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The best part is falling

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Kirishima has a special knock for when he wants to talk to Bakugou at night. Bakugou has never formally acknowledged it but he knows what it means and knows who’s responsible. He knows that it’s not some random asshole bumping their elbow into his door or Kaminari and Sero trying to get him to walk into a wall of tape again. Kirishima’s of the compassionate type that won’t speak in anything above a whisper after 8:00 PM out of consideration to his dormmates, so he has to depend on this elaborate series of knocks to inform Bakugou that “his good pal Kirishima wants to visit.” Bakugou usually can not ignore it, either, giving into the higher significance of Kirishima making such a commendable effort to engage him. Kirishima pulls a lot of bullshit like this and at this point Bakugou is slowly but surely falling in with the inevitability of where it leads – and he’s perfectly aware of this, which makes it all the more pleasant slash infuriating.

If only Kirishima were a little less dense and thought about his emotions before acting upon them – which, sure, must give him instant gratification, but he isn’t really registering why. If only he realized he’s obviously and hopelessly in love with Bakugou. If only he did not force Bakugou to wrestle with the possibility of having to spell it out, which he has denied so deeply that the very prospect of it makes him laugh – but then of course he also knows that if this drags on long enough he may just corner himself into martyrdom.

Kirishima better hurry the hell up so that never happens.

“No,” Bakugou says, dropping the word like it’s a dumbbell he’s just completed his one hundredth consecutive pick up with, a familiar burst of satisfaction and fatigue. He’s glaring like a switchblade at the blanket draped over Kirishima’s back and around his neck, thick camouflage cotton because he has to sleep swaddled like a fucking infant. There’s also a pillow under his arm, a direct response to Bakugou’s previous threat: you better never fucking drool on another of my fucking pillows, you hear me?

Kirishima sleeps in shorts (if it’s really cold he’ll put on a tank top), which means Bakugou gets to watch his magnificently chiseled chest heave as one of those pathetic, melodramatic sighs slides through his teeth, leaving a pout behind. His equivalent of puppy dog eyes, except it is absolutely genuine and therefore effective.

Bakugou makes sure to knit his eyebrows with an extra dose of irritation before Kirishima can begin his conquest of Bakugou’s good side (which, in theory, is nonexistent, but practice has proven them both wrong enough times to place it alongside existential questions such as does the universe have an end? Will Kaminari ever ace a test? and Where does Kirishima draw the line between being super fucking friendly and obviously having a romantic crush?).

Bakugou has to be ready because the only way he falls is with motherfucking dignity – like those domino lines that kick each other down but paint a beautiful, complicated picture. That’s how he thinks of this whole letting Kirishima into his life business.

“Man, I really can’t sleep,” Kirishima says. Whines, actually – he is whining. Truly like some overgrown child, coming to bother his mother that has long since tired of staying up with him all night. Which is what will happen, if Bakugou lets him in.

Bakugou may sympathize with the goddamn bitch that is insomnia, but he frowns aggressively at the prospect of having his own chance at rest spoiled by Kirishima bear hugging him into suffocation or kicking him in the face (how Kirishima does a 360 degrees turn in his sleep is a mystery Bakugou can not resolve even while watching it happen in real time).

This is if they manage to get some shut eye at all. A more likely scenario is Kirishima rambling the night away (while Bakugou pays enough attention to frequently interject, comment, joke, laugh), or putting on one of his cheesy nature documentaries that he somehow always winds up bawling at (Bakugou scowling, wondering loudly why the hell he should care about the life cycle of whale sharks, giving up on pushing Kirishima’s clingy body away so his shirt just becomes permanently embedded with tears and mucus), or – and this is the worst one – wrestling Bakugou into a false sense of adrenaline-fueled security and then surprise tickling him – disgusting. Evil.

Having personally experienced all of these (repeatedly, predictably), Bakugou really has every reason in the goddamn world to refuse Kirishima’s request to crash with him for the night.

But he has to listen to everything that Kirishima wants to say first, or he’ll be bothered by it later. Definitely not guilt, though.

“Is this about the exam tomorrow?” Bakugou asks, his tone implying that he already knows the answer and finds it deplorable.

Kirishima, however, spies a chance to make Bakugou empathize.

You know I get terrible exam anxiety,” answers Kirishima, the emphasis suggesting their closeness, familiarity with each other. Bakugou’s only response to this is an indignant scowl.

“Last time I could hardly sleep the night before and then kept nodding off during the test!”

Bakugou remembers. An absolute waste of all the time and energy he spent tutoring Kirishima – perhaps that’s the hook, what Kirishima wants to use to get through to him: see this through until I succeed.

That is how Bakugou would view it, but it’s this very self-awareness that tells him Kirishima’s really just appealing to Bakugou as a friend. As someone he expects to support and be supported by, however chaotic that arrangement may be.

Tartly, Bakugou enunciates, “and how is dragging me into this going to help?”

Bakugou unwittingly traps himself into hearing the answer. He more or less always does.

Flashing a winning grin (as if this is truly the tipping point, what seals the deal for Bakugou), Kirishima proclaims, “because I sleep better with you than alone!”

This, on its own, is beyond perplexing, but Bakugou will spare himself the embarrassment (personal, for his insight, and secondhand, for Kirishima’s ignorance) of hearing the whole explanation. He has already memorized it, being something outrageous enough to warrant that.

Sleeping next to you helps me relax! Not just my body, but my mind, too. I find it easier to lie still and not move around. I can keep my eyes closed even if I’m not really falling asleep. I guess having anyone helps this way, but it’s especially true for you. I mean, I’ll share my bed with anyone that needs it, but you’re the only that I know can always get me through the night!

As if sensing the rejection that’s hovering on Bakugou’s tongue – hasn’t quite made his mind up yet, but the teetering is stressful enough –, Kirishima cheats by lowering his head into Bakugou’s collarbone, bumping it gently and then remaining in that hunched position.

Cheating? Then what game are they playing at exactly?

Shouji chooses this cursed moment to stride through the hallway, probably heading back to bed after one of his growing-boy-past-midnight-snack-sprees (Bakugou knows because they run into each other pretty often in the kitchen, exchanging a single, comprehensive nod before returning to wolfing down a whole box of cereal or pot of rice or carrots directly from the bag – whatever, it doesn’t really matter when you’re starving at four in the morning). They establish eye contact for a precarious three seconds and then Shouji has the fucking decency to look the other way, his silence a promise to keep all seven of his mouths shut about this. He, does, however, flash Bakugou a thumbs up before disappearing, which Bakugou feels more like being stabbed through the throat.

Infuriated, Bakugou kicks his leg into the air, an action that is usually met with some kind of furniture but currently there is nothing in the vicinity for him to maltreat so the air will have to suffice. Kirishima is startled by this sudden movement, finally removing his heavy (at least it feels heavy, being so close to Bakugou’s heart and all) head and casting Bakugou an inquisitive look.

“Fine, you can come in,” Bakugou scoffs, wrinkling his nose when Kirishima’s expression quite literally explodes into delight (wrinkling his nose doubles as an emergency smile prevention mechanism, so at this point he’s earnestly unsure when he’s just fucking disdainful and when he’s caring too much about Kirishima).

Regret can not settle in because it has always been there: under the floorboards of his volatile persona, squashed between his every conversation with Kirishima, growing happily like weeds each time he assesses how deep into this affection bullshit they have sunk.

Regret that he fell, that he has started enjoying fall – that he wants Kirishima to smash his face into the goddamn floor already and confess or some shit.

Maybe it’s his quirk. Stubborn defense.

Jabbing his finger into Kirishima’s chest, Bakugou snaps (he, for one, does not give a fuck if one of his classmates receives a rude Bakugou wakeup call in the middle of the night), “if you don’t fucking sleep, though, I’m not letting you waste our time! We’re speed running you through everything again so you make sure to pass that fucking test! Make your future a favor at least.”

“Offering to tutor me again?” Kirishima chimes, the gratitude in his tone almost but not quite cloying, mellow enough for Bakugou to savor it without wanting to throw up. “And caring about my future – that’s practically a compliment from you! Thanks, pal.”

It is, which is why Bakugou has to whirl around in that precise instant, giving Kirishima, as they say, the cold shoulder before sauntering back into the heart of his bedroom. Kirishima follows with that shit-eating grin of his (endearing, unlike Sero “why are all your toothbrushes wrecked, Bakugou? Are you having trouble with your teeth?” Hanta’s), shutting the door behind him. The blanket and pillow are dropped on Bakugou’s bed (used to be the ground, but, well, they’re just not being fucking coy about where Kirishima’s going to sleep anymore).

Few people can relish in the luxury that is entering Bakugou’s most private abode, so of course Kirishima has to make a big deal out of something each time it happens. He chooses the freshly alphabetized collection of poetry books for this round.

“Hey, I know this one!” Kirishima exclaims (he always forgets all about whispering once he’s inside Bakugou’s dorm) and grabs Bakugou by the elbow so he can read the title Kirishima has pointed at.

Sniffing scornfully, Bakugou sneers, “oh yeah? Tell me one line in it.”

Most people that have read Shakespeare do not actually recall specific lines (except for the ludicrously popular ones, but to know those no knowledge of who Shakespeare even is is necessary), but Bakugou is such a literary nerd that he expects no less than having whole paragraphs memorized to earn the title “fan.” Either he is overbearingly passionate about something or doesn’t give a shit, no in-betweens.

Accepting this challenge, Kirishima’s eyebrows scrunch up and one of his canines bites into his lower lip, concentration gathering in his head. Bakugou remains silent, giving him the benefit of the doubt in the smuggest way imaginable.

Brightening, Kirishima snaps his fingers and squeezes Bakugou’s arm, their eyes meeting in one of those spontaneously intimate ways that make Bakugou borderline uncomfortable (only borderline?).

Well, he knows Kirishima’s ignorant of the effect it has on him, so there’s no need to worry about it being used against him.

“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” Kirishima intonates, forcibly poetic, like the fake kind that rookies are convinced makes them sound experienced.

The wink at the end really makes Bakugou lose his nerve. Snickering, he pulls out of Kirishima’s grip (finally) and pins him with a triumphant glare.

“Don’t make a fool of yourself by saying shit you don’t understand. Just because you recognized the author –”

“So I got that much right!” Kirishima interjects, his pride in such details, as ever, baffling to Bakugou.

“The exam you’re taking isn’t about English literature, so it literally doesn’t matter,” Bakugou informs.

Undeterred, Kirishima says, slower this time and with more tact, “shall I compare thee to a summer’s day, though?”

Even Bakugou concedes that Kirishima sounded pretty suave there, but it’s the question of whether it classifies as flirting or not that short circuits his brain – as if he’s never had to grapple with a mixed signals bit of banter like this before.

Sometimes he’s just so close to asking Kirishima if he’s trying to fucking flirt – make a joke out of it, an insult. Watch, leisurely and not at all critically, how Kirishima reacts to that.

But no. Bakugou would be left defenseless if Kirishima’s answer was yes.

There’s a single knock on the door: dull, with no follow-up. Bakugou’s predisposed to ignore it but of course Kirishima strolls over to swing the door open. Staring him in the face is the towering figure of Shouji Mezou.

“Kirishima,” Shouji says, managing to sound pretty genuine for someone that is not at all surprised to be greeted by Kirishima after knocking on Bakugou’s door.

Without derailing (he is truly merciful), Shouji hands Kirishima a stuffed shark and says, “you dropped this. At least, I assume it’s yours. It was outside of your dorm.”

Kirishima looks surprised, as if he can’t believe he overlooked this to begin with. He quickly thanks Shouji, offering a nod and a smile, which is how he won over most of his classmates. He’s a natural charmer.

Shouji and Bakugou make that precarious eye contact again, though this time it lasts a single instant, just as an acknowledgment of Bakugou’s role in all of this. Then Shouji retreats and the door is shut again. Simulacrum of safety.

The toy Kirishima props on Bakugou’s bed is half his size, soft, sponge-like. Kirishima sleeps embracing it – he’s the type of person that sleeps embracing. Bakugou is grateful for its presence, if only because it means he’ll be spared (but does he want to be spared? Lots of big questions tonight). The drawback is Bakugou sometimes winds up embracing it, too (in his sleep, obviously), waking up to a turbulence of embarrassment and, more than once, Kirishima’s gloating face.

With a groan, Bakugou drops onto his bed, emotional exhaustion claiming precedence over any physical discomfort he’s currently experiencing.

Big mistake. Kirishima plops down right next to him.

Hands atop his stomach, Kirishima regards Bakugou with a mixture of curiosity and contentment. Clearly he enjoys counting on Bakugou’s company, even if their night amounts to nothing but fucking around. Beats loneliness, right?

Bakugou’s so accustom to taking his academic responsibilities seriously (he’s already a fucking genius, so nothing’s ever been too much of a struggle) that the very notion of wasting valuable sleep time (which will inevitably come back to punch him in the face when he’s exhausted in class, but then he’s also an expert at functioning while sleep deprived) is like an uncomfortable itch, not quite on his skin but underneath, in his nervous system or some shit.

Relaxing and having a good time was pretty fucking foreign to him when Kirishima introduced it by gathering his friends – including Bakugou – to play video games and throw snacks at each other in the lounge (he does this most Sundays). Bakugou knows what a fucking good time is, just not as Kirishima does. This whole ordeal, like most others Kirishima ropes him into, feels like some kind of criminal offense, but sometimes it is a little fun – dare Bakugou say exciting – to just, just –

Well, he’s a sixteen year old boy. There’s a world beyond heroics and being the absolute best at everything (“can you be the absolute best at breakdancing, though? C’mon, Bakugou, Ashido taught me some moves!”). Maybe. It’s a hypothesis, not very plausible but thus far unresolved, so he’s letting it sit in the periphery of his thought process while he gathers more information.

Kirishima’s hand brushes against Bakugou’s ear. He realizes that his hair is being stroked.

As if he’s just been asked a preposterous question, Bakugou turns to face Kirishima and deadpans, “what?”

Kirishima’s mouth does that thing where it appears to shift into a more comfortable arrangement, still smiling but with a more natural, casual sort of pleasure. As if this is something they do all the time.

“Your hair’s such a mess, but in an effortlessly charming kinda way? I always have to do mine in the morning, but you don’t really have to do anything. It’s always so soft, too.”

Kirishima’s finger ventures behind Bakugou’s ear, which seems to him like too random an event to be experiencing alarm over, but then Kirishima quite deliberately descends to Bakugou’s nape and he decides it’s time to kick open the emergency exit.

If Kirishima can’t recognize his own feelings and cough out some kind of confession, then they are not doing this – any of this.

“I think you’re the –”

“The most handsome boy in our class,” Bakugou interrupts, already familiar enough with the quote and its context to predict when Kirishima is going to repeat it. “I know. I’m the fucking best.”

Strong saves are Bakugou’s specialty – he’s a fucking living power move.

Jolting back up (not blushing, not breathing a little faster than ten seconds ago), Bakugou kicks over some papers scattered across his desk, not currently important enough for him to move out of the way in an orderly manner. He sits down, cross legged, on one end of the desk, slamming his palms onto the smooth surface.

“All right, enough wasting time! Get your ass over here so we can cram as much knowledge into that thick skull of yours before morning!”

The whole trying to sleep first plan has been discarded. Kirishima seems to be fine with that.

Kneeling in the spot opposite to Bakugou’s, Kirishima catches the textbook that’s flung in his direction and opens it on the page Bakugou has conveniently bookmarked beforehand.

Now even if mathematics put Kirishima to sleep, Bakugou won’t let him doze off so easily.

“What’s 2x+3=x+15?”

“12!”

“Incorrect.”

“...W, what? But it’s totally 12!”

“You’re right, but if I always tell you that then you won’t learn to check your answers first.”

“...You’re so smart, Bakugou!”


There is, in the end, a bit of sleep: the disorganized, improvised, last ditch effort type that accompanies passing out when daylight is already upon them and the clock’s on its final countdown to when class starts. Through his groggy head, Bakugou can’t determine whether they’ve been asleep for three hours or fifteen minutes, but the pain in his left arm is enough proof that Kirishima has been lying on him for too long. Bakugou gave up squirting water in Kirishima’s face after the fourth time he fell asleep on the desk, figuring that a little rest is better than none (his brain better have used that time to memorize as much as possible of what they went over). But remaining slouched over like that was going to result in a painful back and poor blood circulation (as Bakugou is currently experiencing with Kirishima’s body knifing into his side), so Bakugou lugged him over to the bed and threw that dumb blanket of his on top, as if he needed it at that point. Bakugou just laid in the darkness afterwards, listening to Kirishima’s awful – yet somehow tolerable – snoring, until his consciousness also receded.

Of course, without someone to forcibly keep Kirishima at arm’s length, he’s rolled into Bakugou again, as if the room is secretly tilted and gravity compels him. When he says I sleep better next to you, he means it quite literally (he’s gone on some tangent about body heat and heartbeats but Bakugou would rather not tackle the biological details of this yet, even if they are easier to digest than why Kirishima really enjoys sharing Bakugou’s bed). Mouth wide open, Kirishima’s breathing on Bakugou’s goddamn ear (which is more sensitive than he’ll ever admit), as well as salivating all over his shoulder. Kirishima’s legs are also encroaching dangerously upon Bakugou’s personal space, spread under and over his own like some kind of sandwich. What really tops it off, though, is the hand on Bakugou’s midriff.

Bakugou needs a moment to decide which of these transgressions to deal with first.

Settling for all at once, Bakugou stretches his arms over his head, groans, and then slaps his face. He can be completely exhausted without actually feeling like shit. Kirishima, on the other hand, is going to have to deal with the consequences of his actions. Hoisting him by the armpits, Bakugou throws him off of the bed with neither warning nor delicacy. Kirishima’s face hits the floor.

Usually this works, but on this occasion Bakugou hears neither a groan nor Kirishima scrambling to get up. Frowning, Bakugou lowers his body to sit on Kirishima’s back, then prods his face with one foot.

“Wake up, Kirishima.”

But then, if he’s managed to sleep through everything so far, Bakugou’s voice obviously isn’t going to reach him.

Pulling back his hair in annoyance, Bakugou’s other fist drops onto Kirishima’s shoulder blade. He could waste both of their time forcing Kirishima to regain consciousness, but Bakugou can tell just from looking at him that even then he isn’t going to move fast enough by his own volition to make it to class on time. Adamant fool.

Having already experienced this scenario, Bakugou knows he only has two choices, and one of them involves leaving Kirishima for dead.

This is what he gets for liking Kirishima.

This not being the first time does make it easier, though. Stepping out of his room, Bakugou doesn’t bother scanning the corridor before entering Kirishima’s. Bakugou pries open Kirishima’s closet to find his uniform, already immune enough to the tackiness of his interior design to wander through it without feeling personally attacked. He does glare at the collection of dumbbells that he has to dodge on his way out, though. They’re so hazardously littered around the door, it’s like Kirishima wants someone to trip on them.

Bakugou lifts Kirishima’s body so it’s resting against the side of his bed, then claps his hands in front of Kirishima’s face. The explosion triggers Kirishima’s fight or flight reflex. His eyes snap open as he gasps.

There’s a groan, the painful, drawn out sort that says hold on, that wasn’t enough, you gotta let me sleep for a while longer. Then Kirishima yawns, fatigue drawing his eyelids back down as his head bobs. Bakugou’s smirk is aggressively self-righteous.

Snapping his fingers to keep Kirishima from nodding off again, Bakugou barks, “help me out, idiot, I’m not doing everything for you!”

Without opening his eyes, Kirishima takes the sleeve that Bakugou has been trying to push his arm into. A chuckle slips through his crooked smile, vaguely self-disparaging, but also with a hint of pleasure. Bakugou can not imagine where that last part comes from.

“Thanks, man,” Kirishima slurs, attempting to do the buttons himself but Bakugou just swats his hand away and does it faster.

Bakugou’s grumbling is incoherent (especially with how tired Kirishima is), but Kirishima gets the gist of it. He’ll have to make it up to Bakugou later.

By the end of it Kirishima should be able to get to class on his own two legs but they’re really running late and Bakugou hasn’t put up with this whole circus act just to screw up now. Kirishima can continue his mental preparations for complete wakefulness while Bakugou hauls both of their asses around.

Fireman carry is the easiest to perform because it requires none of Kirishima’s cooperation and it’s just awkward enough to discourage him from falling asleep. Kirishima grunts when he’s picked up but offers no complaint – yeah, like he’s in the fucking position to do that anyway.

“Talk to me about some shit,” Bakugou mumbles, bitterly, but talking is the best way to build Kirishima’s focus. He doesn’t have to pay attention anyway, just make sure Kirishima’s awake.

Kirishima flashes an apologetic smile, just as wobbly and goofy as the rest of him. His bloodshot eyes squint while he thinks.

Shouji’s standing outside when Bakugou opens the door, one of his hands hovering as if he was debating knocking. Bakugou isn’t even surprised anymore.

Kirishima waves and Shouji reciprocating rather awkwardly, then meets Bakugou’s irritated glare, which has been magnified by this ridiculous exchange.

“I was worried you might be running late,” Shouji says, straightforward and nonchalant. A quality Bakugou appreciates in a neighbor.

Implicit: after what I know happened last night.

Mentally scraping off a twinge of humiliation, Bakugou answers with a curt nod. He waits for Shouji to leave before getting a move on himself.

“Shouji’s real nice, don’t you think?” Kirishima says.

Nice can mean an awful lot of things, which is why Bakugou refrains from answering. A noncommittal scoff is all he gets.

Time to hope nobody decides to be a nuisance on their way to class.


“You finally killed him!” Kaminari yells melodramatically the moment Bakugou enters the classroom with Kirishima still hoisted across his back. Bakugou merely rolls his eyes, absolutely refusing to humor that bastard with his current energy level. Everybody else is past the point of commenting anyway. Only Kaminari still insists on making a big deal out of this. He must think he’s real fucking hilarious (though Bakugou suspects that a part of Kaminari truly does expect Bakugou to do it someday).

Bakugou drops Kirishima in his seat, then slaps him on the back for good measures. Squinting at all the light coming into his eyes, Kirishima yawns and rubs his hands into his temples. Then his face turns to offer whatever drowsy thanks his neurons can muster right now, but Bakugou has already moved to his own seat. A thin, lopsided smile appears on Kirishima’s face. He’ll have to say it properly later.

Kirishima, predictably, spends half of the exam dozing off, but Bakugou startles him awake by periodically detonating his palms, much to the annoyance and nerves of everybody else. Aizawa even snaps at him a few times, but Bakugou knows bark with no bite when he hears it and offers no compromise. This, like letting Kirishima sleep in his bed, like carrying Kirishima to class, like extending to Kirishima an amount of human decency that he previously didn’t knew he possessed, is not new behavior. Bakugou has the ability to compel his surroundings to adapt to his decisions, regardless of whether they are understood or not.

At some point, Kirishima starts sobbing because he can’t recall if 2x+3=x+15 is really 12 or not.


Bakugou shoots his hand into the air so Kirishima can high-five it. He’s breathing heavily, sweat breaking through his pores as his skin softens. The gargoyle ridges vanish from his face, leaving a slender gash across his cheekbone.

“See that?” Kirishima exclaims, his face positively vivacious as he traces the injury with a thumb. “That’s all I got! From coming at you like that! And lasting that long!”

Dropping his hands to his hips, Kirishima’s arsenal of grinning teeth and expanded chest convey his pride. The wink he gives Bakugou cracks open that reluctant smile, resulting in a low chuckle. Bakugou quickly snorts to cover it up.

One of the things that Bakugou regards as proof of his tremendous affection for Kirishima is his investment in Kirishima’s success – in heroics and otherwise, but especially in heroics. Bakugou generally only picks sparring partners based on what benefits him, but with Kirishima there’s a sense of mutual gain, a desire to edge each other on rather than merely stamp his opponent out.

Kirishima’s certainly grown a considerable amount since their last official fight. Bakugou wonders how Kirishima will perform the next time they go all out like that.

“Yeah, good job,” slips out of Bakugou’s mouth before his filters can proofread it, fortunately straddling a safe balance between professional and amiable. He also nods, as if to affirm something that’s gone unsaid, something transmitted through Kirishima’s own body language. Subtext connections.

Kirishima sucks in a deep breath, then snatches up Bakugou’s hand, pressing it to his chest so Bakugou can feel the breakneck palpitations. A rare warmth razes through Bakugou psyche, knocking his own heart into his throat like one of those strength testing machines with a bell at the top.

“Can you feel it?” Kirishima asks, as if it isn’t fucking obvious that Bakugou can. His expression is slipping so quickly into discomfort that it might as well be a landslide, but still he tries to hold onto some integrity, erect a fence from which he refuses to budge. Kirishima’s blissfully oblivious.

“Fast, isn’t it?” Kirishima continues, laughter cascading from his mouth as if in crescendo, towards something splendid. Bakugou can feel that something in his own stomach, making a chaotic cat’s cradle out of his senses.

Bakugou has experienced enough at the hand of Kirishima’s carelessness to understand that, as fucking impossible as being honest about his feelings seems, it will be monumentally easier to manage once he isn’t being glared down by that hurdle.

There’ll be a downpour. Catharsis.

But being built up like this, wrangling with all these conflicting emotions and thoughts, having no vent for them, never quite saying what he wants to – well, it hurts.

Bakugou earnestly resents this part of Kirishima.

And then he comes out with the worst – a line so cloying it can not possibly be accidental, innocuous, platonic.

Their interactions ditched platonic a while back.

“Nobody makes my heart race like you, man!” Kirishima exclaims gaily, his grip on Bakugou’s hand tightening as if to emphasize the weight of his words.

Bakugou feels like his heart is being squeezed instead, the canal of his throat closing until he can’t breathe.

But fear – and panic – just drive Bakugou to act rashly.

Tearing his hand away from Kirishima (it takes consider effort to do so – Kirishima isn’t holding him forcibly, but he sure is strong), Bakugou slaps him over the head and snaps, “of course it’s fucking racing! We’ve been fighting for the last twenty minutes!”

Kirishima’s mouth slides into a pout, dejected somehow, as if Bakugou hasn’t just given the only logical explanation.

Unless Kirishima just had an epiphany while redundantly and obliviously professing his love for Bakugou, this is as far as they go. Bakugou is not crossing the line here.

But maybe soon, somewhere else.

“Yeah, but,” Kirishima mumbles, his gaze lowering, a thoughtful crumple appearing in his eyebrows. “When I fight other people, it’s not like –”

But Bakugou has already turned around, walking away because he really does not want to fucking hear this. Kirishima stops when he notices, lifting his eyes again with curiosity.

Once he’s put enough distance between them, Bakugou yells, “now come at me again! Let’s see if that wasn’t just a fluke!”

In a split second, Kirishima’s face melts back into rambunctious determination, his teeth clamping shut with an audible noise before he waves one arm in the air to show he’s heard.

“You got it!”

Yes, perhaps it is about time Bakugou corners himself into martyrdom and spells it out for Kirishima.

Chapter Text

“I told you I don’t want any fucking tea,” Bakugou snaps, lifting his face from the papers he’s reviewing to squint at Kirishima. He’s wearing his reading glasses, which is a pretty rare sight. But at this point Kirishima’s more or less used to seeing Bakugou in them. Not that he’d hazard aggravating Bakugou by boasting about it aloud.

Kneeling opposite to Bakugou, Kirishima places the tray with the tea on the table. The corner of his mouth curls as if he wants to laugh, but he resists (what a noble sacrifice that must be, Bakugou thinks sarcastically), channeling that amusement into a smartass answer.

“Yeah, and I told you I was going to make some for me,” Kirishima says with mock indignation, like a customer chiding an employee for messing up his order, repeating it slowly so it sinks in correctly this time. “I understand that you think you’re the center of the universe, but not everything I do is about you, man.”

A twinkle appears in his crimson eyes like a star from behind a cloud, casting an uncomfortably smug limelight on Bakugou. Kirishima’s getting such a kick out of saying this.

But Bakugou’s far from feeling embarrassed by such a naive ploy. He snorts, then flashes a vicious smirk for the invisible camera.

“Why are there two cups then?”

Kirishima beams. He’s either thought of everything beforehand (which would mean he’s somehow predicted Bakugou’s behavior) or he’s exercising some lightning reflexes (which Bakugou would have to claim partial credit for promoting with his constant taunting).

“In case I drop one! You’re always saying that I’m too clumsy.”

The second part is added as an ultimatum, a safety net against Bakugou’s contentious nature: can’t go against your own logic, now can you? Kirishima’s grin is so stupendous, it’s truly like he’s won an important competition here.

Bakugou rolls his eyes, but extends his hand so Kirishima can fit a cup into it. He does not look at Kirishima while this happens, nor does he acknowledge the event further. His attention has returned to the organized mess of school work.

Kirishima’s frighteningly transparent. Bakugou describes it as frighteningly because it makes him question Kirishima’s true intentions, worry about them even. There’s always an ulterior motive. And, while Bakugou relishes in figuring others out, there are some answers he can actually do without (and would do without, if only Kirishima could lie to save his life). For example: Kirishima understanding perfectly that Bakugou wasn’t really against the notion of tea, then engaging in this verbal rodeo to make sure Bakugou gets some – with the least amount of damage to his ego.

Bakugou doesn’t have to go back on his statement, and Kirishima isn’t petty enough to rub his insight in Bakugou’s face. It’s an ideal arrangement, honestly. One of the many confusing but pleasing colors in the prism of their relationship.

Except Bakugou’s still frustrated. Obviously, this arrangement isn’t enough. A component is missing – a wild card, in fact. Were it not so wild, he might have taken the plunge ages ago, but as things stand (unsteadily), he’s struggling to prepare for all the worst case scenarios.

Kirishima spends a moment studying Bakugou’s posture: slouched forward, unoccupied hand clenched, shoulders stiff, wrinkles from stress jutting across his face, scowl. Concern for little details is common for Kirishima. He’s a faithful subscriber to the healthy parts make for a healthier performance philosophy.

Kirishima decides to make some adjustments.

“So what are we looking at today?” he asks cheerfully. He’s always really optimistic before the actual learning commences.

“English,” Bakugou replies tersely, but a second later his back has straightened up, alarm and irritation scrunching his features further. He’s glaring again, though his target is directly behind him, fingers kneading expertly into his shoulders like a musician to piano keys. Kirishima understands muscles extremely well – so well that Bakugou trusts Kirishima to know what’s best for his.

But still, there’s a reasonable bust of indignation – quite literally since one of his palms explodes (fortunately not the one supporting steaming liquid).

Now what the hell are you doing – idiot?” Bakugou barks, the insult shoehorned in as an afterthought, to compensate for the physical manifestation of embarrassment across his cheeks. It’s just a smidge of embarrassment, so his body really has no fucking business cranking up the internal thermometer, but there it is, like a malfunction (he is going to call it a malfunction), and he has to experience it.

Then again, Bakugou’s all about overreacting. His self-control in most departments is really quite deplorable.

“I’m massaging your shoulders,” is Kirishima’s calm answer. Careless. Stupid. Does he realize he’s playing with fucking fire here? What a goddamn daredevil.

“You seem really tense,” he adds as a rolled up worksheet swats him on the head. Bakugou’s head has turned slightly, enough to emanate his displeasure directly.

No one would dare accuse him of blushing because of anything other than anger. Not even Kirishima.

“Of course I’m fucking tense, you’re –!”

Being way too intimate for my current comfort levels? Not doing a good job of pretending to be platonic? Touching me in a way that I actually find enjoyable?

Bakugou knows a sinking ship when it’s on the tip of his tongue and leaps overboard before daring to finish that sentence.

Sullen, he folds his arms over his chest and pouts in that holier-than-thou fashion that most people find insufferable. Not Kirishima, though.

Bakugou can feel Kirishima’s fingers prodding deeper into his skin, mapping the terrain to assess how best to improve it. A comfortable rhythm is quickly procured.

“Hey,” Kirishima says, shrugging his shoulders nonchalantly (how? Bakugou thinks tartly). “If my tutor’s stressed, he’s not gonna be able to teach me properly.”

There it is: Kirishima’s (in)famous I’m actually doing this for myself coverup. It has an alarmingly high success rate, even while dealing with Bakugou.

Kirishima pulls that shit constantly, but specifically when he senses that Bakugou is going to reject his kindness. Bakugou sees straight through it, yet there are situations where he’s come to accept it, gracefully and with minimal argumentativeness. It beats actually having to ask for any of these things – which he never would, anyway. Even if they were honest about their emotions (haha, wouldn’t that be a fucking miracle, Bakugou thinks), Bakugou would still be drawing this line, so Kirishima might actually be onto something. A rehearsal, of sorts. If they ever fucking get to opening night.

Bakugou oscillates between feeling predominantly infuriated and pleased by this fact, but there’s always some degree of both. And ambivalence is what he hates the most, so sometimes he absolutely has to shake Kirishima off in the loudest, rudest way possible. Force him to fucking drop this charade.

There’s an audible scoff from Bakugou.

“Next you’re going to try to lay my goddamn head on your goddamn lap!” he retorts sardonically, intending it as a pure insult: a mockery of every kind gesture Kirishima has ever extended to him. But, perhaps, a part of him is also probing, testing these dark, turbulent waters that are more likely to smash him into a rock than carry him to the other side, but here he goes anyway, watch him stubbornly attempt to swim.

Man, what the hell, Bakugou thinks, two can play this game.

Kirishima sounds way too eager (the proper amount of eagerness being none, according to Bakugou) when he asks, “do you want to?”

Bakugou’s fist slams into the table in the same instant that his face reels around, escaping the sudden proximity of Kirishima’s. Sweat has gathered across Bakugou’s temples.

“What the shit! No!”

“People learn best when they’re comfortable – including a comfortable position,” Kirishima says by way of explanation.

That’s a gargantuan lie as far as Bakugou’s concerned. Learning, for Kirishima, should be synonymous with fucking suffering.

The very notion that being in contact with any part of Bakugou could be comfortable is outrageous in its own right. Only Kirishima would –

Bakugou pauses that line of thinking. Why is he so certain that Kirishima’s the exception to the rule? How has he come to anticipate this behavior, consider it normal?

This – all of this – is not normal. Not for Bakugou.

With a deft slap, Kirishima cracks Bakugou’s back.

Instantly, Bakugou’s whole mind smolders into raw, violent rage – I am going to beat the fucking shit out of you, you goddamn asshole bastard shithead rage.

His scream, however, is largely incoherent. His hands go off like firecrackers, like a bout of hiccups.

Kirishima gives a good-natured laugh. He seems pleased with himself, but not in a condescending manner.

“There, that’s what you needed.”

Unfortunately his kindness is now completely lost on Bakugou. Bakugou lunges.

And they’re on the floor, Kirishima pinned under Bakugou’s strength, struggling halfheartedly because he isn’t really concerned or uncomfortable with this arrangement. His lips wobble under Bakugou’s glower, then part to release fresh peals of laughter.

“Here’s your fucking tutoring!” Bakugou shouts, crumpling a sheet of paper and stuffing it in that delighted maw. Kirishima gasps, then continues to giggle through it. Bakugou wouldn’t be surprised if Kirishima just decided to swallow it.

Propping an elbow on Kirishima’s chest, Bakugou rests his chin in his palm and wrinkles his nose as if he’s inhaled the scent of rotting flesh. Certainly something is rotten in this situation, and it’s not him.

“You’re such a waste of my time,” Bakugou scoffs. He means every word of it, at least superficially, in reference to this moment specifically. Kirishima knows this. If he was always deemed a waste of Bakugou’s time, Bakugou would not stick around.

Kirishima spits out the paper.

“Having fun isn’t a waste of time!” he answers, “everyone needs it once in a while!”

A mantra Bakugou has heard to exhaustion and still disagrees with. At this point he barely even registers it.

“Don’t lower me to your fucking level,” he snaps. A genuine threat this time – from a lapse in ego, unvented indignation and exasperation. Kirishima knows how to treat that with the respect that’s due, too.

“All right, but I’m going to catch up to you someday, so start making room for me up there.”

Such a sly, confident smile. Kirishima’s cheeks are pushed up, his eyes narrowed. He looks like he’s hiding something, something secret that was wedged between the words Bakugou heard. Now he has to discern what, but there are no clues, only his intuition, his understanding of the story thus far. In that wild new direction will the chapters leap?

What exactly is Kirishima asking to be made room for? Bakugou must have it real fucking bad, if he’s willing to make room for someone else. In his life. Make room for them to be a part of his life.

Kirishima is definitely after something. If not Bakugou’s heart, then at least his strength.

But, man, Bakugou hopes it’s his heart.


At first, Bakugou’s predisposed to rebuff Kirishima’s request in the loudest, rudest way possible.

“Please take me mountain climbing!” Kirishima exclaims, lowering his torso into a perfectly horizontal bow, both arms packed firmly by his sides. Students are still filing into the classroom, waiting for their homeroom teacher to arrive. Bakugou has already taken his seat in the second row.

A look of absolute scorn comes over Bakugou, his head cocking to accentuate the smirk that splits across it. As high and unforgiving as the desert sun.

Crossing his legs loudly over his desk, he jeers, “you? Go mountain climbing? Ha! You’d fucking kill yourself trying!”

“That’s why!” Kirishima insists without looking up. He sounds so goddamn resolute, as if he truly believes that he can change Bakugou’s mind. Bakugou grinds his teeth.

He’s caught between relishing this act of reverence and wishing Kirishima would just straighten back up and stop making such a huge deal out of this – Bakugou has made it clear that Kirishima’s ridiculous courtesies mean nothing to him.

Or have his actions been conveying a contradicting message?

“That’s why I’m asking for your help!”

When it comes to stubbornness, they’re evenly matched. And yet, their arguments are rarely resolved with stalemates. Someone always decides to look eye to eye, whether it’s conscious or delicately camouflaged.

“I’m not your fucking babysitter, shithead!” Bakugou snarls, eyes narrowed with an animosity that is rapidly approaching murderous intent. His fingers twitch to grab Kirishima by the throat and blow him up, even if it’d be blocked. Kirishima’s punching bag potential just makes the prospect more enticing.

“Drill that through your thick skull!” Bakugou concludes, with a huff that feel like being spit on.

Kirishima should know better than to fuck with Bakugou like this. Regardless of being earnest, of harboring only good intentions, of not intending to seem entitled to the possibility of Bakugou’s cooperation, Kirishima’s presentation is sloppy, and that Bakugou can’t excuse. Kirishima should’ve thought this through better beforehand, taking into consideration what he knows about grinding Bakugou’s gears. Their relationship has fucking rules.

And what’s with dropping this outrageous appeal right before class, as if Bakugou’s not going to spend the entire lecture distracted by how furious it’s made him? In front of all their shitty, half-assed classmates? Not that he gives an infinitesimal fuck about them, but he’s significantly less aversive while not lowkey irritated by a reminder of their existence. It’s Bakugou 101, Kirishima.

Perhaps Bakugou has come to expect too much from Kirishima – but admitting that aloud, even in an attempt to mock his capabilities, would only flatter him. He loves being reminded of the fact that Bakugou has expectations for him at all. That Bakugou has made an exception in his dismissal of pretty much everybody around him.

Craning his neck to meet Bakugou’s glare, Kirishima summons an expression that is part apologetic and part imploring. One of his eyes is closed as sweat streaks the adjacent temple, but it looks like he’s winking, which ticks Bakugou off.

“I’m serious, man!” Kirishima proclaims, a tremble infiltrating his tone as if he’s become too emotional to proceed steadily. Here come the goddamn theatrics, Bakugou thinks.

Kirishima pauses to finally straighten himself up, then pounds his fist into his chest with excessive gallantry. Bakugou doesn’t want to like it but he does – Kirishima looks good when he flaunts his passion, even if it’s the last thing Bakugou wants to deal with at the moment.

Bakugou makes sure to roll his eyes before Kirishima leaps into his speech.

“This isn’t something I just have the impulse to do – I’ve given it a lot of thought! When I found out that you’re into mountain climbing, I thought, that’s so manly, right on, Bakugou! So I started learning about it! But to understand mountain climbing, you really have to experience it – and who better to guide me on my first trek than you? You’re awesome at everything else I’ve seen you do, so I’m sure you’ll be able to handle this, too! I already picked out a good place to –!”

Bakugou silences Kirishima by lifting his hand. But it’s not a dismissive gesture – it’s a pause between scenes.

Screwing his eyes shut, Bakugou kneads his fingers into his forehead and contemplates his options. That’s right: he has options.

At first, Bakugou was predisposed to rebuff Kirishima’s request. But his stance has shifted, and the prospect of dragging out this discussion unnecessarily exhausts him more than cutting straight to the finish line. A familiar thrill is enveloping him, like the first time Kirishima asked to be tutored. His resolve has reached Bakugou, as if through a magnifying glass, and now Bakugou’s raring to go. Bakugou has to confess that he’s surprised by how serious Kirishima is about this – perhaps even pleasantly so. Bakugou can’t tolerate a plentitude of things, but half-assedness is pretty goddamn high on the list.

This is how Kirishima should’ve approached Bakugou.

Snatching up Kirishima’s hand, Bakugou crushes it with formidable strength and exclaims, “you’ll regret asking for this!”

Kirishima’s grin, however, is spectacular.


Kirishima doesn’t call it a date.

Until he fucking does.

“Sorry, dude, I can’t hang out today! I have a date with Bakugou!” Kirishima tells Kaminari, all smiles and rainbows, like this is a perfectly normal explanation, like this is something anyone can just nod their head at and think, yeah, sounds about right. He says it right in front of Bakugou, too. The shameless, shit-eating bastard.

Kaminari shoots Bakugou a quick, smug slash appalled look, but doesn’t press the subject. Draping an arm around Kirishima’s shoulders, Kaminari pats him on the back to convey encouragement. They exchange vastly different looks: Kaminari of insidious understanding, Kirishima of oblivious excitement. Or maybe there’s more. Maybe they’re both in on it and Bakugou’s the one being made a fool of. Again.

It’s the abstractness of date – just that word, suspended, undefined – that bothers Bakugou so goddamn much. They’ve been on different types of dates before: study dates, sparring dates, even fucking play dates – but all of those have a clearly delimiting adjectives, establishing their purpose. Bakugou finds them inoffensive because, as far as he’s concerned, those adjectives eliminate the possibility of more intimate connotations. There is no romance going on there. They are diplomatic exchanges of services, a purely mentor-pupil relationship. But if Kirishima just calls it a date, of course everybody’s going to get the wrong idea about it. Bakugou’s getting a pretty infuriating idea of Kirishima’s intentions.

Bakugou should set their heads straight with a good pummel – next time they have combat training.

“Hey! Blockheads! We’re only going mountain climbing!”

Kirishima answers Bakugou’s hostility with a flawless laugh.

“Yeah! A mountain climbing date!”

With a snort, Bakugou returns to his work, but he feels far from satisfied by that exchange. For some reason, clarification isn’t squashing his embarrassment.

Chapter Text

Bakugou’s already familiar with this trail: short, straightforward, flat for the most part. It’s a leisurely walk, and he doesn’t do anything leisurely. Mountain climbing is fundamentally about experiencing and conquering danger, which is exactly why he’s a fan – that and he enjoys the solitude, the silence, the single-minded focus that melds into meditation.

Of course, today is a little different. He has company.

“You don’t mind if I talk, right?” asks Kirishima, matching Bakugou’s pace so he can’t be left behind. A huge backpack is strapped to his shoulders, filled with all the climbing essentials that Bakugou happened to mention during their crash course a few days ago (no way was Bakugou trusting whatever Kirishima learned on the Internet as enough). Bakugou’s mildly pleased that Kirishima took him seriously.

Bakugou answers with a cynical smile, as if to say depends on what comes out of your mouth, and so far your prospects aren’t looking good.

There’s a low chuckle. Folding his arms behind his head, Kirishima discreetly traces Bakugou’s profile with his gaze. Bakugou notices, but keeps his expression rigid, refusing to expose the mixture of delight, frustration, and disappointment that he’s experiencing. Pining after a guy that looks at you like he wants to press into you is the absolute worst.

“Well, first,” Kirishima says, and here Bakugou narrows his eyes with suspicion because first is an item on a list: it implies a second and who knows how many more. Kirishima employs this method when he needs to rush through a lot of information before Bakugou interrupts with an angry outburst.

Not that there’s any chance this has to do with the farfetched scenario where Kirishima saves Bakugou from a certain fall from grace by professing his romantic feelings first. It just occurs to Bakugou recurrently, obnoxiously, as intrusive thoughts do (and it only get worse when he attempts to repress it).

“I really appreciate you doing this for me!” continues Kirishima, his voice a blossoming tenor, but his hands have slipped behind his back and his gait betrays the emergence of bashfulness. Bakugou only risks a split-second glance, then screws his eyebrows as he stares at the path ahead.

“I enjoy mountain climbing,” he scoffs, as if that’s all there is to this. As if he doesn’t also enjoy Kirishima’s company. Heck, Bakugou enjoys Kirishima, period.

“This is nothing special.”

So don’t you dare make a big deal out of it, he thinks, but he can already hear Kirishima’s playful answer in his head: no promises.

Kirishima must indeed read Bakugou’s mind because he says, “you enjoy solitary mountain climbing.”

Now Bakugou has a dilemma. Kirishima’s trying to thank Bakugou in earnest, without letting Bakugou shrug it off or sell himself short. Kirishima seems to receive gratification from proving that Bakugou can be nice and does care about people. Bakugou, of course, knows it’s true, and knows why – because he fucking likes Kirishima –, but he still prefers to not have it rubbed in his face. The fact that a thanks is necessary at all embarrasses him. Yet sometimes he does appreciate it. He isn’t sure how that works. He’s a mystery to himself, too.
It has not yet occurred to Bakugou that he can accept Kirishima’s kindness without mistaking it for condescension.

In any case, it’s time to rebuke Kirishima’s smartass comment.

“Just don’t make me regret it,” Bakugou sneers, “I’ll leave you here on your fucking own.”

He isn’t bluffing.

Kirishima would really hate to have their mountain climbing date cut short like that, so he switches gears.

“You’ve been doing really well in combat training lately.”

Bakugou relaxes considerably when he hears this. A smirk reclaims its rightful place on his face.

“Of course, I’m the fucking best.”

The combination of Kirishima’s zealous grin and soft, slightly raised eyebrows make Bakugou sigh through his teeth before looking away. Kirishima can burden – embellish? – the ordinary with a palpable intimacy.

“But that’s the thing,” Kirishima says, each word soaked in awe, “I used to think, man, Bakugou’s so amazing! Without really understanding why. Now that I’ve had the chance to really get to know you, fighting alongside and against you, I feel like I can appreciate all the effort that you put into it – all your fighting techniques, and how you strategize, and what drives your passion. I mean, a lot of it’s still a mystery to me, but at least it’s up in my face, not something I admire from a distance.”

He laughs again, but this time it sounds like he’s using it to stifle something else. A pang in his chest, maybe.

Bakugou absorbs this information without commentary. While he more or less comprehends it, the feeling described is entirely foreign to him. Though Kirishima places combat at the core of his statement, Bakugou’s cognizant that he means more than just that: he means knowing Bakugou as an individual, inside and outside of heroics.

Bakugou’s only ever had one hero, and he’s never wished to know that man personally. There’s a reason heroes don titles and costumes.

But Bakugou and Kirishima are friends. This is an altogether different relationship.

“It’s… an honor,” concludes Kirishima, offering his friend a smile that’s much smaller than the one he wore before. Back to modest.

A sound dislodges Bakugou’s jaws, transforming into an incoherent grumble – vaguely contentious, vaguely perplexed. When his teeth gnash back together, they almost catch his tongue. Stuffing his hands in his pockets, his attention wanders to the scenery.

“Still,” says Kirishima, in the tone of a brand-new conversation. “Aizawa keeps saying we should work on our teamwork.”

That statement immediately activates Bakugou’s fight or fight reflex (he doesn’t possess a flight reflex). His teeth emerge framed by a snarl.

“I told him I don’t do fucking teamwork.”

Kirishima regards Bakugou with a face that is approaching deadpan. He seems to have anticipated this reaction. Now he must hazard the response he rehearsed.

Sucking in an audible breath, Kirishima trudges forward: “yeah, but if it can make us stronger, it’s worth a shot, right? We’ll have to work with other heroes once we’re pros. It’s important to develop that skill beforehand.”

Bakugou stops, then reels sideways to face Kirishima fully.  This whole trip has rubbing him the wrong way, putting him in an awful mood. In such cases, even Kirishima isn’t impervious to Bakugou’s brutality.

“No,” he snaps, but low, foreboding, like a flame that has been heated into cerulean.

When Kirishima lowers his gaze, Bakugou gasps – small, inaudible, but it shakes his composure like fault lines. He realizes he’s been set up, tricked into partaking in what’s about to follow. All the weird things Kirishima’s been saying are for this ultimatum.

“But, like, hypothetically,” Kirishima starts, more steadfast than nervous, “if you had to pick someone to team up with… It’d be me, right?”

The tingling that precedes laughter envelopes Bakugou, but his grimace remains rigid. His throat feels congested. His head like Styrofoam.

Bakugou starts walking again. Undeterred, Kirishima pursues. Neither attempts to establish eye contact.

Bakugou’s answer comes after a pause, when enough times has passed for him to tell himself: it could be the answer to anything, not necessarily what we were talking about. He needs that dissonance.

“Yeah.”

A reluctant but honest murmur. It leaves him with a pout.

Kirishima’s features swell like the phases of the moon in fast motion, bright and full and magnetically charged. His mouth hurts from stretching so far, but it’d hurt more to repress it. The painful pitterpatter in his chest straightens into a more comfortable rhythm, still anxious but outmatched by elation.

This is the verification he’s been looking for. Like an artist with a new idea, he’s in a state of inspiration.

Bakugou feels Kirishima exhale on the side of his face.

“Can I hold your hand?”

Bakugou turns to glare at Kirishima. Disbelief and indignation. His face scrunches up as if afflicted by seasickness.

Despite inquiring politely, Kirishima doesn’t wait for Bakugou to give his consent. Kirishima’s warm, sweaty fingers lace through Bakugou’s first, forming a solid grip. Then their palms brush – nervous? Coquettish? Utterly accidental? Like hell Bakugou knows –, before clapping together. There are literal sparks, but fortunately no smoke.

Bakugou tenses up. Friction crackles in his muscles.

Why’d you even fucking ask! his mind fumes, but he only manages to spit out the first word.

Why?” Bakugou hisses through clenched teeth. At least it’s strong, assertive, like swinging his fist into a wall that he intends to blow through. That’s the demeanor he needs to be projecting right now.

The best course of action would be to shake Kirishima off, but instead Bakugou’s frustration translates into a grip that would break a weaker individual’s fingers. Kirishima matches it with fervor.

What an absurd charade.

“So I don’t get lost!” Kirishima chimes, with no hint of any actual concern for that possibility. “There’s so much wilderness here.”

If you just follow the fucking trail, even a knucklehead like you can’t get lost! Bakugou thinks, but he knows Kirishima’s using a feeble excuse on purpose. It isn’t meant to try to deceive Bakugou, or conceal the fact that he doesn’t have a reasonable explanation for wanting to hold Bakugou’s hand. But if Bakugou pushes, Kirishima will be forced to give a different answer – a real answer.

But isn’t that what Bakugou’s been hoping to hear? Doesn’t he want to corner Kirishima? He’s done participating in this shitshow extravaganza. This outing has been infuriating enough as it stands. If Kirishima wants to hold Bakugou’s fucking hand, he better have prepared a goddamn speech to convince –

“Bakugou,” Kirishima says: sharp, weakly subdued, like he’s trying to sit still through a formal event but giddiness is getting the best of him.

Bakugou turns to face him – no, that isn’t right: he feels himself being turned by Kirishima, as if the utterance of his name is a command his body must heed. A survival reflex.

Sure enough, Kirishima has stepped forward: one of those steps that seem small and insignificant but moves his body quite a bit. A game breaking action when they’re already pretty damn close to begin with.

They stare at each other like wild animals that have never encountered the other’s species, suspended by both unease and curiosity, wondering whether nature dictates them enemies or potential partners.

Bakugou feels like a great weight has suddenly been dropped on him. Kirishima’s thumb is rubbing into Bakugou’s hand, but otherwise he appears just as rigid. Heat drenches Bakugou’s body like a flashflood, the blush creeping across his face so thick it could be scraped off with a fucking knife.

It’s happening. Bakugou can’t say exactly what is happening, but he knows with absolute certainty that it is. Something important. Something good, but also bad, that pisses him off because he wants to hurry it up, gauge whether it’s one of those necessary evils or he’s playing the martyr for no reason. Something that’ll make him choke on his firework heart. Maybe what he’s been waiting for.

Kirishima’s leaning in. He’s going to –

Pull back like he’s just been clocked in the face.

“I can’t do it!” Kirishima shouts, screwing his eyes shut and shaking his head in defeat. His bottom lip is wobbling as if there’s waterworks in his horoscope. Bakugou sure as hell hopes there aren’t – that’s the absolute last thing he wants to fucking deal with today.

“What can’t you do?” Bakugou barks, but Kirishima’s already dashing past him, heading straight for the trees. No fucking way, Bakugou thinks, this dumbass is actually going to get himself lost.

Get the fuck back here!” he bellows.

Lowering himself to the ground, Bakugou uses his quirk for propulsion, quickly outpacing Kirishima, who still seems dead set on making an emergency exit out of this situation. Damn two-bit coward.

Swinging his arms to catch Kirishima in a headlock, Bakugou sends them both tumbling through the undergrowth until Bakugou collapses on top of Kirishima. Were it not for Kirishima’s hardening quirk, Bakugou definitely would’ve snapped his neck.

Kirishima’s stunned into silence, panting and staring wide eyed, but Bakugou immediately grabs Kirishima by the collar of his shirt and shakes.

“What the fuck’s your problem! What do you think you’ve been doing all this time! Explain yourself! Explain what’s going on this fucking second!”

Bakugou’s going to sink his goddamn teeth into Kirishima if that’s what it takes to bleed the truth out of him. Seeing that desperateness in Bakugou’s glaring eyes, Kirishima gasps.

A single tear squeezes through Kirishima’s eye. That’s how overwhelmed he feels.

In a reserved, embarrassed whisper, Kirishima confesses, “I was going to kiss you.”

Dropping Kirishima, Bakugou regards him with skepticism, an insulted scowl already etching across his face. He’s still half expecting Kirishima to cover that up with one of his flimsy excuses, but the truth of the matter is that even Kirishima can’t pretend fucking kissing is platonic.

Of course, what Bakugou’s demanding here is the whole story, so allowing himself to be stumped there would prove counterproductive.

“Why?”

No ranting, no expletives – just that one word question.

Surprise arches Kirishima’s eyebrows, though it’s unclear if this is in response to Bakugou’s calmness or his need to ask at all. But then Kirishima’s been leading Bakugou in circles for months, so he must claim responsibility for this.

“Because I like you!” shouts Kirishima, passion pouring back into his demeanor. He grabs Bakugou’s hand, presses it to his chest, and Bakugou can feel that rapid cadence as if it were his own, that phenomenon that dumbfounds them both but for opposite reasons. Clearly, there’s no point in being coy at this stage.

There never was, you blind idiot, Bakugou’s mind grumbles, but he holds his tongue.

“I like you a whole lot! More – more than friends do!”

Kirishima’s fumbling as if he’s misplaced his cue cards, starting words and then cutting himself off because they don’t sound as smooth as the speech he scripted. All the planning in the world can revert to nonsense when panic interferes. Kirishima should know that, since it’s half the reason he scores so poorly in exams.

“Like you enough to want to kiss you!” Kirishima blurts out, as radiant as the sunlight that trickles through a window to wake people up in the morning.

And then, as if a curtain has been draped across it, Kirishima reverts back to sullen.

“But I’m pretty sure you don't like me that way,” he mumbles, making an effort to be coherent despite the gravity on his chest. “I knew you’d turn me down if I confessed, so I, I – I decided I’d kiss you first, just so I got to do it once!”

Against both of their expectations, Bakugou looks impressed – begrudgingly impressed, but impressed nonetheless. He’s stopped fluctuating between pleasure and dread: now he just experiences them simultaneously, which is, quite frankly, far worse. The tracks of this roller coaster ride are going unhinged, but he’s still strapped in and doesn’t know the code to unlock his seat.

Kirishima grinds his knuckles into his eyes for a moment before continuing.

“But that’s all wrong! You’re supposed to ask before kissing someone! It was cowardly and unmanly of me to even consider it!”

Oh, he’s such a goddamn good boy.

Bakugou’s uncanny composure detonates into rage again. Leaning as close as possible to Kirishima without their faces actually touching, he growls, “listen here, this whole liking me and wanting to kiss me business better have been a fucking recent revelation, because if you’ve just been liking me for a while –”

“Dude!” interjects Kirishima, “I’ve liked you for ages!”

Bakugou’s fist explodes against the ground next to Kirishima’s head. Kirishima glances nervously at the crater it leaves.

And you waited this fucking long to say something?” yells Bakugou.

Kirishima pouts as if he’s unjustly being made fun of. The self-righteous astonishment of someone that’s been presented with a preposterous idea.

“I’ve been trying to –!”

“No!” Bakugou barks, repeatedly jabbing an index finger into Kirishima’s chest. “You don’t get to act surprised! And you don’t get to pretend like you’ve been fucking blatant about this, either! It’s goddamn obvious that I like you, too, and it’s your own fault for failing to realize it!”

Bakugou, of course, is just as guilty of not being honest, but he’s already completely submerged in his self-appointed role of martyr. The mechanics of their relationship clearly dictate that Kirishima should’ve been the lovesick sap that couldn’t help blurting out his feelings the moment he realized they were romantic. Bakugou’s never letting Kirishima off the hook for almost forcing him to be the one to confess first.

The notion of Kirishima truly being so oblivious to his own feelings that Bakugou must present him with some kind of PowerPoint on why he’s hopelessly enamored with Bakugou is going to come back in his nightmares – because he was so sure they’d need it.

Is this better or worse? Bakugou’s going to refrain from thinking about it too hard. His energy should go to glaring down Kirishima’s positively dazzled expression. Idiot still hasn’t said anything.

Kirishima may have taken the initiative, but it was Bakugou’s insistence that got the job done. Their teamwork is always chaotic like that.

“You goddamn dumbass,” Bakugou grumbles under his breath, more to himself now than Kirishima. “Acting like you had no idea how you felt, leading me on like that, while I was stuck fucking pining after you –”

Kirishima kisses Bakugou. It’s not even, like, a timid first kiss – Kirishima quite literally smashes into Bakugou, shutting his eyes to avoid registering the damage. It feels kind of like dropping flat onto a pool: pain shooting through their whole bodies, then dissolving into a sensation that is balmy and buoyant, as perfectly encompassing as liquid. Bakugou’s heart careens into his ribcage, then drums in his face, sending sparks all the way to the shoulder blade that Kirishima’s fitting his hand into. An embrace, impulsive and improvised, but nonetheless tender, as if ordinated by nature. Kirishima’s throat sings a steady mmm.

Bakugou gasps when they separate, still digesting shock. Kirishima’s biting down on his lower lip, but Bakugou can’t tell if it’s because he’s ashamed of having broken his man code or he’s just really fucking glad he went ahead with this anyway. Probably a bit of both.

Bakugou should’ve seen this coming. Alas, he remains flabbergasted.

“I didn’t say anything because I was scared you’d think of me differently,” Kirishima explains, “you’re clearly not the friend making type, so I was really happy you could count on me as one, and I didn’t want to risk ruining that. But then I kept screwing up, doing things that were so obviously gay. Even when I tried to cover it up, I felt like you’d already seen through me, like you’d already moved from liking to tolerating me, and at any moment I was going to mess up just bad enough for you to tell me to fuck off.”

Though he utters these words with tremendous sadness, the look he gives Bakugou is relieved, hopeful. Bakugou has the urge to cradle Kirishima in his arms while murmuring something soft and sweet, but that’s a little too much for his current comfort levels. The thought of it, however, is a breakthrough in of itself.

“So you were teasing me,” grumbles Bakugou, still feeling duped by this development.

“O, oh?” Kirishima stammers, eyebrows raising, mouth blossoming into a smirk. “Did you feel teased?”

Averting his gaze, Bakugou sniffs indignantly.

That’s adorable, dude!” Kirishima says through a chuckle, “I’m flattered!”

Whatever!” snaps Bakugou, “just stop doing it!”

“No more teasing,” Kirishima agrees, “from now on, we can just –”

Their lips reunite in a more orderly fashion, Kirishima’s initial desperateness appeased now that he knows he’ll be getting plenty of chances to kiss Bakugou in the future. Bakugou has literally no idea what he’s doing but he’s learns best by running headfirst into things anyway. And there’s no way he’s letting Kirishima get ahead of him in this department, either.

“Yeah,” murmurs Bakugou, regarding Kirishima with both wonder and triumph, his previous frustration gradually subsiding.

One of Kirishima’s hands threads through Bakugou’s hair, fingers massaging tenderly into his scalp. The sensation unsettles Bakugou a little, like it’s an insect scuttling across him instead, but he resists swatting Kirishima away. Generally speaking, Bakugou is aversive towards physical contact, especially anything that can be labeled as intimate. But affection – liking Kirishima, considering him a friend, now more – has been an acquired taste for Bakugou, so the same may be true of gestures like this. He is going to have to wait and see what happens.