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the beautiful things

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Katsuki is not good with beautiful things.

The day after they move into their dormitories, when he’s still feeling sick to his stomach, when anything anyone does seems like the spark that will light the flame, he wakes up at four in the morning. He shuffles, slowly and quietly, down from the bedrooms to the shared kitchen; Todoroki has filled a cupboard with traditional Japanese tea, but it’s the other cupboard that interests him, the tea Ashido brought. Teabags to be steeped in boiling water.

The sound of the kettle hurts his ears. He sits at the table, the chair drawn out, his chin in his palms, and stares out the window at the blue of the wet sunrise.

Katsuki is not good with beautiful things.

He had Midoriya Izuku once, and Midoriya is - for all that he is annoying and hateful and the worst in the world - a beautiful thing that Katsuki knows he is responsible for breaking. Midoriya is his first and biggest mistake.

(Maybe it’s Katsuki himself.)

When the kettle boils he pours the water into his mug, big and chipped and cream, and watches the milk saturate the black water.

“You’re up early,” comes a voice from the door, rusty with sleep and heavy and familiar. “Can you make me a cup?”

“Make your own,” Katsuki snaps, but he drops his teabag into another cup and repeats the process, and when he turns to carry both to the table Kirishima is looking up at him with hair flattened down his forehead and his shoulders and Katsuki doesn’t want to look anymore. “Your hair.”

“You didn’t think it grew upwards on its own?” Kirishima touches the place where it falls over his left eye, his mouth quirked upwards in a smile. “You’re dumber than I thought, Bakugou.”

“Looks different,” Katsuki grunts. The tea is too hot and too strong, but he likes it, even though it curls up on his tongue. “Why are you up so early?”

Kirishima pops the knuckles in his right hand, then folds his thumb into his palm. “You go first.”

“I asked first.”

“You were up first.”

“I asked first.”

“You were up first.”

Katsuki is the first to look away. The sunrise has leached all the colour out of the kitchen, leaving it pale and washed out, but Kirishima is bright and red. “Whatever. I don’t care.”

“Okay,” Kirishima says agreeably. He scratches his thumb against the side of his mug, the nail digging into the ceramic a little before he catches himself and restrains his Quirk. Katsuki looks at him. The last time they spoke - before yesterday - Kirishima was holding his hand, and shouting, and Katsuki thinks there were tears in his eyes when he took it, and felt the skin fold around his.

He went to hospital. Kirishima might have visited; Katsuki spent a lot of his stay asleep, having various things fed into him via tubes and things that beeped.

Kirishima stares out the window, and Katsuki stares at Kirishima, until the sun gives the colour back to the room and Midoriya and Todoroki come arguing into the kitchen with smiles on their faces and their knuckles brushing, and then Kirishima smiles, and takes Katsuki’s cup, and washes them both.

“I’m going to get dressed,” he says. When he comes back down he’s beaming and his hair stands straight up.

Katsuki feels a little sick.

***

School is as it always is. Katsuki is surrounded, for a little while, but it slowly melts back to the way it always is - twenty of them friends, and then Ashido and Kirishima and Kaminari and Sero come back to eat lunch with him and walk to the store nearest school and it’s okay again.

“We’re out of strawberry snacks.”

“I don’t like strawberries,” Katsuki says.

“Midoriya likes strawberries.”

“I don’t care about him.”

Kirishima is leaning over the space between their desks; Aizawa has left the room, enticed by Present Mic, and all of 1-A has dissolved into a chatter of what they’re going to do at the weekend. “Yeah, you do,” he says. “If you buy him strawberry snacks, we won’t all want to die when you’re in the same room together.”

“We’re together now,” Katsuki points out. He can see Midoriya, leaning behind him to talk to Todoroki and Iida, chattering away. “Nothing’s happening.”

“School doesn’t count.”

“I don’t care.”

Kirishima touches Katsuki’s hand with his thumb and Katsuki tries not to flinch away from the warmth and the touch, spiralling out from the spot into a thousand different places, like his brain is on fire. He barely clamps down on the sparks that threaten to pop from his palms. “Yes you do,” he repeats, and laughs. When he throws back his head, sun glints through his teeth, his closed eyes. “We’re gonna go to the store later, anyway. Our turn to do the grocery run.”

“I don’t care,” Katsuki repeats, hollow to his own ears.

Aizawa wrote up the rota for the dorm grocery run. He didn’t ask anyone, but the pairs are perfect - Todoroki and Midoriya, and Uraraka and Tsuyu. And Kirishima and Katsuki. Katsuki doesn’t know how they come off to other people, but he knows everyone knows how Kirishima took his hand, and he knows everyone knows they’re friendly enough to do the grocery run without falling out.

It’s disquieting. Katsuki doesn’t know if he likes it.

“Strawberry snacks,” Kirishima repeats, as Aizawa walks back into the room. “Remember them, dumbass.”

And later:

The grocery run is a long list pinned to the fridge, plus whatever the pair doing the run wants. The jar next to the coffee maker is full of tips and change that cover most of the bill, and UA funds them anyway, and so after class Katsuki and Kirishima swing back to change and get the jar and the list.

“Buy chocolate cereal,” says Sero.

“Buy sour candy,” says Kaminari.

“Go fuck yourselves,” Katsuki says, transferring the money into his wallet, along with the list. Kirishima bounces down the stairs in jeans and a logo shirt and a smile, and Katsuki glares at him even harder.

“Ready to go?”

“Whatever.”

It’s still technically summer, and the air outside is hot and sticky, especially with Katsuki’s Quirk making everything hotter than it really is. Kirishima walks beside him, talking about Present Mic’s English homework, and Katsuki contributes as best he can - no, it’s not that verb, English is different to Japanese - and he tries not to feel satisfied, when Kirishima whoops and yells and says he’ll definitely beat Iida in the homework this time!

Katsuki is not good with beautiful things, he reminds himself, as Kirishima’s cheeks turn pink in the sun.

He breaks them.

In the grocery store, they split up, tearing the list in half and taking a basket each. Katsuki heads for the sweets, to get Sero’s cereal and Kaminari’s candy, and he stops next to the strawberry snacks, his hand hovering over the packets. He sees Kirishima, in his mind's’ eye, telling him yes you do care but this Kirishima has his hair down and his eyes full of sleep, and with an irritated grunt Katsuki knocks three packets into the basket and hides them under the cereal.

This is stupid. This is dumb. Katsuki doesn’t deserve beautiful things, because he isn’t good with them.

The store isn’t that big, and they meet beside the canned food, comparing lists. “Everything but Tokoyami’s weird cinnamon biscuits,” Kirishima concludes with a smile. “Awesome.”

“Awesome,” Katsuki echoes. When they’re unloading the shopping to buy it, he sees Kirishima staring at the snacks, and he can feel his ears turning red. “I’m going. Outside.”

“I’ll just pack up on my own,” Kirishima calls sarcastically after him.

“That’s fine.”

“Ugh.”

Katsuki sits down on the concrete step by the store; inside, he can hear the rustle of plastic, the rumble of Kirishima making chat with the young cashier. She’s a local student, but not of UA; she goes to an engineering academy, according to Mineta, who is ‘making progress’ and hopes to one day ‘win her over to the light side’. She’s friendly, though, and smiley. Like Kirishima. Maybe he likes her.

Why does Katsuki care?

He leans back, the cold building uncomfortable against his spine, bringing him back to the here-and-now. He doesn’t care. Kirishima and the engineering girl, Mineta and the engineering girl, it’s all the same to him. He feels kind of weird. It’s the sun, and the heat, and the dying summer. Hot things remind him of the stuffy room, of the creepy girl with the knives, of the way the man with all the scars had looked at him like he could see just what he was.

Ironic. His Quirk is the source of the heat in his life, and he feels uncomfortable with the very idea.

Something cold taps his cheek. “Fuck!”

And when he looks up, it’s Kirishima - of course it’s Kirishima - smiling at him, cheeks and teeth and eyes, holding two popsicles in his hand. “You looked kinda hot,” he says, three bags of groceries slung on his other arm. “My treat. I dunno which one you liked, so I got you the pineapple.”

“I like pineapple,” Katsuki mumbles, looking away. His cheeks are red, and he hates them.

“Awesome.” Kirishima sits beside him to unwrap both packets, tossing the plastic into the bin, and their shoulders press together and Katsuki doesn’t mind it.

He wishes he did, because that would make it easier to remember that he doesn’t deserve beautiful things.

***

Sleeping is difficult and Katsuki doesn’t want it to be. When he closes his eyes, he sees that creep with the hands, or he sees All Might crumpling and turning to him and saying this is your fault or he sees his friends, burning, or he sees Kirishima. And Kirishima is dead. Or Kirishima is looking up at him, and his eyes are full of tears and his teeth are gritted and he is saying i am going to die and it will be you that kills me and Katsuki wakes up gasping.

Logically, he knows that he hasn’t told anyone what happened. Aizawa said he would listen, and All Might said he would help, and Katsuki knows as much as they do that he will never go to them.

He bundles up his burnt bedsheets in his fist, and then swings his legs out of bed. It is three, but he doesn’t feel tired anymore. He doesn’t want to be awake, but he doesn’t want to be asleep.

“Bakugou?”

Of course it’s him. Kirishima sleeps in this big white shirt, too big for him, crinkled at the shoulders and down to his knees, and his feet are bare and his hair is long and his eyes are big and Katsuki hates that he likes to look at him. “Are you okay?” Kirishima is standing just inside the door of his own bedroom. “I heard the explosions.”

“I’m fine,” Katsuki says. It’s a barefaced lie and Kirishima must be able to hear it in Katsuki’s tone; he shrugs and leaves the doorway. “I said I’m fine!”

“Yeah, okay,” Kirishima is beside him, and smiling. He smells of sleep. “Do you want to watch that new film, then? It’s on Yaomomo’s account.”

Katsuki doesn’t agree, but he doesn’t disagree either, watching Kirishima stumble sleepily down the stairs into the lounge, his feet sinking into the carpet, snatching the TV remote from where Kaminari left it yesterday. Wordlessly, Katsuki melts into the kitchen to brew two cups of tea.

It's too early even for the cold of the morning, and everything is in shades of grey, spilling over Katsuki’s hands as he makes the tea. He can hear the quiet noises of Kirishima fiddling with the TV, and of cushions being moved, and blankets being pushed aside.

“Brought tea,” Katsuki says.

Kirishima has lit the lamps around the room, but not the big bulb, and he looks warm and yellow in a pool of lamplight. “Thanks,” he says. “You sitting beside me?”

“Where else would I sit,” Katsuki says. He means for it for sound gruff, but it comes out soft, as warm as Kirishima’s elbow touching his. “Play the damn movie.”

Kirishima snorts a laugh, but presses play, the movie so low it's almost mute. It has lots of explosions and guns and the main character is a mob boss who hardly ever smiles, and Katsuki is far too tired to follow along with the plot. There’s a spy. His Quirk is something macho, like absorbing bullets or something, but Katsuki falls asleep long before he finds out the end.

(Kirishima takes the mug out of his hand and doesn’t move, even when Katsuki ends up flung half over him, his hands hugging around Kirishima’s waist.)

(When Midoriya comes down for breakfast, Kirishima presses his finger to his lips and winks.)

***

Staying together, Katsuki thinks, makes everyone in this damn class far too close. He knows that Tokoyami hates mint toothpaste, and has to order it specially online so it doesn’t taste bad, and he knows that Iida wakes up at four thirty in the morning for a jog, and he knows that Midoriya and Todoroki share rooms more often than not and always seem better rested after it, and he knows Kaminari likes spaghetti but not pasta, and he knows that Ashido misses her sister, and he knows Kirishima -

Staying together. He tries to dislike it, but he can’t.

“Help me with my homework.”

“Help with your own homework.”

“I’ll pay you in rice cakes.”

“With caramel?”

“Sure.”

The soft babble of the afternoon washes through the place, the big airy building far from home, but home nonetheless. Midoriya is asleep on the floor, his head pillowed in Todoroki’s lap; Todoroki is explaining, soft and patient, to a beaming Ashido, how to do linear graphs.

This is a beautiful thing and something Katsuki has no right to belong to.

He stands, and leaves, and outside the fresh air stings his eyes. The tea in the cup he’s holding will go too cold, if he doesn’t drink it now.

“Come back in,” calls the most familiar voice of them all. “Oi - Bakugou. Dumbass, come in! We want to see who’s the best at Mario Kart!”

When Katsuki turns around, maybe something in his face makes Kirishima falter. “Hold there,” he yells, and folds himself back inside, closing the window behind him. Katsuki is glad he didn’t have to answer - he’s not sure he has the throat left to do it.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. Go away,” Katsuki says. He takes a sip, but misjudges, and tea splatters on the white concrete below them. “Go away, asshole.”

“Nah,” Kirishima says airily. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. Shut up.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Shut up.”

“Ah, so not nothing, then.”

Katsuki grits his teeth.

“We want you to come in,” Kirishima says, like it doesn’t mean anything for him to say it. He’s seen what happens to people who are friends with Katsuki - it’s present in every little twitch of Midoriya’s, in the cracks in his voice, in the way he flinches when Katsuki uses his Quirk too close to him. Kirishima has seen that, and he still talks to Katsuki like he isn’t a fuck-up; like he won’t go wrong, sometime and somehow, and ruin them all.

“I don’t want to come in.”

“Yeah, you do,” Kirishima looks close up at him. He’s a little shorter than Katsuki, although he hides it with the spikes of his hair; this close, Katsuki has to look down. Just a little. A centimetre or two. “You want to come in, idiot. So come in.”

Katsuki bites the end of his tongue.

“I want you to come in,” Kirishima says. “I don’t care if you don’t care about them, so come in for me. And play Mario Kart. And kick Iida’s ass.”

“If I do,” Katsuki begins, and stops. He doesn’t know what he wants, and he wouldn’t know how to say it even if he did.

“If you do, I’d be happy,” Kirishima says. He smiles. “Okay?”

Katsuki can allow himself one beautiful thing, even if he isn’t good with them.

And even if he ruins it -

This is the beginning of the beautiful thing, and not the end. So he lets Kirishima touch his knuckles, and he lets Kirishima sit beside him and laugh into his shoulder, and he lets Kirishima fill in all the spaces by his sides. It isn’t bad.