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He’s on the front of Hero Magazine. Bakugou, of all people.

Now...it’s not exactly surprising that a well-known, well-read magazine would want Bakugou on their cover. What’s surprising is that Bakugou would agree to it. Even with his permission, the shot looks like it must be candid (there’s no way they got Bakugou posing on a fake heap of rubble as a bright orange fire burns behind him, skin artfully covered in ash and lip curled to reveal all of his upper teeth).

Kirishima sucks in a breath, picking up the glossy magazine in both hands. There are a dozen other copies behind it, filling up a quarter of the rack in orange and red. He hasn’t seen Bakugou in person for a few weeks and he looks...good. Really good...

Well, duh, of course he does, it's Bakugou. Kirishima flips open the magazine cautiously, as though reverently careful not to crease the pages opening up on the full spread of Incendiary.

Bakugou’s in the middle of the two pages, this time looking directly at the camera, a dark grin on his face, and something goes weak in Kirishima. Bakugou’s red eyes seem to be staring out of the page, his handsome face just intense enough to land on this side of “bad boy”. There’s a smudge of blood on his cheek. His hands are smoking.

Definitely candid, but who the hell got close enough to Incendiary in the field to take this photo? Why was Bakugou looking directly into the lens?

Kirishima licks his lips nervously, his mouth feeling dry. This isn’t the first time one of them have been in the news - hell, Bakugou himself is definitely no stranger to it, had been in all the papers eight years ago when he’d been attacked by the sludge villain and many times since - but this is the first time Kirishima’s seen someone he knows so well in a commercial...magazine. Todoroki has been in the tabloids a few times, but never a cover story.

A cover story and a six-page spread.

There’s an interview but he can’t bring himself to read it in the store, and instead heads to the counter to buy it so that he can admire the magazine at length in the privacy of his own home.

The two girls in front of him in line are buying the same publication. “I would jump into a villain’s arms if it meant he would save me,” one is sighing, staring directly at the picture of Bakugou atop the rubble. The other laughs and hits her on the arm gently with her own copy of the magazine.

“He’d blow you up if you were that stupid.”

“Worth it.”

They both laugh and as they do, one of them catches sight of Kirishima. There’s a slow moment that ticks by as she stares at him, brows lowering into a frown and then almost immediately rising into surprise. “Hey...oh, my god, excuse me,” she gapes, “Are you Red Riot?”

“Yeah,” he laughs, “You recognize me even with my hair down, huh?” Fuuuuck, he looks like shit, he’d only gone out to get stuff for dinner, and had been on his way out when the bright colour of Hero had caught his eye.

She nods, frantically, and thrusts the magazine towards him, “Will you please sign this?”

“I need a --” he starts, but the other girl is already rummaging in her bag, practically throwing a marker at him a moment later. “Okay, sure. Where do you want me to sign?”

“The cover, please!” she gasps, looking rapturous.

“You sure you don’t want Bakugou signing this?” he laughs, scribbling his double R and belatedly remembering, “What’s your name?”

“Chiyo,” she says, and sounds like she might faint as she squeaks out the next words, “You think he would?”

“What?” he writes, To Chiyo, never give up on your dreams, at the top.

“Incendiary. Would he sign it? You’re friends with him, right?”

Is he? Is that public knowledge? What the heck would Bakugou think of people saying that?

“Oh,” he laughs and hands it back to her, only to be given the other copy by Chiyo’s friend. “Sorry, I doubt it.”

A disappointed sigh. “I figured. He’s too cool to bother with fans like us.”

It’s completely true that he wouldn’t bother with them, though it’s less because Bakugou is too cool and more because he has no patience whatsoever for people asking him to do things...or talking to him...or being near him. He doesn’t have much patience with people in general.

He signs the other girl’s copy, and the three of them realise they’ve been holding up the line and hurry to get through the checkout with their three identical purchases (well, Kirishima has a bento too, but he can’t escape the weird look he’s getting from the cashier for the magazine). The two girls talk to him a bit outside the store, and he indulges them, especially since he’s just a poor man’s stand in for Bakugou and he knows they would kill (perhaps literally) for the blonde to be here instead.

Eventually, finally , he’s able to escape and walks the two blocks home through the freezing cold of a January evening, the magazine like a burning weight in his hands. As soon as he’s in the front door, he’s got it on his table, cracking open the lid of his bento and smoothing the cover of the magazine with a palm.

Fuck, does Bakugou look good.

He texts him, bro, congrats on ur hero cover , and flips it open to the internal content again. Just as before, the head-on picture makes him shudder, though why exactly he can’t really say. What is it about this photo? The way Bakugou’s eyes hold you?

He flips the page. The following two pages aren’t candid, it’s posed all the way, a serious Bakugou in dark clothing, a tank top that might as well be painted on, loose pants on the bottom. Combat boots. His hands are shoved into his pockets, torso twisted a little to allow this with pants that hang so low on his hips. His mouth is turned down into a kind of sneer, his crimson eyes glowering along the length of his nose.

The next picture is much of the same, only Bakugou is turned to the side, looking up. In the spread plane of his hand is the beginning of an explosion, tight black clouds billowing out to red and orange, the same as the fire on the cover.

The final two pages are all candids, probably out of necessity, and this makes Kirishima smile. There was no way they got Bakugou posing for more than ten minutes before he’d called it stupid and walked off. In fact, he wonders perhaps, whether the first posed picture had been Bakugou during the explanation of what the photographer wanted. The second could have been him walking off the set not a minute later.

His phone buzzes. Kirishima grabs for it immediately.

Fucking embarrassing. Can’t go to the store without seeing my own fucking face staring at me fifty fucking times.

Kirishima barks a laugh. Of course. U look good at least.

Obviously , comes the immediate response.

With a smile, Kirishima returns to the final two pages of the spread. There’s a variety of pictures here, including one from Yuuei. There’s a group of them, Midoriya, Todoroki, Kirishima, Bakugou, Asui and Uraraka, mostly all grinning (Bakugou and Todoroki being the sullen exceptions). There’s also a picture, a little lower on the page, of Bakugou, wearing glasses. His chin is on his hand, his gaze tilted out the window, and holy fuck, as much as those other, aggressive photos had stirred something in Kirishima’s gut, so too does this.

He shifts a little on his cushion, sticking his feet out straight under the kotatsu. He looks like he’s in a coffee shop or something, like he’s bored, but peaceful. Kirishima bites his lip.

lets hang out , he texts Bakugou.

He eats half his bento while waiting for a response. He tries to tell himself he’s not staring at his phone the whole time but that’s a lie, You only want to hang out with me because I’m famous.

Again, he laughs.

come over tonite

Why should I have to go out of my way?

u don’t like having ppl over

There’s a long pause. Kirishima eats the rest of his bento.

Fine, tomorrow. You’d better have food in your house, fucker.

He deserves that. Last time Bakugou had come over, he’d had nothing, nothing at all, and Bakugou had spent half an hour berating him for having a single expired yogurt sitting in the fridge. ill buy u dinner , he says, u remember my address?

I’m not a fucking idiot, HFB.

HFB is hair-for-brains, and it does occur to Kirishima how stupid it is that Bakugou has to acronym-ize his nickname for him, since he’s too lazy to type it out. Could he just write “Kiri”? Yes, obviously. But this is Bakugou, after all.

He doesn’t reply again. Plans have been made, it’s unlikely Bakugou wants to continue the conversation. So instead, Kirishima turns back to the first page of the spread to actually read the interview. Bakugou stares at him out of the centre of the two pages. Kirishima has to actively avoid looking at him for fear of getting caught on his face and not managing to read the article.

An Explosive Personality

- Kenma Nanako

I’m early to our meeting, but Incendiary is already there, on his phone and without a drink. When I offer him a coffee, he tells me through a cheeky smile that I wouldn’t like him if he had caffeine in him.

Kirishima has to stop. He’s two sentences into the article, and he’s already flabbergasted. A cheeky smile? How much had Bakugou’s agency paid this woman to write this article? Had they sent a doppelganger in Bakugou's place? Was this woman another Chiyo?

Up close and street clothes, Bakugou Katsuki is just as intimidating a character as he seems in full hero gear. It’s easy to remember that this is a man who could bring down the building with his bare hands and hard to forget that he’d once been courted for membership by the League of Villains.

 

Oh fuck, Bakugou wouldn’t like being reminded of that, surely.

And yet, there’s careful control in the way he moves. His eyes hold you still when he looks at you, like he’s measuring you up. I decide to start easy, with a question he’s probably been asked a thousand times.

KN: So tell us, what made you want to become a hero?

BK: I never wanted to be anything else. Some things in life are a choice. For me, being a hero was only ever an inevitability.

KN: And going to Yuuei was part of that inevitability?

BK: Yuuei is where the best go. I’m one of the best.

KN: Tell me about your experiences there.

BK: The public knows the worst, so I feel I can come out and admit it: I was a little shit when I was younger. People say that your quirk reflects who you really are, and at the time, the explosiveness of my temper was an equal match to my quirk. I was young. Not prepared to deal with a lot that comes with being a hero.

KN: That’s very candid.

BK: I’ll never be a ‘nice guy’, that’s not who I am. What I’ve learned is how to take that drive, that need to win, and to channel it in the right way. Having fire in your blood doesn’t condemn you to villainy.

Kirishima has to stop again for a couple of moments. He can’t...really….believe what he’s reading. It’s all perfectly true, of course. Bakugou is many things, but not a liar, and he really has grown up a lot in the last few years, but to speak so honestly and so eloquently about it? To admit his faults? Well, it’s...weird.

The article goes on much the same for a while, asking him about his work, his record, his quick ascendancy through the ranks of heroes (“fuck being a sidekick,” Bakugou had said to Kirishima, but he’d been one anyway, however briefly, for Endeavour). They ask him about his opinions on the current state of heroes, and Bakugou offers long, detailed responses, very opinionated, of course, but nothing Kirishima hasn’t heard before. Eventually, they come around to his personal life, and Kirishima finds himself leaning down to read more closely. How much would Bakugou give away?

KN: So, tell us a bit more about Bakugou Katsuki, rather than Incendiary.

BK: What do you want to know?

KN: Do you have a girlfriend?

BK: No.

KN: Just a ‘no’? No one special in your life?

BK: No.

KN: Haha, okay. I’m sure many of our readers will be happy to hear that. Tell us a bit about your daily life. What’s an average day like for you?

BK: I’m a night owl. I get up late, train. Go on shift if it’s a work day. I can cook but I don’t like to, so usually I’ll eat something simple when I get home and then go to bed.

KN: That’s not very descriptive.

Kirishima laughs. That’s about right. Bakugou sounds very boring when one describes his daily life. He’d once told Kirishima that he doesn’t have any hobbies that aren’t ‘useful’.

BK: I’m a fighter, not an artist.

KN: Okay, so what are your hobbies, what do you do on days that you’re not working?

BK: Mountain climbing, mountain biking. Skiing in the winter. I read. Keep up with the news. I train a lot.

KN: Who are you close with these days?

BK: People from Yuuei or my agency. I work with Red Riot quite a bit, I guess you could say we’re friends.

Kirishima has to stop again because he feels like he can’t breathe. Holy shit - he’s - they’re - friends? He’s going to die and ascend to heaven. An acknowledgement from Bakugou - in the most public way possible. Bakugou must have thought he’d read this already when he’d texted him. Kirishima grins, pressing his hand to his mouth.

There’s a little more of the light hearted stuff, but Bakugou doesn’t offer much (typical), and it’s clear Kenma has to squeeze it out of him drop by drop. The article ends off with some flowery descriptions of how Bakugou had left her, not with a thank you, but with a polite goodbye.

I was surprised, talking with Incendiary, how well-spoken he was. It’s not to say that I doubted his intelligence for a moment, I was simply surprised and impressed at the level of maturity present in his speech and demeanor, especially given everything we've seen during the years that he's been in the public eye. Ladies and gentlemen, this is one to watch. Currently at #14 on the hero leaderboards, I’m sure we’ll see Incendiary climbing into the top ten by the end of the year.

Kirishima lies back onto the ground, spreading his arms out against the cool wood of the floor. He feels like he’s run a marathon and all he’s done is read an interview and looked at some (admittedly great) pictures of a guy he would consider a good friend. He turns his cheek as well to lie against the chilly surface.

Bakugou’s coming over tomorrow.

He grins.

Bakugou shows up a little after six. He’s bundled up for the winter in typical Bakugou form, which is to say he’s hardly visible under the layers of clothing. Kirishima supposes this also helps with his problem of being so recognizable, since the only parts of him you can see are his eyes and the tip of a bright red nose.

“Let me in,” he says as soon as Kirishima opens his door, and practically elbows his way past him into the apartment.

“Hey,” laughs Kirishima as he does, shutting the door behind him as Bakugou begins to shuck his outer layers, dumping his clothing wherever he sees fit (mostly over the back of the nearest chair to the front door). He’s slushy and Kirishima glances outside. It’s been snowing. “How’s it going?”

“Fine,” says Bakugou, unwinding his thick scarf from around his neck. His cheeks are pink too. He looks like he’s blushing. Kirishima wants to pinch them. “People won’t fucking leave me alone though about that stupid magazine thing.”

“Dude,” says Kirishima and heads to the kitchen, “You were on the cover of Hero . With a six page spread! What do you expect?”

“Ugh,” says Bakugou, and finally finished ridding himself of his excess clothes, he meanders into the living room. “Fuck, you bought a copy? What the fuck is wrong with you?”

Ah, shit, it’s still there on the living room table. “Yeah, my friend has a Hero cover with a six page spread, of course I bought it.”

He can practically hear Bakugou’s eyes rolling from here. “How long did they get you in the photography studio for?” Kirishima asks, dumping tea into a pot. He peers through the peekaboo window. Bakugou, of course, is scooting under the kotatsu, one hand under the table as well as the other picks up the magazine.

“Twenty minutes,” says Bakugou. Oh, better than Kirishima had thought, “But they spent half of that fucking with my hair.”

“How did they even get you there to begin with?” asks Kirishima. The water’s boiling so he pours it into the pot, inhaling the fragrant steam as it rises off the tea.

Bakugou scoffs, “My fucking manager threatened to volunteer me for the Heroes Charity Ball if I didn’t.”

“Heh,” Kirishima stacks two cups and heads out to the living room. Bakugou is reaching for one before he even puts it down. “I’m going to that.”

“Sucks for you.”

Kirishima puts down his cargo, swatting Bakugou’s hand away as he goes for the teapot, “It won’t be steeped yet.”

“Yeah but it’ll be fucking warm,” Bakugou tries again and again Kirishima knocks his hand out of the way, only to be rewarded with a dark scowl, “Fuck off, I froze my balls off outside coming to your little fucking shithole.”

“Your balls are under the kotatsu, stop complaining.”

Bakugou pouts , muttering, “Don’t be worrying about where my balls are, fuckmunch,” before putting his cup back down and picking up the magazine again. “You don’t think this looks stupid?” he asks after a moment, holding the magazine up by his face and flipping the cover around to face Kirishima.

“No.”

Bakugou snorts, “You’re just saying that because you know I can kick your ass.” He chews on his lip a little, and the effect of a shy Bakugou beside the photo of a snarling Incendiary atop a building’s worth of rubble is enough to make Kirishima laugh. Bakugou reddens and snaps at him, “Fuck off!”

“You look good, man, don’t worry about it so much!” Kirishima takes the magazine from him, peering down at it again. “Where did they even get these photos though?”

“Uh,” says Bakugou, shifting a little and suddenly Kirishima can feel his cold toes against his leg, “Cover was like a month ago. You remember those guys trying to take down those schools because they said education was poisoning the minds of our future generations?”

“Yeah.”

“I’m pretty sure that was right after they brought the second building down. They must have had a telescopic lens though because I don’t remember seeing any civilians around.”

It’s true that Bakugou’s focussed face doesn’t look like he’s watching for civvies. He’s clearly scanning for attackers. There’s a long pause and then Bakugou reaches again for the tea. Kirishima lets him have it this time. “So do you have food?” Bakugou asks as he pours a cup. He doesn’t pour one for Kirishima, though whether that’s out of consideration (Kirishima likes his tea strong) or because he doesn’t care to, Kirishima can’t say.

“I’m gonna order pizza,” he says, “What do you want on yours?”

“Whatever,” says Bakugou, so Kirishima just gets one with a lot of meat on it and asks for spicy peppers on one side.  

“So when was the second photo taken?” he asks when he puts the phone down. Bakugou frowns until Kirishima flips it open to show him which one he means and then Bakugou scowls .

“I told her not to let them use that one!” he huffs.

“Your manager?”

“Yeah, fucking bitch. It makes me look…” he trails off, gesturing wildly in the air like that’s supposed to help Kirishima understand what he means to say. He doesn’t. He’s not even sure himself how it makes Bakugou look.

Kirishima tries to articulate it nevertheless, “You look, uh,” he taps his fingers against his chin. Shit, what the fuck is the word to describe that smile, those tight arms and back. The ready stance, “Dangerous.”

“Great,” says Bakugou and huffs a sigh, tipping his head onto his hand. He looks disappointed, which is not what Kirishima would have expected from that descriptor. Isn’t that Bakugou’s main goal in life? To look dangerous?

“No, in a good way,” Kirishima insists. “These girls at the store were practically drooling over it. One of them said she’d jump in front of a villain if it meant you’d save her.”

“Fucking idiot,” says Bakugou but the flush of his cheeks is growing darker. “Okay, if you think it’s fine, then….fine.” Bakugou rubs his index finger over his own face as though he wishes he could erase it.

“Next page,” says Kirishima and leans forward to flip forward. The posed photos, and Bakugou snorts.

“Wow, I’m surprised they got two photos out of that,” he says, and it turns out Kirishima had been completely right about the manner in which said photos had been taken. The first was while someone else had been speaking. The second was when Bakugou had had enough and was leaving.

As they talk, it occurs to Kirishima that for someone who’s featured in the magazine, Bakugou doesn’t seem awfully familiar with its contents. “Have you even read this?” he asks eventually, catching Bakugou peering down at the interview a little too intently for someone who was the subject of the writing.

“Fuck no,” he admits, and his chin jerks up so that he can glower at Kirishima, “They sent me a proof a couple weeks ago but I lost it, and it’s not like I’m going to fucking...buy myself on a magazine, so…”

“You could get one from your manager, she’s probably got a hundred copies.”

“Ugh,” says Bakugou and drops his head, his fingers in his hair. “Who fucking asks for a copy of a garbage magazine who did a fucking stupid garbage fluff piece about them?”

“You can have my copy,” Kirishima offers. “I’ll get another.”

“Why would you get another?”

“For posterity.”

It looks like the magazine is about to go up in flames, in which case neither of them will get it, so Kirishima carefully pries it from Bakugou’s smoking fingers. “Wanna play video games?” he offers after a few seconds of silence, and his grumpy houseguest agrees.

After pizza they move to the couch and play more, until Bakugou gets too angry over his repeated deaths and throws a controller at the television. Then they switch to Netflix, and Kirishima laughs a bit when Bakugou suggests it, because who would have ever expected Bakugou Katsuki to come over so they could Netflix and chill?

The night stretches surprisingly long. Kirishima’s having a good time so he never thinks to actually kick Bakugou out, assuming that, as usual, Bakugou will announce that he’s bored and leave when he’s good and ready. But he never does, and as their marathon of television shows stretches out into the wee hours of the morning, Kirishima starts to wonder if there’s a reason he doesn’t want to go home.

“Hey, B,” he starts, but as he turns, he realises that Bakugou is, in fact, asleep at the other end of the couch. He’d managed to steal most of the blanket over the course of the last three episodes, so he’s well-wrapped in fleece now, snuggled up all the way to his chin. That does explain why he’d stopped hearing noises of derision a little while ago.

“B,” he tries again, but Bakugou is sound asleep. He’s cute, actually, even Kirishima has to admit it. Without the fearsome expression Bakugou cultivates on his face when he’s awake, his round cheeks and button nose make him look young for his age. He’s curled up into a ball, a cute ball - most of him that’s visible is the bright shock of pale hair.

Kirishima snorts quietly, and tugs at the blanket to ease it down over Bakugou’s socked feet. The urge is there to lean against him, to wrap his arms around said ball of blankets, but he doesn’t, and instead gets to his feet, shuffling tiredly to his bedroom and collapsing into his own blankets.