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Basslines and Heartbeats

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There’s something about crisis that lends itself to extremes. Truths bubble up to the surface with urgency, as if the world is on fire and you stand in the center, burning, burning, burning, until you can taste the realization surging up your throat.

It isn’t until after the League of Villains has retreated, after All Might has delivered his final blow, after all the dust has settled under her aching feet that the past few minutes run Kyouka over like a freight train.

She glances at Kaminari who stumbles around, quite literally drunk off the release of his quirk. He doesn’t smile at Kyouka as much as he does through her, holding two thumbs up as he lets out a string of slurred, incoherent babbling.

Then she looks at Yaoyorozu.

It isn’t anything in particular about the way she’s standing, how she’s breathing, how she’s staring straight ahead, eyes clouded with the same weary relief that settles in Kyouka’s own chest. But when her eyes, black as a starless sky and deep as a bassline, find hers, Kyouka’s veins become strings commandeered by Yaoyorozu’s eyes alone. A loud labyrinth of a song reverberates through her body. She gets lost between the notes, drifting along the melody, and she realizes all too soon that there is absolutely no way out.

In short, this battle has showed her the truest parts of herself --  an extreme only in that without this, she may have never lost the instinct to hesitate. There is no need to grapple with her own heart or try to find words to force onto this song that never needed them to speak for her.

Ah, yes.

She’s royally fucked.


 

Kyouka and Yaoyorozu find a comfortable rhythm after the USJ attack. It begins with fleeting touches, friendly greetings, glances that hold intimate understandings of fear and panic and overwhelming courage. It was the first time they’d ever truly seen how the other planned to make their dreams into a reality. For Kyouka, it had been mesmerizing.

She watched this girl spin worlds out of possibilities. It was almost as if Yaoyorozu were made of something more impressive than flesh and bone -- like some kind of goddess turning golden ichor into divine starlight right before her eyes. It isn’t just her quirk, something amazing in and of itself, but how she uses it less like a weapon and more like art.

Creation. Such a fitting quirk for such an incredible girl.

But Kyouka, an artist in her own right, is a creator too. While one girl creates with science and flesh, the other does with strings and percussion. They make the world fuller somehow. It’s the first thing besides combat that draws them to each other.

“What song is that?” Yaoyorozu asks her one day across the lunch table.

She glances up from where she hadn’t realized she’d been rhythmically tapping on the tabletop with the ends of her chopsticks.

“Oh, sorry,” she says. A blush warms her cheeks. She sets the chopsticks down. “Nothing.”

But Yaoyorozu beams, leaning over the table with the same electric curiosity Kyouka has seen her pore over textbooks with. A mad flurry of butterflies erupts in her stomach.

“It sounded so lovely,” Yaoyorozu says, her dark eyes twinkling. “Are you a musician, Jirou-san?”

Kyouka nervously twirls her earphone jacks around her forefingers. Her heart thumps fast and heavy like a drum roll against her chest.

“Sort of,” she mumbles.

Would it impress Yaoyorozu if she knew? Suddenly, the idea of sharing that part of herself with her is as terrifying as it is exhilarating. What kind of music does she like? Does she have a favorite instrument -- and does Kyouka know how to play it?

For one wild second, Kyouka considers how long it would take her to learn every instrument in the world.

And then the lunch bell rings and all too soon everyone is shuffling out of their seats, the chaos falling over Kyouka in a wave of noise pulling her too far away from a place she was just starting to get comfortable in.

Yaoyorozu picks up her empty tray and smiles apologetically. “You’ll have to tell me about it sometime.”


 

In the most mundane circumstance, Kyouka finds herself ensnared by her own heart. It feels as if only seconds carry her from the massive room Yaomomo dubbed her family’s “great hall” into the garden once all their classmates have gone home. Pathways lined with more flowers than Kyouka has ever seen are in full bloom, their lush petals bathed silver by the moonlight.

They sit on a bench swinging between two rose bushes. The sky’s brilliance is indiscriminate, casting strokes of light over the girls and the garden just the same. Life becomes a thriving, ubiquitous spectacle -- around them, below them, inside them. Vines end where veins begin and the moon shelters them all the same.

Yaomomo crosses her legs demurely, smoothing out her skirt. Kyouka finds herself fixated on the way the fabric pulls under her palms. Miracle hands. A creator’s skill, both inherent and learned. She’d give anything to touch them.

“Jirou-san, can I ask you something?”

Kyouka’s heart plunges into her stomach. For a moment, the moonlight has fallen, drenching her entire world in white. She’s weightless. She’s dying. She’s everything in the world and nothing at all, caught between tangled threads separating mortality and whatever the hell lay beyond it…

And then she’s back on the swinging bench, blinking, catching her breath.

“S-sure,” she stammers. She wills her racing heart to slow down.

Yaomomo twists her body toward her, lacing those mesmerizing fingers together against her lap. Bottomless black eyes stare so intently through her that Kyouka wonders if she can physically see the way she’s lost control of her own pulse.

“Was today alright?” she asks, almost in a whisper.

Kyouka’s mind had been running so many miles away that it takes her a second to realize what she’s even talking about. Suddenly, she remembers what brought her to this garden: exams, studying, Yaomomo offering to help tutor their classmates and Kyouka lingering behind after everyone else had gone home.

“Oh.” Kyouka’s mind goes blank. She smiles despite herself and nods. “Yeah, Yaomomo. More than alright. You even managed to pound some lessons into Ashido and Kaminari, of all people. It was amazing.” You were amazing.

She exhales in relief, melting back against the bench. She sounds kind of breathless when she says, “I’m so glad.”

“We lucked out,” Kyouka says, her throat dry. “Honestly, you could have ended up in Class-B or something, helping that jerk Monoma.”

When she laughs, it reminds Jirou of the first time she’d gone with her parents to a rock show. Right before the encore, the band decided to slow things down, bringing out an acoustic guitar and a grand piano. A ballad began and the singer’s voice was impossibly sweet, weaving through rich acoustic notes that seemed to pass through Kyouka’s skin, warming her down to her bones. It was the most amazing thing she’d ever heard.

Yaomomo’s laugh is like a full symphony.

“Thank you for staying, Jirou-san,” she says, smiling at her in a way that makes her stomach flutter.

“Thank you for bringing me out here,” she replies. “Seriously, this is wicked gorgeous. I can’t believe you live somewhere like this.”

“It’s my favorite place.” She brings a hand up, delicately stroking a deep red rose that hangs in her space. “It’s quiet, but it has its own organized chaos too. It’s hard to feel lonely when you’re surrounded by so much life.” Yaomomo’s hand drops to her lap. She smiles bashfully. “I didn’t have any friends before Yuuei, you know. This was all I really had for a long time.”

Kyouka has trouble imagining anyone who could know someone as captivating as Yaomomo and not immediately fall in love with her, let alone be her friend. Though, with the way she pours her entire heart into her studies, she supposes she didn’t get in on recommendation by having an active social life.

“I’m so honored you showed this to me, then,” says Kyouka. She swallows, more than acutely aware of how if she were to move just a few centimeters, their thighs would touch. She does something courageous then, nudging her arm with her own. “And for the record, I’m honored to have you as a friend too.”

Yaomomo giggles, but then, to Kyouka’s surprise, she plucks a rose from its vine and holds it out.

Kyouka’s brain just about short-circuits.

“An old friend for my new friend,” she says, scarlet running up her neck and spreading across her cheeks.

Gingerly, Kyouka takes it by its stem. She turns the flower over, dazzled by the way the moonlight shines off each individual petal -- brilliant, like she’s holding a piece of Yaoyorozu’s heart.

A ballad roars to life in her ears.


 

In the broadest sense, music is a language just like any other. No one meaning defines it. It isn’t bound by anything but pure, unadulterated expression. And yet, Kyouka thinks music is able to transcend language, turning the abstract into tangible notes. Bass lines that pump through your blood. Strings that melt under your skin. It travels through channels words can’t.

She sits at the edge of her bed with an acoustic guitar, drawing a mundane euphony from the song she plays while Yaomomo sits beside her with a textbook propped open on her lap. It’s a comfortable not-quite-silence they often find themselves in. Yaomomo reads, Kyouka plays. The music and the way the always somehow end up shifting closer and closer together speak for them.

Yaomomo stretches her legs out, tilting her head back with parted lips, drinking in the music. It takes Kyouka’s breath away. It makes her never want to put the guitar down for as long as she’s alive.

“Jirou,” she hums. “You’re amazing.”

She almost stops playing, fumbling a bar chord when her hands go stiff. Ever the professional, she continues on as if nothing, though now she can feel her arms start to loosen the way they would if she’d just downed too many glasses of sake.

“You’re giving me a lot of credit there.” She’s amazed by the steadiness in her voice.

“It’s beautiful,” Yaomomo says. She sits up, closing the book and setting it aside. The bedsprings shift as she turns to face Kyouka. She catches the scent of her rosemary shampoo. It’s intoxicating. “The way you make music...it’s a miracle. Like a quirk but more.” She bites her lip adorably. “It’s you. Your voice in so many different ways.”

Kyouka’s palm lands on the strings. She looks up, her heart a wicked drum solo at a rowdy show. She doesn’t know what to say. She has her second heart, a profound mouthpiece, in her hands and all she can do is stare blankly.

Tumbles of Yaomomo’s ink black hair fall wildly over her shoulders. She wears an oversized hoodie and striped leggings with mismatched socks, looking less like the prim and proper Yaoyorozu Momo she presents to the world and more like the Yaomomo she’s grown to know as intimately as a favorite song.

I’m so hopelessly in love with her.

Kyouka’s eyes fall to her lips and before she realizes it, she’s laying her guitar across the bed and taking Yaomomo’s hands, amazed at how easily her fingers fit in between the spaces of hers.

“This is more miraculous, I think,” Kyouka chokes out, her entire body vibrating like the inside of a stereo speaker. She looks up at Yaomomo as if to ask if this is okay or if she should run as far from campus as humanly possible and never look her in the eye again.

But Yaomomo inches forward, their knees touching, their bodies all at once too close and too damn far apart.

Kyouka takes a moment to really look at Yaomomo’s hands; the scarred and calloused hands of a hero. The hands of an artist, a creator, a goddamn miracle of a girl.

This is what people write songs about. What people fight wars over. What people are willing to die for no matter the time, the place, the culture, the circumstance. It’s every instrument to ever exist playing in perfect harmony, taking two people by the soul and drawing them into each other until the space between them disappears completely. It’s breathing better together, being better together, allowing the truest versions of yourselves take over.

“Kyouka,” Yaomomo whispers, her breath fanning sweetly over Kyouka’s mouth. “Is this alright?”

They’re two steady and beautiful melodies in their own right but when their eyes fall closed and Kyouka’s lips capture hers at last, they create a harmony that leaves them breathless.