Kirishima hadn't been presented with much of a choice. Bakugo didn't leave any room for argument, just shoved a plane ticket into his hands and told him “You're coming.” Luckily Kirishima didn't have anything planned for the summer, and while he had hoped to spend some of it with Bakugo, he hadn't expected Bakugo to come to him. The boy had taken Kirishima mountain climbing a few times before, and even camping once. Camping and hiking were the most peaceful times Kirishima ever spent with Bakugo. Something about the wide open spaces made even Lord Explosion Murder feel small and quiet, and Kirishima felt lucky Bakugo wanted to share that silence with him. But those were just weekend trips. Kirishima wasn't sure he could keep his mouth shut for a whole month in America. A whole month!
“Welcome to Honolulu International Airport,” a friendly-sounding female voice called over the PA system, swiftly repeating in Chinese, Japanese, and then Korean. Kirishima couldn't contain his sharky smile.
“First steps on foreign soil, bro!” he proclaimed proudly, nudging Bakugo with an elbow. The blonde shrugged off his headphones, letting them rest around his neck like a collar, and narrowed his eyes at his friend.
“You've never even been over to China?” Bakugo asked incredulously, hefting his backpack over one shoulder. He liked using just one strap; Bakugo was too cool for both straps. Undaunted, Kirishima shook his head. Bakugo smacked his forehead in exasperation. “Just don't be weird, alright?”
As they filed out of the jetway and into the terminal, Kirishima couldn't help but be a little surprised. Bakugo, worried about being embarrassed in front of foreigners? Well, technically they were the foreigners here, but the point remained. Kirishima wasn't sure if he'd ever seen Bakugo be openly concerned about what others thought of him, strangers, no less.
The thought was driven from his mind when the pair spilled out into the terminal from the boarding ramp. Kirishima didn't consider himself sheltered by any means, but he had never seen such a crowd. There were so many people! There were many familiar Asian complexions, given it was the terminal for incoming and outgoing east Asian flights, but in addition to their native Japanese, there were faces that were clearly recognizable as Chinese or Korean, and oh, the others! Europeans, Africans, new and interesting colors of tan, some people with physically-apparent quirks, and some who were simply oddly colored, like Ashido; it was so much to take in, and Kirishima looked around with wide-eyed enthusiasm. There was so much English all over the place, too! He was glad he was there with Bakugo, who always did far better in English than Kirishima did. His train of thought was interrupted slightly by a whack to the abs. Hard enough to get his attention, but not hard enough to hurt. The Bakugo Special.
“Stop looking around like a toddler, dude,” Bakugo mumbled chidingly, his face flushing. “We gotta check into our hotel, anyway.”
Since he was a less-experienced traveler, as well as someone who didn't mind going with the flow, Kirishima allowed himself to be led out of the terminal, and through the miniature subway the airport used to transfer people between terminals. When the doors to the monorail opened, he was hit with a blast of wet, sticky, warm air. Holy crap, Hawai'i was hot! Bakugo silently wove through the throngs of travellers with practiced ease, leaving poor Kirishima to dance around them in a clumsy pursuit, his bags haphazardly buffeting less cautious travellers.
When they finally reached the shuttle bus station, Bakugo sat down on one of the benches, cradling his duffle bag on his lap and making certain to check his backpack every minute or so. It was a nervous tic he had, that any bag, pocket, or even wallet had to be checked multiple times. Kirishima dropped his own bags and flopped down to sit next to his best friend, still barely containing his grin. The sky looked the same as it did over Japan, but the palm trees waving in the breeze and the faint smell of the sea made Kirishima's head fill with all sorts of ukelele jingles, the kind from commercials and cartoons. He wasn't just in America, he wasn't just in Hawai'i, he was here with his best friend. It made Kirishima's head swim like he was in a dream.
“Thanks, bro,” he said, glad he meant enough to Bakugo that he was invited--er, pressganged. Surprisingly, Bakugo didn't sound annoyed when he responded.
“Well, I mean, you proved yourself when we did Mt. Fuji,” Bakugo said matter-of-factly. “Diamondhead is a pretty tough climb, but I think you could keep up. If we were doing it the old-fashioned way.”
His tone was neutral, but Kirishima knew in Bakugo's book that was about as good as jumping for joy. Kirishima knew Bakugo didn't like showing it, but he was glad his friend was looking forward to a good time. He always got less talkative when he was hiking around, but when he did, he seemed less ready to bite people's heads off than usual. It was jarring, but Kirishima thought Bakugo was downright pleasant when in his element.
“Aww, man, that would have been such a cool hero name!” Kirishima pouted.
“What, Diamondhead?” Bakugo asked incredulously.
“Yeah, cuz, you know, I can make my head as hard as a diamond,” Kirishima supplied. Bakugo buried his face in his palm, but said nothing.
When their bus arrived, Bakugo and Kirishima were the only passengers. The driver asked them something in English that Kirishima didn't understand. What Kirishima did understand was that Bakugo stiffened and clammed up. He was too nervous to use his English, even though he was, by all accounts, not bad at the strange tongue. Not as good as Yaomomo or, weirdly, Kaminari, but still better than most in their class. It surprised Kirishima that the boy was nervous.
“Where you headed?” the driver asked again, this time in Japanese. Bakugo flushed and hid his face, but Kirishima proudly told the driver where they were staying, and then they were on their way. Kirishima's face was practically glued to the window. Passing through downtown Honolulu shattered the illusion of an island paradise a little bit, but all the sights and sounds were intoxicating. Still, though, he was a little concerned for his friend.
“Hey Bakugo?” Kirishima said, eyes still darting between pedestrians and street signs, doing his best to read all the Roman characters all over the place.
“What?” Bakugo asked flatly. No insults! His good mood must still be intact. Kirishima smiled.
“Hey, are you… nervous about speaking English?” Kirishima asked with concern. It wasn't like Bakugo to freeze up like that. Sure, sometimes he had the odd panic attack, but only over the big things in his life. Namely his future as a hero. But Kirishima had always admired Bakugo's decisiveness in most things he did. It was manly as heck!
Bakugo, to Kirishima's surprise, didn't curse him out or snap back with something witty. Instead, he slouched down in the bus seat a little bit and avoided eye contact by looking out the window.
“I'm not fluent, so I don't want to embarrass myself by trying,” he admitted, the faintest hint of red coloring his cheeks. He always had been a perfectionist.
“But dude, your English is like… really good, though,” Kirishima pointed out supportively. Bakugo groaned.
“Yeah, but like… it's their country, I don't wanna be the shitty foreigner who fucks up and says the wrong thing,” Bakugo croaked. It was surprisingly considerate, for him, if a little misguided.
“Dude, nahhhhh,” Kirishima chided good-naturedly. “You know how adorable it is when an Australian tries to speak Japanese at you back home?”
“It's not adorable. I mean, I’m not --” Bakugo sputtered, and Kirishima laughed.
"No worries, bruh,” Kirishima said in English, an absolute Present Mic-ism shamelessly stolen from their bombastic English teacher. Even Bakugo couldn't stifle a tiny smirk at Kirishima’s delivery.
What seediness in downtown Honolulu had caused Kirishima apprehension melted away as their bus drove into Waikiki. The stylized hotels, the gleaming glass boutiques and high rises, it was like a very nice neighborhood in Tokyo with a tropical white sand beach a hundred yards away. There were masses of tourists, some happily using their quirks to get around. One man flew by on large eagle’s wings, and a black woman stretched along on elastic legs, high above the crowd.
“Welcome to America,” Bakugo said, glee apparent in his voice. Noting Kirishima's confusion, Bakugo pointed vigorously at the crowd, random quirks going off everywhere, “Here there's only one law regarding using quirks,” Bakugo explained, grinning maniacally. “Use your quirk all you want, as long as you don't break anything or hurt anyone!”
Kirishima's confused frown widened into an enthusiastic sharktoothed grin. His skin hardened and he punched at Bakugo's arm excitedly. Bakugo expertly dodged, and took it for what it was.
“I'm gonna blast my way up Diamondhead,” he said with determination, his eyes wide and his grin manic.
America. Land of the free. Home of nearly half of the global top one hundred heroes. While All Might had been the global number one spot once, now it was a fierce battle for the spot between a few Chinese and American heroes, and one German, even. Why so many Americans? Because this place let you go wild training your quirk. As long as a kid didn't hurt anyone's stuff, or people themselves, they could gain massive amounts of experience just by going to a public park or schoolyard playground.
It was heaven to Bakugo. Once they checked into their hotel, dropped off their things, and lathered up in sunscreen, they raced like madmen to the water, where there was nobody around to be hurt by Bakugo's quirk when he fired it off far enough out from shore to get airborne. Bakugo was a newly minted eighteen year old, and thanks to where his birthday fell on the calendar, he was the oldest of their year. Over the summer before their third year, Bakugo had upgraded his provisional licence to a full-fledged Pro Hero license. That was recognized worldwide as a “I can fuck around with my quirk” pass, regardless of which country issued the license. Kirishima was still provisional, only seventeen himself, though he'd seen just as much action as Bakugo had.
Diving into the water, they swam out from shore, until they finally rested about two hundred meters out. Giggling like naughty children, they knew how it would go down. Bakugo would launch them airborne and they would fly to the mountain. It would be like riding a roller coaster for Kirishima. And it gave him some hug time with his best bro, since he had to hang on somehow.
“I wish I could use my quirk, dude,” Kirishima said, sound bummed out. He floated a little lower in the water dejectedly. He always felt his quirk had been kind of lame, even when everyone assured him it wasn't. Bakugo could fly. He could destroy buildings. Kirishima could use a rocklike body to… withstand stuff?
“You'll get to at some point,” Bakugo said, in such a good mood that he was finally free to do as he pleased, finally unrestricted, he sounded almost consoling. His life up until the pro hero exam had felt stifling, but now he felt like a terrible weight had been lifted.
“Aww, alright dude,” Kirishima said, his puppylike optimism returning his good spirits. A few nice words from Kacchan meant the world to him. He swam over to Bakugo with a grin and wrapped his arms around his best friend's neck. Just as they were ready to blast off, Bakugo recoiled.
"Dude. Did you touch my foot?” Bakugo asked, his voice tense.
“What? Nah, bro, I-” Kirishima said before being jerked to attention by a sandpapery feeling on his foot. Instinctively he hardened his leg, and his quick reaction saved the limb.
“THERE'S A FREAKIN’ SHARK, BRO!” Kirishima cried in panic, hardening his whole body as the bull shark bit down harder on his calf, trying to shake the boy loose, but nothing could hurt his toughened skin, tougher than steel. He couldn't help himself but scream at the feeling of being pulled down towards the depths by the shark.
“HOLY FUCK!” Bakugo shouted when he felt the thrashing fish against his leg as it tried to eat Kirishima. “Hold on!” he ordered and blasted all three of them out of the water.
Kirishima wailed in terror, his grip as strong as iron on Bakugo's neck, but he had left the skin on his inner arms soft, so as not to hurt Bakugo. He'd really improved his control over his quirk. Still, he was squealing like a baby as they flew through the air, and Bakugo couldn't stand it. He turned back and blasted at Kirishima's leg, blowing the creature clean off and into the ocean below. It collided with the water with a huge splash, and swam away grumpily.
Bakugo exploded them all the way up the mountain, Kirishima laughing like a little kid as he hung on for dear life. His laughter meant something to Bakugo. He wasn't sure what, exactly, but it didn't annoy him like most other people's laughter did. That was confusing. But then again, Kirishima was here because he annoyed Bakugo the least. When they finally landed on top of the mountain, they both threw out a massive high five and slammed each other's hands with a satisfying crack and some smoke pouring from between their palms, courtesy of Bakugo’s quirk. They cried out in elation, utterly pumped that they had done something so cool, just for fun.
The feeling didn't last long.
The police cars surrounded them as they broke off their bro-hug, both of them flustered at being observed. The police officer spoke to them in English.
“What the hell is going on here?” he called, stomping up to them. Bakugo froze and didn't meet the man's gaze. Kirishima's English was worse than Bakugo's, but he spoke up first.
“He a pro hero! We almost get eaten by… Anooo, oi, Bakugo, samei-ka?… a big fish!” he said, struggling to find words, nudging a mute Bakugo for help.
“Is that true?” the officer asked nodding to Bakugo. Bakugo pulled out his wallet and handed the man his pro hero license. The man whistled and laughed handing it back.
“And who's he?” the cop asked Bakugo, pointing to Kirishima.
“My intern,” he said suddenly. “I have my own agency.”
“No foolin’? Shit, son, my bad,” the cop responded, shrugging. After Kirishima recovered from the sudden shock of being called Bakugo's intern, which made him feel kind of weird, he picked some of the shark teeth out of his leg, which was still rock hard. He softened his skin, and the rest of the teeth fell out, and Kirishima stooped to collect them.
“What are these?” he politely asked the policeman, who had already dismissed the other cars.
“Shark teeth,” he responded evenly. “I see how you'd be useful as an intern now, not many people can go up against a quirk-positive shark and live.”
“Quirk positive?” Bakugo asked. The cop just pointed to the teeth kirishima was holding, and pointed to their serrated edges, which moved in a sawing motion back and forth. Kirishima dropped the teeth and shuddered.
“Bruh,” Kirishima said, emulating Present Mic. Bakugo laughed and shoved him. The police office shook his head and started back towards his car.
“Still think you got a lame quirk?” Bakugo asked, switching back to Japanese. Kirishima knew better than to argue, simply flushing with embarrassment and throwing a shark tooth at Bakugo.
"You know, I did think of something we can do," Kirishima said, a naughty grin adorning his face. "I can harden up and stuff… Why not use me as a surfboard? You can blast us along real fast and I'll skim across the water like a rock!"
Bakugo was quiet for a moment, before clapping Kirishima on the shoulder.
"I think that may have been the best idea you've ever had," he said, Sparta-kicking Kirishima onto his front and hopping on his back, using the caldera of Diamondhead as a ramp to launch into the sea with a consistent stream of thrust from his hands. Kirishima cackled like a hyena as Bakugo outstripped a group of speedboats on their way west. They figured out they could turn pretty easily just by Kirishima dipping a foot in the water like directional braking. They made great time around the island, seeing sea turtles on the north shore and ripping past Pearl Harbor.
They surfed around all afternoon before lunch. Bakugo looked so happy and so tired. He nonchalantly crackled small sparks in his hands in the middle of the sidewalk, and nobody batted an eye. It made Kirishima happy to see him so free and easy. Bakugo had once described not being able to use his quirk reflexively was as difficult as being told not to ever use one of his arms. He could do it, but it was annoying and sometimes he slipped up.
Bakugo led them to a restaurant. Some kind of chintzy Americana place. They were both too pleasantly exhausted to care where it was, they had all month to hit up somewhere nice. Bakugo had insisted on taking care of all the expenses for the trip, since the trip itself was a signing bonus from a support company for an advertising spot. Bakugo won the contract and in addition to royalties, he won a free vacation.
Pleasantly drowsy, they ordered ice coffee to wake back up, along with a platter of random fried things to get some calories. Quirk use burned calories like no other kind of exercise, and they were both happy to gorge on fried mozzarella and jalapeño peppers. Waking back up with the introduction of caffeine, they discussed plans for the night.
“Alright, Sharkbait, what are we doing tonight? We did my thing all day, now it's your turn,” Bakugo asked. He didn't look thrilled at the prospect, but he seemed to be amenable to being nice, even considerate for once. Kirishima was enjoying Bakugo's American spirit.
“Well, we pretty much did the manliest thing we could do all day, so… How about we do something lame instead… Want to hit a night market?” he asked hopefully. Bakugo didn't like the idea of running around shopping, but he figured there might be some cool souvenirs. They were only going to be in Hawaii for another two days, then it was off to Los Angeles. It was a pretty comprehensive trip for a signing bonus, but Yutani holdings Corp had really wanted his likeness.
“You know what? Sure, we can do that for a little while,” he said, popping a jalapeño in his mouth and chewing jauntily through a grin. He expression became serious as he swallowed, and pointed to Kirishima sternly. “Just a little while, okay?”
“You got it, bro,” Kirishima said with a smile. They finished up and wandered out into the fading light, walking around until they found a night market. It was huge. There were stalls, proper stores, kiosks, people hawking junk next to stores selling rare jewelry. It reminded Kirishima of drawings he'd seen of ancient China, but with electricity. And quirks. One vendor in particular caught his eye. He pulled Bakugo by the wrist away from a shady guy with giant parrots and toward a specific stall which was nothing more than a storage trailer. Inside were shelves upon shelves of old electronics, old hero memorabilia, and an odd assortment of exotic weapons.
“What, you planning on becoming a mall ninja or something?” Bakugo asked disparagingly, eyeing the highly impractical and cheap stamped designs with disdain. Stain probably got his kit from a place like this.
“Nah bro, check it out! Old video games, from back when they made physical copies,” Kirishima said enthusiastically. The shriveled old woman sitting in a lawn chair said something at them in Mandarin, but neither of them understood what she said. Kirishima smiled anyway. “See? Isn't this place cool?”
Bakugo didn't think it was cool at all. It was all worthless junk presided over by a hag, and the whole place reeked of cigarettes and rotten fruit. But Bakugo didn't say as much, simply shrugging. Let the puppy frolic, he figured.
“Holy crap, check it out, an original edition All Might lunchbox! Still wrapped!” Kirishima cried. That got Bakugo's attention. That must be worth a few hundred thousand yen. He watched Kirishima hand the woman a five dollar bill and was handed the lunchbox. Bakugo was surprised he had gotten such a bargain, but doubted Kirishima knew what it was actually worth. Following Kirishima into a nearby antique store, he watched the kid negotiate in shakey English for a nearly five thousand dollars. The store promptly bought the lunchbox and displayed it proudly in their window, complimenting its excellent condition.
Bakugo watched Kirishima walk away with a fat envelope of Benjamins, and felt his jaw hanging open in awe. He stumbled behind Kirishima, tripping over his words.
“Kirishima? How the fuck… How did you just… Make so much money…?” he asked, genuinely dumbfounded, considering telling kirishima to be an antiques guy instead of being a pro hero.
“Just lucky, all kinds of stuff comes off the boat here,” he said, handing Bakugo a hundred dollar bill and smiling wide. “Thanks for lunch, bro, but tonight, dinner's on me.”
Bakugo frowned. “Did you grow up hustling or some shit?” he asked.
Kirishima's smile faded. “I thought we agreed not to talk about how I grew up, Kacchan,” he said, sounding hurt and annoyed. Bakugo threw up his hands and rolled his eyes.
“Aight, fine, whatever Sharky-hair,” Bakugo spat. “I’ll drop it.”
Kirishima bought a few knick-knacks, and even a pair of Hawaiian pattern shirts for himself and Bakugo. Eventually he sat them down at a restaurant, a nice one, one where the tables had candles and the menus weren't even in English, instead printed in the fanciest of all languages, French. This was kind of place where people would have been smartly dressed, if most people there weren't on their vacations and as such wore casual clothing. It was jarring seeing hoity toity waitstaff in nice uniforms waiting on fat, middle aged peopld in Hawaiian shirts and sandals, but then again, their waiter had a squid for a head.
"Would monsieurs care for an aperitif?" he asked in a measured accent. Kirishima looked to Bakugo for translation, but he shook his head.
"Not twenty-one," he admitted.
"That isn't a problem for heroes, foreigners especially," the waiter replied dryly, his eyes fixed on the corner of Kirishima's provisional license peeking from his pocket.
"Still no," Bakugo insisted. Bakugo gave him their orders and leaned back in the booth's cushioned seat.
"No drinking, huh?" Kirishima asked, a hint of disappointment in his voice.
"Not here," Bakugo replied. "We spent all day in the sun wearing ourselves out. We'll hit up a club when we get to LA, hair-brain. Trust me, I wouldn't pass up an opportunity to see you more fucked up than Kaminari when he short-circuits."
Kirishima's sharky grin reappeared, relishing the prospect. He'd had a few small cups of hot sake on new year's eve, but never drank properly.
"D'you think we can do it out of red plastic cups, like on TV?" he asked hopefully. Bakugo barked a harsh chuckle.
"Come on, they don't actually do that."