“I don’t know how you do it, Kirishima.”
The voice caused Bakugou to stop on his way to the kitchen. He turned his head instinctively, even though he couldn’t see Kirishima or Kaminari or anyone else that was potentially in the common room to take part in the conversation. Still, something about the tone made him pause, made him curious.
“Do what?” Kirishima’s voice held a genuine curiosity, and Bakugou could easily imagine the look on the boy’s face as he turned to his friend.
The blond boy stiffened at the sound of his own name, gritting his teeth and clenching his fist at his side. Fucking dunce face—
“I thought you two were friends,” Kirishima responded, and his frown was practically audible in his voice.
“Well, yeah,” Kaminari said. “Friends,” he continued, stressing the word. “I like the guy, sure. But dating him..?”
“He has a point,” Ashido added, and Bakugou was going to kill them both, those assholes. “I like Bakugou just fine, but I can’t imagine dating him.”
“Well, then it’s a good thing you don’t have to,” Kirishima responded smoothly. “I’ve got him.”
Something in the blond’s chest swelled at the words; trust Kirishima to always smooth things over.
“True,” Hagakure agreed, and the boy clenched his fists again, because even that invisible girl was in on this conversation? “I think that’s part of the point, though Kirishima-kun.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you’re you, Kirishima,” Ashido said. “You’re one of the sweetest guys in the class.”
“Yeah,” Kaminari agreed. “How is someone like you dating someone like him?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Kirishima asked, and Bakugou noticed the curtness of the words, the way they had the tiniest bit of bite to them. The blond couldn't understand how their classmates didn’t notice Kirishima's voice tensing with irritation, weren’t reading the signs of his annoyance that were so obviously there.
“He’s always so angry and grumpy,” Hagakure said.
“You’re basically dating a ticking time bomb,” Kaminari said. “One wrong move and he’ll explode.”
“Or explode you,” Ashido agreed.
Something twisted in Bakugou’s gut, tight and painful. He shoved his hands into his pockets, wiping off his sweaty palms on the fabric. He grimaced. They weren’t exactly wrong, were they?
“You guys don’t know what you’re talking about,” Kirishima said, and even though he kept his voice calm and even, Bakugou could hear the slight edge to it. “You don’t have anything to worry about with us.”
“Ah, come on!” Kaminari argued. “We’re just looking out for you, dude—”
“Maybe you assholes should just mind your own damn business,” Bakugou finally snapped, unable to keep his silence. He scowled as he stomped into the room. He could see as his classmates tensed slightly, tried not to recoil at the thought; he never minded the idea that they were afraid of him before, but now he seemed painfully aware of what they thought of him and Kirishima—and that grated at his nerves.
He tried his best to concentrate on that, on the anger, because that was easier than thinking about whatever was roiling in his stomach, dark and murky. His chest clenched, and he hated it.
His gaze fell on Kirishima; he watched the way the boy’s face softened, shifting from irritation into something more pleasant as he looked at Bakugou. He liked the way the boy’s lips stretched into a gentle smile, the way he looked at Bakugou like the others’ words hadn’t at all phased him.
He took a deep breath, the sight helping to calm his frayed nerves.
“Come on, shitty hair,” he grunted, voice coming out gentler than he was used to, something that Kirishima always did to him; he softened his edges, whether or not he wanted him to.
Kirishima was quick to get to his feet, sliding his hand into Bakugou’s with practiced ease. He flashed the blond a wider smile, tugging his hand and pulling him out of the common area, all the way to his room. The moment they were inside, Bakugou kicked the door shut behind him, and Kirishima tugged him over to his bed, dropping down on top of the blankets and yanking Bakugou down with him.
Bakugou watched Kirishima’s eyes flicker over his face, watched as his expression started to fall into uncertainty. Their hands were still joined, fingers entwined. Bakugou furrowed his brow, tightening his grasp for just a moment.
“What’s the problem?” he asked. The words sounded harsher than he intended, and suddenly he was much too aware of it, hated the sound of them. But if Kirishima was bothered by the question, he didn’t show it. Instead, he just took a deep breath.
“You heard them, didn’t you?”
Bakugou didn’t answer, and Kirishima let out a sigh. He shuffled just a little closer, letting their noses brush, pressing their foreheads against each other. Kirishima sighed again and Bakugou could feel the breath against his lips. He wanted to lean forward and close that distance.
“I’m sorry, Bakugou.”
Bakugou frowned, drawing back slightly. “What are you sorry for?”
“That they were being like that,” Kirishima murmured. He opened his eyes but still didn’t meet the other boy’s, instead glancing downward. “They shouldn’t have said those things.”
Bakugou made a quiet noise at the back of his throat. “Whatever,” he mumbled gruffly. “It’s…”
He wanted to say it was fine, something just to assuage Kirishima’s worries, but the word stuck in his throat, and he closed his eyes. The bottom line was that it wasn’t fine. But he wasn’t sure if he was more angry—upset—whatever was the right word for what he was feeling—at what they’d been saying and how it managed to get under his skin, or the way that clearly Kirishima was bothered by it.
Both, his mind supplied. It's definitely both.
Bakugou felt Kirishima’s free hand settle against his face, palm against the soft skin of his cheek, thumb brushing gently along the sharp line of his cheekbone. He felt Kirishima press a kiss to the spot right beneath his eye.
“It’s not fine,” he murmured, as though he knew exactly what Bakugou was intending to say.
It wasn’t the first time that the thought crossed Bakugou’s mind that Kirishima was so much better at this whole relationship thing than he was. He felt like he was supposed to be the one comforting the redhead, saying something to make him feel better about what the others had said. But instead, Kirishima was doing everything in his power to put his mind at ease, appeasing him with this unspoken language that he understood best.
Bakugou cracked one eye open to look at Kirishima. “Why are you dating someone like me?” he asked quietly.
He watched at Kirishima’s face softened again, eyes crinkling with affection. “Because I like you, dummy.” The simplicity of the answer made Bakugou’s pulse flutter, made his chest tighten. “I don’t care what they think,” Kirishima continued. “We’re the only ones that matter, right?”
His heartbeat quickened, a pleasant swooping in his stomach as he considered Kirishima’s words and the ease with which he said them. He tightened his fingers around Kirishima’s, planting his other hand on his waist to draw him in closer against his body. He inched in closer, pressing his mouth to the other boy’s, firm but chaste. He only drew back a hair’s breadth, letting their lips ghost against each other in the promise of more.
It frustrated Bakugou to no end that that wasn’t the end of it.
It seemed that now that he was aware of their classmates’ opinion on their relationship, he was hearing bits and pieces of conversations everywhere. It seemed to be a recurring theme in their talks, and he knew that if he was overhearing these numerous occasions, it was only a fraction of what it really was. They seemed to have no issue bringing it up again and again.
It made his chest ache.
But at the same time, every time he heard Kirishima’s rebuttals, it made his chest tighten painfully for entirely different reasons. It made his feelings for the other boy swell, inflating like a balloon beneath his ribcage, increasing the pressure against his lungs until he almost couldn’t breathe.
He had no doubt about it. What he felt for Kirishima could be defined by one tiny, simple, wonderful word.
Bakugou loved him.
He was almost amazed at how easily it occurred to him, and just how easily he accepted it. Maybe it had just been there all along, and so it was only a matter of time. It was just an inevitable fact, something that was bound to happen, just as certain as the day that they’d become heroes: Bakugou loved Kirishima.
And even with his sudden consciousness of it, nothing changed. Things between the two of them were the same as they always had been, from the day that they first fought side by side at USJ.
Bakugou wondered if that was where part of the problem lied, in his classmates’ eyes.
“He really still calls you ‘shitty hair’?” Sero asked Kirishima one day.
“How romantic,” Jirou responded flatly.
“Don’t you think that’s… I don’t know…” Sero trailed off.
“What’s the big deal?” Kirishima asked. “That’s what he’s always called me.”
“Yeah, but…” A pause from Sero. “Shouldn’t that have changed? Since you’re, you know, dating now?”
“No,” Kirishima said, and he sounded genuinely confused at just the thought.
“No?” Jirou repeated.
“I mean, I started liking him when we were friends, and he’d call me that all the time,” he explained. “I’m glad he’s the same, that nothing has changed with us. That just tells me that we’re still best friends, even though we’re dating. I don’t want that to change, so I’m really happy it hasn’t.”
Yes, there was no doubt in his mind that he was definitely in love with Kirishima.
Kirishima had been injured.
Kirishima had been injured because of some villain and Bakugou had continued fighting.
He could feel eyes on him even as he kept going, kept fighting alongside the other classmates of his that were present. He could only assume what was going through their minds as they watched him. It made his blood burn, feeling like fire in his veins, only heightening the anger he felt toward the villains, because they were the same stares he’d been getting for a while now—the same ones tied to the insinuations that he was somehow not good enough for Kirishima.
He and the handful of his classmates that had fought were bloodied and bruised afterwards, battered but still standing. Kirishima and Uraraka had already been taken away due to injuries, helped from the scene by Shoji and Yaoyorozu. Now that it seemed to be over, the stares were worse, and now they were accompanied by whispers.
It was finally too much—he could still feel the sweat slick on his palms, could hear the tiny pops threatening explosions as he rounded on Kaminari, grabbing him by his shirt collar.
He growled, holding his crackling hand back. “If you have something to fucking say—”
“Yeah, I do,” Kaminari countered, grabbing Bakugou’s hand and shoving it off of him. “Because I can’t figure out why the hell you aren’t more concerned about your boyfriend right now.”
The silence was deafening, the tension between them thick to the point that it was almost suffocating. It felt as though every other one of their classmates was holding their breath, staring at the two boys.
Bakugou didn’t say a word.
“Are you really that concerned with always coming out on top that you couldn’t even stop when he got hurt?” Kaminari asked.
Bakugou curled his fingers at his sides, trying to suppress his Quirk. He wanted nothing more than to punch the other boy in the mouth, but he resisted. He tried to tell himself that it was just the post-battle adrenaline, that emotions were running high because of the fight. He tried to tell himself that it was Kaminari trying to show his concern—after all, he was Kirishima’s friend—claimed to be Bakugou’s friend too—
“I think you’ve got it wrong,” Todoroki said. And god, how had he gotten to the point that the half-and-half bastard thought he needed to defend him?
“Do I?” Kaminari pressed on. “Then why was Shoji the one to do something about it when Kirishima took that hit? A hit,” he continued, rounding on Bakugou again, “he took for you.”
“Kaminari-kun,” Midoriya tried. “I don’t think…"
“You think I wasn’t upset?” Bakugou said. “That I—that I’m not upset now?”
“You are pretty good at not showing it,” Ashido agreed, her voice small but unwavering.
“Of course I’m not going to fucking show it,” Bakugou ground out. “Who is that going to help? Is that going to defeat the villains? Tell me, black eyes—” He narrowed his eyes at Ashido, then turned to snarl at Kaminari. “—dunce face. What good is that going to do for Kirishima? How is that going to help him?”
“Shut up, Deku!” he said, whirling on him. “I know that Kirishima is strong. I know that he’s going to be okay. But that doesn’t mean I’m not fucking terrified if I see him go down. But showing that isn’t going to help him. Acting—fucking doing something—that’s what’s going to help! What I needed to do to make sure Kirishima was okay was to finish what we started. So don’t—don’t fucking—don’t you tell me…"
“Kacchan.” Midoriya put a hand on his arm, but he yanked it away. Bakugou instead swiped at his eyes, rubbing at them aggressively. He was so tired of this, of everyone acting like they knew better. The frustration was overwhelming and sickening, and it was finally too much, breaking through the dam.
“Don’t tell me what’s best for him,” he ground out, his voice low and gravelly. “Don’t tell me what’s best for us.”
Midoriya made another reach for him, but he dodged the hand and stomped off. All he wanted was to shower and change out of his uniform, to wash off the blood and dirt and grime, to get into clean clothes so that Recovery Girl wouldn’t object to him visiting Kirishima. The sooner he got away from everyone, the sooner that he got to see the proof that Kirishima was okay, that he was living and breathing and fine… the sooner he could do all of that, the better.
When Bakugou finally reached the infirmary, Kirishima was sitting on the bed looking absolutely and utterly exhausted. Bright white bandages were wound around his stomach, up to his chest. He was hunched over, and Bakugou thought that the tiredness stretched beyond just the side-effects from Recovery Girl’s Quirk, beyond his body’s fatigue from the fight and the use of Unbreakable. He seemed so completely worn out.
Bakugou stared at him for just a moment, standing in the doorway, hands in his pockets. He wanted to fix everything, to make Kirishima forget every problem he currently had, to put his mind at ease once more.
The only issue was that he had no idea where to start.
The redhead looked up, forcing a tired smile on his face as his eyes met Bakugou’s. “Hey,” he said. He straightened up, wincing a little as he did.
“Round face already gone?” Bakugou asked, forcing himself not to watch as Kirishima tried to make himself comfortable, shifting on the bed and grimacing a little in pain. He looked away, letting him adjust himself on the bed, sparing him the concerned, critical staring.
“Yeah,” Kirishima responded as Bakugou sat on the bed next to him. “Recovery Girl was able to fix her up completely without a problem, so she left a little bit ago.”
Bakugou nodded. “And you?”
“She said I’m good, now,” he responded. “Said I can come back tomorrow if it still hurts and she’ll give it another go, but I didn’t want to be knocked out, so… yeah. She left it at this, for now.”
Bakugou nodded again. He tried not to think on Kaminari’s words, the implication that Kirishima was like this because of him. They were training to be heroes. Casualties were inevitable. That was just the way it was.
“Yeah,” Bakugou told him softly. He placed his hand gently atop Kirishima’s, wrapping his fingers around the other boy’s. He gave it a squeeze, silently saying what he meant without having to actually put it into words: thanks to you.
Kirishima grinned at him. “Good,” he said, letting out a slow breath like a sigh. “At least I managed to do something.”
“What’s that supposed to mean, shitty hair?” Bakugou asked with a frown.
Kirishima grimaced, glancing away from the blond boy. “I just… I went down so fast,” he said. “I wasn’t much help.”
Bakugou stared at him, trying to process the words. “That’s bull shit,” he said after a moment.
Kirishima sighed, dragging a hand through his hair. It was only half-gelled now, parts falling down around his face in tangles. His hand did nothing to help, only serving to mess it up further, pulling out a few more of the spikes. It made him look even more tired.
“It’s true, though,” he said, and his tone took on an almost pensive quality. His eyes were cast downward, brow pinched as he seemed to be replaying the fight over in his head for the hundredth time. “I don’t regret what I did, but god—I didn’t last at all. And that’s the whole point of Unbreakable. My biggest defense crumbled. So what good am I, if I couldn’t stay standing?”
The way Kirishima talked, his words spoke of a dull ache; but to Bakugou, they were a sharp knife. Kirishima always made things easier by speaking his mind, by never keeping secrets and telling him what was troubling him. After that, it was a matter of Bakugou finding the right words to soothe those troubles, or else find a way to prove it to him. It was still a challenge, but at least it gave him a starting point.
Bakugou didn’t look away, instead keeping his gaze on the other boy’s face. “You’re strong, Ei,” he said quietly.
“But if I can’t…”
“Stop,” Bakugou told him. “If you’re not happy with where you are, then you keep pushing and fighting until you’re better. And it won’t be alone. We’ll do it together.”
Kirishima closed his eyes. “You’re always helping me, though,” he sighed. “I’m going to end up holding you back.”
“Is that really what you think?”
Kirishima’s silence was enough of an answer. Bakugou forced out a slow breath, trying to suppress his own frustration at the situation.
“I wouldn’t waste my time if you were holding me back,” he said bluntly. He knew that it probably came off a little harsh, but it was the truth; and he trusted Kirishima to understand the intention, to take it how he truly meant it.
“But you were able to keep fighting—”
“I was able to keep fighting because I knew you had my back,” Bakugou told him firmly. “You always have my back.”
“Of course I do,” Kirishima responded, and Bakugou was relieved to see the tiniest bit of tension leave his face, his eyes softening the slightest amount.
“Don’t make that out to be nothing,” Bakugou said. “Not when you ended up in here because of me—”
“It wasn’t because of you—”
“It was for me,” Bakugou murmured. “And I couldn’t do a damn thing about it.”
“You kept fighting,” Kirishima argued. Bakugou felt something loosen in his chest, relief flooding through him—he understood. That in itself was more than enough. “I couldn’t even do that much—”
“Stop,” Bakugou repeated. “Don’t fucking say that you didn’t do enough. Don’t say that you’re not strong. Ei, you—you’re so strong, you’re so fucking strong, and I…”
He gently placed his free hand on Kirishima’s side, wary of his injury. Then, he pulled the boy forward, easing him toward him. He slid his hand upward, his palm against warm skin, and he let his forehead rest against Kirishima’s, closing his eyes.
“You’re so important.”
He heard Kirishima give a watery chuckle. Bakugou wished he had something more to say, something to better convey what he wanted to. Again he couldn’t help but feel that Kirishima was just so much better at this than him—at comforting, at relationships in general, a complete an utter natural at it. He didn’t have to fumble through everything the same way that Bakugou did.
If he was able to do anything for him in return, to help him in any way, no matter how small… Well, then it was worth it.
“Thank you,” Kirishima muttered to him, and his voice sounded thick, just another hint at the effort he was making to keep himself from tears. He leaned forward instead, giving Bakugou a gentle kiss.
Bakugou curled his fingers into Kirishima’s skin as the redhead pressed another soft kiss to his lips. It was enough to make everything disappear, every thought and worry evaporating. Nothing else mattered, because right then it was just them, away from prying eyes and overly-concerned classmates.
It was just them.
Bakugou was a little taken aback when, the next day, Kirishima barged into his room unannounced and, without a word, climbed into his bed beside him, wrapping his arms around his waist and burying his face into his neck. It was usually Bakugou that found his way into Kirishima’s room, never knocking, just forcing his way in like he owned the place and settling there—not that Kirishima ever complained. Still, needless to say, the boy was more than a bit surprised to find the roles reversed.
But, he had to admit, it wasn’t an unpleasant surprise at all.
Bakugou’s hand instantly found the top of Kirishima’s head, fingers sliding through his strands of hair into a comfortable position. The other hand went to Kirishima’s waist where his shirt had ridden up slightly, and Bakugou could feel the gauze that was still coiled around his abdomen; he kept his touch feather-light, sure not to hurt him in the least.
Kirishima hummed contentedly as he flexed his fingers against Bakugou’s hips, fingertips digging lightly into soft skin. Bakugou turned his face slightly, pressing a kiss to Kirishima’s temple. The redhead smiled, tilting his face upward to steal a swift kiss.
“I talked to Kaminari.”
“Do not mention that idiot while we’re kissing,” Bakugou grumbled against his lips.
Kirishima chuckled, pulling away slightly, to Bakugou’s dismay. “And the others, too.”
The hand in Kirishima’s hair tried to pull him closer, Bakugou pressing another kiss to Kirishima’s mouth. “That didn’t mean you should keep talking, shitty hair,” he said petulantly.
Kirishima pulled away from the kiss again; Bakugou leaned forward, raising himself on his elbow in an effort to chase after his lips. Kirishima evaded, however, and the other boy fixed him with a glare. His smile just widened. “I know,” he said. “But this is important.”
Bakugou sighed defeatedly, falling back against the pillows. “Fine,” he grunted. “What did you talk to them about, then?”
Kirishima took a deep breath. “I told them that what happens between you and me is between you and me,” he said, “and it isn’t their business.”
Bakugou raised an eyebrow at this. “Oh yeah?”
Kirishima nodded. “They need to stop,” he said. “I don’t get why they’re so concerned when there’s nothing to be concerned about.”
“They’re your friends, shitty hair,” Bakugou said flatly.
“And?” Kirishima said, furrowing his brow. “They’re your friends, too.”
Bakugou grunted, looking away. “They’re worried for you.” He gritted his teeth. “Especially dunce face.”
“Are you defending them, now?” Kirishima asked. “Because sure, they can be worried if they want, but they’ve been idiots about it. It’s not like I can’t handle myself. Besides...” He reached up, cupping Bakugou’s jaw and forcing his gaze back up to meet his. “I know I’m in good hands.”
Bakugou tilted his chin slightly, pressing a kiss to Kirishima’s palm. “Yeah?”
Kirishima smiled, shifting slightly so he could lean down and give Bakugou another proper kiss, still keeping it gentle and chaste. “Yeah.” He brushed Bakugou’s hair out of his face as he gazed down at him. “They’re going to back off. I think… I think they get it a bit better, now.”
Bakugou could feel the knots in his chest loosen, the tension easing slightly. He didn’t want to admit how relieved he felt; he still felt certain that it wasn’t as simple to fix as it appeared, but he knew that it was definitely a good start.
“Good,” he said.
Kirishima smiled softly at him, pushing himself up onto his knees and pressing his hands into the pillow on either side of Bakugou’s head. The blond arched an eyebrow at the other boy's change in position.
“What are you doing now?” he asked.
Kirishima raised his shoulders in an attempt at a shrug. “I’m done talking about them, now,” he said simply.
“So that means I can kiss you,” he explained.
Bakugou’s hands found Kirishima’s waist again, sliding up along his sides so that his thumbs were right below his ribcage. He hummed in consideration, letting his eyes rake over Kirishima before meeting his gaze once more. “Then what are you waiting for?”
That was all it took, and then Kirishima was closing the distance, mouth finding Bakugou’s easily. Their lips slid against each other in a well-practiced rhythm, and Bakugou tugged at Kirishima, gently guiding him closer. The redhead let the gap between them disappear altogether, bending the arms that had previously framed Bakugou’s head; instead, one hand tangled itself into his hair, the other found its place on his chest, just above his heart.
Bakugou loved moments like this. He let himself focus on the feeling of Kirishima—of his warmth beneath his palms, his body draped over his, his lips moving against his. He let himself be enveloped by the boy, reveling in the sensation as he completely surrounded him.
He let himself feel the fervor of every kiss, each one a promise that everything would be okay. He let himself believe it, because with Kirishima, it wasn’t just blind belief—he knew it was true.