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Slow to Start (But Quick to Burn)

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According to basically everyone, not that Bakugou gave a single shit about any of their opinions, Bakugou was an amazingly terrible omega. His personality was abrasive, his quirk too strong, his language coarse bordering on obscene, his ability to cooperate with others nearly as underdeveloped as his competitive nature was overpowered. Instead of smoothing social interactions, Bakugou invariably escalated them. He could read social cues just fine, he just didn't give a shit about them, which most people thought was a worse crime than if he couldn't read them at all.

"Language!" his grandmother had snapped at him once when he bitched her out for trying to comb his hair flat for a family picture. His hair was another point of contention, but that came straight from his genetics and there was fuckall his grandmother could do about that. "Must you always sound so unbecoming? No alpha's going to want you with a mouth like that, no matter how pretty your face is!"

"The fuck do I care about alphas?" Bakugou had retorted, twelve and barely presented and irritated by the way presenting so far seemed only to mean a longer list of shit people told him to quit doing. "Let go, you old bag!"

"You're a disgrace," his grandmother had said, exasperated. "You need to learn to be gentle, refined!"

"Not that he should care about any of that shit yet," Bakugou's mother cut in, despite the fact that she snapped at Bakugou for his language roughly seventeen times a day. Mitsuki didn't get along particularly well with her mother-in-law, much to her wife's chagrin. "Being a little rough around the edges didn't stop me finding my alpha."

The argument had been cut off by the photographer at that point, and Bakugou hadn't thought much about it for the rest of the day, used to being scolded by relatives and everyone else for his behavior and mouth. He was mildly surprised that his mother brought it up again that night, while he was brushing his teeth for bed.

"You know not to listen to that, right?" she said, leaning in the doorway of the bathroom, arms crossed. "What your grandmother says. She's old-fashioned."

"No shit," Bakugou muttered around his toothbrush, then spat in the sink. When he turned around, his mother was looking him over critically, blocking the doorway. "What?"

"As if with a quirk like yours, being a sweet little omega's your biggest worry," Mitsuki snorted, almost to herself. Her expression was funny, though, making Bakugou pause instead of telling her to get the fuck out of his way like he usually would have. "Hey. The right alpha won't care you're like this, okay? And if they do care, then they're not the right one and you shouldn't give a shit what they like or don't like."

"I don't care about this," Bakugou snapped, mostly just confused they were still talking about it. He was more confused when his mother swept him into a rough hug, tight enough to squeeze the air out of his lungs.

"Good," she said into his hair. "Don't care about it for ages, okay? Like until you're thirty."

"Jesus fuck, Mom," Bakugou growled, struggling in vain to get free. "Just 'cause you got knocked up just outta high school—OW!" He cut off when his mother tweaked his ear hard.

Whatever, Bakugou thought. He didn't give a shit about alphas and omegas or any of that bullshit, because he was going to be a top-ranked hero, just like All Might, and there were plenty of beta and omega heroes so the fact that All Might was an alpha seemed, to Bakugou, incidental at best. What seemed much more pressing was getting into UA, which no one had ever managed from his shitty little middle school. He spent every minute he had to spare working the training plan he'd made with his mother, the one time her fussy attention to detail had worked to Bakugou's advantage (although his mom had laughed in their faces when they showed her the diet part). The only thing that distracted Bakugou momentarily was Midoriya presenting as a beta. It wasn't that Bakugou gave a fuck what that goddamn side character was doing, but in as much as betas were generally considered stronger than omegas on the bullshit stereotype scale, it was fucking annoying, plus betas got a lot less crap about secondary gender norms and what they were supposed to be like or do.

So it ground every last one of Bakugou's gears that Midoriya wouldn't shut up about trying for UA, like all of Bakugou's effort was some kind of joke, and then of fucking course it would be that guy who was somehow in the middle of All Might saving Bakugou from that slime quirk guy. Bakugou had nightmares about it for weeks, about that asshole touching him all over like every single pore, but in his waking hours it was easier to focus all that rage and frustration on fucking Deku sticking his nose into Bakugou's business like he thought he was better, like Bakugou would ever need some shitty beta's help, much less in front of his favorite hero. After a while it was hard to even look at Midoriya without wanting to blow up half a city block, so Bakugou started avoiding him instead. The last thing he needed was to get himself expelled just before entrance exams.

So of course Midoriya got into UA as well. Bakugou tried to ignore that part, to just be excited that he'd been the best in the exam, that he was going to his top choice after all that work. But one quiet voice in the back of his head kept repeating, all the time, that if a nobody quirkless nothing like Deku could do it, then Bakugou wasn't so great, was he?

Bakugou's first weeks at UA were a shakeup of most of his internal foundations, even setting aside the teeth-grinding frustration that a snotstain like Midoriya had somehow not only been hiding a quirk all this time, but also the fact that he was an alpha, as if he were purposely digging into the one thing that could possibly piss Bakugou off worse. For the first time in his life, Bakugou wasn't the best at everything without trying, either grades or fights or quirks. He wasn't special here, at least not in the way he was used to being special; unbalanced, Bakugou was even more of a short-tempered asshole than usual.

"Do you have to be such a shit all the time?" Ashido demanded, hands on her hips. They'd slammed into each other trying to get through the doorway at the same time, loosing a flood of curses from Bakugou. "Calm down!"

"Fuck you, Bubblegum!" Bakugou spat back. Usually Bakugou didn't give two shits about alphas trying to push him around, but lately everything seemed to needle in deep under his skin. "Because I should just scuttle out of your way like a good little omega, right?"

"No, because it's annoying as shit," Ashido informed him, brushing past him with her nose in the air. Bakugou had choked on his reply, so convinced they were having a different kind of argument that it took him a second to reorient himself, and by then Ashido was gone around the corner.

UA was weird, because they were all so overpowered there wasn't that much difference between the alphas, betas, and omegas, once Bakugou pulled his head out of his ass and started to actually look at his classmates. Some of them fit their stereotype well enough, like calm and steady Asui being a beta and how Aoyama had a classic omega need for attention from the others. Others were as big a surprise as Bakugou himself, like quiet, nervous Uraraka being an alpha, or gigantic muscular Shoji turning out an omega. And something was going on with Todoroki that Bakugou couldn't put a finger on, not that he give enough of a fuck to try, where his secondary traits seemed almost as split down the middle as his stupid half-and-half hair.

The point was that here Bakugou fit in just fine, or at least wasn't much weirder than anybody else, so when they gave him shit for his bad personality, it was because they actually saw him rather than because of some bullshit stereotyping. That felt good and grating at the same time, and it took Bakugou weeks to figure out how to unpack any of that.

And then there was Kirishima Eijirou. He sure looked like an alpha, obnoxious dye job spiked to the moon and costume shirtless just to show off how much time he spent working out, but his personality was a complete puzzle to Bakugou. Kirishima had no problem letting others be in charge or taking orders. Instead of posturing for attention, Kirishima was more like social glue, smoothing out the inevitable bickering and personality conflicts between classmates. If he lost a match or a contest, instead of getting angry he'd grin easily and say how awesome the other person was for being stronger.

"You're so strong!" he'd gushed to Bakugou after hero training in those first unbalanced, infuriating weeks.

"Hah?!" Bakugou demanded, already on edge because of Aizawa scolding him again about his radius of destruction in the simulated city block. He closed his fist around an explosion, smoke rising between his fingers. "Say 'for an omega' and I'll blow your shitty haircut right off!"

"Strong for anybody, dude," Kirishima replied, undeterred. Hands on his hips, he looked Bakugou over, head to toe. "No wonder you were first in the practical exam!"

"What the fuck ever," Bakugou growled, giving one last glare to Kirishima's guileless smile before stomping off. "Do you a favor if I did blow it off."

Kirishima would not leave Bakugou alone, but he was never casually grabby the way a lot of alphas were. Unless they were sparring, Kirishima respected the large bubble of personal space Bakugou defended with snarls and warning explosions. Even after the sports festival, after Bakugou was forced to admit they hadn't made the worst team and that Kirishima was maybe not quite as shitty as his hair would lead to believe, Kirishima seemed to have a sixth sense for when he was pushing against Bakugou's boundaries. Bakugou would be opening his mouth to tell Kirishima to get the fuck away, only to realize that Kirishima was already across the room causing some kind of ruckus with Kaminari or Sero.

Sometimes that got under Bakugou's skin even worse than Kirishima pestering him. Bakugou didn't care to think deeply on exactly why that was. It was exactly the same irritation that led to Bakugou snapping that Kirishima should study with him instead of the rest of the idiots. By the time Bakugou's brain had caught up to his mouth, Kirishima had already said yes and was grinning at him like he'd won first place in the idiot parade.

Bakugou braced himself to regret the whole thing, but as it turned out Kirishima wasn't actually bad at schoolwork or comprehension, he just had a hard time keeping himself focused, plus he needed a fair amount of practice right away after having something explained to him for it to sink in the whole way.

"No." Bakugou rapped the back of Kirishima's hand with his pencil when he saw it start to creep towards Kirishima's phone. He shoved the set of math problems he'd been correcting back across the library table. "Do these two again, and focus, for fuck's sake. You keep making stupid mistakes in the middle because you're rushing."

"I can't fit any more into my brain," Kirishima whined, but he redid the problems Bakugou pointed at, and then the next two without needing correction. He was almost the entire way caught up, actually, and they still had two days to spare. The situation wasn't nearly as dire as Bakugou had thought, given that Kirishima was 15th in the class.

"I don't get you," Bakugou said as they were leaving. "You get this shit just fine. What's the problem?"

Kirishima rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. "The semester just got away from me, I guess. So much stuff happened, and with the sports festival and internships…it's hard for me to focus on more than one thing at a time, you know? I worked so hard to get in here for hero training, I keep forgetting the regular stuff needs a bunch of my time too."

"If you get the problem then fucking fix it," Bakugou grumbled. "You won't be much of a pro after you flunk out of hero school, moron. That's what you want to do, right?"

"Mmhmm!" Kirishima threaded his fingers together behind his head, elbows spread wide. "I'm gonna keep training until I'm the strongest! Until I'm strong enough to protect everyone I love."

"I knew you were made of alpha bullshit," Bakugou said, making Kirishima laugh. "That's impossible, and also not at all what being a pro hero is."

"Gonna do it anyway," Kirishima said with a grin so broad that Bakugou looked away first, clicking his tongue in disgust.

And maybe that was all alpha bullshit, but it was Kirishima whose hand reached out for him at Kamino. Kirishima's rough, calloused hands were the ones strong enough to grab him, and afterwards it was his arms crushing Bakugou tight against his chest, almost too tight to breathe. Bakugou took it rather than shoving him off, even though his skin was crawling with hot-cold panic flashes, and the back of his throat was metallic with adrenaline.

"I couldn't, god, I froze and," Kirishima was muttering against Bakugou's neck, his words too scattered to make much sense. Bakugou thought he might be crying. "I couldn't reach you, I couldn't—"

"Shut the fuck up," Bakugou told him, fingers curling in the front of Kirishima's shirt. Why was Kirishima crying and not him? Wouldn't it be normal to cry? Bakugou just felt hollow inside, shock probably. When he squeezed his eyes shut, all he saw was All Might's emaciated form, Shigareki in the bar cooing about how he'd be the strongest villain. "You did reach me, I'm here. Pull your shit together." Kirishima made a noise that was definitely a sob, his breathing shallow and too fast. "Jesus Christ, breathe, idiot."

"YOU shut up," Kirishima snapped between hiccups. "Quit soothing me! I'm rescuing you!"

"Get over yourself," Bakugou muttered. Exhaustion was starting to creep in, dropping his forehead against Kirishima's shoulder. He smelled like smoke and sweat and acrid panic, but underneath was enough of Kirishima's regular scent, comforting in its familiarity. Bakugou caught himself breathing in deeply to catch more of it, gritting his teeth at his own omega bullshit for the way that was slowing his heart rate.

When the police said that Bakugou had to come with them, there was a moment where Kirishima's fingers locked around Bakugou's wrist, and Bakugou wasn't sure he was going to let go. He wasn't sure he wanted Kirishima to let go, and that thought was annoying enough that Bakugou yanked his wrist away and turned to stomp off.

"Wait!" Kirishima yelled, fingers digging into Bakugou's shoulder. Bakugou started to snarl to back the fuck off, but Kirishima was stripping off his jacket and shoving it into Bakugou's hands, eyes pleading. "You've only got your T-shirt, take it, just…take it."

Bakugou clenched his fingers in the fabric and turned away, unable to look at the way Kirishima's expression was desperate and frustrated. He shoved it down into the same hollow place where All Might and Deku rescuing him and being kidnapped by villains for days were already sitting. Once in the back of the police car, he put Kirishima's jacket on because it was stupid just to hold it. For the first two hours he sat around the police station, Bakugou kept catching fleeting whiffs of Kirishima's scent from it, and when even that faded, Bakugou scrunched down in the uncomfortable plastic chair and folded his arms tight over his chest to lock inside the panic that kept trying to claw its way out.

In the time between Kamino and moving into the dorms, his normally permissive parents kept Bakugou on what amounted to house arrest, and Bakugou knew he was messed up because he didn't even care about it. Ever since he was a kid he'd hated being trapped in the house, and hated it even more when told he couldn't go out or do something alone; now Bakugou spent long afternoons curled up in bed even though he couldn't sleep, mostly staring at the ceiling even when his laptop was beside him streaming bullshit hero news. His mom was dragging him out to see a therapist every other day, and he said it was all normal and it would take time, but Bakugou hardly found that comforting when he was staring at his ceiling at 3 AM and wondering what kind of shitty hero was this fucked up when villains hadn't even injured him.

Kirishima came to visit after a week. Bakugou rolled onto his side facing the wall and told his mom to tell him to fuck off, but she shoved Kirishima in the room anyway. Bakugou heard the soft noise of Kirishima's socked feet crossing his carpet, felt the dip of his mattress when Kirishima sat down.

"Your jacket's on my chair," Bakugou said into the awkward silence. He hadn't had any further use for it after it stopped smelling like Kirishima, so he'd tossed it over the chair and it had been there ever since.

"You can keep it." Kirishima's fingers rested on Bakugou's shoulder, light as a butterfly. "Hey. Lemme see you."

Bakugou rolled onto his back with a grunt of annoyance and let Kirishima look all he wanted. He knew he looked like shit, hair unwashed and matted, dark rings under his eyes, lips ragged from chewing on them. Kirishima hardly looked better, mouth a tight line and hair down and eyes full of worry. "Don't fucking look at me like that. Take your pity and fuck right off."

"I keep dreaming about it," Kirishima said, and apparently they were going to talk about it. His hand trailed down Bakugou's arm until he reached Bakugou's hand, clutching it tight. "It's not even a nightmare, you know? We always save you, and I wake up and I know you're safe. But it's still intense. Makes me feel like I haven't slept at all."

"I wouldn't know," Bakugou said, setting off warning sparks against Kirishima's palm to make him let go.

Kirishima didn't let go, didn't even harden his palm. "Maybe it'll be better now that I've seen you. Sit up."

"No," Bakugou refused. He grunted when Kirishima used their joined hands to yank him up anyway, bicep cording with the effort. Bakugou struggled when Kirishima pulled him right against his chest and wrapped arms around him. "Fuck OFF. I don't need—"

"I do. So shut up a minute." Kirishima pressed his forehead against Bakugou's cheek, and Bakugou fought every instinct of his body telling him to do the same thing, to bury his nose against Kirishima's scent gland, the scent that had been the only thing that had felt calming in that police station. "Midoriya said—"

"Don't you fucking DARE," Bakugou warned, "talk to ME about THAT—"

"He said it had to be me," Kirishima pushed through Bakugou's spitting, and Bakugou froze. "That you wouldn't let anyone else reach out for you. I thought he was nuts, because why would you trust any of us after we weren't strong enough before to keep you safe? How could you trust me?"

"You weren't even there when they took me," Bakugou snapped, but it didn't have any force. He was just so tired. "It had nothing to do with you in the first place, rocks for brains, not with any of you. If I weren't so fucking weak—"

"Bakugou, no—"

"Because I couldn't hold my shit together at the Sports Festival," Bakugou barreled on, "I lost my fucking temper even when I knew they were going to play that shit on TV, and those villains took one look at me and thought that's the one, the most unstable one, we're gonna grab that fucking kid. And you know what? They were fucking RIGHT. Don't tell me it's not all my own fault!"

"It's not your fault," Kirishima said. He said it again when Bakugou squirmed and cursed, again while Bakugou was shoving against Kirishima and calling him every name including a few that didn't even make sense. He murmured it low and steady like a mantra, it's not your fault, until Bakugou went limp against him, exhausted.

"Shut up," Bakugou told him, throat hoarse. "Shut the fuck up."

"Okay." Kirishima gave Bakugou one last, iron-tight squeeze, and then let go. "Wanna go get ice cream? Your mom said she'd take us."

"…Fine."

At the 31 Flavors, Bakugou ordered a triple made of all the flavors that had pop rocks in, then shoveled it silently into his face while Kirishima and his mother filled up all the spaces with their loud gossiping. After they came home, Kirishima stayed until dark playing video games sprawled across Bakugou's bed, complaining loud and long about how obnoxious it was that Bakugou was just as great at kicking his ass at Super Smash Bros as everything else.

He gave Bakugou another tight hug before he left, and when he was gone the silence was so loud that Bakugou turned his TV up and up until his mom stomped upstairs just to bitch at him about it.

[home safe!] Kirishima's text lit up the lock screen of his phone, drawing Bakugou's attention away from the hero news. [busy tomorrow but wanna hang out friday?]

"Who even asked you?" Bakugou snarled, pushing his phone off his bed.