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The golden hour spreads her hands all over the common room, throwing amber and rust on the couches. The light gently cups the profiles of tired students, embracing them with a sweet melancholy they don’t often take the time to revel in. The day is over and so is their work, so are their efforts; now comes rest until the sun rises again. For now and until the night comes, they have a few hours to themselves, to each other. What felt like a party before, like something to celebrate, has seeped into routine after a couple of months – these couches aren’t new, their habits aren’t fresh and exciting. It makes it all better, somehow, to know that once the sun turns golden they can find each other and bask in the comfort of the ground floor, warming a friend’s shoulder with their presence. The kitchen smells like twenty meals at once, the hall resonating with just as many voices – this is where home is, where senses melt and meld into one, where twenty breaths make for a single sigh of relief, where trust is so omnipresent there’s no need to even mention it.

Kirishima stretches his legs to put his feet against the edge of the coffee table. When he leans back against the couch, the muscles of his neck protest – he has bruises all over his shoulders and there are more to come on his arms. If he wasn’t a hero student, he could pass as an apprentice bull fighter; he has the stance, strong, and the hands, steady. But his body tires too fast still, even after all this training. His bones are too frail, his reflexes not sharp enough, his quirk too weak.

Now is not the moment to worry about any of this though.

After his shower, Kirishima’s hair has fallen back down. It’s all over the place, the dampness making it gently curl around itself at the ends.

Kaminari slouches by his side and closes his eyes. “I’m spent,” he mumbles with that voice he doesn’t have often, with that tone even the roughest mornings don’t manage to pull out of him. Kirishima tilts his head to look at him. Kaminari’s a special kind of pretty in this lighting, the gold in the air flattering his hair so well, making it blush from neon yellow to caramel. He’s not often this vulnerable, sitting there with his defenses this low, actively looking for Kirishima’s presence. That’s nice.

Kirishima might be a bit sappier than usual when he’s tired.

“Go to bed,” he says after a beat. “You deserve to sleep early.” His own voice is raspy, as though it had given up on sounding normal after such an intense afternoon of training. With great effort, he pulls his feet off the coffee table, presses his elbow into his thighs and copies Kaminari’s pose. His hair comes down to frame his face, some strands covering his eyes too; even though moving wakes up cramps he’d rather forget, Kirishima pushes some of his hair behind his ear, but it refuses to stay there and falls back down. Oh well..

Kaminari hasn’t moved.

“Go,” Kirishima repeats, his shoulder bumping into Kaminari’s. “Don’t fall asleep on the couch.”

Weakly, Kaminari opens his eyes and leans back, sinking into the pillows. He truly does look exhausted and it’s not a good look on him. He hums, undecided, probably too lazy to push himself off the couch. Kirishima gets it; it’s pretty comfortable here after all. The low chatter of their classmates behind them is a cocoon it’d be almost painful to tear. It’s a cozy place to be, away from the solitude that will make thoughts and doubts echo in the heads of those who can’t find sleep. It’s safe here, safer than it’d be in the lonely space between blanket and mattress, between four walls, away from human contact. The time they have after classes are for made for this, for couches to hold them back – it’s a breathing space for the weary, an anchor for the broken.

Jirou sits next to Kaminari, on the other side of the couch, and folds her legs against her chest. She’s gorgeous in the sunset, ochre complimenting the plum of her hair perfectly. Eyes half-lidded, she has a sensitivity to her, something that can’t be confused with indifference or aloofness – she’s there for them, for Kirishima and Kaminari, purposefully. Visibly exhausted, she leans against Kaminari – he doesn’t say a word and lets her. Kirishima knows Kaminari needs it; his quirk is not the only part of him that needs to be recharged. He’s so tactile, so physical. He doesn’t deserve touch-starvation. Gratefully, he noticeably relaxes into the touch. Kirishima feels himself smile at the sight.

“You should braid your hair,” Jirou says, voice airy. Kirishima lifts his eyes to meet hers. She’s gazing absentmindedly at him, lost in the colors the sunset paints on the crimson of his hair. It’s draped over his forehead like a torn curtain; he would bring it up into a ponytail but he doesn’t have an elastic with him right now.

“I don’t know how to,” he admits with a weak smile.

Jirou detaches herself from Kaminari, who grunts at the loss of contact. “You’ve never braided your hair?” she asks, seemingly more awake than mere seconds ago.

Kirishima takes a moment – no, even in the confines of his mind, he doesn’t remember a moment when he’s braided his own hair. He doesn’t know why. Using a hairband or a simple bun is so much simpler. At his silence, Jirou shifts around and grabs a handful of Kaminari’s hair.

“Hey,” he protests, albeit not strongly enough to sound like he actually minds.

Jirou ignores him. “It’s easy, look.” She pushes against Kaminari’s face so he turns towards Kirishima and lets him see her hands. Kaminari pouts and rests his head against the back of the couch in defeat.

Kirishima watches Jirou’s fingers intently as she parts a lock of hair in three sections and slowly pulls one over the other. “You start with the left,” she says gently, “and you bring it between the others.” Careful with her moves, she pulls on another section. “Now you take the right, and you bring it between the others.” Kaminari closes his eyes and Jirou repeats her moves a few times, left, right, left, right, making sure she’s going slowly enough for Kirishima to follow. It’s almost hypnotic to watch the mechanical waltz of her fingers in Kaminari’s hair – she tightens the braid a couple of times and Kaminari stays silent. Kirishima could swear he’s ready to fall asleep right there and then between them, warming up to the last sunrays of the day.

“Try it,” Jirou offers. “It’s easy.”

Kirishima tentatively grabs a lock of Kaminari’s hair; his friend opens his eyes only to stare at him as if to say really?.

“You’re going to look like a princess,” Kirishima smiles. Kaminari snickers at that.

“He already does,” Jirou whispers, working on another braid. Kaminari grins wide. “Hell yeah I do,” he says almost proudly, waggling his brows too much to look like he’s trying to be taken seriously.

As the sun dips under the horizon, Kirishima slowly braids the lock of Kaminari’s hair. Left, right, left, right; it’s really simple and somehow soothing. The hair has undertones Kirishima had never noticed before paying attention to it under this light, sometimes golden, sometimes electric. It’s a lot softer now, a lot less violent on the eyes – the hair itself it quite soft too.

Kaminari is dozing off against the back of the couch, sleepy. His shoulders rise and fall in rhythm with his deepening breathing – it’s such a sight to see him relax like this, after everything he goes through every day. Next to him, Jirou takes good care of his hair and weaves half a dozen small braids from it, making sure not to pull on his scalp in the process. She’s cautious, careful in a way none of them really are during the day, as if they reserved all the care they have for each other all day long only to truly make it shine when the night falls. On another couch, Uraraka, Asui and Tokoyami watch a video on someone’s phone; Iida’s over there too, talking with Yaoyorozu about something. The laughs they share are almost quiet yet they’re there despite their tiredness.

It’s an easy place to be. Feels like family.

By the time Kirishima is done with two short braids, Jirou has already taken four pictures of Kaminari’s hair. Kirishima will poke Kaminari’s cheek until he opens his eyes; scandalized, Kaminari will unravel the braids one by one and try to grab a lock of Kirishima’s hair to return the favor but Kirishima will laugh it off.

It’ll be hard to leave the couch. They will, eventually.

 


 

Bakugou can’t take his eyes off the mirror.

Leaning forward against the edge of the sink on his left, Kirishima stares at his own reflection. He ignores Bakugou’s eyes on him, if he sees them at all – the only thing he seems to be able to focus on is the deliberate dance of his fingers holding a lock of his hair. He’s fucking braiding it, at 9pm on a Thursday.

And he’s doing a terrible job at it.

It shouldn’t be possible to fuck up a braid but Kirishima doesn’t tighten it enough; it’s loose, it’s too short, he weaved the wrong strands together at times. It’s a mess.

“Dumbass,” Bakugou mutters around his toothbrush.

Kirishima tugs on a strand but it slips out of his fingers and loosens, ruining the braid even more. Stupid.

“I’m… learning,” he says slowly, too focused on his hands to speak normally. He pulls his tongue out between his teeth and leans closer to the mirror – as if it could help his hopeless case – to try and fix his mistake. Brows furrowed and cheeks flushed pink, he holds his breath every time he brings one strand of hair over the other only to release it with satisfaction when he makes progress. The edge of the sink pushes his shirt up, revealing a sliver of skin, and he’s almost on his toes, barefoot on the bathroom tiles, without a single fuck to give.

Bakugou resumes brushing his teeth furiously.

He saw them, the other day. Bunched up on the couch like a litter of puppies pressing against each other for warmth. He saw Kirishima’s fingers in Kaminari’s hair, staying there for a while, pulling back then coming for more, brushing the scalp, the ear, the temple. He saw the stress drip off Kaminari’s face as if it’d never belong there in the first place. He saw their knees touching, their legs they didn’t even seem to care about, tangled and wrapped over one another; he saw their skin brushing over and over, and over, silk against silk, naturally. He saw this map of contacts, all these places where emptiness had been replaced by touch, effortlessly so. The forearms, the fingertips, the pulp of the palms that could be oversensitive – he saw it all. They didn’t question it. They sat there; they didn’t try to hold it. Terrifyingly casual, they made it normal, accessible, possible of all things. He saw shoulder against shoulder, body against body, hands in his hair and he felt the heatwave he’d ride if it had been him. The sight alone was electrifying.

Kirishima’s hands were dry, because Kirishima doesn’t sweat when he’s close to people. Kirishima’s hands were dry, running through Kaminari’s hair; they were safe and had the right to be familiar. They were allowed to be there. Kirishima doesn’t have nitroglycerin oozing from the lines of his palm, between the heart and the head. Kirishima’s hands aren’t unwanted – how could they ever be? They always find their place on a shoulder, on an arm, on a back; they’re home wherever they land for they are friendly to all, trusted by all – wanted by some.

Bakugou spits. Not that any of that ever fucking mattered.

“I think I got it!” Kirishima is smiling wide at his mirror, holding the end of a sad-looking braid between two fingers. He straightens up and the edge of the sink lets go of his shirt; he turns his head with appreciation, looking at his tiny braid from different angles. It’s poking out from above his ear.

Bakugou bends over to rinse his mouth, tempted to dunk his entire face under the stream, before looking back into the mirror. “You look stupid,” he grunts, wiping water off his chin.

The harshness in his voice only makes Kirishima smile wider still. “I like it,” he says, tilting his head to the side to meet Bakugou’s glare in the mirror. A free strand of hair slides from his temple to sit between his eyes. It looks soft.

Bakugou’s bones are burning. Of course he likes it. Anyone would like it.

 


 

“Dude you’re red.”

Kirishima scoffs at Sero, cocking his head to the side. “Oh really?” he asks, sarcastic, “that’s news to me.”

Sero gives him that haha very funny look he had to perfect since the start of the year. “No man, your shoulders. You have marks.”

His gears and sleeves still in his hands, Kirishima looks down. The skin around his shoulders is chafed and irritated; it doesn’t burn if he doesn’t focus on it. He should bring his costume to the design department so they can do something about this. His gears are not tight enough and the material isn’t as comfortable as it should be. After a long training session, his skin has a hard time recovering; after several days in a row wearing his hero attire for a long time, it could almost be painful.

“Yeah I know,” he sighs, shoving his costume into his locker. “But it’s fine, I’ve got cream.”

Sero pauses for a second. “Like, moisturizing cream?” he asks as he puts his school uniform pants on.

Kirishima pulls a small tub out of his locker. It’s halfway empty and obviously well-loved. “Yup.”

“You need help with that?” Sero offers right away.

“Actually that’d be great, yeah,” Kirishima accepts with a smile. He usually does it on his own once he’s back in his room, with more or less success. There are these blind spots behind his shoulders he always has a hard time reaching. After opening the tub and dipping his fingers into it, he hands it to Sero and turns his back to him. “If you could do these spots right there,” he bends an arm over his head to try and point to the back of his shoulder, “and there, I’d owe you.”

He can feel Sero grin behind him. “I’m an expensive masseuse you know.”

“I bet you are,” Kirishima laughs. He starts to work the cream into the skin at his front, right where the shoulder meets the collarbone. The skin has flared up with a bright red in uneven lines. The friction was at its worst right over the bones, the chafing bringing up a pearl of blood where the skin is most sensitive. On his back, Sero’s fingers are cold but the cream is colder. He’s rougher than Kirishima thought he’d be, rubbing his skin in large, fast circles that could make things worse than they already are. Kirishima’s still grateful for the help though. It’s nice of Sero to worry about these kinds of things.

“You’re going to hurt him, Tape-Face.”

Bakugou appears on Kirishima’s right, frowning as he always does. He’s already fully dressed – if refusing to wear a tie can be considered fully dressed – and seems to be on his way out, his bag over his shoulder. An afternoon of intense physical training brought the best out of his hair; he probably doesn’t care about that, Kirishima knows it, but Bakugou looks fine when sweat makes his hair heavier, a bit flatter, his overall look a bit tamer. It’s not better but it’s… something else Kirishima took a while to admit he had a thing for.

“Gimme that,” Bakugou groans before stealing the tub of cream out of Sero’s hand.

“Hey!”

“And get dressed, you fucking exhibitionist,” he continues, shoving Sero out of the way.

Sero scoffs, buckling his belt. “I’m not the one who fights almost naked,” he says loud and clear. Kirishima turns around at that.

“Hey, I have pants!” he retorts, but Sero winks at him. “You sure do, Chest Day Boy.”

Kirishima opens his mouth to protest but Sero has already walked away to cackle with Kaminari. That’s when he meets Bakugou’s glare, drilling right into him. He’s standing half an arm’s length away, holding the tub of cream tightly with two fingers hovering over it.

“Turn around,” he says.

Kirishima’s mind stumbles over itself. Is Bakugou offering to do that himself? That’s not possible. He’d never. He’d never put his hands right there, under Kirishima’s neck, and rub cold cream into his skin, slowly, gently, lovingly

“It’s fine, don’t worry, I can do it myself” Kirishima stammers to pull himself out of it. He goes to take the tub but Bakugou pulls it closer to his chest. Oh dear.

“No you can’t,” he says flatly, dipping his fingers into the tub. “Turn around.”

He’s too close, way too close. It’s a bad thing, a bad, bad thing – Kirishima’s heart is about to burst out from between his ribs and fall on the tile, or maybe it’ll come out from between his lips since he can’t seem to be able to close his mouth.

Now that he thinks about it, this is definitely, 100% a bad idea. Lovingly? How did this even cross his mind? Bakugou is going to break him; if it’s not with his presence alone, it’ll be with his hands.

He turns around though.

“Alright alright,” he accepts with a bit too much enthusiasm.

Bakugou’s hand comes to touch the back of one of his shoulders without preamble; he rubs slow circles there. As though he’d found a button, hot shivers burst out under Kirishima’s skin and fizz out in his blood. Bakugou’s fingers aren’t light, his touch is not particularly gentle – there’s pressure to the contact as if he never even thought about being afraid of it. He’s not just fingertips, he’s palm and ball of the hand too, splaying all of himself over Kirishima’s back and massaging the cream into the chafed skin.

There’s a hamster spinning in a wheel in Kirishima’s skull; he can’t decide if Bakugou is too fast or too slow, if he’s too rough or too kind, if he even knows. Kirishima can’t read him with his back turned to him like that, he can’t see his face and through his frown – all he has are hands going round and round and round, pressing into him from the neck to the scapula and tracing a road there, pushing into the skin already too sensitive. The contact radiates up all the way to his jaw, warms his tongue and his lips too; it almost itches but promises to be gone soon. Ephemeral and rare, the time is now, if there is a moment to crystallize, this is it. This is the single minute that will run in circles between Kirishima’s ears when he can’t sleep; bare-chested in the locker room, Bakugou’s warm breath tickling the back of his neck, his calloused hands taking care of him. He has the feeling burning his insides and if he lets his mind run, his imagination can turn incendiary too.

It doesn’t last long enough for him to catch on fire.

“There,” Bakugou says, pulling his hand away. Kirishima wishes his fingers could linger – they don’t. When he turns around to thank him, Bakugou’s face is blank, closed off, and his eyes trail down Kirishima’s features for a second. “Your mask,” he grunts.

Kirishima blinks. “What about it?” His mask is off after all.

Lines settle between Bakugou’s brows. He would usually step back and put some distance between them, he would usually pull away and scoff, he wouldn’t stay there. “You have other marks. On your face. From your stupid mask.”

Ah.

Pictures of Bakugou’s fingers rubbing cream over the bridge of his nose flood Kirishima’s head instantly. He’s probably die. His heart would stop, he’d be so close, so close, Bakugou’s entire being so overpowering, his hands so kissable. Was that an offer? Kirishima can’t tell, he can’t think properly. He doesn’t want to gasp for air – he doesn’t, at all, and his lungs are still holding an old breath when Bakugou shoves the pot of cream against his chest.

“Do it on your own.”

Kirishima swallows. Of course.

“I will,” he grins, “thanks for my shoulders!”

Bakugou doesn’t look at him in the eyes; he’s still detailing the lines Kirishima’s masks has left on his face. Faint, subtle and light, but there.

Then he turns around, practically explodes the door of the locker room out of his way and disappears in a corridor.

Kirishima will stand there for a dozen seconds and watch him go. Every time he blinks, he’ll feel five fingers on his naked shoulder. It’ll be a terrible thing to wish for and an even worse thing to know; now that he can tell what it’s like, he has no way nor will to forget any of it.

 


 

Kirishima’s hair looks soft.

Though the red has varied in tone lately, it hasn’t lost its shine. The lamp in Kirishima’s room gives off a yellow light; reflects bounce on Kirishima’s hair like it would on a polished stone. He has no broken ends, no flyaways. When he looks down, a couple of strands caress his face before falling into place; it slides behind his ears in ruby rivers, flowing like threaded water would. It’s roses over the lengths and coals at the roots; he doesn’t often show it. Even with Bakugou, Kirishima usually wears a headband, keeping his hair back and his roots hidden.

Tonight, he doesn’t. And his hair looks soft.

Some people know how soft it is. Kaminari does. Sero does. Ashido does. Even Deku fucking does. Their eyes weren’t enough, they brought their fingers into it, they had to know. Bakugou sees them, sometimes; it’s a ruffle, a hug, a pat – it’s nothing. But Kirishima, the same Kirishima that’s pretending not to notice his stare, lets them do it.

Maybe it means something to them, maybe it’s affection or care, Bakugou doesn’t have a goddamn idea, and it doesn’t matter. Maybe it means something to Kirishima, maybe it’s trust or appreciation, Bakugou doesn’t have a goddamn idea either, but this time it kind of matters.

He wants to know. His eyes aren’t enough; he wants to know.

So he learns.

A strand is all he takes but it’s enough to make Kirishima turn his head and look at him with blown-up pupils. His cheeks are pink but Bakugou’s not looking at that; his lips are parted but Bakugou’s not looking at that, all of him is in the fingers, in that lock of hair Kirishima doesn’t take away from him. There’s no pulling back, no question even – there’s nothing but Kirishima sitting there. Yet there’s sweat all over Bakugou’s palms, so why is he not protesting? And there’s frost all over Bakugou’s attitude, and entitlement all over him, so why is he not protesting?

Bakugou fiddles with the hair between his thumb and index. Kirishima’s hair is soft.

That’s all he wanted to know.

He’ll cross Kirishima’s gaze after letting the hair go and won’t know what to read into it, so he’ll stop staring altogether and go back to his Japanese homework. Kirishima won’t say a word or answer any of these questions Bakugou never asked out loud, yet Bakugou will hear you can try again.

 


 

Kaminari’s eyes go wide. “Are those hickeys?”

A flurry of tiny explosions turns the surface of Bakugou’s desk in a bombed landscape. “If you keep talking shit I’ll kill you for real!” he barks, pushing himself into Kaminari’s space. Kaminari just smiles wider.

“Ooooh, Bakugou has hic–”

“They’re bruises you dumbass! Brui-ses!” Bakugou hammers, a vein popping out from his temple, but it’s too late. It’s too perfect of an opportunity. His habit of keeping his collar open stabbed him in the back and now the wolves are loose.

“So who’s the lucky one, uh?” Sero smirks, leaning against a beaming Kaminari. It’s too easy. Everyone in the class knows no one would, in their right mind, willingly bite and suck at Bakugou’s skin – better even, everyone knows Bakugou wouldn’t allow it, but the game is too tempting. Whether they’re hickeys or not isn’t even the question, because of course they’re not, but how far can Bakugou be pushed over some innocent bruises? Now that’s a question that deserves a proper response.

With his twitching hands and his bared teeth, Bakugou is as close to flipping a whole building as he’s ever been. How dare anyone accuse him of intimacy?

“Hey don’t blow the place up, I need it to study,” Kirishima interrupts, sliding his head between Kaminari’s and Sero’s. He’s ridiculous, squeezed between them like this, but he’s smiling so wide he almost hurts Bakugou’s eyes.

“Yeah man, chill out, there’s no shame to it,” Kaminari shrugs. Bakugou sees red - redder.

“Shut! Up!” he shouts, shoving Kaminari backwards, but Kaminari just laughs, finding his balance easily. On the side, Sero snickers with Kirishima – they so obviously don’t take him seriously, him and his fucking bruises.

Kaminari raises his hands in defense. “I will! Your secret is safe with us dude,” he continues, his shit-eating grin widening.

Oh this is it. Bakugou’s going to make him pay.

There’s a rush, a battle of reflexes; Kaminari squeals when Sero grabs him and pulls him to the side but it wasn’t even needed. Bakugou has smoke wrapping in spirals around his forearms; he’s fuming, crackling apart but he doesn’t move. He stopped, and it’s not because Sero’s dragging Kaminari out of the way, or because Aizawa could easily make him regret burning down a whole fucking classmate, no; it’s because there are fingers around his wrist holding him in place so strongly he knows he couldn’t shake them off if he tried.

“Hey, cool it,” Kirishima says gently, looking at him in the eyes. “He’s just joking.”

Somehow Bakugou feels himself breathe out.

Sero's pushes a cackling Kaminari away, leaving Kirishima to deal with him as if he were his goddamn babysitter, alone in his line of sight. Bakugou’s fuming, but not as much; he could punch a face but not this one.

Kirishima raises his other hand and comes to poke one bruise casually, easily, as if Bakugou had no way to rip his arm off. “How did you get that?” A ribbon of smoke curls around the hand still holding Bakugou’s wrist, hugs the knuckles and climbs up his arm – he doesn’t seem to notice. Bakugou’s very warm, very sweaty, very dangerous palm is right there next to Kirishima’s hand – he doesn’t care. All he does is trail this finger from a bruise to another, linking them like dots.

Bakugou’s entire body goes cold. Oh no.

He shouldn’t want that. He shouldn’t like that. There’s nothing that should cause him to react in any other way than in disgust and fury, there’s nothing that should keep him there, at the mercy of this solitary finger brushing the skin of his neck. Nothing should rob him of control and leave him there to gape at Kirishima, eyes fighting to focus, a hive buzzing under the skin Kirishima touches.

A light switches on behind Kirishima’s eyes. “Oh, is it from your collar piece?”

This is wrong. This is wrong. This is out of control and this is wrong, yet it’s here. Undeniable. The thirst, the starvation finally finding an object to target. The raging ocean he’d been holding in since the dawn of time, finally finding a well to pour into. The strongest of winds he learned to resist, finally blowing all in the same direction; North, where the compass needle points red, straight ahead. Straight between the arms and around the torso, straight where he knows he’ll be trusted, and it might very well be the most terrifying fucking place he’s ever seen.

Bakugou tears his wrist from Kirishima’s grip and pulls his head back in warning. Kirishima doesn’t look surprised; he simply takes his hand away, and Bakugou doesn’t know if he’s satisfied with that. Things are back to normal, to what they should be, but there’s only air around him now and it’s desolately empty.

“Yeah they should pad it, the fuckers,” he grunts under his breath.

“Go get a new one before tomorrow’s practical then.” Kirishima makes his way around him to aim for his desk. Their shoulders don’t touch, their arms don’t brush. They should. “Also I have cream for that if you want!” He smiles but Bakugou looks away.

By the time Aizawa enters, Bakugou will be sitting at his desk, leaning into the palm of his hand. Maybe, if he uses his quirk at full power, he’ll be able to fly away from what scares him most; maybe, even if he does, it won’t be enough to stop the red head of the compass needle from pointing to the one person who’s not afraid of explosions.

 


 

Kirishima doesn’t have a mirror but he’s still trying. Jirou told him after all, “if you can’t do braids blind, you can’t do braids at all”. It’s a lot harder but he won’t be stopped by his own hair, dammit.

Plus even bad braids will make him look cute. And this is crucial.

“You’re wasting my fucking time.”

Kirishima looks up at him. “It’s just a minute.”

Bakugou sighs on the other side of the table they share. “Just use a goddamn ponytail, come on,” he growls, a finger tapping the table. “We don’t have all day.”

Left, right, left. “Actually, we do,” Kirishima smiles. Left, right. “It's Sunday.”

Bakugou rolls his eyes dramatically and pushes a knee against the table, balancing his chair on the back legs. “You're insufferable.”

Kirishima stops his hands and makes a show out of looking admirative, brows thrown up and mouth curved into an “o”. “What a big word coming from you!” he chirps. “I would have expected ‘an idiot’ or ‘the worst’ or –”

He takes the edge of the table in the ribs; all it does is make him giggle. “Hurry the hell up!” Bakugou barks, ready to kick into the table again, but none of it sounds like a threat. The tips of his ears are red.

“Or ‘stupid’ maybe,” Kirishima continues, unable to stop himself from smiling wide. “But ‘insufferable’, now that was almost a compliment!”

The table hits his (literally rock hard) ribs again; he laughs and loses his grip on his braid, which unravels immediately.

Aw man.

“You ruined it,” Kirishima nags theatrically, running a hand through his hair. He tries his best to look betrayed and disappointed, curling his lips in a pout, but Bakugou’s face is blank and unresponsive. He’s a closed book, except, maybe, for that light in his eyes that just came on, that shade of analytic overthinking that flashes through him in silence. He glares at Kirishima for a couple of seconds – they're fateful, and Kirishima knows them well: 100% of the time, they’re followed by Bakugou being his usual harsh self until he’s done spewing venom, and then their routine resumes.

But this time Bakugou lets his chair fall back on its four legs, sighs heavily then stands up, so make it 99%.

He’s behind Kirishima in less time than it takes to say it.

“You’re such a pain in my ass,” Bakugou groans with a low voice. If anyone was around them, they wouldn’t have heard him – but there’s no one. It’s just them, Kirishima’s melting heart and Bakugou’s consuming presence behind him. If Kirishima didn’t know better, he’d think Bakugou’s getting ready to strangle him but no, there’s no mistake to be made here – it’s maddening but Kirishima’s sure Bakugou’s about to offer to braid his hair for him.

“You don’t have to – I can do it myself you know,” Kirishima stammers, squirming in his chair to turn and look at Bakugou. From this low angle, he looks almost intimidating, but Kirishima’s not affected by the murderous glare Bakugou gives him.

“No you can’t,” Bakugou insists, and Kirishima hears the same resolute tone he had in the locker room the other day. Did he have the same look on his face too? The quirked brow, the bitten lip, the wall all over him too high to be challenged? Kirishima’s trying to connect the dots and learn, after all these months, how his friend says “let me help”.

Bakugou might have his walls up but he’s still offering something Kirishima wouldn’t say no to in a million years.

“Alright but don’t mess it up then,” he gives in, turning back to face the table. Hopefully Bakugou can’t see how much he’s beaming.

“Can’t be worse than what you were doing.” Two hands dig in Kirishima’s hair and ants come running down his spine in a warm wave. Bakugou’s fingers do not hesitate and part his hair in three. “I know how to do dumb ass braids,” he mutters as if for himself.

He makes sure to catch all the hair, fingers trailing over and around Kirishima’s ears all the way to the nape of his neck, brushing his temples doing so. “Give me your elastic,” he says, an open hand coming over Kirishima’s shoulder. Kirishima puts the elastic in his palm and Bakugou immediately slides it around his wrist before going back to parting his hair properly. He smoothes the sides several times and moves his hands around, probably to check the sections are of equal size. Each caress going from Kirishima’s forehead to the back of his head is spellbinding, repeating over and over as naturally as breaths come to make sure something is right, but what? Kirishima can work with a messy braid. He doesn’t mind messy, and Bakugou knows it, so if this much care is poured into this braid, it mustn’t be for Kirishima.

It must be for Bakugou himself, the soft pressure of the fingertips against the temples, the fingers dragging slowly from one spot to another to check for knots, the perfectionist’s attention brought to the evenness of the sections. It crosses Kirishima’s mind that Bakugou might get something out of this, but he refuses to go down this rabbit hole.

It’s a balancing act he’s mastered long ago. The swaying, the precise attitude that keeps him from being seen. The taking without showing hands, the thanking without saying for what. It’s walking a rope above an abyss, one step at a time; on all sides and all around, Bakugou, entrancing, risky Bakugou. Yet Kirishima walks the rope, has been walking for months now, even though the voice down below calls his name. Jump, it says, let it go. The abyss wants him to overthink, to declare it out loud, to scare him so much it’ll squeeze these words out of him. When Bakugou stands behind him like that, gravity shifts and pulls him backwards, its strength cosmic, its existence undeniable. Yet Kirishima walks.

It’s thrilling, having Bakugou’s hands in his hair like this. He’d talk to smother the silence – his heart’s pounding so hard in his temples Bakugou probably hears it if he doesn’t feel it through his skin – but nothing that comes to his mind sounds like a good thing to say. It’d be a bad idea to describe how different it is to have Bakugou’s torso right behind him, his chest mere inches away. He can’t help but wonder how it’d feel if he pushed the back of his head into it. Probably like heaven for a second, then like death really fast. It’d also be a bad idea to ask for more – please keep doing that, he wishes he could ask the way he’d ask Kaminari, please don’t braid my hair just yet. But Bakugou wouldn’t laugh and generously offer a head massage, he wouldn’t take his time to rub slow circles behind Kirishima’s jaw, right where it radiates through the entire skull. He wouldn’t spread his fingers from the nape of his neck to the highest point and back, pushing shivers in the crooks of his lungs and butterflies in the core of his bones.

Kirishima would let him do anything though; of course he shouldn’t but he would, just to feel the weight of Bakugou’s hands on him, just for the warmth of his palms to reduce him to a quiet sigh.

Bakugou’s fingers are quick to leave his scalp. With expert hands, he starts braiding the hair in quick moves, pulling further away with every new flick of his wrist.

His warmth envelops Kirishima from behind, mercilessly taking him in. The intimacy of the moment is not lost on him, forcing him to control his breath consciously; it gets worse when Bakugou’s hands are low enough to brush against his nape in rhythm, left, right, left. Each touch is scorching, making Kirishima’s tongue swell and his throat tighten – but one more, he just wants one more. It might be too much to ask for but greediness gets the best of him; if he could get something to cling to, one more brush he could mull over while leaving the water running in the shower, one more insignificant detail that’ll make him run in circles in his head and curse his own brain, he’ll take it.

He tries not to count the seconds but it doesn’t take Bakugou long to finish the braid. His hand comes to rest against Kirishima’s neck while he fiddles with the elastic. Kirishima closes his eyes – he might be leaning into it. Just a bit.

“There,” Bakugou grumbles, roughly tying the braid, “now you can stop being a lil’ shit.”

He’s gone as fast as he came, a puff of cold air replacing him behind Kirishima’s back, and makes sure his irritation is visible, loudly pulling his chair back and falling down on it like someone who definitely hasn’t just done a favor to a friend who didn’t even need it that badly.

Gravity shifts again. Forward. Still, Kirishima walks the rope.

He watches Bakugou run a hand through his own hair and slump over the table. Bakugou watches him too, daring him to say something with flaming red eyes.

A last shiver bubbles up Kirishima’s neck, the intensity of Bakugou’s glare making something boil in his chest.

He wants to get used to it. To this feeling. To ten fingers in his hair, ten fingers on his back, ten fingers all over and two eyes deliberately aiming for his soul.

For lack of a better thing to do, he breaks eye contact, pulls his phone out to open his front camera and turns his head around to see himself from various angles. The braid is tight and clean, even though some rogue hair is still framing his face softly. It’s much better than a bad braid. He looks much cuter.

“It’s so good!” he gasps, turning excitedly to Bakugou. “I look awesome, you’re so good at this!”

Bakugou scoffs. “Get back to studying, slowpoke.”

Kirishima locks his phone and sets it down on the table. “You should do this more often,” he continues, knowing fully well he’s playing with boundaries but to hell with boundaries.

“If I do this again, I’ll have to kill you after,” Bakugou threatens him, his fingers wrapping around his pencil in a promise.

Kirishima snickers. “At least I’ll look good,” he admits before bringing his attention back down onto his textbook. Bakugou doesn’t answer that; when Kirishima looks up, he meets Bakugou watching him from the other side of the table, undecipherable.

Later that night, fingers unraveling the braid bit by bit before bed, tangling into the hair to way Bakugou’s had, he’ll think of that picture on Bakugou’s face. Unable to fall asleep fast enough, he’ll turn around too often and, wide awake at 1 am, he’ll swear to his pillow Bakugou was blushing.

 


 

Kirishima’s arm falls around his shoulders too easily.

It’s here after classes. It’s here on the way to the training grounds. It’s here when the living room is bathing in gold, when dinner is not quite ready yet. It’s here without asking, bringing Kirishima’s torso to press against Bakugou’s side, his mouth close to his ear, his soft, soft hair tickling the curve of Bakugou’s neck. It’s here and it belongs.

It makes the winds in Bakugou’s chest swirl with unfathomable energy, pulse and fight against his ribs in a hurricane of contradictions. Yet, day after day, Kirishima’s arm keeps finding its way around his neck and Bakugou never pushes him away – he could. He could, the way he does others. But Kirishima’s magnetic, slotting by his side naturally, and the red head of the compass needle points North, right there, through Bakugou’s heart all the way to Kirishima’s lips.

Bakugou resists. Still, when Kirishima’s hand pulls him closer as he laughs, he’s tempted to let the tornado he contains knock over his resolve.

 


 

The doors of the elevator slide closed. The only button surrounded with a ring of light bears the number 3.

“Oh yeah, and I forgot I had to do something this evening,” Kirishima starts, leaning against the wall of the elevator. “Could you still tutor me on Thursday?”

Bakugou looks at him. His hair is down, held back by a headband. He has dark circles under his eyes, he had a twitch in his lid earlier today – he can’t sleep properly, Bakugou knows it. The light of the elevator makes him look worse than he actually does; in reality, Bakugou knows Kirishima is softer on the eyes. He’s already a cloud of a boy in this narrow cabin, eyes glazed over fixated onto nothing, somewhere between him and the doors, but Bakugou knows him mellower still, his features rounder than the sharp lines drawn on him by the neon light.

The cabin dings past the first floor.

“What’s more important than studying?” Bakugou asks flatly. He’s not trying to sound too interested – not that he’s interested at all. Well, okay, he is, but Kirishima can’t know that.

Kirishima shifts his weight on his other foot. “Just… Something I need to do.”

A secret. Something shameful, maybe. Something Kirishima would rather keep to himself. Bakugou knows him, this stupid, omnipresent ray of sunshine; he wouldn’t desperately reach for help if he thought he’d be able to handle it on his own. He’d sit in his room alone and deal with his thoughts, with whatever isn’t letting him sleep.

Bakugou is suddenly hyperaware of the distance between them – of the lack of distance. It’d be easy to reach out and, for once, offer support (if it was something Bakugou would do naturally). There are many things he can’t stand and one is Kirishima not smiling as often as he should. Other kinds of friends – the kinds Kirishima seems to like more – would pull him into a hug and shower him with the attention he rightfully deserves. Bakugou’s not one of them.

The cabin dings past the second floor.

“I’m coming too then,” he announces. Kirishima shifts to look at him, brows up.

“Coming? Where?”

“To your room,” Bakugou grunts harshly, as if it was obvious. It sounds stupid said out loud, but he’s coming. They’re going to play video games or some other stupid shit and Kirishima’s going to get distracted like he’s never been distracted before.

Kirishima winces, mouth torn. “You’re not.”

Bakugou moves to the middle of the cabin and turns to face the doors. “Oh yeah I am. I had planned to spend my evening in your ugly ass room and I will.”

Something in that sentence must have struck some cord because Kirishima swallows air, blinking rapidly.

The cabin stops and the doors open. Bakugou’s out immediately and doesn’t hide he’s going for Kirishima’s door.

“Wait, I promise it’s fine!” Kirishima cries out behind him before he catches up. “I just need this evening!”

Bakugou glares at the closed door. Is it because of what happened months ago? Is it a family matter? He doesn’t know and barely cares. The cause is in the past now, but Kirishima? Kirishima’s made for the present, he’s made to shine and glow right now, by his side.

Always.

“Stop trying to find excuses, Kirishima,” he demands, knowing fully well Kirishima likes it when he uses his actual name. Maybe that’ll help him open up, on the long run. Or maybe it’s too late to try and make him trust Bakugou – maybe he should have been a better friend. Does he text Kaminari late at night to tell him of things he’d never tell Bakugou? He probably does. Oh, he surely does. An iron fist closes around Bakugou’s heart.

Kirishima looks at him, visibly nervous. His blush has reached his ears, he has hesitation written all over him. He doesn’t want to do this, but then Bakugou wants to hear him say it. If he’s such a bad friend, if he’s such an untrustworthy person to be around, then he wants Kirishima to find the words. It’ll hurt, it’ll hurt like hell but it’s now or never. Bakugou’s heart picks up when Kirishima opens his mouth.

“Are you sure?” he sighs. “You don’t have anything else to do?” There’s something in his voice that wasn’t there before, a compromise, a concession that’s not him.

“Open the damn door already,” Bakugou insists, so after a pause, Kirishima does.

Bakugou follows him into the room and makes himself at home on the bed, kicking his shoes off. He waits for Kirishima to join him so they can start doing whatever, but the boy in question closes the door and gets busy rummaging through a drawer.

“What are you doing?” Bakugou groans, hunching over to press his forearm against his thighs.

“Getting ready,” Kirishima answers. He takes a tube of something out of the mess he’s made and checks what the back says.

Bakugou doesn’t get it. “Ready to what?”

An arm holding a bunch of things Bakugou can’t see properly, Kirishima closes the drawer with his knee. “To dye my hair,” he smiles.

Wait.

 

 

Wait, what?

“And you’re going to help me,” Kirishima chirps before sitting cross-legged on the floor and putting down everything he gathered.

Bakugou’s entire thought process hiccups. This… isn’t why he’s here. He didn’t sign up for this. He was ready to be emotional for once, to show some goddamn support and appreciation and try to take good fucking care of Kirishima, albeit in his own way, but this? This is utter bullshit. Everything he had built up in his mind cascades and crashes down – this is not what he came here for. He can already see it play out in front of his eyes; Kirishima with pins and clips in his hair asking him for all kinds of favors Bakugou won’t be able to refuse without feeling like shit. It’s bad.

“What the fuck,” he mumbles.

“I thought you’d have figured red isn’t my natural color by now,” Kirishima says with a chuckle. “I need to take care of the roots from time to time.” He opens up some tubes and squeezes creams out into a plastic bowl. “It’s going to take a while though so it’s nice if I have helping hands.”

Bakugou’s jaw clenches. Of course he knew red wasn’t his natural color, his roots have been visible for over a week now, but this is the last one of his problems. Who cares if Kirishima is a natural redhead or not, what’s much more important is that Bakugou’s hands are sweating.

“Are you kidding me.”

Kirishima raises his head to look at him, and he smiles, the fucker. He still looks tired but he’s much more radiant than Bakugou thought he’d be tonight; he’s all teeth and dimples and the sight alone could clog Bakugou’s arteries.

They’d have cleared up really fast after that though, because after stirring up whatever mixture he decided on, Kirishima brings his hands behind his neck, grabs the collar of his shirt and takes it off.

He throws it to the side, probably to avoid getting any dye on it, and straightens back up – solid lines are flexing over his ribs and shivers blooming on his arms. He’s gorgeous (he always fucking is), but to see him half naked during training is different than to see him half naked in his own bedroom, where everything smells like him, where everything’s so typically his, where there’s not a place where a pair of eyes could fall that doesn’t hold something Kirishima.

“Make some room between your legs, I’m coming over,” he says, as though that was something you could casually ask someone sitting on your bed when you’re already not wearing a shirt. “The earlier we start, the earlier we’ll be done.”

Bakugou’s going to have a heart attack.

“I’m not your fucking hairdresser,” he manages to mutter at great cost – is he blushing? He can tell he’s blushing and he hates it.

Kirishima pulls hair ties and other small items out of a bag. Here come the motherfucking clips and shit. The end of him. “Today you are,” he says, sitting here with all his biceps and his abs and his narrow waist and his goddamn cute ass face. “Please,” he implores like the backstabbing little shit he is, tilting his head to the side and glowing from within as if he were a goddamn contestant for some sort of Attractiveness Olympics.

Bakugou sighs. If this is how he must die then so be it.

“Come here then,” he says, kicking the floor at his feet. Kirishima beams immediately and scurries over, carrying his bowl of dye and a bunch of hair ties and clips. Bakugou opens his knees to give him room. He sits down carefully between Bakugou’s feet and crosses his legs to help his good posture, pushing his back flush against the bed. His shoulders touch the insides of Bakugou’s thighs – Bakugou’s definitely not thinking about it. Nope.

Kirishima hands him a comb over his shoulder. “Could you part my hair, pretty please?” he chirps, visibly enjoying this. Well-trained muscle moves over his shoulders, his back, his chest; from up here, Bakugou sees the collarbones calling his hands, the soft fuzzy hair at the base of the neck, the tender skin in the hollow of the throat. A moving, breathing Bernini, all stone and cotton at once, he tilts his head back and waits for Bakugou to bring his hands all over him.

How could he be so trusting, Bakugou doesn’t know, but the sight alone makes wild waves rise and fight in the core of his throat.

He takes the comb and makes sure not to touch Kirishima’s fingers doing so. “Fine.”

“I can do the front while you do the back,” Kirishima says, swirling two brushes in the dye mixture. It looks like one of these fancy hyperpigmented dyes that don’t require bleaching – thank fuck, because Bakugou wasn’t about to spend two days in here either. He takes his time to trace a line from Kirishima’s hairline to the base of his skull and part the (soft, oh so soft) hair in two.

“I’m doing all of it.”

“What? No.” Kirishima tries to turn around but Bakugou immediately grabs the side of his head and holds him into place.

“Don’t move, you’re gonna ruin it!” he grunts. Kirishima relaxes with a sigh and looks forward again. Before he can insist, Bakugou speaks: “I’m doing all of it so stay down and let me work.”

He feels Kirishima smile from here. “You’re so good to me, Bakugou,” he teases. Bakugou bites the inside of his cheek and ignores how warm this just sounded.

“If you don’t shut up I’m giving you the worst roots you’ve ever seen.”

Kirishima hums at that, apparently pleased. He lets Bakugou’s hands work his hair and clip sections apart, progressively leaning back more and more between his legs. His shoulders can’t move because of the bed but his head tends to tilt backwards, as if craving Bakugou’s touch. Bakugou should push it away.

“Keep your head still, for fuck’s sake,” he mumbles, working on a last section of hair. “And give me the dye.”

Kirishima pulls the bowl of dye closer to Bakugou’s foot, as well as a towel. “I got some gloves too,” he says, handing them to Bakugou over his shoulder.

Bakugou mumbles some thanks and take them; he only puts one glove on, on the hand he’ll use to hold the brush. He tells himself it’s for convenience and refuses to admit why.

Taking the towel and the bowl of dye to put them on his lap is something so easy he shouldn’t even think about it but when he leans forward to reach down, his cheek brushes Kirishima’s own, his chin right over Kirishima’s shoulder – here is the need. Here is the pull, the magnetic call of the red head of the compass needle; he could turn and make everything stop, demand more than mere skin against skin, than shared breathing space, he could take the leap into the burning eye of the hurricane and kiss

Kirishima

on the mouth.

 

He doesn’t.

He pulls back and lets the air replace him, pretending it never crossed his mind in the first place. All he can be is what he knows best; explosive hands, dangerous enough to be feared but familiar enough to be trusted by this ridiculous mountain of a boy, unstoppable, unshakable, unparalleled in everything Bakugou’s bad at. Yet Kirishima asks for his hands in his hair, for danger all over his scalp, for Bakugou to listen when he says let me trust you.

The distance doesn’t help.

In silence, Bakugou parts a section in small locks and starts working the dye into the roots. His naked hand keeps the hair straight, easy to work with. His fingers get to tangle into it. He gets to feel it, the sensation not muffled by a glove, the softness pooling into his palm and tickling the pulp of his fingers. All of it is just for himself and Kirishima lets him have it all, sitting right there between his legs in the suffocating intimacy of a dorm room.

When their breathing synchronizes, when the rise and fall of Kirishima’s shoulder grows slower as the seconds tick past, when they relax into each other’s personal space, Bakugou starts looking for the slowest possible way to dye human hair. Working lock by lock does the job; he feigns paying special attention to some parts at the back of Kirishima’s head just so he can guide him down, hold the side of his face and keep him still while he figures out what the next step is. Kirishima’s cheek is warm under his naked palm and he doesn’t protest, he simply bends his neck forward to let Bakugou take a better look at his nape. His heartbeat pulses against Bakugou’s hand, calm, at peace.

Bakugou dips the brush in the dye then takes his hand away from Kirishima’s jaw; when he paints the roots again, it’s like signing an unwritten contract.

It’s okay if Kirishima pushes his half-naked body in the crook of his own. It’s okay if he has to spread his legs to accommodate him, it’s okay if he takes time running hands no one ever wanted through his hair, it’s okay if he touches his neck, his throat, his face; barriers fall one by one in Bakugou’s head. It’s okay if he doesn’t rush things for once, if he doesn’t push him away. It’s okay. He can take the time, it’s fine.

Then Kirishima makes a low humming noise that reverberates in his whole chest and “fine” turns to “intoxicating”.

He shifts between Bakugou’s legs, slow and careful, and makes that noise again – not a groan, not a moan, more of a purr - before wrapping one of his arms around Bakugou’s calf and leaning against his thigh.

Bakugou tugs on the hair he holds. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”

Kirishima doesn’t budge; from there, Bakugou can see him blink slowly like the big fucking cat he is. “I’m sleepy now,” he mumbles, his hand coming to rub Bakugou’s shin. “It’s so relaxing.”

Bakugou will explode.

“You’re gonna put dye all over my pants you dumbass!” he cries. “Don’t fall asleep on me now!” He shakes his leg until Kirishima reluctantly pulls his head away with a chuckle. After an annoyed huff, he resumes painting the hair, making his way to the halfway point.

“Mmmh, right, right,” Kirishima almost whispers, voice airy, but he keeps his arm around Bakugou’s leg. His hand just rests there over the ankle. “After I wash it off, can you dry it too?”

Bakugou takes his time to take off a hairclip and coat his brush in dye before answering. “You’re old enough to know how to use a hairdryer,” he says flatly, carefully choosing where to apply the dye next.

“Yeah but you’re good at this,” Kirishima says and Bakugou internally curses him for thinking praise could get him anywhere, because it obviously won’t.

The black of Kirishima’s roots progressively gets swallowed by the red of the dye as the color develops. “I’m not your mother,” Bakugou says with a sigh, parting a lock into two. Kirishima laughs clear and bright, rubs Bakugou’s leg and it shouldn’t warm Bakugou up all over but it does.

“Thank god you’re not,” he smiles, his shoulders moving against Bakugou. Even under the bleeding of the dye, Bakugou can tell the back of his neck has flushed red and warm.

He finds reasons to put a thumb there, on the hollow at the base of the skull; it’s easy to do when he dips his brush in the bowl of dye. Most often, his hand rests close to Kirishima’s temple, right over his ear. Fine.

Sometimes, Kirishima leans into it. Intoxicating.

At some fated point, Bakugou runs out of hair to dye.

“There,” he says. “All dolled up.” The brush goes in the bowl, the bowl gets wrapped in the towel and the towel is put on the floor. Kirishima shifts and detaches himself from Bakugou’s leg. “Thanks dude,” he chimes, tilting his head around to make his neck crack.

Bakugou watches him from behind, taking his glove off. He doesn’t wrap his legs around Kirishima’s waist to keep him close. He doesn’t reach out to massage his shoulders while the dye works its magic. Kirishima, the rock, the wall, stops him from doing what he usually does best: whatever he wants.

Kirishima gets on all four, moves an arm’s length away then sits back down facing Bakugou this time, legs crossed. He looks like a mess with his hair like this, all over the place, wet at the roots and dry everywhere else. By some sort of sorcery, it still fits Kirishima; he’s still solar, gorgeous.

The sight of his naked chest isn’t helping.

“Gotta wait for 30 minutes now,” Kirishima says, holding his ankles for balance and leaning back a little.

Bakugou climbs down and sits on the floor, against the bed, his feet coming to nudge Kirishima’s legs. “Wanna watch Breaking Bad?” he asks. Kirishima nods enthusiastically.

They would have done as usual and sat on the bed, their backs against the wall, but Kirishima would have stained it so they settle side by side on the ground. The first 30 minutes of the episode they’ve chosen pass in relative silence – Kirishima gasps, chuckles and moves around, as expressive as ever, but it doesn’t really bother Bakugou. Their legs touch; it doesn’t really bother him either.

Eventually the timer on Kirishima’s phone beeps and Kirishima stands up. He grabs the dirty towel and goes for the door. “Don’t spoil me when I come back,” he says, pointing a finger at Bakugou before disappearing in the corridor.

Admittedly more focused on Kirishima’s flexing abs than on the Breaking Bad episode they didn’t pause, Bakugou doesn’t answer before the door closes.

He could go back to his room. He could just bolt out of here; he’s not his mother after all, he said it. He warned him. He gave him the right excuse. Kirishima wouldn’t even be surprised – or would he?

If Bakugou left the bedroom, would he let Kirishima down?

The winds rise in his gut. None of that is fair. He never, ever signed up for this. Maybe if he rubs his closed eyes for long enough, he’ll stop blushing like a school girl left alone in her crush’s bedroom.

The episode is still running when Kirishima comes back but Bakugou’s on his phone.

“He died,” Bakugou declares without looking up when he hears the door open. Kirishima gasps loudly.

“Bakugou! Wh – I told you! Who?!” he stammers before closing the door and hurrying inside, his towel sitting uselessly on his head and a hairdryer in hand. Bakugou meets his scandalized glare first, fine, his dripping wet face second. He barely dried himself after stepping out of the shower; there are droplets running between his pecs, pooling in the crooks of his collarbones, rippling down his shoulders and glistening in the dim light of his bedroom.

Intoxicating.

“Shut up and come here,” Bakugou grunts, pulling himself up to sit on the bed again. He hates how easy it is to spread his knees open to make room for Kirishima but he does it anyway. Kirishima’s still looking at him suspiciously when he plugs the hairdryer in and scoots over. His ridiculously tiny brows are scrunched together and he looks down at Bakugou in a you betrayed me and my entire family kind of way.

“Stop making that face,” Bakugou sighs, “sit down already.”

“I hope you’re joking, Bakugou,” Kirishima mutters comically before handing him the hairdryer. Bakugou scoffs but doesn’t try to keep face. Satisfied, Kirishima pauses the episode and sits between Bakugou’s legs, making himself comfortable, and gives a last try at drying his hair with the towel. Bakugou lets him do it, watching his shoulders flex and relax in rhythm. If he bent over, he could kiss the back of Kirishima neck, lick this soft spot in the curve of the shoulder, mouth at the shell of the ear, nibble at the angle of his jaw. He could do anything. He would do anything. The red head of the compass needle insists; North, this way, straight against him, over his skin and under your own. The pull is old, strong as a mythological calling, but sitting here in a domain that’s not his, against a boy that’s not his, Bakugou can only resist.

The towel falls to the floor. Kirishima’s arm comes to wrap around Bakugou’s leg again. They both exhale at the same time.

Bakugou turns the hairdryer on and the noise is enough to drown out his thoughts.

There is something intensely satisfying in running his hand through Kirishima’s cold hair, ruffling it and untangling it progressively. Kirishima seems to appreciate the hot air coming for the hairdryer, tilting his head around as Bakugou moves it – or maybe he’s just following Bakugou’s hand. Bakugou doesn’t want to think about that.

“Your roots are good,” Bakugou says after a bit, grabbing a handful of hair over the temple to dry it properly. “Next time take care of them earlier instead of looking like a scarecrow for a week.”

Kirishima chortles. “That’d make a cool hero name though, the Scarecrow.”

Bakugou shrugs, pushing his fingers into Kirishima’s hair to rub his scalp gently. Yeah, he guesses it does.

Kirishima’s hair dries easily, flowing in a crimson wave Bakugou can’t stop touching. It shouldn’t be this easy but Kirishima makes it so casual, so inconsequential. He could almost forget he shouldn’t show any of this, any of the time he’s willing to spend like this, any of his angles as seen from down below, from this close against his stomach. Kirishima has his back turned to him and he shouldn’t, he shouldn’t trust him like that, he shouldn’t be so easy to be around because Bakugou doesn’t know how to stop any of this.

Kirishima shimmies between his thighs, fine, then warmly rubs his leg from ankle to knee and leans against him for the second time, intoxicating.

It’s time to go.

His hair’s dry enough. It’s still a bit damp, and still a bit cold in places, but Bakugou’s had enough. He’s been tried too hard, he’s being pushed too far. He turns the hairdryer off and puts it aside. It’s time to go.

“Is it done?” Kirishima asks warmly. Bakugou grunts as his only answer, desperate, it’s time to –

Kirishima tilts his head backwards and rests against the edge of the bed, opening up his throat and chest completely. A few droplets of water still shine against his skin, over the curves of his torso but Bakugou only catches a glance of that; all he can focus on is Kirishima’s face turned to the ceiling, to him. The lamp throws odd shadows on his features, catching his cheekbones in asymmetry. The red of his pupils is as warm as the blood pumping furiously in Bakugou’s temples and Bakugou can’t look away except for the lips he could catch in a stutter, that he caught once in a dream. Glossy, parted, Bakugou reads North all over them, North and all the calls he ever wanted to answer. Movie scenes flash behind his eyes for a second, Peter Parker’s voice resonates in the empty cave between his ears; it’d be so easy. It’d be over so fast.

“Thanks!” Kirishima smiles wide, his eyes almost closing. His thumb runs tiny circles against Bakugou’s calf; he’s grateful and he shows it, him, a ray of sunshine made flesh.

The hurricane in Bakugou’s heart fights against the inside of his chest as furiously as ever.

His hand slides under Kirishima’s head and he pushes him away. “Yeah yeah,” he groans before standing up. He can’t do this. “I won’t clean the mess for you.”

Kirishima watches him put some distance between them; he can’t seem to knock this soft fucking look off his soft fucking face and Bakugou can’t look at him any longer.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” he says before turning around and going for the door.

“Can I come over on Thursday?” he hears Kirishima ask from over there, on the floor. All alone. Half-naked.

Bakugou opens the door. “If you don’t I’m replacing your shampoo with charcoal paste.”

He’ll hear Kirishima laugh at that before the door clicks shut. It’ll be surprisingly easy to wash away the pink off one of his hands but no amount of soap will erase tactile memory. Sitting on the edge of his bed, he’ll stare at the empty space between his legs for a while; earphones wisely plugged in, he’ll watch Spiderman before going to bed.

 


 

Thursday comes too fast and goes by even faster. Nothing Kirishima does makes the winds stop howling his Bakugou’s head – North, North is on the other side of the table, humming a tune, chewing on the end of his pen, chattering when Bakugou pretends he wants silence. Go, orders the red head of the compass needle, just aim for the Pole.

Bakugou disobeys.

 


 

On a Monday, Ashido hands Kirishima a Kohl pencil. “I promise you, you have the perfect eye shape for it.”

Kirishima takes it timidly. “I don’t know about that.”

Uraraka pauses the makeup tutorial still playing on her phone and beams. “Just do as we showed you! It’ll make a world of a difference,” she assures with a wink.

“It’d be a shame not to make the best out of these doe eyes of yours, Kirishima,” Ashido adds, wriggling her eyebrows. “Just keep it close to the lash line to avoid the raccoon look and you’re good.”

Kirishima looks at the pencil, not quite convinced. He’s never used makeup and never even considered it until today. Apparently, his hesitation is visible because Uraraka steps closer.

“Do you want us to do your eyeliner?” she nudges him. Kirishima cracks a nervous smile.

“I’m good, really,” he says. “I’ll give it back to you tomorrow, Ashido!” he adds, moving the pencil in her direction.

“You can keep it if you want, you know,” she graciously offers. “I have others.”

That’s how Kirishima lands in the bathroom after dinner, hunched over a sink with the pencil in his hand, trying to get as close to the mirror as possible. He figured that if he plays around with liner before taking a shower, it should just wash off under the running water, right?

Getting the pencil close to his eye is already a challenge in itself. He keeps blinking and pulling away without trying; how do people do this on a regular basis? His reflexes on high alert as if he was going to stab himself in the eyeball, Kirishima works in slow steps: first, touching the lid then trying to touch the lashes and – ow, that was his actual eye, okay, okay. Maybe it’ll help if he pulls on the corner of his eye to keep it closed and ah yes it does help! Still, every time he tries to push the tip of the pencil against the delicate skin of his lid, he can’t help but cringe at the feeling.

So he does what he saw girls do before: he opens his mouth, breathes slowly and tries again.

And this time’s the charm. The black line is not as close to the lash line as it should be, it’s a bit wonky and rough but Kirishima manages to trace it from one corner of his eye to the other – he does his best to ignore the weird feeling of having something press against his eyeball. After going over it a couple of times, he pulls his hands back and slowly opens his eye.

Well that’s a look.

It’s like he has brand new lashes; now he gets it, he understands why Ashido was raving about it. There’s a new depth to his look, a new weight to his gaze in the mirror that wasn’t there before. If he ignores the other side of his face and pretends he did a better job than this sloppy first try, Kirishima could see himself growing to like it. Tilting his head at different angles shows more. If he lets his lids become heavier, if he opens his mouth a bit and works the angle correctly, he could even make it sultry like these women in magazines know how to.

He blinks out of it quickly.

Maybe if he does the other eye, it’ll look better?

His tongue is out of his mouth when Bakugou enters the bathroom as casually as he possibly can: pushing the door open with his foot and making it bang against the wall. Kirishima’s not startled – it’s been months since he last jumped at Bakugou theatrically making his presence known – and he finishes drawing a line over his other eye. Happy with himself, he pulls away from the mirror while Bakugou puts his things down around another sink. He doesn’t look too bad.

“What the fuck are you doing,” Bakugou asks next to him, apparently too mystified by the view to remember to be angry or disgusted.

Kirishima turns. “Eyeliner! Ashido showed me.” Bakugou’s staring at him with blown pupils but squinting eyes, his mouth torn in a smirk that doesn’t quite look voluntary. There’s a pause that holds them both silent – Kirishima breaks it eventually.

“Wanna try?” he chimes, reaching out with his pencil towards Bakugou’s face. When Bakugou steps backwards, revolted, Kirishima cackles. “Come on, don’t be shy,” he sings, following Bakugou, “I can give you pretty cat eyes.”

“Don’t even try,” Bakugou protests and here it is, his usual loaded voice. It doesn’t deter Kirishima from trying though; he steps even closer, enters Bakugou’s personal space and aims for his face so he can hold him still. Yeah, he fully knows this is never going to work but seeing Bakugou’s expression oscillate between mad and confused is good enough to justify trying.

Bakugou grabs his wrists and keeps him from coming any closer. His hands are clammy and warm but it’s truly his face that makes Kirishima want to push something out of him – for the first time in a while, he looks at loss for where to look and what to say. He should have exploded in insults and punches by now but no, he’s incredibly silent this time. His eyes run all over Kirishima’s face as if trying to find something to cling to but every time he meets Kirishima’s amused gaze, all there is to read in his own eyes is thinly veiled disbelief. Weirdly still, he stays there holding Kirishima away from him but not pushing him, not trying to scare him, and for once Kirishima can tell Bakugou looks.

Kirishima can’t help it. “Do you think I’m pretty?” he grins.

That’s what does it; Bakugou shoves him away with a scoff and turns back to his mirror to grab his toothbrush. “Take it off,” he grunts. Kirishima can’t stop smiling – Bakugou didn’t say no.

But yeah, he should take it off, and now he hopes this pencil isn’t waterproof because he is not walking through the dorms to ask girls about makeup remover. He turns the faucet on, bends over, prays for the best and splashes water on his face a couple of times before straightening up again.

And it’s a disaster. Of course.

The eyeliner immediately bleeds into dark grey tears under his eyes; it’s all patchy and he kind of looks like a bad post-modern rendition of a panda as drawn by someone who never saw an actual panda. In a hurry, Kirishima rubs one of his eyes with his wet hand but it only makes things worse and smears liner everywhere. He could almost fit in a grunge band, as long as the other members are just as bad at makeup as him.

Well, crap.

So he tries again, with more water, and more rubbing, but all it does is dilute the color over the top if his cheeks – it even stains one of his temples and makes his lashes feel all weird.

“Seriously Kirishima, what the fuck are you doing.”

A clean blob of toothpaste sitting on the toothbrush he’s been holding for a minute, Bakugou gapes at him. His hip leans against the sink he chose and his lips curl in a snarl, half mocking, half amazed.

Kirishima avoids looking at him. “I’m trying to take it off,” he grunts between his teeth before leaning closer to the mirror again.

Bakugou sighs and leaves his toothbrush on the side of his sink. “You fucking idiot,” he groans, rummaging through his toiletries. “Come here.”

Reluctantly, Kirishima does. It’s not like he can use soap directly over his eyes to clean this mess but still, he doubts Bakugou could help. Help. It’s not even in his vocabulary yet he’s been helping him out a lot lately. On his own, too; he’s been finding his way to wrap around Kirishima, displaying a generosity Kirishima didn’t think him capable of. He’s been helping and Kirishima doesn’t know what to make of that.

More, that’s all he wants. More of it.

As if some karmic angel had heard his silent prayer, Kirishima watches Bakugou pull cotton pads out of his bag. With one hand he turns the faucet on, with the other he reaches for Kirishima’s forearm and pulls him even closer.

“Why do I always have to do these things for you,” Bakugou mutters while wetting one cotton pad under the stream of water. That’s when Kirishima understands he’s been listened to; his heart jumps in anticipation. Because he has a facade to keep, especially when Bakugou has a hand on him, he shrugs nonchalantly, eyes fixated somewhere on Bakugou’s temple.

“It’s not like I’m asking, I can do this myself you know,” he defends himself.

Bakugou takes the cotton pad away from the water and turns to him, an eyebrow raised in that “don’t give me that bullshit”-look. He visibly thinks before speaking. “You say that to my face when you look like a frog that fell in tar? You really are fucking hopeless.”

Kirishima can feel Bakugou’s breath on his collarbones, almost a slap on his skin in the cold of the bathroom. Organic, pulsing with warmth, Bakugou holds him close and away from the tiled walls, and for once he’s not glaring and he’s not scowling; he just says things without venom, sentences littered with insults and heaviness because that’s how he communicates, that’s how he tells when he doesn’t show.

“You’re too kind,” Kirishima smiles honestly.

And this time, once again, he can swear Bakugou blushes.

“Shut up,” Bakugou almost whispers, then he lets go of Kirishima’s forearm and brings his hand to cup his jaw, holding his face still, and in a second Kirishima’s too far gone.

He barely registers Bakugou bringing the cotton pad to his face and over his right eye; there’s only enough room in his bluescreening brain for a single information at a time and he’s drowning, sinking into the feeling of Bakugou’s hand against his jaw. If he thought having his fingers in his hair was the best thing that could have happened to him, Bakugou proves him wrong with a single touch. Tingles radiate in his tongue, in his gums, in his Adam’s apple – Kirishima swallows, feeling his open eye glaze over. He wants

to kiss.

He wants to kiss him.

He wants to kiss him so badly.

It’d be the simplest thing; Bakugou’s right here, right here against him, and the door’s closed, and there’s no one but them, and the day was long but the night will be even longer if Kirishima spends it staring at his ceiling in agony and Bakugou’s right. Here. At perfect kissing distance. If Kirishima tilted his head to the side a tiny bit, he could brush his mouth against Bakugou’s thumb, he could tease the wrist and feel the pulse under his lips – still, none of it would compare to the real thing, to Bakugou gasping in his mouth, to the surprise Kirishima knows it’d be.

The cotton pad is cold over his skin. Bakugou goes slow and gentle, over the lid and all the way to the temple then back on the brow bone again; he doesn’t look at Kirishima in the eye, he’s not really there either. His lips are parted, shiny, his brows up, his face open. The light hits him from the side and carves his face in the best way, in the prettiest way Kirishima always tries to capture and remember – right when it shines over his eyes and makes his irises look like the sun filtering through poppies, right when it catches his cheekbones, his mouth in the view of an artist above. He’s gorgeous. He’s gorgeous in this bathroom just like he’s gorgeous everywhere else and Kirishima cannot, will not breathe.

Bakugou cares for the cheek too, cleaning off the liner and refreshing Kirishima’s face but Kirishima’s burning from marrow to skin, fire on fire on lava – he wants. He wants like he never wanted before and he knows he could do it. He could do it, it’d be so easy, it would only take pulling his battered mind of out the loop it’s stuck in and leaning forward, and stepping forward, and grasping and gripping and falling all at once, right into him, right into his face, his mouth, his skin, his everything.

The rope he walks flails and wavers; staying’s not worth it. Walking is not worth it; it’s the fall that calls him, it’s the precipice that makes his heart gallop, it’s where the thrill is. Down, all the way below. Gravity is what he’s here for, the abyss is what he answers to. The balancing act may be fun in the classroom, during training, around dinner but when they’re alone, when Bakugou’s presence pierces through him like a nail through wood, Kirishima likes the swaying.

Bakugou swipes the cotton pad under Kirishima’s eye then flips it over and starts taking care of the other side of his face. He sighs and Kirishima sees the bottom of the abyss, sees a friend taking care of his friend, sees a lover he wishes he could call by Bakugou’s name taking care of him.

His heart swells in his throat, bubbling up like foam and tickling the inside of his mouth. He craves.

Bakugou’s other hand moves on Kirishima’s face but only to go further, bring two fingers behind his ear and tangle into his hair. The whole world could collapse, the bathroom could catch on fire but Kirishima wouldn’t budge one bit, he wouldn’t take his single open eye off Bakugou’s face for money or fame or any other sort of love – what he feels is enough. What he’s drenched in is enough, pulling him apart from the inside, and Bakugou’s face too close and his body too warm and his hands too much, too here, desired too hard.

Kirishima inhales. He’s going to do it. It’s now. It’s now, if Bakugou stays just a bit longer, just for a couple of additional seconds, just so he can gather the courage, it’s going to be now.

And Bakugou stays.

He pulls the cotton pad away, scanning Kirishima’s face for some remaining eyeliner but he stays, all of him stays. His hand is still there and his lips are still glossy like honey and his breath still falls on Kirishima’s skin like a veil he’d never want to take off. Kirishima’s drunk on it, lightheaded as if he had finished glasses after a party; the bathroom lights blind him and his sight narrows to aura, halo and eyes. To Bakugou, holding him close. The rest of his body might have melted but it doesn’t matter because Kirishima can only feel the hot hand against the side of his face, the index finger wrapping around a lock of hair behind his ear, the breaths he can’t push out of his lungs.

Bakugou’s eyes finally meet his and Kirishima forgets how to blink by fear of losing a second of the spectacle, of Bakugou’s stripped down expression, of the mirror he sees in his familiar look. So Kirishima decides he’s tired of walking the rope – to hell with the balancing act, to hell with fearing gravity, he wants to jump and lose it all, jump right into the poppy field. Something says do it, maybe it’s in his head, and maybe it’s the abyss, maybe it’s Bakugou himself, but Kirishima says okay.

“There,” Bakugou says out loud, and Kirishima immediately retreats into himself, so fast it hurts his heart. He feels himself blink, his breath shakes and now Bakugou’s hand leaves him, and now Bakugou’s stepping away already and now the moment is gone, now now is never, never again.

Bakugou throws the cotton pad in a bin and goes back to his sink. He’s crimson against the tile and Kirishima can feel him radiate heat from here or maybe it’s just him, maybe it’s just the fire in his veins that turns the room ablaze, maybe it’s the missed opportunity that burns him to the bone.

“Thanks,” he hears himself mutter, “I’ll – I’m gonna take a shower now.”

Bakugou grumbles around his toothbrush but Kirishima doesn’t try to decipher; he grabs his stuff and stumbles into a cabin, making water run while he undresses just so Bakugou can’t hear him breathe through his mouth and swallow around a dry tongue.

Back on the rope.

By the time Kirishima leaves the shower, Bakugou will be long gone. He’ll keep the eyeliner just in case and will promise to his reflection that next time, now will mean now.

 


 

Bakugou’s neck bruises never really go away; Kaminari tries to poke at them from time to time. The skin chafes too after long afternoons of training, so maybe he should go for rounded angles for his neck piece instead of rough ones. Whatever. Bruises don’t bother him.

Kirishima bothers him. The distance between them bothers him. The ravine Bakugou dug at their feet after taking off Kirishima’s eyeliner bothers him. His hands belong on Kirishima, he felt it like so – his sweaty, damp hands that are not made for loving fit on the side of Kirishima’s face so well.

Bakugou wants to touch and be touched, yet most of what he gets for it is Kaminari’s fingers poking at him with curiosity.

It’s not enough.

So Bakugou feels full when Kirishima finds time to put an arm across his shoulders, to grab his forearm when guiding him to the lunch hall, to keep a hand on his back when they walk in line. It’s hard to put a word on it; he’d say good, or he’d say warm or he’d say thanks, but he’s bad at words and Kirishima doesn’t need to hear it anyway. There’s no qualifier for something this natural, this easy to him.

Surprisingly, it’s just as easy to swing his arm across Kirishima’s shoulders, too. It pulls them closer, their ribs pressed against each other’s, and it feels like giving back. Bakugou could blame it on being a morning person, on Kirishima looking pathetic in the cold, on all kinds of lies like that, but Kirishima smiles when he shifts and looks at him, solar, so Bakugou shuts up for once.

 


 

“Dude, you’re still red.”

Bakugou doesn’t turn around to watch Kirishima’s reaction to Sero’s remark, but the locker room isn’t big, and there isn’t a way to avoid hearing them talk about Kirishima’s chafed shoulders. He takes his grenade bracers off, his gaze stuck to the tile.

“Yeah, I know,” Kirishima sighs. “I had my gears tweaked though.” A locker creaks open.

“Your face too,” Sero continues, and even thought Bakugou doesn’t try, he hears Sero’s genuine concern from here. “Isn’t it like, really uncomfortable?”

Someone’s belt clings. “I get used to it,” Kirishima says nonchalantly. Bakugou hears him shuffle through his stuff. “Mind doing my shoulders again?” he asks, and there’s expectation in his voice, a specific kind of waiting Bakugou’s too aware of. A question not for Sero.

“Nah, turn around,” Sero accepts through his grin. Kirishima’s pleased silence echoes in Bakugou’s ears. He roughly shoves his costume in his locker – the question wasn’t for him after all so he might as well go fuck himself then.

And that’s the biggest issue with Kirishima’s presence, with Kirishima not keeping his distances. It makes Bakugou think too fast. If there is something Bakugou does just as well as Deku, it’s seeing through the facts but Kirishima creates dancing mirages, his sole existence enough to bend the laws of Bakugou’s train of thought. It’s infuriating. It makes him waste so much time, so much mental energy; it makes his heart jump through hoops he shouldn’t even bother with. He should destroy it all. He should get rid of this stupid, overwhelmingly ridiculous crush. He knows it’s a crush. He’s not an idiot. He’s known for months. But standing in the locker room and suffering the memory of his hands on Kirishima’s body, he’s sure he never wished he could burn this whole pit of feelings to hell as strong as he does right now.

Apparently Sero’s far from having a similar problem because when Bakugou turns around, he’s rubbing cream in Kirishima’s shoulders without a trace of a blush on his face. His hands are where Bakugou’s were, his movements not as slow, the circles he makes not as consistent. He’s just not as good (and he’ll never be). He doesn’t take his time, doesn’t appreciate the thickness of Kirishima’s muscles under his fingers.

Ungrateful. Blind. Opportunity waster.

Bakugou’s just finished putting his clothes on when Sero stops. “Do you want me to do your face?” he asks Kirishima.

Kirishima shrugs it off. “Not it’s fine, I can do it,” he says, reaching for the tub of cream. Sero gives it back to him. “Alright, as you want.”

He steps away to sit down and put his shoes on, and the empty space he leaves by Kirishima’s side screams Bakugou’s name. It’s not really him who’s called, he tells himself; Kaminari could come over, or Sero could come back, or anyone. It’s not just Bakugou who’s drawn to the idea of having an excuse to touch Kirishima. And he shouldn’t. He really shouldn’t. His hands are too dangerous, he shouldn’t do it, but he has excuses too – there is no mirror in this locker room, and Kirishima could be messy, and someone has to do it. Someone has to. There is no choice.

Bakugou backs himself up in an imaginary corner and surges out of it fangs bare and palms sweating.

He walks up to Kirishima as though he had challenged him, as though Kirishima had laughed at him for not having the courage to step forward. I’ll do it, his entire self shouts, jaw clenched, heart racing, frown rock solid. Annoyed. Mad that he has to do it himself. Irritated that he must, once again, help, because no one else is offering. Angry at everyone in this room.

And then angrier at himself. For giving in. For feeding the tornadoes that make him lose all sense of direction. For letting go, bit by bit, day by day. For still thinking of Kirishima’s hair in the palm of his hands, of Kirishima’s face leaning into him, of Kirishima’s electrifying skin that makes him jolt alive at every touch.

Without a word, Bakugou roughly snatches the tub of cream from Kirishima’s hand. Kirishima quirks an eyebrow at him as his only response; he doesn’t look surprised or upset, he doesn’t bring attention to it. Most of the guys are still in the locker room, shuffling around, chatting – it’s not intimate if it’s in public. It’s not a guilty pleasure if it’s not secret. It’s none of that. It’s just a casual moment between good friends. Nothing more.

Kirishima lifts his chin up a tiny bit and closes his eyes; if Bakugou didn’t know any better, he’d think Kirishima’s waiting to be kissed.

It’s ridiculous, it’s stupid why is Bakugou doing this, why is he standing there? Why is Kirishima so patient, and so trusting, and so grateful all the goddamn time; it makes Bakugou want to punch him just so he’d open his eyes and bolt away, so he’d be more careful around people who could blow his face off.

Still, he does it. He dips his fingers in the cream and brings them over the bridge of Kirishima’s nose, right where his mask has rubbed the skin red. He pushes the cream into the skin and over the cheeks, under the eyes. His whole self is screaming, all the wind he holds howling violently – with all his might, Bakugou wishes Kirishima wouldn’t let him do this.

But Kirishima does. He always does.

He did when they were studying and Bakugou braided his hair; Bakugou tried so hard to pretend he didn’t like it. Bakugou failed.

He did when he asked Bakugou to help him dye his roots; Bakugou tried so hard to pretend he’d rather be anywhere but in Kirishima’s bedroom. Bakugou failed.

He did when he let Bakugou clean off his face; Bakugou tried so hard to pretend he wasn’t a fleeting impulse away from kissing him harder than anyone has ever been kissed before. Hopefully Kirishima didn’t see it, but Bakugou failed.

He did, he does, he probably will on another day yet to come. And something clicks.

Bakugou realizes in a breath his fingers on Kirishima’s face do not feel foreign. He can’t remember the last time they did. They’re drawn to Kirishima, they belong. That proximity isn’t new. The faces so close they could breathe into each other, the small shudders when he rubs a sensitive patch of skin, the familiar heart beats when he goes over the temple; none of this is new. It’s been part of their relationship for weeks now, and the only way to go back would be thrashing and screaming. There’d be hurt, and incomprehension. Bakugou bites the inside of his cheek; there’s no easy way out.

He could find a way out, if he wanted to. He could be incendiary and rude and brash, he could throw it all away. But he doesn’t really want to. There’s no need to pretend, no need to try and lie; he’d fail time and time again. There’s no need to try and be chased away, no need to flee – Kirishima makes an Eden out of Bakugou’s palms on his own and Bakugou can’t pretend he doesn’t like it.

He makes sure the cream gets into Kirishima’s skin properly. He might be taking more time than needed. Might.

Yes his hands are dangerous, and yes he knows it, but Kirishima allows him to be dangerous and tactile as the same time. He never asked for Bakugou to wash his hands, he never asked him to be careful – he could probably take it if something exploded out of nowhere – he just lets Bakugou be himself. Eyes closed, chin lifted, Kirishima trusts like he breathes.

Now Bakugou sees. Kirishima made it normal. Kirishima made it easy. Bakugou’s the only one fighting himself – he shouldn’t. Kirishima lets him be.

It’s okay. To touch. To want. To touch more, to want more still.

The winds die down.

Bakugou could kiss him just for that. Kiss him in relief, in acceptance, in a sigh. Finally, I know peace, he’d breathe into Kirishima’s mouth. Finally, I see you know me. Bakugou could pull his face forward and thank him the way he wants to, thank you for what you do to me, but there are people around.

He lets Kirishima go, and red eyes open in a flutter.

It’s Kirishima who’ll thank him with a wide, friendly smile before taking the tub of cream from him. Bakugou will stand and unashamedly watch him get ready to go back to class, his face shiny with the moisturizer, his cheeks rosy with either irritation or a pleased blush. The red head of the compass needle will stay stuck and still, pointing straight ahead – he could have the whole face, he caressed it all, and North’s over the lids, on the corner of the lips, nested in the dimples, calling and his to kiss.

 


 

Kirishima’s too tired for this.

It’s past eleven at night and he’s gone over his algebra a thousand times. There’s just this one theorem that doesn’t sit right but the more he looks at the demonstration, the less he understands how to go from a line to the next. Even Bakugou seems to have a hard time with it; he’s been nibbling on the end of his pen for a while now, staring at his notes as he sits in front of Kirishima. He might be one of the best students of the class, he still meets hurdles on his way to the top and this particular set of equations makes for a decent challenge.

Kirishima rests his chin on the table, right above his hands. They have until next Tuesday to learn that properly but his brain feels like jelly right now, bouncing, jittering jelly nothing will imprint on. He should maybe go back to his own room already, it’s much later than usual.

Bakugou didn’t say anything about him leaving though. And he likes it here. Feels like the other half of home.

He closes his eyes and turns his head so his cheek rests on his hands instead. Taking a power nap right now might not be the best idea but it should work well enough. If he stays close to his book, maybe some magical osmosis will happen and he’ll just absorb all the information he needs. He’ll throw in the towel once midnight hits but ten minutes, ten teeny tiny minutes of doing nothing would only bring him to half past eleven, he can afford them. Ten minutes to rest his eyes and think of something else.

His breath deepens surprisingly fast. It’s easy to find this place between consciousness and sleep, in the dusk of his mind. No need for an effort to empty his head when he’s this tired; he floats without trying, not quite asleep but not quite there either. Soon he can’t tell which hand is which, how exactly he sat down – his thoughts quiet down to a muffled simmer only to disappear completely once he stops focusing on his breath. It’s simple to drift away. Then comes peace.

First it’s light enough to be noise. A subtle hallucination. Something Kirishima barely registers after a delay, not really physical. When it comes again, it’s too delicate to be an actual feeling. A feather, maybe. A thought, most likely. Kirishima can pinpoint it, it’s just nudging at the edge of his mind, not a priority in the slightest. He’s safe here, he doesn’t have to worry, so it takes him a second to dive back under a layer of mental cotton and forget his own name again.

Then it comes back, not really insistent but there and Kirishima’s mind lights up slowly like an old computer than needs time to boot up. It continues, more present, harder to ignore, and Kirishima registers it as tug. Something tugs. Something pulls but his body’s a blank map already; it could have been a minute but it could have been forty for all he knows and full consciousness is far away. It’s going to take effort. He doesn’t want to be awake. Not now. Not yet. Five more minutes.

It moves. And something clicks, way too late but it does anyway: Bakugou’s in the room.

Kirishima emerges for the surface of his mind immediately, thrown back into his body like a miner would be in a white room; with violence and closed eyes. Bakugou’s in the room, on the other side of the desk.

And he’s playing with his hair.

Here’s the tug, the pull as Bakugou reaches across the table to dig into Kirishima’s hair with all five fingers. Opening and closing his hand like a child would in a bubble bath, the hair rolls over his skin softly. Kirishima can feel a few strands being picked apart and lifted, played with, rolled around a knuckle. Bakugou’s obviously careful, trying not to disturb. He must think Kirishima is sleeping and Kirishima, no matter how much he tries, no matter how fast his mind races, can’t decide if he should let him know he isn’t.

It’s tempting though, because if Bakugou’s hand is as gentle to his face as it is to his hair, Kirishima might just profess his love for him on the spot. If Bakugou takes his hand with this much care and curiosity, Kirishima might as well drop on one knee while he’s at it. Kirishima’s heart comes up to the back of his mouth and beats a drum there; so that’s how Bakugou is when he thinks no one’s looking. Bigger than a cat but just as inquisitive, warmer than a cloud but just as soft, and Kirishima would give anything to see his face in that moment.

He forces his body to stay still, as impassibly still as humanly possible, his eyes closed shut as if soldered but he can’t deny the vehement need to see. What does Bakugou look like in these rare instants? What does he look like when there’s nothing else in the room than something he wants to touch and himself? Does he have one of these faces Kirishima has seen in movies before, one of these enchanted, thunderstruck looks some actors nail so well; Kirishima doesn’t know what that would look like on Bakugou but the thought alone makes his heart pump so loudly he might just admit out loud that he’s awake.

He doesn’t, of course, because Bakugou’s rubbing small circles against his scalp for five, maybe ten seconds. Maybe twenty actually – time stretches, dilates eerily and Kirishima can’t even rely on his heart rate to have an idea of how long Bakugou stays there. Hyperfocused on his hand, Kirishima soars when Bakugou adds more pressure or lightens his touch; he’ll never speak up, he knows it, since there is no way he’d deprive himself of this, of something no one else but him has the privilege to see. Even with his eyes closed, Kirishima can see the fingers turning, rubbing, choosing where to land. He can see the care, since it’s so rare. He can see it all like some blind people see sounds – it’s all colors, white all over his body and red, hot red on his head, hot red all over his face, all over Bakugou’s fingers.

The rope is slack, and the abyss calls, but Kirishima holds on. Reveling in the moment is more important; he wants to remember all of this, every twist and caress, every additional second Bakugou spent hunched over the table playing with his hair instead of studying.

He wishes he could curl against him, like he did the other night. That he could openly melt into it and not let go. But he can’t do any of that right now, he can’t do anything but stay still and suffer in silence, and crave but not take. Bakugou’s fingers pull back ever so slightly to stroke the ends of the hair – Kirishima remembers, now. It can be now. If Bakugou’s hand in his hair isn’t proof he can try, he doesn’t know what is – it should be now.

So Kirishima moves.

He slowly lifts his head up and his eyes blink open groggily; bleary sight comes back to him and he finds his own hands, his own hair laying on the table.

And Bakugou’s hand moving away.

And Bakugou’s arm pulling away. And Bakugou’s chest inflating, and Bakugou eyes staring, and Bakugou’s entire self still leaning against the table, his homework ignored, his hair a mess.

Bakugou sits back straight and as usual, as if he feared silence would hurt him, he breaks it immediately.

“Don’t fall asleep when I kept my night to study with you,” he groans, almost threatens, like the concept of Kirishima falling asleep around him and him only could be dangerous to something he tries to protect.

Kirishima looks at his lips while he talks – it’d be a lie to say he tried to look anywhere else. He’s not sure he’s supposed to know and looking at Bakugou doesn’t tell him if Bakugou’s expecting him to mention what just happened. He’s a wall, impassible but see-through; Kirishima sees something, but he’s pretty sure he’s just projecting. Wishful thinking does not mingle well with sleepy brains when midnight’s so close.

“Yeah, sorry,” he mumbles, rubbing the back of his neck.

He pretends to have not felt any of it, he hides as deep as he can go to make Bakugou believe he just woke up and will never know what happened, and maybe Bakugou buys it.

And maybe he doesn’t.

And maybe he never did.

 


 

The golden hour lets them breathe. Someone left cake on the coffee table, a couple of water glasses were abandoned there the night before. A small groups chitchats in the kitchen over a pot of noodles. The dorms are cutoff from the rest of the world for a beat or two, the students’ obligations muffled by this furry blanket of comfort.

Bakugou sits in the corner of a couch, absentmindedly watching Kaminari play Assassin’s Creed on their TV. On the other couch, Ashido’s leaning against Kaminari, legs thrown over his lap, and mumbles advice from time to time. On Kaminari’s other side, folded against him, Kirishima dozes off on his shoulder. His hair pools in the crook of Kaminari’s neck, his arm is wrapped around Kaminari’s elbow. He sometimes opens his eyes slowly and blinks a few times before closing them again in what looks like relief, as if he only wanted to check everything was still okay, and he shifts when Kaminari chuckles and shakes him but he doesn’t pull away. The few sighs he lets out are deep and charged, as though he was breathing the day away and pushing it out of his lungs – when he moves, it’s to bring his knees closer to his chest or to press more of himself against Kaminari.

Bakugou’s not jealous.

He’d never let Kirishima do this to him in public though, he would never let him rest his entire weight against his side and stay there for everyone to see. He’d have to push Kirishima away or treat it like a joke, he’d have to throw him to the floor, to carry him to his own bed if he has to.

He’d have to pretend.

He’s not good at that.

From time to time, Kirishima opens his eyes just slightly, barely enough for him to see properly, and his gaze glistening with fatigue falls on Bakugou’s face. Bakugou could almost forget Kirishima’s huddled against Kaminari when he looks at him like that, like someone who spotted a long-lost face in the crowd of a dance hall. Kirishima stares and without biting, without poison, Bakugou stares back; come and get me, he tries to read in Kirishima’s longing gaze, come and snatch me away from my date, would that face say in a movie.

Bakugou doesn’t, but after Kirishima closes his eyes again, he counts the minutes until they reopen.

 


 

On a Friday, Kirishima nails it.

It may be only two braids, two small things hanging from the sides of his head, but damn do they look good. Neatly tied at the ends, they’re shiny and soft and dance slowly in the rest of his hair when he turns his head from side to side. Finally, he got the hang of it. Jirou would be proud.

When the clock ticks past 8pm, he opens the door of his room to Bakugou. They don’t have anything to study but unwritten agreements are the hardest to break, so tonight will be a Breaking Bad kind of night.

“Hey,” Bakugou says flatly, already crossing the threshold without really looking at him. “I brought stuff.”

“Stuff?” Kirishima closes the door.

“You left a box of cookies in my room last night,” Bakugou sighs as though that already happened ten times – it hasn’t. Kirishima’s favorite cookies are packed with protein and he only forgot them behind maybe twice. Okay, maybe three times. Bakugou stopped stealing them from the box during their study sessions since he went from the chocolate ones to the cranberry ones.

“You could have eaten them,” Kirishima shrugs, making his way over to sit on the bed. Bakugou scoffs and throws the box of cookies in his general direction; Kirishima catches it easily.

“They taste like cardboard, I don’t know how you eat these fu –”

“Oh so you did taste them!” Kirishima smiles too wide. Bakugou doesn’t answer that. “You took at least one,” Kirishima tries to coax him, putting the box down on the bed, but Bakugou snickers as he stands in the middle of the bedroom. It doesn’t happen often but it’s a blessing every time; he smiles so prettily and looks like he doesn’t know it.

“When I said ‘cardboard’, I meant it, you unrefined freak,” he grins.

“See, you’re using big words again,” Kirishima teases him, and Bakugou might stay silent but he smiles wider, outshining the light in the room. That’s enough for Kirishima. He knows his limits well; Bakugou genuinely smiling is one of them. He pats the bed next to him.

“Show or video game?” he asks. Bakugou comes to sit down on the bed next to him, hands in the pockets of his sweatpants. He slouches and yawns openly before speaking.

“Movie,” he says. “I want to watch Elizabeth Swann kick ass.”

Kirishima hums, tilting his head to the side at the suggestion. He pulls his computer on his lap and starts going through his stash of movies (that he acquired totally legally). “I haven’t watched it in a while, I don’t know if – never mind, it’s right there,” he chimes, his mouse hovering over a Pirates of the Caribbean movie. “Let me turn the lights off though.”

Bakugou nods and gets comfortable while Kirishima walks around the room to turn the ceiling light off but keep his small desk light on; they never watch anything in complete darkness and he doesn’t want to try. For reasons.

When he turns around, he’s greeted by the sight of a soft, mellow Bakugou settled between pillows, his fluffy hair a golden halo, his expectant look an arrow piercing straight through Kirishima’s lungs. Kirishima’s too often reminded of how privileged he is, of how rare it must be to be witness to Bakugou letting go, relaxing into this feathery version of himself. He has no angles when he waits on Kirishima’s bed, loved by the light, stripped bare like good people often are. It’s so dark in here now, Kirishima can’t really tell the color of Bakugou’s shirt but he could paint his face without being asked – it’s the one he keeps for their nights, for these moments they have for themselves, for these hours when he’s less snappy, less springy, more likely to break into a smile once there’s a closed door between them and the rest of the world.

He’s a gift wrapped in reinforced concrete and Kirishima couldn’t be more grateful for his own stubbornness. He knew there was a light shining through the cracks.

He’s fast to come back on the bed and settle down by Bakugou’s side, who hands him a couple of pillows. He’s already started the movie – Kirishima sighs and relaxes. So which one is it going to be tonight? Is Bakugou going to fall asleep like he did in the middle of watching The Hobbit, drooling all over the pillow he was holding? Is he going to comment every single detail of what happens on screen like he did when they watched 10 Cloverfield Lane? Or is he going to sit still and enjoy it in silence for once; Kirishima doesn’t know. He’ll take it all anyway.

Turns out Bakugou has other plans.

A ship appears on screen, lured out of the fog by Elizabeth’s singing voice, and Bakugou shifts around before pulling something out of the pocket of his sweatpants. Kirishima turns his head and looks at him, questioning; it’s hard to see what he’s holding but it doesn’t look like snacks.

“This scene is boring so do me a favor,” he groans.

“What’s that?” Kirishima asks, leaning to his right to see more clearly – and definitely invading Bakugou’s personal space on the way.

Instead of answering, Bakugou opens what turns out to be a small jar and shoves it under Kirishima’s nose without warning. Kirishima flinches back. He takes a second to breathe in the sharp, fresh scent. It’s unmistakable.

“Tiger balm?”

Bakugou puts the jar down between them, right where their knees don’t touch. “Help me with this,” he mumbles, vaguely gesturing at one of his forearms. “It’s better if someone else does it,” he adds quickly.

On the screen, Elizabeth hides a pirate coin under her dress; in front of Kirishima, Bakugou reveals more than ever before.

He’s asking for help.

“Is it – Is it because of your quirk? Does it hurt?” Kirishima tries, tentatively making sense of what Bakugou’s asking.

“It’s the recoil, it’s sore until the day after,” Bakugou says before looking up, his arms stretched out before him, waiting. He’s not angry, he doesn’t look cornered or annoyed, but Kirishima sees a shade of worry in his eyes, a weak twinkle of impatience he wasn’t expecting to find there. Bakugou’s vulnerable. He’s trying. He doesn’t need someone to take care of his arms, it’s not better if someone else does it, but he’s trying. He’s talking without words, and that counts for something.

So Kirishima shifts into place to face Bakugou better then takes some balm out of the jar and onto the back of his hand.

He should probably turn the lights back on.

He doesn’t.

Jack Sparrow makes a dramatic entrance but Kirishima’s not paying attention; he’s been invited to touch and so he shall touch. He takes a bit of the balm and starts from the middle of the forearm because he doesn’t know what else to do; his eyes down, he can feel Bakugou looking at him more than he can see him. His profile stands out in the corner of Kirishima’s gaze though – striking, warmed by the desk light, close. When Kirishima starts rubbing circles over Bakugou’s strained muscles, he feels Bakugou trying to suppress twitches. The skin is thick and rough, obviously adapted to close contact with explosions. More interesting though, the hands are open, turned sideways, not moving. More than weapons at rest, they’re inviting in the dim lighting, the palm creased in plush valleys and soft roads following the lines, the fingers that’d be so easy to part and open, to intertwine with other fingers.

Some important character is almost monologuing next to them but all that Kirishima registers is this silence, this hand of velvet over both their mouths as he works the balm into Bakugou’s skin, slowly, carefully. With one hand, he holds Bakugou’s wrist and the ball of his palm brushes against Bakugou’s fingertips. With the other, he does his best, trying to cover as much surface as possible, trying not to hurt, trying not to go too fast. It’s impossible – it’ll always be too fast. It’ll always be too little. Kirishima wants so much more than this, he can’t lie, yet barely any of what is on his wish list could compare to Bakugou’s blind, honest trust. Not even pushing him into the pillows and kissing him senseless is as appealing as the way Bakugou looks at him right now, all respect and acceptance. This is where Kirishima is meant to be, facing Bakugou sitting cross-legged on a bed; he clings to the sound of Bakugou’s breathing by fault of not having anything but blurred features to see, drowning in the sea they open between palm and palm, where neither of them has gone yet.

A circle, then another, then a third until he can’t count; the contact tugs at Kirishima’s heartstrings so well his chest could sing like a harp, his heartbeat resonating in lungs perpetually too empty, too deep and too hard to push open. Kirishima still looks down but he sees him, he sees Bakugou right there, close, closer. Letting him do it. Leaning into it.

It’s dangerous. It’s perfect. If Kirishima looked up, he’d catch him, he knows it. He’d look into his eyes but that’s where the terror begins, that’s where he doesn’t know where things go; how could he stop? He could he hold back from kissing him, from pulling him in if Bakugou looks at him the way Kirishima hopes he is, if Bakugou keeps inching closer, feeling closer; how could Kirishima not ruin everything for the sake of the adrenaline rush, for the sheer thrill of lips against lips, of breath into breath, for the memory of kissing a boy he’s dreamed of for too long over his own bedsheets? The abyss calls and Kirishima painfully echoes – it hurts, it hurts to be a gasp away from something new.

But Bakugou doesn’t trust easily, and he’d never trust again if Kirishima were to beg between his lips, please, he’d breathe, please kiss me back. And Kirishima can’t take the risk to let him hear that, he can’t nudge nose against nose, bump chins and cheekbones like the inexperienced embodiment of eagerness he is, he can’t try to drink him and keep him if that means he’ll never get to touch his arms again without having to see his palms flare up.

He could take it though. If he had to. But no one’s forcing him to kiss Bakugou and no one ever will; maybe one day he’ll give in, maybe one day he’ll choose temporary taste over long-term mutual trust, but not today. It’ll hurt for a while more to sit there and keep himself still, keep himself straight on the rope, contained in a box he’d pay to spring out of. If there is a limit, Kirishima doesn’t want to tease it. He doesn’t want to know it. The less he’ll know, the less he’ll want to cross the line – what would it take for him to break? Now’s not the time to think about it, not when the red of Bakugou’s irises has turned burgundy, when Kirishima can hear him lick his lips and swallow, when one of them moves and makes their knees connect. Now it not the time to think about which detail would tip the scales; maybe it’d be a word, maybe it’d be a touch. Maybe it’d be none of it. Maybe it’s already there.

“Have you asked Recovery Girl about the soreness?” Kirishima asks, desperate to break this silence that’s holding him prisoner of his own head.

“No,” Bakugou groans, voice airy and low. He moves a bit, correcting his seating.

“Don’t you think it’d be worth it? Maybe she knows something,” Kirishima continues.

“Not sure,” Bakugou shrugs, and Kirishima’s stomach ties in painful knots. Bakugou doesn’t fight the silence. He’s not even trying. It’s a first.

Kirishima panics. Silence isn’t his friend. Not right now.

“You should go see her next time you overuse your quirk,” he almost whispers, voice strangled. “Or at least go see Aizawa.” His hands still work the balm in Bakugou’s skin – the muscle is tight, solid like layers of steel. Bakugou hasn’t asked for him to stop, but he’s pretty much done with the first arm. With one last touch, hopefully not too longing, Kirishima lets go and takes his other arm.

Bakugou turns his head to look at the screen. “It’s fine,” he says dully. “I can take care of it myself.”

Yet here he is, both arms reaching out, spread over Kirishima’s laps, letting him care for the cramps. In “myself”, tonight Bakugou throws a “we”, an implied “ourselves”, a “you and I” Kirishima’s mind stutters over. He takes more balm from the jar and starts rubbing the same circles over Bakugou’s other arm, slowly moving from one place to another. Using his thumb is the easiest but the pulp of his index and middle fingers do the job fine too, circling over the bone and the painful knots in the muscle. It seems to have an effect; Bakugou was already at ease but he seems to relax further at the massages, his shoulders slumping, his chest falling forward slightly. His breath deepens and he moves again, bringing himself closer. Kirishima’s heart picks up violently.

“Yeah but for long-term pract–”

“Stop rambling,” Bakugou says, turning back to face Kirishima, and Kirishima’s eyes snap up to meet his before he can stop them.

Bakugou’s way too close. He’s way too close, he’s right there, a breath away. If Kirishima tugged on the arm he holds, he couldn’t bring Bakugou any closer. The light lands on his temple and drips down his jaw, slithering down this line on his neck and dripping down under his shirt. There’s a pulse under the corner of the jaw, soft and delicate right under the bony angle, and Kirishima decides he’d start here. He’d push his lips against Bakugou’s heartbeat right here, so he can hear his reaction, the surprise that would catch his breath, so he can bury his nose in Bakugou’s hair and hide his face where Bakugou won’t see it. It’d be such a good place to pepper kisses, down on the neck or up along the jaw, slowly, gently until he finds the mouth if Bakugou doesn’t pull away before then.

He can see himself do it. He can picture red locks melding with golden hair, he can see his face squished against the side of Bakugou’s face, he can feel the pressure against his lips, the smack of kiss after kiss, the consuming hiatus between held breaths and stammering heartbeats. There’s too much empty space between his arms, yearning to be filled with body heat, black shirts and cramped arms.

Daydreaming is bittersweet, since Bakugou would never let it happen.

So when Bakugou’s free hand somehow lands in Kirishima’s hair, Kirishima’s eyes lose focus.

“You managed to braid it properly for once, uh,” Bakugou grins. One of the braids slide between his fingers; he lifts it, making it move so the hair catches the light as well as possible. “Not bad.”

“Y–yeah, I know,” Kirishima stutters. He can feel himself drift away to where Bakugou’s palm sits against the side of his head, his fingers wrapped in his hair, and he could swear Bakugou’s rubbing almost imperceptible circles over his ear. He’d pinch himself but he can’t, he’d shout but he can’t so he roughly pulls himself back together and focuses on Bakugou’s arm. Bakugou’s arm thrown over his lap. Bakugou’s arm that he’s holding, almost cradling, that he’s probably going to anaesthetize with balm if he doesn’t stop rubbing soon.

So he stops. He doesn’t take his hands away though.

“You still have marks,” Bakugou continues, bringing his hand to Kirishima’s face. His index finger slowly traces a line from ear to ear, going over the nose and under the eyes delicately. “It’s still chafed.”

“I know,” Kirishima cracks. He burns, burns, burns, blasted aflame by the weight of Bakugou’s hand on him, but his veins are icy, his heart pumping out liquid helium. He hiccups between overdrive and complete system failure; he can’t think, he can’t think, he can’t think. His mind’s blank, his hands numb and he barely feels his body, he can’t think. All he knows is Bakugou reaching out to him, finding reasons, excuses for physical contact as though he craved it, touching his head, his face, his cheeks without looking pained. The dim light blurs everything; all Kirishima sees are burnt poppies, parted lips and so many perfect kissing spots. The lids, the cheekbones, the chin, the nose, the temples, the forehead, the neck, the throat and all of it, all of it with the lips once, the lips twice and the lips again until he’s drunk on Bakugou, until he can’t remember what else there is to this room, to his own name other than the breath with which Bakugou would call him Eijirou.

It hurts.

It hurts so much.

Kirishima’s not brave enough. He can’t risk throwing it all away; he’s not strong enough. He can’t do it. He can’t kiss him. He can’t break this, shatter the crystal, poison the well. He can’t think, he can’t do it.

Then Bakugou deprives him of all of it. His arm, his hands; all of it pulls back and folds over his stomach when he breaks eye contact. He shifts, turning around a bit, and settles back into his pillows to face the screen better. “Whatever,” he sighs, and Kirishima hears disappointment.

Kirishima closes the small jar and hands it back to Bakugou, who takes it without looking and slides it back into a pocket of his sweatpants. He moves too, pushing himself into the pillows by Bakugou’s side. Their thighs are pressed together and Kirishima can feel Bakugou’s deep breathing through his ribs. He has definitely relaxed, as he usually does when they watch something together, and he’s massaging his forearms mindlessly.

It’s going to be okay. Kirishima just needs to think about something else.

They missed a chunk of the movie. Kirishima can’t think about anything else, so he misses more.

Bakugou’s hands left ghosts in his hair around the braids, in his palms around the fingers, in all of him. He can’t focus on the movie, not when the silence he doesn’t know to fight is this oppressing, this suffocating.

Is he obvious?

Does Bakugou know?

Does he know that tonight isn’t really about a movie anymore? That it gets harder for Kirishima to hold some words down? It was easy before, it was too easy to walk the rope, until Bakugou became physical and now every contact is torture. Now Kirishima reads essays in every brush of skin, poetry in the way Bakugou looks at him, eyes half-lidded, in how Bakugou touches his face deliberately. Kirishima never thought Bakugou would ever behave this way, he never thought it’d become a habit but it did; slowly at first, then all at once. Like good things do. Like love.

Kirishima should let the fall happen. It hurts not to. It tears him apart. But he knows fully well he should give in. That’d be over. That’d be done. He could start over and move on.

He doesn’t give in, and the only thing that moves in the room keeps being pirates on the screen. He knows these scenes too well, he’s watched the movie too many times. Their lives as hero students are already packed with action but being a pirate doesn’t seem too bad. Maybe running around cursed ships would be a good distraction from the boy leaning into him, radiating with warmth.

Kirishima sighs, trying to push it all out, and empties his mind – for once, it works. He manages to get into the movie. One of his hands wanders to the end of the bed and finds the box of cookies he left there earlier, opens it and picks one blindly. In the corner of his eye he can see Bakugou turning his head for a second to check what the noises are before he shrugs. Bakugou doesn’t like having crumbs on his bed but they’re in Kirishima’s room so he has nothing to say.

Kirishima contains a smile. The tension that was driving him crazy is diluting. Time’s doing its magic. It’s fine. He’ll be okay.

He chows down two other cookies without paying real attention, too entranced by Will Turner’s open shirt. Maybe he could have gone for an open shirt too instead of a fully bare torso for his hero costume? It would’ve gotten shredded really fast but it’s such a look.

Will is more humbly dressed later into the movie when, by the flicker of candles, he tries to bandage Elizabeth’s hand. Let me, he says, and Kirishima swallows. The screen becomes an uncomfortable mirror he wasn’t ready to look into. Will is careful but fast and Elizabeth lets him take care of her with his rough, calloused hands. It’s easy for Kirishima to see himself in her, in someone who’s a breath away from kissing Orlando Bloom, but then she says don’t stop and the way Will looks at her – Kirishima tries to stop breathing, to disappear. The reverence, the disbelief, the sheer amount of hope mixed with more time spent pining after her than should humanly be possible, Kirishima knows it all. It’s him. It’s all of him. And when they lean forward, when their mouths are closer than they’ve ever been, Kirishima knows he projects all of himself into the screen, gaping. It looks so easy from the outside. It looks so obvious. He wants them to kiss – he needs them to kiss, to show him, to guide him, but he knows they don’t, and of course they don’t.

The build-up deflates pathetically.

“Stop looking sad.”

Kirishima blinks and looks at Bakugou. Bakugou’s seemingly been observing him for a while, because he’s turned to him and Kirishima hasn’t felt him move. “I’m not sad,” Kirishima tries, “it’s just – they could have kissed. Would have saved them time and trouble,” he blabbers, trying to find some sort of explanation.

He’s well aware of how ridiculous this sounds coming out of his mouth, given that he’s been causing himself more trouble than he should with this obsession around kissing his best friend, but Bakugou doesn’t need to know that.

Bakugou quirks an eyebrow while Will has an epiphany on screen. “It’s a movie. Need to keep the plot going and shit.”

“I know,” Kirishima smiles weakly, “just saying things could have been… simpler.” This is bad. This is bad, it’s time to change the topic, time to start a fight in the streets, to call his mom, to do anything but talk about kissing with Bakugou.

Bakugou’s not of the same opinion apparently; he shifts a bit to turn towards Kirishima instead of the screen, his knees pressing into Kirishima's thigh. “You think kissing makes things simpler?” he asks oh so terrifyingly flatly.

There’s a frown pulling his brows together but his mouth is relaxed, his arms in his lap, his shoulders down. It’s not an attack. It’s a question. A demand for clarification. Just a simple, easy discussion to have. Casual. Inconsequential. Trivial.

But Bakugou’s face is unreadable and Kirishima can’t stand it; he’d rush over to turn the ceiling light back on if he could, just so he could see him better, but he can’t. His heart gets lost in his lungs, trapped in bubbling foam and expanding cotton, racing like a mad bull against his ribs. How do people do this? How is he supposed to get out this? At loss, he stammers and blurts out the most noncommittal string of words he can muster.

“No, not necessarily.”

Bakugou tilts his head to the side and smirks, mocking. “You’ve never kissed anyone, have you.”

This is going South too damn fast and Kirishima did not agree to any of this. This is a personal attack on his being and he did not do anything to deserve this. He can feel his face scrunch up and relax, trying to settle on an expression but there’s no grip, nothing to cling to, only the battle drum beating in his temples and the realization that Bakugou just asked if he already kissed someone before.

With all his might, Kirishima channels the memory of his 8 years old self accidentally leaving a peck on a classmate’s lips and tries his best. “I’ll have you know that I have,” he assures, rising both his brows as though this was supposed to sound impressive.

“Did it make things simpler?” Bakugou asks without missing a beat, and Kirishima half tempted to reveal how emotionally void this “kiss” was. He doesn’t; somehow the idea of Bakugou thinking he already has experience in this department is enticing, even though it feels wrong to lie by omission. He shifts a bit to face Bakugou better, the movie be damned. “Not really, it wasn’t complicated in the first place.”

Bakugou scoffs at that, obviously not buying it.

“Have you?” Kirishima adds quickly, because why not, while he’s at it. He’s not actually interested of course, he’s just making conversation.

“Have I what?”

“Kissed someone.”

Bakugou lifts his chin in defiance and scowls. Kirishima recognizes his challenge face – so no, he hasn’t.

“Who gives a shit,” Bakugou grunts, the desk light bringing gold into the subtle blush coloring his cheeks.

Kirishima playfully bumps Bakugou’s knee with his fist. “So you haven’t,” he grins. He doesn’t know why he’s insisting but he doesn’t know how to stop either. It’s too tempting to see how Bakugou, competitive Bakugou, will try to fight his way out of this one, pictures of kisses that haven’t happened flashing behind his eyes. Has he ever tried? Kirishima doubts it. Bakugou doesn’t seem like the type. But he’ll be kissed one day, Kirishima could bet his life on it – the thought is both exhilarating and bittersweet.

“Doesn’t fucking matter if you’re not a goddamn child,” Bakugou spits, defiant, before bending forward and leaning into Kirishima’s space. “Stop asking.”

Kirishima raises his hands in defense, pulling away at the same time. “Hey, you’re the one who asked first,” he smiles nervously, appreciating the distance between their faces. The more, the better. But Bakugou doesn’t move back to his original position; he stays, slightly hunched over, close enough to Kirishima to make him lose his footing again and panic internally, running down a slippery slope.

There he goes again. He sways, tempted as though he had never thought of jumping before, as though this situation was new. The thought process that’s been consuming him for months starts all over from the start, for the thousandth time – it’d be so easy. It’d be so fast. It’d feel so good. But he can’t, he can’t.

The exhaustion settles in, his heart grows heavier. Kirishima’s drained by the back and forth. He’s tired of being about to kiss Bakugou one second and being determined never to do it the next. It’s killing him. It’s killing him and there’s only one thing he could do to stop it all but he can’t. He blinks instead, a hand nervously coming to push a lock of hair behind his ear.

Bakugou’s face relaxes as aggression slips off of him and he takes this nonchalant look again, the one he wears as a mask. The one Kirishima couldn’t see through earlier, the one that means trouble.

“Wanna make things simpler?” he asks, his voice horrifyingly flat, monotone. “Go ahead then. Come here and kiss me.”

Kirishima’s pretty sure he’s about to pass out.

This is not happening. This is not happening. This can’t be happening. He doesn’t even try to convince himself he heard wrong – he knows he didn’t. A dam breaks in the back of his head and he chokes around his own breath; his whole chest trembles from the inside, flutters like the wings of a butterfly. He’s grown another heart, or two, or three, and furiously pumping muscle threatens to make him explode in a mess of blown ribs and empty lungs. Weightless, his hands suspend in the air above his thighs, begging and holding back in the same shiver. There’s a burning ball of lead in his stomach, so heavy and so dense a black hole opens there; but there’s no light to catch, there’s nothing in this room that shouldn’t stay where it is, right against Bakugou’s gorgeous face, so this cosmic monster holding Kirishima still swallows his words whole instead.

The time dragon bites his own tail and Kirishima forgets how to count. He forgets the rope and the abyss, he forgets his day, he forgets Elizabeth, he forgets his own name; his head a maze, his body an empty pit, all there is to him is an echo chamber, a white room just for him to get lost into. Come here, he can still hear, come here and kiss me, and Bakugou’s still sitting here, come here he wrote in charcoal on white walls, kiss me. The room spins and spins and spins but Bakugou’s still sitting here, wine eyes fixed on his, honeyed lips shining in the dim light – kiss me, he said, kiss me and he’s still sitting here.

With the violence of a car crash, Kirishima is brought back into his empty body by the possibility that Bakugou might want this.

He’s never even thought of doing drugs but there must be one out there that feels just like that.

It’s probably expensive too because the rush is incomparable to anything this body has ever felt, delectable in the high points, dangerous in the highest. It’s probably unicorn tears, spectral and undeserved by most, it’s probably brought empires to their knees and oceans far away from their shores, where they don’t belong. It scrunches Kirishima’s lungs like used paper, pushing a swollen sigh out of him. Sweeter than a sugar high, faster to kick in than an adrenaline rush, it’s something Kirishima didn’t know he could ever taste and it’s spelled like kiss me, it sounds like kiss me now, it looks like kiss me all night.

Bakugou looks like kiss me all night.

He doesn’t try to but it’s written all over him. The movie throws colors on the side of his face one after the other; one second the warm orange of candle lights cups the curves of his lips like even the most delicate painters wouldn’t know how to reproduce, the next a sharp blue pierces through his irises. A breathing fresco stuck on Kirishima’s bed between an inhale and an exhale. A single being, unique in the entire universe, a balanced combination of what’s most beautiful and what burns the hardest, leaning towards Kirishima and Kirishima only with the magnetic pull of a come here. Jump into the void and come here, come here and take it, dare, come here.

Come here and kiss me.

So Kirishima jumps.

He closes the chasm in a breath and reaches as far as he can go, as far as his despair will take him, right to the edge of Bakugou’s lips; finally, he touches Bakugou but not with his hands, finally, he presses his mouth against Bakugou’s but not in dream. Eyes closed tightly, he gets to taste him in a chaste kiss, he gets to feel the fall – gravity brings his heart from his throat to his guts and back up against his tongue and it’s the only thing he feels, it’s the only thing he is: a mouth, a pair of lips finally where they belong, a shiver made flesh pushing himself against Bakugou for a second.

And he was right all along, it’s so easy.

Even thought Bakugou doesn’t move, it’s so easy. Even though it’s not much more than a brush, than an explosive response wrapped into a shy execution, it’s so easy. It’s not Bakugou pushed into his pillows, it’s not one of these furious make out sessions he sometimes thought about but it’s more than that; it’s Bakugou who said dare and Kirishima saying yes please, it’s Bakugou who showed you won’t and Kirishima showing watch me, it’s Bakugou who asked come here and kiss me with the voice of someone who’d never been kissed before and Kirishima answering okay with the voice of someone who wishes he had.

And when he pulls away, it’s the light that hits him first, and the abyss is gone. There’s no balancing to do, there’s nothing to contain other than the fleeting memory of Bakugou’s lips against his own. There’s only Bakugou sitting on his bed, bathing in a gold that doesn’t deserve him, and he stares straight into Kirishima’s soul with undecipherable intensity. Kirishima doesn’t try to run away. He doesn’t avoid Bakugou’s stare, it’d be useless, it’d be pointless. Now he’s free. He’s free to stare back and let whatever must happen, happen. He’s free to carve Bakugou’s dumbstruck face into the back of his mind and never, ever let go.

He’s free to want to kiss him again.

“That’s it?” Bakugou croaks. He lets out a heavy breath and blinks a couple of times, his mouth torn open. His eyes fall on Kirishima’s again and Kirishima forgets how to exhale immediately. “If it’s what you mean by ‘kissing’, your stupid ass isn’t making anything simpler.”

Kirishima tries to take a breath to answer and cram more air into his already bursting lungs, but Bakugou steals the air out of him.

He moves in a blur and catches Kirishima’s mouth in a full kiss, unashamedly pushing all of himself into it, and his chest comes to crash against Kirishima’s. It’s hard to sit straight but somehow Kirishima finds the strength to hold still because Bakugou is kissing him, and it’s hard to breathe but Kirishima has to stay alive because Bakugou is kissing him, and it’s hard to be, at all, but Kirishima holds it together because Bakugou is kissing him. He’s pushy, insistent, his lips wet and slick, and he keeps pressing and crushing and trying as though that’s all there was to kissing, as though he wanted to bite and eat into it and the room spins, spins and spins and turns to smoke before Kirishima closes his eyes and kisses back. And it’s relief, soaring, it’s a sigh that had built up for months finally singing, that ties their breaths together when they tilt their heads to the side and start moving with each other.

Bakugou kisses like he craves, hungrily trying to pull all of Kirishima to himself; he doesn’t know how to kiss, that much is obvious, but he kisses anyway, catching Kirishima’s bottom lip clumsily. Kirishima guides him into this inebriating rhythm of back of forth, of push and pull he’s seen in movies and bliss washes over him in a shudder – it’s not enough. Their chests pressed against each other is not nearly enough, so Kirishima brings one hand around Bakugou’s waist to hold him tight and the other behind his head to make sure he’s here, right here, and opens his mouth to kiss him deeper. Immediately Bakugou’s hands imitate his and dive into his hair – he grabs then lets go, caresses then pulls, soft and desperate at once, and his fingers find a way to rub circles behind Kirishima’s ears. It pushes shivers under Kirishima’s skin and he feels himself frown, he hears himself gasp, there’s a chorus of violins in his blood and blooming flowers in his chest. He wants to sing his relief but Bakugou keeps him silent.

They’re all grasping hands and needy mouths, tangled into each other. They come down crashing together, parting every few seconds to breathe like drowning men, and their fingers speak for them; someone massages the back of a neck, there’s a loving hand scratching the small of a back, there’s a tug at a handful of hair, an airy moan when they crash back into each other, a satisfied sigh when their lips slide together, and they lose themselves in their heartbeats melting into the same enthusiastic pace.

It’s so easy.

Kirishima tries to pull Bakugou closer to him between kisses; he swings his legs around Bakugou so they slot against each other, smiling against Bakugou’s mouth. Bakugou lets him, his hands hot and sweaty against the back of his neck, travelling to his jaw and back in a delicious tide.

In what feels like a stretched-out lifetime, Bakugou breaks the kiss. He moves languidly and takes his hands away from Kirishima’s head, his fingers lingering in his hair for a moment. Kirishima feels the reluctance in the way he pulls back, his mouth being the part of him that stays the longest. It vanishes too, eventually.

Bakugou’s blushed from hairline to collarbones, red and warm all over, and his eyes have this flutter, this haze Kirishima can’t believe he’s responsible for. From up close, Bakugou’s even prettier than he should have the right to be, overpowering in every aspect, and vertigo catches Kirishima when he realizes that if he leant forward again, he could taste himself on Bakugou’s glossy lips.

He can’t stop staring.

Before Kirishima tries to talk, one of Bakugou’s hands comes back to his hair. Bakugou slowly pushes his fingers in between the locks, eyes transfixed at the contact. Even in this hazy light, Kirishima can see something being pushed to his eyes, an emotion he can’t quite put a word on; Bakugou tilts his head to the side and frowns slightly, as if frustrated, his eyebrows curving up as if he was feeling so good the pleasure had turned to delectable pain. Kirishima watches him trying to make sense of what he feels in silence, not daring to interrupt. Bakugou buries his palm in his hair, his fingertips gently rubbing the side Kirishima’s head. After a moment without looking at Kirishima in the eyes, he inhales to speak and his voices comes out in a pained rasp.

“Aren’t you afraid?”

Kirishima blinks. “Of what?” He feels Bakugou’s fingers twitch at the question.

“Of my hands,” Bakugou clarifies in a hoarse groan, still avoiding to look at him properly. His thumb runs back and forth above Kirishima’s ear as if trying to soothe a pain but if Kirishima knows something, it’s that it’s not him who hurts.

“Why would I be afraid?” he asks in the softest voice he can muster before leaning into Bakugou’s touch fully, his heart bursting at the feeling of Bakugou embracing the contact. If anything, his fingers become more insistent, as if he could touch him more than he already does. In response, Kirishima rubs the small of Bakugou’s back with a hand and runs his other hand in his hair gently.

Bakugou finally looks at him, not as cold as he visibly tries to be. There’s a vein pumping in his neck and a clench to his jaw but Kirishima doesn’t feel his anger. “You really are a fucking idiot,” he says, and this time his voice comes back to him.

“Stop being rude for no reason,” Kirishima smiles, trying to scowl at the same time but failing miserably. He shuffles closer and tries to pull Bakugou closer still before leaning into him and kissing the corner of his mouth once, twice, then peppering kisses along his jaw, exploring. Bakugou sighs but he lets Kirishima do what he wants for an instant; it doesn’t last. Between two pecks, he turns his head and catches Kirishima’s mouth in a proper kiss, way softer than Kirishima thought he’d be.

“Is it because of your quirk?” Kirishima whispers against his lips. Instead of answering, Bakugou nudges his nose to the side and kisses his bottom lip, his chin, his jaw too. Kirishima tilts his head backwards and gives Bakugou access to his throat; Bakugou accepts it gratefully, wraps his free arm around Kirishima’s waist tightly and scatters pecks down the column of his throat, from the sensitive skin right under the chin to the hollow between the collarbones. His chin buried in Bakugou’s hair, Kirishima tries to find the ceiling in the dark; he can’t, and all he sees are sparks dancing in rhythm with Bakugou’s lips kissing him, with Bakugou’s breath coursing down under his shirt.

“You should be afraid,” Bakugou eventually mumbles, hidden in the curve of Kirishima’s neck. The hand in Kirishima’s hair drops down so he can wrap this arm around his waist too and bury himself in Kirishima’s chest. From above, he looks almost fragile, almost breakable for once, asking to be hugged. It’s such a foreign sight to Kirishima but they’re alone here. There’s no one else but himself.

Bakugou truly is a gift.

Kirishima grins and wraps both arms around Bakugou’s shoulders, effectively hugging him tight. He can tell Bakugou deflates against him, giving in.

“Why, are you going to blow me up, Blasty?” he still teases Bakugou in a low voice, his lips moving next to his ear. Bakugou’s shoulders only twitch at that; if anything, he relaxes even more into Kirishima’s chest after a breath.

“I might,” he grunts against Kirishima’s collarbone, but he doesn’t even try to keep face and kisses the same spot right after.

Kirishima kisses his temple in return. He still can’t quite wrap his mind around the fact that he can literally do that and not get cremated instantly but he’s not complaining. “Your hands are fine, dude,” he mumbles in Bakugou’s hair, “they’re perfectly good hands.”

Bakugou pulls away and lifts his chin up to look at Kirishima in the eye. One of his hands leaves Kirishima’s waist and finds the side of his face again, his thumb on Kirishima’s cheek. A finger tangles into a strand of hair. “You shouldn’t say that,” he says, voice strangled, as he wipes absent tears from under Kirishima’s eye, “you shouldn’t fucking say that.”

And in Bakugou’s burning gaze, Kirishima reads the same emotion that he saw before, the same pained pleasure, but this time he gets it; Bakugou is cracking open, fissuring from the inside in disbelief. His walls are crumbling one after the other at Kirishima’s trust and there he sits, one of his insecurities laid bare for the most important person to see. He breaks, he tries not to but he breaks in Kirishima’s arms, torn apart as though by a hurricane he can’t control, by the contradiction between what he wants and what he allows himself to have, and Kirishima lets him feel it all.

He pushes a hand through Bakugou’s hair the way Bakugou has done countless times for him before, he rubs circles there too, trying to calm down whatever storm rages inside of him, trying to make him understand with touch alone that he’s not going anywhere. “Your hands are fine,” he starts, “I like them. They’re good at braids and they’re good at cooking and they feel good and –”

“Shut up,” Bakugou grunts, but Kirishima can already see his doubts vanishing as if carried away by a foreign wind. He’s blushing less but he’s smiling more, with his eyes if not with his mouth, and that’s enough. That’s more than enough.

“Come here and kiss me then,” Kirishima smirks before breaking into the widest smile possible because he can’t hold it in, he can’t stop the sun warming him up inside from shining through, and Bakugou’s eyes widen impossibly at that, his blush pooling over his cheekbones.

“Oh my god shut the fuck up,” he snaps, but Kirishima giggles before kissing him, and he giggles after, and he giggles during and then he loses track of how many times he gets to think of Bakugou’s mouth as the next place he wants to be.

Bakugou’s clumsy when he pushes back against him, his two good hands buried in soft, soft red hair, his mouth moving hungrily against Kirishima’s; it’s Kirishima who slows him down, who guides him from side to side, from mouth to cheek to throat to mouth again, it’s Kirishima who leads the way but it’s Bakugou who can’t take his hands off him. He clings to Kirishima and holds on for dear life as if part of him would fade away and die if he ever let go, and Kirishima melts into it.

They’ll be reminded of Kirishima’s laptop when the screen goes black; Kirishima won’t ask can you stay because Bakugou won’t even try to leave. They’ll take breaks - I need to drink breaks, do you want a cookie breaks, let me get my PJs breaks and you look so pretty breaks, but every time one of them murmurs come here, the other will say okay.

Kirishima won’t stop smiling through the kisses and, more than once, he’ll swear he can feel Bakugou smile too; until they fall asleep and even with the lights off, Bakugou will still look like kiss me all night.

 


 

The golden hour doesn’t discriminate; even though they’re not downstairs in the main hall, Kirishima’s room bathes in ochre all the same. It gives his punching bag a halo and makes everything that was red look muted, more tolerably orange. Bakugou prefers it like that. The window is open on the quiet field outside of the dorms and a gentle breeze comes to give them a taste of the summer from time to time. There’s a bird perched on a balcony somewhere, its song a lullaby in progress.

It’s not bad. It’s not bad at all.

Even Kirishima glows where he sits between Bakugou’s thighs on his bed, his back pressed against Bakugou’s front. Cross-legged, he’s carefully reading a massive edition of Quirks: From History to Legacy and leaves small post-it notes on the corner of some pages. Over his shoulder, Bakugou sees his face scrunch as he tries to focus on complex paragraphs then relax when something finally clicks. He has long, long lashes that catch the light beautifully, throwing subtle shadows over the deep red of his irises. The sight is distracting, so much so Bakugou keeps forgetting what exactly is the next step in this complex braid he’s trying to make. It’s not the only thing slowing him down though – he takes more than the time he needs, deliberately so, and he doesn’t pretend it’s because he doesn’t have anything better to do.

He doesn’t pretend much lately.

After finishing the braid and tying the end tightly, he wraps both arms around Kirishima’s waist and pulls him in, resting his chin on Kirishima’s shoulder. Kirishima lets him do it with a pleased hum that resonates through their chests. There you are, Bakugou’s entire self vibrates; there you are, the red head of the compass needle echoes, pointing right through his own heart, right into his own hands, right where Kirishima rightfully belongs.

His mouth finds the back of Kirishima’s neck and he closes his eyes to leave a kiss there, then a second a bit to the left, and a third a bit to right; he nips at the skin in the curve of the shoulder and peppers soft kisses on his way to the back of the ear before pressing his mouth there too. Patient, he takes the time to explore and map the sensitivity of Kirishima’s neck, reveling in the little twitches sparking when he licks a small stripe on the side of the throat, in the pressure of the hand falling on his thigh when he breathes, mouth open, in the crook of the neck. He doesn’t need to see how Kirishima reacts, he can feel it; he reads him in the way he tilts his head backwards without really trying, he hears him in the way he sighs without really thinking.

“Stop, I can’t focus,” Kirishima eventually tries while Bakugou’s busy showing love to the other side of his neck, yet his voice betrays how little he actually means it.

“Not my fault if you can’t concentrate for shit,” Bakugou whispers against the back of his ear; the shivers that erupt on Kirishima’s nape then are a sight to behold. It’s totally Bakugou’s fault if Kirishima can’t study and he’s fully aware of it. Pleased, he kisses the corner of Kirishima’s jaw and feels Kirishima suppress a shudder, tensing beautifully before pushing his back further into Bakugou’s chest. His hands let go of the textbook and find Bakugou’s without looking; he tangles their fingers together and holds tight, both thumbs gently rubbing circles over the back of Bakugou’s hands. Bakugou’s heart squeezes.

“You’re so clingy, I can’t believe it,” Kirishima says, his head leaning on Bakugou’s shoulder, and through his words Bakugou can hear the shit-eating grin he must be wearing on this gorgeous face of his. How dare he.

“The fuck I am,” he grunts, but he hugs Kirishima’s waist tighter and Kirishima giggles at that.

And Kirishima’s right, of course he’s right, of course he sees right through him – Bakugou wouldn’t have it any other way. He wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for Kirishima’s voice guiding him out of the dark eye of the cyclone, through the violent arms of the storm and out in the open, where the sun shines brighter, where the howling of the wind is foreign. He wouldn’t hold anyone else like that, their chests melting into one another; he wouldn’t kiss anyone else like that, with both relief and abandon.

Kirishima makes Bakugou’s personal space into a comfortable booth for two and Bakugou makes sure to express his gratitude in his own way; he’s all hands when he manages to make Kirishima turn around, all hands into Kirishima’s hair and against his nape, all hands around the small of his back and between the shoulder blades. It’s the only language he’s fluent in and Kirishima listens, understands, answers.

They’ll find their way downstairs just in time for dinner and plop down on the couches with their classmates. Tentatively, Kirishima will lean against Bakugou in a question and Bakugou won’t let him overthink this; he’ll open himself up for Kirishima to find a place to squeeze himself into, right against his shoulder, right into his arms, and he’ll defy Kaminari’s amused stare by running his hand into soft, soft red hair.