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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.

Chapter Text

The smoke is so thick around him that Bakugou can’t see. He holds his hands in front of his mouth and noise, trying to draw a breath of clean air, and trudges forward stubbornly even as the smoke burns his eyes. Eventually, he clenches them shut to avoid the worst of the irritation.

Even when he’s cleared the smoke, the world does not come into focus. Through the darkness, he sees a flicker of green lightning, and immediately heads in its direction. As though he’s surfaced from underwater, noise erupts around him— the thunderous din of a battle. He ignores the yells and hisses of pain, the explosions and snaps of buildings crumbling. Instead, he keeps his unreliable gaze on the spot of green.

Time is moving unevenly around him. One instant, the green is only a spot in the distance. The next, he’s standing in front of someone, wiping the blood from his lips as pain courses through his body.

“Kacchan!” The person behind him calls. His voice is slightly deeper than Bakugou remembers, but no less familiar. “Why did you—”

Bakugou coughs, the taste of iron filling his mouth. “Don’t ask me that question,” he says, voice cracking like a steel trap snapping shut. “My body moved on its own.”

He tries to ignore the worst of the pain as he sees a shadow approaching— it’s not after him. It’s after the green light, the person behind him, whom he has to protect, because—

The shadow descends again, and Bakugou lifts his hands and sets off an enormous explosion, even as the recoil sends pain stabbing through his arms. He grunts as the shadow is blown away, smirking with satisfaction even as he falls to his knees.

Behind him, his ally has turned, facing down another enemy. And that— that’s fine. Bakugou will watch his back, and the damn idiot can at least achieve what they’d all come here for. Further away, in flashes of light, he can see ice and fire forming a dual perimeter around the wreckage of the battlefield. Defeated foes float above the scene, kept from rejoining the battle. A glint of silver bolts around the area like a bullet, calling out directions.

“Take him out first,” a rough voice calls, “We’ll never get to the Symbol of Peace unless—”

He doesn’t need to look up to see more shadows descending upon him. And he feels no small measure of pride at being targeted, because they know they’re never going to get to the damn nerd unless they get through him, first. And like hell he’s going to let that happen.

There’s at least five of them. Bakugou lets off another round of explosions, but he can’t fucking see and he knows at least a few of them have managed to dodge. He hears the harsh slide of sharpened steel, and know he’s about to be stabbed, or worse. Still, he won’t give up his position. If he moves, the attack will only fall on his ally’s back, and he cannot let that happen.

No!” A voice calls out, rough and pained and so familiar.

He doesn’t need to look to know what’s about to happen. He feels it— first, as a gust of wind when someone runs between him and his attackers. Then, as the sickening sound of something cracking. There’s an intake of breath, and then the person who’d rushed in front of Bakugou falls painfully to their knees.

When he can see again, it is only this— Kirishima on the ground, arms still extended as though to expand his body into a shield over Bakugou. Red fills Bakugou’s vision— the red of Kirishima’s hair, the red of the blood pooling around the silver weapon piercing him, the red of Kirishima’s eyes as they dart in every direction, searching for Bakugou. He looks up, blood dripping from the corner of his lips, and smiles.

Bakugou throws his head back and roars.

He shoots upright in bed, drenched in sweat and screaming. His throat aches, and his every muscle is tense, and he’s shaking so badly that, at first, he thinks he’s experiencing an earthquake.

Then, something anchors him. Strong arms around him, a warm chest again his back, a familiar presence all around him. Bakugou takes a shuddering breath, but he still can’t make out the words being whispered, steadily, in his ear.

“Shh, shh, it’s okay,” Kirishima says, finally, when Bakugou can understand again, “You were dreaming. It was just a dream.”

Why the fuck is Kirishima comforting him? Bakugou isn’t the one who just got stabbed, what the hell is trying to pull?

“It hasn’t happened,” Bakugou says, words tumbling from his lips. “That wasn’t— that wasn’t my memory—”

“It was just a dream.” Kirishima is taking long breaths, holding in the air and letting it go again. Unconsciously, Bakugou starts following along with his rhythm.

“It wasn’t a dream!” His voice rises, now that he has more air to fill his lungs. “It wasn’t a fucking dream, it was a memory, it just wasn’t mine—”

It’s only a few minutes later, when Kirishima is rocking them both gently back and forth, and Bakugou has calmed only a fraction, just enough to let his mind start functioning, that he realizes. It was a memory. And it was his. But that memory belongs to the Bakugou who belongs in this body, in this time, in this life. It was something he’d experienced, so visceral that it’s etched into his very cells. He can’t escape it, even in dreams.

Which means that, if this truly is his future, then that scene will play out, in time. And he’s going to have to watch it happen.

“I hate you,” Bakugou says, quietly but with conviction.

Beside him, around him, Kirishima freezes. “Katsuki?”

“I should have known,” Bakugou continues, laughing without mirth. His voice sounds like he’s been gargling gravel. His throat feels worse. “I did know, I knew I didn’t want you to get close— but you did anyway. Why didn’t you fucking listen to me?”

Kirishima pulls away from him, so that they can get a proper look at each other. His face is lined from where he’d lain against his pillow, his hair mussed. Bakugou lingers on the un-familiarities of his face, hating that he isn’t looking at the person he knows. He should be talking to his Kirishima, not this stranger.

“What are you talking about?”

“This!” Bakugou yells, gesturing wildly at the space around him. Sweat lingers in the dip of his shoulders, around his neck and on his palms. He feels stifled and disgusting. “Why did I let you talk me into this?”

Kirishima blinks in surprise, recoiling as though Bakugou has struck him. But then his eyes narrow, and he says, with utter conviction, “Because you love me.”

“So what!” Bakugou knows he should try to be more rational about this. He’s dangerously close to blowing his cover, to revealing to Kirishima that he isn’t supposed to be here. He doesn’t know what will happen, then— if he’ll ruin time, somehow, by being here. Or if he’ll just get sent to a hospital, if Kirishima will think he’s gone insane or been doused by some psychic-based Quirk. “What the hell does that matter! My loving you isn’t going to keep you safe, shithead!”

Kirishima doesn’t move towards him. He frowns, hard, every line of his face pulling downwards. “Nothing about our lives is safe. Being together was never going to change that, Katsuki.”

But it does change it. Because if they are together, if they admit their affections so openly, then Bakugou has the space to feel what he’s been trying to deny for ages, now. And if he can feel those things, he can lose them, and without them how is he supposed to hold himself together?

He shudders, seeing All Might dissipating from his heroic form down to a withered husk. But the transformation doesn’t stop. He crumbles into dust in front of Bakugou’s eyes, blowing away.

“I can’t,” Bakugou says, clutching at his head. “I can’t.”

Kirishima moves, as though to reach for him. But Bakugou curls in on himself, not letting Kirishima get close. After a moment, Kirishima sighs and drops his hand.

“Do we need to call the school and say you won’t be in today?”

Bakugou thinks of this life, of all the people who expect him to fit into various roles without question. He’s fucking everything up. If he doesn’t go to work, someone is going to want to know why.

When he looks up, Kirishima’s face is guarded. His eyes are distant, his lips pressed into a line that would be neutral on anyone else. But on Kirishima, who smiles constantly, it’s a strained expression. He’s barely holding something in, and Bakugou doesn’t know if he has the strength to deal with whatever it is.

He bites down on his tongue so hard that he tastes blood. But then, he shakes his head. “I’m fine.” He kicks off the covers, getting out of bed and heading for the bathroom.

Just before he shuts the door, he hears Kirishima say, probably to himself, “Happy Anniversary.”

Fuck, Bakugou thinks. Fuck this entire plane of existence.

After that, heading to Yuuei almost seems like a respite. He checks the schedule in his phone, and even with only his elder self’s minimal notes to guide him it’s easy enough to bullshit his way through the morning.

In that time, he’s able to come to a few decisions. The first is this—this world, with its details and intricacy and potency, cannot possibly be an illusion. Which means that Bakugou has definitely been pushed forward in time, somehow. Once he’s decided that, it’s easy enough to figure out a plan.

First, he needs to ensure that no one realizes what’s happened to him. He’s read enough comics and played enough video games in his life to know his way around time travel. He’s never heard of anyone actually having a Quirk like this, but the theories are sound. If he messes something up, here, it could have widespread effects on time before and after. He doesn’t want to erase himself from existence, so playing along is the best plan.

Second, he needs to find the villain who sent him here. Ideally, she’ll be in prison in this time, and he can use his pull as a pro hero to visit her and demand she send him back to where he belongs. Barring that, he can find someone with a similar enough Quirk to fix things.

It’s a simple enough plan, but one that he thinks will work. And focusing on that keeps him from despairing over how strange it is to be here, how much he does not want to deal with Kirishima when he gets home, tonight.

In the afternoon, his class is assigned to battle training. He and Yaoyorozu co-teach these sessions, apparently.

Yaoyorozu pulls a series of electronic bangles from her arm, handing them out among the twenty students. “Those will track your progress,” she says brightly, pointing upwards at an electronic score board. “Bakugou-san and I will take different ends of the arena, and we’ll each be guarding a series of tokens. If you can get past us, and secure yourself a token, you’ll have completed the lesson. Any questions?”

Bakugou stands just behind her, arms crossed over his chest as he surveys the students. They’re wearing the same blue, white and red uniforms that Bakugou’s class dons for field exercises. Some of them have support items on— the class rep, Sato, has a glove over one hand that’s covered with gears and sparks with electricity. Another kid, the one with the three-toned hair, wears a belt from which several pouches hang. In each of them, he stashes a deck of cards. Twintails— or Tsukino, that was her name— doesn’t wear any support items, but her pale skin has taken on a strange luminescence as she readies her Quirk. The orange-haired kid— Kurosaki— materializes a dark blade from the air.

“Remember, this is a stealth mission,” Yaoyorozu says. “You’re not trying to injure us, and taking us on in direct combat would probably be beyond any of you. Do your best, okay? Bakugou-san— did you have anything to add?”

Bakugou looks out over the students and tries to get his head on straight. Now isn’t the time to be thinking about his fight with Kirishima. Was that even a fight? Ugh. Fuck it.

“Don’t do anything too stupid,” he grunts at the class, before stalking away to take his position on one side of the field.

For the most part, the training exercise is uneventful. The first students to reach his position try to rush him head on, which is precisely his definition of “too stupid.” He catches them easily, and even without his Quirk he’s able to toss them back across the field. They have the chance to try again, or to switch tactics and go after Yaoyorozu. Some students try for a subtler approach, but Bakugou can find them, too. His body seems more attuned to the world around him than he’s used to— he can hear them coming, can predict where they’ll try to jump out from. Maybe years of experience as a hero are simply etched into his body, now.

He doesn’t know whether the kids are having more luck taking on Yaoyorozu, but he decides not to worry about it. He still has an entire bin full of small, circular tokens. Focusing on just guarding them, having one small objective to achieve, is easy. It clears his mind, after a full day of running in circles like a hamster on a wheel. This may be a fake battle, but it’s still a field he knows how to navigate. It makes sense, unlike personal relationships or anniversaries.

But maybe even that stray thought is enough to distract him, because the next thing Bakugou hears is the shuffle of feet behind him, too close. He whips around, palms heating up.

“Sato!” Someone calls out, voice high-pitched but authoritative. “Now!”

A bolt of electricity runs towards him, similar enough to something Kaminari would discharge that Bakugou knows how to dodge it. But it’s followed by another, and then a third, and Bakugou realizes what’s happening just as he tucks and rolls to avoid getting electrocuted.

They’re working together, he thinks. Sato and—

He turns around to see Tsukino, tiny and pink-haired, running lightly towards the bin of tokens. They’re the first students to even try and take him on as a pair— the others had all just raced in, or paused only to think of an individual strategy. But Yaoyorozu had never said they couldn’t work together.

“Oh, hell no.” They may be clever, but they’re not about to beat him. Bakugou sets off a small explosion, propelling himself forward so that he stands between Tsukino and the tokens.

“Damn it,” she says, biting down on her lower lip.

“Language,” he says, on reflex, feeling a bit like his own father.

Tsukino looks up at him with raised brows, incredulous.

“Tsukino!” Sato calls from behind them. “Look out!”

And, fuck. As soon as Bakugou half-turns, he realizes why Sato sounds so panicked. She’d set off another charge of electricity, aiming for Bakugou, but now that he’s out of the way it’s headed right for the other girl. And there’s something off about the way that Sato is manipulating it— she’s not controlling it once it leaves the palm of her hand, somehow channeled through the glove she’s wearing.

Tsukino isn’t going to react in time. She and Sato are smart, but they’re still first years. They don’t move the way Bakugou does, don’t have his honed instincts for this kind of thing.

Before Bakugou has a chance to think, his body moves. He pushes off from the ground, reaching out to grab Tsukino by the scruff of her shirt. She squeaks as he pulls her towards him, and Bakugou shifts in midair so that he’s facing the bolt of electricity. With his free hand, he reaches out and detonates to push the two of them out of the line of fire.

But the explosion isn’t the low-grade propulsion he’s familiar with. It’s a considerable blast, one that would normally take him a great deal of concerted effort to make. The force of it knocks him backwards. He feels himself drop Tsukino just before his head collides with the ground, blacking out his vision for a moment.

Sensei!”

It takes Bakugou a minute or so to get his bearings, and once he does he sees Tsukino leaning over him, face a teary mess.

“Are you okay? Sensei!”

Why the hell does she look so concerned? Bakugou thinks dimly. It’s just one hit. And besides, if he’s the teacher, it’s his goddamn job to take hits so that his students won’t have to. That’s like, basic shit.

“Give him some space, Tsukino,” Sato is saying, her voice even but strained. “Yaoyorozu-sensei is coming—”

“No, I got this,” Tsukino says, shaking her head. She bites down on her lower lip, then takes a shuddering breath. Slowly, the luminescence returns to her skin, pooling in her hands. She places them gently on either side of Bakugou’s head, and all he can see is bright light, for a moment. When it fades, it takes his pain along it.

Bakugou nudges her away a moment later, less forcefully that he might’ve otherwise. As he sits up, he looks down at his hands with narrowed eyes. His Quirk has always been the one thing that he can rely on. But it was beyond his control, just then.

It takes him another moment to realize that here, in this time, he’s gotten stronger. The capacities of his Quirk must have expanded, over the past decade or so. He’s much, much stronger than he could have ever anticipated. And so, like driving a car with a more powerful engine, his basic moves are now accompanied by considerably more power.

Before he can think too long on that, Yaoyorozu runs up towards him.

“What’s going on? Is everyone alright?”

Bakugou gets to his feet and walks over to the bin of tokens, pulling out two and tossing them towards Tsukino and Sato.

“Just fine,” he says, as the girls catch the tokens in surprise. “I think these two are the only ones who got the point of your lesson, though.”

Yaoyorozu smiles thinly. “I’m sure a few of the others would have figured it out, in time.”

They wrap up the lesson soon after that, but as the students head off to the locker rooms, Tsukino lingers. After a moment of trying to ignore her hovering, Bakugou turns to her.

“What?”

Tsukino worries at the hem of her shirt, looking both angry and bashful. “Sato and I wanted to say that we’re sorry, sensei.”

“You should be,” Bakugou says blandly. Not really caring for the way Tsukino’s face falls, he rolls his eyes. “Your strategies shouldn’t be so reckless, in the future. If you get hurt trying to be a hero, who the hell is that helping?”

He stalks past her, after that. There’s a knot of emotions coiling in his stomach, too complex for him to easily detangle. But they writhe around in him like snakes, and Bakugou knows he can’t go on like this.

He’s back in the staffroom, grabbing his things and preparing to head out for the day. Just as he’s about to leave, the door opens and a dark, familiar figure walks in.

Aizawa can’t be all that old, even after a more than a decade, but he wears fatigue so plainly on his face that he appears ancient. His hair is still dark and long, but there’s a good amount of silver at his temples that bleeds into the dark mass of his hair. His eyes are sunken and bloodshot, the scar under his right eye even more noticeable than it had been in Bakugou’s time. He wears loose, dark clothes, his familiar weapon wrapped around his neck and shoulders.

“I heard there was a bit of an incident during hero training,” he says, barely giving Bakugou a glance.

It’s perhaps the most fucking bizarre situation Bakugou has ever been in. Aizawa looks at him, like it’s entirely normal to see Bakugou in this staffroom. Like he belongs here, like Aizawa runs a school at which Bakugou fits in as a teacher.

Why is this place, this time, so goddamn backwards?

Aizawa clears his throat after a moment, when Bakugou still hasn’t answered.

“It was fine,” Bakugou mumbles, snapping his phone closed and shoving it in his pocket. “Nothing happened.”

He keeps his eyes on the ground as he walks past Aizawa, but as he does his old teacher stops him with a hand on his shoulder, eyes flashing. Bakugou’s been leveled by Aizawa’s Quirk enough times to recognize it, but even so it’s disconcerting to be the focus of that gaze. He can sense it when the power of his Quirk is nullified, no longer immediately at his fingertips. But then Aizawa’s hair drops back around his face, and he looks at Bakugou critically.

“Whatever’s wrong with you, it’s not something I can fix from here,” he says, voice idle enough to hide the question.

Bakugou blinks. How is it, that out of everyone he’s come into contact with in this time, Aizawa is the only one to notice?

He scowls. “Obviously not,” he says. Although it is an interesting question— if the villain he’d been after were here, would Aizawa’s Quirk nullify hers and send Bakugou back to where he belongs?

Aizawa sighs heavily, tucking his hands into his pockets. “Deal with your problems yourself, like an adult,” he says, before heading for his desk.

Bakugou purses his lips, still scowling. He doesn’t need Aizawa telling him to ask for help. He doesn’t need it.

When he returns to the hero agency today, it’s mostly deserted. There’s a digital screen in the upstairs hallway that shows off the office’s roster, and where each hero happens to be. And Bakugou has to admit that it’s a formidable list: Red Riot, Chargebolt, Pinky, Cellophane, Earphone Jack, Invisible Girl. Some are off on patrols in groups of two and three, while others aren’t on duty. There’s some kind of rotating schedule— next to Bakugou’s name, it shows a series of upcoming shifts, the next one starting tomorrow.

He wonders how all of these idiots ended up working under his name. Surely, they had offers from other heroes, after they graduated? Or the chance to strike out on their own? Why the hell would they stick around?

Bakugou trudges his way down the hall, to the office that bears his name. He kicks open the door and finds a serviceable space, minimally decorated. Unlike his desk at Yuuei, this one isn’t cluttered with personal affects. But as Bakugou slouches into his chair and boots up the computer, he feels comfortable. There’s no doubt that he designed this place for himself.

It takes him a couple tries to crack the computer’s passcode, but once he’s in he pulls up a browser and types in a search.

Current hero rankings |

It isn’t what he’s here to find out, strictly speaking. But the question has been gnawing at him, the more he’s experienced of this time. He has to know.

Just as he expected, and just as he’d dreaded, the first name is a familiar one.

No. 1 Hero: Deku

Bakugou bites down on the inside of his cheek, but before he can despair too much he sees his own name listed under Deku’s. He takes second place to the kid he’s known practically since birth, who he’s always held himself above. And maybe some part of Bakugou knew things would end up this way, ever since he found out about the connection between Deku and All Might. Or maybe it was earlier, during the first practical exercise at Yuuei, when Deku had so soundly beaten him. Losing to Deku had torn down some central facet of his personality, and Bakugou doesn’t know that it’s ever rebuilt itself. That he’s ever recovered from that fundamental blow.

“Number two,” he spits, rolling over the words on his tongue. He doesn’t know how to feel. Eventually, he starts to scroll further down the list.

No. 3 Hero: Shouto
No. 4 Hero: Uravity
No. 5 Hero: Creati
No. 6 Hero: Ingenium
No. 7 Hero: Red Riot
No. 8 Hero: Froppy
No. 9 Hero: Tsukuyomi
No. 10 Hero: Pinky

And on, and on, the list goes. The top ranks are full of his classmates, with some other names sprinkled in here and there. But the message is overwhelming— the former Class 1A dominates the charts. Even Kirishima, who’d obviously taken some sort of leave of absence after his injury, sits firmly in the top ten.

But knowing all of this isn’t going to help him get home. Bakugou exits out of the page and pulls up another search, this time of the villain database. For a moment, his fingers linger over the keys, and he considers typing in Shigaraki’s name, or any of the other fuckers who make up the League of Villains. Would knowing that they’d eventually be brought in offer him any sort of peace?

In the end, he decides against it. Knowing won’t help him. So instead, he runs a general search.

Quirk: Time

A list of possible choices pops up, complete with pictures and profiles. Some of the listed villains can freeze time in a radius around them, or manipulate time to switch the locations of objects, or alter the environment by speeding up the seasons. None of the entries describe a dark-haired woman who can push people forward through time.

“What the hell,” Bakugou growls out, after looking through the third page of hits. “Shouldn’t Deku and Kirishima have caught her, even if she knocked me out? What the fuck are they playing at?”

In their classes at Yuuei, Bakugou and his classmates have been taught a lot about different threats a villain might pose. Many of them are physical— cuts, stabs, burns, and the like. Some villains can do psychic damage, affecting memories and emotions and perceptions. Because new Quirks develop almost as often as babies are born, there’s a near endless list of possibilities. They’ve talked about time, in the abstract— if someone really could control it, it would have grave consequences for the rest of the world. It would be the type of Quirk that could undo the very fabric of reality.

“And what does she use it for?” Bakugou grumbles. “To fuck with my head?”

There has to be a way for him to find the villain and get himself home, without disrupting things here. He doesn’t know if this is definitely his future, but altering it could have grave consequences for his life and everyone else’s. He isn’t stupid— he knows how this shit’s supposed to work. Butterfly effect, and all that bullshit. He doesn’t know enough to bank on those theories being wrong, or on time being some immutable, unchangeable force.

He keeps looking through the records, following his own case files back as far as they’ll go. But they cut off after the date of his graduation from Yuuei— they’re all from after he went pro, nothing from his school years at all.

After a few hours’ worth of work, Bakugou shoves aside the mouse and keyboard with frustration. None of this has helped him find a way home, and he still doesn’t know what he should do about Kirishima. Nothing is helping.

Kirishima is still listed as on-duty when Bakugou leaves the hero agency, so he deems it safe enough to head back to their shared apartment. What he doesn’t expect, however, is for there to be someone waiting for him outside the front door.

She’s dressed like she’s going to be on some kind of fucking red carpet— a peach-colored dress made of some wispy material, along with fingerless gloves and heels. Her hair is pulled up into a knot behind her head, leaving just a few pieces loose to frame her face— a face which is just as round as Bakugou remembers.

“Uraraka,” he says dumbly, as she stands in front of him and taps one foot against the ground.

There you are!” She rounds on him, pointing at him accusingly. “Where have you been? You were supposed to meet me forty-five minutes ago! And you’re not even dressed!” She pressed both her hands against her face, the picture of despair. “I can’t believe you.”

It takes Bakugou a minute to catch up. Then he remembers his thread of missed messages, and the text Uraraka had sent yesterday.

“What are you doing here,” he still grumbles, even though he can guess.

Instead of answering, she takes one swift step forward and presses her hand against Bakugou’s chest. Since he isn’t expecting an assault, he doesn’t think to dodge, and the next moment he’s floating in the air, somewhere near her head.

“What the fuck,” he sputters. “Put me down!”

“Nope,” she says, reaching into one of his pockets and extracting a key. “You have totally lost your privileges for deciding anything, Bakugou-kun! We’re late.”

She opens the door to the apartment, then grabs Bakugou’s wrist and tugs him inside, even as he tries to twist away from her.

“I’ll kill you,” he threatens. Floating midair is a distinctly unsettling experience, nothing at all like propelling himself through the air through the force of his explosions. “I’ll kill you and then I’ll do it again, just so everyone knows how much you deserve it—”

“You asked for my help!” she snaps at him, pointing that accusing finger his way again. “Kaminari-kun warned me that you might be like this, but I said, no, he’ll definitely get it together for Kirishima-kun’s sake! Now, are you going to prove Kaminari-kun right, or me?”

“Fucking neither.” Bakugou crosses his arms over his chest and glowers. “I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.”

“You asked me to come meet you,” Uraraka says with stressed patience. “This was weeks ago. You said, and I quote, ‘Come by my place and make sure I’m on time to the party.’ You said that!”

“No, I didn’t,” Bakugou says, because he cannot imagine a universe in which he would willingly invite Uraraka into his home.

“I don’t know why you’re being so impossible,” she says, tugging him along to the bedroom.

Bakugou could possibly fight her off, but he doesn’t think blowing up his apartment would make for a very good anniversary present for Kirishima.

Uraraka leaves him hanging as she digs into his closet, finally extracting a garment bag and a pair of shiny black loafers.

“You smell like smoke,” she says, wrinkling her nose. “If I let you down to go shower, you won’t do anything stupid, right?”

“I mean, you’re the one acting like you’ve got a death wish,” Bakugou says, crossing his arms over his chest. He’s aware that, floating in midair, he probably looks ridiculous. But he doesn’t really care, at this point.

Uraraka sighs and brushes her hair away from her face. “Wow, you are really acting vintage today, aren’t you?”

Bakugou freezes. Does his elder self act so differently that Uraraka can tell?

A moment later, he lands in a heap on the floor as Uraraka presses her hands together to release her Quirk.

“Just go shower,” she says with a sigh. “Then put these on.” She gestures to the clothes she’s laid out on the bed. “I’ll wait in the living room. If you’re not out in twenty minutes, I’ll fight you.”

She says this flippantly, as a threat, but with a sort of confidence that makes Bakugou believe her. And, if he’s honest, he doesn’t entirely hate the idea. Seeing how strong Uraraka’s gotten in the past decade is tempting. If she’s the Number Four hero, she must have improved by leaps and bounds.

Before he can challenge her, however, Uraraka turns on her heel and leaves the room.

Bakugou sits on the bed for a moment, arms crossed and expression sullen. What the fuck is he supposed to do at an anniversary party? This isn’t his relationship being celebrated. He hasn’t experienced any of what’s brought Kirishima and this future Bakugou together— not the years of marriage, or the getting together, or the proposal. None of it.

And what the hell does he care for such things, anyway? In imaging his future, he’s never fit anyone else into it. Since he was young, he’s had only one goal— to be the absolute best hero the world has ever seen. Wouldn’t letting someone in close just take away from that? If he had to wonder, he no longer does, because this Bakugou, who’s tied himself down with marriage and alliances, is Number Two. A failure, in Bakugou’s eyes.

“I don’t hear the water running!” Uraraka calls from behind the door.

“Fine, back off,” Bakugou growls at her. But he gets to his feet and sheds his clothing, stepping into the bathroom and running through a quick shower. He finds two sets of toiletries at the sink, different kinds of shampoo and conditioner and a truly fearsome-looking brand of hair gel that must be Kirishima’s.

He showers quickly and returns to the bedroom, toweling off his hair. The clothes Uraraka has laid out look new— his elder self must have bought them in preparation for this. Still scowling at the thought of the other Bakugou, he rips off the tags and get dressed. The black pants are a perfect fit, tighter than he’s used to wearing anything. He buttons up the white dress shirt and pulls on a double-breasted vest, burnt orange in color. The ring, hanging from its cord, hangs heavily around his neck.

A moment later, Uraraka bursts back into the room.

“What is taking so long?” she asks, just as Bakugou grabs a pillow from the bed and chucks it at her. She catches it easily, and it floats away from her face harmlessly.

“What’s wrong with you? What if I was still getting dressed?”

Uraraka rolls her eyes. “Now really isn’t the time to suddenly be self-conscious.” She steps towards him and grabs for his arms, rolling up the sleeves of his shirt up to the elbows. She straightens his collar and takes a step back, assessing.

“There’s something seriously wrong with you,” he tells her.

She smirks. “I know what Kirishima-kun likes.”

She waits for a moment while Bakugou pulls on his loafers, then grabs him by the elbow and drags him outside. “Come on, come on. I had one job for tonight, and you are not going to ruin everyone else’s planning!”

Another reason his elder self is a failure? He apparently voluntarily spends time around these so-called friends.

Bakugou has never actually been to Yaoyorozu’s house. He assumes it’s massive, from what Sero and Ashido have said, but none of their stories could have really prepared him. It’s not like his own house is small, but it’s normal. When he and Uraraka arrive at Yaoyorozu’s, Bakugou stops and stares.

It’s not just one house, but rather a complex of buildings behind wrought-iron fences. A guard at the gate recognizes Uraraka and Bakugou and lets them in, and Uraraka tugs Bakugou away from the path heading to the main mansion and towards one of the side buildings. The pathways are cobblestoned. Bakugou and Uraraka cut through a rose garden and several fountains on their way.

“Mina-chan got here early to supervise the set-up, and Kaminari-kun is in charge of bringing Kirishima-kun,” Uraraka is saying to him. She still has a firm grip on Bakugou’s elbow, and he briefly considers how badly it would fuck up the future if he blew up her hand. “Anyway. We were supposed to be here a while ago, but we should still beat them.”

The building looks like an opera house, all fancy decor and blinding lights. When he steps through the doors, he’s met by a small crowd of people— the entirety of Class 1A, but older. For a second, his mind doesn’t know where to focus. He keeps seeing these people superimposed over their younger selves, and his brain scrambles to categorize the differences, to note the scars and changes. His head throbs, and Bakugou wrenches himself away from Uraraka so that he can press both hands to his temples.

“Bakugou-kun?” Uraraka leans over him, eyes round with concern.

Bakugou clenches his teeth and straightens himself up. “It’s nothing.”

He takes a steadying breath and looks around the room again. On the far wall is a DJ’s set up, manned by Jirou. Her hair is more severely angled than he remembers, and she’s wearing a pale purple dress with a leather jacket draped over her shoulders. Next to her, Yaoyorozu stands in a red dress, a crystal glass clutched gently in one hand. Sero and Ashido are hanging up decorations— red and orange balloons— Sero in a suit and Ashido in a waistcoat and poofy mint-green skirt. Small crowds of other people are littered across the room— Aoyama, Ojirou, and a floating dress that must be Hagakure; Iida, Asui, Shouji and Tokoyami; Koda and Sato on the far side, by long tables full of food and drink. And then, just by the doorway—

“Kacchan!”

Deku.” Bakugou has to do a double-take, not because Deku looks different from what he’s used to, but because he doesn’t. He’s wearing a deep green suit and a red tie that he hasn’t tied correctly, with gloves over his hands. If he has new scars, they don’t show. He’s still shorter that Bakugou, still has round cheeks and round eyes. But there’s a confidence in the way he holds himself, a strength in his stance that has every predatory instinct in Bakugou roaring to the surface.

“Congratulations,” Deku continues, as though he hadn’t heard the venom in Bakugou’s tone. Then, before Bakugou can think, Deku throws his arms around his shoulders and hugs him.

Bakugou stiffens immediately, feels the heat pooling in his palms in warning— Deku has exactly negative five seconds to let go of him before he blows him straight to hell—

“We’ll talk later, okay?” Deku whispers in his ear, confident and quick like he’s relaying a secret message. “Come find me when you have a minute.”

Then, just as quickly as Deku had grabbed him, he releases Bakugou and steps back with a sheepish smile. “We were worried you guys wouldn’t make it on time,” he says to Uraraka. “What took you so long?”

Bakugou, still shell-shocked, can barely muster the indignation to protest when Uraraka jabs a thumb in his direction. She and Deku laugh, and Bakugou stalks away to find someone less infuriating to talk to, to give himself time to gather his thoughts.

Because, honestly, what the fuck? Does Deku know? How? Who would have told him? He hasn’t seen him since he’s arrived in this time, and there’s no goddamn way he could take one look at Bakugou and figure it out. It doesn’t matter how obsessively, creepily observant he is.

“You look like you’re about to explode,” a voice behind him says, casually bland.

Bakugou whips around to see Todoroki standing over him, dressed in a crisp white suit and black dress shirt. He has one eyebrow raised slightly in question.

“This is how I always look,” Bakugou spits back.

Todoroki’s lips quirk in what might be the beginnings of a smile. “That’s true.”

“Don’t agree with me,” Bakugou says. “It’s fucking creepy.”

Todoroki inclines his head slightly. Bakugou has always hated that about him, his ability to keep his cool in any situation— and, especially, when faced with Bakugou’s ire. He wishes it were easier to get reactions out of Todoroki. Maybe then he wouldn’t feel so inadequate, standing next to him.

He’s Number Three, a small voice says in the back of his mind. He isn’t better than you.

But Bakugou thinks back to the Sports Festival, and wonders what the numbers even really mean, in the end.

Todoroki is still eying him critically. “Is there a reason you’re late to your own party?”

Bakugou huffs. “Maybe I was waiting to see how much of the work you’d all do, if I let you.”

Todoroki’s eyes flick upwards for a moment, and then he shakes his head. “You know we’d throw you a party every year, if you’d let us.”

Why, Bakugou wants to ask. What’s the point of that? Why would they all want to convene to celebrate someone else’s marriage, and his of all people’s?

“I bet Kirishima would love that,” Bakugou says. Because Kirishima loves being around people, and these people especially. He’s always planning class outings and organizing game nights in Yuuei’s dorms, inviting not only every member of Class 1A but also the Class 1B kids, and sometimes others from General Studies and Support. He’s a magnet for people, and people like him. Which is why Bakugou always wonders why Kirishima shows up late to his own events, just because he’ll stop by Bakugou’s room and spend fifteen minutes talking him into going, too.

Todoroki blinks at him. “Since when do you call your husband by his last name?”

Fuck. It’s easy to forget how perceptive Todoroki is, especially because he never reacts to anything, but Bakugou should have been more careful. He, of all people, should understand the threat that Todoroki poses. Desperate to find a way to cover himself, he snarls.

“Why are you hanging around me, anyway?”

Todoroki shrugs, seemingly nonplussed by Bakugou’s slip up. “I was told to find out what’s wrong with you, today. Or rather, what you did to upset Kirishima.” He lets out a little sigh, as though he’d been dealt a particularly disappointing hand in a round of cards.

“By who?” Bakugou spits back.

“Yaoyorozu.” Todoroki shrugs, takes a sip of his drink. “She heard it from Jirou, who heard it from Kaminari, who was on patrol with Kirishima this morning. Apparently, he was very upset.”

Now, Todoroki is looking severely at Bakugou— almost a glare, but not quite. But Bakugou doesn’t have time to sift through Todoroki’s reactions, because he’s too busy thinking back to this morning and kicking himself.

Of course, Kirishima had been upset. Bakugou had known that, even as he’d gotten out of bed and walked away from him. But the thing is— Kirishima is good at hiding things. Better than anyone gives him credit for, which is part of the reason he’s so good at it. Back in the time he’s supposed to be in, Bakugou figures he’s one of the only people in Class 1A who’s actually figured out how insecure Kirishima is. He projects that cheerful, confident shit all the time, so unless someone’s watching him closely, they wouldn’t notice. Bakugou is sure that Kirishima does it on purpose, too, the fucker.

But Bakugou has noticed. Kirishima, who’s so good at reading other people’s moods and dealing with them, is also deeply impacted by them. He carries the weight of the entire goddamn world on his shoulders, which is why he does dumb shit like throwing himself in front of actual pro heroes, thinking he can protect them.

It’s probably the same quality in him that made him throw himself in front of Bakugou in this time, protecting him the same way. Over a decade, and the idiot still has some sort of martyr complex, some desperate need to prove his own worth.

What kind of shitty husband is Bakugou, that he hasn’t cured Kirishima of this, yet?

“Bakugou?” Todoroki asks, lips curling downward in concern.

Bakugou shrugs him off. “Why would they ask you? We’re not even friends.”

Todoroki blinks, and for a second he looks— upset. Hurt, even.

But that doesn’t make sense, because he and Bakugou aren’t friends. And they’re never going to be, because Todoroki is always looking down on him, never taking Bakugou seriously, always just existing in a way that pokes at the bruised parts of Bakugou’s ego. So why would Bakugou stating the truth hurt him?

Todoroki sighs under his breath, then shakes his head. “I don’t know what’s gotten into you, but could you try not to sabotage your own efforts? You went through all the trouble of doing something to make Kirishima happy— why are you trying to make both of you miserable, now?”

Bakugou grinds his teeth. This, this is what no one understands. He never tries to make himself miserable. It just happens— the same way he just says things, most of the time, and other people get fucking offended or hurt. He knows he’s a lot to deal with, and difficult to handle. But he’s never fucking asked anyone to try.

He didn’t have to ask Kirishima. Kirishima had just stayed, and dealt with things. And apparently still is, a decade later.

“Fuck,” Bakugou says, aloud, raking his hands through his hair.

“You shouldn’t mess yourself up,” Todoroki says casually. “Uraraka probably wouldn’t appreciate you ruining her efforts, either.”

“I hate you,” Bakugou says, with less heat than he intends.

Todoroki quirks half of his mouth upwards in a smile. “So you’ve said.”

Bakugou bites down hard on his tongue. He’s messing this all up. He keeps acting like himself, because he expects his older self to not be so different from him. And yet, everywhere around him is evidence of this older self, who might as well be a complete stranger. He’s nothing like Bakugou, at all.

But how can he believe that he could possibly change so much?

“You’re probably overthinking this,” Todoroki says. “At least, you look like you are. Just try and cool off a bit before Kirishima gets here.”

“Too late,” Ashido says, suddenly, running up to grab Bakugou by the elbow. And seriously, why the fuck do they all think they can manhandle him like this? “Look alive, lover boy— look who just walked in.”

Bakugou barely registers her presence, or her incessant tugging on his arm, because as soon as he’d heard the door open on the other side of the room, he’d frozen.

Kaminari walks in first, dressed in dark jeans and a black blazer over an offensively purple shirt. He’s tugging someone else along, a figure who dominates Bakugou’s vision as soon as he comes into view.

Kirishima is blinking into the light, looking around with confusion that melts into a smile as his eyes land on each of their classmates in turn. Slowly, his look of quiet confusion transforms, smile growing wider and wider, sharp teeth glinting in the light. For a moment, he looks happier than Bakugou has ever seen him.

And then, his eyes land on Bakugou, and his expression transforms completely, again.

“I can’t do this,” Bakugou says, not intending to speak aloud. But the words drop from his mouth like stones into a river, sending ripples out around him. He can’t do this, not when Kirishima is looking at him, like that. Not again.

Kirishima is waiting by Bakugou’s desk when he gets to the classroom, standing with his hands in his pockets and looking sheepish.

“What the hell’s your problem?” Bakugou asks, nudging Kirishima aside so that he can sit down. The last thing he wants is Iida yammering in his ear about proper etiquette at eight in the fucking morning, again.

“Nothing!” Kirishima says, too loudly. And then, again, “Nothing, nothing. I was just gonna ask— are you busy after class?”

Bakugou blinks at him. He knows Kirishima’s grades aren’t the best, but he usually doesn’t act this stupid. “Internship, remember?”

“Oh yeah,” Kirishima says, cheeks turning red. Is he sick? He waves his hands ineffectually, then says, “But we’ve got a little time before that, right?”

Bakugou blinks at him. “Sure?”

“Great!” Kirishima says, pumping a fist in the air. Then he freezes, almost comically, to add—“Do you mind meeting me on that hill outside the cafeteria, then? It’ll only take a minute.”

Bakugou is usually fairly indulgent of Kirishima—at least, by his own standards—but he has no idea what the guy is playing at, right now. “You want us to both separately leave this room at the same time, so that we can meet again on a hill halfway across campus.”

“Well, when you say it like that, it sounds stupid.” Kirishima pouts. “But, yeah. So, will you?”

Kirishima has a strange look in his eye as he looks down at Bakugou. Everything about him seems round and hopeful—his eyes, the curve of his lips, the line of his jaw. There’s emotion in his eyes, something that Bakugou can’t put a name to. But the weight of it is heavy, on his chest, and makes him feel like there’s a hamster running laps in the space between his lungs.

Despite all appearances otherwise, it’s difficult for Bakugou to say no to Kirishima. And if he were smarter, he would’ve thought about that fact before now and dealt with it. As it is, he’s left blinking at Kirishima like he’s the brightest part of a lightbulb, squinting as he says—

“Sure. Whatever. Get away from my desk, now.”

“Great!” Kirishima punches Bakugou in the shoulder before running off to his own desk, just before Iida walks in and tries to herd the class into some semblance of order.

But for the rest of the day, Bakugou is distracted, chin balanced against his hand as he looks out the corner of his eye at Kirishima and tries to make sense of the expression he’d been wearing.

Chapter Text

Bakugou laughs. Sixteen years old and standing on Yuuei’s grounds, he laughs. His chest is tight as the sound escapes him, ugly and too loud. He looks up at the sky, defiant and proud, but only for a moment. Then his gaze drops, and Kirishima comes back into view.

“Are you joking?” Bakugou asks hoarsely.

Kirishima presses his lips together, and he would be pouting if it wasn’t for the severe angle of his brows. He’s angry, angrier than Bakugou has ever seen him.

“Of course I’m not joking!” Everything about him is red, and that makes it hard to concentrate. His hair, his eyes, the color in his cheeks.

Bakugou clenches his teeth. Kirishima has to be joking. There’s no way this moment is real.

“I always knew you were an idiot, but I never thought you were stupid.” He lets the words fall between them, even though they aren’t true. Kirishima isn’t first in the class, or fifth, but Bakugou has never thought of him as stupid. Kirishima, who can navigate the personalities of Class 1A with ease, who can talk to anyone, who understands Bakugou’s own churning emotions when he doesn’t understand them himself—he’s no fool.

Kirishima punches him.

Bakugou doesn’t see it coming, and the minute Kirishima’s fist collides with his cheek he’s send sprawling against the grass. He hasn’t taken a hit this directly in ages, and pain courses through the side of his face in time to the frantic beat of his heart.

“What the fuck,” he screeches, pushing himself up to his feet, tiny explosions already crackling from his palms. “Do you want to die?”

Kirishima’s expression has shifted into one of open defiance. “You’re the one being stupid,” he says, hands clenched at his sides.

Every muscle in Bakugou’s body tenses, like he’s a wind-up toy about to be released. “Fuck you,” he spits.

Kirishima rolls his eyes. Then he shakes his head and says, almost to himself, “I thought you were really changing.” He sounds—not just angry, but also sad and disappointed.

Bakugou has always lived and died on the praise of others, as much as he’s loathe to admit it. So hearing Kirishima sound so utterly disappointed with him lances him through the heart, deflating his anger as his ego curls up around him protectively.

“I’m not going to cushion your fucking feelings,” he says, throwing out a hand between them. “You’re the one who dragged me out here like some shitty manga character, under this goddamn fucking cherry tree.”

Now Kirishima throws up his hands in exasperation. “Because this is our spot, you idiot! You always come out here when you want to get away from everyone else, but you never tell me to leave when I follow you! It’s not some stupid cliché, it’s about us!”

Bakugou snarls. “There is no us! Get that through your shitty head! You’re not special!”

Hurt shows on Kirishima’s face, like the first crack in a vase before it shatters. But then, instead of shuttering, his expression opens up. He looks straight at Bakugou and asks, without any accusation in his tone, “What are you so scared of?”

Bakugou yells out a curse, crossing the space between them before he can even think. He catches Kirishima around the shoulders and tackles him to the ground, grappling with him and trying to hit him even as Kirishima’s skin hardens instinctively.

This isn’t the way he fights. This isn’t the way he does anything. He usually thinks first, and formulates a plan. He attacks and retreats in quick bursts, never giving his opponent a chance to land a hit on him. He doesn’t act out in violence just because anger overtakes him. This isn’t like him.

“I fucking hate you,” he screams.

Kirishima doesn’t need to fight back. Unless Bakugou actually tries to blow him up, no hit will get past his armored skin. Flat on his back, with Bakugou pinning him down, he lies there and takes the hits with sadness in his round eyes.

I thought you were really changing, he had said, just a few minutes ago. And before that, not sad but hopeful, he’d asked, Do you like me as much as I like you?

It’s unfair, how handsome Kirishima has grown over the years. Now, stepping into the event space at Yaoyorozu’s home and blinking in the lights, he’s startlingly attractive. In dark blue suit and a deep red shirt, he should look ridiculous. But the colors only set off his stupid hair, his bright eyes. He looks around at his gathered friends and laughs nervously as all eyes focus on him. In a moment, everyone is upon him, clapping his back and offering their congratulations.

Across the room, trapped by Todoroki and Ashido on either side of him, Bakugou subtly tries to melt into the wall. His chest is tight, his pulse pounding in his ears. Every instinct he has is screaming at him to run, but he can’t tear his eyes from Kirishima.

“Are you okay?” Ashido asks, turning towards him. “You sort of look like you’re having a panic attack.”

She probably doesn’t mean it flippantly, but the moment she says it Bakugou realizes that’s what’s happening. He hears a roaring in his ears, like a wave has just crashed over him. He can’t move.

Beside him, Todoroki puts a hand on his shoulder. “Bakugou?” His voice is just barely inflected, just insistent enough to sound concerned. His hand is cold—his right side, then, and not the left.

Bakugou’s vision tunnels, but then his eyes resettle on the spot of red across the room. Kirishima is laughing and gently nudging their friends away from him, crossing the room as quickly as he can. His smile is so wide that Bakugou could probably count each of his pointed teeth.

But he doesn’t get the chance, because as soon as Kirishima is near he yells out, “Katsuki!” in an exuberant voice that echoes off the walls. Before Bakugou can move, or say anything, Kirishima grabs him by the waist, hoisting him up and spinning him around. The room blurs around him—spots of color, but mostly red.

Kirishima is still laughing when he stops spinning them, when he clutches at Bakugou’s hips and says, “I can’t believe you did this for me.” His eyes are shining with joy, with unshed tears. He looks so unequivocally happy, the same way he does in the picture on Bakugou’s desk in the staff room. He looks like Bakugou has made him happy.

Bakugou is floating in midair, held aloft and anchored by the weight of Kirishima’s grip. And looking at Kirishima now, he knows something with certainty—he could be the one impaling Kirishima through the chest, he could reach in and wrench out Kirishima’s still-beating heart, and Kirishima would let him do it.

It’s a thought that hits him like a lightning strike, instantaneous and bright and certain, but terrifying and dangerous at the same time.

“I didn’t do anything,” Bakugou says, and his voice sounds like it’s coming from somewhere else, external to himself.

Kirishima laughs again, shakes his head as he sets Bakugou back on his feet. “Of course you’d say that,” he says fondly. Then he leans in a kisses Bakugou’s cheek.

This isn’t right. Bakugou, as much as he enjoys being praised, doesn’t want anything he hasn’t earned. And this, none of this, belongs to him. He didn’t plan this party. He didn’t coordinate any of it, or help in any way. He’s not married to Kirishima, and therefore has nothing to celebrate today. He couldn’t even accept Kirishima’s confession, back in his own timeline. He has not earned Kirishima’s affection, and certainly not his love.

He pushes Kirishima away.

“No,” he says, voice too loud.

Kirishima stares at him, brow furrowing. “Katsuki?”

He’s about to ruin everything, he realizes. Even if this isn’t his future, it’s someone’s life that he’s about to ruin. Whoever belongs in this body, whichever version of him ends up with such happiness, he’s going to ruin all of it. But he can’t help himself. Just like when he’d laughed at Kirishima yesterday, acting before he could think or process what he was feeling.

No.” It’s even louder, this time, echoing around the room. All conversation stops. The eighteen or so people gathered in the room with them all stare, and Bakugou can feel the force of their confusion and worry like a weight that’s been dropped on his chest.

Kirishima is leaning into his space, scrutinizing him with wide eyes. The happiness is gone, but his expression is familiar. He’s concerned, and he’s concerned about Bakugou. “What’s wrong?”

It’s not fair. Bakugou wants to be the person who’s earned this concern, who can step into the comfort Kirishima is offering him. But he can’t. Because this isn’t his life, and this Kirishima doesn’t belong to him.

He’s so used to facing down any wall he comes to, laughing with defiance because he can break down anything, blow it to pieces and move past it. But this isn’t a wall, this isn’t an obstacle that he wants to get through. This is a person, a life, that will shatter before him if he makes the wrong move. And Bakugou doesn’t know if he could live with that.

Nineteen pairs of eyes are on him, but he ignores them all. He shoves Kirishima aside, barrels towards the door, and takes off at a run.

This fucking place is enormous, made up of so many different buildings and pathways that Bakugou is hopelessly lost within a matter of moments. He hadn’t been paying much attention when Uraraka had led him through the grounds the first time, and he’s even less aware now as he forces himself to keep running even as his lungs start burning.

The cobblestones are uneven beneath his feet, through the expensive leather of his loafers. He spots a rose garden and a grove of trees, a structure that might be a goddamn horse stable. But he keeps going, because the instant he stops he’ll have to face all that’s rushing up to catch him.

He stumbles, crashing down hard on the ground. His palms smart as he pushes himself back up, and he hisses in anger because his hands are his Quirk, his life, and now they’re scraped and red.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, a voice that sounds suspiciously like his own reminds him that his Quirk isn’t the entirety of his life—at least, not in this time. He’s a teacher, and the head of a ridiculously over-powered hero agency. He has friends and allies who probably don’t define him by the strength of his explosions. He has a husband, who keeps loving him even when Bakugou wakes up screaming from nightmares.

Bakugou clenches his hand into a fist and slams it down against the stones. “Damn it… damn it… god fucking damn it!” With each curse, he hits the ground with more strength, even as pain races up his arm.

His eyes sting as furious tears drip down his face, and Bakugou doesn’t bother trying to brush them away. Crying is no less humiliating now that he’s an adult—his throat clogs up and his nose drips, his cheeks heating up as he hits the ground and screams out his frustrations.

“Hey,” a quiet voice says.

Even though Bakugou is spitting out curses, it’s like he’s attuned to that voice and knows when to listen for it. One last word dries up in his throat as he struggles for breath, but he doesn’t move or speak as Kirishima comes to kneel beside him. Bakugou stares resolutely at the ground even as Kirishima places a steadying hand at the small of his back.

“You’re really freaking me out, you know,” Kirishima continues in the same soft tone.

Bakugou almost laughs, but it gets strangled in his wheezing lungs. Kirishima thinks he’s freaking out? He’s not the one living someone else’s life.

“If I ask again, will you tell me what’s wrong?”

Bakugou wants to say yes. In the months since their failed training camp, since Kamino Ward, he’s been able to talk to Kirishima more and more. It’s safe to talk to Kirishima, not like admitting a weakness. And Bakugou doesn’t tell him everything, but on the days when his emotions are more than he can take, giving some of them over to Kirishima helps. It would help now, he’s certain, except he’s the wrong Bakugou and this is the wrong Kirishima.

Kirishima sighs softly when Bakugou doesn’t answer, but then stars rubbing his back in soothing circles. He reaches out with his other hand to grab Bakugou’s, hissing in sympathy when he sees the scrapes along his palms.

“Why are you doing this to yourself, babe?”

Bakugou hates that question. He remembers it ringing through his head when he’d woken up after that failed, stupid battle with All Might, when he’d been forced to partner with Deku. He’d been so angry at Uraraka for being self-destructive during the Sports Festival, at Deku for ripping himself apart for no fucking good reason. And yet, when he’d been forced to examine himself, he’d seen someone raw and exposed and not very good at self-preservation.

But he still doesn’t know how to say that all the things he’s done to hold himself together are all the same things that are ripping him apart.

“I need to get the fuck out of here,” he says, finally. His voice is hoarse and he can’t look Kirishima in the eye. He’s still on his knees, on the ground.

Kirishima hums softly. “Why?” The pressure of his hand on Bakugou’s back is soft and constant and patient.

“Because I don’t fucking belong here!” Bakugou snaps, pushing Kirishima away. He sits up, glaring defiantly.

Kirishima tilts his head to one side, looking at Bakugou with assessing eyes. He seems to take Bakugou’s words to heart, perhaps scrutinizing him and every moment they’ve had together since Bakugou woke up in this time.

“Of course you belong here,” Kirishima says slowly. “Where else should you be?”

“I’m not him!” Bakugou says, frantic now. He doesn’t even know how to make Kirishima understand. He just knows he can’t keep up the act any longer, not when every moment of it is like a knife in his heart.

Kirishima still looks confused. “Who are you, then?”

“I’m not that person!” Bakugou says, and now it all comes spilling out of him at once. “I’m not this fucking perfect husband who can plan you a shitty fucking anniversary party! I’m not whoever the fuck gets up every morning to teach a bunch of snot-nosed brats! I’m not fine being the Number Two Hero! I’m not the person you’re supposed to come home to, and eat dinner with, and sleep next to! Don’t you fucking get it?”

Kirishima blinks at him, startled hurt crossing over his features. “Are you not happy Katsuki?”

No! I’m not! I’m not fucking happy!” The tears are coming back, furious and unstoppable. “After this I’m never going to be happy again!”

Kirishima recoils, but then steels himself. He sits back, reaching out to grab both of Bakugou’s shoulders. “You need to take a breath, and then tell me exactly what you mean.”

He can’t. He can’t take a breath, because he’s suffocating. Why doesn’t Kirishima get that?

“Katsuki,” Kirishima says softly. He grabs one of Bakugou’s hands, spreading it flat and placing it against his chest, over his heart. “Breathe with me, okay?”

He counts his breaths slowly, in and out. Bakugou can feel the beat of Kirishima’s heart against his palm, and slowly, so slowly, the rhythm seeps into the very core of his being. He takes one shuddering breath, and then another.

Kirishima smiles, and then uses his free hand to brush Bakugou’s hair back from his brow. “Now,” he says, after a moment. “Tell me.”

Bakugou bites down on the inside of his cheek so hard that he tastes blood. Then he looks up and says, “I’m sixteen fucking years old.”

“What?”

“You heard me,” Bakugou says, voice still wavering and hoarse. “I’m sixteen, I’m not supposed to be in this time, I got hit by some psycho’s Quirk and now I’m here.”

“Holy shit.”

Bakugou glowers.

“You’re serious?”

“Why the fuck would I make that up, shit-for-brains?”

Kirishima presses his lips together in a firm line, but then he breaks. Laughter bubbles out of him. “That’s—that’s not even possible. I don’t know what to say.”

“Stop laughing,” Bakugou demands, furious. “I’m fucking serious.” He pulls away enough to punch Kirishima in the shoulder, which sobers him.

“How long ago did this happen?” he asks meekly.

“Two days.”

“O-kay.” Kirishima runs a hand through his hair. “Okay. Okay. That’s—that’s really something. Two days—I—you’re sixteen?”

“Aren’t you supposed to be some amazing hero who can keep his head in a crisis?” Bakugou snaps at him.

Kirishima is smiling, but his expression betrays nothing so much as nervousness. He keeps running his hands through his hair, muttering to himself, trying to make sense of things. Bakugou can’t really blame him—he’s probably never experienced anything like this, before. He can’t possibly know what Bakugou is going through, what he’s feeling.

And then, all at once, Kirishima’s arms are around him, pulling him close and crushing him against Kirishima’s solid chest. The embrace is so sudden that it steals Bakugou’s breath, disorients him for a moment.

“Katsuki, I’m so sorry,” Kirishima is saying, still holding him tightly. “I’m so sorry I didn’t notice. You must have been so scared.”

Bakugou stiffens immediately. “Fuck you. What the hell would I be afraid of? I’m not scared of anything.”

Kirishima chuckles, and Bakugou can feel it reverberating through his chest. “God, I forgot what you used to be like. No wonder you’ve been so grumpy.”

Bakugou is incensed, but he doesn’t pull away. Kirishima’s embrace is too solid, and he’s too selfish to push away from the comfort. “I’m always fucking grumpy, idiot.”

Kirishima hums. “Well, yeah. But not the way you’ve been, lately. I mean, I guess back in high school, you were—but that was something even deeper than grumpiness. It took me a long time to figure you out. Sixteen. Shit. We barely knew each other when we were sixteen.”

That, Bakugou takes offense to. What does this old man know? Sure, he met Kirishima less than a year ago, but they know each other just fine. He knows that Kirishima wakes up slow in the mornings, and that he’s always concerned that his Quirk isn’t flashy enough. Bakugou knows that Kirishima and Kaminari have a secret language of foot taps that they use to communicate during class, and when they tap their feet three times in unison it means they’re talking about him, those fuckers. Bakugou knows that Kirishima had been prepared to risk everything, including his place at Yuuei, to rescue Bakugou from the League of Villains. He knows that Kirishima has actually taken the time to understand him, to parse his moods instead of writing him off as a problem child. He knows that Kirishima isn’t scared of him, and that Kirishima had worked up the courage to say something that Bakugou’s never been able to articulate.

“A Quirk, you said…” Kirishima is still muttering. “Huh. How are we going to get you home, if you really don’t belong here?”

That hurts, more than it should. He feels Kirishima’s words like a punch. Of course, he wants Bakugou gone. He wants some other person back, in his place.

“Oh, Katsuki. No.” Kirishima presses his hands against Bakugou’s cheeks, forces him to look up. “I didn’t mean it like that, I promise.”

Bakugou glowers at him. Kirishima doesn’t have to spare his fucking feelings. He doesn’t need his pity.

“You have to go home,” Kirishima is saying. “I mean, don’t get me wrong. I love you. And I’ve loved you almost as long as I’ve known you. But you’ve got to go back and live your life. It’s going to be—well. I’m a little biased. But I think you’re going to like it.”

“What the fuck do you think I’ve been trying to do?” Bakugou yells, pushing Kirishima away again. He doesn’t want to hear this, not now. “Just fucking around? I can’t find the asshole who did this to me. There’s no time Quirks that fucking work like this! Why would I want to hang around in this fucking hellscape future?”

Kirishima tilts his head. “You don’t like anything about your life?”

It’s not that. It’s not that he doesn’t like it. And if Kirishima knows him as well as he should, after over a decade, he should know that, too.

“It’s not real!” The words escape him without his express permission, pressing down hard on his heart. “This can’t be real!”

“Why not?”

“Because I can’t do this!” Fuck. He hadn’t meant to say that. But being around Kirishima makes it too easy to talk, loosens his tongue in ways he can’t control. “I just can’t. I am never going to be this person!”

Kirishima frowns, not in anger but in thought. Then he leans back slightly and asks, “Why do you think that?”

“Because no one can change that much, idiot! I can’t change this much! I don’t—I haven’t—I can’t be this person who does all these things! That’s not me!”

There’s a tension in Kirishima’s face as he smiles and shakes his head. “You know you didn’t actually plan that party, right?”

Bakugou glares. “Excuse me?”

“I mean, you did, sort of. But according to Denki, what you really did was ask for help. I know you don’t like being around people all that much. That hasn’t really changed. That was why, the first year, we went up to our place in the mountains.” His gaze turns fond, like he’s reliving the memories. “And, babe—I mean. Katsuki. It was fucking awesome.”

“So?” Bakugou’s breathing heavily again, and he wishes Kirishima would get to the damn point.

“So, you didn’t do this because all of a sudden, you’re a different person who wants different things. You did this for me. Because you knew it was what I’d want.”

He’s about to throw up, probably. Too many emotions are churning around in his stomach, each fighting to be the first to rise up into his throat. It’s dizzying.

“And, yeah, maybe you’re never going to be good at organizing a party, or whatever. But you asked our friends to help you do it, because you knew it’d make me happy. And it did. I’m so, so happy.” Kirishima sniffles, a bit, smiling as the skin around his eyes wrinkles.

But that’s still not who Bakugou is, is it? Accommodating that much for another person—when has he ever done that, before? When has he ever wanted to?

Kirishima cups his cheek, lifting Bakugou’s face upwards. “Give yourself some credit, will you? I learned a long time ago that having a little patience, when it comes to you, goes a long way. Maybe you should be a little more patient with yourself.”

Kirishima is a fucking idiot. He’s a fucking idiot who’s smiling at the sixteen-year-old version of his husband. His a fucking idiot who’d followed him out here to comfort him instead of being mad that this fuckery had ruined his anniversary and taken his actual spouse away from him.

“You know,” Kirishima says wistfully, “I’m almost jealous. When we get you home, you’re going to have so much good stuff ahead of you. I wish I could do it all again.”

“You got stabbed in the fucking chest!” Bakugou yells, punching Kirishima in the sternum for emphasis.

He laughs, and catches Bakugou’s fist. “Eh. Win some, lose some. Give up a little, gain a lot. It’s one of those lessons they didn’t focus on at Yuuei, but I think we all learned it eventually, anyway.”

Bakugou is rapidly finding that being on uneven ground with Kirishima is deeply unsettling. When they’re both sixteen, they even each other out—Bakugou excels in ways that people can see, and Kirishima has subtler strengths that even he doesn’t recognize, half the time. But with this older Kirishima, who’s mature and wise and experienced, Bakugou only feels left behind.

“C’mon,” Kirishima says, rising to his feet and reaching down to pull Bakugou up, “We’ve got all the world’s best heroes in a room together, I’m sure one of them can help us figure out how to get you home.”

They don’t make it as far as the banquet room. As they approach the extravagant building, Deku is running down the pathway to meet them. His feet are surrounded by tiny flickers of green light as he makes himself go faster.

There you are,” he says, stopping in front of them. “Kacchan, we’ve got to go!”

“Go where?” Kirishima asks.

Deku holds up his phone screen, where a rapidly-scrolling message shows an issued villain alert. “You told me last week that there’d be a hit on a bank near here tonight, and that we’d have to go together.” His brow furrows, and he looks at Bakugou with a wry smile. “I didn’t really get it at the time, but this is her, right?”

On the screen is a small, blurry photograph of a woman, wearing white and black. As she runs out the door of the bank, her long black ponytail trails behind her. Her face is obscured by a Venetian half-mask.

An explosion sparks from Bakugou’s clenched fist.

“Katsuki?”

“I’m gonna fucking kill her.”

If nothing else, the years have made them efficient. Into hero costumes, to the scene of a crime, in pursuit of a villain—all within a blurred series of moments. Bakugou’s head aches as he experiences a strange sort of déjà vu, following the same villain through the city, down to the docks, and into an old warehouse.

Just before they head inside, Kirishima grabs Bakugou’s elbow and pulls him aside.

“Why are you wasting time?” Bakugou snaps. “We’re going to lose her!”

“Just hold on a second,” Kirishima says patiently. “I wanted to tell you something, before we go.”

What,” Bakugou says, voice high and strained.

Kirishima steps forward and embraces him, resting his chin against Bakugou’s shoulder. “I can’t tell what you must be thinking, about all of this. But if we get you home, I don’t want you going back thinking that your life is unhappy.”

“Shut up,” Bakugou says weakly, “I don’t—”

“Just, listen. You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me, Katsuki. Don’t forget that, okay? I love that you need me, but I need you, too. Okay?”

The words wash over him like salt water—almost familiar, but leaving him feeling gritty and cold rather than clean and refreshed.

“Fine,” he says, eventually. “Let’s just go.”

Kirishima presses a kiss to his forehead. “Okay. Let’s go.”

“What’s the plan?” Kirishima asks a moment later, when they’ve rejoined Deku. His Quirk ripples across his skin as his arms harden into weapons.

“Normally I’d say capture and restrain, but I’m not the one who knew about this ahead of time.” Deku turns to Bakugou with questioning eyes. “What should we do?”

Bakugou isn’t sure how much Deku knows—how much his older self deigned to share with him. But if the time villain really is here, this may be his only chance to get home. He doesn’t have a single moment to waste.

“Get me close to her,” he growls out. “I’ll take care of the rest.”

Maybe it speaks to a trust that’s built up between them all over the many years, or maybe Kirishima and Deku have always had this sort of faith in Bakugou. Either way, they both nod, flanking him on either side as they enter the warehouse.

The instant they step foot inside, all of the lights in the warehouse turn on, flooding Bakugou’s vision. For a few, crucial moments, he can’t see anything. Then, just before his eyes adjust, he hears a familiar, mocking laugh just behind him.

“My, my,” the villain says. “They really sent out the big guns just for me, didn’t they?”

Bakugou whips around to see behind him, an explosion sparking from his palm as he tries to reach out and catch her. But she laughs and blinks away, using the same sort of teleportation she had days or years ago.

“Teleporting,” Deku mutters, leaping back but keeping his eyes trained on her. “Guys, if she’s moving like that we have to think one step ahead—”

She reappears right in front of Deku, arm lifted to strike him with the flat of her palm. Deku moves with fluid grace, dropping into a crouch to avoid the hit. She laughs as he dodges, blinking out of view and then reappearing just behind him. But again, Deku avoids the hit, jumping up with the force of his borrowed Quirk.

“Let’s go, while she’s distracted,” Kirishima mutters to Bakugou. He doesn’t even wait for a response before rushing in. While Deku holds the villain’s attention, Kirishima rushes in and grabs her from behind, pinning her arms to her sides as she struggles against him.

“Wait,” Bakugou calls out, his mind struggling to fit all the memories together. But before he can finish the thought, both Kirishima and the villain blink out of view.

Shit.” Bakugou whirls around, searching for any sign of them.

They both reappear across the space of the warehouse, on top of a pile of wooden storage crates. Kirishima struggles to keep a grip on the villain as she ducks down and kicks out as his ankles. He plants his feet, but the wooden crates aren’t stable and even from across the room Bakugou can hear the wood splintering.

“Hurry up, Deku,” he hisses, already preparing to launch himself across the room, “We’ve got to get over there.”

He tries to adjust for the strength of his Quirk, to modulate the explosion as he blasts himself through the air and towards Kirishima. But he hasn’t had any time to practice with this body and its new abilities. He still ends up going faster than he anticipates, off-center as he collides with the villain and sends them both flying into the opposite wall.

The villain lets out a hiss of pain as she takes the hit, her head slamming back against the wall. The impact dislodges her mask, revealing a pair of deep blue eyes. She looks at Bakugou and shakes her head.

“…oh,” she says. “It’s you.”

Bakugou doesn’t think, just slams his palm over her face to hold her down.

Fix this,” he hisses, voice wild and crackling like a forest fire, “Fix this before I blow your goddamn head off!”

“Should I?” she asks, voice muffled. She laughs shakily, seemingly unintimidated by the living bomb pressed against her head. “I wonder, have you learned your lesson at all?”

Bakugou tightens his grip, lets his palm heat up so that she’ll be able to feel it. “Stop fucking with me—send me back, now!”

She laughs, again, and Bakugou hears the thud-thud-thud of footsteps behind him, a voice calling out to him, just before the villain reaches out with her other hand and grabs the bare part of his arm.

Just like last time, her touch burns like fire. Bakugou feels himself being ripped apart and reassembled, and then he’s falling through the air again, the villain kicking herself away from him so that she can land on her feet. Bakugou falls into a crumpled heap beside her, his head slamming against the concrete floor of the warehouse.

“Katsuki!”

Kirishima is racing towards them, but Bakugou’s head is ringing and he can’t see straight. He sees a flash of green that must be Deku, then the white and black of the villain’s costume. She’s dancing around both of them, red and green, and Bakugou’s head is pounding in rhythm to thrown punches and the subtle dance of the fight.

Have you learned your lesson at all?

What the fuck was he supposed to be learning? All his time here has been miserable, because it’s a future he’s never going to be able to have. Even if he gets home, if he remembers this, it’s going to be a weight he’ll have to carry. Because he’s already fucked up with Kirishima, hasn’t he? He’s already lost the opportunity for this life.

Kirishima and Deku are trying to pin her down, but they’re not having much success. It’s like she knows where they’re going to be, can dodge out of the way even before they move to catch her.

“Katsuki!”

He’s barely brought himself up to his hands and knees when he hears Kirishima’s voice, looks up to see the villain poised over him. She’s extending a hand, an unreadable glint in her dark eyes. She’s smiling, and Bakugou shivers.

“As fun as it would be to keep you around,” she says, “I’m going to need all my strength to get out of here.”

Bakugou hisses out a curse, but he’s too slow to dodge. She barely presses the tips of her fingers to his cheek, but it’s enough. The same burning sensation spreads over his face, then down his arms and across his chest.

He looks up, and the last thing he sees is Kirishima racing towards him. He’s yelling something, reaching for Bakugou, but he’s not going to make it in time.

Bakugou is going to miss him, he realizes. He hopes that, if the other Bakugou makes it back here, he takes care of Kirishima like he deserves.

As soon as he’s had that thought, the world goes dark around him.

“Wake up, wake up, please wake up!”

Someone is holding him. It’s a foreign sensation. His body hasn’t been held like this, before. There’s a strong arm wrapped around his shoulders, pressing him close against someone’s chest. The same person is clutching his hand, whispering desperately to him.

But he’s tired, and he hurts, and it’s too much effort to open his eyes, just yet.

“It’s no use,” a voice calls out. Deku. “She’s gone, Riot.”

“What are we going to do?” Kirishima asks, his voice watery. Something wet hits Bakugou’s cheek. “We need to call someone—do something—”

“You need to shut up,” Bakugou grouses, each word almost painful as he forces it out.

He blinks open his eyes slowly, and just before Kirishima comes into view Bakugou feels the grip on his shoulders tighten.

Bakugou!”

“Kacchan, you’re okay!”

Bakugou shrugs Kirishima off of him and shoots a glare at Deku. “Fucking obviously. Did I hear that right? You useless shits let her get away?”

“We got a bit distracted,” Deku says, scratching the back of his head.

“By what?” Bakugou rises slowly to his feet, pushing himself up even though every joint in his body feels sore. The back of his head aches. But as he takes slow assessment, he realizes he’s back together—in the right time, in a body that’s sixteen years old, in the same warehouse with Kirishima and Deku.

“You scared the hell out of me,” Kirishima says in a rush, grabbing Bakugou’s shoulders and turning him around. “Don’t do that, man!”

Kirishima’s spiky hair is mussed over the headpiece of his costume, and his face is pale. He looks at Bakugou with intensity and worry. In that moment, it’s very easy to forget why he’d been so mad at Kirishima, earlier.

To be honest, it was never Kirishima he was mad at.

“Fuck off,” Bakugou says, with no heat behind it. “What even happened?”

“You were screaming, Kacchan,” Deku says quietly. His voice starts out shaky, like he’d been distressed, too. But then he reigns himself in. “And then you went completely cold. The villain disappeared.”

“We thought she’d killed you,” Kirishima says, voice strangled. “I came up on you and you were just lying there, nothing I did would make you respond and—”

“Fuck that,” Bakugou scoffs. “You think someone like that was enough to take care of me? You should know better than that.”

Kirishima takes a step back, then gives Bakugou a flat look. “I was worried about you.”

In that moment, Bakugou can see echoes of an older man in Kirishima’s face—his expression is exactly the same as his older self’s, looking at Bakugou with exasperation and concern and affection lurking somewhere beneath the scolding. Bakugou swallows reflexively, as though that will keep his emotions held in the pit of his stomach and away from his heart and throat, where they might escape into the world.

He is back, isn’t he? This is almost the same moment that he’d left from. It’s like nothing happened at all.

He clenches his fists and steps away from Kirishima.

“Come on, you useless idiots,” he says, suddenly very tired. “Let’s go file a report, or some shit. What a fucking waste.”

Kirishima and Deku insist that he go to the infirmary, no matter how many times Bakugou says that he’s fine. Recovery Girl looks him over, clicking her tongue against her teeth as she decides his bruises and cuts don’t warrant the attention of her Quirk. Bakugou shoots an I-told-you-so look at Deku, but Deku just shrugs. Bakugou knows what the fucking nerd is thinking—that it’s better to be safe than sorry, that he and Kirishima were so worried. But Bakugou doesn’t need anyone to worry about him. He just needs time to think.

Aizawa is waiting outside of the infirmary when Bakugou leaves. He’s frowning, the deep cut of his eyebrows over his eyes obscured by his messy hair. But then he stands up a bit straighter, and his hair is pushed back from his face as his eyes flash red.

Bakugou hates it when Aizawa uses his Quirk. Now, he can feel the exact moment when his own blinks out of existence, leaving him vulnerable and powerless for just a moment. Then, the sensation fades, and Aizawa is still looking at him searchingly.

“You’re sure she didn’t hit you with anything?” Aizawa asks, tone for once insistent rather than bored.

Bakugou shakes his head. He doesn’t know the exact parameters of Aizawa’s Quirk—whether he can sense when one has been used, and sees the remnants of the villain’s hanging over Bakugou. Even if he could see that, there’s nothing left to erase. Bakugou is back where he belongs.

Still, once again, he sees an echo around Aizawa—his older self, with gray hair and even more tired eyes. For a moment, Bakugou almost laughs, almost tells Aizawa that he’s going to be stuck at fucking Yuuei for the rest of his life.

But that would mean admitting to things that Bakugou hasn’t fully processed, yet. Instead, he just rolls his eyes at Aizawa and asks, “Can I go, now?”

Aizawa waves him off, and Bakugou is finally able to retreat back to his dorm to be alone with his thoughts.

Bakugou lies on his back in bed, dressed in loose sweats and a t-shirt. He’s been in the same position for hours, staring at the ceiling and willing the world to tilt back on its axis, to where it had been this morning.

But it won’t go back. Every time he closes his eyes, Bakugou sees the future. He sees Deku as a powerful hero, sees Todoroki call him a friend, sees a gaggle of children calling him sensei. He sees a home made by two people, and the glint of golden rings. He sees Kirishima, smiling at him and kissing him and worrying over him.

You don’t like anything about your life?

But that’s not it. He didn’t dislike that life. Bakugou holds a pillow to his chest, turning over onto his side and digging his fingers into the soft fabric. He didn’t hate it. And that’s the whole fucking problem.

Bakugou isn’t always blind to his own emotions. He knows when things are getting to be too much, usually, even when he doesn’t know what to do about that. So, weeks and months ago, when he’d first started to recognize what he was feeling for Kirishima, he’d come to a decision.

If he never let those feelings out, never admitted to them, then they couldn’t destabilize him. Kirishima couldn’t become something he could lose, because he would never let himself have Kirishima in the first place. That way, he could keep focusing on his own life, on being the world’s greatest hero, on overcoming every obstacle in his path.

But now, when Bakugou imagines the obstacles in front of him, he just sees his elder self. He’s standing with his feet planted and his arms crossed over his chest, and he’s looking at Bakugou with challenging eyes.

What are you so scared of?

“Fucking hell.” Bakugou rips into the pillow, letting off two small explosions from his palms. The pillow bursts, and white fluff falls all around the room like snow. In a matter of seconds, Bakugou is covered in the stuff. “I’m not scared!”

If all of this is a contest, or a game, with multiple outcomes—then he needs to be able to get what he wants. He needs to be able to win.

He’s not exactly sure how to do that, yet. He’s not sure how sixteen-year-old Bakugou Katsuki becomes that man who exists in the future, with all of the changes and successes and failures and relationships. He doesn’t know.

But he doesn’t have enough faith in the future to think that it will fall into place on its own. There’s only one thing he believes in that much, and that’s himself.

After the fifth time Bakugou kicks Kirishima’s door, he finally answers. He looks like he’d just gotten back from the showers—his hair’s still damp, loose around his face, and he’s wearing pajamas. When he sees Bakugou, his eyes go wide and round.

“What are you doing here?”

“You like me,” Bakugou says flatly, accusingly. It isn’t a question.

Kirishima frowns, then looks simply sad. “Look, Bakugou—”

“Don’t call me that,” Bakugou says, jabbing a finger at him. “That’s not what you called me, when that villain grabbed me.”

“I—what?” Kirishima tries to remember. Then his cheeks turn pink. “Hey, that was—a mistake, or something. I was really freaked out, okay?”

“Because you like me,” Bakugou tells him.

Kirishima frowns. “Why do you keep saying it, like that? Look, I get that you didn’t want to return my feelings, but don’t be an asshole about it. I didn’t think you’d—”

Bakugou grabs him by the collar and drags him forward. For a second, Kirishima looks apprehensive. Then, as he realizes what’s about to happen, he smiles.

This is no practiced kiss between lovers who have spent a life together. It’s messy and off-center—Kirishima’s teeth catch on Bakugou’s lower lip, and neither of them have any idea where to put their tongues. But Bakugou keeps pressing into it, keeps kissing Kirishima with the certainty of someone who knows they’ll have enough time to become an expert.

Finally, Kirishima pulls back, gasping for breath. “Katsuki,” he says, “What the hell.”

Bakugou doesn’t step back. He looks at Kirishima with a steady gaze, and then says, “I want you.”

Kirishima’s cheeks go from pink to red. But Bakugou isn’t done.

“I want you,” he repeats, words hot and defiant. “And so I’m going to do whatever it fucking takes to be the best thing that’s ever happened to you.”

It’s always been a philosophy he’s followed—anything in life worth doing is worth doing well. And so even if he doesn’t know how to change, yet, he’s damn well going to try. At least in one future, he knows he’ll succeed.

Kirishima laughs, bright and happy, before he reaches out and tugs Bakugou into his room. And Bakugou grins fiercely, because he’s the one who put that smile on Kirishima’s face.

A dozen years in the future, Bakugou wakes up with a headache.

“Fuck,” he says, clutching the back of his head. “Am I drunk?”

Leaning over him, Kirishima arches a brow. “Not that I know of.” He reaches out and grabs Bakugou’s hand, hoisting him to his feet. “So, were you going to tell me about the time travelling bullshit, or was this all some weird anniversary surprise?”

Somewhere behind him, he hears Deku chuckle.

“Shut the fuck up, nerd,” he says, on reflex. Then he turns to Kirishima and has the good sense to feel sheepish. “I don’t know how fucking time travel works, okay. I just figured making as much of a loop as possible was the best bet.”

Kirishima pouts at him, then shakes his head. “You know, babe, you can be really smart and really stupid at the same time.”

Bakugou elbows him. “You’re the idiot who’s stuck around so long.”

Kirishima laughs and slings an arm around Bakugou’s shoulders. He leans against him, pressing a kiss against his temple. “It’s been a pretty good deal, so far.”

Even after years, Bakugou feels the familiar stirrings of affection when he looks at Kirishima. He leans in and kisses his husband soundly on the lips, angling his face just-so to avoid the metal of Kirishima’s headpiece. He manages it perfectly, after years of practice.

Behind them, Deku says, “As much as I don’t want to interrupt, Kacchan—”

“Then why are you fucking interrupting, Deku?”

Deku mutters something under his breath, but continues, “Isn’t there a party we should be getting back to?”

Bakugou groans. “How did I not manage to miss that.”

Kirishima grins and grabs for Bakugou’s hand. “Don’t whine so much. After everything we’ve been through today, I think you might actually have fun at the party.”

“I feel like I just got run over by a truck, I don’t want to go to a party,” Bakugou starts, but Kirishima is already tugging him along. “Wait—what happened to that villain? The time Quirk?”

Deku frowns severely. “She vanished completely. I put out a city-wide alert, but there’s no sign of her.”

Kirishima stops and looks at Bakugou. “Do you want to go after her?”

Bakugou hesitates for only a moment. Then he tugs on Kirishima’s hand, and shakes his head. “We’ll get her eventually,” he decides. “C’mon. Let’s go get this stupid party over with.”

Kirishima laughs, leaning against Bakugou as they walk. Hand in hand, they walk towards the future.

if at some point we all succumb
for goodness sake, let us be young
‘cause time gets harder to outrun
and i’m nobody, i’m not done
with a cool, cool breeze and dirty knees
i rest on childhood memories
we all got old at breakneck speed
slow it down, go easy on me