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Milk Teeth

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An alarming (see also: annoying) number of his classmates seem to be getting way too comfortable around Bakugou. This is, perhaps, his own fault, because he hasn’t been suplexing them off elevated surfaces as often whenever they casually touch him, and because he’s sort of half-remembering their names, or at least their Hero ones.

Like, at some point he stopped calling Pinky “Raccoon Eyes” and started calling her Pinky because it was easier, only for someone to tell him that Pinky’s her actual Hero name. He also shifted somewhere along the line to calling Earphone Girl just plain old Jack which was half her Hero name anyway.

Pinky comes at him in homeroom one morning, probably drawn over when she hears him mention her in conversation with Kirishima and Kaminari, her chin in her hands and her elbows on his desk. He scowls at her elbows and then moves his burning gaze up to her face, but she doesn’t flinch in the slightest. 

Bakugou,” she says emphatically, “you know I love it when I hear you say my Hero name. It’s, like, almost half respectful.”

“What,” he says flatly, distracted from pushing her off his desk by the way she’s coming out of left field with this. 

“But it does make me wonder…” She taps her chin thoughtfully and narrows her black eyes at him. “Do you even know what my name is? Like, do you still not remember?”

Bakugou scoffs and leans back in his chair, relaxing a bit. He’s not sure where exactly he was expecting her to go with this conversation, but this is fine. “Fuck off. Does it matter?”

“He has no idea,” she says despairingly to Kaminari, who snickers. “A year in the same class and he doesn’t even know what my name is.”

Kirishima’s hand falls heavily on the back of Bakugou’s neck, gripping, and Bakugou stiffens, glaring at him. Kirishima is laughing.

“Don’t take it personally,” Kirishima tells her with a wide grin. When Bakugou growls, Kirishima’s hand loosens and slides down his back to rest between his shoulder blades, strangely gentle until he slaps Bakugou hard on the back. This is familiar contact. “I think it’s less self-centeredness and more like he’s just legitimately bad with names.”

“Fuck you!” Bakugou snaps, incensed. He shoves him away and the hand drops from his back, but Kirishima is still laughing.

“It’s true! You don’t know her name at all, dude!”

“I know what her fucking name is!” Bakugou says defensively.

“Well?” Pinky prompts. Her eyes are huge and blinking. “We’re waiting, Blasty.”

He stares at the three of them, affronted and red-faced, and he considers his options: 1.) Tell them to fuck off on pain of death, or 2.) Give in to expectations like some sort of schmuck and actually answer them. His heart says to go with the first option, but he knows if he does then these assholes will take that as confirmation that he really is just bad with names. To be fair, he is, but to admit as much is basically admitting to being forgetful, which is too close to being stupid. He won’t have these motherfuckers think he’s dumb.

“It’s...Mina,” Bakugou grits out. This, at least, he knows isn’t wrong. He does know her name is Mina.

He wishes he hadn’t said it, though, because she looks startled for a moment and then beams at him. “Aw, you know my given name! What about my family name?”

Bakugou simply glares at her. He says nothing, because he has no fucking clue.

She sighs, but she’s smiling. “It’s Ashido. Ashido Mina. You can call me Mina if you want, though!”

Bakugou jerks back, baffled. “What? No!”

“Oooh, or Mina-chan!”

Bakugou balks at her so hard he feels like his eyeballs might topple from his skull. She’s laughing, they’re all laughing at him, and it’s fucking infuriating but he can tell she fucking means it too. He can’t deal with this right now.

“Fuck off, I don’t know you like that!” he rages, and he swipes at all three of them with smoking, crackling palms to disperse them from his desk. They scatter, giggling, and he slumps low and fuming in his chair as Aizawa-sensei enters the classroom to shut them up.

(Hours later, in Quirk training, he’s paired up with Jirou. He does not recognize the name. Unimpressed, Aizawa points across the field to her, where she’s fidgeting with her freaky earlobes and talking to Yaoyorozu, and, after Bakugou waits for several seconds, seems to have completely forgotten why they’re even out here.

“Hey!” Bakugou barks, holding his arms wide like well? Are we doing this or what? “Jack!”

She looks around. She knows who he means, and Bakugou can tell she doesn’t even mind.)

 


  

Kirishima’s speakers are spitting out some, like, gentle twinkly ukulele shit. Bakugou tilts back against Kirishima’s bed frame and groans so long and increasingly loud that it turns into an agonized yell, which has Kirishima cackling and leaning across him to tap at his phone screen.

“Holy crap, just say ‘change the song,’ you melodramatic freak.”

The song changes to something that starts immediately with a shrieking guitar. Bakugou straightens up at once and says casually, “Get off me,” which makes Kirishima bark out a loud laugh and lean back out of his personal space to return to his homework.

Kirishima’s taste in music is eclectic, but not necessarily bad. Bakugou just prefers heavier stuff, especially when doing homework.

Bakugou hadn’t been surprised to find Kirishima at his door, calculus workbook in hand and a chagrined, hopeful smile on his face as he asked Bakugou to come over to his room. He is surprised, however, to find that he doesn’t spend the whole hour beating knowledge into Kirishima’s thick skull. Kirishima had missed something integral at some point in the lesson earlier that day, some step in finding the derivative of a function that had flown over his head, but within fifteen minutes of reviewing the notes he’d taken and Bakugou pointing out where he’d missed something and explaining how that worked into the process, Bakugou had seen the pieces connect together in Kirishima’s brain as Kirishima slumped over his workbook, laughing and sighing, “Oh thank God, it really is that easy. I didn’t even realize I was missing an entire step. Thanks, man.”

Kirishima isn’t stupid, even though Bakugou says he is all the time. He’s developed better study habits ever since Bakugou first started tutoring him semi-regularly, and his note-taking has improved with guidance from Yaoyorozu (who really hammered home the usefulness of highlighters and flashcards), and calculus isn’t even really one of his worst subjects. If given enough time to work out problems, he usually pulls through just fine with nothing lower than a B-plus. Time constraints are what kills him, though, and when working on math homework, his attention will drift after a while. That’s what Bakugou has to kick his ass about.

Bakugou is bored. His homework is completed and he’s itching to do something. Maybe play Mortal Kombat. He doesn’t have to stay in here with Kirishima while Kirishima is busy, but he’s already settled into his comfortable presence and he doesn’t feel like leaving it just yet.

“You finished yet?” he says impatiently.

“I’m getting there,” Kirishima says, twirling his pencil between his fingers. His eyes don’t stray in Bakugou’s direction as he says it, which is a good sign. Bakugou wants to test him a little. Kirishima’s hair is down; Bakugou reaches over and grabs a lock of it between his forefinger and thumb and he tugs at it. Kirishima doesn’t respond.

“I’m bored,” Bakugou grouses, pulling Kirishima’s hair again, not hard enough to hurt but hard enough that Kirishima tilts his head in the direction of the tugging. “Take a break.”

He watches Kirishima carefully, ready to bash him over the head with his workbook if he takes the bait. But Kirishima only hums briefly and then says, “No, I have four more problems. I’m just gonna get through them and then I’ll be done.”

Good. But Bakugou is still bored. He listens to the music from the speakers, appreciating the chaotic drums and the heavy, melodic bassline. The singer has a rasping, punishing voice that Bakugou likes a lot, and the background vocals are brutal screams. It sounds like a riot grrrl band.

“Who is this?” he asks shortly, brief enough to not actually distract Kirishima.

“Ummm, 49 Dead,” Kirishima says without looking up. He gestures vaguely at his desk across the room, where his laptop is propped open. “Do you like it? I have an album over there if you want to put it in. You can unplug my phone from the speakers.”

For lack of anything better to do, Bakugou does so. He falls into Kirishima’s desk chair and examines the CD case after he inserts the disk and hits play.

The cover art is simple, just five rows of ten tombstones with the fiftieth one shattered at the head of a fresh plot of dirt. He pulls the little cover booklet from the case and unfolds it, begrudgingly approving of the aesthetic (and seriously digging the drums in this first song). He likes the first photo in the booklet, getting a look at the band. They’re all topless and uncensored but it doesn’t look like it’s supposed to be especially titillating. The singer is a heavyset butch woman, smudged with dirt and lounging in her own shallow grave smoking a cigarette. Her guitar is a Flying V propped between her legs. Sitting to the right of the singer with leather-clad legs dangling into the grave and leaning on a dirty shovel is a smaller woman with a Quirk that evidently gives her blue flames for hair. She has some dripping, Alice Cooper-style eye makeup cascading down her cheeks. To the singer’s left is a bald woman with jagged, uneven spikes erupting from her bare spine, digging her own grave. Behind the singer is a bespectacled, cold-eyed woman with bright red lipstick and weird earlobes like Jirou’s resting a severely high-heeled boot on top of the tombstone.

Sick, Bakugou considers idly, bored, flipping through the booklet. It’s one of those that actually has lyrics to the songs, so he occupies himself with that for the next ten minutes or so as Kirishima finishes up his homework. When Kirishima throws down his workbook and pencil with a triumphant whoop, they turn the music down but not off, keeping it for background noise, and Bakugou wrestles Kirishima for the position of player one when he boots up his console. He laughs in Kirishima’s face when he slams and pins him to the floor while 49 Dead screams about useless pretty boys.

Two hours of gaming passes in an aggressive, 8bit blur, and when Bakugou finally stands up to leave, he ejects the CD from Kirishima’s laptop and waves it at him. He says, “I’m borrowing this.”

“Oh! Sure, go ahead,” Kirishima says, his voice muffled in his shirt as he changes into his pajamas. “It’s not mine, though. I borrowed it from Jirou, so just drop it off with her when you’re done, I guess.”

Bakugou looks down at the CD in his hands and grimaces at it. It’s less appealing now that he knows he’ll have to interact with a classmate afterwards.

Kirishima easily reads his expression and he laughs. “Dude, what’s with that face? Jirou’s cool, we swap music all the time. I think you’d like her if you actually talked to her.”

Bakugou returns the CD to its case and levels a flat look at Kirishima. “I don’t like anybody.”

“You like me,” Kirishima says with a shit-eating grin that Bakugou wants to explode right off his face.

“I like you least of all,” Bakugou says acidly.

“Oh man, that is such a lie! Thanks for helping me with calculus, by the way. I was so worried at how badly I didn’t get it for a minute there.”

Bakugou grumbles, averting his eyes from Kirishima’s open, honest look of gratitude, and sees himself out for the night. 

He has 49 Dead for about two weeks, listening to it on and off during his downtime or when he’s doing homework. He likes it. The fact that Kirishima had also borrowed it proves that Kirishima has some decent taste in music, despite the number of weird covers of pop hits stolen off of YouTube and anime opening theme songs he has cluttering his music library.

Bakugou forgets he has the album for a few days, then rediscovers it on his desk in his room when he’s cleaning, and he frowns at it hard. He’s ripped his favorite songs from it off of the CD and put them on his phone, so he doesn’t need it anymore, and if he doesn’t return it now, he’ll just forget about it again. He kind of just wants to give it back to Kirishima and have him return it, but Kirishima is out to dinner with his parents or something, so whatever. Bakugou has to text him and ask where Jirou’s room is, which Kirishima blessedly doesn’t comment on, just tells him the floor and room number.

Bakugou gets more and more annoyed with every passing second in the trek to her room. It’s only a floor below him, but he never did the stupid-ass dorm room showcase thing his classmates did when they first moved in, and since then he’s never had a reason to go to a girl’s room, so he’s only just now discovering that he has to go all the way to the first floor and cross the building and then go back up a separate elevator to get to the girls’ side of the third floor.

He can tell which room is Jirou’s even without looking at the number because it’s the one making the floor vibrate a little with frenzied drumming. Bakugou just stands at the door for a few moments, bemused, listening; he can hear music inside, too, slightly more muffled than the drums. Maybe she’s doing a drum cover or some shit? He pounds on the door hard, hearing how it’s probably drowned out by the noise within anyway.

“Jack!” he bellows, banging on the door so hard the entire shape of it rattles in the doorframe. He keeps at it for about thirty seconds, which is a testament to his increased patience, and is about to just leave the CD on the ground and walk away, when the drums stop and the accompanying music pauses, and he hears Jirou inside sigh and yell, “Come on, Hagakure, you can’t complain about the noise on a Saturday night when it’s not even seven o’ clo—”

The door swings open and Bakugou glares down his nose at Jirou’s disgruntled expression, which morphs into a look of surprise as she cranes her head back to look up at him.

“Uh, hey?” she says, bewildered. Bakugou holds up the CD instead of explaining himself, and Jirou’s shoulders relax. “Oh. Man, Kirishima’s got you making deliveries for him?”

“He fucking wishes,” Bakugou snaps, slapping the CD into her hand. “I borrowed it from him.”

He’s already turning away, slouching with his hands in his pockets, but Jirou says, “Wait, um,” and Bakugou pauses, cutting his eyes over to her. She’s twirling one of her jacks around her finger, something he’d think was a nervous tic if he could read her expression, which he can’t. “Did you like it? The band.”

They stand there for a moment, regarding each other guardedly, and Bakugou finally says, “Yeah, so what?”

“Nothing,” says Jirou, “just, y’know. Cool. I’m glad you liked it.” Bakugou narrows his eyes at her, suddenly suspicious that she’s making fun of him. He sits next to her in class, and she’s friends with Kaminari and that stupid gang, and exchanges music with Kirishima, so maybe she is making fun of him. She better not feel that comfortable with him. But then, suddenly, she clarifies: “It’s my mom’s old band, is all.” 

This gives Bakugou pause. This information is mildly interesting, because he really does like the band and the music, but he’s loath to say anything like “For real?” or “What did she play?” because he doesn’t want to prolong this interaction any longer than it has already gone on, or give Jirou the impression that he actually gives a shit.

Before he can say anything—or not say anything—Jirou tugs out the booklet he’s already leafed through and shows him the first picture of the band, the one he liked with the frontwoman in the grave. Jirou taps her finger on the woman wearing glasses behind the tombstone and just says, “Bassist.”

Bakugou looks at it, still quietly approving of that whole aesthetic in general but sure as hell not going to just say so to Jirou’s face. Instead he just grunts, noncommittal but without scorn, which should be considered a fucking blessing to anyone with half a brain as far as he’s concerned. Thankfully, Jirou doesn’t seem to really want to keep talking to him either now that she’s gotten to subtly brag about her family or whatever, and she shuts the booklet before it can get weird that they’re both looking at a picture of her mom with her tits out.

“Later,” she says, stepping back and sliding her door shut.

“Yeah.”

(The back of Jirou’s neck is flushed red and her shoulders are hunched up near her ears. She’s frustrated and visibly embarrassed as she talks on the phone, turned away from Yaoyorozu, but Yaoyorozu can’t parse what it is from the conversation that’s making her feel that way.

Nu,” she says for the fifth time. Her grandmother is on the other end of the phone call, she had told Yaoyorozu when her phone started buzzing and crawling across the bed, and her grandmother is apparently very fond of interrupting. “Nu, nu am jucat-o. Bunicuţă—no one at my school wants to listen to anyone play the accordion, Grandma.”

Yaoyorozu covers her mouth and tries to stifle her laughter as Jirou holds the phone far away from her ear with a loud sigh. Yaoyorozu can hear her grandmother’s loud, scolding voice come through. Jirou’s ears pick up every sound, though, from her grandmother’s yelling to Yaoyorozu’s badly aborted snort, so she twists her neck around to scowl at Yaoyorozu on the bed for laughing. 

“Everything alright?” Yaoyorozu murmurs, folding her hands politely, apologetically, in her lap.

“She’s getting all pissy that I didn’t play the accordion she gave me for the culture festival,” Jirou mutters, rolling her eyes.

“You can play the accordion?” Yaoyorozu asks, fascinated. She looks around Jirou’s room, taking in all the visible instruments, but she only sees guitars, a keyboard, and her drum set. She’s only been in here a few times, because Jirou is strangely self-conscious about her dorm and her musical talent, so whenever she’s allowed inside, she tries not to seem overly interested in all the music stuff, lest Jirou clam up and shut her out in more than one way.

“A little, kind of,” Jirou says. She can tell Yaoyorozu is looking for sight of the thing, because she motions her over to her closet and opens the door. There are black instrument cases stacked inside, and in one corner, a large, ornate piano accordion. She smiles when Yaoyorozu goes “ooh!” and drops to a crouch to examine it. “She’s from Romania and my dad was super into, like, folk-punk when he was—yes, Bunicuţă, I’m still here. Chitară si tobe destul de bine. Da. Da! I—yes, I do still play it. All the time! Do you not believe me?”

Yaoyorozu looks up, amused, because Jirou is obviously lying. Her shoulders are hunched again and she’s holding her arms awkwardly like she’s trying to cross them despite having a hand occupied with her phone. Her cheeks are puffed out in a defensive pout.

Acum?” Jirou says suddenly, eyes widening and darting from side to side. “You—right now? I can’t. Uh. Because...my friend Momo is playing it right now. Right, Yaomomo?” Yaoyorozu stares at her, and Jirou motions wildly at the accordion on the floor next to her. “Da, da, ea o ține acum.

Jirou flails her hand at Yaoyorozu again, gritting her teeth impatiently, so Yaoyorozu grabs the accordion and gives it a graceless squeeze. It lets out an earsplitting, wheezing honk. They both stare at each other in the following silence, and Jirou finally sighs and says, “Vezi?

She gets off the phone at last five minutes later. Yaoyorozu likes listening to her strange hodgepodge of Japanese and Romanian. Yaoyorozu doesn’t speak Romanian, but she can tell that Jirou’s isn’t very good. Her accent is atrocious and her R’s don’t roll quite right, and when she gives up halfway through a sentence and returns to Japanese, Yaoyorozu can hear her grandmother berate her for it; Jirou rolls her eyes enormously in Yaoyorzu’s direction each time.

“Well?” Yaoyorozu prompts when Jirou finally hangs up and flops face down onto her bed with an exhausted sigh. 

Jirou turns her head just enough to give her a deadpan look with a single eye. “She says you can’t play the accordion very well.” 

Yaoyorozu crosses her arms, affronted, and looks away. “Well.” 

“Don’t get offended. She’s rude.” Jirou sits up and rubs the back of her neck, suddenly embarrassed. “I told her, um. I told her I was teaching you, to get her off my back.”

“Really?” Yaoyorozu laughs. 

“I was lying, obviously,” Jirou mutters. “But I could teach you, if you wanted. It’s kind of a weird instrument, but she actually lives in Japan, so if she ever decides to visit me here she will absolutely call my bluff.” The both look over at the open closet door, at the accordion on the floor. Jirou says, “You already play the piano. You would be good at it.” 

“An unconventional music lesson, I suppose,” Yaoyorozu says thoughtfully, picking up her pencil again and ducking her head close to her notebook. She’s not sure why this is making her blush. Jirou taught Hagakure how to play the guitar, after all. But Hagakure had begged, and even though Jirou had enjoyed doing it, she had resisted at first. The fact that she’s extending the offer to Yaoyorozu first is...touching.

“Literature first, though,” she continues, clearing her throat. “I know you’re not finished with your essay yet.” 

She smiles when Jirou groans and flops back down face-first.)

 


 

“Do you spar with anybody other than me and Midoriya?” Kirishima asks one day, peeling his soaked-through shirt off in the kitchen and wiping his face with it. It’s cold and gross but better than having his post-sparring sweat dry sticky on his skin. “Like, outside of class training.”

Across from him, Bakugou is already kicking the refrigerator door shut and throwing sandwich ingredients onto the counter, wasting no time. Kirishima spies eggs among them so he turns on the stovetop for him but otherwise stays out of his way.

“Half-n-Half, sometimes, if I’m feeling generous,” Bakugou says shortly, clanging a pan onto the glowing burner and cutting into a tomato with an angry, efficient fervor. “And the guy with the arms.” 

“His name is Shouji and you know it.”

“Dude packs a wallop,” Bakugou says, ignoring him. “Pretty sure he was, like, in a gang before U.A., so our fighting styles are a good match.”

Kirishima makes a vaguely interested noise while guzzling from his water bottle. He ducks into the fridge to grab a yogurt cup and offers a second one to Bakugou, who shakes his head and goes back to sandwich-making.

There’s a long pause, and then Bakugou says, “I sparred with Gravity Girl the other day. No Quirks, just fighting.”

Kirishima chokes a little on yogurt in his excitement. “No way! You sparred with Uraraka?” 

“Fucking keep it down!” Bakugou hisses.

“That’s cool, though!” Kirishima smiles. “How did it go?”

Bakugou is extra grumpy now. “Kicked her ass, obviously. But she wasn’t...bad, or whatever.” 

“Oh yeah?” Kirishima tries to keep his voice normal, but he likes Uraraka, and he really likes Bakugou, so knowing Bakugou, it’s really nice to know that he’s been interacting in damn near casual ways with classmates that aren’t Kirishima. It speaks a lot of Bakugou’s growth as a person. 

Bakugou cracks two eggs into the pan and then returns to the cutting board to chop lettuce. “Her field training was with Gunhead. Learned fighting from him.”

“Gunhead’s brutal, too.”

“But she learned in a formal setting and hasn’t been in many real fights, so her shit’s stunted against a street fighting style. She doesn’t stand a chance against someone who really comes at her swinging, much less me. The shit Gunhead teaches is legit, though.” 

Kirishima can’t help but grin, because he had spotted the ugly bruise mottling Bakugou’s ribs on his left side when they sparred earlier. Kirishima hadn’t given that one to him. “So she landed a nasty hit or two on you, huh?”

Glaring, Bakugou slams the knife down on the counter with a loud bang and snaps, “Do you want this fucking sandwich or not?” 

The threat is very real, so Kirishima backs off contritely and says, “Yes, sorry.” He hides his smile behind his hand as Bakugou continues making the two pissiest sandwiches in the world. 

This is a precarious routine that Bakugou has kept up with for nearly four months and that Kirishima tries not to draw undue attention to, if he can help it, for fear of Bakugou stopping: every time that Kirishima and Bakugou spar together outside of class, when they finish and make their way back to Heights Alliance, Bakugou will prepare two small, usually high-protein post-workout meals. One for himself, and one for Kirishima. 

Bakugou didn’t just suddenly up and do this incredibly charming, domestic thing out of the blue one day from the goodness of his heart. It happened organically, in a flurry of impatient curses and shoves, when Kirishima ravenously grabbed some cup ramen following a particularly grueling but satisfying sparring match with Bakugou. 

“The fuck is that?” Bakugou had asked. He had crackers in his mouth and was picking through a tub of mixed fruit. It was cute, and at odds with his deeply judgmental gaze.

“Um, food?”

“You’re gonna eat that after a workout?” Bakugou said scornfully, spraying crumbs inelegantly. “Nice hero diet, shithead. Put that away and make a sandwich or something.” 

Kirishima had laughed but did what he said, replacing his ramen in the pantry and turning to the fridge. He rifled through it and pulled things at random, not caring so much what he got into his stomach in the long run so long as he got something in there. Bakugou, however, apparently cared a lot, because he watched in outraged silence for about two minutes while Kirishima piled whatever the hell he found onto a slice of white bread before snapping:

“What is even going on with your sandwich, Shitty Hair?!”

“Wh—” Kirishima faltered and spread his hands wide like what do you want from me? “It’s a sandwich, dude, I don’t know what to tell you.”

“It’s a catastrophe on bread is what it is, fucking—throw that shit away before I blow it up. Move. Give me your plate.” 

It just kind of progressed from there, with Bakugou criticizing Kirishima’s post-workout food choices and foisting his own superior creations onto him. Kirishima likes it, less for the actual food (although Bakugou is a damn good cook) and more for how it’s like a distant cousin to kindness from Bakugou, the fact that he makes food for him. Kirishima likes to watch him do it, likes to see him focus on it, because even though Bakugou does everything aggressively, he can only chop an avocado so angrily. It’s fascinating, and the surge of...well, privilege, if he’s being honest, and domesticity that Kirishima feels in his heart whenever Bakugou sets a plate down in front of him—roughly or not—and then sits down with him, well…

Well. That’s unrelated. 

Kirishima waits until they’re both nearly finished eating before he loops back around to his reason for starting this conversation.

“I’m not going to be here on Wednesday, is why I asked about sparring,” he tells him. “Maybe Thursday, too, but hopefully only Wednesday. Fatgum and Tamaki-senpai have a mission and want me there.”

He sees Bakugou tense a little and stop chewing, looking up from where he’s been scrolling idly on his phone. He can see for just a split second on Bakugou’s face, before he schools his expression, that he’s remembering Kirishima’s last mission. Kirishima smiles at him, just a bit, a little grim and a little tight to let him know that he also hasn’t forgotten. But he’s been assured that this mission isn’t as big as that, so even though he’s a little nervous, he trusts Fatgum and Tamaki. 

And anyway, he’s ready for anything this time around.  

Eventually Bakugou crams the last corner of his sandwich into his mouth, drops his gaze back to his phone and says, muffled, “Better fuckin’ win.”

Kirishima knows he’s saying be careful and he grins, even though Bakugou’s not looking. “How could I lose? I’ll be thinking of you the whole time.”

He laughs, loud and boisterous, when Bakugou chokes on his food.

“Anyway,” he continues, before Bakugou can demand to know what the hell he means by that, “I know you like to spar on Wednesdays, so would you maybe wanna train with Jirou and Mina-chan while I’m gone?”

Bakugou is visibly caught off guard by this. “What the fuck?” 

“They both want more hand-to-hand combat training with someone like you,” Kirishima explains. “I spar with Mina all the time, and Jirou’s gotten way stronger with Yaoyorozu. I let her clock me in the face just to see—” 

“You’re such a freak, what the hell—”

“They didn’t, like, ask me to ask you or anything,” Kirishima goes on, standing and grabbing their empty plates to take to the sink. “Jirou will probably be mad if she finds out I did. But I know they want to ask you, they just don’t know how to go about it.”

Bakugou splutters, “Wow, fuckin’—didn’t know I was the prettiest girl at the fucking prom—”

“Well, I could’ve told you that you were, dude!”

“Shut up!” Bakugou stands abruptly, his chair clattering behind him, and stalks towards the elevators. 

“Will you think about it, though?” Kirishima calls after him, shouting over the running water in the sink. Bakugou doesn’t respond, but Kirishima hopes he’ll take the suggestion up.

 

***

 

He did. Or he will. Or whatever.

Wednesday is weird with Kirishima gone. Weirder, somehow, than it had been when he and Deku and two more people and Aizawa had been absent from class all at once for that yakuza raid that Kirishima never actually talks about much. It’s not as quiet in class as it had been that time, but it’s quiet enough to be noticeable. Kirishima, Kaminari, Sero, and Ashido together could bring a building crashing down from sheer irritating noise, but without Kirishima it’s a little more subdued. The other three are still loud, but it’s observably different.

Bakugou doesn’t check the news. He wants to, but he reigns the urge in. If Fatgum made the news during the school day, he’d probably hear about it without checking himself anyway. Deku sits right behind him, after all, and he doesn’t have to really talk to the little nerd to know he’s thinking about it too. 

And he does know Deku is thinking about it, because when Present Mic shuts the classroom door behind him and everybody starts gathering their shit to head to the locker rooms, he hears him go, “Hey Kacchan, did you take notes for Kirishima-kun?” 

“What? Fuck no,” Bakugou snaps over his shoulder, shoving his things into his bag and standing up. He frowns down at Deku. “Who do you think I am?”

“I was just wondering.” Deku stands up, his things already collected and put away except for a few sheets of notebook paper in his hands. “I took notes for him just in case you didn’t. He’s not great at English.”

“Yeah, no shit, that’s a nice way of putting it,” Bakugou snorts, eyeing the notes in Deku’s hands suspiciously. 

“So, um, would you want to give these to him?” Deku brandishes them a little wildly. “Since you’ll probably see him before I do when he gets back tonight. Or tomorrow? I don’t know if he’ll come straight back here, or if maybe he’ll be at the hospital, I haven’t seen anything on the news but I just—” 

“Deku,” Bakugou interrupts sharply, glaring at him, “shut up. Stop worrying so much. Have some fucking faith in him.” 

“I do.” Deku is staring at him, ugh , with those massive fucking eyes shining with god knows what over-the-top feel-good emotion. His scarred, crooked hand crinkles the notes a bit when he clutches them tighter. “I do. Sorry. I know he’ll be fine. I just…”

“Worry,” Bakugou mutters, snatching the notes from him and putting them in his bag. “Yeah, I know, it’s all you ever do.” 

He doesn’t say he’ll give the notes to Kirishima, but he’s obviously going to since he took them. He ignores Deku’s relieved thanks and bats his hand away when he grips his sleeve like he used to when they were little. He’s nobody’s fucking errand boy, least of all Deku’s, but the only thing keeping Kirishima’s grades just short of abysmal are regular study sessions with Bakugou and fastidious note-taking. Kirishima knows missing class today will set him back. He’s just lucky to have someone as god damn charitable as Deku for a friend who would take notes for him.

Speaking of charity for Kirishima’s sake… He watches Jirou and Ashido during training hour, when everyone gets paired up at random for ten minutes of fighting with Quirks and ten without before switching partners. Not to the point of being distracted, he focuses on his own shit, but in the snippets of rest when his partners are laid low or tap out. Jirou and Ashido are actually paired with each other for the first matches; they’re both effective long-range combatants and struggle to take each other down in the first match. In Quirk fighting, Jirou finally wins by taking advantage of an opening and lashing Ashido’s legs together with her jacks and slamming her to the ground. In Quirkless fighting, Ashido knocks the wind out of Jirou with a sudden low rush of gut punches and knocks her flat on her back in less than fifteen seconds.

Bakugou didn’t pay enough attention to any of his classmates when he first started at U.A. so he has nothing to compare to, but he thinks the two of them look stronger than he figured they were, their musculature promising. He’s never really wanted to take stock of girls physically, for reasons he doesn’t care to examine too closely, but he looks at them this time and comes only to the conclusion that he could definitely knock them down with ease, but they’d spring right back up to keep coming at him if they fought.

The next match has Jirou partnered with Hagakure (both wins go to Jirou) and Ashido with Sero (both wins go to Ashido). The third match is between Jirou and Twinkle Fucker (both wins go to Jirou) and between Ashido and Tokoyami (Quirk-on-Quirk, Tokoyami wins; Quirkless, Ashido has him pinned in two minutes). 

None of it is especially impressive, but Bakugou watches anyway, and when it’s time to head to the locker rooms to change for Hero Training, Bakugou decides: fuck it.

“Jack!” he shouts over to them, where Jirou is slouched over a little, wincing and rubbing her sternum while Ashido rubs her back with an apologetic smile. “Pinky!”

He goes over to them, hands in his pockets and narrowing his eyes critically. Jirou straightens up, wary, while Ashido waves cheerfully at his approach. 

Neither of them say anything, though, so he takes a second to mull it over last minute, then says, “Spar with me after school.”

“What,” Jirou says blankly, at the same time that Ashido gasps, “Really?

Bakugou scowls, irritated by both reactions, although there probably isn’t a reaction that wouldn’t annoy him. “Kirishima said you wanted to and that you wouldn’t stop pussyfooting around it, so, fucking...whatever. You in or not?”

“Fucking narc, Kirishima,” Jirou mutters, looking away.

Yes, we want to spar with you, hell yes!” Pinky whoops, grabbing him by the shoulders. He knocks her arms away, but her enthusiasm isn’t curbed in the slightest. 

“You’re going to get your asses handed to you,” he says bluntly. “I don’t hold back, ever, even if you’re outmatched.”

At this, Jirou meets his gaze sharply. “I wouldn’t fight you if you did.” 

At that, Bakugou can’t help but grin viciously. That’s the shit he likes to hear. Ashido wraps her arms around Jirou and leans on her heavily, hooking her chin on her shoulder, and grins right back.

 

***

 

Sparring with Bakugou is just as brutal as Jirou expected it would be. It’s painful and he doesn’t like to take breathers and he doesn’t help either of them to their feet when he takes them down. There’s very little satisfaction in the activity as well, because he’s still an asshole who just yells a lot for most of it. He’s angry when they stay on their feet and dodge what he throws at them and he’s angry when he knocks them down. But Jirou figured that would be the case a long time ago from watching him interact with Midoriya, before and after he chilled the fuck out a bit when it came to him. He never believed people could do better, but he still thought that they should.

It isn’t a great time, sparring with him, but she’s wanted to do it ever since the Sports Festival. Ever since Aizawa shamed the booing crowd during Uraraka’s match against Bakugou, because Jirou had also felt shamed. She had also felt some disgust watching the match, at how Bakugou hadn’t held back in fighting Uraraka. She knows it wasn’t fair to Uraraka to feel that way, because Bakugou was right: she wasn’t frail. And neither is Jirou, and she wants to be on this side of a fight with Bakugou because she can take it.

With Quirks, it’s difficult, which visibly frustrates him because he’s still used to winning easily and winning often. Bakugou has scratches on his face from barely-dodged stabs from her jacks and welts on his arms from where they’ve wrapped around him or whipped him. On Jirou, everywhere with exposed skin stings with blisters, and the smell of burnt hair—hers and Ashido’s—has been stinking up the gym since they started, and it’s been nearly two hours.

Without Quirks, Jirou mostly gets her ass kicked, which doesn’t surprise her. She’s much smaller than Bakugou, in height and bulk, and even though she’s way stronger than she was when they first started at UA, she’s still no match for him in hand-to-hand combat. It’s not that she’s not good, because she knows she is—it’s just that Bakugou’s great. Better. Jirou’s reflexes are the only thing keeping this from being a complete and total embarrassment. She wishes she had gone first instead of Ashido, because Ashido actually held her own pretty decently against Bakugou when sparring Quirkless, and now Jirou feels especially inadequate.  

“That all you got, Jack?” Bakugou barks, standing over her and glaring down at her, where she lies flat on her back with fiercely aching shoulders and not enough air in her lungs. “Walk it off.” 

She’s too winded to put as much venom in her returning glare, so it ends up as more of a grimace. “Just—give me a minute. God.”

From the sidelines, Ashido sticks her fingers in her mouth and whistles, piercing and loud. “You did way better that time, Kyouka-chan! You got this!” 

“Hardly better,” Bakugou disagrees, sneering.

But still. Better. Even he says so.

Ashido applauds encouragingly. “One more round! You can do it! Bust his lip again!”

Jirou can’t help but laugh, even though it hurts her stomach. She closes her eyes and waves her arm, holding up two fingers. “Two more rounds. Then I’m done.” 

“Fucking weak,” Bakugou scoffs. But before Jirou lets her arm flop back down to the mat, she feels his hand grasp her just short of her elbow, their forearms parallel, and Bakugou pulls her gracelessly to her feet, surprising her and jarring her sore shoulder.

“Ugh,” she winces, distantly thrown because Bakugou, as a rule, does not help people back to their feet when he knocks them down. 

She doesn’t get to dwell on it because he’s quickly slapping her elbows, pushy and annoying. “Come on, put ‘em up, two more rounds, let’s go.” 

She clenches her fists and raises them, her jaw set, and she smirks when she sees Bakugou wipe at a fresh trickle of blood from his split lip.

Two rounds, thirty minutes, several more bruises, and a very nearly dislocated shoulder later, the three of them are back at Heights Alliance. Bakugou doesn’t disappear off to his dorm immediately like Jirou expects him to, instead goes about making food for himself in the kitchen, but it’s clear that their interactions with him for the day have come to a definitive end.

Jirou and Ashido desperately need showers and a meal, but at the moment they don’t have the energy to do anything but collapse at the nearest table in the common room and stare at their phones. A few others are in the common room, where the television is displaying the news at a quiet volume. Kaminari is in there, sprawled on the couch closest to the screen and absorbed in his phone instead of the news, but Jirou sees him glance over at it anxiously several times. She knows why, because Ashido has kind of been doing the same thing, repeatedly checking the news for any mention of Fatgum’s agency. But no news is good news, right? 

“I hope Kirishima finishes his mission soon,” Ashido says, as if on cue. To her credit, despite her compulsive news-checking, she doesn’t sound worried at all. She leans on the table, her phone stretched out in front of her and her other arm looped lazily up over her head as she heaves an exhausted sigh. “I want him to see all the pictures I put on Instagram of us with Bakugou!”

“Oh my God,” Bakugou snaps, evidently not as tuned out to their existence as Jirou thought.

“Why is sparring with Bakugou Instagram-worthy?” Jirou asks doubtfully.

“Hellooo?” Ashido waves her phone in the air like Jirou is being purposefully dense. “I’ve been wanting to train with Bakugou for, like, a million years. Hey, Bakugou!”

“What.”

“Can we do that again sometime?” Ashido asks. “Sparring with you hurts, but it’s good! You’re not a great teacher but I can get so much better just from going against you.”

“Fuck you, I’m the best teacher!” Bakugou says hotly. “I just wasn’t teaching you today, only kicking your ass.”

“So...yeah, we can spar again?” Jirou prompts, grateful that Ashido had been the one to ask first. 

Bakugou regards them both thunderously for a long moment, then returns to his food with a muttered, “Tch, fuckin’ whatever.”

He’s deaf to any further conversation Ashido tries to engage him in, which Jirou is thankful for. She’s not like Ashido and Kaminari and Sero, and especially not like Kirishima—she can only handle Bakugou in small doses, and today’s dose was bigger than any she’s had before. And anyway, Bakugou is focused on making a sandwich or whatever but mostly seems to be running on autopilot. He always makes food right after he works out, and he does it for Kirishima too, which they’ve all noticed with some interest. Kaminari commented on it a while ago and nearly lost his eyebrows for his trouble.

There’s a clatter from the counter but Jirou doesn’t look up. It’s not until she hears Bakugou say, “Are you gonna fucking eat or wh—” and then cut himself off with a weird gurgling noise that she looks over. He’s staring at two sandwiches on plates that he’d set on the counter, an expression of furious disbelief on his face like he can’t believe the audacity those two sandwiches have to exist there. There’s a third one already half-eaten in his hand.

“Eat what?” Ashido says, distracted, but when she looks away from her phone and over to the counter, she springs from her chair. “What! Bakugou! Did you make us sandwiches?!”

Absolutely fucking not!” Bakugou shouts, drawing stares from their classmates in the common room. He snatches both plates back. “What the fuck!” 

“Wait, where are you—hey, come on!” Ashido wails as Bakugou storms over to the trash can. “Don’t! We’ll eat them!”

Bakugou stomps on the trash can pedal and dumps the sandwiches into the garbage. He throws the plates into the sink and marches to the elevators, cursing with his shoulders hunched to his ears, while Ashido runs over to the garbage to stare into it sadly. It is, without a doubt, the funniest example of autopilot and muscle memory Jirou has ever seen. 

“Do you think I could…?” Ashido begins.

“Do not eat a sandwich out of the trash, Mina,” Jirou sighs, smiling just a little, and gets up to make something herself.

(It’s well after midnight when Kirishima comes back.

Bakugou, on principle, didn’t stay up waiting. The sleep he forced himself into, however, is traitorously light. The walls aren’t that thin, but the click of Kirishima’s door shutting is still enough to jolt Bakugou awake. He lies there in bed for a long moment, frozen and listening hard, then hears quiet movement next door. Bakugou grits his teeth and glares holes in the ceiling, annoyed at the loosening knot in his stomach—annoyed that there’s been a knot in there at all.

He thinks about going back to sleep, but he doubts he’ll be able to do it for a while. His heart is hammering too quickly. Stupid. So after a few seconds of deliberation, he gets out of bed, slides on a pair of sweatpants, and slips into the hallway. He raps on Kirishima’s door and leans against the doorframe, waiting, a perfect construct of nonchalance.

It’s hard to keep that particular countenance up when Kirishima answers the door. The first thing Bakugou sees is his vast expanse of bare chest covered in blood and bone fragments. Bakugou furrows his brow, biting his tongue, only slightly relieved when he sees that the blood isn’t Kirishima’s, and that it’s dry and browning. The tiny chunks of solid mass dried to Kirishima’s skin are sharp and strange. He moves his eyes to Kirishima’s face and meets his gaze; Kirishima’s eyes are bright, a surprised smile making them crinkle at the corners. 

“Hey,” Kirishima whispers, even though he doesn’t really have to keep it down because his only other neighbor is Shouji, who sleeps like the dead. “I didn’t think you’d be awake.” 

“You woke me up.” 

“Sorry,” says Kirishima, moving aside and holding the door open for Bakugou. An invite. “I tried to be quiet.”

Bakugou steps inside and Kirishima shuts the door. He hasn’t turned on any lights other than his salt lamp, bathing a fourth of the room in dull orange light and leaving most in shadow. It’s harder to see the blood on him in the low light. He’s shed his head and shoulder dressings and his arm coverings, and his obnoxious Red Riot belt is undone and hanging from his pants. Bakugou had obviously interrupted him getting undressed, hopefully in preparation for a shower—Bakugou can’t really see the blood on his chest anymore, but he’s half-convinced he can smell it now. 

“You won?” Bakugou finally says, intelligently.

“Yeah. We won,” Kirishima laughs, quiet but breathless, a sense of buzzing energy to it. He turns away and yanks his belt from his pants. The sharp hiss of it in the dark weirds Bakugou out, but he can’t focus on it for long because Kirishima turns back to him, clenching his fists. “God, it just—it feels so good to finally fucking win, you know?”

Bakugou stares at him, wary, and says, “You’ve won before. Your first run with Fatgum, and the raid after that.”

“I mean a real win, dude!” Kirishima says, coming forward to grab Bakugou’s forearms. Bakugou lets him do it, bewildered. “We got Eri-chan out of there on that raid, yeah, but we had so many casualties! Togata lost his Quirk, Aizawa-sensei was stabbed, I fucking broke when I should’ve been Unbreakable and Nighteye was killed, and the only thing that kept Midoriya from committing suicide a hundred times over was Eri’s Quirk—it was a mess from start to finish. I did better this time. It wasn’t as intense, but nobody got hurt on our side! I’m fucking wired, man!”

Bakugou can feel it in Kirishima’s hands, leftover adrenaline thrumming through his system and making him shake. Bakugou never knew that about Kirishima’s last mission with Fatgum, about him breaking or about Deku. Kirishima never talks about that mission if he can help it, which is how Bakugou knows it’s weighed heavily on him, because Kirishima is an otherwise embarrassingly open book. Two things had kept Bakugou from asking Kirishima about what happened: his own wounded pride at being left behind because he hadn’t gotten his license, and the fact that he had no idea how to handle whatever it was that fucked with Kirishima’s head about it.

He’s long since accepted that yes, Kirishima is officially his friend. A real friend, not a faceless crony like the ones he had in droves in middle school. Kirishima not only likes Bakugou, he cares about him, and, loathe as he was to admit it at the time, Bakugou likes and cares about Kirishima in turn. It’s a lot of give and take, even though most of the time Bakugou doesn’t know what exactly Kirishima is taking, and in the aftermath of the yakuza raid, Bakugou hadn’t known what to give to make Kirishima feel better. It helped—or rather didn’t help at all—that Kirishima had done a disturbingly good job at pretending he wasn’t as fucked up about it as he really was, so Bakugou had been able to let himself think he didn’t have to give much of anything after all.

He should ask about it sometime, probably. Not tonight, though. Instead, he twists his wrists a bit to grip Kirishima’s arms in return to steer him closer to the light from his salt lamp, looking at the mess on his chest again. 

“You have blood all over you,” he points out, because he thinks Kirishima might legitimately not realize it. 

“What?” Kirishima says, confirming it. He looks down at himself, and Bakugou lets go of him to turn on his real desk lamp, lighting up the room properly. “Oh. Oh.” 

He looks slightly nauseated, so Bakugou turns the light back off. He doesn’t push Kirishima away when he grabs him again.

“It’s—it’s not my blood,” he says after a minute, his voice making a weak attempt at sounding reassuring, like he thinks Bakugou is worried.

“I know it’s not yours,” Bakugou snaps, without much heat. “Whose is it? There’s bone and shit in it.” 

“I don’t know his name,” Kirishima groans, screwing his eyes shut tight, but Bakugou isn’t too concerned by that face. It’s not an “I’m about to start crying” grimace, it’s a “fucking NASTY” grimace. He leans forward to drop his forehead on Bakugou’s collarbone, squeezing his arms tight; Bakugou stiffens but doesn’t move away. “He panicked when I cornered him. I didn’t even fight him, I went Unbreakable and he, uh, threw a lot of punches. His hands were pulp by the time he was arrested.”

“Sick.” The mental image is gruesome but a little funny to Bakugou, but he knows Kirishima is too kind-hearted to find someone, even a villain, pulverizing their own hands into unrecognizable stumps against his own body especially amusing. “You smell like blood. Take a shower.”

“I was about to before you came in,” Kirishima says, laughing as he straightens up from leaning against Bakugou. His palms skate down Bakugou’s arms, down to his wrists, like he wants to take his hands, and for an absolutely insane moment Bakugou has the question Were you thinking of me when you won? at the tip of his tongue. The thought is unbidden, and Bakugou is suddenly horribly aware of the charged atmosphere, the low light, Kirishima’s hands on his skin. I’m fucking wired, man!

He’s about to pull away, to put a respectable distance between them, to find some air where he can breathe, when Kirishima’s hand comes up and settles on Bakugou’s face. All the air in Bakugou’s lungs vanishes, sending his head spinning. Kirishima’s thumb prods at his lower lip, where it’s tender and scabbed. 

“Whoa, what happened here?” he asks, his other fingers brushing the butterfly stitches on one of the deeper scratches left by Jirou’s earphones. “You get in a fight?” 

It feels like it takes an eternity for Bakugou to find his voice again. He can feel his entire face burning, certain that it’s scorching Kirishima’s hand, as he wheezes, “Sparred. With Jack and Pinky.” 

“Oh, nice!” Kirishima presses on his split lip. “How’d it go?” 

“Fine,” Bakugou says, frozen in place, and when the pad of Kirishima’s thumb presses down again, he hisses in discomfort. “What are you doing?”

“I don’t know,” Kirishima says, letting his hand fall slowly. “I need a shower.”

“Yeah you do,” Bakugou mutters, feeling weirdly raw and exposed. He backs up towards Kirishima’s door, watching him move around to collect his shower items. “Don’t even think about skipping tomorrow just because it’s 2 am now.”

“Haha. I won’t. G’night, Bakugou.”

“Night.” He flees, but he’ll never call it fleeing.)

Chapter Text

Hosting the group homework session in the common room is out of the question for the time being considering how many people are down there, so one of them has to host in their dorm room. No one wants to do it in Kaminari’s room because there are too many distractions, and no one wants to do it in Kirishima’s room because he’d just finished working out in there and it smells like it. Sero would have been happy to host but he admits that he hasn’t cleaned his room in several days and there was so much junk that there frankly wouldn’t be room to walk without tripping over something and getting tangled in his hammock. Yaoyorozu’s ridiculous fucking bed takes up her entire room, so that isn’t happening.

No one dares ask Bakugou to host. He didn’t want to work on this assignment in a group in the first place.

Which leaves Jirou to host. Jirou, they know, can be pretty difficult about having people in her room. But she’s let Bakugou in her room before to return music he’d borrowed secondhand from Kirishima, which is probably what loosens her up enough to let a group of them in. It’s a little crowded, but with Yaoyorozu keeping everybody on topic, it goes pretty smoothly, and Jirou doesn’t complain when Bakugou plugs his phone into her system to play his study playlist.

She doesn’t complain for about thirty minutes, at least.

“Alright.” Jirou slaps her hands down on the table irritably. She frowns severely over at her speakers, which are emitting a truly alarming noise like shrieking metal and the occasional rhythmic thump of bass drum. “I don’t know how you’ve managed to get to number three in the class if this is your idea of study music. I can’t focus for shit with this in the background.”

Bakugou looks up, a little delayed, and curls his lip scornfully, if a little after the fact. He’s having trouble focusing too, but it’s not because of the music he selected. It’s been a long, physically demanding day, and outlining an essay on the most influential class action lawsuits against sidekick agencies between 2XXX and the present isn’t a particularly energizing task. He’s only doing it with other people because he knows he’ll fall asleep if he tries to do it by himself right now.

Bakugou and Kirishima sit cross-legged on Jirou’s bed with their computers hot in their laps while Jirou, Yaoyorozu, and Kaminari are positioned around her center table or sprawled on the floor. The room is on just this side of too-warm and Kirishima’s bare knee keeps knocking against Bakugou’s. Sero said he was running downstairs to get snacks but that was ten minutes ago, or maybe two. Ueda/Greenwich v. City of Seiyo is so fucking boring, and normally Bakugou could power through the dullness and his disinterest for just a stupid essay outline, but the warmth of so many computers running and five people in a small room with one person’s thigh pressed along the length of his own is oppressive. Outside, heavy torrents of rain pound on the veranda and darken the early evening. His eyes keep drifting from his laptop screen to the black and white checkered patterns on the floor and on the walls, where his vision blurs and crosses on it.

“Not my fault your attention span can’t handle some experimental grindcore in the background,” Bakugou says, but doesn’t bother protesting when Jirou gets up to unplug his phone from the aux and tosses it back to him.

“‘Experimental grindcore,’ listen to you,” Kirishima snickers, digging an elbow into Bakugou’s ribs. Bakugou elbows him back much harder, waking up a little just to do it. Kirishima sets his laptop aside and gets up to join Jirou at her computer/music station; his departure makes the bed rock and Bakugou lets himself flop over into the warm space he vacated. This assignment can suck a dick.

“Play something that, like, people on planet Earth have actually heard,” Kaminari suggests, and returns the double middle fingers that Bakugou sends his way.

“That’s the plan,” Jirou says, clicking around on her desktop while Kirishima flips through her vinyl collection. Kirishima picks something, and a new song with a shrill organ crackles to life.

In a gadda da vida, honey… Bakugou smirks at the creeping guitar and doesn’t remember closing his eyes.

He isn’t asleep for very long, since the song is just winding down when he snuffles awake, bewildered by his own dozing. Granted, it’s a long fucking song at seventeen minutes, but that’s not a bad nap length. The lamp light is blinding when he creaks his eyes open so he squeezes them shut again and buries his face in Kirishima’s pillow. He feels a twinge of annoyance, first at himself for falling asleep when he was supposed to be working on his outline, and then at Kirishima for letting him fall asleep when he was supposed to be working on his outline.

He feels another twinge, this time of embarrassment deep in his belly, when he wonders how and when he got so fucking comfortable with Shitty Hair that he felt free to just pass out on his bed and drool into his pillowcase. How and when he got so comfortable with that to the point where he could recognize that his pillow smells different, like a different detergent and different traces of shampoo.

Bakugou’s eyes snap open. This is not Kirishima’s room. Jirou’s bed squeaks underneath him as he shoves himself upright. Furious embarrassment sends heat crawling up the back of his neck as he wipes spit from the corner of his mouth with his wrist. He draws in a breath to shout and rage to mask his extreme discomfort, because he is in no way fucking okay with this, it wasn’t—he wasn’t—he’s still getting used to letting his guard down in front of Kirishima, much less these other assholes who treat him like he’s their friend or some shit, and Jirou’s not even—

But nobody is in the room. He sweeps his eyes over the dorm, confusion muddling his anger. Everyone’s laptops are still there but they’re all closed. Jirou’s door isn’t flung wide open like it was when everybody was packed in here, and is instead left two inches ajar. Did they just leave him sleeping here? Did Jack just let him sleep here on her bed while they all fucked off somewhere else? Jack, who, as far as Bakugou could tell without having to actually talk to her for more than two seconds one-on-one, is almost just as cagey as Bakugou about letting people in her room at all, just let that happen?

Bakugou swings his legs over the side of the bed and hefts himself up, moving to the center of the room to distance himself from—well, everything. He eyes his surroundings distrustfully, although he’s not entirely sure what he’s suspicious of. He could wreak havoc in here if he wanted to, Bakugou observes, but they left him alone anyway. Jack just left him sleeping in her room, on her bed, by himself and pulled the door to, trusting him to respect her shit.

It’s...weird. They’re not friends. Not really. With another twinge of something that he won’t call chagrin, Bakugou flips Jirou’s pillow over as an afterthought so the spot of drool he left on it is face-down.

Then he leaves. He calls for the elevator and the doors are already opening to the common area when he realizes he’s gone in search of his classmates instead of just grabbing his laptop and retreating to his own dorm. He moves through the common room with his fists clenched and muscles tensed, surveying everyone through narrowed eyes. Satou and Ojiro are playing video games, and Kaminari is bent over the back of the couch to commentate directly in their ears. Sero and Yaoyorozu are in the kitchen making food separately but talking over their shoulders to one another. A few others are scattered here and there, chatting or doing homework.

“Rise and shine, sleepyhead!” Bakugou turns to see Kirishima and Jirou behind him with bowls of rice cupped in their hands. Kirishima has two.

“Shut up.” Bakugou looks at Jirou and then looks away, scowling. “Why didn’t you assholes wake me up?”

“You’ve looked like shit since noon,” Jirou says with a shrug. “None of us had the heart to do it.”

Bakugou grumbles inarticulately and doesn’t ask his real question: why did you let me crash in your fucking bed? He probably doesn’t want to know the answer.

“I was gonna come get you if you weren’t down here by the time food was ready,” Kirishima says, holding out the second bowl to him. Bakugou stares at it like he’s been offered something covered in maggots, which doesn’t escape Kirishima’s notice. “Dude, it’s rice, not roadkill. It’s no Lunch Rush, but nobody wants to go to the cafeteria in the rain for dinner. Do you want to eat?”

This, Bakugou thinks, is more familiar. Kirishima thinking of him and doing nice shit for him when Bakugou doesn’t need, want, or ask him to. He frowns deeply at the bowl Kirishima is trying to thrust into his hands and tries to readjust to this better-traversed territory.

“Yaomomo is making something with chicken,” Jirou says, jabbing a thumb over her shoulder towards the kitchen. “Sero’s doing his own thing but Momo said you were welcome to whatever she’s making if you woke up and came downstairs.”

This, Bakugou thinks wildly, is not familiar. He glances over the top of Jirou’s head to the kitchen. Yaoyorozu is wiping flour on her apron and looking pleased with herself; she catches Bakugou’s eye briefly and gives him a quick, distracted smile before returning to her skillet.

Feeling a little bit like he’s falling, Bakugou takes the rice from Kirishima and says, somewhat harshly but not harshly enough for the uncertainty in his voice, “I don’t want chicken. Rice is whatever.”

Kirishima snickers and takes a seat at the kitchen counter instead of a table. After a moment’s hesitation, Bakugou joins him. He’s about to stand back up to hunt down something to eat with when Jirou drops onto the barstool on his other side and he stiffens. She tosses down a pair of chopsticks next to his bowl and snaps apart her own pair, sighing as she settles in her seat.

He stares at her for a moment, then whips his head around to look at Kirishima to his right. Neither of them are paying attention to him. In the kitchen, yards away over the counters, Sero is chattering over the sandwich he’s constructing while Yaoyorozu only barely listens, focused on cooking. Across the common room, Kaminari has his hands clamped on the back of the couch and he’s jumping up and down yelling at Satou and Ojiro’s game. It’s all so fucking... normal, and friendly, and Bakugou is just sat in the middle like he belongs there and none of them think that it’s weird.

“Are you guys fucking with me?” he finally demands. Jirou lowers the bite of rice she was going to take, blinking slowly. Kirishima looks at him with wide eyes and obnoxiously bulging cheeks. And, like, okay, he knows Kirishima isn’t fucking with him, with a stupid grain of rice stuck to his cheek like a big dumb animal, but the rest of them?

“What do you mean?” Jirou asks, and the thing with her is that her expression rarely gives anything away, but Bakugou thinks he catches confusion in her voice, and vague discomfort in her posture when he squints his eyes and leans forward to scrutinize her.

So maybe they’re not fucking with him. Or at least Jack isn’t, even when she let him fall asleep and drool on her bed.

Bakugou puffs out a sigh, frustrated and at a loss. He snaps his chopsticks apart and glares at the bowl before him. “Nothing. Never mind.”

(Kirishima plucks Iron Butterfly from the crate of worn, vintage records and turns to Jirou, brandishing it with a smile that says pretty please? She raises an eyebrow at him, but she leaves her music station to crouch by the closed case of her turntable to open it up for him. She leaves the rest to him and goes to sit back down next to Yaoyorozu. Kirishima plugs it in and feels like he’s poorly handling an ancient artifact when he gets the record onto the thing—and he kind of is; vinyls are way too old-school for him, but he really loves this song—and drops the needle clumsily onto it. It’s several seconds of crackling static before any actual music.

There’s millions of songs out there that mention hand-holding. This just happens to be the first piece of music Kirishima heard after—well. Things were kind of a blur during that whole thing, adrenaline spiking and receding and spiking again. Bakugou’s hand clutching his with enough force to crack bone as they soared over the fight, clammy and slick and shaking when it slid back out of his grip when they landed hard on the other side, then frantic and forceful when it made its way to his forearm, grabbing and yanking and pushing as Bakugou yelled, “Run, idiot, we have to keep going, come on!

Later, at the police station, a radio was playing softly when the din of delivering Bakugou died down. It was catchy and in English, but Kirishima had heard it before in some old movies. Bakugou was quiet and didn’t look back at him when he went with the officers. Oh, won’t you come with me, and take my hand?

Kirishima watches the record spin a few times, then stands back up to return to his laptop. He stops when he sees Bakugou stretched out on Jirou’s bed, fast asleep. He’s seen Bakugou sleeping a few times, but it was always in contexts like training camp or in his own room or in Kirishima’s, with only Kirishima to witness it. Bakugou must have been pretty wiped out to doze in here, with so many people around. It’s still pretty fascinating to see him like that, as cliche as it sounds—the carefully constructed jagged edges of his expression slack and smooth, peaceful.

“Should we take a break?” he finally says, gesturing at him, not really whispering but making an effort to not wake Bakugou.

Yaoyorozu follows his hand and raises her eyebrows at the sight on Jirou’s bed, surprised. “Oh wow.”

Aw,” Kaminari says with a huge grin, but he says it quietly, which is nice of him.

Jirou just purses her lips and studies Bakugou on her bed, her expression unreadable. Kirishima watches her nervously but doesn’t conceit to ask her not to wake him up. It is her room after all, and she’s already pretty far outside her comfort zone by having everybody in here; Bakugou passed out on her bed could understandably be a boundary she might not want crossed.

But she just sighs irritably and leans back on her hands, casting her gaze out her open door. “Where did Sero even go? Did he bail?”

“Probably bailed on getting snacks and decided on dinner,” Kaminari guesses, stretching his arms above his head. His spine cracks audibly. “Oh fuck, that’s good. Anybody else hungry?”

Everyone murmurs their shared feelings and focuses on Yaoyorozu, a group of hungry puppies pleading and whining. She thinks about it for a moment, then shuts her laptop with a small smile.

“I think we’ve made a decent amount of progress. We can stop for tonight.”

Everyone’s laptops snap shut and they get to their feet. Kirishima watches Bakugou to see if he stirs at the quiet bustle of people leaving the room, but he’s out like a light. Kirishima fidgets a little as he looks over at Jirou, who is also regarding Bakugou on her bed. Not for the first time, Kirishima wishes he could get some sort of a read on her when her face only ever reveals some level of disinterest or distaste.

“Is it cool if we leave him?” he asks with a tentative smile. “I can come get him when food’s ready. Can he chill for a minute?”

Jirou glances his way for just a second, then turns away from him and her bed altogether. “Yeah, he’s fine. We’ll just keep the door open a little, I guess.”)

 


 

Kirishima can’t act to save his life in trivial matters, so he can only hope that Bakugou buys the look of surprise he plasters onto his face when Ashido, Kaminari, and Sero show up in the doorway of his bedroom at his mom’s house when he and Bakugou are hanging out there one Sunday afternoon.

It’s been a surprisingly relaxing Sunday so far. Kirishima’s mom had made lunch and asked Kirishima if he wanted to come over. Kirishima missed his mom and immediately said yes, and invited Bakugou, whose eyes had gone comically wide and hilariously offended for no reason as he demanded, “Why the hell would I wanna go all the way to your house and eat lunch with your mom?” to which Kirishima had suggested, “Because she’s a good cook and it’s free food?”

Kirishima waited until they were already on the train to cut into Bakugou’s grumbling and bitching (which he was 96% sure was just for show, because if Bakugou really didn’t want to do something that he didn’t have to do, he just wouldn’t do it) to rib him, “Please, as if you had any other plans for today anyway!”

The other passengers had frowned at them when Bakugou pitched a loud, potty-mouthed fit in response, but it wasn’t a long ride, and before long Kirishima’s mom was greeting them at the front door with an enveloping hug for her son and a polite but enthusiastic “nice to meet you” for Bakugou.

The food was to die for (Kirishima teared up a bit from how much he had missed it) and, touchingly, Bakugou had tried to be on his best behavior as a house guest. Whenever he slipped up and cursed or yelled, Kirishima’s mother only laughed, which plainly made Bakugou feel a little more at ease, although Kirishima did notice that when Bakugou called him “Shitty Hair” at the table, his shoulders had shot up to his ears and his eyes flew to Kirishima’s mother (who wasn’t even paying attention), and he only called him “Kirishima” for the rest of the meal following.

Kirishima had gotten a text from Ashido a little after that, when they were in his old bedroom and Bakugou was sitting on the floor, hunched over with the posture of a gargoyle as he played a single-player round of some fighting game, while Kirishima lounged on his bed. Ashido reminded him of a street fair dominating several blocks near U.A. that day and asked if he and Bakugou might want to join her and Kaminari and Sero in going. Kirishima did want to go, and he wanted Bakugou to come too, but even though Bakugou didn’t mind spending time with Kirishima alone, inviting him out with other classmates was almost always a colossal failure. However, as evidenced by Bakugou’s participation in the culture festival and his minor role in preparing Iida’s birthday party last year, Bakugou is surprisingly susceptible to a level of peer pressure, if handled right. So when Kirishima responded to Ashido’s invitation with a quick text of “just come by my house and ‘surprise’ us, he probably wont say no for very long if u do,”  Ashido knew exactly what Kirishima was about.

“Surprise!” Ashido crows at the threshold with Kaminari and Sero peeking over her shoulders and taking in the ultra manly leftover decor that Kirishima had chosen not to bring with him to Heights Alliance.

Ugh,” Bakugou says with feeling from the floor, “what’s the point of leaving campus if I’m just gonna see you dipshits anyway?”

“Good to see you too, Kacchan,” Kaminari says wryly, but his smile is good-natured.

“Don’t call me that.” Bakugou returns to the video game obstinately, as if he can will the three of them to disappear if he ignores them hard enough. Kirishima sends them a surreptitious thumbs-up.

Sooo, we were in the neighborhood,” Ashido says, taking initiative, “my parents got a puppy for my little brother and we wanted to see it—”

“You got a puppy?” Kirishima interrupts, distracted and momentarily forgetting the main goal of his friends’ intrusion.

“It was so small,” Sero says, wiping away a tear.

“Her brother named it Dorito,” says Kaminari.

“I wanna meet Dorito!”

“Holy shit!” Bakugou yells from the carpet, throwing down the controller and turning to glare fully at Kirishima’s crowded doorway. “What do you losers want? We’re busy!”

Kirishima’s stomach does a little flip at that, because they’re not busy—Bakugou is just annoyed that their hang time has been interrupted. Because he likes hanging out with Kirishima, because he likes him. This isn’t really a surprise; Kirishima knows Bakugou likes him, even if Bakugou never says as much, so it’s silly that thinking about it is making his heart thump so hard.

“Yeah, what’s up, guys!” Kirishima says, way too loudly, too obvious, and he winces at himself for it when he sees Bakugou send him a weird look.

Ashido, gift to all mankind, comes to his rescue and cuts to the chase, “That street fair near campus! We’re going, so we came to get you.”

“Pass,” Bakugou snorts just as Kirishima says, “Oh man, that’ll be fun, right Bakugou?” and Bakugou goes, “Huh?”

Kirishima rolls off of his bed and stands up, stretching, thinking fast. His friends are already here and ready to go, and he wants to go too, and sometimes if sudden plans have enough momentum to them it doesn’t take much for Bakugou to get swept into the undertow.

“We oughta get out of my mom’s hair anyway, I think,” he says brightly. “And it’s by campus, right? So it’s not even really out of our way.”

Everyone is on their feet except for Bakugou, who is still planted on the floor and looking up at the four of them with a pinched, pissy look on his face that Kirishima finds unbearably endearing. The look grows deeper when Sero asks him directly, “Do you wanna come?”

Bakugou climbs to his feet with a scowl and says, “I’ll take the train with you back to campus but I’m sure as shit not going to some dumb fair.”

The resounding groan of complaint that fills the room startles Kirishima, even though Kirishima’s groan is one of the loudest. The others’ whiny voices are unexpectedly sincere, and Kirishima’s heart swells up in his throat at what it conveys: the other three also genuinely want Bakugou to come out with them. They know about Kirishima’s crush on Bakugou—it’s glaringly obvious to everyone but Bakugou, apparently—and, like true bros, they never protest when Kirishima wants to bring Bakugou along on outings with them, even if Bakugou always refuses. Last year, Bakugou’s prickly presence would have been something they grit their teeth and bravely tolerated for Kirishima’s sake; now, they just wanted him to hang out with them because they wanted to spend time with him themselves.

Bakugou looks startled as well by the sincere disappointment in everyone’s voices, and he hunches his shoulders and glares harder at them for it, angling his body away from them defensively and snapping, “What? Get a grip!”

“You never come out with us!” Ashido complains, stomping her foot passionately and glaring back him with no small amount of reproach. “You’re always going out with Kirishima!”

“It’s like, okay, whatever, so you like him best!” Kaminari adds petulantly, taking a different approach that has Kirishima flushing bright red and Bakugou spluttering. “But you gotta widen your circle a little, man.”

“Okay, fuck you—”

“I’ll buy you food!” Kirishima and Ashido offer in unison with matching insistence, and then blink at each other. Sero lets out a delighted “haHA!” from the doorway as Bakugou stares at them.

“Fair food is awesome,” Kirishima says, recovering and rolling with it. “C’mon, dude, fair food and two wallets at your service!” Ashido puts a hand over her face, laughing, as Kirishima starts to herd all of them out of his bedroom. “Either way, we might as well head back as it is. You don’t have to go, but will you please just check it out with us?”

“There’s gonna be music and food and arts and crafts and stuff,” Ashido enthuses, bouncing on the balls of her feet.

“Arts and crafts?” Bakugou says sardonically. “I’m in.”

“Really?”

“Fuck no, holy shit.” At everyone’s sulking faces, Bakugou sighs explosively. “God, you’re all so fucking desperate for me, what the hell! Fine, let’s just fucking go!

Kirishima’s cheeks hurt from how big his smile is, and it only grows wider when he sees how excited the other three are too. He gives his mom a hug, thanking her for cooking lunch, while Ashido, Kaminari, and Sero file out the front door.

“You be good and stay safe out there, all right, Red Riot?” his mom says with a shark-toothed grin that matches his own. She turns her eyes to Bakugou. “It was great to meet you, Bakugou. You’ll let Eijirou rope you into coming over again soon, won’t you?”

“Uh,” says Bakugou, glancing at Kirishima uncertainly. “Sure. Yeah. Thanks for having me.”

“Bye, Mom! Love you!”

“Love you too! Text your dad and your sisters when you get a chance!”

“I will!”

And they’re off. They’re lucky enough to squeeze themselves together into the last remaining stretch of sitting room on the train, Kirishima sandwiched between Ashido and Bakugou. Bakugou’s leg bounces restlessly, his knee knocking against Kirishima’s as Kirishima leans towards the other three to talk with them. Ashido says Jirou is going to be there too, and that she had invited Yaoyorozu to meet them (“Nice,” Sero grins, thumping a sulking Kaminari commiseratively on the back); Ashido’s parents will also be there with the puppy (“So you and Bakugou can meet Dorito!”) because her little brother’s middle school band is one of the music sets that will be playing at the gazebo around 2:30.

“Has the band gotten any better since we graduated?” Kirishima asks.

Worse,” Ashido responds with a grin. “Keita plays the trombone.”

“Oh shit,” Kaminari blurts, bringing a hand to his ear like he already needs to block out the sound.

“An Ashido in the brass section?” Kirishima says, eyes widening in horror.

“That’s exactly what Jirou said!” Ashido laughs. She pulls out her phone to show them a video of her brother practicing at home, and they lean in to see. But Bakugou’s knee is forcefully distracting.

“Hey,” Kirishima says, leaning away from the others watching the video to speak to Bakugou, mildly concerned. He hesitates for just a second and then risks clamping a hand firmly over Bakugou’s knee, stilling it. Bakugou goes rigid. “You okay, man?”

“I’m fine, fuck off,” Bakugou snaps. He bounces his leg again but doesn’t try to explode Kirishima’s hand for touching him. “I’m just ready to get this shit over with.”

“The fair?” Bakugou glances at him sidelong and then looks away again. Kirishima smiles and drums his fingers on Bakugou’s kneecap cheerfully. Bakugou’s leg stops bouncing again. “You don’t have to get the fair over with, dude. You still don’t even have to come if you don’t want to. But it’ll be good for you to have fun, I promise. Don’t you get tired of only being mad all the time?”

Bakugou growls, giving him a scathing look, but otherwise ignores him. He crosses his arms and leans back hard in his seat. He still hasn’t made Kirishima move his hand, so, feeling brave, Kirishima leaves it there. He taps mindless rhythms on it periodically.

Touching Bakugou outside of combat can be a gamble. Kirishima’s been doing it since they were fifteen, before they were even friends, leaning on Bakugou and throwing his arms across his shoulders; he’s always been a very tactile person. When he started liking Bakugou as more than a friend, he didn’t stop being so touchy-feely, he only got swept up in how often Bakugou let him. Sure, a lot of the time he got pushed away or exploded, but a lot of the time he didn’t.

He still thinks about that late night in his dorm sometimes. That night when he returned from his successful mission with Fatgum and Tamaki. He had felt ready to burst out of his own skin that night, restless energy coiled up tight in his muscles, when Bakugou came to see him as soon as he got inside his room. It was like being drunk, his inhibitions lowered; he had touched Bakugou a lot in that short amount of time in his darkened room, and Bakugou had touched him back, a little. Kirishima’s arms still tingle sometimes when he remembers Bakugou’s hands grasping his arms, ebbing worry still etched into his expression when he gripped him. Bakugou had been worried about him that day. Kirishima had buzzed with adrenaline and victory, tenderness for Bakugou flowing into it like an IV drip, and he had slid his hands down Bakugou’s forearms, palms flat on his skin. It had been too much, probably, but Bakugou hadn’t shoved him away. There had been an electric charge in the air between them in that moment, compounded by Kirishima reaching up and touching Bakugou’s face—always a no-fly zone. Kirishima had never tried to touch his face before, and then he had, touched his mouth.

That part is still kind of hazy, dreamy, in Kirishima’s memory. He knows he did it, but it doesn’t feel real. He feels a little guilty about it. Bakugou had technically let him do it, hadn’t pushed his hand away, but he spoke up then, scabbed lips moving under Kirishima’s thumb to say, “What are you doing?” and Kirishima slowly came back to himself and withdrew the touch. It was as good as “stop,” so he stopped. Bakugou didn’t seem to hold it against him afterwards, never brought it up, but Kirishima still wonders if Bakugou had felt that sharp energy between them in the moments before, or if he only felt it when Kirishima made it weird at the end there.

That’s the part that kills Kirishima, especially when his friends push him to just ask Bakugou out already. There’s too much treacherous ambiguity there. One of the biggest mysteries among the Bakusquad (Ashido’s term, not his) is if Bakugou even likes guys—if he likes anyone. “One-track mind, one-track heart,” Kaminari had said sagely.

Kirishima does his best to be fair towards everyone, and he’s working hard to include himself in that. If he’s being fair with himself, he doesn’t really think it’s cowardly to hesitate when it comes to navigating these particular waters. Caution isn’t weakness. Waiting to figure things out a little more is reasonable.

He’s pulled out of his reverie when the train stops and the others stand up around him. His hand slips from Bakugou’s knee and he hurries to stand too.

“You’re an idiot,” Bakugou says suddenly as they work their way towards the car doors. “I have fun. I’m not mad all the time.”

Kirishima blinks, lost for a moment, and then grins at the back of Bakugou’s head. Needling, challenging, he says, “Oh yeah? Like when?”

He doesn’t have to activate his Quirk to withstand the elbow Bakugou jabs backwards at him. He laughs, and almost doesn’t hear him when Bakugou shoots over his shoulder, “When I’m with you, asshole. C’mon, move it!” The last part is directed at a child blocking his way out of the train car.

They hop onto the platform as a group and make their way to the sidewalk. Kirishima’s heart is in his throat, nearly choking him, and he hopes no one can tell how red his face is.

That shouldn’t be ambiguous, but it’s Bakugou, so it is.

 

***

 

Bakugou knows what an anxiety attack feels like because he used to get them all the time. He really hopes this isn’t building into one. It’s been a while since he had one, and his last complete meltdown had been his fight with Deku during their first year. A vast majority of his meltdowns throughout his childhood were Deku’s fault, but fighting him had helped work out a lot of his insecurities that Deku exacerbated, so spells of anxiety didn’t plague him as badly as they did last year.

(He knows they weren’t Deku’s fault. It’s just habit to think of it that way.)

It’s stupid to be anxious right now. It would be better if he was just angry, which he is. He’s pissed that Kirishima’s stupid friends barged in when he was having a rare, peaceful time just spending time with Kirishima and demanded not only that Kirishima jump up and go out with them, but also that Bakugou tag along too. He’s not sure what their problem is; they had whined so fucking loud when he resisted the invitation initially. Why did they keep trying to drag him along to the dumb shit they wanted to do? He can understand Kirishima wanting him around, because they’re friends. Kirishima likes him. But the others must love just wasting his time and pissing him off for some reason.

He shouldn’t care what the reason is, but it’s suspicious and it’s making him irritable and jumpy. On top of that, Kaminari’s stupid ass had called him out on marking Kirishima as his favorite, and then Kirishima had his hand on Bakugou’s knee for the entire fucking train ride—and then Bakugou had shot himself right in the mouth by saying that stupid shit, fucking, “When I’m with you,” what the fuck. He’ll never live that down, but he’s not really sure why he’s so fucking embarrassed. Kirishima says nice, earnest shit to him all the time, things that make Bakugou’s chest tight and his palms sweat, and Bakugou doesn’t make fun of him for it. If anybody wasn’t going to tease him for saying something nice, it would be Kirishima.

Unfortunately, logic and rational thought have historically never made him chill out. If they had, it wouldn’t have taken him upwards of ten years to stop wishing literal death on Deku. Bakugou still wants to bail and just go back to the dorms, but he said he’d come to the festival so he’ll fucking do it. Thirty minutes tops, and then he can deem it too lame to stay any longer, and campus is just a few blocks away anyway.

The fair is a straight shot of blocked off roads for several blocks, dominated by colorful booths, tents, and kiosks. The smell of too much fried food is overwhelming but welcoming. Bakugou, an anxious snacker, forcibly shakes out his arms and scowls at Kirishima and Ashido on either side of him as their group passes the road blocks and merges with the festival crowd.

“So, which one of you two fuckers is buying me yakitori?”

“Already?” Kirishima laughs. “We just ate lunch!”

“I got you, Bakugou!” Ashido trills excitedly, clapping him on the back with unexpected force and fisting her hand in the back of his shirt, shaking him enthusiastically. “I want some too!”

She darts off into the crowd, and Kaminari chases after her, yelling, “Wait up! I’m hungry too!” while Bakugou stares at their backs, perplexed and vaguely uncomfortable.

“Hey, look!” Sero says, pointing. “Wind chimes.” With perfect timing, a warm breeze shimmies through the air and the sound of chimes knocking musically together rings out from a tent to their right. Sero strolls over to it with Kirishima in his wake, and Bakugou follows after a few seconds.

Sero babbles about his favorite kinds of wind chimes in the shade of the tent and ponders aloud which set he should get to hang out on his veranda. Bakugou tries to tune him out, touching the chimes and making them sing.

“Metal and wooden chimes are better,” he says idly, frowning when Sero glides his fingers across a series of glass chimes. Their music is discordant, too high and piercing for his liking.

“You think so?” Sero wonders, coming to join him in front of a set of swaying bamboo tubes. “I really like the bamboo chimes, too. They’d go well with my whole dorm schtick.”

“Wood and metal chimes make me feel like I’m in some forest getaway,” Kirishima says, blowing gently on a smaller set of metal chimes. “Like I’m up on some mountain.”

“Hell yes,” Bakugou agrees, his voice still mild, distantly aware of his slowly calming nerves. “That’s exactly what I want.”

“What do you want?” Kirishima asks.

“To be up on a mountain.” Off Kirishima’s curious look, he crosses his arms and lifts his chin, slightly defiant by default. “When I’m a pro, I want a cabin of my own up on some mountain far away from people, for when they make you take time off. Hang some of this shit up outside, fuckin’ perfect.”

“You make something so peaceful sound so aggressive,” Sero says with a chuckle.

“Would you build the cabin yourself?” Kirishima asks eagerly.

“Hell no,” Bakugou scoffs. “I’ll be a pro Hero! I’m gonna be too busy killing villains!”

“Incapacitating villains,” Sero corrects.

“It would be so manly,” Kirishima says with a familiar stupid shine in his eyes, “if you built a mountainside cabin by yourself.”

“Shut up. I’m buying these,” Bakugou announces suddenly, pointing to the metal chimes Kirishima is tinkling with.

Beside him, Sero smiles and reaches up to gently take the bamboo chimes off the hook. “Yeah, you know what? I’m getting these ones too.”

The old lady selling the wind chimes takes care to bag their purchases carefully so the chimes and strings aren’t tangled, although the moment Bakugou takes his bag from her he can feel the fucking things tangle into a knot immediately. Kirishima leads the way out of the tent and back into the sunlight, where he spots Ashido and Kaminari in the distance at a booth displaying large glass frames.

“Got something already?” Kaminari says around a mouthful of chicken when the three of them approach. “What is it?”

“Wind chimes,” Bakugou and Sero chorus together. Bakugou frowns at Sero, who grins and nudges him. When Ashido goes “ooh” and leans over to try and peek into Bakugou’s bag, he slaps her hand away, but all she does is giggle and hold out a skewer of chicken to him. He stares at it for a moment, then at her face, skeptical.

“You did say yakitori, right?” she asks when he doesn’t immediately take it. “Or did you say takoyaki and I messed up?”

“I said yakitori,” he mutters, finally moving to take it from her. He’s being stupid—he’s the one who demanded yakitori; all Ashido did was mean it when she said she’d buy him food. He hesitates, then reluctantly adds, “Thanks.”

Ashido smiles brilliantly, a sunniness that rivals Kirishima’s, and Bakugou looks away, grinding his teeth. Anxiety is slowly creeping up in his chest to pinch at his lungs again, so he takes a vicious bite of yakitori to smother it back down. He’s grateful when Kirishima notices the booth they’re standing in front of and goes, “Oh, what is that! Sweet!” and draws Bakugou’s attention to it too. It’s an art booth, and the pieces on display are massive mosaics of butterfly wings on plexiglass. It’s kind of cool, Bakugou guesses. He doesn’t really give a shit about art or whatever. But it is pretty, great meticulously crafted swaths of bright blue that the little white label says are from eco-friendly, ethically-sourced blue morphos.

“Dude, Tamaki would love this!” Kirishima says. His eyes are wide, and when Bakugou looks at him, he can see the butterflies reflected in them, battling for brightness.

Bakugou’s pretty sure he knows that name. He has to think for a bit to remember who it is. “Your senpai?”

“Yeah, he really likes butterflies!” Kirishima says, leaning in to peer closer at the art label. He whistles lowly at the price. “If I had the money, I’d totally get something like this for him.”

Bakugou bristles at that, and is embarrassed at himself for it. He takes another bite of yakitori, spitefully, and tries to incinerate the butterfly wings with his gaze alone. He says with his mouth full, “Shit, why stop there? Just fuckin’ propose while you’re at it.”

“I should probably leave that to Togata, though, shouldn’t I?” Kirishima laughs, bumping his arm against Bakugou, who gives him a blank look. Kirishima clarifies, “Midoriya’s senpai.”

“Oh.” Another blank look, then Bakugou furrows his eyebrows at him. “Oh, are they together for real?”

“Uh, yeah?” Kirishima’s eyebrows nearly hit his hairline, and then he throws his head back and laughs, joyous. “Dude, you are so out of touch with, like, everything, it’s incredible—

“Go fuck yourself!” Bakugou says, hackles rising. He brandishes his yakitori at him threateningly. “Like I’m supposed to give a shit about dating gossip, I don’t even know those assholes—”

“That’s not even gossip, though!” Kaminari protests, startling Bakugou a little, because he had completely forgotten about the others the second he took the skewer from Ashido and started talking to Kirishima. “It probably was when they started dating, but that was before we started at U.A.—”

“Yeah, but now that’s kind of a big deal, with them being two of the Big Three, and now that they’re full-time sidekicks!” Ashido agrees.

“They won’t be sidekicks for long,” Kirishima says confidently. “I’ve never heard of fresh graduates making such solid names for themselves this fast, especially when Togata kept working before he got his Quirk back—”

“They’re in the spotlight more and more every week,” Ashido can’t help but talk over him before he can finish. “They could break off and go pro now if they wanted to! They’re unmatched! And the fact that they’re publicly an item is so sweet—”

“But pretty risky, for pros,” Sero points out.

“A stupid move, some might argue,” Kaminari adds. “Some already do.”

“If they’re as good as they’re supposed to be, then it shouldn’t matter,” Bakugou says suddenly.

His heart is thudding in his ears, the way it always does when he looks into the future, at the promise of success he knows awaits him. He’s thought about this in passing before, but never in depth, because it never really applied to him—the whole “love life of a pro” bullshit. Pro Heroes are often single and rarely have children because of the liabilities, the open weak spots for villains to exploit; it had probably been a big deal when Endeavor married and started popping out babies. He rarely visualized himself in a future where he’s romantically involved with anybody, because that’s never been his style or his priority. His passing thoughts on the matter were usually limited to condemning romance as a distraction to his Hero work, or a nonissue altogether because no way in hell would he be such a piss-poor Hero that something like that would even be able to distract him. If he wants to get married someday, fucking watch him—it won’t change a thing about his performance.

“If those two are as good as everyone thinks they are, then they can keep themselves and each other safe just fucking fine,” Bakugou continues, running his mouth even though his opinion is being formed and solidified on the spot. But he means every word the second he says it, he discovers, so he barrels on heatedly, “People who think relationships form a blind spot for Heroes are full of shit. If the people you love don’t make things crystal fucking clear when it matters, you don’t have any business being a Hero. Fuck off with that crap. Let those guys date, who gives a shit.”

The silence that follows is horrific, as are the wide-eyed stares locked onto him, so he takes a particularly obnoxious bite of yakitori to distract himself.

“Bakugou…” Kirishima’s got that stupid look on his face again.

“Don’t,” Bakugou warns.

“That’s the manliest thing I’ve heard you say!” Kirishima wails, gripping his arm meaningfully.

“Fucking hell, Kirishima—”

“Unexpectedly romantic, coming from you,” Sero says, and laughs when Ashido cries, “Like, super romantic, Bakugou!”

“Like, Romantic era levels of romantic,” Kaminari says thoughtfully. “On the cusp of the Zeitgeist.”

“Alright, I’m out,” Bakugou says flatly, turning to march back in the direction they’d come from, to storm those couple of blocks to campus. He rolls his eyes when Kirishima’s hand curls tighter around his arm and they all start laughing, playful and apologetically yelling, “Wait, no, don’t leave.”

“Come on, let’s keep going!” Ashido insists, pointing the way with her own yakitori. “The middle school band is lined up next at the gazebo. My parents are already set up on a blanket with Dorito, so you can meet them.”

Bakugou lets Kirishima pull him along as they make their way down the street, passing dozens upon dozens of tents and booths and yatai that they don’t stop to peruse. His anxiety is soothed just a bit by the food in his hand and Kirishima at his side, but discomfort still whittles away at his ribcage whenever he hears Kaminari and Sero laugh or Ashido mention her little brother. All Bakugou knows right now is that he really doesn’t want to meet Pinky’s parents. He can meet a stupid puppy and pet it, whatever, but he has no reason to talk to a random classmate’s mom and dad.

They pause briefly by one of those carnival games with the stacked bottles that you chuck a baseball at to win a cheap toy. Plushies of varying sizes and on a spectrum of gaudiness line the border of the tent over the booth. They’re mostly cartoon characters, dragons, and plush All Mights and Endeavors and Gang Orcas.

“Look!” Ashido says, whipping her phone out and pointing at the Hero dolls. “These stupid things are always rigged, the bottles are totally glued in place. I bet you could at least shatter them if you threw a ball, Bakugou!”

“I’ve done that before,” Bakugou deadpans. In his bedroom back home where no one on the planet can ever see it, he has an enormous stuffed All Might that he won in such a manner when he was nine.

“You could win an Endeavor plushie,” Kaminari says. “You could give it to Todoroki as a souvenir.”

Bakugou’s lip curls. “Endeavor can fucking choke on that thing, and Todoroki can do the honors of shoving it down his throat.”

There’s a beat of silence that, for once, is uncomfortable on the others’ end and not Bakugou’s, broken by Kirishima cautiously going, “Dude, you good?”

“Never better.” Bakugou chomps on the last chunk of meat on the skewer and then tosses the stick into a waiting garbage can. Wiping his mouth on the strap of his tank top, he notices Ashido’s phone angled at him and he quirks an irritated eyebrow at it. “You filmin’ this, Pinky?”

“No,” she lies badly, ruining her own attempt at innocent, owlish blinking by smiling guiltily, but she lowers her phone. As a group, they carry on past the game booth.

The fair is split in half by the park, a block of flat greenery with a fountain and a large gazebo for public shows. Families and picnics are spread out all on the grass, lavishing in the sun or taking shelter under coveted cherry trees. Ashido hollers and waves when they reach the grass, and halfway between the fountain and the gazebo, a pair of people wave back at them.

Bakugou hangs back when the other four start to head in that direction. He pivots and stares intensely at whatever is at the nearest booth, which turns out to be some local wood carvings and, like, watercolor paintings of herons and shit like that. Nothing Bakugou would ever believably be interested in looking at. Fuck. He manages to appear particularly absorbed in a painting of macaques in a hot spring for a minute or two before a hand finally grasps him firmly by the elbow; he looks around, expecting Kirishima, but finds Ashido instead.

“Will you come on?” she insists impatiently, tugging on his arm. “Everybody has met my parents a million times except for you! I want them to meet you! And Dorito isn’t getting any younger!”

Bakugou wants to shove her away and shout at her for being so pushy, because he doesn’t have to do fuck-all for anybody, least of all Pinky, and because this may be the epicenter of his discomfort, a major factor in the afternoon’s anxiety persisting after him, her presence and the others’ and her fucking parents waiting on a blanket in the grass, all of it involving him for some unfathomable reason. It’s infuriating and confusing; he feels like a cosmic body, like the Earth and its familiar moon—or maybe Kirishima isn’t a satellite, instead a separate but comfortably close body like Mars—and he’s suddenly got these other bodies flinging themselves into his orbit and throwing off his gravity entirely.

But it’s so fucking strange and he’s just rocketing half-blind through space, so Bakugou just shakes off her touch and crams the hand that isn’t holding a bag of fucking wind chimes into his pocket and snaps at her, “I’m coming, chill the fuck out!” and stomps across the park with her prancing by his side.

Kirishima is lying on the grass with a puppy the size of Bakugou’s foot wriggling around on his chest and licking his face. They both look like they’re on cloud nine, and Kirishima is laughing and wailing with such glee that tears are beading on his eyelashes and glittering in the sun. Kaminari and Sero are standing over him and filming him on their phones while the two people who are obviously Ashido’s parents kneel on a zebra print blanket, laughing at the commotion. Her mother looks normal from afar, dark-skinned with a halo of curly hair and a pair of spiraling horns like her daughter’s, until they get close and Bakugou sees that she’s got some sort of sizzling, thick black ichor oozing from her eyes that fizzles away into nothing when it drips from her chin. Ashido’s father is a hulking, beaming mountain of a man, bright pink all over, from his skin to his hair to the sclera of his eyes, but otherwise a normal-looking guy.

Pinky grips his wrist again as they draw near, like she’s trying to keep him from running off, and they’re too close to her parents for Bakugou to feel comfortable slapping at her hand again, so he lets her tug him to the edge of the blanket.

“Mom, Dad!” she says happily. “This is my friend Bakugou! He’s the one who won the Sports Festival last year.”

Bakugou boggles at her next to him—Friend? What the fuck?—and nearly misses her dad saying to him, “Nice to meet you, Bakugou! Mina’s brought all her friends around before but took her time with you, apparently!”

“I don’t get out much,” Bakugou says stiffly. Pinky’s parents like that, laughing loud and full-bellied, weirdly kind and not really at Bakugou’s expense. Deeply unnerved, Bakugou awkwardly shifts from foot to foot, and finds a safe place to settle his gaze in Kirishima on the ground with the puppy. Kirishima catches his eyes and smiles at him, cradling Dorito safely to his chest with one hand as he surges up from the grass. He staggers a little, off-balance, into Bakugou’s personal space and deposits the puppy matter-of-factly into Bakugou’s open palms.

“Bakugou, meet Dorito,” he grins. “Dorito, Bakugou.” Dorito instantly tries to chew on the plastic handle of Bakugou’s bag of wind chimes.

“Oi,” he mutters, holding the bag away and then lowering it to his side, cupping the puppy in one hand. It’s a little thing, but big enough that its legs dangle around Bakugou’s fingers, his hand fitting its torso like a harness. It squirms and wags its stubby tail so energetically its entire butt wiggles. Bakugou sighs. He doesn’t look at the others as he sets his bag down on the grass and brings the puppy a little closer so he can scratch behind its ears. He twitches when it licks his nose.

“You piss on me,” he warns it darkly, “and you’re going straight in that fucking fountain, got it?”

“Bakugou!” Kirishima cries, scandalized.

“Not to drown, stupid!” Bakugou says defensively. “A dunk at the most.” Dorito is chewing on his fingers, thoroughly sliming them.

Everyone seems to be settling in here, Pinky plopping down between her parents and digging a juice box out of their picnic basket and oblivious to the suspicious, thoroughly weirded-out looks Bakugou keeps sending her way. Kaminari and Sero sit down as well when the Ashido parents invite them to and are also given juice boxes like a couple of children. Kirishima is still standing six inches too far inside Bakugou’s personal space, smiling and petting Dorito’s squirming head; his hand could envelop its entire skull, so his fingers keep colliding with Bakugou’s where Dorito is gnawing on them, making Bakugou’s ears ring.

Right, Bakugou remembers, watching everybody get comfortable, a nigh impossible task in Bakugou’s opinion (not truly impossible, because nothing is, to him, but Bakugou feels like he hasn’t been comfortable since he was fourteen). Right, Pinky’s brother is going to be squawking on the trombone up there under the gazebo here in a few minutes. Once that shit is over with, nobody can bitch and moan when he finally bails.

Kirishima sits, thankfully, on a corner of the blanket that’s farthest from Ashido and her parents, and Bakugou lowers himself carefully to the grass next to him. He sends another distrustful look in Ashido’s direction and puts the puppy down. It runs in a circle and then clambors up into Bakugou’s lap and flops down there with a heavy sigh that Bakugou echoes.

“You okay, man?” Kirishima asks. “You kinda look ready to jump outta your skin.”

Bakugou grinds his teeth together, eyes narrowing, then hisses, “Pinky just told her parents I’m her friend. What the fuck is that? What is she trying to pull?”

Bakugou has never seen a more bewildered expression on anyone in his life than the one Kirishima has right now. “What? She’s not trying to pull anything.”

“Then why’d she say that?”

“Because you are her friend?” Kirishima says, like it’s obvious. When Bakugou just stares at him, Bakugou expects him to laugh, but instead a look of mild concern clouds his features. He glances at the others and then scoots closer, lowering his voice. “Dude, you know that, right?”

“Know what?” Bakugou demands, curtly, because he’s startled by this news and embarrassed by how obvious it really must be if Kirishima is looking like that.

“That Mina’s your friend,” Kirishima responds, patient without sounding condescending about it, a miracle in its own right. “Everybody here is. We all really like you, dude. It’s why we all wanted you to come out with us.”

Bakugou doesn’t know how to feel about this. Scorn is the first thing to rise up in his throat on reflex, but it quickly dies down and is briefly replaced by indignation for some reason, which also subsides as quickly as it had risen. Pleasure simmers distantly in his stomach, but it’s too uncertain to be smug or especially overpowering. Mostly he feels uncomfortable.

“Weird,” is what he finally manages to say.

“You’re telling me,” Kirishima snickers. “Attitude and all, you got something magnetizing about you.”

Bakugou feels himself flush red, sweating even more under the rays of the sun. He would shove Kirishima but the sleeping puppy in his lap keeps him still. “Fuck off, don’t say shit like that.”

“Why not?” Kirishima’s grin is too close and too sharp. Bakugou might cut himself on its edges. “I like you the most, after all!”

Bakugou swallows hard, glaring at him, hyperaware of the people around them because he wants very badly to do...something. He will not let himself think about what that something is, even though it’s resting there in his brain, like a math problem he can figure out easily if he just took the few seconds to total it up. He thinks he sees Kirishima’s eyes follow the movement of his throat, and it feels like he’s back in Kirishima’s darkened dorm with a busted lip and Kirishima’s thumb pressing down on it, close to dipping inside if Bakugou opened his mouth for it.

“Jirou-san! Yaomomo!”

The spell is broken. Bakugou can breathe again when Kirishima looks away to greet Jirou and Yaoyorozu, who have just walked up to the group on the blanket, holding half-melted snow cones. They smile and say hi to everyone; Bakugou scoffs at how visibly surprised they are to see him among the group.

“Bakugou!” Ashido calls over to him. “Do you still have Dorito? They need to meet him too!”

Wordlessly, Bakugou lifts the puppy from his lap and holds it aloft like Simba. Dorito wiggles delightedly in his grip and barks excitedly when Jirou and Yaoyorozu gasp and scuttle around the blanket to get to them.

“Could I hold him?” Yaoyorozu asks, bending down to talk to him, politely holding her snow cone so it doesn’t drip on him. Jirou doesn’t offer him the same courtesy and lets hers dribble red syrup onto his arm when he passes the puppy to Yaoyorozu.

“Fuckin’ hell, Jack, were you raised in a barn? Watch it,” Bakugou says testily. Next to him, Kirishima laughs and hands him a napkin. Bakugou grabs a handful more and thrusts them up at her.

“Cool to see you here,” Jirou says easily, slurping at the melting ice. She’s characteristically nonchalant, but she nudges Bakugou’s knee with her foot. Friendly.

Bakugou looks back to Kirishima, slightly suspicious, who is watching the exchange and looking extremely pleased. We all really like you, dude. It’s why we all wanted you to come out with us.

It’s extremely difficult to imagine Jack liking anyone at all, much less Bakugou. He’s still reeling from the announcement that he’s friends with these other morons.

“You wanna prove you like me the most?” Bakugou finally says, mostly to distract himself from thinking about this too hard and to get that dopey expression off of Kirishima’s face.

It works, but Bakugou’s wording was really weird. Kirishima looks flustered. “What?”

“Go get me a snow cone.”

“Oh. Sure!” Kirishima beams at him. “What kind?”

Bakugou tilts his head back up, scrutinizing the one Jirou’s holding. “Hey, Jack, what flav—will you quit dripping on me? Fuck, I gave you like seventy napkins! What flavor is that?”

“Tiger’s blood.”

“That,” Bakugou says to Kirishima.

“You got it,” Kirishima says with a wide smile, and he claps his hands on Bakugou’s knees, leaning in on him suddenly—holy shit, Bakugou flounders, Kirishima’s face two inches away—but Kirishima is just using his knees for leverage to heft himself up off the ground to his feet. Bakugou breathes in deep and tries to stop his head from spinning as Kirishima runs off.

He tenses up a little when Jack drops into the spot on the blanket that Kirishima vacated, but to his relief she doesn’t try to talk to him. She’s immediately drawn into conversation with the others, a conversation that is evidently about taking as many pictures and videos of Yaoyorozu with the puppy as possible. Yaoyorozu is camera shy, holding the puppy up to block her face, prompting Ashido to yell, “Quit hiding behind Dorito, Momo, you’re just as cute!”

Bakugou rolls his eyes so hard he nearly sprains something. But at least he’s being left alone, so he has some time to gather his bearings and stop being so stupidly frazzled by the socialization. He lets himself zone out, chin propped in his palm and his elbows on his knees, gazing dully across the park at the gazebo where he can see a harried middle school band director trying to wrangle and arrange his gawky, fumbling students and their unwieldy instruments.

He’s not sure how long he’s sitting there, not paying attention—probably not very long, since Kirishima hasn’t returned—but he’s reluctantly drawn back to the chatter close by when Jirou’s voice rises, distinctly pissed off: “—if you wanna get up there and play Wonderwall or whatever, go ahead, but I’m not performing again, alright? So just drop it!”

She’s yelling at Kaminari, going by the wounded look on his face and the awkward caught-in-the-middle expression Yaoyorozu is sporting. Bakugou can put together from context clues that Kaminari was probably pestering Jirou about performing at an event like this since the band had been a success at the culture festival. But Jirou had already been rather cagey about performing before the class had pressured her into agreeing that time, and once the thing was over, she had gone back to being peculiarly resistant against the idea of doing anything like that again. Bakugou also hadn’t been interested in keeping the band together, despite Kaminari’s pleading, but he had never been a musician beforehand. He had picked up drumming easily, but Jirou is a natural musician. Her pissy attitude about it is weird, and frankly, getting on his nerves when all she’s dealing with is people praising her talent.

“What’s your problem?” Bakugou demands when she turns huffily away from Kaminari and the others to crunch at the core of her snow cone with laser focus.

“What?”

“You got Pikachu over there looking like a kicked puppy. What’s your fucking damage? All anybody ever says about your music shit is that you’re good, and they’re right. You can’t take a compliment?”

“I don’t need compliments on my music, alright?” Jirou snaps at him. “I know I’m good. I’m just tired of people telling me I should perform more. It’s a hobby and I like it but I’m not here for that. I didn’t come to U.A. to be a musician.”

Bakugou narrows his eyes at her, interest and respect piqued. Jirou looks away.

“It’s always gonna lead to people wondering why I’m not pursuing music instead since I’m already so good at it,” she grumbles. “I’m not gonna be a better musician than a Hero. That’s not what I’m here for.”

Bakugou inclines his head, lip curling. “Damn fucking straight.”

This throws Jirou off a bit. For the second time in as many minutes, she goes, “What?” with no less confusion than the first time.

“That shit would piss me off too.” Bakugou leans back on his hands and looks past her at Kaminari, who’s still got a dumb hangdog expression on his face. “Sparky doesn’t think you’re a better musician than a Hero, though, he’s just stupid, so maybe chill the fuck out.”

“Yeah, whatever. God.” She crosses her arms, scowling, but the tension in her shoulders has melted away.

Kirishima is always saying that Bakugou and Jirou have a lot in common (“And not just that you definitely own the exact same skull tank top,” he had cackled). He might not be totally full of shit on that subject, because after a few seconds, Jirou’s face actually betrays something for once, and Bakugou can read it with unexpected clarity because it perfectly matches the awkward twist he feels in his own stomach at having had a real, almost in-depth conversation with someone. Jack doesn’t like realizing she’s sort of shown her whole ass to him by spilling out insecurities any more than he likes realizing that he sat there and listened.

“Aw, Jirou! You took my spot!” Kirishima whines playfully, returning to them with snow cones in hand. He plops down in the grass next to Bakugou on his other side and hands him a red snow cone. His teeth and lips are already stained orange from his own snow cone when he smiles at Bakugou, and he touches their red and orange ice together like toasting drinks.

“Wh—don’t mix them together, you fuck,” Bakugou complains, holding his snow cone away and knocking into Jirou, who spills her melted remains into her own lap.

Dude!” she yells, as Dorito wiggles out of Yaoyorozu’s hands to scamper over and lap at the icy syrup on her legs.

“Great start to the video, guys,” Ashido laughs, holding her phone aloft and aiming at them. Across the park, the band finally starts to play, opening with a distinctly Ashido-sounding trombone squawk. “There’s Keita!”

Bakugou lets Kirishima slump against his left side, laughing his ass off at Jirou’s mess, and Bakugou drops about seventy more napkins onto the sticky red puddles on her thighs instead of apologizing. He can feel himself trying to bite back a smile and mostly failing. At least it probably looks more like a smirk.

(Todoroki shouldn’t have put off finishing his Art History essay until the day before it’s due, but at least he didn’t start it the day before. It’s only unfinished because he’s struggling with reaching the minimum word count; his taciturn nature often extends to words on paper, and it doesn’t help that Art History doesn’t particularly interest him.

Luckily, Midoriya is passionate about the subject, and can churn out novels if he wants to. Todoroki is thankful that he’s eager to help him. Even so, the subject is still boring, and there are more interesting things happening in the common room, like the group on the couch clustered around Hagakure’s phone as she watches Ashido’s Snapchat story. Apparently Ashido’s family has a new puppy, and she and her friends have gone to the arts and crafts festival being held just a few blocks away.

“Do you want to go to the festival?” Todoroki asks, cutting Midoriya off mid-mutter about Silver Age throwbacks. He wonders if Midoriya will chide him for trying to slack off on his essay even further. He stares at him hard, curious now.

To Midoriya’s credit, he’s very gentle in his chiding, and mostly laughing. “I don’t know, Todoroki-kun, do you want to get a passing grade from Midnight? Come on, don’t get distracted now.”

“Right,” Todoroki sighs, smiling a bit. “Sorry. I can hear the videos they’re watching, is all.”

“It sounds fun,” Midoriya agrees, looking over at the group. “If you get to your word count, do you want to check it out then?”

“Yes,” Todoroki says, encouraged. He pulls his laptop closer to himself, and then pauses when he hears the video from across the room mention his father.

You could win an Endeavor plushie.” That’s Kaminari’s voice. “You could give it to Todoroki as a souvenir.

Then suddenly, Bakugou’s voice, unexpected: “Endeavor can fucking choke on that thing, and Todoroki can do the honors of shoving it down his throat.

Todoroki and Midoriya’s heads swivel to face the group on the couch. Midoriya’s shoulders are drawn and tense. Todoroki can’t tell what Hagakure’s face might look like, but the others around her are looking back at him, cringing apologetically.

“Um, sorry Todoroki-kun,” Hagakure says awkwardly, quickly turning the volume of her phone down. “Just—Bakugou being rude, you know.”

“No, it was funny,” Todoroki says easily. He hesitates, and then asks, “Can you send me that?”

After the group has settled down again and returned to Snapchat, the clip Hagakure had texted him securely saved to his own phone, Todoroki finally looks back at his almost-but-not-quite-complete essay. Beside him, Midoriya fidgets uncomfortably. When Todoroki looks at him, he finds him nervously chewing on his already-chapped lower lip.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. Just—does Kacchan know?” Midoriya asks carefully. “About...about the kind of guy Endeavor is?”

Todoroki thinks back to the Sports Festival, remembering an especially angry Bakugou bursting into the waiting room to fuss and threaten him. It had been strange, a delayed dread, when Bakugou had spat, “And you! Your family? Your damn feelings? Who cares? Come at me with your left side!” It hadn’t occurred to him until he had gotten home that evening that Bakugou had implied he’d overheard Todoroki’s conversation with Midoriya.

Nothing came of it, but he had been reminded of Bakugou’s knowledge about him during their supplementary provisional license classes, and he’d also gotten a rare, small insight on Bakugou too. Bakugou had carelessly mentioned his own experience with beatings and corporal punishment when pushing to physically suppress the children they were working with, and when Todoroki had firmly protested, Bakugou had actually deferred to his judgment, if seething and begrudgingly. This was, perhaps, something unspoken and crystal clear between them.

“He overheard my conversation with you that day during the Sports Festival,” Todoroki explains, when Midoriya looks worried. “I think he...understands. What that’s like.”

“Yeah, I think...I think he would,” Midoriya winces. “I, y’know. I know his mom. So, um. Well. I’m glad he said that about your dad. Kinda like he’s sort of...on your side.”

“Me too.”

There’s a trace of fondness and no small amount of pride in Midoriya’s voice as he says, “Kacchan’s getting better.”)

Chapter Text

“I don’t have to be here while he gets it done, do I?” Bakugou’s father asks the tattooed behemoth behind the front counter of the parlor. Bakugou snorts.

“Nah,” the guy says pleasantly, sliding Bakugou’s student ID and his dad’s driver’s license across the counter to them. “We got your IDs copied, now all we need from you is your signature along with your son’s, then you can leave if you want.”

“Thank you.”

Bakugou tries not to visibly sulk, since he’s already feeling stupidly childish standing there while the guy talks to his dad instead of him, even though he’s the client here. He’s forking over the money for a tattoo, but he’s a minor, so what the fuck ever. At the least the minimum age for a tattoo isn’t twenty anymore.

His dad hands him the clipboard of paperwork, and Bakugou flips through it, slashing his name briskly on the highlighted blanks, and hands it over to the guy. He maintains steady, forceful eye contact, which the guy returns easily. Fucker.

“Are you sure about this, Katsuki?” his father asks, looking uncertain and out of place, surrounded by dramatic, swirling artwork framed on the walls and the distant buzz of needles and conversation. Someone in the back yelps loudly, pained, followed by laughter. His dad winces.

Yes, I’m sure,” Bakugou says, annoyed. “Will you get out of here? You look like you’re gonna pass out.”

“Forever is a long time to have on your skin—”

“Fuck’s sake, old man—”

“Alright, alright.” His father waves awkwardly at the guy behind the counter, abandoning the attempt at a shallow bow once he’s already started to bend at the waist and looks kind of stupid as he takes his leave. Bakugou wants to kill him for being so embarrassing, but at least he finally fucking leaves, and when he does, Bakugou looks back at the other guy.

“Doesn’t like tattoos, does he?” the guy says conversationally.

“Needles, mostly,” Bakugou grunts. His dad gets a say in which models look best in some of his designs, and plenty of them have tattoos.

“Nice. Yukari’s cleaning up her station. She’ll be out in a few minutes.”

Bakugou sits down to wait. He picks a chair next to the saltwater fish tank that takes up most of the wall on his left side. The time is edging past noon on a Sunday, and the tattoo parlor is getting fairly busy with walk-ins and other early appointments. Most of the walk-ins are girls getting piercings, which are relatively short procedures, Bakugou assumes.

In the couple of times he’s been here for consultations, he’s counted two body piercers and six tattoo artists. His artist is older than the others, but he likes her the most, even though he hasn’t properly spoken to any of the others; her specialty is dragons, and she’s not as chatty as the other artists seem to be. She has a scowl on her face that makes her look old and serious, but Bakugou is pretty sure that’s just what her face looks like, because she lets the others get real chummy whenever they interrupted Bakugou’s consultations with her to ask her questions, letting them call her Yukari. Bakugou doesn’t remember what her family name is, and she even gave him her number so she could send him her sketches of his tattoo, and she’s in his phone as Yukari.

When she comes out to lead him back to her station, all she says is “Hey, what’s up,” and then “You ready?” She has him take off his shirt and she applies the stencil, asking about angles and placement, and when they’ve finally settled on where he definitely wants it on his shoulder blade, she sits him down and tells him to lean forward and wrap his arms around the leather rest to get comfortable.

“You got headphones?” she asks, pulling on her gloves. “I’m not much of a talker during sessions. You probably aren’t either, right?”

“Nope.” Bakugou pulls his headphones from his pocket and plugs them into his phone. He selects the most chaotic song in his library and cranks the volume up so he can’t hear the telltale whine of the needle.

He forces himself to relax when he feels Yukari’s hand on his shoulder, and only twitches a little when the needle touches down. The sting is hot and sharp, not unbearable, but persistent and forceful. It’s a hard, buzzing, digging burn in his shoulder blade, trickling down as Yukari drags linework down his skin. The piece isn’t going to be especially big, only about six inches long, but the linework is detailed and beautiful and will take a while to complete, so Bakugou grits his teeth and settles in to bear it.

He opens up a Google doc on his phone that has an essay for Cementoss that he’s barely started and works on that for about thirty minutes until his concentration flags and fails him. It’s already a difficult assignment to work on and properly cite when he hasn’t brought the book they’ve been reading with him, and it’s hard to think critically about it when there’s a needle stabbing him 50 times a second. It’s easier to read than to write under the circumstances, so he browses the news for a bit and then reads some creepypastas.

A text comes in from Kirishima during a quick reprieve from the discomfort while Yukari is changing needles an hour into the session.

KIRISHIMA
1:04 PM
wya [boxing glove emoji] [weightlifter emoji] [flexing arm emoji]

 

Good Lord.

 

BAKUGOU
1:05 PM
i told you i was going out

KIRISHIMA
1:06 PM
oh yeah i forgot haha!!!!!
1:07 PM
when will you be back? wyd??

BAKUGOU
1:07 PM
what’s with the fuckin inquisition? mind your own business

 

KIRISHIMA
1:08 PM
is it a crime to miss my very best bro???? [crying emoji]

BAKUGOU
1:08 PM
[middle finger emoji]

 

KIRISHIMA
1:09 PM
hahahaha
1:09 PM
if it’s a secret that’s ok. i’ll see you later this evening then maybe??????

 

Bakugou closes his eyes against Kirishima’s earnestness, so genuine and bright even through text message. He wonders if Kirishima actually misses him, or if that’s just Kirishima’s excessive, performative affection in action. Then again, nothing about Kirishima is performative, save for his confidence on bad days when he wants to stand tall for other people despite feeling small, or when he doesn’t want to disappoint Bakugou.

Bakugou opens his eyes and gazes at Kirishima’s aggressive use of emojis and punctuation. Texting him has at least kept his mind off how uncomfortable getting a tattoo is.

 

BAKUGOU
1:12 PM
it’s not a secret. i’m just getting a tattoo

 

KIRISHIMA
1:12 PM
DUDE WHAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! [shocked emoji] [shocked emoji] [shocked emoji]

 

Bakugou grins.

 

KIRISHIMA
1:13 PM
that’s so cool!!!!!!!! show me!!!!!!! can i see it???????

 

BAKUGOU
1:14 PM
it’s not done yet dingus
1:14 PM
i’m under the needle right now

 

KIRISHIMA
1:15 PM
[shocked emoji] [shocked emoji] [shocked emoji] [shocked emoji] [shocked emoji] [shocked emoji]
1:15 PM
take a selfie!!!!!!!!!

 

BAKUGOU
1:15 PM
no wtf

 

KIRISHIMA
1:16 PM
bro!!!! are you really not gonna document this occasion???
1:17 PM
and deprive me of that pretty face?????

 

Bakugou’s stomach clenches brutally.

 

BAKUGOU
1:18 PM
shut the fuck up holy shit

 

He locks his phone and buries his head in his arms, breathing in deeply. The needle in his shoulder draws back, and there’s a tap on his headphone.

“Need a break?” Yukari asks when he takes it out.

“I’m good,” Bakugou grunts. “Keep going.”

He opens up the text messages again when the needle touches back down. He scowls at Kirishima’s last text, but with enough self-consciousness that the pain recedes entirely into the background, he pulls up the face cam and snaps a blurry picture of himself. The lower half of his face is obscured by his elbow; the top of Yukari’s head is visible over his shoulder; only his glowering eyes are in focus, and the heat in them should set Kirishima ablaze. He sends it.

Predictably, Kirishima responds with a flurry of exclamation points and emojis, like somebody else getting a tattoo is the coolest thing under the sun to him. He finally changes the subject by asking who he should work out with in lieu of Bakugou, to which Bakugou says he can wait an hour and a half for him to finish up his tattoo and take the train back to work out, but Kirishima doesn’t want to spar with him when he has a fresh wound, which is dumb. He won’t budge on this, though. Eventually Bakugou settles on “idk just pick someone who sucks and make them better at fighting” and when Kirishima leaves him with a “good idea, ttyl!!!!! stay strong!!!!!!!! show me when you get back!!!! ” Bakugou resigns himself to trying to revise his essay, at the very least.

It takes about thirty more minutes for Yukari to finish, and when she wipes the excess ink from his skin and stands him up to check it out in the mirror, he instantly wants to sit back down and have her continue. The swirling body of the dragon and the delicately overlapping scales are crisp and beautiful, and already he wants plumes of fire cascading up his shoulder and down his biceps, bold colors screaming from his pale skin.

“Shit!” he laughs, wide-eyed and hungry for more. “Sweet, fuck! Can you keep going? Can you color it today?”

Yukari is grinning, the most expressive he’s seen her since meeting her two weeks ago. She’s peeled off her gloves and is already snapping pictures of the work on her phone.

“Why don’t you get back to your internship first, huh, Ground Zero? Bring home another paycheck or two. You’ve already dropped about fifty-thousand on this bad boy here.”

She catches his eye and he grins back sharply. It’s the first time she’s acknowledged him as a Hero; the others at the parlor had commented on his debut, or his performance at the Sports Festival. Yukari hadn’t given a single shit about anything other than her job and what Bakugou wanted her to put on his skin. He had liked that, but he also likes hearing that she does actually know who the hell he is.

Yukari goes over tattoo aftercare while applying some salve to his ink and then wrapping it. Roughly six weeks for it be cleanly healed on the surface, up to four months to heal completely, and she tailors her aftercare instructions around his school and internship.

“I’d say wait the full four months before coming back, in your case,” she tells him. “I’ve seen you on TV, how you move. It’ll be uncomfortable in the field but you’ll be fine as long as you take care of it. So in a few months, come back to me. We’ll color it. Give it some fire, whatever the hell you want.”

He’s carefully pulling his shirt back on and contemplating the prestige of being the first person in his class to get a tattoo when Yukari says, “And tell Kyouka-chan to get her ass back in here and finish up her shoulder piece.”

“Who?”

“Kyouka.” When Bakugou just looks at her, she clarifies, “Jirou Kyouka.” That stirs something, but Bakugou has to take a moment to search his memory. With some bewilderment, Yukari says, “She’s in your class, kid. Earphone Jack?”

Jack? ” Bakugou says, outraged. “That motherfucker! She’s got a tattoo?”

“Yeah, what’s the problem?” Yukari says, somewhat defensive.

“Nothing,” Bakugou says, seething. “Thanks. Send me that picture, yeah?”

He leaves and is back on the train to Musutafu, where he stews pissily for about an hour. He’s so fucking mad at Jack for taking this from him— he wanted to be the first one in their class to get tattooed, but there she fucking is already having one and he never even knew.

When he gets back to Heights Alliance, his tattoo is hot under its dressing and he wants to take it off, but he storms across the common room to the elevator to the girls’ wing and slaps the button for the third floor. Belatedly, he considers that he doesn’t know if Jirou is even at the dorms this afternoon, but when he makes a beeline for her room, he sees the door two empty rooms down from hers propped open a little and Jirou’s voice coming from inside, so he barges into that one.

Fuck you, Jack!” is how he announces himself, the door banging loudly off the wall. Someone inside squeals in surprise.

“What the hell, dude,” Jirou says, annoyed. She’s sitting on a pink, heart-shaped seat at a little round table with an assortment of nail polish spread before her. There’s tea and cookies there too. It’s super fucking weird to see Jack of all people in such an environment, but not weird enough to distract Bakugou from how he’s pissed off.

“You motherfucker,” he says, pointing at her.

“What the heck, Bakugou!” someone else yells, and a teddy bear hits his face and falls nonthreateningly to the floor. Oh yeah. This is the invisible girl’s room, and she threw a fucking toy at his head. “Don’t just burst into my room and start yelling at people!”

“Why am I a motherfucker?” Jirou asks. She’s blowing on her nails, evidently not bothered by Bakugou’s ire being directed at her. His eyebrow twitches.

“When the hell,” he snaps, trying not to get distracted by how the teddy bear at his feet appears to float up and drift away as Hagakure puts it back on her shelf, “did you get a tattoo? I was gonna be the first to get one, you fucking asshole.”

That’s what you’re mad about?!” Hagakure cries from across the room. “That’s so dumb!”

“I have two,” Jirou says. “The one on my shoulder is the most recent. That is dumb to get all mad about.”

“Fuck off! Fuck you!” Two tattoos. Unbelievable.

“Did you just get one?” she asks just as he’s about to storm out. “I wanna see.”

“What part of ‘fuck you’ went over your head?” Bakugou says caustically, and swats at her hand when she comes over to poke at the corner of plastic wrap peeking out from the back of his collar.

“Did you go to Yukari for it?” Jirou wonders, undeterred but drawing her hand back. “That train ride back is brutal, don’t you want to get that plastic off it?”

“Oh, let me see! Let me see it!” There’s a disembodied Care Bears T-shirt scampering across the room towards him. Hagakure’s attitude has warmed with curiosity. “You have to clean it off, don’t you?”

The hot discomfort of his tattoo under plastic is outweighing the heat of his annoyance at Jack for already having a tattoo, now that he’s expressed how annoyed he is, and that seems to be something Jirou understands about him, along with few in his life like Kirishima and, God forbid, Deku—how fleeting a lot of his rage is. So he mostly willingly lets them usher him into Hagakure’s bathroom, pulling off his shirt and slowly peeling the plastic from his shoulder blade with a sticky, wet sound.

Eww!” Hagakure squeals, recoiling as Bakugo twists to peer at it in the mirror. “What is that? Is that blood? It’s all watery and gross! Don’t take it off in here!”

“It’s plasma,” Jirou says, distracted as she texts someone, as Bakugou talks over her, “You wanted to see it, don’t bitch out on me now.”

Hagakure makes an exaggerated retching noise when Bakugou balls up the plastic wrap and throws it in the garbage. She gets over it pretty quickly though, leaning in with Jirou as they make twin “ooh” sounds upon examining the tattoo.

“Yukari’s dragons are fucking sick,” Jirou says. “Look at the detail.”

“A dragon tattoo is so you, Bakugou,” Hagakure says. Bakugou snorts but privately agrees with her. “Did it hurt really bad? Maybe I should get one! I don’t know if my parents would let me, though.”

He frowns deeply in the mirror at where he estimates her head probably is above the collar of her shirt and says, “The fuck kind of good would a tattoo do on your invisible ass?”

Jirou starts to laugh, but stops herself when Hagakure says, “You’re such a jerk!” with genuine reproach. Bakugou rolls his eyes.

Outside the bathroom, Hagakure’s bedroom door slams open with a loud bang! Hagakure screams. Kirishima topples into the room, winded.

Kirishima!” Hagakure shouts. “Jeez! I already had Bakugou bust in here like he owns the place! I don’t need two boys kicking down my door!”

“Sorry,” Kirishima wheezes, “the door was mostly open and I ran up the stairs when Jirou texted me—” Out of the corner of his eye, Bakugou sees Jirou facepalm. “Dude! Bakugou! I can’t believe you didn’t tell me when you got back! I wanted to be the first to see your ink!”

Jirou drags her hand down her face, long-suffering, while Hagakure throws her arms in the air and stomps out of the bathroom saying, “Oh my God, you two and being the first at whatever dumb thing!”

“Whoa.” Kirishima comes in, wide-eyed and grinning excitedly. He’s fresh out of the shower, going by his wet hair and the scent of his obnoxious body wash that follows him into the bathroom. Bakugou can see his eyes following the swirling lines of the dragon, and he leans over the counter to let him look. Kirishima’s hand, cold and a little damp, comes up to rest on Bakugou’s bare shoulder. His thumb is light and careful, brushing gently against the red, raised outline of the ink, and Bakugou shivers.

“Welp,” Jirou says, and abruptly leaves the bathroom. Bakugou stiffens and straightens up, watching himself turn red in the mirror, but Kirishima’s palm urges him back down, to stay still.

“Dude, this looks so cool,” Kirishima says obliviously. His fingertip, light as a feather, slides easily over the breadth of the tattoo, slick with plasma and salve. It’s tender but not painful when he touches it. “How bad did it hurt?”

“It didn’t hurt that bad,” Bakugou grumbles, eyeing the doorway in the mirror, but Jirou and Hagakure are back to doing their own thing around the little table. He forces himself to relax again, and leans his hips against the sink’s edge. “Just hurt a little over a long period of time. I need to clean it off, it’s been under plastic for an hour.”

“Can you reach it by yourself?” Kirishima asks. He grabs a washcloth from the counter, his face open and cheerful and helpful. Bakugou flails under the weight of Kirishima eager to wash his back.

“I’m fine.” He pushes off of the counter, simultaneously elbowing Kirishima in the stomach and crowding him against his back. It forces Kirishima to back up and give him space. “I’m just gonna—gonna take a shower.”

“Oh, okay, sure!” He politely turns off the light and shuts the bathroom door behind Bakugou.

“Leaving already?” Jirou asks when they emerge. Bakugou can’t tell if she’s being sarcastic or even if she’s talking to him or to Kirishima.

“Yeah. Later.” Bakugou pauses, then pointedly snatches a cookie from the plate on the table. He crams it in his mouth and hopes he's making eye contact with Hagakure.

Hagakure splutters indignantly, to his satisfaction. “Yeah, help yourself, whatever! Bye, Bakugou!”

Kirishima joins him in the hallway when he takes his leave to ask him to swing by his dorm when he’s finished showering to look over his essay for Cementoss, because he actually got a jump on the assignment and finished it early. Normally Bakugou would have refused—reading through a whole essay takes up so much more time than simply going over math homework—but Kirishima’s innocuous “I can ask Yaoyorozu to do it if you’re not finished with yours, though” raises his hackles and he says sharply, “I finished mine, I can do it,” even though he hasn’t.

They split off in the boys’ wing, Bakugou heading for the showers and Kirishima heading upstairs. The showers are still steamy and smell like Kirishima’s soap. Bakugou uses a milder brand of products that smell just fine, but when the lather rinses away the smell of Kirishima’s stuff overpowers it. Bakugou is the only one in there, but it feels weird to shower with that scent crushing in on all sides; the echoing spray of water is loud and makes it sound like there’s more than one shower running.

Bakugou has avoided showering at the same time as Kirishima as of late. He’s not going to think about it.

He keeps the water cooler than he usually likes so it doesn’t hurt his tattoo, and angles the showerhead so it’s not pounding away at it. He’ll need to apply the ointment Yukari had given to him after he dries off, and he’s realizing now that he won’t really be able to reach it by himself. He knows what the easiest solution to that problem is, but it’s embarrassing; he’ll do it, but he’s not going to think about it. He twists the shower knob viciously, turning the spray icy.

He forgoes a shirt when he gets dressed and heads upstairs. He doesn’t knock before kicking in Kirishima’s door, but nobody throws a teddy bear at him this time. Kirishima is sitting cross-legged on his bed with his laptop open, an elastic hairband dangling from his teeth as he gathers his hair into a little ponytail. He smiles brightly at Bakugou in the doorway.

“You’re gonna shred that thing putting it in your teeth like that,” Bakugou mutters, watching him reach up to fasten it. He complains about Kirishima’s hair a lot, telling him to get a fucking haircut, but the tiny ponytail thing is a more recent development that Bakugou carefully does not form an opinion about. As if on cue, Bakugou hears the elastic snap, and Kirishima’s hair falls back down in red curtains. “Told you.”

“I gotta quit chewing on stuff,” Kirishima laughs, reaching over to his bedside table and producing a ribbon from the drawer. It’s black and fluttering. He gets his hair up and out of his face successfully this time, a sloppy, crooked bow at the back of his head. Bakugou snatches his laptop away and sits defiantly on the floor, facing away from him, and dives into his essay.

It’s fine. Whatever. Bakugou adjusts some of Kirishima’s wording and grills him about why he chose to focus on the themes of the protagonist vs. mountain shrines instead of the subplot of the protagonist’s crumbling marriage that actually takes up a third of the book, but overall, Kirishima’s critique is solid and should satisfy Cementoss when he turns it in. Bakugou doesn’t scrutinize every single paragraph, and skips to his conclusion when he hears Kirishima getting restless and bored on the bed behind him. His spine goes rigid when he feels warm breath on his shoulder; Kirishima is leaning over him, close to his back, checking out the dragon on his shoulder blade again.

“This tattoo is so cool, dude,” Kirishima says. The tattoo prickles under the weight of his attention, a dry itch already starting to form. The tube of ointment is burning a hole in Bakugou’s pocket. Kirishima’s voice is playfully hurt as he continues, “I can’t believe you went and showed it off to Jirou and Hagakure before you showed me. You don’t even talk to Hagakure!”

“I didn’t go to show it off to them,” Bakugou says grumpily. “I went to rip Jack a new one for getting a tattoo before me.” He hesitates for just a moment, then bites the bullet and fishes the ointment from his pocket. He tosses it over his shoulder and hears Kirishima fumble to catch it. “If you’re so jealous, get yourself good and familiar with it with this. I can’t reach it.”

It’s easier to say that than utter any iteration of the words “help me,” and it’s easier to ask for it when he isn’t looking at Kirishima’s face. He hunches his shoulders at the low murmur of Kirishima saying, “Yeah, I got you,” and forces them back down when he hears Kirishima pop the cap off. He can’t do anything about the redness of his ears and neck and shoulders—he’s always been a full-body blusher, fucking hell—except hope that Kirishima doesn’t notice when he slides off the bed to sit behind him on the floor, but he can at least school his body language.

He doesn’t twitch when Kirishima’s slick fingers touch the tender ink on his back—two fingers, dabbing ointment across it, then the whole of his hand, palm flat and firm as he rubs it in. The tattoo aches, but Kirishima goes slow and careful.

“Man, I want a tattoo.”

Bakugou is staring at Kirishima’s legs stretched along either side of him, caging him in. “Then get one.”

“I can’t.”

Bakugou turns to look at him, skeptical, and comes face to face with him. Kirishima smells like citrus mouthwash. Bakugou loses his train of thought, but luckily his mouth keeps going without his brain so he doesn’t sound too caught off guard, “You afraid of needles or some baby shit like that?”

“I don’t... think so?” Kirishima’s voice is strangled, or maybe it’s not. That’s the worst thing about this—Bakugou can never tell if this is real or if he’s projecting.

He whips his head back around to pretend to be absorbed in Kirishima’s essay. “What do you mean you don’t think so?”

Kirishima’s fingers move on his skin again. His breath is hot on the back of Bakugou’s neck. Bakugou wonders if he could die from this. “They don’t make me nervous or queasy or anything...but I tried to get my ears pierced a couple of times after middle school, and I kept reflexively hardening and busting up the piercer’s tools.”

Bakugou barks out a laugh at the mental image. “You must be a fucking nightmare to vaccinate.”

“At least hospitals are prepared for Quirk stuff like that!” Kirishima slides his hand smoothly one last time over his tattoo, then drops his hand down to the top of Bakugou’s thigh to wipe the excess ointment off on his sweatpants.

“Fucker,” Bakugou says unsteadily, swallowing thickly.

“You’re welcome, Blasty,” Kirishima snickers, a puff of warm breath through the hair at the nape of Bakugou’s neck. Bakugou can’t stop himself from shuddering, and he shoves the heels of his palms over his eyes until he sees stars. Kirishima’s hand hasn’t moved from his leg, and he’s still a solid, immovable wall at Bakugou’s back. One move and Bakugou’s bones will ignite like a dry forest under one sharply lensed sunbeam.

“You good?” Kirishima asks, either because he felt Bakugou shiver or because Bakugou hasn’t stopped trying to grind his eyeballs down to paste in their sockets.

“‘m fine.” He drops his hands into his lap and glares at Kirishima’s laptop.

But then he’s not fine, because Kirishima’s chin comes over his shoulder, heavy and casual. His breath is on Bakugou’s cheek when he says, “How’s my essay?”

If Bakugou turns his head just a little to the left, he could kiss him. He’s not fine. He can’t stop thinking about it. One tilt of his head and he could catch Kirishima’s lip in his teeth, slam their mouths together—it’d be rough, and probably awkward and bad, because he’s never kissed anyone, never wanted to. Until now. He’s not fine. He’s not supposed to be thinking about it.

Bakugou leans forward, away from Kirishima’s chin on his shoulder, and taps Ctrl+S with shaking fingers before snapping the laptop closed. He shoves it away and clambors to his feet.

“It’s fine,” he says gruffly, leaving the warmth of Kirishima’s presence on the floor behind him. Abandoning that comfortable cocoon and feeling distinctly not rebirthed. “It’ll pass. I need to go over mine again.” His voice makes it clear that he doesn’t intend to come back and do it here, or to hang out again later this evening. A plain we’re done here.

“Sure.” Kirishima’s voice is a little quiet. Bakugou glances back as he goes for the door and sees him pulling his legs back towards him, crossing them, and folding his arms over his stomach. It’s a small, defensive posture, protecting himself. Kirishima smiles when he sees Bakugou look at him, but it’s hurried and doesn’t reach his eyes.

Bakugou feels like an asshole. He’s always been one, but feeling bad about it is still something he’s not especially used to. That’s another thing he could probably blame on Deku, but a lot of it sure is Kirishima’s fault too. Bakugou’s never known how to soften a blow in his life, but he gives it the old college try by tacking on, “See you,” before he leaves. He hopes that’s good enough.

In his room, he’s working on his essay he’d lied about finishing for about five minutes when his phone vibrates.

 

KIRISHIMA
4:28 PM
thanks for proofing my essay btw [thumbs up emoji]

 

Bakugou sighs slowly through his nose.

 

BAKUGOU
4:30 PM
np

 

He deliberates for a few minutes, taking a stupidly long time to construct a simple fucking “thank you.” If he knew how to behave like a god damn human being this wouldn’t be so difficult.

 

BAKUGOU
4:35 PM
thanks for helping with my tat

 

He’s overwhelmed with intense embarrassment the second he sends it. It was too heartfelt. Too weird. Out of character. He’s experienced less stress trying to thank Deku. He slides his phone as far away from him as possible on the tabletop. He peeks at it reluctantly from the corner of his eye when it buzzes again.

 

KIRISHIMA
4:37 PM
[flexing arm emoji][kissy face emoji]

 

This is getting out of hand.

 


 

“Do you think it’s weird,” Jirou says one evening, with charcoal on her hands and a mild headache forming due to the cheap incense Kirishima’s always burning in his dorm, “that we’re about to be third year Hero students and we have... art class?

Kirishima has a huge streak of black across his forehead and charcoal smeared all up one of his arms almost to his elbow. His tongue was poking out in concentration as he drew, but now he lifts his eyes, wide and surprised, to Jirou. He says, “I like art class!”

“I didn’t say I didn’t like it,” Jirou says, lifting her sketch and squinting at it. Her landscapes suck. “I just think it’s weird. We’re almost adults.”

“We’re not making, like, macaroni art,” Kirishima says. “Actually having homework in art class is the weird part to me.”

He’s got a point. Art class in middle school never had homework. It was basically a second free period. Guess that just proves how hardcore U.A. is with all its classes.

It’s a little difficult to feel hardcore when you’re covered in charcoal and you’re just drawing pictures. It mostly just feels fun. Jirou doesn’t hang out with Kirishima one-on-one very often, but when she does, it’s always fun. He’s boisterous and full of energy, but when it’s just the two of them he is surprisingly mellow.

It hadn’t started off with just the two of them (it rarely does), because Momo had been in here with them earlier to help them with English homework. It had been a good, productive hour and a half of going over the reading and powering through Present Mic’s hateful six-page (front and back) packet of worksheets, even if Yaoyorozu had played a bunch of pretentious classical music the whole time when Kirishima gave her permission to plug her phone into his speakers. Not that Jirou has anything against classical music, it makes for great study music, but Momo’s playlist this afternoon had been pretty accordion-heavy, which Kirishima wryly commented on after she had left for another tutoring session she had promised to Ashido.

“That sure is some accordion kick you got her on,” Kirishima said, a little sad to see Yaomomo leave but plainly relieved for the music to stop.

“It’s not a bad instrument, it’s just got a bad rap,” Jirou was quick to defend it. She reached for the aux herself. “Her preferred genre for it does get pretty old, though. I think it sounds better like this.”

To their credit, they kept at their homework for a decent amount of time despite Yaomomo’s influence leaving. They both finished up their English and did their best at checking one another’s answers, and had then moved on to their charcoal drawings. Jirou still isn’t pleased with her rendition of a fence in the countryside, but whatever. Art has never been her forte.

Kirishima had surprised them all in their first year by being a pretty decent artist. His grasp on the human figure is a little wonky, but still not half-bad. But when Jirou sighs at her ugly little fence and looks across to Kirishima’s impressive charcoal cityscape, all thoughts of homework go flying out the window. The sound of her dad’s favorite folk punk band and the itching, healing ink of the balaur on her shoulder, finally colored in, facilitates the defenestration of thoughts of homework.

“Dude, okay, that’s good,” Jirou says intensely, splaying her blackened hands on the tabletop between them. “That city skyline.”

“Hey, thanks!”

“It’s exactly what I need. You want to help me design a tattoo?”

Kirishima’s jaw drops, and he slams his equally dirty hands down on the table too, surging to lean over it towards her excitedly. “Dude! Yes!”

Out the window.

Which is how she finds herself perched on top Kirishima’s bed, close to the edge with her back to him, surrounded by scraps of paper with drafts of the same sketch: a burning city skyline. Kirishima had casually said the imagery seemed sort of villainous, but he quickly changed his tune when Jirou told him that “City on Fire” is her favorite song from 49 Dead’s second studio album, recorded when her mother was pregnant with her.

She wants it on her back, but neither she nor Kirishima can decide where on her back or how big it should be. They’ve cut out the drawings, cropping them close in a spontaneous arts and crafts session that’s left Kirishima’s floor littered in slivers of paper, and there are black smudges of charcoal fingerprints decorating Jirou’s skin from where he’s positioned drawings flat against her back experimentally. It’s strange, she considers, to have him touch her. Mina had teasingly described Jirou as “touch-starved” once before, which probably hadn’t been too off the mark. She had been comparing her to Bakugou, but Jirou isn’t as bad as that.

There are people whose touch Jirou craves—soft fingers she wants on her skin—but there are other touches, friendly ones, that she finds she doesn’t mind too much, even if they do feel alien every time. It feels more natural, more comfortable, when it comes from girls—Mina’s heavy, full-bodied weight against her back when she whines dramatically and drapes over her; Hagakure’s hands which feel so small and kind of cold in Jirou’s, and which startle her every time they land playfully in Jirou’s hair; Momo, whose hands are big and warm and almost hatefully don’t touch Jirou enough, almost careful, like every time they don’t rest on Jirou’s skin it’s a conscious decision not to (but Jirou is probably reading too much into that).

It’s rarer, and weirder, when guys touch her. But it’s usually fine, because her personality thankfully doesn’t invite it, especially not in excess. She can handle Midoriya’s dense, wincing weight when she helps him limp to Recovery Girl’s office, the heaviness of his arm across her shoulders that happens less often with every use of that weird power of his; Kaminari’s knee bumping against hers, digging insistently when he wants her attention, is familiar and comfortable, although it’s annoying that she has to ration this contact with him lest he get his stupid hopes up; Bakugou, strangest of all, the rare contact of his sweat-slick palm under her elbow to drag her to her feet every now and then. These touches never feel natural, and her guard is always up a little when they happen, but the familiarity is comforting once she relaxes.

Kirishima had asked permission before touching her, which was polite and technically the right thing to do, but it had embarrassed Jirou and made it awkward. But once they’ve broken through the weirdness, it’s easier to have his hands on her skin; he presses drawing after drawing against her back in different positions and sizes while she holds the back of her shirt up and out of the way. He takes pictures on his phone and they lean in together to scrutinize the screen and make comments.

“See, I kind of like that spot but I feel like it’s too small.”

“Yeah, and this bigger one is more, like, sprawling? I think it looks better in this one. Oops, hold up your shirt.”

“Let me see. What—give me your phone. Oh shit, I deleted it—”

“Haha! Okay, here, I like this one! It’s small but also wider?”

“It looks like a tramp stamp that close to my butt.”

“No it doesn’t! Tramp stamps are way smaller!”

Kirishima tries a much smaller example to make a point and accidentally drops the paper down Jirou’s shorts. He collapses in a laughing heap on the floor while Jirou swears and fishes it out of the back of her underwear. He’s still chuckling when Jirou picks up the largest scrap of paper with the burning city on it.

“Put this one on my back up here, like, almost across my shoulders,” she tells him. She lifts the back of her tank top up high, bunching it at the collar, but the position creases her muscles between her shoulder blades, so the paper won’t lie flat. Something about Kirishima’s harmless, hiccuping giggles soothes Jirou, and she feels, briefly, a surge of extraordinary gratitude to know she’s not the only gay kid in Class 1-A. It makes it easy and thoughtless for her to grasp the back of the collar of her shirt and pull it over her head to toss it across Kirishima’s bed, sighing, as effortless as she would in the girl’s locker room. She isn’t wearing a bra and Kirishima’s commentary doesn’t stutter once. His fingers leave charcoal on her shoulders and the back of her neck and the two of them keep taking pictures, but the large cityscape going across the width of her back and shoulders is looking to be the best one.

Kirishima is holding one last experimental smaller drawing off to the left against her rib cage with one hand, taking a picture with the other, while Jirou texts a picture of the one on her upper back to her mom saying “y/n ” when she hears the elevator doors down the hall ding open. Jirou can tell from the footsteps that it isn’t Shouji, so it’s Bakugou, and he bypasses his own room. Jirou has time to lean across Kirishima’s bed to reach for her shirt, not even enough time to be wryly thankful for automatically locked doors, when the doorknob twists and Bakugou swings the door open, stomping inside.

“Is Ponytail still in here? I need—”

Jirou yelps, snatching her shirt and clutching it to her chest. “Hey!

Bakugou reels. “The fuck?”

“Dude!” Kirishima yells.

“Get out!”

“What the shit—” Bakugou splutters.

“Bakugou, get out!” Kirishima shouts, jumping to his feet.

“Fuck!” Bakugou backs out of the doorway and slams the door shut. Kirishima hurries to lock the door behind him, but it’s a little after the fact.

“Do the guys’ rooms not fucking lock automatically?” Jirou hisses, fuming and red-faced as she yanks her shirt back on.

“Ours have to be locked manually,” Kirishima says with an apologetic wince. “I’m really sorry, dude, I didn’t even think about it.”

“Whatever.” Jirou crosses her arms and stands up from the bed. She picks up the biggest drawing of the burning city and folds it, stuffing it in her pocket. She sighs, trying to force the tension out. She had been feeling so at ease for once. “At least it was Bakugou and not someone else.”

“Yeah, but that’s why I should have locked it in the first place,” Kirishima grimaces. He rubs the back of his neck, guilty and blushing. The mood has gone from pleasant and companionable to exceedingly uncomfortable.

In the silence, they hear Bakugou making a ruckus in his room next door. Jirou’s super hearing isn’t necessary to make out the sounds of something crashing to the floor, indistinct cursing, and then Bakugou’s door slamming. He stomps back down the hall and into the stairwell. Jirou and Kirishima blink and shrug at each other.

“So. The big one on your back is the winner, huh?”

“Yeah. I’ll let you know what my mom says if she texts me back.”

Jirou collects her laptop and her notebooks and awkwardly thanks Kirishima for hanging out. She can’t help but feel stupidly like she’s making some sort of walk of shame when she slips into the hallway. The bright side, at least, is that even if Bakugou were the gossiping type, no one with a brain in their skull would assume she and Kirishima were getting up to anything weird, even if Jirou did get caught with him shirtless.

(Bakugou can’t even tell himself that he’s not sure what he’s so upset about. He’s never been more sure of anything in his life.

It’s stupid and childish, the terms that apply to his situation. He “likes” Kirishima, he “has a crush on” Kirishima. He wants to kick his own ass just thinking about it. But his heart is pounding too fast, making his hands shake, and his stomach won’t stop twisting nauseously. There had been a horrible moment in the stairwell when his sinuses had stung and he thought for a second that his eyes might water, but that had passed and he made his way to the school gym with his eyes thankfully bone dry.

For whatever the fuck that’s worth. The athletic tape around his hands is taut and secure, but he can’t hit the punching bag hard enough to purge the hot, sick feeling swelling inside him.

It had been strange to walk into Kirishima’s room and see that. Painful, but strange. He hadn’t seen anything like that coming. If he had walked in on Jack alone in any state of undress he would have found it in himself to awkwardly but sincerely apologize; but it was Kirishima’s room, and Kirishima was there , his fingers black and splayed over Jirou’s bare skin. He was kneeling on the floor, bent close to her back, leaving marks in the notches of her spine. Bakugou had seen more marks, grey streaks over Jack’s exposed rib cage and on her shoulders. Her neck. Countless spots of dirty evidence of where Kirishima’s hands had roamed over her.

Over her. Not Bakugou. Bakugou has had Kirishima’s hands on him before, more times than he can count, but he has no proof of it, no lasting marks, and it’s all been—been so—fucking—

Kirishima’s a boy, with a girl in his room, Jirou on his bed with her shirt off and giving the whole of her back to Kirishima’s hands. They jumped when Bakugou walked in, Jirou scrambling to cover herself, both of them embarrassed and guilty. Bakugou had seen it on their faces.

Bakugou grits his teeth and leans further into his punches as though he hopes to send the punching bag flying off its chain. He imagines he’s punching Jirou, and then Kirishima for good measure. What had he even been hoping for, exactly? Had he really gone and let his stupid fucking feelings get so out of control that he thought anything would happen? Did he really think that just because Kirishima cared about him as a friend and gushed over manliness and dumb shit like that, then that meant he was into him? Into dudes in general? Bakugou feels stupid looking back now; Kirishima loves red-blooded men so much, of course he’d be one himself, and what’s more red-blooded than liking girls? Fucking duh.

It’s just that...it came out of nowhere. Bakugou has never been taken by surprise like this. Kirishima and Jack, what the fuck? Bakugou wouldn’t have guessed that in a million years. Kirishima has never talked about Jirou in a way that would have Bakugou assuming he liked her. But Kirishima has never talked about girls like that with Bakugou, never even tried to. They talk about a lot of things: boring school shit and letting their imaginations run amok about future Hero shit; movies and video games, what they did that weekend or some shit that Kirishima’s sisters pulled or what Bakugou’s dad texted him; and those terrifyingly quiet moments at night where Bakugou lets something vulnerable and insecure slip from his mouth when Kirishima is sad in ways that Bakugou has never seen him show anyone else. But they don’t talk about girls, like they’re Kaminari and the grape rat. If Kirishima had ever even tried to broach the subject of girls, Bakugou would have certainly shut him down. It would feel so fucking superficial and childish to talk about that dumb shit, and Bakugou wouldn’t have had anything to say on that front anyway. He doesn’t… like girls. He’s avoided thinking too much about that growing up, but he sure as shit can’t deny it now.

But Kirishima...Bakugou never asked him anything about that sort of thing, and Kirishima’s never said anything to him to confirm in either direction. Well, now he’s got his confirmation—Kirishima’s fingerprints and visible on Jirou’s back, his face bent close enough to her that he could have dragged his teeth along her spine. He might have been about to do it the second Bakugou interrupted them.

Bakugou hisses in a sharp breath through his teeth and punches away at the sandbag rapid fire until his muscles are burning. It’s been a while since he’s felt this upset, and the thing is that he’s gotten accustomed to talking about it. Conversations about his feelings always have to be dragged kicking and screaming from him, but Kirishima has always been steady and persistent and easy to talk to. It’s one of the reasons why Bakugou likes him; it’s one of the reasons why Kirishima is so fucking popular. But Bakugou knows that talking about things is good for him, as much as he hates to admit it, so it fucking figures that the one person he’s comfortable talking to about personal shit is the subject of said personal shit. Is there anyone else he could ever come close to being okay with talking about this? Laying this humiliating garbage bare for another human being to take in?

Not without great pain, Bakugou considers going to Deku about it. Deku likes to talk, so Bakugou might not even have to talk much more about his own feelings beyond laying out the groundwork of the problem he’s having, and Deku is more...emotionally literate than he is. Plus, Deku probably knows more about what dumb crush bullshit is like. He’s got that embarrassingly obvious hard-on for Uraraka, something even Bakugou has picked up on despite evidently being outrageously blind to other people’s relationships.

Although Bakugou still wouldn’t say with confidence that even is a real crush. He may not be an expert in this field, but it seems more, to him, like Deku still isn’t used to having a girl get within a hundred feet of him, much less be his friend. In middle school, no girl would touch Deku with a 39½-foot pole; no one wanted to interact amicably with him, much less be his friend, lest Bakugou make everyone involved be extremely sorry. Bakugou knows for a fact U.A. is the first place Izuku ever felt welcome, and that Uraraka is the first girl he ever got close to, because Bakugou hadn’t had the social standing to isolate him here.

It makes him uncomfortable to think about it in explicit terms like that. Bakugou can only handle one emotional crisis at a time. Talking to Deku about this shit is off the table, and he’ll circle back around to the reasons for that later. So, where does that leave him? Who does that leave him?

Laughably, it leaves him with three loud idiots that Bakugou will never, ever approach with this problem. He would rather die than say anything to the effect of “I have a crush on Kirishima, but apparently he’s dating Jack, and I don’t know what to do” within even a ten mile radius of Kaminari’s stupid face, or anyone else’s. Those three losers are his friends, or whatever, he guesses, but he doesn’t know how to talk to them. He’s only ever talked to Kirishima, but right now he can’t do that; he doesn’t want to. He doesn’t want to look at him.

Bakugou can’t stop seeing Jirou’s naked back and Kirishima’s filthy fingers. He can’t stop imagining how those fingers would feel if it had been him sitting there on Kirishima’s bed, shirtless and inviting, but it hadn’t been him, because Kirishima wanted it to be Jirou instead. Bakugou unwraps his hands and chucks the tape in a crumpled ball as hard as he can across the gym. They flutter to the mat, sad and limp and damp with sweat. Fitting, Bakugou thinks bitterly, wishing he had a lighter to set the thinks ablaze in a destructive ball of fire.

He’s angry, but mostly he just feels pathetic and alone.)

Chapter Text

Something’s up with Bakugou. But then again, when is there not? He’s a nightmare and hot mess of a boy, and he has been since they all enrolled at U.A. But even he hasn’t been able to avoid growing as a person, like, mentally and personality-wise as well as improving his Quirk and physical strength just like the rest of them. Yeah, he’s still a rude, angry asshole, but like...less so, and with pretty decent downtime in between tantrums. So much so that he’s managed to secure some friends that aren’t Kirishima, saint of saints.

Which is why when he starts acting like the Old Bakugou—First Year Bakugou—the Worst Bakugou, Maybe, We Didn’t Know Him in Middle School But Midoriya Did and Yikes!—for, like, five days straight, Ashido’s main thought isn’t really “Yeesh, Bakugou’s at it again” and is instead “What’s wrong with Bakugou?” Something had to have happened to trigger this regression in Bakugou’s behavior.

It’s hard to guess what it could have been, though. Sure, Ashido is friends with the guy, but she doesn’t hang out with him very often outside of class. She doesn’t talk to him much, and she’s not around him often enough to have possibly witnessed whatever it was that set him off. As far as Ashido knows, he was perfectly fine for a good stretch of time and then bam! He came into class ready to bite anyone and everyone’s head off at the slightest provocation.

Jirou is getting an unusually brutal dose of the Old Bakugou, which is unexpected, and so is Kirishima, which is what really concerns Ashido. Kirishima is Bakugou’s favorite person, a title that is equal parts prestigious, in a way, and hilarious. Bakugou is in a rotten mood and not only is Kirishima not safe from his fury, but he’s actually being lashed out at more than the others, and that’s what raises the most eyebrows. Being Kirishima, he of course takes it in stride and not too personally, managing to not let Bakugou walk all over him while also de-escalating the situation, but Ashido still twists in her seat to face him in between classes on Saturday.

“Hey,” she says quietly, letting her voice be mostly overpowered by the bustle of classmates and conversation because Bakugou is also one of the classmates who isn’t leaving for a bathroom break before the next bell, and she doesn’t need him to overhear her discussing him. “What’s up with Bakugou the last couple of days?”

Kirishima has his chin propped on his forearms and a crease between his eyebrows. He taps his fingers on his desk and frowns. “That is...a really good question.”

“Have you talked to him?”

“Not really,” Kirishima sighs, sitting up and glancing across the room at Bakugou, who is tilting back in his chair with his feet propped up on his desk, scowling out the window. “He seems like he wants his space, so I’ll give him space. But if it keeps up like this or the problem is actually with me, I’ll need to corner him about it.”

Is the problem with you?” Ashido asks, curious and mildly concerned. Despite Bakugou’s general personality, he doesn’t really ever get into serious long-term arguments with anyone, not even Midoriya anymore, and certainly not Kirishima. Ashido can’t think of anything that they could fight about that would have Bakugou this mad these days.

“I don’t know, that’s the thing!” Kirishima hisses quietly, shooting a look in Bakugou’s direction again and leaning forward towards Ashido. “He’s obviously pissed about something, but he’s being weird about it. I can’t tell if he’s mad at me specifically.”

Ashido is about to say that it seems like Bakugou is mad at him specifically, but a trickle of their classmates filing back into the room with the ring of the bell interrupts her. Snipe-sensei follows the last of them inside and turns off the lights. Everyone perks up in the dark, hopeful. Then Snipe pulls down the projector screen at the front of the room, drawing a whoop from the class.

Hell yes, movie day! This is why Snipe is one of the cooler teachers. It’s never a movie anybody actually wants to watch—it’s always John Wayne or Clint Eastwood films, Snipe is such a weirdo—but it’s so much better than actual class. The rules for movie days are always the same: no talking, no phones, and you can do homework or study instead of watching if you want to.

Passing notes is kind of like studying, if you think about it. That’s how Ashido feels, at least. She watches Jirou approach her desk, and Bakugou’s head whips around to glare at her.

Jirou pauses, and Ashido hears her snap, “What?”

Oh jeez. Ashido can see Bakugou’s cheeks color angrily even in the dark.

“Fucking what yourself, asshole!” he shouts right back, tensing in his chair like he wants to rise to his feet and actually fight her.

“Settle down, Bakugou,” Snipe warns. “You too, Jirou,” he adds when Jirou yanks her chair back hard enough to make the legs shriek on the tile floor and flings her bag onto the ground.

Bakugou leans back in his seat, seething, and turns his head away to stare resolutely out the window again as Jirou throws herself angrily into her chair. The class is slightly tense around them; behind Bakugou, Midoriya fidgets nervously, probably more out of concern than fear. Ashido turns to look at Kirishima again, who is watching Bakugou with a look that is equal parts anxious and exasperated.

Snipe-sensei puts on Dirty Harry—again—and Ashido waits for a few minutes for some dialogue to start in the movie before cupping her hands around her mouth and whispering into her palms, “Did you do something to piss Bakugou off?”

Across the room, Jirou twitches, hearing her. Ashido watches her dig her notebook out of her bag and flip it open to start scribbling into it. Ashido bounces in her seat a little, waiting to get the note passed to her. Soon Jirou tears out the sheet of paper and folds it into a little square. She spears one of her jacks through it and extends it past Kaminari between them. Ashido takes it and unfolds it, trying not to crinkle it too loudly.

I don’t know what crawled up his ass and died there, but it’s really starting to piss me off. Her handwriting, an already nearly indecipherable scrawl that Ashido had previously only thought boys were capable of, is downright chickenscratch with the slashing anger of the characters on the page. Jirou really must be mad.

Ashido opens up her own notebook. She could keep whispering to Jirou, but it feels like talking to herself, and then the notepassing will be one sided and not as much fun.

Try not to take it too personally I guess??? I mean. It IS Bakugou.

She folds the paper back up and passes it to Kaminari, who is folding his own note into a little triangle, presumably to flick across the room over Kirishima’s head to Sero. He dutifully passes it along to Jirou.

They keep passing back and forth as the film plays out, pausing only when they see Snipe look up, which is when Ashido pretends to be super absorbed in the movie. It’s pointless to pretend like they aren’t passing notes. Snipe’s a Pro Hero, he’s gotta know what literally everyone in this room is doing. He obviously doesn’t really care, but it’s the principle of the thing to try not to get caught.

It’s hard not to take it personally when he’s coming after me more than anyone else. And Kirishima too, which is weird. 

Seriously, wtf did you two even do to piss him off?

I DON’T KNOW!!! I haven’t even talked to that asshole since Monday!!! I don’t know how Kirishima can stand being friends with that guy much less having a crush on him. I know it’s stupid to let it get to me since it IS Bakugou after all but. Idk. He’s been borderline chill up to now and I thought we were cool and I liked being cool with him???

He’s being really mean and it’s not stupid that it’s hurting your feelings.

Ashido sees Jirou’s hand crumple the note a little across the classroom, and she smiles when Jirou shoots her a nasty glare.

It’s not “hurting my feelings” what the fuck.

Now THAT sounds like something Bakugou would say, but you can’t lie to me Kyouka-chan~~~

She doodles a few smiling pandas. When Jirou reads it she glares at her again, and looks away with a pout when Ashido only bats her eyelashes.

Whatever. I’d apologize if I knew what the fuck I did, but I legit can’t think of anything that I could have done to make him this mad. I guess it could be something Kirishima did but he’d tell HIM right????

Yeah definitely. And if it was just Kirishima idk why he’d be taking it out on you.

Whatever it is, he’s still super fucking steamed about it. Mister Tachycardia over here is about to drive me up the fucking wall with his heartbeat. And tell Kirishima to quit clicking his pen before I fucking snap.

Ashido giggles. It’s no wonder Jirou and Bakugou get along so well, apart from this unexpected rough patch. Then she feels bad for giggling, because it’s really not funny. It’s not funny that Bakugou is acting the way he did when they were first years, and even though Jirou would rather make out with Kaminari than admit it, Ashido knows she’s genuinely upset. Jirou had told her once, privately and stuttering, that befriending people has always been extremely difficult for her, and that U.A. is the first place she’s made so many friends. She knows she comes across as standoffish, Jirou had told her, and that people think she doesn’t like them.

“A little, yeah,” Ashido had conceded, “but you’re saying you’re not mean, just shy?” Going by the way Jirou looked like she wanted to throw a smoke pellet on the ground and vanish under the cloak of it, Ashido assumed she’d guessed right. So it doesn’t surprise her now that Jirou is unhappy to have someone she considers a friend—even Bakugou—behaving like he hates her.

But it gives Ashido the idea of maybe possibly talking to Bakugou herself. He’s her friend too, right? Not that she’s under the impression that he’d ever want to have any sort of deep-and-meaningful with her; those, she knows, he only allows himself to have with Kirishima and occasionally, in desperate or very specifically personal times, Midoriya. But even if he doesn’t want to talk about what exactly is bothering him, it will probably help to at least talk to someone—anyone! Ashido knows he prefers to talk to Kirishima, but if Bakugou is angry with Kirishima and avoiding him, well, that’s when it pays off to have more than just one friend. Even if it’s not to properly talk and instead just to distract from whatever is eating at him.

She decides during rescue training later in the day that she’s gotta at least give it a shot, because Bakugou is still being a raging asshole to Jirou when his role for this round of practice is supposed to be helping with triage and Jirou’s role is Category II victim. Everyone knows Bakugou hates rescue training because he naturally sucks at the whole “compassionate” angle, and his prided Quirk doesn’t lend itself to rescue; he has to act like he’s basically Quirkless, and also be nice about it for distraught victims. Being shitty at it cost him the opportunity to receive his provisional license the first time around, but he did end up getting it later, so he’s obviously improved, even though it’s still funny to watch him rescue successfully because he always looks like he’s sucked on a lemon for the duration.

The effect is even more pronounced today, but it’s less funny because it’s affecting his performance badly. Bakugou had aggressively brushed off Kirishima’s suggestion from the start that they team up together with Tsuyu in assessing and stabilizing the immediate destroyed area while Ojiro, Satou, and Hagakure started triage, and had instead stalked off on his own. He made up for it a little bit by doing alright with trauma assessment on other classmates/designated victims, but he had been steering clear of Jirou like he hoped someone else would tend to her while he tended to others. Too bad she still wound up being the last of the victims to be addressed, and he was closest to her, and also her patience with him had long been worn thin.

“Bakugou, come on!” she yells from her position on the ground. She’s got her hands folded behind her head. “Are we really gonna go by real-time and say you’ve been ignoring me in a crisis for ten whole minutes?”

“Shut the hell up!” he shouts back. He’s turned to face her but hasn’t approached her yet. “You’re yellow, you’re fucking fine when I get to you!”

“Are you gonna get to me any time soon or are you gonna keep being a bitch?”

Ashido, sitting out for this round, watches with some dread settling in her belly. Bakugou’s temper is a pain but it is familiar. Jirou facing it head-on with her own temper might blow up in both of their faces, and they’re in the middle of an exercise.

“Fuck you!”

Ashido sighs when she sees Jirou close off her expression. Here it goes. Jirou slaps the pendant around her neck marking her as a victim. The yellow light on it flashes to red. Way to go, Bakugou. Now he’s on a timer.

“Alright, it’s been, like, eleven minutes since my injury,” Jirou says with an indifferent sigh. “I’m a Category I now. What do you wanna do?”

Bakugou looks ready to murder, but he’s finally storming in her direction. Ashido can’t say whether that’s good or not at this point, even if he has to get to her for the exercise.

“Fucking—DCAP-BTLS!” Bakugou snarls. Ashido puts her face in her hands. He’s getting sloppy with rage. Non-combat exercises aren’t his forte even when he’s in a good mood.

“No ABC’s?” Jirou says, bored and picking at her fingernails.

Airway!” Bakugou yells.

“It’s clear.”

Breathing!

“I’m breathing.”

Circulation!

“Considering I have a bilateral femur fracture—”

Bakugou’s eyes bulge and he breaks into a sprint. “Fuck!

“—that I exacerbated by fidgeting in a panic from being left abandoned for ten minutes—”

Ashido lets out a breath so gusty she feels like she ought to deflate with it. Those two are basically working together now to fuck Bakugou over, but Bakugou really only has himself to blame as Jirou concludes, “—so let’s say my femoral artery was cut, like, four minutes ago, and you’re just now coming to see how I’m doing, so.”

Jirou presses on the pendant again. It goes black with a zero lighting it up. Category Zero: victim is dead. Bakugou skids to a halt in front of Jirou as she picks herself up off the ground, dusting the dirt from her costume. For a second, with the look on Bakugou’s face, Ashido wonders if he’s going to clock Jirou with one of those massive gauntlets. But he doesn’t even raise one, and Jirou doesn’t plug her jacks into her boots in preparation for anything either, only straightens her spine to bare her teeth balefully up at his glaring face.

There’s that, at least, Ashido thinks wryly. At least nobody actually expects Bakugou to really attack a classmate anymore, no matter how pissed off he is.

“Bakugou, Jirou, off the site!” Thirteen hollers from the sidelines with the rest of the class. “Team D, get ready to swap in!”

“Get your head in the game, Bakugou,” Aizawa calls from beside Thirteen. “This is for a grade and that was shameful.”

Fuck. You,” Bakugou rounds on Jirou the second they join the others. Jirou stands next to Ashido, and Ashido can feel the rage rolling off of Bakugou in waves as he bears down on Jirou.

“What the hell is your problem anyway, huh?” Jirou rages right back. “I know ‘asshole’ is your default state but why have you been coming after me all week?! I thought we were—”

She falters for barely a half second, but Bakugou latches onto it ruthlessly, like an especially cruel leech. “Thought we were what? Friends?” The audible clicking of Jirou’s teeth as she clenches her jaw and lifts her chin is all Bakugou needs to hear. “Well we’re fucking not! If you’re stupid enough to think otherwise, that’s on you! I don’t give a shit about you!”

Jirou turns away from him. “Fuck you.”

“Bakugou, what the hell, man?” Kirishima says, jogging over from the disaster stage to join them. “What’s going on with you, dude? You don’t need to take it out on Jirou, alright?”

“Fuck off, Shitty Hair!” Bakugou snarls. “Whatever you wanna say or whatever preaching you wanna do, fucking stuff it! I don’t want to talk to you either! Why don’t you just cozy up and cry about it together?”

And with that he storms away, leaving Jirou and Kirishima behind looking frustrated, hurt, and confused.

Ashido might as well take a crack at this.

Not immediately, though. She bides her time, and waits for the school day to end. Then she waits some more, a few hours after everyone has returned to the dorms and people are either back in their rooms or doing homework or making dinner. She gives Bakugou time to cool off. The sun is setting, and Bakugou is locked away in his room. They have a little less than two hours until curfew. Ideally, that’s all the time Ashido needs.

From the school gym, she texts him.

ASHIDO
7:09 PM
heyyy bakugou!!! would you feel like sparring with me a little tonight?

He has his read receipts on. The little check mark appears within seconds, but for a long time she gets no response. Ashido thinks he might have decided to ignore her, but eventually the little ellipses bubble flashes on her screen. Then disappears. Then reappears. Then disappears for a minute or two. Then reappears.

BAKUGOU
7:16 PM
who is this

Okay, well now Ashido’s a little peeved. He’s in the class group chat!

ASHIDO
7:17 PM
ohhh my god do u really not have everyone’s number from the chat saved
7:18 PM
after 2 years

BAKUGOU
7:20 PM
i dont need to know who exactly is asking what page whatever the fuck theyre looking for is on so no

ASHIDO
7:21 PM
okay well save mine
7:21 PM
and this is mina
7:22 PM
ashido

No response for a few minutes. 

ASHIDO
7:26 PM
pinky

BAKUGOU
7:26 PM
yeah i got it at “mina” calm the fuck down

She tries to be patient, and waits another few minutes for the typing bubble to pop back up again.

BAKUGOU
7:30 PM
so when do you wanna do this
7:30 PM
curfew’s in an hour and a half and i’m not waiting around for your slow ass 

Ashido grins at her phone.

ASHIDO
7:31 PM
i’m already at the gym so you’re the one who needs to hurry up, slowpoke! 

BAKUGO
7:31 PM
cocky motherfucker
7:31 PM
better bring your A-game 

ASHIDO
7:32 PM
see you soon! 

She has already brought her A-game and also her portable bluetooth speaker. Hope Bakugou likes classical pop! She finishes her warm-ups to 2007’s greatest pop hits as she waits for him.

Bakugou makes it to the gym in under four minutes. His cheeks are flushed and he’s slightly out of breath. He took the stairs and ran across the quad to get here. Cute. Ashido grins and waves at him. He scoffs and tosses his gym bag carelessly onto the bench next to her own and immediately begins his own warm-ups without saying hi, but Ashido doesn’t mind; it’s the least angry she’s seen him in a few days.

“So we’ll spar Quirkless first and then squeeze in some Quirk sparring before curfew hits, okay?” Ashido calls over to him as she approaches their stuff on the bench so she can retrieve her phone. He isn’t looking at her so she lifts it up and takes a selfie for Snapchat with his oblivious figure doing stretches in the background. “I always get blisters when sparring with your Quirk so I don’t want to start off with that.”

“I know, I’m not stupid, what the fuck,” Bakugou snaps. He looks over his shoulder and his scowl deepens when he sees Ashido holding up a peace sign for another picture. “Are you fucking kidding me? Put that thing away.”

“But Pinky-Kacchan Sparring Sessions are rare, momentous occasions!”

“Fucking extra rare if you don’t quit taking fucking selfies,” he threatens. “And don’t call me that.”

“Why does Midoriya of all people get a free pass on ‘Kacchan’ but the rest of us don’t?” Ashido complains, but she puts her phone back in her bag. Bakugou gives her a look, but he returns to his stretches once her phone is gone, satisfied.

While he’s not looking, Ashido takes a risk and peeks into his gym bag. She spots his phone and grabs it; she guesses his password—0420 (Moron, she thinks, don’t use your birthday!)—in one go. She doesn’t snoop or anything, just looks at his text conversation with her. He hasn’t added her as a contact, of course, so she does it for him. She types in “Mina-chan (Pinky)” with the alien emoji and a pink heart. Perfect. She locks his phone and puts it back, then strolls over to where he’s sitting on the ground stretching. He eyes her warily over his shoulder as he reaches for his toes, but all Ashido does is place her knee on his back, bearing down slightly; he grunts, but allows the assistance. A good sign!

 “So, Bakugou,” Ashido begins, going for it.

“Do not,” Bakugou says darkly.

“I didn’t even say anything!” Ashido protests.

“You were gonna.”

“You don’t know what I was gonna say.”

“You were gonna say some shit about me and Jack,” Bakugou snaps. “Or Kirishima. Don’t know who the fuck you think you’re fooling, asking me to spar like this. You ain’t slick.”

“Then why’d you agree to come,” Ashido asks, kneeling harder on his back and pushing a slight “oof” from his lungs as he touches his toes, “if you knew that’s what I wanted to talk about?”

“Because I want to spar,” Bakugou says shortly. He sits up straight, Ashido’s leg sliding off his back as he gets to his feet to rotate his arms and do some shadow boxing. “And I know you’ll actually spar, even if you really only asked me because you wanna fuckin’ gossip.”

“It’s not gossip,” Ashido huffs, but she takes a few steps away to mirror his jabs and does a few quick duck unders and step overs. “It’s just...friendship chatting.”

“If you wanna friendship chat about dumb crap,” Bakugou says sourly, “why not start with whatever this horseshit you’re playing is. The fuck kind of historical archives did you dive into to download this?

“You don’t like Kat De Luna?”

“I’m not sparring to ‘Whine Up’.”

“You know the name and everything!”

“It’s the only fucking lyric! You got tape?”

“Not the only lyric. And yeah, here.” They're bickering but Ashido is grinning. So far she feels successful; Bakugou is calmer than she’s seen him all week, and he’d agreed to spar with her even though curfew was drawing near and even though he knew she would try to talk to him about something he didn’t want to discuss. He’s engaging with her willingly. Ashido recognizes a craving for human interaction after isolation when she sees it.

They wrap their hands in silence, Ashido bouncing on the balls of her feet. Bakugou looks cute with hot pink athletic tape around his hands and a simple Level 1 scowl on his face. Kirishima would love it.

“Why are you mad at Jirou and Kirishima?” Ashido asks.

“Nope.” Bakugou turns and stalks to the center of the gym. When he turns to face her again, he’s glaring. He beckons her over impatiently.

Ashido sighs. Well, she tried. And she’s not gonna stop trying while they’re down here, of course, but she does want to spar, too, so she puts talking to Bakugou on the back burner for a bit. She clenches her fists, ducks low, and darts across the gym to him. His eyes go wide at her rush, and she smiles.

It’s fun to have Bakugou on the defense, even if it’s for less than thirty seconds, since that’s all it takes for him to grapple with her, gain the upper hand, and then go on the offense while Ashido bobs and weaves out of reach. And she doesn’t care what Bakugou says about her music choice, because it’s energizing and feels a lot like dancing when their movements accidentally sync up with the beat like they’re in a music video.

Ashido aims a kick at his legs. He dodges, using her momentum and precarious center of gravity to sweep her leg out from underneath her while the other is still midair; she catches herself on her hands and twists (breakdance!), swinging her body and taking his legs out successfully this time. She rolls and grapples with him briefly, struggling to pin him. It’s difficult due to their difference in size.

“It’s just that—one,” she pants, getting him into a hold, “Kirishima is kinda—two—worried about you—three—”

Fuck you, we’re not talking about this,” Bakugou snaps, working a leg free and getting his foot on Ashido’s hip, kicking her off and squirming out of her hold. They spring back to their feet and circle each other.

Her concentration on the conversation she wants to have flags a little for several minutes as the match goes on when she sees an opening for a move she’s been wanting to pull for a while, but she tries to pick it back up.

“You know, Bakugou,” she says breathlessly, darting in, “part of the appeal of having more than one friend is that when you’re mad at one, you have more who you can talk to. Hup!

Bakugou’s arm is at her back, and his other hand comes down on the top of her thigh. She gets both of her hands behind his neck and shoves his head down, hooking her legs up around his neck and yanking him down as she swings her body down and then back up. He lurches and flips onto his back, grunting. Ashido stumbles on her own dismount, but raises her fists in the air and jumps for joy.

“Woohoo!”

“What the fuck was that?!” Bakugou yells, pushing himself to his knees.

“Advice on how to open up to your friends?”

“Shut up, not that!” Bakugou climbs his feet, cracking his neck with an indignant fire blazing in his eyes. “Who the fuck do you think you are? Black Widow? What the hell was that?”

“I don’t know, what do you think it was?” Ashido teases, skipping backwards and holding up her fists in case Bakugou jumps right back into sparring.

“Fuck if I know!” Bakugou says irritably, but he doesn’t raise his fists in return. His stance is deliberately wide open, like he’s urging her to come at him again. “Your fucking crotch was in my face and then I was on the ground. Come at me, Pinky, show me that shit again! I’m doing it next!”

Which is how their sparring session devolves into an impromptu spinning scissor takedown lesson, scored by extremely dated dance pop and lots of infuriated screaming from Bakugou. Hopefully since curfew ticks closer and closer, not very many of their classmates will be wandering around near the gym to hear the weird things they’ve yelled at each other since Bakugou first told her to do the move again, like “YOU’RE GONNA FUCKING CRUSH MY SKULL WITH YOUR THIGHS, GET THE FUCK OFF!” and “Ew, get your balls out of my eyes, Bakugou!”

By the time Bakugou has the move down pat, he’s already demonstrably better at it than Ashido, which sours her victory a little, but she doesn’t let it get to her. She taught it to him, after all, the sensei and her pupil. The actual sparring returns sporadically with both of them taking each other down with the move, and by the time they stop, curfew is only minutes away.

“Well, so much for Quirk sparring in the end,” Ashido says as they towel off and unwrap their hands, but she’s pleased. And going by Bakugou’s loose, easy gait, she can tell he’s lost a significant amount of the angry tension he’s been carrying for the better part of the week. “Do you wanna do that tomorrow morning since it’s Sunday?”

He’s quiet for a long moment, considering, and then grunts, “I’m not getting up early for it, but yeah.”

“Sweet!” She grins, but it fades a little as she studies the side of his face. His features are relaxed, and she doesn’t see any obvious signs of melancholy, but she remembers that Bakugou’s days off are most often spent with Kirishima. It’s nice that Bakugou doesn’t mind spending part of his Sunday with her, but...still.

“Did they do something to make you mad?”

The tape in Bakugou’s hands ignites with a small boom! as he sighs explosively.

“Fucking hell,” he bites out, shoving his gym towel into his bag and yanking out another as they prepare to split off for the boys’ and girls’ showers, and Ashido thinks he’s going to storm off, but he finally continues, “I’m not mad at them. Fuck.”

Ashido scoffs, and Bakugou slings his gym bag over his shoulder with an angry noise.

“They didn’t fucking do anything, I’m just—”

“Taking it out on them?” Ashido says pointedly.

“Look, I know I’m being an asshole, alright?” Bakugou snaps. “Nothing is Kirishima’s fault, or Jack’s, I’m just…”

“Pissed?” Ashido supplies.

“Yeah.”

“About what?”

“None of your fucking business.” Bakugou fiddles with the strap of his bag as they exit the gym, shutting the lights off behind them. He doesn’t speed up to leave Ashido behind. He’s letting her walk next to him, letting her pry. Good.

“It’s just weird that you’re being extra mean to them in particular if it has nothing to do with them,” Ashido says, because she totally doesn’t buy it.

“I don’t give a shit if you think it’s weird,” Bakugou sneers.

Ashido sighs and looks ahead. They’re coming up to where they will part to different halls. She asks, “Are you gonna stop taking it out on them, at least? Like, do you feel better?”

Bakugou turns his head away from her. He might have twitched his shoulder in a shrug, but Ashido can’t tell.

“Are you really not friends with Jirou?” she asks in a rush when they reach the split hallways.

To her surprise, Bakugou pauses. He tilts his head back, glaring at the ceiling as he lets out a long puff of a sigh. “I don’t fucking know. Sure as shit ain’t friends after what I said to her today.”

“She likes being your friend,” Ashido says, hoping that’s not too much for her to say when Jirou isn’t around. She’d probably be mad at her for saying it. “You could apologize.”

“Fuck that.” Bakugou turns away and starts down the hall to the boys’ showers. Just as Ashido starts to make her way down the other hall, Bakugou turns back around abruptly. “By the way, when did those two start dating? Since gossip’s your favorite.”

Ashido stops, blinking at him. When did those two start...what? “Jirou and Kirishima?”

Bakugou nods once, a scowling jerk of his head, and Ashido laughs. When his scowl only deepens, she realizes he’s serious. Which doesn’t make any sense, because Kirishima and Jirou are both gay, and everybody knows it. Well, maybe not everybody knows about Jirou, but Kirishima

Ashido stares at Bakugou down the hall. Does he really not know that Kirishima is gay? Like, for real? Sure, Kirishima didn’t announce it to the class or anything, but he makes it clear the way he talks about men and beefiness; even if he hadn’t, he’s open about crushing on guys. Guy, singular, his best friend, who is standing just down the hall from Ashido asking when Kirishima started dating a girl, like he thinks Kirishima would ever do that.

Ashido bites her tongue hard before she can just say, “They’re both gay,” to clear the air that way. She has accidentally spilled other people’s secrets in the past and it feels awful to realize you’ve betrayed someone’s trust with your own carelessness. Jirou is kind of out, but not fully, and Ashido’s not gonna out her like that. And sure, Kirishima is openly gay, but if Bakugou hasn’t picked up on that himself and Kirishima hasn’t told him, then it’s not Ashido’s place to tell Bakugou either.

Still. What a bizarre assumption to make.

What she settles on is, “They’re not dating.” And when Bakugou snorts, disbelieving, she asks, “Is this...does that have something to do with what you’ve been upset about?”

No,” Bakugou spits. “I just. Saw something, is all.”

“Like…” Completely bewildered, and more disbelieving than Bakugou, Ashido makes a crude gesture with her fingers. “In flagrante?

Bakugou turns red and yells, “No! Just, fuckin’—Jack half naked in his room. And don’t go running your mouth about that, either!”

“I won’t! God!” Ashido says defensively, although she will have to ask Jirou about that. It’s not uncommon for girls to get undressed in front of Kirishima, but Jirou is more reserved. Sounds like she’s coming out of her shell more and more! But more to the point, Ashido carefully insists, “Jirou and Kirishima are definitely not dating.”

The purse of Bakugou’s lips is intense and unconvinced. Ashido legitimately cannot believe someone as smart as Bakugou, who spends all his free time with Kirishima, would believe something is going on there, even if he did see Jirou half naked in Kirishima’s bedroom. Context is everything! But if he doesn’t know either of them is gay and he saw that, Ashido supposes it makes sense that that’s the conclusion he’d come to. She doesn’t know how to convince him he’s got it wrong without outing the other two, though.

“Are you sure that’s not what you’re angry about?” she asks.

“Why the fuck would I be mad about some dumb shit like who’s dating who?” Bakugou says scornfully. He turns back around and continues walking away. “I just thought it was weird.”

Ashido has an idea of why he might be mad about something like that, but she doesn’t want to get her hopes up for Kirishima’s sake. Bakugou’s sexuality, as always, is far too uncertain and invisible to make assumptions.

“Will you be nice to them again, though?” Ashido calls after him. She’s not surprised when all he does is give her the finger over his shoulder. “And we’re sparring in the morning, right?”

“Yes, Pinky, holy shit! Fuck off!”

It’s the most she can ask for.

(As much as Bakugou would hate to admit it, he feels better. He’s still miserable, but he feels a little bit lighter. Most of his anger has sloughed away, leaving him slightly listless and slightly guilty, which still feels shitty but doesn’t make him tremble with pent-up rage.

He’s taken out his anger on people in ways he shouldn’t have in the past few days. Not as badly as he might have when he was younger, but badly enough for him to recognize that he shouldn’t have been doing it. He’s supposed to have outgrown that tendency, and he’s angry with himself for relapsing into old habits. And over the dumbest, most embarrassing shit ever. He feels like a child.

He goes over what Pinky told him as he showers. Assuming she was telling the truth, and Bakugou thinks she probably was, what exactly does that mean? He hadn’t asked for any clarification, since she was already suspicious that it was the reason he’s been angry. If Kirishima and Jirou aren’t dating, does that mean Bakugou had just gotten the wrong idea from whatever it was that he saw in Kirishima’s room? He’s not sure how else to parse what he saw, though. His stomach still turns to think of how Kirishima’s face had been so close to Jack’s bare skin, and her fucking shirt had been off! No bra! Bakugou saw everything!

There’s also the possibility that Pinky herself is—or had been—in the dark about Kirishima and Jirou. Maybe it’s supposed to be on the down low. Also, he figures they don’t have to be dating necessarily to get busy or what the fuck ever. Fuck buddies are a thing, Bakugou supposes bitterly. It makes his skin crawl to imagine Kirishima having sex with Jirou, or anyone, really—anyone who isn’t him, which is something he’s skittishly tried to avoid imagining as well, to some degree of success, although he’s been having some exceedingly inappropriate dreams that he is less successful in controlling or censoring.

So, there are two possibilities:

  1. Kirishima and Jack are not involved in any way whatsoever, like Pinky claims, and Bakugou overreacted and has been making an ass out of himself and being an asshole to them over nothing. Unlikely, because he knows what he saw, and what other context is there for that?

  2. Kirishima and Jack are involved in one way or another, and it’s not any of Bakugou’s business since Kirishima didn’t tell him anything about it, so he needs to get the fuck over it.

Even if Bakugou wasn’t jealous (God, he's embarrassed to even be alive just thinking about his own juvenile jealousy) it still stings that Kirishima wouldn’t say anything to him about it. Sure, they’ve never talked about girls or romantic/sexual prospects before, but they’re still best friends. It’s kind of a big deal, isn’t it? To be seeing someone? Is Bakugou really still so unapproachable on that front even to Kirishima, who knows no fear of Bakugou Katsuki?

Well. Yeah, fair.

Stupid. It’s fucking stupid, and it hurts, and it’s bullshit, but Bakugou has to stop. Sparring with Pinky and talking, just a little, helped to clear his head, and he knows he has to stop. Without the anger and jealousy clouding his every thought like it has been in the days since barging in on those two, he can rationally remember that, above all, Kirishima is his best friend. And Kirishima isn’t the type of person who, after all this time and what they’ve been through together since the very beginning, would get fed up and drop Bakugou from his life because he’s been treated badly for a week (even though he’d be justified if he did), but that doesn’t mean it’s okay for Bakugou to keep acting like this.

Despite everything, Bakugou knows his behavior these past few days hasn’t damaged their friendship; if it had even come close, Kirishima would talk to him before it soured for real, and Kirishima is still in the “giving him space” stage of a fight with Bakugou. So they’re fine. Jirou, however…

Ugh. He’s probably fucked that one up for good. Bakugou is surprised at the real twinge he feels in his stomach, at the feeling he’d gotten when Pinky asked him if he really isn’t friends with Jirou. It’s weird to feel regret about how he’s acted towards someone new like that. He’s used to feeling bad about being an asshole to Kirishima and Deku.

Kind of funny, in a pathetic way, how it took rejecting the idea of being Jack’s friend to her face for him to realize it was a lie. He had been her friend, but he sure as hell isn’t anymore, even if he still wants to be. He doesn’t really want to salvage it, he just wishes he hadn’t wrecked it in the first place. That, too, is something he’s just going to have to get the fuck over.

He shuts off the water and changes into his pajamas. It’s only 9:30 but he’s going the fuck to bed.

He’s unlocking the door to his room when the stairwell opens up and Kirishima comes through. He looks surprised to see Bakugou, and Bakugou resists the urge to run into his room and slam the door before Kirishima can say anything. He’d been feeling guilty in the shower, and he still does, but actually facing him, he feels embarrassed.

“Hey, man,” Kirishima says, fairly casual but with an edge of caution to his voice. He comes over to stand next to him at his own door, key in hand.

“Hey,” Bakugou grunts, pretending to be on his phone as he unlocks his door.

Kirishima, fuck and bless his unbearably straightforward and mature fucking ass, sighs, and says, “So, I just—”

“Don’t,” Bakugou interrupts, shoving his door open and tossing his gym bag inside.

He can feel Kirishima staring at him, frustrated and kind of sad. Bakugou rubs his face with both hands, suddenly exhausted with himself, and everything.

“I don’t...feel like talking right now,” he grits out. From the corner of his eye, he sees Kirishima’s posture straighten. The “right now” is meaningful to both of them. “I’m tired.”

“Okay.”

Neither of them go into their rooms. Kirishima stands there, watching him, plainly brimming with questions and concern and a desire to fix something that he didn’t break, holding back only because of Bakugou’s boundaries. Not for the first time, Bakugou marvels at how he doesn’t deserve someone like that. Kirishima is always reaching out and trying to mend or improve, even when things are good. Bakugou could stand to follow his example.

“Do you,” Bakugou begins, and huffs with annoyance at himself for how this feels like an apology, and he hates apologizing. “Fucking—spar with me tomorrow. Do you want to.” Like if he doesn’t have an interrogative lilt to it then it won’t really be a question or a compromise or an unspoken “sorry for being a dick.”

Kirishima, as always, sees right through it and to his true self. He beams, a beacon of forgiveness. “Yeah, totally! I’m free all day. When do you want to?”

“Pinky’s got first dibs in the morning, so after that.”

Kirishima’s face lights up. “Oh! Cool! I bet she’s pumped! Do you want an audience or should I wait for you to text me?”

“I don’t care.”

Kirishima purses his lips and tilts his head, exaggeratedly thoughtful. Bakugou rolls his eyes. Kirishima grins again. “I’ll let you guys do your thing. Just lemme know when and where! I’m pumped now too! I missed sparring with you this week, dude!”

“Yeah,” Bakugou mutters uncomfortably. He almost asks about Jack, just to get it out of the way, but he tamps down the urge. He steps into his room. “‘Night.”

“‘Night, bro.” Kirishima’s voice is soft and smiling. Bakugou’s throat and chest feel horribly tight. He shuts the door and locks it, and presses his forehead against the cool wood on the other side, listening to Kirishima retire next door. He can hear him whistling.)