There was nothing better than feeling the air rush by him as he ducked and twisted, completing exercise after exercise, listening to his own blood rushing in his ears and feeling the steady beat of his heart. There was nothing like the feeling he got when he reached the end of the course with a better time than the last, his own record broken alone with the school record.
Transferring had never been in his plans. It had been the last thing he wanted. He had always wanted to attend UA, had done everything he could to ensure he got in. It hadn’t been the plan to leave it, but plans change.
They had to change.
It hadn’t been safe for him there, according to his psychiatrist and his parents and Recovery Girl when he finally reached his limit and passed out. People didn’t understand that he just didn’t like them. The very fact that he was a ‘not-so social’ person was a lost concept on them—his very being wrong and out of place. It hadn’t just been the villains that made it unsafe, but the heroes, the students, the environment. It hadn’t been good for him to be there, at least not without taking a break.
The transfer wasn’t permanent—a distinction he clung to fiercely—but rather only for three months.
It had originally started as a way for him to get some help, but ended up with the addition of him getting a lot of training—different from how they did it at UA.
He had found himself unconsciously distrusting of the staff at UA after the Sports Festival. He hadn’t meant to, but he remembered the feeling of the gag around his mouth and the bite of the restraints on his hands. He remembered his childhood hero forcing a medal he hadn’t wanted—hadn’t earned—into his mouth, in between his teeth. He remembered too vividly people calling him ‘not hero material’ because he hadn’t been a sexist ass and underestimated round-face. The girl had gotten into UA, hadn’t she? Why should he have taken it easy on her? He remembered the burn of millions of eyes on him, taking in a victory that hadn’t been his, looking at him like he was some sort of circus attraction in a freak show, tied and gagged as he was.
His distrust of the staff had grown to the point that he couldn’t get help from them when the nightmares began, when problems arose with his classmates. He hadn’t wanted to get help, but the removal of the option made everything worse somehow—even when he knew he wouldn’t take it had it been there. And then the villain attack had happened, and everything had spiraled until he had been getting roughly three hours of sleep per week and his patience had hit an all time low.
Three months away had been what had been decided on thanks to Aizawa and his parents working together to find a suitable plan to help him despite how little he wanted any form of help. His mother had kindly informed him that she very much ‘did not fucking care whether he wanted help or not; he was getting it, dammit’. He had ended up in Germany, living in an apartment at a boarding school they had there. He continued his hero training in a specialized course they made special for him so that he would be in the same place as his classmates when he returned, but they let him join in with the classes the heroes-in-training there underwent.
He was supposed to head back to Japan soon, though. His three months would be finished in a week, and he’d be on a plane home to spend the weekend with his parents and then return to UA come Monday—back to his dorm room and old classmates and a curriculum that he had a feeling wouldn’t be quite as satisfyingly intense.
Things were done differently in Germany.
The students didn’t force him to engage in conversations or whisper that he wouldn’t be able to be a hero if he didn’t smile and laugh and join in with everyone and throw up rainbows. They seemed to understand that he just wanted to keep to himself and train and become a hero and save some lives.
You didn’t need to socialize and get along with everyone to do that.
They cared if he could work together with them when needed to. It had been a hard thing for him to do, though, never having been a fan of accepting help, but there were others there like him that didn’t like accepting help either. They wanted to do things on their own, but sometimes they had to cooperate whether they wanted to or not. When he finally proved he could, he was met with an easy acceptance—understanding thrown into the mix, as well, the other students seeming to get that he considered himself the most reliable and trusted his own self only. It was a mentality that he was not alone in, he discovered.
It was one that Class 1-A sorely lacked, though, back in Japan.
His short fuse didn’t matter. The fact that he was blunt didn’t matter. The fact that he scored above them all didn’t matter. The fact that he had taken to the language rather easily didn’t matter. None of it mattered because what they saw was someone competent and someone who was willing to do what needed to be done in order to be the most efficient and most successful and save as many lives as possible.
The psychiatrist he was seeing had a system in place for him that worked. They had agreed on it after a week of argument—the arguing mainly coming from himself while the doctor did his best to accommodate.
The teachers of the school designed him a curriculum that worked best for his state while fulfilling the requirements Aizawa and UA had put forth, but they put their own twist on it, making it more extensive since it was directed at one person only and not a whole class—the speed would be different. His training was intense and specialized in both quirk and non-quirk related exercises, encompassing a wide variety of martial arts, strength and endurance training; things he had elected to take because—well, because they did things differently in Germany.
He had asked—after a long discussion with his psychiatrist who had also accompanied him to meet with the teachers—if they could help him train without his hearing. He was already hard of hearing and his hearing would be all but gone completely by the time he was twenty—being optimistic. The knowledge that he would soon be losing his hearing did little to help his mental state, simply providing another reason for him to feel a burgeoning panic because there was the distinctly real possibility that he wouldn’t be able to hear someone about to attack him.
They had agreed and started to teach him how to notice others without being able to hear them and how to feel a surprise attack without being able to hear the brush of footsteps. They took it a step further by teaching him to fight without being able to see, seeing as his quirk could kick up a lot of dust and rubble, limiting the visibility.
It had been wonderful.
He would have two sessions with his psychiatrist every other day. The first session would be after the academic classes, the ones he had to sit behind a desk for. The second would be after the practical classes, the physical ones that tested his limits and forced him to go above and beyond, pushing and pushing until he became better, working out whatever frustrations the first session had built inside of him.
The second session would go a lot more smoothly than the first. He would head to his room afterwards, his temporary lodgings, and do the exercises he had been told to do by both trainer and doctor before heading to bed and repeating the cycle, omitting the sessions the next day, adding them in the day after that.
“Are you excited to go home?” his psychiatrist asked, taking a sip from his mug, the smell of the coffee he was drinking wafting through the room.
He slouched in his seat in response, his muscles aching and enjoying the blessed reprieve from movement, taking a long drink from his water bottle. “Not really,” he admitted in a grunt, capping his water bottle.
“How about that friend of yours,” the man inquired, deciding on bringing more positive thoughts to the forefront, crossing one leg over the other as he looked over at where he sat. He watched Bakugou chew on the inside of his cheek, leg bouncing up and down.
“He’s excited I’m coming back.”
“But you’re not?”
He shrugged his shoulders. There was a turmoil that showed itself in his expression. Going back to Japan meant physically facing everything that had made him have to take a break. It meant acknowledging that once again his nature would be judged and that he would be fighting every step of the way. It meant that he would have to deal with people constantly bothering him every few seconds, beating on him for getting mad, for being loud, for not socializing.
And he didn’t care what they thought—not at all—but it was irritating when he had other shit to deal with, like making sure that facing his childhood hero didn’t make him puke or clench his teeth or automatically turn and head in the opposite direction or suffocate from the guilt or anything else that he missed on the mental list of things he would have to face. He would have to face his classmates and dodge questions on where he had gone, would have to say it was an internship—not a lie, but not the whole truth—if yelling at them didn’t work.
It probably wouldn’t, if he was being honest with himself. He doubted they had changed.
He met his psychiatrist’s gaze, thinking of how whether he wanted to or not, he would face all of that in just a week. He sighed, looking down at his hands, repeating, “Not really.”
“It’s good to have you back with us, Bakugou,” Aizawa intoned carefully, looking down at the male trudging along beside him who had a frown marring his expression and shoulders hunched up to his ears, but there was an ease to his movements that hadn’t been there before he left. It was slight, but the lines of tension in his body weren’t as large and his eyes didn’t look as clouded with irritation.
Bakugou simply grunted in response, lips pursing, hoisting his bag further up his shoulder. He wasn’t really sure if it was good, but it was just another hurdle to overcome on his road to be the greatest hero. Coming back wasn’t exactly what he wanted to do, but going away for three months hadn’t been what he had wanted either and that had worked out for the best.
“The trip served you well, I imagine.”
“It served me fucking fine,” he grumbled, shoving his hands deep into his pockets, trying not to think too much about how it was now an ocean away. It had become something akin to a sanctuary, but he had known it had a deadline and now he had to deal with that.
“I see your sense of style hasn’t changed.”
“Fuck you—my clothes are fine,” he hissed, and he caught sight of what could only be a glimmer of amusement in Aizawa’s eyes as he continued looking forward as they walked. He chewed on the inside of his cheek, looking down at the ground, feeling the tension coil tight inside of him. He focused on breathing slowly to reduce it, remembering all the shit he had originally called ‘fucking stupid’ that his psychiatrist had told him to do in order to remain calm.
His irritation was apparently acutely linked to his case of post-traumatic stress disorder. The angrier he got, the worse his control over the memories became, the more bouts of panic and fear he would be subjected to, and the easier he would be triggered.
“My hero costume changed, though,” he gave up after a long minute of walking in silence, feeling a bit calmer. He liked Aizawa, better than the majority of the instructors in the school, and he didn’t want to lash out at the man after having been back for only a little bit—probably only an hour had passed since he had walked through the front gates of the school.
Aizawa cocked an eyebrow, tired eyes sliding over to look at him, once again taking in the hunched shoulders and the way his head was bowed down, hands shoved into the pockets of his still baggy pants. He wasn’t wearing the school uniform, seeing as it was Sunday night, but rather some jeans and a long sleeve black shirt, almost matching Aizawa’s own attire. “Major alterations,” he inquired, looking up at the night sky as he cracked his neck slightly, trying to loosen the tension in his muscles.
“No,” Bakugou mumbled, voice quiet in a way that was unfamiliar. “Some added shit here and there, really—had to change the mask, alter the pants—a bit more aerodynamic. Small shit,” he muttered.
“Why do that?”
Bakugou shrugged. “I was experimenting, and I couldn’t do certain shit like I wanted to, so I fucking fixed it.”
Aizawa nodded, deciding not to press further. He would see it tomorrow, anyway. It made sense, though. Bakugou’s quirk was highly versatile, and the kid used it for more than just blowing stuff up. He used it to fly, to propel himself, as a launch, as a safety guard—hell, even a missile. He had expected it, but he hadn’t thought it would happen while Bakugou was abroad. It made sense, though. Bakugou wasn’t one to sit still. He was the kind of person to train whenever he was allotted the time for it and even when he wasn’t, so experimenting with new moves and finding what didn’t work was very, well, him.
“Did you look over the overview I left with your mother?”
Bakugou met his gaze with a baleful one of his own, one that spelled ‘duh’ in big block letters over his forehead—probably with quite a few swears thrown in just to really drive the point home.
“I expect you to be just fine for class tomorrow, then.”
“Fucking obviously,” the blonde grumbled, hunching his shoulders up further. He walked past Aizawa as the man held the door to the dormitory open.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, okay,” Aizawa whispered, voice low, a question in his eyes.
It made Bakugou avert his own, posture slouching more as if he was trying to hide from the look, giving a nod of his head before turning to head up to his room, making sure his bag was situated securely on his shoulder. Hoisting his suitcase, he set off for his room, keeping his eyes trained on the ground and not sparing a glance for his surroundings, having no desire to interact with anyone.
Most of Class 1-A was asleep right now anyway, thankfully.
He kept his steps light, shuffling to his room and unlocking the door, setting down his suitcase and depositing his bag at the foot of his bed. He looked around the area—clean as per usual, Spartan practically. Nothing had been touched during his absence and he hesitated to touch anything now. It would make everything too real if he disturbed the sheets, moved the desk chair, opened the blinds.
He gritted his teeth, scoffing silently at himself. It was ridiculous how stupidly scared he was at getting over something so dumb and menial. So what if he was back? It just meant he was back to the original plan. It wouldn’t change the fact that he was aiming to be the number one hero. It didn’t change the fact that he was still planning on beating Deku. It didn’t change the fact that All Might was no longer the Symbol of Peace and that villains had increased in populace since then.
It didn’t change anything.
Flopping down on his bed determinedly, he looked about himself before huffing and setting about unpacking, refusing to leave anything till tomorrow. He wanted to wake up tomorrow feeling like he had never left—in appearance, at the very least. After he finished unpacking, tucking away his clothes neatly settling his school stuff in his school bag, he went about doing the stretches and exercises he had been instructed to do by his psychiatrist and the trainers in Germany.
Only when that was done did he finally turn in for bed.
It was weird, being back.
When morning arrived, he woke up at five, setting out silently on a jog as the sun came up, getting back to the dormitory half an hour after, doing stretches in the comfort of his room before he went and showered.
It was only around seven o’clock when he was sat in the kitchen drinking his protein shake that the dormitory really came to life, students stumbling out of their rooms with haphazardly put on uniforms, looking groggy. He watched them fumble around with a scowl of annoyance present on his features, shaking his head as he rose and washed his cup, grabbing his bag from the foot of his chair and deciding to head out at that moment.
The classroom looked as it always had and his desk seemed untouched. He found himself staring at it for a bit, not exactly sure how to feel. He missed personalized classes already, not having to interact, having shit tailored to go at his speed with no need for long pauses and explanations for easily understandable concepts. The lesson hadn’t even started and he already detested today, his irritation rising steadily.
He closed his eyes; brow furrowed, and took in a deep breath.
His phone vibrated in his pocket and he sighed, taking it out and looking at the screen. His irritation lessened more as he read who it was from, the frown on his face smoothening out just slightly. It was Kirishima, his message just as bright and cheery as he was despite the early time, asking where he was.
‘In the classroom’, he typed back, at last taking his seat, head tipping back to look at the ceiling. His phone vibrated again and he looked down at the screen.
‘Man, it’s so early to already be there!’
He snorted, watching as the typing icon popped up, waiting for the next blurb of words that Kirishima would unleash onto him.
‘I’m heading out right now. I’ll meet you there in two minutes.’
He smirked a little, picturing Kirishima scrambling to get his papers together and rushing out the door, the image so vivid in his head it almost felt real, making his chest clench a little. It felt stupidly sentimental, but it reminded him how much he had actually missed the cherry haired rock, the weekly video calls they held not quite enough, but there hadn’t been anything they could do about it.
The video calls had been Kirishima’s idea, seeing as he was the least emotionally stunted out of the two of them. Bakugou hadn’t even realized how much he had wanted them himself until the first call came and he had felt the ache in his chest that he hadn’t realized was even there be soothed, familiar nicknames spilling forward, his eyes meeting Kirishima’s bright ones through the lens of the camera.
“Bakugou,” he heard shouted out just from outside the classroom before the door was slammed open and Kirishima shot himself at him, giving him barely any time to react as he was enveloped in a tight hug, his hands sparking dangerously on instinct.
“What the fuck, Shitty Hair! Give some fucking warning next time, for fuck’s sake—let go,” he found himself yelling, teeth bared in a snarl, but the heat in his words was lessened by the barest hint of amusement that laced them, amusement he was pretty sure Kirishima was fully aware of going by the grin that was on his face as he pulled back after giving another firm squeeze, red eyes bright and shining with emotion.
It made Bakugou’s ears burn and he huffed, looking to the side as he gathered his wits quickly and looked at the red-headed hero-in-training. His fucking best friend, if he was honest with himself.
And he really had to be honest with himself at this point seeing as Kirishima was the only person in the whole class—the whole school, really—to know where the hell Bakugou had been for the last three months.
“I can’t believe you’re back—I’m so glad you’re back. Man, it’s been so different without you here. It didn’t feel right at all. But—here you are! You’re back. Fuck,” Kirishima babbled, his eyes seeming to shine brighter and brighter until Bakugou realized the guy was crying, tears slipping down his cheeks, looking so undeniably happy that Bakugou felt absolutely frozen to his spot.
“Why the hell are you crying,” he grumbled, feeling awkward and out of place, not sure how to react. Kirishima didn’t hold it against him, though—he never did—giving a wet laugh in response, wiping his eyes hurriedly.
“I’m just really happy you’re back.”
“You already said that,” he muttered.
“And I’m going to keep saying it,” Kirishima declared, “until I’ve drilled into your head how happy your being here is making me.”
He felt his cheeks burn and he ducked his head, shoving his hands in his pockets as he slouched a bit, looking to the side, lips pulled into a frown, although Kirishima considered it more of a pout. “Whatever,” he finally responded with, huffing as Kirishima gave him a blinding smile.
Sighing, he turned to his bag, rummaging about and tugging out his water and a bottle of pills, shaking one out as he checked the time and downing it with a swig of water, shoving the stuff away when he was done. He met Kirishima’s gaze accidentally as he picked up his phone, feeling his stomach churn uncomfortably, but there was no judgment in Kirishima’s expression like he expected.
“Hey, you didn’t tell me you had to take shit, too,” Kirishima mumbled, stepping a bit closer. “Can I see?”
“Why the fuck would you want to do that,” he muttered, fingers curling tight into the fabric of his bag.
“I just—I’m curious if we take the same stuff,” he admitted quietly, rubbing the back of his neck.
“Fucking,” he cut himself off, taking a deep breath, reminding himself that it was Kirishima he was talking to, settling on a simple, “later, yeah?”
Kirishima looked up and met his gaze, smiling and giving a nod in response. “Do you know what you’re doing for lunch? We can hang out,” he said, changing the topic as he settled against Bakugou’s desk, smiling at the blonde.
He looked down at the ground, teeth gritting, crossing his arms over his chest in an unconscious defensive position. He sighed, taking in a deep breath, a small shiver running down his back as he inhaled the faint traces of the cologne Kirishima wore. The guy never put on a lot, just a bit, but the sent permeated his clothes and never left. Bakugou was fairly certain some of his shirts still smelled like Kirishima from the hugs he had received while wearing them.
“I don’t want to go to the lunchroom.”
“That’s cool,” Kirishima was quick to assure, looking at him with that soft, understanding expression that would irk him if it was on anybody else’s face. But it wasn’t on anybody else’s face. It was on Kirishima’s. “I can grab us some food and we can eat somewhere else—just us two.”
“Whatever,” he sighed, rolling his eyes a bit as Kirishima cheered and pumped a fist in the air, but there was fondness tugging at the edges of his expression, making his heart warm. He wished he could tell the pesky feeling to ‘fuck off’, but he wasn’t sure he really wanted it to leave. Kirishima was one of the few people he actually respected and liked. The guy was in the same boat as Bakugou, sort of, and that made it even easier to talk to him.
And even though he had initially, and still probably would sometimes, forced Bakugou to interact with others and to socialize and be nice, the red head got it better than anyone that sometimes he just didn’t like people, understood that it was just how it was—no changing that. He understood that Bakugou was never going to apologize for what happened in the past with Deku, was never going to be friends with the guy. He understood that Bakugou was never going to be able to remember everyone’s names, and that he was never going to not call them out when they weren’t up to par with Bakugou’s expectations.
He understood that Bakugou was never going to be the ‘soft’ hero, like Deku and Kirishima himself. Bakugou was rough and hard, was of the mentality that he was a there to save people’s lives, not be their friends. He was never going to coddle civilians in the middle of a fight and walk them through how to use basic common sense. He was never going to say ‘fuck their self agency’ if they were clearly fine and able to remove themselves from the situation while he made sure he fucking won because winning meant victory and less people getting hurt in the long run.
Kirishima got that.
And it wasn’t that the red head found it all stellar and good. No, Bakugou knew that certain things Kirishima would never personally agree with, just like the same applied for Bakugou in regards to Kirishima. But it was why they worked together so well.
Kirishima never hesitated to call Bakugou out on shit, and Bakugou always returned the favor. They engaged in their own personal sort of system of checks and balances, keeping each other in line, providing a unique sort of support.
They were each other’s best friend.
“Hey, Katsuki,” Kirishima whispered, glancing at the clock, listening to the sound of footsteps increasing outside the door of the classroom as students filed into the school and headed to their classes. He grunted in acknowledgement, looking over at the male. “I’m really glad you’re back and here—with me.”
And it felt like it went against everything inside of him, but at the same time not, as he looked at the male leaning on his desk; the male who made sure to video chat with him every week while he was away, who texted him constantly every day, who listened when Bakugou decided to share what was going on with him, who let him struggle through getting the words out patiently, who shared his own struggles, who didn’t judge him in the same way others did, who was excited for him to get home, who cried when he finally saw him in the flesh after three months—who was happy he was home.
It went against what his instinctual response was, to point out that this was the third time Kirishima had said it and that he should stop, or to brush off the comment. It went against his desire to be alone, to rely on only himself, despite all that he had learned while away—because, the truth was, he was happy to be here with Kirishima. He was really fucking happy to see that cherry red hair and those vibrant red eyes, and listen to his voice without the barrier of a phone. And he might not be thrilled about everything else being back entailed, but this one thing—this one oh-so important thing—he was really fucking glad about.
And it went against all that he desired when it came to anyone else, but this was Kirishima, so he took a deep breath, counted to three in his head, before quietly, finally, admitting, “me, too.”