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dirt and grime

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The first time Momo sees him after his fight with Midoriya, Bakugou reeks of gunpowder and sweat.


She’s not particularly fond of the smell, but it’s certainly not the first time she’s exposed to it, having sparred with him before on his grumpy days. But this is something else entirely.


It’s been at least a month and a half since the abduction, and All Might’s retirement has started to sink in, Endeavor taking his place as the symbol of peace and things are a mess. Momo has been training even more diligently ever since then, and although she’s getting stronger and she even got her provisional license today, she can’t help but feel weak.


So after having returned to the dorms, she quickly dashes into the elevator, feigning exhaustion and deciding to spend the rest of the evening in the comfort of her own room. She showers and cleans herself, getting rid of every fleck of dirt and soaking her tired bones in the hot steam the shower provides. It’s what she needs, so she gives it to herself.


Usually she would have gone to sleep after her shower, having nothing better to do at this hour except read a book, but the sky is this beautiful shade of dark blue, the kind that makes her feel small, with more brilliant specks of white lights than she can count, basking the whole city in darkness. Naturally, she can’t resist going out on the balcony.


She lets her mind wander to her two classmates, their expressions when they couldn’t find their names on the big screen earlier. Todoroki had been calm and understanding of his failure, while Bakugou had screamed, and it kind of hurt to see the sheer hurt in his eyes far behind all that anger and toughness, because she knows.


She knows because the first night after they moved into the dorms, Bakugou had stood in front of her door, telling Momo to get it through her head to not look down on him, that he could save himself because he was strong. And while he had looked at her with angry eyes, she could see the pain and guilt caused by All Might’s retirement hiding behind the intimidating crimson in his pupils.


She was speechless in that moment. So all she managed to do was nod reassuringly, and before she could even invite him in to cool off, he had already stormed off.


She had stared at his back until he disappeared into the elevator.


It felt awful to realize that Uraraka was right that day in the hospital. It’s generally known that Bakugou takes immense pride in being strong, and they had left a significant scratch on that pride by saving him.


But what else was she supposed to do back then? He's her classmate.


Momo shakes it off and reaches out her hand to the stars, as if attempting to touch them, all her weight shifting onto her toes as she tapped the stars, long black hair flaring in the wind like a black flame.


She hasn’t felt this relaxed in a long while, breathing languidly and closing her eyes, and the air is so warm to her touch and she relishes in the moment, a moment of tranquility. So, of course, the sound of a knock on her door scares her. She almost feels as if she got caught doing something naughty.


“It’s open!” She yells to the person behind it, not even bothering to turn around because standing there feels so good and she feels so free, she doesn't want it to stop.


The scent of gunpowder and nitroglycerin comes and Momo feels her heart shoot into her throat the second she registers it, turning to stare at her classmate who stares right back at her.


All she sees is red, and she immediately understands.


Without a word, Momo turns back to the stars, and Bakugou stands next to her. He doesn’t talk to her, doesn’t look at her, and Momo guesses he just needs a moment because she does look at him and she notices the bandages and plasters and ugly bruises all over his arms and face. He doesn’t even try to hide them from her worried, prying eyes.


She looks at his face, seeing watery eyes ringed in red. Her arms twitch with the effort it takes not to pull him into a hug, or to give him a comforting touch to the shoulder, but she firmly keeps her arms in place.


And so, on that particular evening on the balcony, accompanied by the stars, Momo finds herself latching onto the explosive smell of nitroglycerin.