best Jeanist’s offices that he recognizes it for what it is— a hero agency.

The doors immediately slide open for him, and the young man at the front desk smiles brightly. “Bakugou-san,” he calls out. “I thought today was your day off?”

A stupid thing to say to a person who has literally spent all day at work, but Bakugou lets it slide. “Where’s Riot?” he asks, since this person seems to know him and isn’t questioning his presence. He must have gotten the right place.

“Upstairs, the fifth-floor offices, I think,” the man says. “He and Kaminari-san just got back, I don’t think they had any injuries to deal with.”

Bakugou bites the inside of his cheek as he stalks off towards the elevators. Of course, injuries come with the territory of being pro heroes. But if he, Kaminari and Kirishima are all working together, they better not be the type of pathetic fucks who get injured on every routine patrol.

He crosses his arms over his chest as the elevator takes him upstairs. The decor of the hero agency is not exactly what he would’ve imagined— it’s dominated by red and black, with metallic steel fixtures and lots of glass and light. It’s exactly the kind of place that would crumple immediately if Bakugou let off the wrong explosion or Kirishima punched the wall in his hardened form.

He hears them before he sees them, rancorous laughter coming from one of the offices as soon as he steps out onto the fifth floor. Shaking his head, Bakugou follows the noise and tries not to think about how this is familiar, even to him. After all, how many times has he headed down the hall, back to his dorm room, only to hear Kirishima and Kaminari’s laughter coming from the room next door? Lately, it’s even been easy to stop in and join them with less and less pretenses. Or at least, it had been heading that way before today.

Kirishima is sitting on what must be his desk, still in his hero costume. It hasn’t changed much, in essentials— he’s wearing the long black sleeves he’d adopted in their first year, and his chest is bare. But Bakugou is fixated on something he hadn’t noticed this morning— the white skin at the center of Kirishima’s chest, shaped like a starburst. It’s a scar, a massive one, like something had gone straight through Kirishima.

“Katsuki,” Kirishima calls out, still laughing, as Bakugou steps through the door.

At the same time, Kaminari asks, “Dude, could you text back, ever?” He’s sitting in a chair opposite Kirishima’s desk, lounging with his legs crossed in front of him. His leather jacket is draped over the back of the chair, leaving his arms bare. He has his glasses pushed up into his blond hair.

“I was busy,” Bakugou says shortly, kicking Kaminari’s legs away from the second chair so that he can sit down.

“How’s Tsukino?” Kirishima asks around a laugh, and it takes Bakugou a moment to connect the name with the pink-haired girl from his homeroom class.

“Fine,” he says, baffled.

Kirishima and Kaminari share a look that Bakugou doesn’t like the look of, at all. It’s the kind of look they share before they’re about to start making fun of him, because they’re both idiots who haven’t yet learned that he really will make good on his promise to kill both of them, one of these days.

“Babe, you’re so cute,” Kirishima says, leaning forward and pinching Bakugou’s cheek.

Bakugou hisses and shoves Kirishima away from him. “Get the fuck away from me, I’m mad at you,” he says, before he can think better of it. And he is mad at Kirishima, back in a time that makes sense and when they’re both sixteen years old. Does he have anything to be mad about, in this time?

Kirishima frowns thoughtfully. “Mad just because, or mad because I did something that you genuinely want me to stop doing?”

Fuck, Bakugou thinks. Fuck fuck fuck. What is he supposed to say, to that?

“Ugh, you guys are gross,” Kaminari says, although he doesn’t sound particularly disgusted. “Anyway, Bakugou and I have some paperwork to go over, so we’ll see you later, Kirishima.”

“Paperwork?” Kirishima asks.

But Kaminari just waves a hand at him, saying, “Oh, you know,” and grabbing Bakugou by the arm to hoist him out of his seat. “C’mon, sensei.”

Bakugou lets Kaminari lead him out of the room, if only because being around Kirishima is confusing as hell. Does he always smile that much, around Bakugou?

Kaminari opens the door to an office across the hall and then shuts the door behind them. This office is less red in its decor, and there are band posters stuck up on the walls. Kaminari sits down on one end of a plush purple couch and pats the area beside him.

“No,” Bakugou says articulately, pulling over the desk chair to sit across from him. “Also, what stupid paperwork can you not take care of on your own, you useless—”

Kaminari glances at him sideways. “Okay, first off, you know and I know that there’s no boss around here, but the government still wants us all technically under someone’s charge. So, you’re the head hero, whether you like it or not, and that means you’ve got to sign off on some papers every once in a while.”

“I know that,” Bakugou says, because it’s the sort of thing his older self would have to know. He does wonder at how the hell this agency is structured, because there’s no way Kirishima and Kaminari are his sidekicks. This must be like no agency that exists, in his time.

“But anyway,” Kaminari says, sighing dramatically. “If you ever picked up your phone or answered your messages, I would not have to conspire to talk to you away from your doting husband. You know he wanted to crash lunch at Yuuei today to make sure you were okay? I had to physically hold him back, which isn’t easy.”

Something in Bakugou’s stomach does a flip. He forces the sensation down. “What the hell do you need to talk about, then?”

Kaminari rolls his eyes. “Dude, you were the one who asked for our help! So, can you get it together, please? I knew you’d be moody about this, after last year, but when you came to me and Ashido and Uraraka we genuinely thought you were trying, at least.”

Bakugou frowns. He’s clearly out of the loop, here, and not reacting in the right way. But at least this is Kaminari— he knows how to deal with him.

Bakugou leans forward in his chair and levels Kaminari with a look. “Pretend for a moment that I’m as much of a dumbass as you are. Explain what the fuck you’re talking about.”

Kaminari kicks at his ankle in retaliation, but then just shakes his head. “You know how there years ago, you and our best friend tied the knot in front of the entire world? And about how the next year he whisked you off for a week-long vacation in the mountains for your anniversary? And then last year, he obviously couldn’t do that? So, this year, you literally shoved me into a broom closet to ask for my help planning a party for him?”

A vacation in the mountains, Bakugou thinks, just the two of them. It’s exactly the kind of thing Bakugou would want to do— even if Kirishima was there, too. And of course, Kirishima would never be married to him if he didn’t know him that well, if he couldn’t plan the perfect anniversary. But then—

“I asked you for help,” he says flatly.

Kaminari snaps his fingers. “Keep up, Blasty. Yes, you did. Me and Ashido and Uraraka. And then we roped in the rest of the gang, and you were at least not getting in our way! Everything’s pretty much set. I’ll get Kirishima to Yaoyorozu’s place around eight. You just need to get yourself there beforehand, got it?”

Bakugou hates parties. He’d enjoyed them well enough as a little kid, because they’d mostly entailed his little band of followers coming over and his dad making cake and Bakugou getting a pile of presents. But as he’s grown up, he’s grown less and less fond of big, social gatherings. Occasionally, Class 1A will celebrate a birthday, but he hasn’t shown up to those occasions. Kirishima had suggested they spend Christmas together, last year, and—

Goddamn. Had that been a hint?

Bakugou shakes his head. Now isn’t the time to be thinking about that. The point is, he’d never plan a party, not of his own will. He’d much rather spend a week in the mountains, away from all of these losers. So, why?

“What happened last year.” The words leave his mouth before he can stop them.

Kaminari is looking at him with naked concern, now, and Bakugou hates it. They’re all going to think he’s losing his memory, or his mind.

But then Kaminari smiles sadly. “I know you don’t like thinking about it,” he says, “But, my man, you’ve got to accept that it’s over, now. Kirishima’s okay. And we are going to throw you guys the best party you’ve ever seen. Stop beating yourself up about it, okay?”

Kaminari gets up and claps Bakugou on the shoulder. It’s such a familiar gesture, and Bakugou almost leans into it. Then he remembers himself, and glares up at Kaminari.

“I’m not beating myself up over anything,” he snaps.

“Sure,” Kaminari agrees easily. “But eight o’clock tomorrow, okay? Don’t be an asshole and let all our planning go to waste, ‘kay?”

He walks home together with Kirishima. Their apartment forms a triangle with their hero office and Yuuei, equidistant between them. Kirishima keeps talking the entire way there, going over the patrol he’d been on with Kaminari, talking about the mid-level villains they’d taken down.

They’ve both changed out of their hero costumes, Kirishima into simple black jeans and a red t-shirt that clashes with his hair. Like Bakugou, he wears a cord around his neck, and from the black leather a simple golden ring hangs. It catches the light of the fading sun as they walk, distracting Bakugou every time he turns to look at Kirishima.

When they’re just outside their apartment building, Bakugou reaches out and grabs the ring as it swings back and forth. It’s cool to his touch, about the same size as the ring hanging from his own neck. The gem embedded in it is a brilliant orange.

“Katsuki?” Kirishima asks. He looks up at Bakugou from under thick lashes, his expression soft and unguarded. He reaches up and pushes Bakugou’s hair away from his forehead. “What’s up? Is something wrong?”

Bakugou runs the ring between his fingers one more time before letting it drop, then swallows as he steps away from Kirishima. “No. Everything’s fine.”

He’s distracted for the rest of the evening. Kirishima warms up dinner for them, and they eat in relative silence.

If this is an illusion, it’s one of incredible detail. Bakugou can taste the hot curry on his tongue, can feel fatigue setting in as the day winds down to a close. And he’s no closer to finding a way out of this than he was this morning.

Bakugou sits on the couch in the living room, staring blankly ahead as he tries to figure out his next move. He doesn’t have as much experience with psychic Quirks as he’d like. The one person he can think of who does is Shinsou, but would a person created by an illusion be able to use their Quirk to break out of it? Not likely.

If this illusion is constructed like a computer program, there should be some back door, some failsafe route in and out of it. But how would he go about finding it?

And even if this villain is in Bakugou’s head, how does she know enough to construct a world like this? And if she’s capable of this, what is she doing robbing banks and terrorizing civilians?

A heavy weight jostles the couch as Kirishima sits down beside him and grabs both of Bakugou’s legs, draping them over his lap. Again, the gesture is so intimate and familiar that Bakugou is too shocked to react.

Kirishima idly trails his fingers over Bakugou’s legs, over his jeans. “I know you didn’t message me back, which means you probably don’t want to talk about it, but you’ve gotta know that if you’re acting this moody, I’m going to be concerned.”

Bakugou swallows. He’s been acting more or less normally, hasn’t he? How else does he usually act around Kirishima? He’s not even angry, just confused by this world and how he fits into it.

But Kirishima’s always been able to help him figure out his place. He knows he belongs at the top of Class 1A, but Kirishima is always there to help him navigate his relationships with the other students. During the Sports Festival, it had been Kirishima who had helped him piece together a team with Ashido and Sero. And Kirishima who’s always inviting him along to class outings. And Kirishima who’ll knock on his door and ask him to come study together. And that’s why, when Kirishima had asked Bakugou to meet him outside the school gate after this morning, Bakugou had agreed. Because Kirishima had given him no reason not to.

Bakugou looks away from Kirishima, now. But he still asks, “When did you decide you liked me?”

Because Kirishima has always been so adamant about his emotions, so sure.

Kirishima laughs lightly. “Is that what you’ve been worrying about?

Bakugou glares, and Kirishima lifts his hands in mock surrender.

“I’ve told you before, haven’t I? I don’t think it was just one moment.” Kirishima worries his lower lip with one pointed tooth. “Well, okay. That’s not entirely true. It was during our first year at Yuuei. After… you know. The training camp, and everything else.”

Bakugou bites down hard on the inside of his cheek. It’s not that he can’t hear about Kamino Ward— for a time, it was all he heard about. He had to be questioned by police, and there were reporters, and then every time he entered a room the echo of conversations would linger. He’s used to it, by now. He’s even discussed the entire incident with Kirishima, because after what Kirishima had risked for him he’d deserved to know.

But Bakugou can’t fathom how his getting kidnapped would lead Kirishima to liking him.

“You’re making the cutest face right now,” Kirishima says, tapping his thumb against Bakugou’s forehead. “Why’re you thinking so hard?”

Bakugou frowns. “Because you don’t make any sense.”

Kirishima’s smile is wide and brilliant and honest. “Sure, I do. You know, I’ve always admired you. It’s hard not to. But for a while, it was like, a distant thing? You were always so good at everything, and it never seemed like you needed anyone else. But I guess, even though I wish it had never happened to you, knowing that you could need help made me think that there might be room for me in your life.”

Bakugou winces. “I don’t—”

“You let me in, little by little,” Kirishima continues, almost wistfully. “And after that, how could I not love you?”

He’s sure his face is bright red. It’s not the first time someone’s said they love him— his parents say it often enough, and Bakugou isn’t the type of kid who grew up with no affection. By all rights, he should be used to it. But this feels so different, like nothing he’s ever experienced before. He’s always craved admiration and praise, but this naked declaration of love is like an arrow that pierces him straight through.

Kirishima shifts Bakugou’s legs, coming to lean over him. He rests his hands on either side of Bakugou’s head, looking down at him with liquid-dark eyes.

“I had a feeling that this week would be hard on you,” Kirishima is saying, leaning in until his head forehead rests against Bakugou’s. “But I am so, so happy that I’m here with you. No matter what.”

Last year, Bakugou thinks furiously. Something had happened last year, and ruined whatever they would have done over this anniversary. But what was it? He tries to piece together all the clues he’s gotten, the cryptic statements from Yaoyorozu and Kaminari.

“Was it my fault?” he asks, despite himself. “What happened to you?”

Just like what happened to All Might was his fault. Maybe every person he admires, and wants to be close to, will end up the same way.

Kirishima smiles tightly, shaking his head. “How many times do I have to tell you that it wasn’t? And I’m fine, in case you haven’t noticed. No harm done.”

He closes the space between them, and before Bakugou can move away Kirishima is kissing him. The pressure of his lips is soft at first, then grows rougher and more insistent. Bakugou doesn’t know how to react, but his body moves naturally, his chin tilting up so that his lips fit together against Kirishima’s perfectly. There’s enough force in the kiss to keep him grounded in the moment, even as his thoughts and emotions fly off in a million different directions.

He likes this, he realizes. He likes being this close to Kirishima.

And there’s something else here, too— something he should have figured out sooner. This can’t be an illusion. Because as much as that villain could have gotten into his own head and trapped him in his thoughts, how would she have been able to gain Kirishima’s thoughts and emotions, as well? And there’s no way Bakugou’s psyche could have come up with what Kirishima had said, just now, because he doesn’t understand Kirishima well enough. He never would have arrived at that conclusion, at the stark honesty of the feelings that Kirishima had shared with him.

And if this isn’t an illusion, it must be—

Bakugou starts to pull away, and Kirishima leans back at the same time. He’s smiling, his lips spit-wet and red. “I don’t regret anything that led us to being right here, right now. You know that, right?”

Bakugou coughs. “What kind of fucking manly declaration is that, shitty hair?” His words have no bite to them, and Kirishima laughs in response.

They get ready for bed soon after that. When Kirishima casually undresses in front of him, Bakugou gets another look at that stark white scar. It isn’t a burn, or the type of shrapnel damage that would come from an explosion. Instead, it looks like something had pierced Kirishima’s skin. Frowning, Bakugou steps towards Kirishima and places his hand against the white scar tissue.

Kirishima hums softly, then lifts a hand to cover Bakugou’s. “I’ve been back on duty for six months, Katsuki,” he says. “It’s completely healed.”

Bakugou shudders, then steps away. “That doesn’t mean I have to like it.”

“You don’t?” Kirishima pouts. “I think it’s pretty badass, honestly.”

“You have shit taste,” Bakugou reminds him.

Kirishima laughs, twisting around Bakugou to hug him from behind, resting his chin against Bakugou’s shoulder. “Sure do. That’s how I ended up with such an agreeable husband.”

Bakugou wants to push him away. He shouldn’t be doing this. He shouldn’t be letting Kirishima touch him so casually, so easily. He shouldn’t be leaning back into the touch. He shouldn’t be memorizing the way Kirishima’s fingertips feel against his bare skin.

“You’re the idiot who married me,” Bakugou retorts, half a question hidden in his tone.

“I couldn’t really say no, the way you proposed.” Kirishima’s laugh reverberates through his chest, against Bakugou’s back. “I thought you were going to kill me, babe.”

Bakugou doesn’t know what to say to that, so he remains silent. Kirishima pulls away from him a moment later, pulling back the sheets on their massive bed and laying down. Bakugou stares at him for a moment, at his inviting smile and the way his hair fans out against the pillow.

His face heats up. They’re older— they’re old. And they’re married. Which means that, in this bed, they—

Bakugou turns around to hide his face. Get it together, he screams internally. You’re trapped in some future hellscape, and this is what gets to you? Sharing a bed?

“Um, Katsuki? You okay, over there?”

“Just. Fine.” Bakugou forces the words out from between his teeth, then squares his shoulders and marches towards his side of the bed. He’s wearing a t-shirt over his boxers, but Kirishima’s wearing nothing but loose sleep pants. The covers of the bed are pulled down enough that Bakugou can still see every inch of his chest. It probably isn’t fair to compare Kirishima as he is now to his younger self, but god damn, had he spent the entirety of the last decade pumping iron?

Bakugou reigns himself in as much as possible, getting into bed and lying on his side, facing away from Kirishima. There’s enough space between them. He can get some rest, and then he can wake up in the morning and figure out how the hell to get home.

He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, trying to calm the pounding of his beating heart. But just as he feels himself starting to relax, Kirishima shifts closer, tucking himself in behind Bakugou and draping one arm over his waist.

“Stop being so far away,” Kirishima whines, nosing at the back of Bakugou’s neck. “I didn’t get to see you all day.”

This must all be some kind of grand cosmic joke. No one has ever wanted to be closer to Bakugou, not like this. And yet Kirishima is holding onto him as though this is how they sleep every night.

“No nightmares,” Kirishima assures him, pressing a kiss to Bakugou’s neck. “I’ll keep you safe.”

The stupid thing is, Bakugou almost believes him. He hasn’t slept well in months, even on days when he’s not being tossed through time by some vindictive bitch of a villain. But Kirishima is a warm and comforting presence around him, and Bakugou feels himself being lulled by the beat of Kirishima’s heart.

It’s hard not feel jealous, of the Bakugou who has grown up to deserve this. Even though he’s living in his skin, the younger Bakugou can’t even begin to image what sort of person he grows up to be. He’s not the best hero in the world, and he wastes his time teaching and Yuuei, and he was enough of a failure to let Kirishima take a wound through his chest. So why did Yaoyorozu act like they were friends? Why was Kaminari so adamant about helping him plan some shitty party? Why is Kirishima holding him like this?

He doesn’t understand this place. If it isn’t an illusion, if this really is his future, he doesn’t see how he could ever get here.

And yet he lets himself indulge in the warmth of Kirishima’s body against his, lets himself sigh into the contact as he eyes flutter shut. And if his eyes itch and burn as he forces himself to sleep, it’s because he knows one thing for certain.

He needs to get back to where he belongs, and fast. Otherwise, it’ll be too late to forget this place.