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July smothers everything. It muffles the noises of the city, forces cars to park in the shadows, keeps people from moving. They crowd the pools so they do not simmer, they hide indoors so they do not roast; they lie on patches of grass, heat radiating off their sweaty bodies, the air bending, undulating in mirages over their burning skin. Malls buzz with masses craving fresh air, bumping into each other like lost bugs trying not to cook under the sun, clinging onto melting ice cream and dripping smoothies. Everyone suffocates without discrimination and lung fill up with air too heavy, too thick to breathe. The city’s bloated, swollen under the heatwave, stuffed so full with immovable crowds all the complaints end up lost in the noise. One day after the other, July lets the summer claim the town, steam the pavement and bleach the roofs.

There’s a fan in their hotel room. It’s lazy, it’s been broken before, but it’s quiet and spins as if with a sense of duty, undisturbed by the scorching heat outside. The closed curtains bring in some well-needed shadow and shields them from the afternoon sun, but the light still filters through the navy drapes, bathing the modest room in a muted blue. Still, even like this, the room’s damp, a few degrees too warm. Taking their shirts off doesn’t help.

Sitting on a mattress with his back against the wall, Kirishima turns his laptop a bit to the right so Bakugou can see the screen properly. The fan of the poor machine is overworked and the plastic casing heats up against his knees; Kirishima can’t tell if it’s burning him or not, his whole body having somehow given up on feeling temperature differences. His skin is coated in a sticky layer of sweat even though he got out of a cold shower less than half an hour ago, and droplets trail down his torso every so often, riding over his ribs before getting lost in the band of his shorts. Bakugou’s just as warm next to him and the heat of their bodies tangles between them, mingling into this uncomfortable zone they do not want to cross by fear of catching fire.

“That’s today,” Kirishima says, his finger tracing a line from a city to another on the screen, stopping right next to a pulsing blue dot on the map. “Tomorrow, we should be able to do this,” he continues, and his finger follows a longer road until it finds a bigger city, “and sleep here.”

Silent, Bakugou pulls the computer into his own lap and zooms out. Their final destination, home, is still much, much farther away. Driving is the cheapest option though. And the most enticing. Trains and planes lack soul, they don’t call like the road does, and they don’t feel like this. Like Bakugou sitting on the bed next to him, like the mattress giving in under their combined weight.

Weirdly enough, Bakugou didn’t need much convincing.

Kirishima pushes off the bed, keeping the sheets from sticking to his thighs. “We’ll only make it if we wake up early though, so I’m not letting you sleep in tomorrow,” he says before grabbing an empty bottle and going for the bathroom sink to fill it up.

“Fucking fine, I’ll be up,” Bakugou grumbles from the bed, because of course he does, but there’s no anger to his tone. Kirishima smiles a bit and lets the water overflow from the bottle, cascading over his fingers. It feels good. He’d put his head under the stream if he could.

“I’ll drive if you want to sleep some more,” he offers, turning the water off. “We can switch after lunch.”

Bakugou mumbles something Kirishima doesn’t hear, but it sounds like approval. Good enough. Playing with the bottlecap, he drags his feet back into the bedroom where the blue light does not waver, as if too deep underwater. Nothing moves besides the fan, cycling slowly. Even Bakugou’s still as stone, cross-legged on the bed and hunched over the laptop. A motorcycle revs up under the window, roaring at nothing; Kirishima can almost feel the air bend over his skin, distorted by the heat of the metal, and the taste of gasoline melding with the salt of sweat. The thought is distant though, and he’s too lazy to chase it.

The bed creaks when he sits back down by Bakugou’s side, leaning close enough to watch the screen but far enough to avoid the searing feeling of skin against skin – it’s because of the weather. Avoiding the warmth, it’s because of the weather.

Bakugou doesn’t seem to mind the heat of the laptop at all, even though his shorts are short, his body’s just as glossy as Kirishima’s, his skin radiating hot and hot. It’s too warm in here, even over the blankets. It’s because of the weather.

The motorcycle drives away but the thought of warm gasoline lingers. Does the room smell like it – maybe, maybe it’s in the petrol blue of the light, or maybe it’s just what the city tastes like. Maybe Kirishima simply tries to find things to think about, things that are not the beads of sweat on skin and the pinch of lips between teeth and the brush, the tugs of skin over crumpled sheets – things that are not the weather.

He takes a sip from the bottle, the water so cold it brands his insides, and points at the screen again. “Here,” he says, his lips popping off the bottle, “there’s a haunted house. It’ll be on our way tomorrow, so we could stop and say hi to some ghosts real quick.”

Bakugou side-eyes him. “If I’m waking up at eight it’s not so we can waste three hours playing like dumbasses in a tourist trap,” he snarls, snatching the bottle from Kirishima’s hand.

“Not three hours, but a driving break? To sit down and eat,” Kirishima tries again, leaning back against the wall, but Bakugou doesn’t answer; he drinks instead, tilting his head back and swallowing as much as possible – he’s messy, careless, and water runs down his chin, along his jaw. One drop rolls down his neck and glimmers with each move of his Adam’s apple. The rest is sweat, subtle yet unmistakable, making his skin glisten even in the dark blue light. Salty. Kirishima hasn’t tasted it but the thought is stronger than one of gasoline, it fits the light better. It’s close, and it’s everywhere.

It’s not the weather.

Bakugou hands a half-empty bottle back to Kirishima, wiping his mouth with the back of his other hand. “We’ll see about the breaks tomorrow. I’m just telling you, I’m not messing with fuckass ghosts.” His glare is almost purple with this shade of afternoon; still, instead of coldness, there’s a hint of a playful smile in his eyes.

Kirishima’s throat is already dry.

 


 

The alarm is going to ring in two minutes but Kirishima’s awake. There isn’t a bird outside, not a bit of wind rustling the leaves – the only noise he hears buzzes, artificial and chrome, as the boulevard pumps to the rhythm of red lights like a massive heart and the streets take the traffic in waves. The city’s already up, and the light’s already blue.

It’s another world compared to the hotel room. The morning is lazy in here. The old fan doesn’t move and even the air, already thick, feels frozen. Kirishima turns around in bed, the sheets almost silent against his skin – it’s all static. Whatever hit the city at sunrise hasn’t yet reached behind the window, the night isn’t quite gone. Bakugou’s still asleep in the other bed and Kirishima is going to indulge him, just for two more minutes. Bakugou threw the sheets to his feet at some point during the night and spread himself out, taking up all the space without falling off the edge of his twin bed with this grace that’s never left him, and he’s the only thing moving in the room. His chest gently rises and falls; he’s right there, peaceful and asleep, his legs draped in the blue morning. He could be out of a painting, relaxed like that, but Kirishima can hear his slow breathing. He’s pretty. He’s pretty when he sleeps. He’s always been.

But the road is calling.

To spare them its screech, Kirishima kills the alarm right before it rings and slithers out of bed. He should turn the fan on but goes to Bakugou’s side before doing anything else. His blond hair’s a mess but there’s isn’t a line on his face, not a pulled muscle, not a trace of a frown anywhere. Kirishima kind of wants to take a picture – he leans forward instead.

“Hey.”

His voice’s rough from sleep and even a whisper sounds like stones grating against each other, but it’s not enough to get a reaction from Bakugou.

“Hey,” he tries again, a bit louder than a murmur. Bakugou doesn’t even twitch, serene – it’s nice to know he’s getting all the sleep he needs, and Kirishima would almost feel guilty for pulling him out of his slumber, but it has to be done.

He brings a hand to Bakugou’s shoulder and shakes him a bit. “Hey, wake up.”

This time Bakugou frowns and grunts, his legs stirring. Kirishima takes his hand away but doesn’t step back, watching as Bakugou’s face twists; he emerges slowly, taking hold into his own body, a hand grasping at the empty space by his side. It takes him a couple of seconds to stretch and squeeze the sleep out of his muscles, his body lengthened like a feline’s. Releasing the tension, he lets out a whiny yawn and blinks up at Kirishima with bleary, wet eyes. They focus after a few more seconds, going from looking to seeing, but there’s nothing sharp there yet, nothing harsh. Bakugou’s just woken up and the morning has softened his usual glare, painting his cheeks with a muted shade of blue.

Kirishima’s getting used to the sight by now. He likes the feeling of it.

“Good morning,” he smiles. “Time to get up.”

Bakugou stays silent, as he does every morning, but he blinks slowly in understanding. If Kirishima was a worse person, he’d be the kind to tease Bakugou in the mornings and take advantage of these ten weaker minutes; what a waste would it be though, to ruin the trust of someone comfortable enough to fall asleep a man and wake up a cat.

Bakugou will be out of bed soon, so Kirishima steps aside and goes for the bathroom, and he knows Bakugou’s looking at his back – the weight of it is just as familiar as the sight of his face bathing in morning, just as warm as the weather.

 


 

Their car is fourteen years old, dirty grey, and doesn’t have AC. The faux leather seats grab at the skin and refuse to let go without a damp noise, something rattles in the trunk and the mirror on the passenger’s side is barely held into place by generous amounts of tape, the gear stick isn’t the original one, the radio doesn’t work and the drive isn’t the smoothest – still, it’s the car they have. It’s the one that took them to the end of the country, and the one that’s taking them back home. It’s a bubble of old steel and grinding metal that keeps Bakugou and Kirishima together; it might be slow to start when the lights turn green, it might turn into an oven when parked in the sun, but it purrs like a tired tiger at red lights and the windows roll all the way down.

They leave the city when the sun’s still low, and summer follows them.

Bakugou dozes off against the headrest, his feet propped up on the dashboard. Outside of the city there’s only grass, grass and fields stretching beyond the horizon, and the occasional brick house sitting on the side of the road. Lamp posts pass by the window at regular intervals as if racing in the other direction and Bakugou doesn’t try to count them; soon, the city feels like a foggy memory, a place where he’s left nothing behind, where he’s taken nothing from no one. He floated through it, through the hotel room he stayed in for a night, through the time he spent sleeping. What was the city’s name again? The map knows – Bakugou couldn’t care to remember.

Kirishima’s hand on the wheel is relaxed, holding the side as if barely trying. His other elbow is propped on the open window, his arm resting over the seam – a gust of wind runs through the car from side to side, fresh to the skin and sweet to the nose. He didn’t bother to do his hair – he hasn’t for days now – and the lock tucked behind his ear doesn’t stop the strands framing his face from moving with the wind. He’s focused, looking straight ahead, but his head’s a bit titled to the side, and his eyes are a bit hooded; Bakugou knows Kirishima would never take driving lightly, but the road is straight and the traffic is smooth. Driving is easy. Looking at him while he drives is easier.

Kirishima doesn’t look back, of course, so Bakugou pretends he’s catching up on sleep he never lost and lets the road lull him.

He opens his eyes a few times just to check – every time, they’re driving, and every time there are only lamp posts and green fields, and cars following each other from a distance. Every time the speed is the same, and the view is the same, but the sun rises a bit higher. None of it matters. Bakugou probably won’t see these places again, and he forgets the names written on buildings as soon as they disappear from his view. When they drive past a sign, the words vanish from memory instantly – it’s pointless. Looking around is pointless. But he can’t look inside, Kirishima’s inside, his fingers wrapped around the steering wheel, and the minute Bakugou starts staring is the minute he’s doomed to never stop.

Maybe he shouldn’t have accepted to travel by car, maybe a plane or a train would have done the trick, but planes and trains are packed with people he doesn’t give a single shit about. They’re loud. And busy. Yeah, driving takes a while, but it lets him stay away from masses he doesn’t care about. Kirishima’s fine. He’s not one of them.

Bakugou’s not in this car for the landscape, that’s for sure.

Maybe he really does fall asleep. Maybe not really. Time’s a blur and the car keeps moving, so he doesn’t pay attention, but the sun is at zenith when Kirishima slows down, leaves the road and pulls up into an empty parking lot.

“Lunch break?” he chirps, parking cleanly even though they’re all alone – lunch already? Bakugou takes his feet off the dashboard. He really must have slept.

Weeds are growing in between cracks in the pavement and the white lines have vanished; on the other side of the lot is what probably used to be a bar, or some kind of restaurant. Time has eaten away the paint and most of the wood – still, it stands, deserted and ghostly, probably incomparable to its former beauty. It’s clear that no one has lived or worked there in quite some time.

“That’s your fucking haunted house?” Bakugou groans, eyeing this shell of a building.

Kirishima turns off the ignition. “They say there’s a ghost at night,” he smiles.

Bakugou turns to him and quirks a brow. “It’s not even noon.”

“I know, but it’s still a haunted house,” Kirishima says, smiling even wider, and Bakugou swallows. This idiot can act like a clueless boy, and yet he still has the audacity to drive with one hand and look good while he does it, to take Bakugou to ugly places as if he were proud of it, to call things by the wrong name – this isn’t a house, and this isn’t a good lunch spot anyway, and morning went by too fast but no matter where they go, no matter what they find, Kirishima’s here to smile at it.

Fuck, Bakugou wants to kiss him. Right there, in an empty parking lot, not really hidden from the humming road. Right there in front of the rotting porch of the old bar, on the hood of the car, behind the wheel, through the open window. The nerves this guy has, the sheer disrespect he has to be himself, right there with his hair down and his smooth driving and his ghosts. Fuck.

Bakugou almost kicks the door open. “Let’s eat.”

They grabbed a couple of sandwiches they bought earlier and give themselves half an hour. Propped open, the lid of the trunk casts a shadow; Bakugou sits on the edge of the trunk, trying to remember how much distance they’re supposed to have covered this morning, and the old car winces under his weight. He mindlessly watches cars drive past them and stretches his legs so they can grill in the sun – the tuna’s bland it barely has a taste and the sky’s so bright it’s a bit white, and Bakugou has nothing to focus on. Maybe he’s still a bit asleep – nothing has flavor, not the food, not the sight, not the roaring, buzzing call of the road barely muffling the song of crickets.

He takes another bite. The destination matters. That’s what he’s here for. The destination – so the journey can be bland and flat and so poor in color and details he won’t remember a thing of it, as long as he finds home at the end of the road, it’s all that matters. Once they reach home, it’ll all be over.

Kirishima doesn’t watch the road with Bakugou – he doesn’t watch anything, he’s gone, fluttering away like a butterfly having just found a field of flowers. Why must he like old stuff so much? Bakugou will never get it, but when he twists around to look over the side of the car, he finds Kirishima trotting away towards the decrepit bar. His sandwich in one hand, his camera in the other, he slows down when reaching the porch and looks up at the rotten wood. Bakugou lazily chews on his sandwich, observing from a distance as Kirishima holds what’s left of his lunch between his teeth and points his camera at something above the door, looks around to find better angles, scratches at a column of wood with curiosity or tries to look through the masked windows and tiptoes around the place like a kitten.

“If you get strangled by a ghost I’m leaving your corpse here!” he calls as Kirishima fiddles with the door handle.

“At least tell my parents I was eaten by a bear or something,” Kirishima retorts without turning around, but he leaves the handle alone and takes a few steps back to take a picture of the door in its entirety. Why the fuck is he taking a picture of a goddamn door?

Bakugou finishes his sandwich and grabs a bottle of water. “Stop taking stupid pictures, come on, let’s go,” he calls again, twisting the cap off. Surprisingly enough, Kirishima trots back towards the car, swallowing the last bit of his sandwich whole.

“They’re not chtupid pichtures,” he grumbles around the food before swallowing, “you gotta find the beauty, Bakugou, the beautyyyyy,” he exaggerates, his fingers in a pinch to accentuate the nobility of his quest as an artist.

Bakugou fails to contain a laugh and almost chokes on his water; Kirishima’s hands are fast though, and he snaps a picture before Bakugou can throw the bottle at his face. He laughs too, keeping the camera away from Bakugou’s grabby hands, and it better be blurry, it better be unprintable, it better be faded and flat like everything else around them because Bakugou’s cheeks are flushed red. Maybe Kirishima will lose the picture between landscapes and details of random buildings he found, maybe it’ll all blur into a vague shade of greyish brown, but Bakugou knows Kirishima caught him smiling, and he doesn’t know how to feel about that.

It's too hot to fight though, so Bakugou lets it go and sits back down with a huff – the car complains loudly, the metal whining. “Weren’t you going to take the wheel?” Kirishima asks, a hand high up over the open lid of the trunk, the other clutching his camera by his side. He towers over Bakugou, his tank top lifting to reveal his stomach, and Bakugou can’t even hear the crickets anymore.

He does take the wheel, as awake as ever; in the passenger’s seat, the camera beeps as Kirishima goes through the pictures.

 


 

The sun’s still far above the horizon when they reach a gas station, but the road stops roaring. They’re alone at the pumps and not a car drives by, not a voice echoes, and once their old car goes quiet, the silence is lunar. Eerie doesn’t cut it, surreal isn’t quite right, but something holds still and shifts out of bounds, as if July itself dissociated. Bakugou doesn’t know what words he’d put on it so he doesn’t even try and focuses on the murmur of the gas pump instead; there’s only a red neon, lit up too early, that flickers each second above his head with the same click as Kirishima’s camera, and in the undulating, dusty heat of summer, Kirishima looks like he could flicker with it.

 


 

“Do you have a reservation?”

Kirishima shakes his head. “We don’t. Is it too late?”

The old lady behind the counter smiles but her eyes are dead. “It’s not, dear, but next time think about it, mmh?” Kirishima’s nod seems to satisfy her, so she looks back her screen. “You’re lucky, we still have rooms for two anyway. Is a king bed okay?”

This time, Bakugou speaks up. “You don’t have separate beds?” he asks a bit too harshly, an elbow on the counter.

“Not anymore, our last room like that was booked just an hour ago,” the old lady responds, looking straight at him through her thick glasses. “That’s why I always advise people to book a room in advance, dear.” Bakugou’s lips twitch at that but she gives him this dead smile again, obviously not impressed by his attitude.

Kirishima bites his lip. “We should have called on the way here –”

You should have called, I was driving,” Bakugou growls immediately, leaning into Kirishima’s space when his fist falls against the counter. Kirishima catches the old lady’s tired gaze.

“We’ll take the king bed, thank you.”

The lady looks at him over her glasses. “One king bed for the darlings.”

It’s not a room with a view, unless the parking lot behind the hotel could be called “a view”, but it’s good enough. Cheap hotel rooms do not come with extra luxuries so the bathroom is a bit small, the walls are a testament to another era of interior design and the AC is noisy, but it doesn’t matter. They’ll have forgotten about it tomorrow.

Bakugou leaves his bag near the door, flops on the left side of the bed and buries his face in the pillow. Kirishima hears him sigh loudly, his body deflating; he comes to sit on the other side of the bed, fumbling around with his phone to connect to the Wi-Fi. It’s half past nine and the night is near but they still haven’t had dinner. They’ve made it to the right city though, so there’s that.

“Bakugou, what do you wanna eat?”

After a beat, Bakugou mumbles something into the pillow as his only answer.

“That’s not very helpful, but alright,” Kirishima shrugs, scrolling through a list of places (hopefully) open until late.

Grunting, Bakugou lifts a side of his face right off the pillow, just enough to look at Kirishima. His hair’s all tussled, falling down onto the pillow instead of framing his face, his mouth hangs open and when he speaks, his voice’s been reduced to a raspy sigh.

“Curry.”

“Dude, we’re not rich enough for curry every night,” Kirishima reminds him. “There’s soup around the corner, what do you say?”

Bakugou blinks. “They better do delivery,” is what he says.

Kirishima adjusts his position on the bed to look at him better. “Are you really this tired? It’s literally right there,” he grins. Bakugou looks up at him for a second, jaw clenched, before shoving his face into the pillow with a muffled grunt; his arms loop around the pillow to hug it closer and his shoulders tense up impossibly tight before relaxing completely, sending a ripple of shivers down his back. He’s tired and aching, probably bored out of his mind, but he’s doing his best. Kirishima would pat him on the head if he didn’t know any better.

Turns out the soup joint does delivery, and the purr of the AC doesn’t cover the volume of the TV; they take turns showering while a bad game show stretches out into the night and the summer mellows down into shades of purple once the sun goes out. Alone in the room as the shower runs, Kirishima watches a moth tap against the window, aiming for a new spot every time. It insists, convinced inside is the right place to be, and fumbles against the glass uselessly. The neon lights of the parking lot cut slivers of violet around its wings – Kirishima could probably take a decent picture if he tried, so he doesn’t know why but he sits and observes the moth instead, staring as the poor insect does its best and fails over and over and over without understanding where its plan is flawed.

Then Bakugou gets out of the bathroom in boxers and Kirishima remembers he doesn’t have a plan of his own. At least the moth is trying.

“I can’t fucking wait to be back home and take the longest bath of my life,” Bakugou sighs before plopping down on the bed. “This place fucking sucks.” He pushes one of his legs under the sheets and leaves the other out, propping his torso up against the headboard. The worn orange of the only source of light in the room comes to marry the purple neon over his skin; Bakugou spreads his body into a sunset over the sheets long after nightfall, his breath bringing waves to it.

Kirishima can’t tell if the water dripping down his own back comes from his wet hair or from buckets of sweat threatening to burst out of his every pore. Bakugou must be oblivious to what he looks like, stretched over his side of the bed, so close yet so far; he can’t possibly know how tempting he looks, and how buttery his voice sounds after a shower, how perfectly his honey shampoo melds with the dusty smell of empty hotel rooms. The TV keeps chattering from a distance but Kirishima doesn’t really listen – stuck in his own head, he curses himself, himself and Bakugou, and the road, and the price of train tickets. There are things he wants he’ll never say out loud, but it’s not by fault of not wanting them hard enough; he could touch if he tried, and he’s pretty sure he could even kiss, he could even hold, and part of him believes Bakugou would let him.

“Yeah, I want to be back home too,” he breathes, and it’s not quite a lie, not quite the truth. Once home, he’ll have made it, it’ll all be over, the trip will be behind him, buried, forgotten in a haze of days without names, and whatever happens will have happened, will have been buried with it – he’ll get to move on.

But home doesn’t have Bakugou grabbing the headboard over his head, muscles flexing over his ribs, and it doesn’t have a bed for two bathing in neon violet, it doesn’t have sheets wet with shower water and sweat, warm with July bodies, and it doesn’t strangle Kirishima with his own breath every night. Home is the destination, but Kirishima’s here for the journey – the longer the better, at the cost of feeling like a moth bumping into every window on its way.

He tears his eyes away from the sight. “It’s fine though,” he continues to keep his mouth busy, looking for the maps application on his phone, “we’re on track. Just a few more days and you’ll get your bathtub back.”

Bakugou snatches the phone from his hands. “Lemme see.”

“Dude,” Kirishima sighs, but Bakugou ignores him. One hand still holding onto the headboard, he checks out the map, slowly scrolling up to follow the road. They’ve been over it a hundred times already, there’s no need to check it again; still, Kirishima leans over the middle of the bed to look at the screen as well.

“I’ll drive in the morning again, and we can switch –” he points somewhere after a village over Bakugou’s shoulder, “right here.”

“Or we can keep driving.”

Keep driving? “You mean, having a lunch break later, or..?” Kirishima asks, not understanding. He avoids looking at Bakugou in the eyes but the ends of his hair brush Bakugou’s shoulder when he turns to face him.

“I mean hurrying the fuck up,” Bakugou grunts, letting the phone fall back on the bed, “it’s just – I’m so fucking tired of driving, if we just spent less time taking these stupid breaks –”

“Bakugou –”

“We shouldn’t have rented a car in the first place,” he continues, his voice getting louder with every word, “we could already be home but –”

“Bakugou, we’ve already had this conversa–”

“But no, we still have days to go and it’s so fucking annoying, I could be doing so much instead of rotting in here and everything sucks,” he lets out, an arm falling over his face. “I fucking hate all of this.”

Hate, now this is something Kirishima can’t say about this journey. Bakugou might be fighting their past selves’ decision, Kirishima knows he never felt the same, and probably never will – is it this easy for Bakugou to hate something, to want to throw something away even though there’s nothing but Kirishima’s presence attached to it? Yeah, driving takes a while, but they didn’t have plane money and the road is pretty at times. Kirishima likes the road. Hate kind of hurts.

Kirishima sits up, nudging Bakugou’s hip with his knee. “So what do you want to do?”

Bakugou breathes in deeply. “’S not like we have a choice, is it,” he admits. He stays silent for a second but Kirishima refuses to fill the silence for him, so he speaks again. “We drive back home.”

“Exactly,” Kirishima smiles, tilting his head to the side. “Too late to come back on that.” The corner of Bakugou’s mouth twitches. “And you like this car, admit it,” Kirishima adds.

Bakugou’s arm flies away from his face, coming down to grab the sheets. “It’s the worst car I’ve ever had to drive in my whole entire life,” he seethes, baring his teeth in indignation.

“Stop complaining, come on,” Kirishima nudges him some more. “It’s fun! It’s a one-in-a-lifetime thing, it’s cool!”

Bakugou scoffs, the forced laugh making his chest puff up. “Yeah I’m never doing this shit again. And I’ll complain all I want,” he adds, side-eyeing Kirishima; someone who doesn’t know him well might think he’s angry, but Kirishima can tell he’s calmed down, only acting snarky for the sake of it. Gosh he looks good like this too, his eyes not completely open, his hair falling around his face, his cheeks red – the sight is worth every single hour spent in this oven of a car.

Kirishima turns away to reach for the TV remote, turns the TV off, and the room goes silent. “You’re so cranky when you’re tired,” he says, maybe a bit too fondly.

“Fuck off.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

Bakugou’s hand flies to the wall over the headboard and hits the light switch, throwing the room into darkness. For an instant, Kirishima can’t even hear his own breathing, his eyes trying to adapt to the lack of light, but Bakugou speaks again. “You’re not cranky enough, you fucknut.” The sheets rustle and the mattress creaks when he moves to settle into bed, turning onto his front.

Maybe it’s the blindness, but Kirishima could swear his voice is much lower than it used to be; through the mattress, he can feel Bakugou’s body relax with a long, drawn-out sigh. In the dark, Kirishima can guess the contours of his shoulders, the lines of his naked back barely touched by a neon halo coming from outside, the angle of his jaw, of his face turned away. His nape is at arm’s length, and that dip at the base of the skull would be a perfect fit under Kirishima’s thumb; the spine courses down from there with small bumps Kirishima can see now that his pupils have blown out, drawing a soft valley between the muscle, curving down to the hips and disappearing under the sheets.

Kirishima sighs as well and stands up from the bed, making his way around it to close the curtains. They don’t fit the windows perfectly – a sliver of light still enters the room on one side, painting a line of violet light over the feet of the bed.

“We’re getting up at 8 tomorrow, alright?” he says before sitting back down on his side of the mattress. Bakugou only hums at that, and it’s enough for Kirishima – he gets into bed, careful not to touch Bakugou under the sheets, and settles down on his side.

“Good night.”

Bakugou hums again in answer, quiet, so low Kirishima only hears him because they’re close enough to share whispers. Here’s lying right here and it’s not a big deal. It’s not a big deal at all, they barely took the time to process it because it’s just not a big deal; there’s nothing between them, nothing else than a space where Kirishima’s body would fit as well, but it’s fine. It’s fine.

The trip has given him so much already. He wants to immortalize it all, keep the colors vibrant, keep the memories alive. He wants to live through it, breathe through it, take it home with him – his camera lets him do just that, but Bakugou? He can’t have him. He can’t have him vibrant and alive and pulsing, he can’t have him wanting Kirishima the way Kirishima wants him. Kirishima would have to find a way to make it bland and tasteless, easy to take in, easy to forget the way Bakugou forgets the names of the hotels they’ve listed, of the cities they drive through, of the days passing.

So it wouldn’t mean anything anyway, if Kirishima reached out and touched him. He’d close his eyes, get out of his skin to not remember the sight, to not remember the feeling of it, to not focus on the beauty he always finds in details – if he can’t remember it, he can’t hope for more of it. It’s his own wish that is flawed, just like a moth against the glass he’s aiming at something he’s not made to fight, not made to have – the flaw is him and the obsession he feeds. He’s not supposed to do that. To memorize that, this picture, the curves of Bakugou’s back under the same sheets he sleeps in, the breadth of these shoulder so close to his hands, the cold he could feel if he tried to touch this wet hair.

This trip is a parenthesis in time. It’s nothing but driving, the car swallowing kilometer after kilometer and every part of it seems to blur into the previous one; Kirishima clings to the details, to some pictures, to the names on the map, but it all feels surreal, as though whatever could happen during these few days couldn’t have any influence over the rest of their lives. Contained within itself, disconnected from the normal flow of time, the journey is only hopping from hotel to hotel, from city to city, listening to the call of the road and reaching for home; if Kirishima stares at Bakugou for too long, he’s only doing it because they’re on a road trip. It doesn’t really count. The referee’s not watching, it doesn’t really count. As long as they keep moving, they can’t get caught – guilt isn’t a thing, responsibilities aren’t a thing, consequences do not exist. It all happens inside of an old car and in between hotel rooms, so far from what their lives usually are, so it’s fair game. As soon as they come back home, the slate will be cleaned up, these few days unreachable.

And that’s really the perfect excuse, isn’t it.

That’s how he gets to make the mattress dip by Bakugou’s side and tell himself that even if he gives in, even if he reaches out and touches him, none of it will matter. It’ll all be mirage, bent over by the summer the same way steel curves under the sun, it’ll all be fake, and colorless, and dull on the tongue. It’ll all be worthless as soon as they reach home and the bubble pops – so he’d have memories of Bakugou, of his face closer than behind a lens, of his skin crinkling with heat under his hands, but it’ll be road trip Bakugou, mid-July Bakugou, too tired to truly be angry Bakugou; it’ll be that ghost he met once and will never see again, that version of him that floats through cities and sleeps the days away, that doesn’t give and doesn’t take. It’ll be that temporary Bakugou, the one who disappears behind gas pumps and borrows his sighs to the wind, the one who’s barely real, ephemeral, the one who sprouted out of summer and will vanish as soon as they reach home.

But if it’s all Kirishima can have, is it worth having it at all? And so Kirishima bumps against the glass over, and over, and over, eyes wide open on Bakugou’s back, and the purple neon lights of the parking lot never flicker.

 


 

The distant beeping of an alarm is what wakes Bakugou up, or maybe it’s the rustling by his side that stirs him out of sleep – he pulls on his pillow, trying to hide his face into it and avoid the sun for a few more minutes, just ten more, but it’s already too late. He’s already awake and he already hates it; his sole consolation is the alarm going quiet. There’s no way he’s getting out of bed so soon though, not at exactly 8am, not when his pillow gives in and leans back into –

And it’s not his pillow, it’s Kirishima’s forearm he’s cradling against his chest, warmer and softer than anything good money could buy – it’s three of Kirishima’s fingers trapped between his own, and the back of Kirishima’s hand right against his chin, held close as if precious. It’s not a pillow at all but it could be; in the bleariness of this morning, Bakugou can’t bother to push him away.

He opens his eyes slowly, blinking a few times, only to meet Kirishima’s right there, on the other side of their tangled arms. There’s so little light in the room Bakugou sees in shades of grey but he can tell Kirishima’s face is dark, flushed and open, already wide awake.

“Good morning,” he whispers, and maybe it’s the sleep but Bakugou barely hears it; still, he blinks in answer.

Without another word, Kirishima gently pulls his arm out of Bakugou’s hold; he doesn’t break eye contact and moves slowly, bit by bit, as if not to startle him. First the fingers, slipping out of the space between his, then the palm brushing down his forearm, right where the skin is most sensitive, feeling the pulse under the wrist – then, the arm whole, slithering between Bakugou’s with caution and a softness he shouldn’t have to use. Bakugou’s too out of it to say anything, to do anything – what would there be to do anyway? Hold him back? Push him away? Right here in the morning, right here when they should listen to the road calling them instead of wasting time in bed, here where the worlds have shifted overnight, far from the dampness and the neon purple? Kirishima’s not all red but he’s gorgeous all the same, and he’s here, where the warmth of their bodies has mingled and blurred, where the bed looks like it belongs in a quiet apartment somewhere; forehead kisses would happen every morning, Kirishima would have pressed forward instead of slipping out of Bakugou’s hold, and the road would never call again.

“Time to get up,” Kirishima whispers again, and Bakugou blinks out of it.

 


 

The car radio starts working when they pull up next to a small store they found, isolated and alone on the side of the road; the chatter startles them both and three voices overlap in an otherworldly chorus, muffling a violin. The chatter dies when Kirishima turns off the ignition.

A strange bell rings when they push the store’s door open. It’s half past noon and their stomach have been grumbling together for almost an hour now – they don’t have food but this shop looked like the kind to sell sandwiches at least.

There’s no one behind the counter. There’s no one in the first aisle, and no one in the second, and no one in the third, but there’s a presence all around them; their steps do not make a sound against the tiles even though they should, the glass bottles do not shine in the light even though they should. The shop smothers them in the smell of almonds floating through the air, intoxicating but inexplicable, and in forty years old music, distorted through the speakers, somehow resonating in the crisps aisle but ringing clear when they look for drinks. A door is ajar on a room that shouldn’t be this dark, the boxes of snacks are warm with the heat of someone else’s hands, the speakers crinkle with static when they enter the canned goods aisle only for the noise to disappear the second they leave it; Kirishima can’t feel Bakugou’s presence by his side but he keeps checking, and he keeps finding him right here, walking just a step behind him in silence. They lock eyes every time and Kirishima knows Bakugou feels it too.

They grab everything they need without debating about the flavors.

Somehow the cashier has materialized behind the counter, smiling so wide his jaw could unhinge, his eyes bulging like an unblinking bird’s. Even his words have too much air in it, ring a bit off, as if two voices were speaking from one mouth, and his Adam’s apple doesn’t move when he talks. He says the price the way he’d call on a curse, these sounds he makes vibrating like the wind in a shrine. Kirishima looks at him in the eye and can’t tell where the pupil ends and where the iris starts – the cashier looks back and does not provide any answer.

They pay and walk out of here, closing the door before one of them gets the glorious idea to check if the cashier vanished to the dimension he came from, or if the burning pressure they feel against their backs on their way to the car is his unblinking glare turned black and fuming.

“Drive,” Bakugou says right after his door bangs shut, but Kirishima didn’t need him to ask.

They’re back on the road before Bakugou has the time to fasten his belt and the car radio stops working seconds after.

They find a picnic table a few minutes away and inhale the food they bought, stretching their legs in the sun. The summer is merciful today, bringing a light breeze with it, and the road is surrounded by wide, beautiful plains where colorful crops grow. Kirishima notices a bird of prey hovering over the fields and a lone tree thriving at a distance from the road – there’s a place in between fields where crops meld into each other, gold into gold, shade of light over shade of light, dancing in waves with the wind. His camera has an eye as good as his, a taste for the pretty details, so Kirishima spends some time committing the view to memory.

He’d try to get Bakugou to stand into the shot but when he turns around to ask, Bakugou’s holding his phone up, framing the landscape just right, so Kirishima smiles at the camera.

 


 

“Hi, good afternoon, I’m calling for a reservation?”

The red car in front of them drives right below the speed limit, and Bakugou has had it. If this bastard doesn’t accelerate soon, he’ll drive him into a ditch.

From the corner of his eyes, he can see Kirishima fiddle with the hem of his shirt mindlessly. The voice coming from the other side of the phone is unclear from the driver’s seat, but Kirishima smiles before speaking.

“Yes, for tonight. We’re two.”

The road will be straight all afternoon and the light breeze they had for lunch is gone; the sun is out to kill, cooking the grass on the sides of the asphalt, making the horizon undulate and smoke. Still, the red car continues to be frustratingly slow – Bakugou’s hands wrap so tightly around the wheel the fake leather almost burns his palms.

Kirishima shifts in his seat to face the passenger’s window. “Separate, if possible.”

Bakugou lurches out of the lane and crashes the pedal under his feet; dust swooshes by the side of the car and the engine roars, making the feeble dashboard shake, and Kirishima yelps in surprise but Bakugou doesn’t change a thing – finally, he passes the red car and makes a point of glaring at the driver over Kirishima’s shoulder.

“Bakugou, oh my god! Calm down,” Kirishima hushes him with a squeaky voice. “Yeah no, sorry,” he mumbles into the phone right after, “it wasn’t for you, it’s just – my friend is driving.”

The old grey car settles back down into the proper lane, the wind making Bakugou’s hair puff up – he slides his forearm out of the open window and slows down just a bit, just so he’s right at the speed limit, and leans back into his sticky, smelly seat.

“Sure. The name’s Kirishima.” A pause swells. “And Bakugou.” Another. “Perfect, thank you! Yes, this evening, thank you. Yes, good bye!”

Bakugou’s ready to bet Kirishima could shove as many civilities as possible before letting the poor hotel employee go, but he actually hangs up after a second, beaming. “Now we have a room,” he announces proudly, “and it’s a nice place! And they have a pool!”

“As long as they have beds I don’t care about anything else,” Bakugou grumbles, bringing his hand lower on the wheel. Separate beds. Yeah that’s good. That’s better. Safe and comfortable; Bakugou doesn’t care about much of the details but he likes separate. No questions have to be asked, not to Kirishima, not to himself.

“They have pictures on their website, you’ll see, it’s cool,” Kirishima promises as he scrolls through some site on his phone.

Bakugou feels him smile, but he doesn't look.

 


 

If there is a greener room on the surface of this planet, it has yet to be found.

The wallpaper shows a jungle, bursting out in shades of emerald and jade, crammed with trees of all kinds; in two of the room’s corners, large plants tower out of black pots, surrounded by smaller, thicker ones with wide leaves. Some are sharp, some rounded, and they almost hide the walls with how dense their foliage is – the one Bakugou squeezes is dense with water, plump and soft, and the one next to it grows frizzy ends that almost feel like hair when he runs his hand through it. When Kirishima opens the window, all of it rustles together in a whisper like the breathing lung of a forest – it’s probably supposed to be soothing, but Bakugou wishes he could throw it all away and save some space, this shit is smothering.

The rest of the hotel is covered in beige, green and black, subtly accented with pink and gold, every detail perfectly placed on every surface – soft music sings through the speakers of the lobby and a couple of indoor fountains bring more movement to the picture, and it’s sickening. It’s all so pastel, so obviously out of a designer’s moodboard that Bakugou rolls his eyes at every new flamingo statue, every new cluster of overgrown ficus, every pan of wall covered in graphic art. Why did Kirishima bring them here? It’s so distant from his tastes, and he’s never expressed wanting to live in a home decor showroom.

“We’ve stayed in shitty places so far,” Kirishima shrugs after dinner as he brushes through his hair, sitting on a bed. “I thought, why not try a better-looking place?”

Bakugou scoffs. “Better-looking? This is a goddamn doll house, the corridors smell like vanilla or some shit.”

Kirishima focuses on a lock in particular. He’s silent for a handful of seconds, as if looking for what to say. “The room’s bigger, and it’s pretty silent,” he eventually tries, but his smile is weak.

“They spray vanilla perfume! In the corridors! How much are we paying for this bullshit?” Bakugou seethes from the other bed. “We just need beds, not a full-on architecture experience, fuck. Next time I’m picking.”

Kirishima’s brush gets stuck on a knot. He takes a moment to speak again, his eyes low. “You don’t like it?” he asks, and Bakugou can almost hear something slip out of him.

Oh.

Oh.

Is this what it’s about?

Did Kirishima pick the hotel for him?

Is this about them?

It’s not supposed to be like that, Kirishima’s not supposed to be like that – he’s supposed to hear the road and only the road, and its call under the wheels, he’s not supposed to look for beauty everywhere, he’s not supposed to make Bakugou look for it either. He’s not supposed to do anything, anything but to sit in the passenger’s seat after lunch and let Bakugou bring them a little closer too home, a little closer to where Bakugou will be able to forget about missed opportunities and warm bodies tangled in bed, and Kirishima’s face in the morning, and the sound of him, the sweat of him, the voice he has when he laughs.

You don’t like it? no, no he hates it, he hates the pastel and the beige and the jungle in the room, he hates the elevator music in the lobby and everything gold, but Kirishima’s looking down and Bakugou – ah, Bakugou ponders the price of a lie. If this hotel’s a gift, if Kirishima thought traditionally pretty things so far removed from his own unappealing tastes would make Bakugou feel better about travelling through plains and fields and grey portions of road, if this bedroom is Kirishima reaching out, then Bakugou’s in danger. If it’s Kirishima trying, then Bakugou wants the trip to stop, he wants to try back.

He wants to try back, but it’ll vanish like the rest, it’ll disappear once their luggage is back in their respective homes, it’ll go with the wind, and Bakugou can’t do that. He can’t put himself through that. He can’t think about that, and expect more of that, and hopehope! – for more what do you like? in the shade of too many trees, more what do you want? in empty lobbies, with elevator music and pink flowers on the counter.

Kirishima can’t be trying, he can’t, he can’t, it’d be unfair and unjust and Bakugou doesn’t even want to think about that, doesn’t want to wonder what it’d be like to make a summer fling out of his best friend, what it’d take to say I love it, I love you, to convince him to forget the road and live out their days in a hotel too expensive for any of their ambitions.

But tomorrow even the green will fade away, and the beige and the black with it; tomorrow he won’t remember the name of this place – hell, he’s already forgotten – and tomorrow he’ll be back in the car, and so will Kirishima, and the road will call as it always does, hours past wilting from memory.

Bakugou wishes he could take pictures of moments in time. Pictures of feelings, of certitudes. So he could try and not forget, so he could drive away and keep this whole room close to him, and Kirishima with it.

He kicks his bag and he contents spill onto the floor; his swimsuit’s here, clean of sand and salt. “I’m going to the pool,” he announces, picking it up and completely avoiding to answer Kirishima’s question.

Kirishima brushes the knot away. “It’s still open?” he asks, his voice still too quiet, his eyes still too low.

“It’s a 24/7 pool, do you even know how to read?” Bakugou snarks – he almost regrets it immediately because Kirishima doesn’t smile, doesn’t roll his eyes, doesn’t move much. Fuck.

This hotel really is a gift. If Kirishima hurts from a few words alone, it really is a gift. Yeah, it’s costing them both, but Kirishima is trying to find something Bakugou would like, he’s trying to understand where Bakugou would feel better – and he hasn’t found it but he’s soft and bent, remorseful and tired, so tired too. He never said it – or maybe Bakugou hasn’t listened, oh what if he hasn’t listened – but Kirishima’s exhausted as well, and yet here he is, hand-picking what people think to be pretty things just to show Bakugou, things so large and so obvious they do not hide in details, and Bakugou’s first reaction was to spit all over it. Fuck.

“So you’re coming or not?” Bakugou asks, gentler this time. He wants to try back, he really, really wants to try back.

It takes him a couple of seconds but Kirishima lifts his head up and blinks at him, and all the fog that covered his face lifts instantly. “Sure!” he beams, and he puts his brush down to look for his swimsuit as well.

They change and grab these obnoxious bathrobes hanging in bathroom before leaving their room, Kirishima making sure almost five times they have the door card with them before accepting to let go of the handle.

The huge clock above the glass doors of the pool says it’s past 10 pm, and there’s no one in the water.

They’ve painted the walls with a dusty shade of mint and the tiles have recently been scrubbed clean, matte cream all around; plants thrive in here too, in the steamy, moist atmosphere of the room – they’re attached to walls, hanging from the ceiling, piling up in corners, and Bakugou’s pretty sure most of them are fake. The water lies still, lit from the walls of the pool with pale pink lights giving it an eerie rose tint. Bakugou was expecting to be blinded by bright panels on the ceiling but they must have turned half of them off for the night, plunging the room in comfortable dimness, and there’s no music either, no random accessories – only the water quietly lapping at the edges of the pool, clear reflects undulating with it and refracting all around.

Bakugou slips in the water like he’d make it part before him, dipping into it as if in silk – it could be warmer but he’ll take it. He leaves Kirishima on the side of the pool and walks towards the deeper end, and all he can hear is the rustling of Kirishima’s bathrobe and the clapping of the water against his skin.

When he dives under the surface, he doesn’t hear anything.

It’s the best part of any pool, the space between bottom and surface when no one else disturbs the water; Bakugou thinks he hears his own blood pumping but he’s not sure, and he doesn’t care. He floats, suspended in pinkish water, eyes wide open on nothing, and he’s lost his weight, his senses, his reasons to leave. Here he’s cosmic, in this place where he can’t speak, he can’t hear, he can’t take anything. He’s flesh turned unsinkable stone and it’s his favorite part, right where he can’t tell his skin from the water, where his every movement is slower, as if he was allowed to take it back, as if something was asking are you sure you want to do this, are you sure this is you – but Bakugou doesn’t move and counts on his lungs to let him have this for a bit longer, so he has no questions to answer.

Then Kirishima jumps into the deeper end of the pool feet first and the sound of the crash is what hits Bakugou last. Kirishima sinks like a true stone, cloaked in bubbles and ripples, ruining the perfect peace, but he’s so pretty when he does it. He spills all over like a drop of red ink in crystal clear water, his hair slowly spreading around him and following his moves with a delay and this is worth remembering, this and the way he turns around on himself, pushing the water out of his way with open palms. He doesn’t fight it and lets himself float as well, taking a second as if to breathe in the moment, before reaching down with his foot and pushing himself up. Bakugou watches him breach the surface, his large, bulky body staying afloat without trouble. If Bakugou stayed in the depths of the pool, he’d get to surprise Kirishima from below, to run his hands from calves to collarbones before Kirishima gets to cry out for a shark, to grab his ankle and pull him back down like one of these mermaids, one of these ocean spirits capturing their lovers and watching them drown. He’d get to push the water away from him with his own hands and listen to the questions, moving slowly – have you thought this through, did you think of the consequences, and no, no, all Bakugou wants to think about is the locks of hair wrapping around his fingers underwater and the way he’d reinvent his own senses down here, deprived of gravity and taste, the way he’d try to make Kirishima understand he can’t stand pastel greens and expensive hotels, but twin beds are too small and he likes the pool if they’re alone in the water.

The lack of oxygen is what pulls him back to the surface.

“It’s so cool,” he hears Kirishima say, swimming towards him. “I thought there’d be people.”

Bakugou nods, running a hand through his flattening hair. “Yeah. More room for us I guess.” His words echo against the tile. “Wanna swim some lengths?” he offers. “I need someone to beat.”

Kirishima immediately starts swimming towards the closest end of the pool. “Too bad you only have me then!” he taunts Bakugou with a grin.

Too bad he only has him, yeah, too bad they have the whole pool for themselves and all the energy needed to race five lengths – they get to the wall, count to three and jump forward, and yeah, it’s really too bad. What a tragedy.

Bakugou catches glimpses of Kirishima every time he turns his face to the side to reach forward, every time he flips against the back wall to go the other way. He can feel all his blood vessels dilate, his body reveling in the effort it takes to compete against Kirishima, all his muscles finally getting to fight against something. Together they raise waves and make the water alive, filling the room with loud noises; all the clatter is easy to filter out though and all Bakugou gets out of it is Kirishima panting in his ears with each breath he takes. Too bad, truly – if only Bakugou knew he could have it any other way, if only he cared about changing anything at all.

Still, Bakugou crushes the competition by an arm’s length. Kirishima crashes by his side, throwing his arms over the side of the pool. “You’re too fast,” he heaves, and Bakugou refuses to remind him that he almost beat him.

“I know,” he accepts flatly, leaning his back against the side of the pool as well. He can feel Kirishima looking at him.

A moment passes. The water settles back down, losing the ripples and the waves, going back to quietly lapping at the tiles. There’s a light underwater right there, casting a soft pink glow around Kirishima’s legs – he paddles a bit, lazily keeping himself afloat. Bakugou imitates him and lifts his body up so they hover side by side, not quite horizontal, and he loses his weight again, his muscles relaxing with each circle he draws in the water.

“It’s just missing bubbles,” Kirishima sighs fondly. “Wish they had a jacuzzi or something.”

Bakugou’s silently grateful for the lack of jacuzzi – he doesn’t need that, definitely not. It’s already enough to be alone in a foggy room filled with so many plants they could hide behind them, he doesn’t need a crooked corner hidden from the rest, he doesn’t need Kirishima spreading his arms and taking up all kinds of spaces Bakugou wishes they could share. He doesn’t need to see his lap, and his smiling face, and his naked torso; a pool is fine, thank you.

“It’d be even more expensive with a jacuzzi,” Bakugou notes. “The places we find on our way home better be extra cheap after this one.”

Kirishima shifts around. “Yeah, sorry,” he blushes. “It’s just – I thought it’d be cool.”

Bakugou looks back at him. Yeah, Kirishima’s not lying. It’s all he thought about. About something cool – not his brand of cool, since he seems to believe Bakugou wouldn’t like it, which is a filthy lie, but the safe brand of cool, the hipster places. Bakugou would take an old creaking bed in an old dusty room and some old stale food over the shine, the fakeness, the luster of polished facades. He’d take Kirishima warming up the same mattress as him any day, without any of the excuses.

Kirishima pushes himself away from the side of the pool, back-paddling towards the center. “Or we can just drive for three days straight,” he grins, “taking turns and everything. We’d be home without spending a single additional cent on hotels,” he says, his voice singing around the words.

Bakugou joins him, moving slowly. “Sure, and never have a proper night of sleep. Sounds really fucking safe.”

“I thought you wanted to be home faster?” Kirishima reminds him, still grinning, pushing a strand of hair behind his ear.

Oh yeah, Bakugou thought that too.

Now he’s not really sure.

And Kirishima’s really close, and they’ve lost footing now. And his body’s right here, and his lips are right here, and what about the destination anyway; there’s still the journey, there’s still this, this place where the doors are closed and fog is covering the glass, where they can’t hear the road calling. They’re still this face Kirishima has when he’s just a bit tired, just on the edge of letting go, and this way he has to stay close to Bakugou no matter what. There’s all this water, all this space either of them could occupy and yet they stay afloat right here in the middle – what’s home compared to this, to water turning pink in the right angle, to mint walls and accents of forest green Bakugou forgets to be sick of?

Can he take this home?

The weightlessness, the way Kirishima’s skin would feel under his hand – and oh he found it, he knows what it’s like now, soft and warm in his palm, and he can’t pretend it’s the water that pushes his hand onto Kirishima’s forearm. There’s no current and no force, so if he touches Kirishima, it’s because he wants to, and if he brings his hand to Kirishima’s shoulder, it’s because he wants to, and in the water he can’t feel his own shivers. He should look at Kirishima’s face but he doesn’t, and he should think of a plan but he has none; his other hand finds it way up to the side of Kirishima’s neck and oh yes this is worth the stupid hotels and the 24/7 pools. The pulse right under his palm? This is worth one more trip to a gas station, one more lunch break where they waste time doing nothing, and Bakugou feels Kirishima’s breath hitch between his hands. Kirishima doesn’t try to get away and he has stopped with the questions, and Bakugou’s vaguely aware he was supposed to answer one but he can’t care for shit. He’d strip bare for Kirishima, if not his body then his intentions, and Kirishima knows this; Bakugou sees his lips tighten, his smile fall, and he still can’t bring himself to look at him in the eyes why can’t he look at him in the eyes

Kirishima grabs Bakugou’s shoulders and pushes him underwater without warning and Bakugou barely has the time to gasp in surprise before being submerged. It takes him half a second to understand what’s happening but this idiot, this fucking idiot misunderstood him and now Bakugou’s vision is blurry, obstructed by bubbles, by the flurry of Kirishima’s body moving in front of him. Before he loses the opportunity, he grabs Kirishima’s thigh and pulls him down as well – Kirishima fights, to no avail, and ends up underwater too. His hair spreads like spilled ink again and he blinks, bubbles escaping his mouth, before trying to go for Bakugou’s shoulders again.

Does this dumbass think it’s a game?

Kirishima grabs a shoulder, Bakugou grabs an ankle and they push and pull and stumble in slow-motion, trying to get the other to fall lower, to stay right there. Someone tries to shout but his voice gets lost in the water; Bakugou gets his hands on Kirishima’s waist, Kirishima gets a hold of his head and they wrestle under the surface, they kick and grasp and move the same water, create the same ripples. Bakugou wraps an arm around Kirishima’s neck for leverage and Kirishima wraps a leg around his waist for leverage, and they move together without a goal.

Right when the oxygen starts to lack, Bakugou admits to himself he’s not really trying to push Kirishima away.

They’re both strong and flexible, they’re both capable young men, so why do their legs tangle, why do their hands fall so easily on each other’s waist, on each other’s chests; why do they not push more when they should, pull more when they could? Why do they let their movements lose in strength without doing anything else – have you made your choice, are you sure you don’t want to fight anymore, and yes, yes, Bakugou lets the water slow him down and watches Kirishima glow pink before his eyes, digs his fingers in Kirishima’s ribs, yes, a thousand times.

It still doesn’t stop Kirishima from wriggling up to the surface and bringing Bakugou up with him; they gasp together, hair covering their eyes, and let each other go.

“If I have bruises, you’ll have to kiss them better, Bakugou Katsuki,” Kirishima jokes as he pushes his hair back.

“As if,” Bakugou smirks, swimming back to the edge. He can still feel Kirishima hands over him, over his stomach, all over his back, strong around his shoulders, he can feel his thighs around his own and he wants to drown the memory. “Five more lengths?”

Kirishima nods, still chasing after his breath – still, he beats Bakugou at his own game this time and doesn’t brag about it. Bakugou goes to float towards the deeper end, letting his body drift off before diving under the surface where everything’s still muted and slow, and Kirishima follows.

When they leave the pool, Kirishima’s giggly and Bakugou feels high on something he hasn’t consumed, buzzing in his head and through his core. There’s no point in trying to hide in a bathrobe so he hides on his bed while Kirishima washes the pool water out of his hair, then hides in the shower when his turn comes. It’s probably how some people feel when they’re fourteen, so soft and idiotic it could almost counterbalance the anger he has for himself. This is stupid, he swears to the shower tiles, this is so fucking stupid.

But once all the green and the beige and the pink is gone from his memory, he wants to remember the fresh ink spilled in the pool and the smiles he didn’t give back; he wants to remember the silence they broke and the way Kirishima held him underwater as if he was looking through him.

Kirishima’s already dozing off in his bed when Bakugou comes back to the bedroom so he turns off the lights, mumbling a vague good night that Kirishima answers with a hum, and goes to close the curtains. On the other side of the window, a moth is tapping against the glass.

 


 

The valley might be the prettiest Kirishima has ever seen.

There’s a river running down between the hills, blue and green against pale rocks, and it rolls and bends in the curves of the ground like a ribbon of silk. Trees and bushes and flowers of all kind have sprouted on the banks, between the stones, at the feet of the hills, and blend into watercolors – yellow, orange, purple, red, they all melt with each other. The scale of it steals Kirishima’s breath away, massive yet so meticulously detailed; he sees birds and branches and clusters of flowers but he also sees the huge ridges on the sides of the rocks, the evidence of colossal forces that once pushed these hills out of the earth and let the water carve out a path for itself, and the burning eye of the sun turning the valley into a small paradise. The place is a gentle scar at the surface of this country, a scratch healed long ago where deer come to drink, where summer smells like pollen and warm stone.

And the air is heavy and thick, charged with something that almost feels metallic, something electric and dense; the sky darkens far behind the valley and a thunderstorm gets ready to roll in. It makes the birds fly low and the whole valley hold still as if waiting for the signal to start roaring, leaving the river to quietly burble alongside the crickets.

It’s so warm Kirishima dropped his shirt while he was driving, which Bakugou protested loudly – he grabbed the wheel and shouted for maybe seven whole seconds while Kirishima fought his sleeves, because he’s dramatic like that. The road was straight, the closest car was far away, nothing could have happened but Bakugou “Road Safety Is Only Important When I’m Not Behind The Wheel” Katsuki still gave Kirishima a lecture that would have made his former driving instructor blush.

He dropped the shirt too, eventually.

“You want a cookie?” Kirishima asks through his last bite of cold ham, handing Bakugou a box of store brand chocolate chips delights. It’s been a while since they had such a nice view for lunch.

“Nah keep them,” Bakugou shakes his head. He stands on the side of the road and peers down into the valley, chewing on his lunch. At some point he kicks a rock off the road and watches it tumble down the side of the hill their road snakes around, following it as it finds a way into the river.

Kirishima puts the box back down on the edge of the open trunk and goes to grab his camera from the back seat. There’s no way they’re leaving without some decent shots so he trots to Bakugou’s side and take a minute to pick what to start with.

He’s trying to frame a specific curve of the river when Bakugou speaks. “About this evening, we should stop at the first city,” he says. Kirishima takes his time to snap a picture then find another subject.

“That’d make us stop driving around five though,” he says from behind his camera, focusing on where the trees meet the sky. “We could be going for longer and sleep in a motel or something.”

Bakugou stays silent for a moment, long enough for Kirishima’s camera to click a couple of times.

“It’s gonna rain,” he eventually mumbles. “No fun in driving through a storm.”

Kirishima tries, and fails, to keep a bird into focus. “If you want to stop early, I don’t mind,” he says, pivoting to follow the bird, “but I thought you wanted to be efficient and everything. I can drive if you want.”

Bakugou takes a few steps back to sit on the edge of the trunk. “Let’s stop in the city,” he insists. “And pass me your camera.”

Kirishima gives up on the bird and aims at Bakugou. Bakugou doesn’t protest when he snaps a pic of him sitting there next to a box of cookies, his hair all ruffled, his hand reaching for the camera. “If I give it to you, will you break it?” Kirishima asks, looking through the lens with his finger off the trigger.

“Of course I won’t, you idiot,” Bakugou smirks through the lens, and he stands up. “You’re never on your own pictures, come on,” he says. Kirishima takes a picture, then another, and Bakugou steps closer; he can feel himself smiling and knows that Bakugou can see it from under the camera, between his hands. “Pass me the goddamn camera,” Bakugou insists, but this time he’s smiling too, right on the other side of the lens, and the camera focuses beautifully on his face. His red eyes pop against the blond of his hair, the slight tan he managed to get, the grey of the car behind him, and he smiles without trying to hide it, outshining the lens flares dancing around him.

Kirishima presses the trigger and Bakugou says nothing about it.

“Alright,” Kirishima gives in, lowering the camera, “but we take a picture together after that.”

Bakugou nods and takes the camera without trying to negotiate further. “It’s like you’re not even on this trip,” he mumbles from behind it, adjusting the focus, “and you suck at selfies.”

“Dude, my ego –”

“Smile.”

So Kirishima does, and the camera flutters.

Bakugou takes another, and another, and he’d take a fourth if it wasn’t for Kirishima pulling on his arm and bringing him next to him, their backs to the valley – without being asked, Bakugou turns the camera around and holds it in front of them, a finger on the trigger. Kirishima snakes his arm around his shoulders right before Bakugou snaps a picture; they smile side by side and the sound of the shutter gets lost in the song of crickets.

“There,” Bakugou says, shoving the camera back into Kirishima’s hands, “proper pictures.” Dragging his feet in the grass, he goes back to sitting on the edge of the trunk and makes the car suspension whine with his weight.

Kirishima doesn’t check the pictures and turns it off instead, pulling the strap over his head, and joins Bakugou. “Let’s go then,” he says, bending down to grab a cookie from the box, “we still have some road ahead of us.”

Bakugou leans back on his hands. “I want to take a longer break this time,” he says, his voice low. He stares into the valley, into the hills behind Kirishima, and Kirishima’s hands itch to turn to camera on again. He’d be afraid Bakugou disappears with the wind, soft and light like he is right this moment, but the storm hasn’t yet risen. This Bakugou isn’t an illusion – he’s real, he’s been there the whole time as a facet of the loud, rough Bakugou everyone knows, but only Kirishima’s here when he comes out and breathes in, as pretty as any other detail in the valley.

“You like this place, uh,” Kirishima tries to joke, but it comes out of his mouth more tender than he anticipated.

Bakugou looks up at him. Yeah, he likes this place, it’s written all over him. He only looks like that when he likes, when he loves, when he’d stay here for a bit longer. “I guess I do.”

“That’s good,” Kirishima smiles, “you’re finally relaxing. Proud of you, honey.” Bakugou rolls his eyes at him but doesn’t go back on his words, so Kirishima, following an instinct he didn’t know he had, hands his cookie to Bakugou. “Here. Cookie,” he says, and Bakugou just opens his mouth to bite into it, apparently not bothered to use his hands. “I’ll find a place to stay, you can go and explore if you want,” Kirishima continues before taking a bite himself.

Bakugou swallows and leans forward to pull his phone out of his pocket. “I’ll do it this time,” he tries to scowl at Kirishima, but it doesn’t work when he has cookie crumbs on his lips.

Kirishima shrugs, chewing on his bite of cookie, and leans back to appreciate the view while Bakugou Googles some cheap hotels. Maybe he could come back here a couple of times a year. There’s probably lots to see out there in the hills, maybe some good hikes as well. It’s been a while since they went hiking after all.

Bakugou takes a couple more bites of cookie, grabbing Kirishima’s wrist and bringing the treat to his mouth without more care for it. They finish the cookie together, waiting in the shade of the trunk lid for the road to call again.

“Here,” Bakugou eventually says, handing his phone to Kirishima. “This one.”

“You sure?”

Bakugou nods, licking his lips clean.

Kirishima dials the phone number and sits down on the edge of the trunk with Bakugou, toeing his shoes off. Without asking – not that he’d have needed – Bakugou grabs the camera dangling from his neck and and settles it into his lap, making it beep as he goes through the pictures. From the corner of his eyes, Kirishima catches him smiling faintly; he spends more time on some pictures than on others and even now, he still has some cookie crumbs on the corner of his mouth.

After a beat, someone picks up the phone and Kirishima goes back to looking straight ahead.

“Hi, I’m calling for a reservation?”

 


 

The city’s grey.

The sun is gone and the sky is grey, the sidewalk is grey, the walls are grey, dirty, covered in a layer of dried smoke and pollution; the roofs and the doors are grey, grey with metal and glass and cement, fading into both the burning asphalt and the horizon hidden behind the storm. If this place had a soul, it’s long gone, replaced by replicas of the same buildings and the same streets, and the same corners everywhere – shades of sleek black facades, white apartment complexes and grey piping running like snakes, grey clouds smothering it all until it’s hard to breathe, grey reflects in the water fountain carved out of dull marble. The city’s dead and its skeleton lays here.

It would be better if the storm had somehow found a route around the city, but summer storms are not kind, and so a downpour floods the streets. Water falls in heavy curtains to go gargle in the sewers, so loud and so heavy the deluge drowns all the other noises in a constant roar, only made worse by waves of thunder rolling into the streets. Each strike brighter than the last, the storm lights up the sky from dark grey to flashing white for few seconds at a time, as if massive hands were holding a camera right above the highest towers. The clouds inflate with it too, enormous masses gliding and curling into raging lungs breathing strong winds and crying cascades, and whatever colossus hides behind them moves deliberately.

And of course, neither Kirishima nor Bakugou has brought an umbrella.

Not that it would be of any use in such a weather, but they have a couple blocks to walk until they reach their hotel; for now they’re stuck in a food joint where the lights flicker every time the winds blow too hard and their t-shirt aren’t going to shield them from the rain. The bag containing their takeout noodles and drinks isn’t going to do the trick either so they wait, like all the other customers, huddled behind the front door in hopes it passes soon.

“It won’t,” Bakugou groans, “look at the fucking sky. Shit is dark as hell. If we wait we’re still stuck here tomorrow morning.”

Kirishima nods next to him, wrapping his arms around the bag. “I say we run.”

Now that’s what Bakugou wants to hear. “You better keep up.”

“Lead the way,” Kirishima grins at him, and with that Bakugou kicks the door open. An old man gasps behind their backs when they surge out and dive head first into the storm; their shoes squelch in the water and they pound the ground running, bending over in the rain. Bakugou can hear Kirishima hiss behind him, each one of his steps making water splash onto Bakugou’s heels and ankles, and he knows their shoes will be ruined by the time they reach the hotel, his shirt soaking up the rain too. All the fabric sticks to his body a bit more with every second, already cold and heavy.

Bakugou can’t hear himself pant over the fracas of the rain hitting the pavement but he can feel his heart rate pick up every time he slithers between two people, every time he leaps over a puddle, even more every time he’s reminded that Kirishima doesn’t let him put any distance between them – there’s a stitch swelling in his side and it feels good, for once, to fight a storm so hard his body can barely follow, to be alive in the core of it all.

He could stop in the middle of the sidewalk and let the rain beat his face, and maybe this grey city, of all places, would leave a mark on him.

But Kirishima’s shoulder bumps against his – he caught up even though he’s carrying food and drinks, and he’s blurry red when he moves. And somehow, of all offers he’d have been ready for, Bakugou would have taken Kirishima’s hand if he didn’t have a bag to carry.

They rush in the hallway of the hotel together.

Soaked like street mutts, they drip all over the carpet and try to catch their breath – hands on his knees, Bakugou curses the pain in his side as he watches large drops of water fall from his hair and onto the floor. Kirishima has put down the bag and stretches his back, groaning loud enough to attract weird looks from other people in the room.

Even inside and sheltered from the downpour, Bakugou still feels alive.

He leans against a wall of the small elevator, counting the dings to the fifth floor, but his heart still isn’t done racing and his skin is far from being done drying – water is still dripping from his hair, from the tip of his nose, attached to his lashes and running down between his shoulder blades. These are his favorite shivers, these and the ones that tickle his tongue when Kirishima’s forehead leans against his shoulder, when wet red hair curls in the curve of his neck, when Bakugou can feel his heavy breath over the sleeves of his shirt.

Their room is still damp and suffocating like a bubble of steamed rain, a capsule of summer storms where the winds don’t blow. It’s like twenty sweaty hands are grabbing at them, running all over their bodies, so Bakugou drops his drenched shirt a handful of seconds after Kirishima kicks the door closed. The fabric sticks to his chest and peels off satisfyingly and he goes to squeeze the water out of it over the bathroom sink. From the corner of his eye, he can see Kirishima undress between the beds.

From the window, Bakugou sees more than grey. A hint of sunlight washes over the corner of a green park crammed behind two steel towers, only to disappear with the next move of the clouds; there’s some red, muted by the fog that the rain lifts, and some orange and the sound of shoes hitting the floor, the clink of a belt unbuckled and thrown. There’s black, and white, and monochrome marbling in the rolling sky, but there’s a hot pink and flaming magenta on the right, lighting up as the sky darkens, and the swish of hands in fabric, the ruffling of shirt against shirt against naked skin and wet shorts falling – Bakugou sees blue flickering on, and purple flashing as the clock ticks past nine, and Kirishima’s still panting.

The storm makes the night fall too early and the city pulses hot and neon in the dark; dirty streets are alight with blue and pink melding, with rain blurring the purples and forcing it all into a haze, as if distant, as if only here to be watched. It’s not grey, not anymore, but had they driven through these streets during the day, Bakugou would have never guessed.

“Dude, I’m hungry,” Kirishima whines from behind him, “get changed already.”

Bakugou turns around, groaning. “Stop stressing, you dog, I’m coming.”

Kirishima’s already sitting on the floor, right at the feet of their beds, and has started taking their boxes of noodles out of the bag. The food doesn’t seem like it’s been touched by the rain – Kirishima, however, crossed-legs in his boxers with half of his wet hair up in a bun, is still very much as wet as they come. And Bakugou gets it – his own torso’s still wet as well since the room is almost as humid as it is outside, and the air is too clammy, too dense to let anything dry, but he didn’t need to see Kirishima like this. He didn’t need to.

“This place is nice,” Kirishima says, waiting for Bakugou to be done kicking his shoes off.

“Are you kidding me,” Bakugou groans again, fighting with one of his pant legs, “it’s so fucking small in here.” He leaves his pants on the floor under the window, right next to his shoes, and comes to sit down in front of Kirishima. Now that his wet pants are off, his legs are almost too warm.

Kirishima takes his chopsticks apart. “No but like… The city,” he says before handing Bakugou his chopsticks. Bakugou glares at him. “It’s big,” Kirishima clarifies after Bakugou takes his own chopsticks, “bigger than our hometown.”

“It’s the fucking ugliest city we’ve see so far, what the fuck, Kirishima.”

Kirishima quirks a brow. “You don’t even remember the cities we see.”

“I do!” Bakugou protests while unable to prove Kirishima wrong. Obviously seeing right through him, Kirishima smiles, his hands busy opening his box of noodles.

“It’s closer to the sea as well,” he says, “and I bet the winters are nice.”

Bakugou stabs his noodles. “It’s in the middle of nowhere and it smells like gasoline. I haven’t taken a proper breath since we arrived here.”

Kirishima stuffs his mouth with noodles and it muffles his laugh. “Pretty sure that’s just our car, dude,” he manages to articulate around his dinner.

What does Kirishima even see in this city? Yeah the pretty valley isn’t too far and Bakugou would bet the sunsets are nice seen from the steel towers, but the rest is ugly as shit. It’s all flat and soulless, and it doesn’t have the right to be this overwhelming for a place this boring.

“I don’t know,” Kirishima starts again, chewing on his noodles, “maybe finding a job here wouldn’t be too bad.”

Bakugou looks at him. “You want to move?”

“Not now!” Kirishima assures him, his hands waving for damage control, “I mean, maybe later, when I have a bit more money?” He looks back down and away from Bakugou, between where their knees almost touch, and leaves his chopsticks in his food to take the drinks out of the bag. “The surroundings are nice,” he says, pulling a large botte of water and two cans of cheap beer, “I bet there’s lots of stuff to do.”

“That’s bullshit,” Bakugou says without missing a beat, taking the bottle of water for himself. “This place sucks and you know it,” he insists before drinking. From behind the bottle, he can see Kirishima watching him with a smile, too fond, too tender, too knowing, and it pisses Bakugou off. He doesn’t care to close the bottle after putting it back down. “At least go to some place that looks good.”

Kirishima brings his box of noodle up to his mouth to shove whatever’s left into his face. “It doech loog good,” he mumbles, trying to swallow at the same time. “You chust–” he gulps, “have no taste. Besides, you don’t want to travel a bit more?”

Bakugou ignores the insult and gives weight to the pause to finish his noodles as well – Kirishima’s eyes don’t leave him, and they have a fuchsia reflect now, something hot and too pink for him. A line of light traces a bridge between his temple and his hip, curving over the soft lines of his body. His skin still has a sheen to it and Bakugou can feel the heat from here – or maybe it’s his own, and the humidity that won’t leave them as the night truly falls behind the curtains of the storm.

At Bakugou’s silence, Kirishima continues. “You know, see some places, move out,” he saying, waving vaguely at the space around them. He opens the cans of beer one after the other and he pushes one towards Bakugou’s knees.

“What can I get elsewhere that I can’t get at home?” Bakugou sighs, not really looking for an answer to that. He picks up a can and they drink their first sip together; it tastes awful but it’s still fresh somehow, so there’s that.

Kirishima licks his lips. “I don’t know man, novelty, surprise! New people, new experiences,” he lists, eagerly leaning forward, “all kinds of fun stuff! It’s not like there’s much to do at home anyway.”

Bakugou knows that already. He tried that already. New experiences outside of their hometown, new things to do, new risks to take – only for the slate to be cleaned up once they go back, for their routine to resume, for everything that happened away from home never really happened. Surprise, Bakugou doesn’t like surprise, he has no control over it, over stupid surprises and strange gifts life throws at him – but Kirishima drinks a bit more beer and his eyes get lost on the ceiling, where pink and purple and blue smear into each other, and the colors taint his face too and surprise, he’s still as pretty as ever. It’s really dark outside and contours blur, hazy with the storm still raging, but Bakugou ignores the night. Kirishima’s the best surprise that’s ever happened to him, and he doesn’t even know it.

When he speaks again, Kirishima’s voice is much quieter. “I don’t know, sometimes –” he swallows, “sometimes I wonder what it’d be like to start over somewhere else. To just… go, you know.”

Bakugou hears the call too. The pull of the road, the flickering promises of something new. So he wants to say yes, yes he knows, yes, but he finds himself strangled with the words. It’s hard to speak when Kirishima’s sitting right here and talks about moving with this voice he has when he doesn’t want to break the silence, when it’s just the two of them. He had the same the night Bakugou realized, and it sounds like honey in his mouth.

“You see yourself staying in our hometown?” Kirishima asks, eyes still fixated onto the neon lights distorted on the ceiling. Bakugou drinks almost half his beer before answering – it’s still disgusting and it’s so light there’s probably more water than anything else in there, but at least his voice comes back to him after he swallows.

“No,” he admits, “but when I leave, it won’t be for this city.” Kirishima looks back down at him and Bakugou’s heart flutters – the night is doing this thing again. It’s like in the pool, and in any of the hotels, and during any other night they spent together before; it’s all these shivers he can feel simmering, and this desperate need that swells, this desire to ruin their friendship, surprise, you feel alive. In truth it’s barely a surprise, he’s used to it by now. He’s used to Kirishima doing this to him, and still every time feels like the first one.

Kirishima smiles gently. “Of course, you’d go to the capital instead right?” Maybe it’s just the weird lighting but he looks a bit sad as he says it – but neon lights have no effect on his voice, and Kirishima sounds a bit sad as well. “It’s far away.”

“Closer than this shithole,” Bakugou shrugs. He knows he’ll go, and maybe their hometown will also feel like a distant memory someday.

And Bakugou knows he could throw it all away – he’s not afraid, he’s not a coward, he’s not weak! He can turn his back on places, people, events and not even say good bye, he can go, he knows it. There isn’t a thing holding him back; not his family, not his memories, not the few friends he has. Not even Kirishima. Bakugou could forget him too, of course. If he had to. Kirishima would forgive him for leaving and he’d be sad for a time but tough shit, tough shit – if he has to hurt then so be it, if Bakugou has to rip off the band-aid and never see him again, never touch him again, never think again of how much he wants him, then so be it. If that’s the only way Bakugou has not to grow old and cranky and desperately in love with Kirishima, then he’ll take it, because these shivers will turn to tremors one day and stop him from running, and Bakugou has places to be.

But surprise, Kirishima looks good bathing in hazy neon lights and he smells better than water hitting the pavement, better than sweat and old leather, and his skin’s almost dry – surprise, you love him; surprise, you already knew that, and in the cacophony inside Bakugou there’s room for something more. There’s room for one more risk, for a way to feel alive, something that will hurt like a stitch in his side, like a kick to the throat, something that will keep him awake, eyes open and heart racing. There’s room for mistakes and distances and melancholy that hasn’t quite set in, regrets not quite lived; Bakugou needs something that will remind him days are to be counted, named, remembered, that life is to be felt like a downpour on the face, like surprise, surprise you broke routine, surprise, you ruined something. And as long as it’s away from home it’ll never matter, and the road’s not a snitch, and Kirishima wants to leave anyway – what if Kirishima leaves, what if Kirishima moves and meets someone beautiful, what if he invites Bakugou to his wedding and Bakugou has to talk about him and congratulate him and never tell him, ever, I would have kissed the living daylights out of you in this hotel room, I would have made you see more stars than there are in the back of our old grey car, I would have loved you, had I let myself do it.

Kirishima downs his beer and mutters something about being happy in the capital but the storm doesn’t let Bakugou hear it. Here it’s a bubble that they’ll be free to ignore later, a perfect alibi – oh that was a road trip, don’t get it twisted – if Bakugou regrets anything he can deny it and blame it on the sun, and blame it on the rain, and blame it on the beers that taste like water. It’s not him, it’s not him who wants to kiss, none of this is real, none of this has to be remembered so blame it on the weather, blame it on the car and the wet clothes and the beauty of the valley, and the way Kirishima looks at him with his doe eyes over his can of beer.

Blame it on something, anything, and fuck the rest.

Bakugou pushes the noodle boxes out of the way and now there’s nothing between Kirishima and him, and he straddles Kirishima’s lap like he would a lover’s.

It’s warm here, right against him, warmer than in the storm. Kirishima’s body is just as solid as Bakugou’s always thought it’d feel under him. His eyes are wide open in what could be shock, his arms spread and his body still, his mouth gaping – he doesn’t get it but surprise he’s even prettier from up close, surprise, you have everything to lose, and Bakugou watches him for a second hoping he might remember this at least.

“You can tell me to fuck off,” he whispers, and there’s a wordless please at the end but Kirishima doesn’t speak. He stares, undecipherable, and Bakugou burns under the intensity of his gaze. He can feel Kirishima’s heart beating wildly, or maybe it’s just the storm raging outside and his own body beating against Kirishima’s skin; it feels like a call, the kind he wants to answer, so his hands find room on Kirishima’s waist and then he stops hearing the road.

He lets go of something he doesn’t have a name for when he kisses Kirishima blindly, pressing his lips onto his barely open mouth, and the shivers reach his heart – it’s so warm, and Kirishima so tense he almost shakes under him. That’s it, that’s what he gets for wishing, it’s Kirishima trying to gasp without air, his lashes fluttering against Bakugou’s cheekbones when he blinks, and the heat of their bodies radiating into each other. Bakugou frowns into the single kiss he steals and he could go right now, he could take a car, a train, anything, and go back home on his own to forget about this mistake he’s making but he doesn’t want it to be a mistake why does it feel like a mistake –

Kirishima’s frozen under him, against his begging mouth, so Bakugou moves on his own when he pulls back and he doesn’t want to pull back, but he needs to and fuck he doesn’t know what he wants anymore, not when Kirishima can see right through him, not when he tasted it. Kirishima was stone against his lips and he’s stone between his thighs, centimeters away from his chest, his eyes dark and unreadable. His hair has barely dried, curled in red twists around his face and he can’t seem to remember how breathing works but surprise he’s still pretty and kissable and wanted, wanted so much Bakugou doesn’t know how he could ever outrun the craving.

A can of beer falls to the floor.

And Kirishima grabs the back of Bakugou’s neck, finally, he moves and slides his hand right behind his nape and opens his mouth to talk but Bakugou shushes him immediately with a finger over his lips; if it’s not a no, he doesn’t want to hear it. He doesn’t want to hear any of it, not the words, not the questions, not the offers, nothing – he’ll only have a lie tonight, for himself and for Kirishima as well, but if feels better than any cold shower and Bakugou’s heart is racing, and he’s alive. He’s alive and breathing, with a finger keeping Kirishima from speaking, and Kirishima accepts; he presses his chest against Bakugou’s, wraps his free arm around Bakugou’s waist and kisses him, and the mess of Bakugou’s thoughts turns to static.

He’s drunk but it’s not the beer, he can’t even taste it; he’s drunk and it’s Kirishima’s mouth pushing it into him, it’s the way he moves and grabs at him and digs his fingers into Bakugou’s waist as if crying out for more proximity – it’s his lips, pressing and pushing and never stopping, hungry and wanting. Between the two of them, they contain a fever built up a for too long, almost rotten and seeping, and Bakugou can’t stop kissing Kirishima long enough to think about it.

The sting of sharp teeth on his neck feels like a dozen lives lived at once and it comes with a ragged breathing, with his guts twisting in delight at Kirishima’s silent rocking, and the purple on the ceiling is the prettiest one he’s ever seen. There are hands crowding him and water dripping off him and sweat on his tongue, a tongue on his skin, skin under his palms and a cycle of muscles rolling like clouds, and clouds muffling his thoughts with every gasp he holds back. But he pushes Kirishima out of the crook of his neck – Bakugou’s here to have his slice of it, he’s here for himself, he’s here to take and he will, so he kisses with a fervor that makes his blood boil and he bites at the lips, licks at the throat. He takes everything he craves and he craves everything the night lets him see, and he tires himself out trying to have it all.

He refuses to let Kirishima say a word because this isn’t real, if Kirishima speaks up he’ll make it all too real and Bakugou can’t let that happen but surprise it’s yours now, surprise, you’ll remember it forever, and Bakugou prays that no, no, surely he’ll get to forget it as soon as it swells too heavy, as soon as they reach home. But his body grows hungry and frantic, they’re both panting into each other’s mouth, so when Kirishima leads Bakugou to the closest bed and pushes him into the pillows, Bakugou decides he’ll think of consequences later.

He doesn’t talk either but there are words that do not need language; Kirishima arches under his hands, presses him into the mattress, and Bakugou pulls him back down before a noise breaches his lips. It’s so dark he barely finds his name, barely wants to – he keeps his eyes closed and knows whoever he’s kissing does as well, and they both hold back their moans, strangle their curses, sweat off their prayers. It’s not real if no one sees it, it’s not real if no one hears it, it doesn’t have consequences if only the neon under their window can give it shape – the light flickers, Bakugou sees it through his eyelids, until he hides into a curve of the body and forgets how to see.

 


 

The shower is already running when Kirishima wakes up.

He slowly blinks awake, careful not to let the white light of the morning blind him; the curtains stayed open all night and the sky is pale and flat, finally silent. It’s a mess all around the room – half-empty cans of beer and discarded takeout boxes have spent the night on the floor, and pair of pants that’s not his has dried next to the window.

He shifts around in the twin bed to grab his phone, and he has the whole mattress for himself – it’s ten to eight, the sheets are still warm all the way to the edges, and the other bed has stayed untouched.

Bringing a hand on the mattress next to him makes memories bloom open and clear all over his skin. He traces the dip of an absent body the way he’d trace the curve of a spine, and the space between his arms is horribly empty; something bites at his insides and it feels like fear, it feels like anxiety, until he remembers how it felt to be kissed as though he was wanted, and whatever pinches at his heart turns to soft mush.

The shower stops running, and Kirishima takes his hand off the mattress, the warmth of it lingering on his fingertips. An instant later, he gets to watch Bakugou step back into the bedroom, his hair tussled and his torso wet, aiming for some clothes discarded on the ground.

“Good morning,” Kirishima mumbles from beneath the sheets.

Bakugou straightens up, a hand holding the towel around his waist. He vaguely grunts in acknowledgement but doesn’t look in Kirishima’s direction; he turns and bends to pick up more things, to clean up a bit more, but he makes a point to avoid looking at the bed Kirishima’s still lying in and with each passing second the mush in Kirishima’s chest threatens to collapse again.

“Better take your shower, we gotta go,” Bakugou grunts again, pilling up the takeout boxes on a small table in the corner, and his voice is so cold Kirishima’s heart sinks to his stomach.

Still groggy with sleep, he finds his way to the bathroom; by the time he locks the door behind him, the mush around his heart sharpens back to merciless blades digging into his lungs.

 


 

At first, Kirishima thought no one could possibly despise getting stuck in traffic more than Bakugou. He’s already fidgeting behind the wheel after all, looking like he’d blast cars out of his way if given the power to do it. He’s taken his feet off the pedals and seems to hate the small space he has, that he can’t do anything with; one of his hands is outside and taps against the edge of the roof, impatient and restless. He insisted to be the one driving in the morning though and now he’s stuck in a lane that moves a few meters at a time every ten minutes or so, and he can’t even shout at the person responsible for it.

But Kirishima quickly realized that getting stuck in traffic beats getting stuck in traffic with Bakugou, which, lucky for him, Bakugou doesn’t have to live through.

It’s the silence he hates, above all else. They’re used to silence and it’s never been uncomfortable – it’s familiar and Kirishima’s always liked it – but this time it’s different. It’s awkward, avoidant. This time he can’t keep his mind busy with some light daydreaming, he can’t focus on videos on his phone, he can’t even nap; every time he looks away from Bakugou, he sees him again. Every time he closes his eyes to sleep, it takes him a minute to break into a sweat. His body remembers everything, and his mind does too, his skin is still alight with every touch and every trail of every finger, his thighs still burn and his lungs still hurt with how much of his breath he kept down. It’s so easy to replay it all like a movie, to recall the hands over his chest, between his legs or tangled with his own, to see the sheen of sweat over Bakugou’s skin again, and his mouth in the dark, his body undulating under him. Kirishima can still taste the salt he licked off Bakugou’s neck and the cheap beer off his lips, and now he knows what the weight of Bakugou’s body feels like, what it’s like to run both hands from his shoulders to the swell of his thighs and to hear him struggle to stay silent as he does it.

Now he knows and it feels like a fever dream. And it was, in a way, but it’s still just as inebriating the day after and Kirishima can’t afford to pop a boner in the passenger’s seat. And he can’t keep choking on empty air, waiting for the silence to break by itself. He can’t stay like that, running in circles in his own head. It’s so blurry, and he doesn’t even know what to say, what to ask for, where to begin – is there a guide to stuff like that? How do you talk this kind of mess out with someone; do you confess, at ten thirty-one in the morning while stuck in traffic? Do you ask for explanations, for feedback, or should you figure things out on your own?

Kirishima doesn’t know, and it pisses him off, and he can’t start overthinking now, he can’t take the risk of crying it out now, so he stalls until they get to move forward by a few meters, and then he stalls some more.

Until he can’t do it anymore.

“Are we gonna talk about it?” he asks, his voice cutting through the thick silence like a blade through butter.

Bakugou’s voice is as cold as it gets. “About what.”

“About yesterday,” Kirishima says flatly, straight to the point, and he turns his head to look at Bakugou. He doesn’t know what he’s expecting, but he wants to watch it happen.

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

Bakugou’s tone is final, and it feels like a stake to the heart.

It’s exactly what Kirishima feared and he hates himself for it. He can almost hear his expectations and hopes crumble around him, dragging his guts with them and making his body run ice cold in the heart of July. All he does is swallow and turn his head back to the window. “Alright.”

And it feels like shit. It feels horrible, it’s not how it’s supposed to go. Maybe he should insist or maybe he should take this opportunity they have to ramble and force Bakugou to listen to him, but it’s all too fresh still, it’s all too much of a mess he doesn’t know what to do with, and he can’t seem to find his way through the knots. He wouldn’t know what to say; worse, he wouldn’t know how to deal with Bakugou not echoing his words. Out of a car, it’d be easier. They could part ways, take their time to think it through. But here they’re locked together, and if Bakugou said he regrets it, Kirishima would still have to spend the rest of the trip with him, to fight his own feelings and his own memories while Bakugou’s in the same car, or in the same room. It’s too much at once.

But Bakugou kissed him, didn’t he?

Does Bakugou think about it as well? About the noises he didn’t make, and his body giving under his hands, about the way they moved together and the way they fell asleep, the way he woke up to Kirishima’s back and memories of a night too short – would Bakugou think about this? Or has he buried it already?

“Are you angry?” Kirishima comes again, his voice croaking. He doesn’t know why he’s asking.

“I told you I don’t fucking want to talk about it,” Bakugou grunts, and yes, he is angry.

Maybe it’s a mess for him too. Maybe if Kirishima let it go for a couple of days, they’ll both find their ways around it. Kirishima wants to ask – why did you kiss me, why did you start it – but Bakugou’s obviously not there yet, and forcing it out of him wouldn’t do any good to either of them.

“Alright,” he sighs, “alright.”

And maybe if they wait for long enough, they never will have to talk about it – for a second Kirishima considers the possibility of keeping it a secret forever, or downplaying it, denying it. He can already see himself hunched over a bar counter, a straw slipping out from between his lips, his eyes trying to focus on someone’s features – oh, Bakugou? Yeah we went on some sort of a road trip. Yeah it was cool. There’d be ways to tiptoe around it, yeah we had fun, we made some memories. He’d avoid eye-contact and stop himself from replaying the movie in his head; yeah we saw some cool places, we took pictures, but he just wanted to go back home, he just wanted to go back home, out of the car and out of this bubble in which everything’s too heavy now, out of the danger zone were they both took, and they both gave, and neither of them knew how to pay the price for it.

So take me home, he begs the road once they leave traffic, take me home so we can forget about this, so I can bury myself in bed. The road is silent, always, slipping under the wheels without a bump like a slick eel, and Kirishima’s eyes glaze over; please take me home so I can stop thinking.

 


 

The gas station they find in the middle of a long stretch of road is brand new. Everything shines, all the colors are vibrant, the signs clean of dust as if the place had just appeared out of nowhere, and even the asphalt looks like it’s just finished drying. It’s so out of place compared to its surroundings, to the few muddy buildings and bland landscapes, that it might as well have been built overnight.

Kirishima feels it the second they step out of the car; something has a pair of eyes fixated onto their backs, or maybe two pairs, or a thousand, and it’s stronger than it should have the right to be. Maybe it’s the white sky, or maybe the security cameras, or maybe the moth that comes to land of the roof of their car. They’re not alone but the other customers don’t seem to be bothered in any way – they move around the pumps, sluggish and dull, and Kirishima doesn’t want to try and look at them in the eyes.

He finds lunch boxes inside the kiosk, a couple bags of chips and an old lady behind the counter that he feels like he should know. She smiles when he hands her some cash but her expression is lifeless and empty, some of her teeth rotten, some of her skin falling. Still, she looks at him straight through the soul and had she given him a curse along with his receipt, Kirishima would have been a dead man walking.

Chills don’t stop running down his spine by the time he joins Bakugou next to the pump, fidgeting by his side under a thousand eyes he can’t see as they wait for the tank to fill up. He’d try to describe the lady’s face to Bakugou but he knows, somehow, she’ll hear him if he speaks of her.

The brand-new gas pump beeps off-key when they pay for their fuel and the moth takes off from the roof of the car to go flutter up above their heads, aiming straight for the deadly, unreachable furnace of the sun. Before he closes the driver’s door, Kirishima catches a glimpse of the old lady through the kiosk window – her grin frozen in her blank features, she’s facing him too well to not be looking at him directly, but he can’t see her eyes.

 


 

Bakugou shifts in the passenger’s seat, his feet propped up on the dashboard. He’s scrolled all the way down and reached the end of a short list of potential places to stay, called every number – and they’re all full.

Well, fuck.

“Maybe we could have paid for a luxury hotel if you didn’t eat all this curry,” Kirishima jokes – he bends over the wheel with a chuckle to try and avoid one of Bakugou’s feet coming for his life.

“You can talk!” Bakugou snaps at him, trying to get him behind the head, but Kirishima pushes him away to look at the road again.

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” Kirishima admits, “but it was bound to happen, I guess. It’s not like there are tons of hotels where we’re going.”

Bakugou sighs, pulling his leg back to him. That’s bad, but Kirishima’s right – they didn’t have much money to spend in the first place and unless they go and dig deeper in their bank accounts (which neither of them really wants to do), they’ll have to find a way around this.

“Try to see it as the last hurdle,” Kirishima continues. “We should be home the day after tomorrow, around noon or something,” he says, answering a question Bakugou didn’t want to have to ask. “We only have tonight, then we’ll sleep somewhere tomorrow night, and we’re good!”

How is he always this optimistic about everything? He shouldn’t be. It’s going to be the end of him one day, Bakugou knows it; he shouldn’t have the right to be. People aren’t supposed to smile when they don’t have a place to sleep. And yeah, they’ll find cheap food or something like that, maybe they can stop in a gym somewhere and take a quick shower, but a bed? Bakugou can’t do without a bed.

“Last hurdle, my ass. We’ll have to sleep in the fucking car.”

He’d even share the bed, if he had to. Maybe. He doesn’t want to think about it. They’re nearing the end of the trip after all, so it’s not the time to think about it. He’s getting what he wanted all along, finally: home, soon within his reach. The destination he’s so craved for. Just a couple more days during which he simply has to ignore the mess he knows he’ll have to deal with at some point, once he can think in peace. Alone.

“You’ve ever slept in a car overnight?” Kirishima chimes in, and there’s something forced to his voice. Bakugou doesn’t like it. He doesn’t like this, all of this, especially Kirishima’s undying need to act as though he wasn’t uncomfortable. Fuck, Bakugou would rather he gives up the act and lets it all out, but that’d mean he’d have to listen to Kirishima say he doesn’t want more than yesterday and no, no. Bakugou doesn’t want to hear it.

“No, and I bet it sucks.”

He’s waiting for the aw don’t be like that or the it’ll be fine, but neither of them comes. In the driver’s seat, Kirishima’s smile falls slowly.

“Yeah, me too,” he eventually breathes, and Bakugou hates his tone, and his demeanor, and how it reminds him of these times Kirishima was scared of something. He wants to fight it, to shake it out of him or let Kirishima squeeze him in a hug so tight there’d be no room in him left for sorrow. He should, Kirishima has done it for him before, he should. He really should.

Bakugou knows he’s not that good of a friend.

They reach the town before nightfall and grab a quick bite in a narrow street. Stomachs full and wallets even lighter than before, they wander back to the car; Kirishima somehow finds a dozen pictures to take, jogging away from Bakugou every other minute then jogging back, holding his camera like he would a baby. The yellow street lights give him a soft halo Bakugou has seen on him so many times before, and fuck, fuck, he really is too pretty. He really is too much, and his hands are right there, and summer fits him so well. And now that the night has fallen, Bakugou can’t help but think about last night – the daylight seems to have paralyzed him but now, in the dark of the street, he’s reminded of everything that ate away at his guts twenty-four hours ago.

There’s no beer this time, and no takeout noodles, but Kirishima’s hair is dry and it moves with his every step, and he’s been wearing this shirt for two days – Bakugou could take it off once they reach the car, and he’d taste the neck again, lick the throat again, he’d make Kirishima ask for more of it, he knows he can.

But right now, in the street, he wishes he could take Kirishima’s hand.

Just to try. Just to see if it fits like he remembers, if Kirishima’s okay with it. His own hands tingle with how empty they are, his own body almost craving for more than this comfortable, summer night warmth. Walking by Kirishima’s side would do it, holding his hand or pulling on his arm would do it, but Kirishima’s gone, fluttering away once again; there’s always something new to focus on, some other reason not to stay. He bounces from corner to corner, from street light to street light, bending in weird angles to take a proper picture of the moon.

Bakugou knows they’ll both have other lives when they move out. Their modest hometown won’t keep them forever, and things will change, people will come and go – but in this life, right now, Kirishima is the person Bakugou needs by his side, wants by his side. And yet Kirishima’s trying not to walk next to him for too long at a time, and Bakugou probably deserves it.

They climb back in the car with tired grunts, and there’s no need to turn on the ignition. The parking lot they found isn’t quite empty but it’s quiet, away from the main streets.

“So,” Kirishima starts, “how do you want to do this? I can take –”

“I’m taking the backseat,” Bakugou announces immediately.

Kirishima pauses for a second. “Fine, I’ll take the passenger’s seat then,” he says, and Bakugou’s not a fool, he’s not deaf; he hears the breaks in his voice and the weaknesses in his tone. He knows them by heart and he can hear his name all over them, and it hurts like a bitch, but before he can call Kirishima out on it, Kirishima opens the driver’s door and gets out.

They move around, Kirishima taking the passenger’s seat and Bakugou spreading his body all over the backseat, resting his head behind the driver’s seat and his feet behind the passenger’s. Not without effort, Kirishima finds a way to make the passenger’s seat lean backwards so it turns into something resembling a mattress.

And that’s it. That’s all they have tonight, and it feels so empty. No cover, no coziness, no bubble of muted colors they get to watch the world through – only the interior of a cheap, old car and the seats creaking with their every move.

“You okay?” Kirishima’s voice asks from where he’s lying, and Bakugou hums in answer. He can see Kirishima’s profile carved out from the nearest street light – the seat is still bent at an angle and it must be uncomfortable, it must hurt his back of his ribs or something. His hair’s covering half of his face and Bakugou can’t see his eyes but he can guess the contours of his jaw, the shine of his lips in the dark, and the slight sheen of the skin of his neck. He can see it all, he knows it all, and it calls him just like it called him yesterday, with a voice loud only for him, with a magnetism he never felt before.

“I’m good,” Bakugou says, and his voice is so light he barely hears it himself.

“You wanna watch something?” Kirishima croaks. “My phone’s still at thirty percent,” he adds quickly.

“’S not enough.” Bakugou shifts over the backseat and no, it’s not enough for a movie, but who cares about a movie; he could just ask Kirishima to come over, to climb behind in the backseat and find some room for himself between his legs, against his chest. He could, he could, and yet the words have no sound, they’re not leaving his throat, and Kirishima’s here, hiding his face into the headrest. They could out-burn summer, they could try and out-last the night, if Bakugou’s fantasies were to become true, if they were harmless enough and kind enough to be what Kirishima wants as well.

But Bakugou’s selfish, and he knows it. Bakugou’s selfish and he only wants to take, and he only wants Kirishima’s body against his own because it would feel good, and he only wants Kirishima’s mouth all over his face because it would feel good, and he only wants his arms and his hands, and his curious fingers because it would feel good, and he doesn’t know what he’d have to give in return. Kirishima deserves it, something in return, something back. Something he likes. Bakugou can’t ask, can’t demand for Kirishima to make him gasp, and make him ask for it, and make him forget about the night, without giving anything back – and what does he have, what does he have if not a pair of grabby, begging hands and nothing anyone would ever ask for? He has nothing, nothing besides the craving for more, besides what he’s been burying for too long, and there’s no way Kirishima could want that.

Kirishima’s voice lowers into a whisper, but Bakugou still hears defeat, and he hates it. “Good night then.”

And fuck, it hurts, but Bakugou doesn’t know what to do with it – what does it mean, what does he want, what does Kirishima want, and how has he been reduced to thinking about it in the back of a miserable car in a city too far away from his bed?

“Yeah, good night,” he manages to say in return, but it sounds like a lie.

The parking lot really is silent.

 


 

It must be six in the morning.

Bakugou’s entire body aches, one of his arms is numb and he can’t tell left from right. He pushes on his hands and almost falls forward, and that’s how he remembers he’s in the backseat, and he’s slept there. It’s a bitter wakeup call; he blinks, rubbing his eyes to try and shift out of sleep completely since there’s no way he’ll be able to fall back asleep with this sunlight.

Still drowning in fog, Bakugou sits up. It’s hard and slow, and the inside of the car smells like a wild animal, so dense and humid there’s probably condensed sweat on the window glass. They need fresh air, and they need it now, so Bakugou fumbles to open the door behind the driver’s seat and ahhh that’s better. There’s not much wind but at least there’s oxygen; still a bit out of it, Bakugou leans forward to rest his forehead against the back of the driver’s seat and breathe in for a minute. He’s pretty sure his neck is going to hurt for a couple of days, and there’s something at the base of his back that feels sore. Closing his eyes, he goes over his body bit by bit and yeah, even his shoulder hurts. Sleeping here was a bad plan.

But it was the last hurdle. Today’s a new day. Today’s their last full day on the road. Soon they’ll be home, and Bakugou can’t wait.

“Good morning.”

Rough from sleep, Kirishima’s voice comes from right next to him, where he’s lying down on the unfolded passenger’s seat. Still leaning against the driver’s seat, Bakugou opens his eyes to look at him and he meets him at eye-level. Kirishima looks exhausted, as though he’s only taken a short nap, but his eyes are barely focused, bleary and wet; there’s something sad to him, something Bakugou can see even though he’s not wide awake yet.

The craving is harder to resist than before, now that he’s broken his own limits once. Kirishima deserves softness, a hand against his cheek and a kiss over his eyelids. He should have the right to softer mornings.

“Good morning,” Bakugou says back to him, and his voice is broken as well but Kirishima smiles. It’s weak, it’s tired and barely visible but he smiles just a tiny bit at Bakugou’s words. “What?”

Kirishima shifts in his seat. “Nothing,” he rasps. “It’s just – it’s the first time you say it. I think.”

The breeze enters the car and makes a lock of Kirishima’s hair fall over his face, but he’s still smiling faintly. Bakugou looks at him for a moment and yeah, he might be right. He might be exactly right.

Instead of replying, he brings a hand to Kirishima’s face and pulls the lock back behind his ear – maybe he shouldn’t do that, but neither of them is awake enough to care. “I’ll drive this morning,” Bakugou offers, his fingers lingering behind Kirishima’s ear. “Come sleep in the backseat. You’ll be better.”

One of Kirishima’s hands twitches, but Bakugou pulls back before Kirishima does anything. “Come on, move your ass back here,” he insists, pushing back against the driver’s seat to sit up properly. Kirishima looks at him for a beat, his eyes lost over the edge of the passenger’s seat; he blinks slowly, and Bakugou’s heart swells up warm and tight.

The road calls loud and clear when Bakugou starts the car with no one by his side, and Kirishima’s already gently snoring behind him by the time they leave the city.

 


 

They find a lake, a bit of forest and wooden benches. They find birds swirling colors all over the place, round bees bumbling around and the occasional croak of a frog. It’s a quiet alcove carved out of the woods they were traversing, and the summer can barely reach them through the canopy; they find shade there, and an untouched beauty Bakugou can only be witness to.

And Kirishima’s not taking any pictures.

He should, he should take a thousand. He should be all over the place and try to find the right bird, and the right flower, and the right angle to capture the sunlight dancing over the surface of the water. He should bounce and blabber, and he’s not doing any of it. Bakugou probably should care but fuck he does, he really does and he almost wants to take Kirishima’s camera out of the car and take all of these pictures for him; look, look at how this all looks, look at what you’re missing you fool, you idiot look at what you could do instead of sulking, look at what you’re wasting, you should be doing this, you want to be doing this who are you fooling.

But Kirishima munches on his lunch, sitting on the edge of the trunk. He hasn’t brushed his hair and he hasn’t said much since he woke up again, but he stares at the lake as though waiting for something to jump out of it.

Bakugou wishes he knew how to take his own advice.

 


 

“Hi, good evening, I’m calling for a reservation?”

“For how many?” a man asks on the other side of the phone.

Kirishima props his elbow against the door, watching other cars pass by. “We’re two.”

“I’m afraid we’re pretty booked tonight, but I’m going to see if I can tweak a couple of things for you,” the man says. “Please hold.”

Kirishima nods. “Sure.” There’s a beep, then some violin music starts playing through the phone, so he lets his eyes wander over the landscape.

Summer beats the road in shades of pink and peach, stretching into a sunset that feels too early. At the very edge of the horizon, clouds puff up, set on fire by the last hours of the day, and barely move even though the car won’t go any faster. The colors wash over the dashboard as well and spill all over Kirishima’s knees, warm up his hands, but he’s not really looking. He’s not really focused, because the windshield lets all of the light pour in but it also reflects the inside of the car – it throws the picture of Bakugou, nonchalantly holding onto the wheel, right back at Kirishima. He can see his hands, tapping at the fake leather, his golden hair spiking up even this late into the day.

He can see what he wants, and it’s not the portion of road they have left to power through, it’s not the cities shaping up in the distance; with every second, they get closer to the destination but the journey – they journey is already gone. Most of it is already behind them and it tastes sour. It was going so well at the start and Kirishima wants to go back – how did it even end up this way? Just a few days ago, Kirishima could have jumped in Bakugou’s arms without a problem, and now there’s a gaping hole in his chest, and this strangling fear, this paralysis that stops him from talking about them.

“What’s going on?” Bakugou asks, and Kirishima’s heart stutters.

“The guy’s looking to see if they still have room for us,” he answers, and Bakugou sighs at that.

“We’re calling too fucking late, they’ll have nothing.”

Kirishima shrugs. It’s not like they need it anyway; leaving early this morning made them save a couple of hours, and the smooth traffic made them save a couple more. They could keep driving and arrive home around one in the morning, so the hotel is more of a luxury than anything – provided they get the cheapest room in this small city, and so far the violin is still singing on the other end of the phone.

But if they get one more night together, maybe Kirishima can fix this. Maybe, in a hotel room and out of the car, he’ll find the right words, he’ll corner Bakugou in the right way and make him understand he’s in this for more than just bodies. He’s in this for more than just quick memories to make, than for the sweat and the panting; there’s so much more than he wants, so much more than this surprise that jumped on him and didn’t let him think, and he has so much to say about it.

But Bakugou asked him to keep it shut. Bakugou kissed him, but then he asked him to shut up, he didn’t want to hear anything; Bakugou made out with him for most of the night but he never said a word, and he refused to hear anything Kirishima had to say, and it’s terrifying. All these words, kept down for so long – there aren’t many reasons why Bakugou wouldn’t be interested in them. Still, Kirishima keeps swallowing them down, keeps remembering the weight of this finger over his lips, of this hand on the side of his head and this other coursing down his stomach, and the push of Bakugou’s lips against his mouth, against his jaw, against the side of his throat, and the way he hugged his waist and licked at his skin –

“Sir?”

Kirishima almost jumps at the voice over the phone. “Y- Yeah?”

“You’re in luck!” the man chimes, audibly happy. “We have one room left. It’s a king bed, I hope that’s alright with you?”

Kirishima’s heart sinks. He thought he was ready, but he’s not ready. He’s not ready at all. A king-sized bed? In this weather, after all of this? Just seconds ago, he was fantasizing about spending one more night with Bakugou, but now that it might happen, now that he has the opportunity right there waiting to be taken, he wants nothing more than to backtrack. How painful would it be, if nothing happened? If he had to keep it down again, if he had to stay on his side of the bed and drown in the memories of what they’ve done, in the scent of him, in the sounds of his breath and his every move – oh it’d be horrible for sure, it’d be a torture so sweet he couldn’t sleep. Worse, how horrible would it be if Bakugou asks again but wants nothing but his body, nothing but the heat – not his words, not his feelings, not any of what Kirishima’s dying to share, would it be worth it? Just for one more night, would it be worth it, would it be okay to let it happen because he can’t have it any other way? It’s better than nothing but it’s not soft and kind, it’s not what he wants, but there’s a double bed in the next city waiting for them, and Kirishima could figure it out there.

Or he could throw it all away and stop overthinking it.

“Sir, are you there?”

“Yes, yes I am, sorry,” Kirishima mutters, and in the corner of his eye he can see Bakugou tilting his head again, listening. So he inhales, ignores the pang in his chest, and speaks clearly. “That’s too bad then. Thank you anyway.”

The man on the phone pauses for a second. “You’re not taking it?” he sighs, and his audible smile turns to a scowl. When Kirishima only offers a noncommittal hum in answer, the man speaks up again. “Alright, good evening sir.”

“Yes, good evening.”

He hangs up and brings the phone down, and the sunset tints it gold.

“Nothing?” Bakugou asks.

Kirishima can’t look at him. He couldn’t look in a mirror if there was one. “No,” he breathes, and it almost hurts his throat on the way out. “They were full.”

Bakugou leans back into his seat with a grunt, but he’s not angry. He should be, and he’d have the right to be, but he’s not. He’s fine, sitting right there bathing in pink, driving in his tank top in the heat of July. He’s right here and Kirishima wants to cry at the sight of it, at the feeling of it, but his chest is empty.

“Let’s keep driving then,” Bakugou says.

Kirishima hums low, and so they keep driving.

The sunset mutates and peach turns mauve, turns purple and deep as they aim straight ahead, right behind the hills. They traverse the last city, the one they could have stopped in, and Kirishima doesn’t even try to memorize its shape. He sees the colors, the lights outside the bars, the sheen of a river coursing in the middle of it all, but he doesn’t want to be here. He’s just passing through, distant and detached, and he can’t remember how driving used to feel. He used to like this, he knows it, but it’s so foreign now, so tainted he can’t find the strength to look for details, for what’s hidden in the bigger picture, and revel in how charming it all is.

He dozes off a few times with his head against the side of the door, hovering between sleep and consciousness. Every time he opens his eyes to look around, the night is a bit deeper, the moon a bit higher, and they keep driving. Bakugou seems well awake for someone who’s been driving all day. Kirishima watches the traffic lights change colors against the side of his face. Gosh, how he wants him. If he wasn’t this silent, if they weren’t on the road, Bakugou would be kissable, the way he’s always been – in every hug and every embrace, every morning Kirishima watched him wake up, Bakugou’s always been this pretty. He’s always been just the right kind of person for Kirishima to get high on, with his rough voice and his angles Kirishima loves, and these laughs he lets out when he doesn’t pay attention. He’s beautiful in the mornings, when he’s not quite awake, and he’s beautiful at night, when he’s the only thing worth looking at.

He stays beautiful all night, Kirishima makes sure to check on that. He might not be able to see Bakugou like that again anytime soon, but maybe someone else will. Someone good, living in the capital, far away. Someone who will know him better than Kirishima does; he hopes they’ll know how to appreciate everything about him, how he marries the reds and the greens so well, how hard it sometimes is to get him out of bed. They better be kind to him, and strong for him, and deserve to be chosen by him, they better see the beauty in his details, the subtlety no camera can see, and what makes Kirishima’s heart squeeze into the back of his throat.

Kirishima looks out the window and begs for something to come here and stop his thoughts from running wild, but the night is silent, leaving only the road to murmur under the wheels.

They eventually pass a familiar sign and the buildings rising up around them look like they’ve been waiting for their return – home, finally. The sight is almost painful.

The city’s asleep and the car slithers between buildings, turn after turn, red light after red light. Kirishima knows the way, and it kills him to recognize it. He counts five, six minutes until the last turn, and then the car stops in front of an apartment building he could draw in his sleep, and Bakugou parks against the sidewalk.

“There,” he sighs, “fucking finally.” The silence that falls back down after his words is deafening.

Kirishima looks at the large door waiting for him. It’s his stop. It’s his time to go, leave the car, and break the spell after all these days he can barely remember. It’s the destination and he made it, and the minute he steps out will be the minute he gives up on all of it.

“I’ll drop off the car in the morning, so just go and get some real sleep,” Bakugou continues by his side, his voice gravelling. “Don’t forget your stuff in the trunk.”

Kirishima doesn’t want to get out.

He should have taken that king-sized bed offer, he should have drawn it out and tried to make it all better, somehow, because this won’t do. It’s still so much of a mess and it hurts, it hurts not to know what could fix all of this, but Kirishima knows that if staying in this car is scary, leaving it is scarier. He’d have to stay silent on his own this time, and think it over and over and over again, all alone in his apartment – the door is right there and behind it is the escape he thought he was looking forward to, but now he’s back to square one with nothing to lose.

“Bakugou.”

And Kirishima knows Bakugou understands, because he doesn’t answer right away. A string tenses between them, Kirishima can feel it vibrate.

“Don’t,” Bakugou warns after a beat. Kirishima turns to him and faces him truly this time, making sure Bakugou sees him just as he is, with all his anxiety and his worry, and everything that’s making him stay. There’s only a single lamp post illuminating the inside of the car and the ray of light falls right on one side of Bakugou’s face, curving over his cheek and the swell of his lips, and Kirishima doesn’t know what to read in his expression.

“We have to talk about this,” he says – it sounds like a plea, barely whispered, and Bakugou frowns.

“Stop it, just get out,” he mutters, and Kirishima sees one of his hands clenching around the wheel. He never wanted this. He never asked for this, why did this have to happen, how did he end up trying to coax words out of his best friends inside an old car at 1am, why is it so sour and cold, and so detached from everything they used to be?

“Why do you refuse to talk to me?” Kirishima implores him, and he hates how his voice breaks halfway through it. He wants to grab Bakugou’s arm and bring it to his chest, and make it melt into his own body so Bakugou knows how much it hurts, and how fast it all beats for him, but Bakugou only looks back without moving. He doesn’t speak, he doesn’t fight back – he’s probably exhausted but there’s something else Kirishima knows he’s not projecting onto him. There’s a doubt creasing between his brows and a twist in the corner of his mouth, and he’s breathing hard, too hard, when he’s breathing at all. “I know that if we don’t talk about it before I leave this car then we’ll never talk about it,” Kirishima says and his voice wavers, his fingernails digging into the flesh of his palms, and Bakugou twitches at the words.

“Get out.”

“You can’t pretend you didn’t kiss me,” Kirishima spills and that’s it, he’s done, he’s too tired to act, and each word out of his mouth is a ton of steel off his chest. “You can pretend you didn’t– this didn’t happen!” Look at me, he wants to say, but Bakugou’s already looking and he must be biting his own tongue, he must be eating at the inside of his own cheeks because he looks like he’s about to explode all over the inside of this car, his red eyes drilling right through Kirishima’s skull with anger, anger and frustration and something that’s none of that. Kirishima sees it clear as day and it looks like him, and if Bakugou spoke it would sound like him, he’s sure of it.

And he knows he has to make it personal if he wants to get his point across, he has to show some of his cards if he wants to gain Bakugou’s trust right now. He has to admit to him, to the man he loves, and to himself, that two days of silence is two days too many.

“I’d do it again if I could,” he almost whispers, unable to find his voice. “I liked it. I like you.” He swallows and all the breaths he forgot to take suddenly rush to his head. “And you have to know, because I can’t live a lie around you.”

He can’t believe he said it but he did, and he can’t believe he gets to watch Bakugou hear it but he does, and it feels like living, like a moth breaking through glass and the night forever stretching; Kirishima lets the words sink into the both of them and now that it’s off his chest he knows what’s coming. It’s going to hurt again, and Bakugou’s going to avoid looking at him again, and just like that morning he’s going to feel the blades piercing through him, this time with Bakugou watching.

But Bakugou opens his mouth, and he sounds like he’s been hit by a car. “Are you fucking kidding me.”

Kirishima can only blink at him. “I’ve never been this serious in my life,” he says, and his heart starts racing immediately because Bakugou’s expression keeps shifting and he can’t follow the details, and he’s not awake enough, not fast enough to keep up with how fast Bakugou seems to be thinking. “But you know what, it’s fine,” Kirishima continues, and he doesn’t know what he’s doing but his body moves on his own, his hand reaching for the door because he doesn’t know what else to do what else is he supposed to do, and all he does is ramble to fill the silence that haunts the car. “I get it if it was a spur-of-the-moment thing for you, I’d have appreciated a warning, but–”

Bakugou grabs his face and kisses him. Kirishima chokes on how heavy his own lungs are but Bakugou holds him still and kisses him, eyes crunched closed, bent over the gear stick; his lips are just as soft as Kirishima remembers and he feels the same, tastes the same, and it’s all so surreal, it doesn’t feel like something that should be happening, but Kirishima’s hand is limp on the door handle and Bakugou is kissing him. He pushes against Kirishima’s mouth with so much feeling that Kirishima can’t help but close his eyes and drown into it, and his hands somehow find the collar of Bakugou’s shirt. He pulls on it to have more, to feel more, to let Bakugou know and Bakugou sighs through his nose in unashamed relief, and he moves against Kirishima’s mouth.

Kirishima’s going to die, he barely feels the rest of himself but it doesn’t matter, it could never matter because Bakugou’s hands are warm and sweaty on the sides of his face and there’s a shake in his fingers, and there’s a need that burns him, that sings when Kirishima kisses back the best he could.

A spur-of-the-moment thing are you shitting me,” Bakugou mutters against his lips, pushing the words into his mouth, and his hands travel to the back of Kirishima’s neck; he tilts his head to the side, opens his mouth, and Kirishima follows with a muffled whine. When he pulls back, it’s only to try and talk, “why didn’t you–” he starts, but he can’t stop kissing Kirishima for long enough and they crash back into each other, trying to pull each other closer over the gear stick. “Why didn’t you say anything you idiot,” Bakugou rasps eventually, losing his breath against Kirishima’s lips.

“I thought you didn’t want to talk,” Kirishima whispers, barely louder that the drum of his own heartbeat, and Bakugou’s hands shake in his hair – he doesn’t say anything but he kisses Kirishima again, and it’s all Kirishima needed. He fingers curl into the fabric of Bakugou’s shirt and he pushes to kiss him deeper, desperately holding onto him as though he was about to vanish and maybe it is a mirage, and maybe Kirishima’s gone mad overthinking this stupid situation, but it doesn’t matter because Bakugou hums into him, pleased and content, and Kirishima feels his smile expand all the way into his shivering heart.

“Wanna sleep at my place?” he offers, grinning against Bakugou’s cheek. Bakugou comes to pepper kisses against his mouth in an enthusiastic yes, and Kirishima would laugh if he had enough energy for it.

They leave the car together and the world outside is still buzzing with the warmth of July. Not without effort, they drag their bags all the way up to Kirishima’s apartment, stumble over the threshold and feel the walls until they find light switches – Bakugou groans when the light blinds him and Kirishima’s in love with the sound of it.

Bakugou knows his way around the place and he drags his feet to the kitchen for water, to the bathroom to brush his teeth, walking back and forth in the hallway to dig through his gutted bag and find a shirt to sleep in, and Kirishima’s never too far. He could have dozed off against a wall once or twice but Bakugou finds something to pinch or grab, bringing him back into the moment with a knowing smirk. It’s weird to be back home but Bakugou makes it easier, bringing a bit of the outside in with him, and a piece of comfort Kirishima didn’t think he’d be able to call his anytime soon.

But Bakugou is the one who lifts the covers and slithers in bed, taking the left side for himself. He’s the one who looks up, expecting Kirishima to join him, and Kirishima’s seen this face on him before. Before he takes a step forward, Kirishima turns off the light.

Bakugou’s on him the instant the blanket falls back onto them, his arms wrapping around Kirishima’s torso as if they belonged there, mouthing at Kirishima’s throat carefully. The weight of his body against Kirishima’s feels familiar now but also so new, so fresh and exhilarating, and Kirishima never wants this novelty to fade. He rubs slow hands against Bakugou’s back and kisses his hair, letting Bakugou tangle their legs under the covers and kiss the softest spots under his jaw – Kirishima’s insides twist with delight, his whole body so light and warm he could squeeze a whole new summer out of the feeling.

“You should have told me earlier,” Bakugou mumbles against his skin, his voice vibrating in Kirishima’s throat. “Idiot,” he adds for good measure, but he obviously doesn’t mean it.

Kirishima lets Bakugou push him onto his back and runs a hand in his hair, feeling him map his jaw. “I tried, dude.”

Bakugou pulls back to look at him properly. “Don’t dude me,” he grins, trying to sound offended – when he’s clearly not. Kirishima pulls him back down gently.

“I’ll dude you if I want to, dude.”

Bakugou puffs at that and kisses him soft on the lips before relaxing against his chest, his shoulders falling low, and Kirishima smiles against him. Fingers come to get lost in his hair and rubs gentle circles there, and Kirishima could fall asleep right then.

“I like this,” he says, leaning into the touch. He can feel Bakugou smirk against his skin before he moves his hips and grinds down against Kirishima’s and ah alright, alright. “This too, but I’m too tired,” he whispers, and Bakugou stops moving then, kissing him on the cheek instead.

“I know,” he whispers, “me too.” And he doesn’t need to say it, Kirishima can feel the exhaustion in both their bodies, in the way they give in into each other without trying to hold back, loose and comfortable. Bakugou falls back to his side and they shift to face each other, breathing it all out. Even without seeing him, Kirishima knows where to find him, but Bakugou moves before he can. Snuggling up against Kirishima, he hides his face into his neck and holds him closer; his breath courses over Kirishima’s collarbones and Kirishima doesn’t remember what being afraid feels like.

“I should have told you,” Bakugou mutters, and it’s as close to sorry as he’ll get tonight, but Kirishima couldn’t ask for anything more. In the dark he finds his forehead, his eyelids, his temples, and he kisses what he can.

“It’s okay,” he says between pecks, “I know. I know.”

“I know it’s fucking okay,” Bakugou parrots against him, but his hold around Kirishima’s chest doesn’t loosen, and his heart beats just as fast against Kirishima’s ribs. “The trip wasn’t too bad,” he adds in a breath.

“I thought you hated it,” Kirishima says in his hair.

Bakugou shrugs. “’T was fine. Sometimes.”

Kirishima smiles so wide he knows Bakugou can feel it; he doesn’t care though, and keeps rubbing soft lines against Bakugou’s back. He can’t tell what he’s done to deserve this, after the week they’ve spent, but he’ll take it. He’ll take it tonight and he hopes, he prays to any power out there, that he’ll get to know this feeling for a long time.

“You want to go driving again someday?”

Bakugou curls against him. “Ugh, we just arrived, dumbass,” he rasps. “Don’t plan another goddamn trip already.” After a long inhale that sends shivers down Kirishima’s body, Bakugou peels off him and kisses his chin blindly. “Sleep.” He turns around in Kirishima’s embrace but keeps Kirishima’s arm around his waist and tangles their fingers together, pulling Kirishima closer to his back.

And Kirishima obliges, of course; he shifts a bit closer to press his front to Bakugou’s back and they exhale together, content. “Good night,” he whispers, before kissing the back of Bakugou’s shoulder tenderly.

Bakugou runs his thumb against the back of his hand. “Good night,” he responds, and with that Kirishima decides to stop thinking.

The bedroom falls silent right away and the night is so dark, so still, only the moon sees them.

 


 

“I might print them all,” Kirishima smiles.

“Not this one,” Bakugou protests from above his shoulder, “it’s all blurry.”

Kirishima looks again at this picture he took of Bakugou sitting on the edge of their trunk, finishing a tuna sandwich in front the haunted house. “I like it. You’re smiling.” Bakugou pokes at his ribs in retaliation but Kirishima only squeals for show.

He can’t tell which one is his favorite, but the ones they took above the valley are up there. They’re so soft and so well lit, and Bakugou’s so gorgeous in each one of them. There’s even a few pictures of himself as well, all perfectly focused on his face – the summer sun gives him a golden halo and he looks like he’s shining from the inside. “I look good,” he admits, actually impressed. “You’re better at this than you let on, Bakugou.”

Bakugou scoffs. “Don’t you underestimate me, amateur.” Kirishima rolls his eyes at him and even though Bakugou’s wrapped around his back, he’s pretty sure he’s seen him.

A few pictures have glitched weirdly and the colors have shifted around the shapes, or some areas have turned out oil-slick and out of place, and Kirishima blames it on the memory card.

“This one’s fine,” Bakugou chimes in, leaning his temple against the side of Kirishima’s jaw. And yeah, he’s not wrong; the picture they took together isn’t really well framed, and it’s not a grand work of art, but they’re both looking right into the lens, and they’re both smiling at the camera. Kirishima has an arm flung around Bakugou’s shoulders and Bakugou doesn’t seem bothered by it at all – they complement each other, fitting in the beauty of the valley.

“I love it,” Kirishima admits. Bakugou hums at that, badly hiding a grin he can’t contain, and kisses his jaw instead of speaking.

Spending the afternoon in bed is much better than anything else they had planned, especially when July sends a breeze to make the curtains move in kind whispers. They almost forget to bring the car back to the rental agency but it’s not their fault, it’s not because they’re lazy; they would find the car again if they wanted to but Bakugou’s too busy feeling alive and Kirishima’s too eager to get lost in him, and the road has stopped calling.