There are a million stories like it.
It’s a hazard of their society, that’s all. Kirishima bears a scar from it: the spontaneity of one’s quirk manifesting. Kaminari says he spent his toddler years static-shocking his parents every time they touched. Bakugou learned to make firecrackers with his dad — a story not told to him by Bakugou himself, but shared over dinner at his place, his mom wearing a smirk, his dad’s eyes upturned with affection, Bakugou himself covering his face with one hand and snarling for them to stop in that gruff way that says he’s embarrassed.
He’s digressing. Focus.
It’s not always the case, but quirks tend to show themselves during times of high emotion. So it’s not really surprising, just inconvenient, when Kirishima feels a prickling inside his skull the very moment he scoops this little boy into his arms.
He’s gotta be only three years old, tiny and pudgy-cheeked and bawling. Kirishima hushes him, hugging him close to his body and giving the room a quick once-over. The smoke clogs the ceiling, alarms wailing in a shrill way. He’s grateful, now, that his mask comes with covers over the ears, filtering out the noise. The kid isn’t so lucky, though.
Assured that the room is otherwise empty, Kirishima strides back for the window, holding the boy with one arm as he clambers out. He toggles a button on the ear covers, saying, “Room’s clear! I’m coming down!”
There’s a shuffle in the crowd below, making room for him as he pushes off the building, holding the boy tight. His hardened body hits the concrete, sending up shards that are caught by a telekinetic quirk from one of the firemen standing nearby. The moment it’s clear, paramedics are stepping forward, taking the child from his arms. “Careful,” Kirishima says, “I think he’s using his quirk. Not sure what it is.”
The woman flashes him a quick smile, says, “Thanks, Riot,” before she’s turning away. And despite the noise of the fire, the alarms, the sirens, despite the fact her back is to him, he can hear the jumbled words that follow.
'Good thing he got him out — damn good hero —'
Kirishima blinks, shaking his head when she suddenly cuts off, hurrying towards the ambulances clustered nearby. An idle smile tugs at his lips. Maybe the settings are off on his ear covers.
He does a sweep of the crowd, jogging to the head of the response team. “Hey!” He waves as he calls out. “That was the last one I was told about, do you know if anyone else is up there?” For their sake, he hopes not.
The chief turns to him. 'Riot? Causes more damage than he’s worth,' He says, and Kirishima would bristle, if not for the fact that his mouth hadn’t moved. When it does, what he says is, “All clear. Good job today.” Claps him on the shoulder with a mutter of, 'Fucking collateral damage, too much paperwork.'
Kirishima is left blinking as the man strides past him, heading for the fire engines.
That is weirder. That’s not something he can blame on funky settings on his filters. All the same, he switches the covers off, wincing as the roar of the fire immediately amplifies, now only somewhat muffled by his mask.
The kid. He remembers, abruptly, that buzz of a quirk. Amplifying his hearing, maybe? Limited to — what? People he speaks to? Looks at?
Ultimately, though, it’s something to be shrugged off. He still needs to show his face around town. When heroes cluster up like this, people tend to think they can get away with petty crimes, convenience store robberies or muscling their way around town with their quirks on. It’s a matter of taking the long way back home, that’s all.
He’d gotten the call about the fire in the late afternoon. It’s sunset now, making for a gorgeous view, the golden glow of the sun beaming off the edges of the clouds and illuminating the city below. Kirishima hesitates for a moment, then pulls out his phone to snap a photo. He sends it to Bakugou, captioned with the text ‘off duty for the day! just taking the patrol route home’
He knows Bakugou won’t be able to respond right away, tucks the phone back into his pocket as he sets off on his way.
He hits the more-trafficked area of the city, where pedestrians stall in their paths to catch a glimpse of the hero on patrol. The stares still aren’t something he’s totally used to yet. Pictures, he’s definitely still uncomfortable with. But Kirishima remembers what Bakugou advised him: face forward, chin up, walk like you’re on your way to murder a villain.
Worse than stares or pictures, though, are the murmurs. And even though his covers are off, he can hear them clear as day.
'Must have been helping with the fire.'
'God, I would lick those arms.'
Kirishima nearly stumbles at the last one. He breaks his stride, taking a broad look around the streets. He meets several gazes, but no one is speaking, no heads clustered together. Still, he can hear.
'If he can walk with his chest out then why can’t I —'
'I’d let him—'
Kirishima takes a breath. He realizes, suddenly, that he’d stopped altogether, and gulps in the next several inhales as he hits the streets at a hurried pace. The babble keeps up, the voices change, but no one is talking. He can hear them like they’re speaking directly into his ears, but the lips that move don’t match up with the words.
It hits him: He’s not hearing their voices, then. A sick feeling curls in his guts.
These are thoughts.
'Ask for a picture?'
'— says manly all the time, idiot —'
'— wish he’d bite me.'
He’s going to be sick. Kirishima kicks up the pace to a jog, eyes fixed forward. Just get home. Lay down, lock himself in his room, and wait for this to fade.
'Wonder where —'
'— Riot —'
'— heroes shouldn’t dress like —'
It becomes a muddle in his head. A roar of snippets, digging into his brain to ricochet against his skull, a headache building with the burn in his eyes, until he’s clutching at his ears, head down, but nothing drowns it out. His own thoughts are pressed back, and Kirishima is left to drop his hands and break into a sprint, cutting the quickest route home.
When he gets there, he slams the office’s door shut behind him. Falls back against it, the sudden quiet in his head disorienting, his first breath taken with lungs choked by panic.
Kirishima sinks down, back dragging over the door, until he’s left curled up against it, panting into his knees. Tears roll down his cheeks. It’s a good thing Bakugou’s not home until tomorrow, he realizes. What would he think of Kirishima, breaking down like this.
The thought makes him giggle, bubbly and wet. It breaks into laughter and then Kirishima is gurgling against his knees, until the sound becomes quick and high and he clutches at his hair, eyes still wide open as each sob hitches in his throat.
He’s okay now. Kirishima will go to bed, the quirk will be gone by morning. Bakugou will be home tomorrow evening, and he can forget about all of this.
He’ll be fine.
Kirishima’s plan, upon waking, had been to treat himself to a nice breakfast and clean up the office. He’s marked their agency as off-duty for the day, on-call only for emergencies. He’ll rest, recover from the day before, throw some stuff in a crock pot so dinner will be ready when Bakugou gets home, and then take a cab to the airport to wait for him. It’ll be a good day.
He checks his phone. Not too late a wake up, and some messages from Bakugou. He smiles to himself as he opens them, with only a pang of regret for not getting back to him the night before.
[8:23 PM] You fucking kicked ass, right?
[8:40 PM] Saw the videos.
[8:42 PM] Good job.
[6:21 AM] Are you fucking dead?
Kirishima puffs a breath between his lips, tapping out a response as he swings his legs out of bed. He doesn’t bother getting dressed right away, going about his morning routine as he pleases, giving a cursory check to the social media feeds to see if there’s anything new for Ground Zero or Red Riot online. Nothing about yesterday’s freak out, thank god, but there is a new headline detailing Bakugou’s latest work: Ground Zero Send Crime Boss Up in Flames.
Kirishima grins, then sets his phone down to start cooking. The kitchen is behind the front “office” area. Plenty of veggies and some beef they really need to cook — that’ll make a good stew to simmer. Breakfast, though, is leftovers, stuck into the microwave to warm while Kirishima doubles back upstairs to get dressed.
It’s a good start to the day. He and Bakugou fire a few texts back and forth as Kirishima gulps down his meal, devolving into a string of selfies when Bakugou sends him a picture of himself, glaring at the camera, nose at the bottom of the frame and flipping him off, and ending when Kirishima tells him he’d nearly choked on his meal and Bakugou tells him to shut up and eat, moron.
It’s a good start to the day. Then the phone rings.
Kirishima doesn’t even hesitate. He’s on his feet, picking up the home line with, “Red Riot speaking.”
“We’ve got an emergency downtown: metal manipulation quirk, no one’s able to get close.”
He’s already grabbing his costume, stepping out of his pants and into the black material of his uniform. His hair’s not done yet but that’s not important. Phone on speaker, scribble down the location and buckle on his mask, shirt off, ready to go, unchain his bike and take off.
A siren wails on the front of his motorcycle, cars pulling over, heads craning to get a glimpse of which hero is racing down the streets. The sound whips by his ears, loud even over the roar of his bike.
He knows the moment he rounds the last corner that he’s arrived. The tires come to a screeching halt, Kirishima hopping off and moving at a full sprint for the shield of metal that spins around the villain.
He’s not the only hero on the scene. Chordata — hydrokinesis, Solar Flare — generation of heat and light. He sees the first, a man with webbed hands and fins at his neck, give him a glance.
'They sent a fucking greenhorn, fantastic.'
Kirishima stumbles. There’s no way. His heart pounding in his throat. That’s not —
'—take all the credit.'
He steadies himself with a breath. It’s fine. It’s fine. He has a job to do, he can’t get distracted, and he pushes himself off the concrete in a charge. “I’ll open him!” He shouts, voice grating as his quirk seizes his skin.
The barrier of metal contracts, forming a tight dome. Kirishima barrels into it, the sound an awful screeching and a crunch as he slams his fist against it. A dent is left behind, and Kirishima lets a shout tear out of his throat as he starts pounding away at the makeshift shield. Each blow deepens the dent, sure to crack through.
'Just rushes in like an idiot —'
'— does what he wants —'
'— oh god —'
There’s a ripple over the metal. Kirishima hears a warning shouted behind him, crosses his arms in front of his face just as steel twists itself into needles that spiral against him. They compress against his skin, sharp points of pressure that make him grunt.
'—could have told him if he’d waited—'
Kirishima steps back. The needles unspool, metal plates flattening back out in front of a blaring 'Oh fuck, oh god.' It’s laced with terror, and his heartstrings twist.
'The fuck is he doing.'
Kirishima whips his head around. Solar Flare is glaring at him, beckoning to him. “It’s not working, come on!” 'Step off, we’ve got this.'
'Get the fuck out of the way —'
'— idiot turns his back on danger —'
'— don’t want to go to —'
'— stealing our job —'
'— cocky fucking newbies —'
The noise that Kirishima makes might have been a scream if his quirk hadn’t strangled it into a roar. Unbreakable sharpens his fingers into deadly spears, plunging them clear through the metal, grabbing and pulling with all his strength, the screech reverberating in his ears around a panicked mantra,
'Oh god oh god oh god —'
'— violent —'
'— scary —'
He tears a hole in the barrier, ripping it wide enough to snag the body inside and haul them out, his own face twisted in a grimace of pain.
He finds two wide eyes staring back at him. 'Don’t hurt me oh god, he’s a demon, fuck, fuck this, please don’t —'
Kirishima’s quirk drops. He sets them down — an average looking man, black hair and pallid skin, who shakes and nearly buckles when his feet touch the ground.
'— gonna die —'
'— Unnecessary —'
'— all the credit —'
Kirishima reels back, a headache building in his temples and panic in his chest. “I’ve gotta go,” he croaks, letting go of the man and staggering away from him, off the scene. What they do, how they file the report, he doesn’t care.
A few cameras are edged in his direction around the perimeter, where police have blocked off the area until the situation is neutralized. He’s greeted by a litany of voices, pushing into his ears and ringing in his skull. He shoves past all of them, breath coming quick and shallow. It only brings more attention to him, more thoughts cluttering his brain as he breaks out of the crowd.
He left his bike behind. Kirishima can’t go back, though, not right now. He can’t close his eyes or cover his ears or drown it out, all he can do is run and hide, feeling like an animal with the terror clawing at his ribs.
Kirishima normally doesn’t bother with a disguise. Bigger heroes, like All Might during his prime, or shy ones like Suneater, tend to start valuing privacy over attention. Kirishima’s never minded being approached beyond personal nerves, still caught in that giddy delight that he was a hero at all, that people saw his face and thought Red Riot, a name he’d kept in his heart since he first decided to be where he is today.
Now, though, the thought of being recognized is sickening. He washes the gel out of his hair to keep it falling loose around his face and hides most of the red beneath a beanie — black and orange, Ground Zero’s starburst explosion stitched onto the front. Like this, the only thoughts that filter into his brain are dull acknowledgements, quiet and harmless and letting him breathe. Everyone is far too occupied with themselves to notice him, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Then, ' There’s Eijirou.'
His eyes lift. Bakugou is easy to pick out, still dressed in half of his costume: his gauntlets are nowhere to be seen, his mask is off, but Ground Zero is recognizable and turns heads as he approaches. There’s a stern look on his face, an exhaustion in his step, and his voice murmurs in Kirishima’s head, 'Missed that fucker.'
Kirishima breaks out into a grin so broad his face hurts, stepping forward and then breaking into a run-skip step that brings him to Bakugou to reach for him and pull him into a hug.
'The fuck is he — warm — what do I —'
“Get off of me.” Bakugou sneers, but doesn’t fight his grip. Kirishima does let go, though, as the thoughts around him get louder:
'Ground Zero, that must be Riot'
'— a couple?'
'I’d let Riot wreck me —'
The last one leaves a nasty taste in his mouth. He smiles at Bakugou — he doesn’t even have any luggage to grab beyond what’s on his back, and Kirishima is only too grateful to not have to deal with the baggage claim. “Flight go okay?”
Bakugou’s responds by craning his neck to one side, Kirishima wincing at the rapid series of cracks it gives. “Right,” he says. “Ready to go, then?”
“Fuck , yes,” Bakugou snorts, giving him a push towards the exit.
Kirishima had reclaimed his motorcycle to get to the airport, and as he slings a leg over the seat he hears, 'Oh fuck no.' Bakugou doesn’t falter in his step, through, just gets into place behind him.
“Everything okay?” Kirishima asks, craning his head back.
Bakugou raises an eyebrow. “Yeah?” His voice is terse. “The fuck are you waiting for?” His arms wrap around Kirishima’s middle, Bakugou pressed to his back — ‘Fuck me, I can smell his shampoo.’
His nerves are jumping — does Bakugou not like riding on back? Does he hate his shampoo? He’s never said anything about either of them before, and he’s still not. Hesitantly, Kirishima starts it up, pulling out of the parking lot at a steady pace, waiting for the traffic to clear, and then hitting the streets.
Bakugou’s arms tighten around him as they accelerate, the wind tugging at his clothing. ‘I can feel his abs,’ he thinks, and Kirishima doesn’t register that at first. Then he feels heat blooming underneath his helmet. Maybe it’s the closeness — yeah, Bakugou’s not a touchy guy? Is he? He’s always let Kirishima drape all over him — maybe that was a mistake, maybe he’s been making him uncomfortable the whole time — has he been coming onto Bakugou? Does he think Kirishima’s some kind of creep, living with him and getting all touchy-feely when he doesn’t want it?
It plagues him. Each thought that filters into his brain has him gripping the handles tight, until Bakugou — gets distracted? Gets used to it? At some point, the thoughts quiet down, and Kirishima can concentrate on getting them home.
He can’t get off his bike soon enough, feeling a pang of confusion as he jostles Bakugou in his haste. Kirishima only flashes a nervous smile as they head up to their office.
Both of their stomachs growl when they close the door. Even from the front room, he can smell the stew he’d left simmering, wafting all throughout the apartment by now.
‘He made dinner? Thank god I’m fucking starving — bet he used too much meat.’
Kirishima gives a small laugh at that. He can’t defend himself, both because those were Bakugou’s thoughts, and because he’s right. “It’s ready to eat,” he tells him, heading into the kitchen. He grabs two bowls and some bread, raising his voice to ask, “Can you get some —”
They blink at each other. Whatever Bakugou’s thinking, Kirishima can’t hear it, just his own pounding oh shit. “You — you said cups, right? Or was I hearing things?”
Bakugou only turns to grab them both glasses, Kirishima drawing in a deep breath as he ladles stew into each of their bowls. He can just make it through dinner and get to bed. The quirk has to fade soon. It’s been over a day, now, there’s no way it can last much longer.
Dinner is quiet, on the outside. Kirishima’s brain is cluttered with frantic thoughts from both of them, his own thoughts overridden by Bakugou’s voice: ‘Something happened — he wasn’t talking last night — or the call to the office? Fight went bad — his quirk — idiot —”
Kirishima barely keeps from flinching. The food he’d been proud to prepare is suddenly tasteless in his mouth. He has to fake his way through at least half of the bowl — maybe he can say he ate before he went to get Bakugou, wasn’t hungry now.
The quirk thing hadn’t been a problem for a little while. It’s inevitable, looking at what he could do and then at what Bakugou and Todoroki and Uraraka could do, and then looking at all the heroes around him, and feeling a little bit down on himself. It always goes away, though, usually when Bakugou smacks the sense into his head. That had been fake, apparently, and sometimes he suspected but god if it didn’t sting —
‘Doesn’t fucking know how strong he is.’
Kirishima’s eyes flicker to him. They’re wide, disbelief making his next breath pull in slow. He meets Bakugou’s glare, those burnt eyes blinking and then softening a little.
‘The hell —’
His eyebrows shoot up. ‘Using my name like that, god —’ “What?”
“I’m glad you’re home.” And Kirishima smiles. It’s broad, his eyes turning upward, warmth playing over his cheeks as his heart beats a little too quickly. Bakugou is… wonderful. And Kirishima needs to take this chance to figure out what he’s doing wrong, because he deserves the world.
Bakugou gawks at him, a silence that might be off putting if not for the hurried mutter of ‘Fuck me he’s got a cute face. Missed that dumbass smile, god, fuck.’
Heat rises to his cheeks. Kirishima goes quiet for the rest of the meal, still smiling, the rest of Bakugou’s thoughts a flutter of confusion and irritation. ‘What the actual fuck is with him,’ he’s thinking, as he snags both their empty plates to slam them into the sink.
Kirishima scoots up, saying, “I’ve got it! You’re probably tired.”
‘Yeah but like hell I’m leaving him alone.’ Bakugou snorts, elbowing Kirishima away to start scrubbing the dishes. “You dry,” he grunts.
Kirishima watches him. Then he sighs, shakes his head, and grabs a towel.
“... Dude don’t be so harsh, you’re gonna scrape off the nonstick again.”
“I know how to clean dishes, shitty hair!”
The kitchen is cleaned, together. They split at the top of the stairs, Bakugou disappearing into the bathroom, Kirishima into his own bedroom. He plans to get to sleep and pray his mind will be his by morning, the thought of having to fake illness to get out of work making his stomach twist with preemptive guilt. Which is better: to save himself, or to help Bakugou on patrol? When put like that, he feels disgustingly selfish.
The water turns off, the pipes quieting. Kirishima’s eyes remain fixed on the ceiling as he listens to the bathroom door open, Bakugou padding outside.
Then, clear as day, a voice in his head: ‘Is he already asleep? It’s too early for that.’
Irritation spikes inside of him. He’s never going to be able to rest like this.
‘—fuck is wrong with him today. Jumpy — always so touchy — saying weird shit.’
“Katsuki,” Kirishima calls, wanting to just cover his ears. “You need something?”
‘What the fuck.’
The door opens. Bakugou is silhouetted against the hall light, hair toweled off and a pair of boxers on his hips, and Kirishima pushes himself upright. He feigns a yawn, stretching his bare arms above his head, doesn’t miss the little pang of interest he feels from Bakugou. “You were hovering,” he says, finally fixing Bakugou under his gaze.
‘I’m fucking worried’
“—you’re acting weird.” Bakugou steps deeper into the room, pulling the door shut behind him. His weight makes the mattress bounce as he drops himself onto it. “What the hell is up with you?”
Kirishima stays quiet for a moment. “It’s nothing,” he starts.
“Bull shit,” Bakugou snaps. “Literally nothing you’ve done all day is normal, it’s not nothing.”
‘ Did I do something?’
Kirishima has to bite back a protest. He sighs, drags his fingers through his hair, raking a few strands out with them. “Do you…” Licks his lips. “You ever wonder what people think about you?”
‘This shit again.’
He can see Bakugou’s glower in the dark, wilts away from him. “For the last fucking time, there’s nothing wrong with you, or your quirk.”
“Not like that.”
Bakugou blinks. Thinks and says, “‘What?’”
Kirishima stares down at his knees, bunched beneath the sheets. “Just. You know, you as a person. How you act and… what you look like.”
‘Is he actually insecure about his looks? Has he looked in a fucking mirror?’
A blush fans out over Kirishima’s cheeks. It makes a smile tug at his lips, but it’s not a fix. “I heard some people, um, talking about me,” he says, not entirely a lie. “They were saying things about my body. And, like, what they’d like me to do to them. It’s… it’s just a gross feeling.”
Maybe he needs to talk to Yaoyorozu about this. She’s been dealing with it far longer, and while Kirishima’s been more than happy to shut that down, he’s never thought about what it felt like.
It’s humiliating, the burn in his eyes. And so focused on it, he doesn’t register the other heat: that of Bakugou’s silent, building rage.
“Who the fuck said that?” Bakugou was in his face, lips drawn back. “I’ll fucking kill them — you should’ve wrecked their sorry asses.”
It makes him wince. He can’t explain the truth — there’s no way to fault someone for what they think. Hell, he’s had those kind of thoughts before. It’s not like he hasn’t looked at his fellow heroes — not like he hasn’t looked at the man right next to him and had a few unspeakable thoughts. It’s harmless, up until the moment Kirishima became privy to them.
“It’s not just that,” he murmurs, eyes turned down towards the sheets. “I was helping some heroes the other day and they — they were saying things about stealing their credit, and being reckless, and I scared someone, Katsuki, I used my unbreakable form and they were terrified, they thought I was gonna hurt them and I’m — I’m not — I don’t want —”
His voice hitches.
For once, his thoughts are perfectly in sync with those projected into his brain. But Bakugou’s continue, desperate and thrumming with an undercurrent of anger. ‘Who said — fucking kill them — stop crying damn it, I don’t know — fucking useless’
Kirishima pushes a palm against his eye, a watery laugh hiccupping in his throat. “Hey Katsuki?” He rasps, lifting his gaze. It’s blurry.
‘How do I —’
“This is embarrassing as hell,” he sniffs. “But man, I could really use a hug.”
There’s a ping of confusion. Then, Bakugou shifts. An arm curls around Kirishima’s waist, giving a tug, and Kirishima carries himself the rest of the way, pushing his face down into Bakugou’s shoulder and seating himself in his lap. He’s a grown man, a pro hero, and he’s clutching at his partner like a lifeline.
There’s nothing wrong with crying. He knows that. It doesn’t stop the embarrassment.
‘Is this even helping?’ Bakugou’s voice is hushed, but frantic. ‘Can’t do anything — he needs you — he’s so warm — why can’t I —’
His arms tighten around Kirishima. Not a single thought of judgement, of irritation, just a cluster of worry.
Abruptly, he wants to kiss him.
Kirishima doesn’t. He just stays where he is, wound around Bakugou. And slowly, the two of them ease down into the bed, legs tangled together, Kirishima’s head tucked under his chin.
Bakugou’s thoughts don’t quiet until Kirishima does. They don’t stop until he falls asleep. And once Bakugou falls asleep, Kirishima follows, taking comfort in having both his warmth and his silence, and praying he’ll have both come morning.