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In the Roaring Autumn

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If people were as dependable and unproblematic as nature, Katsuki would probably have more friends. 

Nature minds its own business. Nature just does what it’s supposed to do. If you’re out in nature and nature gets up in your face or causes you stress or misery, it’s probably your own fucking fault. You probably got too close, or touched something you weren’t supposed to.

Katsuki relates to nature in that way. If everyone would just let him be, the world would be a lot more harmonious. If he’s being honest, he wouldn’t actually have more friends, but that’s because he actively avoids making them. He would, however, have far fewer enemies.

His boots traverse the uneven terrain, crunching on leaves and tiny pebbles as he makes his way up the wooded mountain path. When he passes over the crest of the next hill, he allows himself a moment of rest.

Most of life is a race to Katsuki—a competition that he intends to win. It’s different out here, though. Here, he’ll take his time. 

He leans against a tree, pressing his palm against the bark and spreading out his fingers across the coarse surface. He takes in a deep breath, appreciating the fresh air and the gentle breeze on his face. 

Yes. The mountain is way better than people. 

He wanders around the wilderness for a while longer, content in the silence and solitude. The wind whispers to the leaves on the trees, and the sky turns a bashful pink shade as the day reaches its end. He’d like to stay out here all night (hell, he’d like to stay forever), but he has a biology test on Monday that he intends to get no less than a one hundred percent on. He can’t skip studying.

The mountain will always be here, though, and Katsuki will always return to it. He makes his way back down, in no rush to return to human society, but doing so out of pure discipline. He’ll just have to savor these last moments. 

Funny; people tend to think of Katsuki as a loose cannon—some arrogant and unhinged asshole who’s always on the brink of an explosion. He is all of those things, of course, but he can’t imagine why anyone cares so much. They’d probably find this version of Katsuki far more interesting—quiet and oddly peaceful—but they’ll never see it. This part of himself, Katsuki gives only to the wilderness. 

“Hey, asshole!” Katsuki yells, thundering across the parking lot where a skateboarder is getting way too close. “Get the fuck away from my car!”

Yep, Katsuki thinks to himself with resignation, leaving the woods behind. Back to the fuckin’ real world.


The real world, for Katsuki, consists principally of working his ass off for school, working his ass off for sports, and working his ass off to avoid all the nuisances that come along with such a packed schedule (see: human interaction beyond the required levels). Mostly, it comes easy for him. He wants people to know that. But, he also wants them to see him working hard and deserving his successes. It’s a weird mix of emotions, and Katsuki doesn’t enjoy dwelling on emotions. 

It’s a sunny Monday afternoon, and he’s just aced that bio test. Part of him is tempted to go home early and sleep the day away, but he’s too disciplined for that. Instead, he changes into his workout clothes and heads to the track. Even on days when he doesn’t have practice, Katsuki makes a point to get in some exercise. 

Usually, he’d go to the woods or the park—somewhere a bit less populated—but today, he’s tired, and he’s here. So it’s going to be the track. 

As he does his stretches, he can’t help feeling like he’s being watched. The unknown gaze has a heavy weight that makes his skin crawl, but he glares through it and goes about his business. Once he’s warmed up, he starts his run. He’s gone around the track a time or two when he finally places that weird feeling—right on a head of shitty red hair, all spiked up like some sort of rabid hedgehog. 

Katauki’s run slows down without his realizing it, his attention stolen by the blur of red that passes him like a race car. All the while, the shitty-haired guy keeps watching him—eyes on Katsuki as he approaches, eyes on Katsuki as he speeds by.

A stupid smile on his face too.

Katsuki scoffs. Whatever the hell this guy wants from him, he’ll just have to be disappointed. He picks up the pace once again, pointedly not looking at the shitty redhead as he blows past him and reclaims his first place position. However, it’s only a few seconds before Katsuki hears labored breathing accompanied by hurried footsteps behind him. He doesn’t have to turn his head to know that it’s the same guy, because he can still feel his dumb gaze like a laser in the back of his head. 

Is this guy...is he actually trying to keep up with me?

Another time around the track proves that to be exactly the case. Deciding that enough is enough, Katsuki comes to a hard stop. He throws an arm out to the side like a roadblock, causing the obnoxious stranger to barrel into it. 

“Whoa!” The guy says, a few breathless laughs finding their way through his panting. 

“Who the hell are you, and what do you want?” Katsuki asks, wasting no time. 

Shitty Hair just smiles—like there’s something to smile about. “I’m Kirishima Eijirou! I sit behind you in biology class, remember?”

Katsuki blinks. “Okay.”

As far as he’s concerned, he’s never seen this man before in his life. He sees a million faces every day, and he doesn’t have time to remember all of them. Looking at this guy, though, Katsuki is almost surprised he’d forget; there’s nothing subtle about his appearance, mainly his absolute mind-fuck of a hairstyle.

“Anyway, I’m waiting for my friends to come train with me, but they’re running late from class,” Shitty Hair explains, not fazed by Kastuki’s disinterest. “Since you seem like you’re in good shape, I thought it’d be fun to have a little race or something. It’d be a good challenge for me.”

“Yeah, well I didn’t see you winning,” Katsuki says flatly. 

“Not yet,” the guy replies confidently, wiggling his eyebrows.  

The guy was keeping up pretty well, he’ll admit, but it sounded like he was struggling a bit. Why Katsuki is even entertaining the thought is beyond him. Maybe it’s because he hasn’t had a worthy competitor in what feels like a lifetime. Anyone else who’s come close just reeks of condescension. 

“Fucking whatever,” Katsuki grumbles, turning back to the track. “Do what you want.”

And apparently, what Shitty Hair wants is to continue their race. Now that it’s official, it seems like he’s really putting his all into it. Even though Katsuki is winning, Shitty Hair is at his heels pretty much the entire time. 

“You’re pretty fast,” he comments, gaining on Katsuki. “It’s Bakugou, right?”

Katsuki just grunts. 

“Alright, I can see you’re not a talker. Guess I better just focus up!”

That’s when the fun begins. Shitty Hair really kicks it into high gear. His legs fall in line with Katsuki’s, and then (in the split second Katsuki allows himself to blink) the guy is actually in front of him. How the hell…?

“Last lap!” Shitty hair announces, and even though Katsuki can tell he’s just trying to end the race on his own terms, his pride pushes him onward. 

He can still win this.

With a wicked grin, Katsuki wills his legs to move faster. Every stomp of his feet on the ground is a step towards victory. In the end, he pulls through. 

“Hell yeah,” he whispers to himself as he comes to a walking stop.

Shitty hair is still right there, somehow coaxing Katsuki into a high five before he even knows what’s happening. 

“Nice running, man!” he says, flashing a smile at Katsuki. “I’m more of a sprinter, so I was hoping to pull out a victory in that last lap, but you really pulled it off.”

Katsuki nods, working to settle his breathing. That’s the hardest he’s had to work in any sort of competition lately. The twin burning in his calves and lungs feels good—like an old friend returned home. Katsuki closes his eyes and faces the breeze, letting it cool the sheen of sweat on his neck and face. 

“Oh, look! My friends are here.”

And you’d think that would be the end of it. Honestly, that would have been fine by Katsuki. Shitty Hair sticks around, though. He sticks around as if Katsuki asked him to—as if he asked them all to. Yes, he even waves his friends over for an introduction.

The pair of guys approaches, one of them tall and plain and gangly as fuck, and the other literally Pikachu personified. They’re both grinning like morons—morons with a soccer ball. 

“Hey, dude!” Plain Face greets, glancing at but not quite acknowledging Katsuki. Good. 

Pikachu, on the other hand, looks right at Katsuki. “Oi, Kirishima, did you finally find someone else to practice with? We can do two on two!”

Hah?” Katsuki barks, arms crossing and eyes rolling. 

“Oh yeah!” Shitty Hair is quick to agree. “Guys, this is Bakugou. We take bio together. Bakugou, this is Kaminari and Sero, my best bros and roommates.”

We take bio together sounds a little too chummy for Katsuki’s taste—like they actively go to class together and have had conversations prior to the last five minutes of his life. 

“Congratulations,” Katsuki mutters. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have shit to do.”

“Aw, come on,” Shitty Hair whines. “We could really use a fourth player. Besides, the way you were running back there tells me we’d make a really great team! Let’s kick their asses at soccer, huh?”

The low growl rumbles in Katsuki’s chest—half annoyance, half his damn competitive nature looking for a good challenge. He can’t bring himself to answer (to actually verbally accept what feels like a social invitation), so he just nods his head once to give the basic idea. This prompts a round of applause from all three morons, and before he knows it all the losers on the field are looking. 

Literally, fuck him. 

Even so, it doesn’t end up being that terrible. Mostly because they win—and they win by a lot. Katsuki can hold his own pretty well, but every time he thinks it might come in handy to have some backup, Shitty Hair is right there. He fights to make himself open for Katsuki, and he’s playing hard too. With every turn and kick, he’s tearing up grass and dirt, which for some reason is proof of his dedication and hard work to Katsuki. 

At one point, Katsuki finds himself passing the ball not because he has to, but because he wants to see this guy make a goal. So far, Katsuki has been the one on offense, but when you’re playing two on two, who the fuck really cares? They’re winning by a million points anyway.

And Katsuki isn’t disappointed. Despite their generous lead, Shitty Hair still approaches the goal like it will be the winning point—the one to tip the scales—and it's a damn beautiful kick that makes the goal.

Again, though, it’s not like there was much standing in his way. Are these other two extras even on the school’s soccer team? Because they suck. Compared to racing against the red haired guy, beating these two is a piece of cake.

Maybe that just means Shitty Hair is a decent teammate. What was his name again?

“Yeah, man! I knew we’d make a good team.”

Katsuki blinks as he’s ambushed with another high five from the redhead. “Yeah, whatever. I could have beat those guys alone—with my hands tied behind my damn back.”

“Mean!” Shitty Hair scolds, but he’s still smiling. Has he even stopped smiling once since they met today? It’s kind of relentless. “You were really good, though.”

The other two idiots come running across the field, saving Katsuki from having to generate a reply. 

“Kirishima! Mina just called and said she’s ordering pizza. You coming?”

The redhead nods eagerly. “Wouldn’t miss it! Wanna join, Bakugou?”

“Pass,” Katsuki says with the biggest frown he can muster. “I’ve got better things to do than eat junk food with shitty-haired losers.”

The insult bounces off Kirishima like he’s made of stone. “Correction—I’m a shitty-haired winner tonight.”

He’s not wrong. 

“Fuck off,” is his best reply, and he saunters away as the three stooges babble their happy and annoying nonsense. Despite his absolute need to get away, Katsuki can’t help committing the name to memory. 

Kirishima…

It almost feels earned.

Katsuki stretches his arms as he walks, eying the swaying branches above the road. A rogue leaf flutters down, perching on his hair and crunching between his fingers as he goes to retrieve it. It’s a bit early for the leaves to fall, but it won’t be long now. 

After a long and annoying day—plus the added burden of that ridiculous soccer game—Katsuki damn well deserves a treat. He swings into the campus coffee shop on his way home, craving a quick pick-me-up to get him through the evening. 

The bell on the door jingles as he shoves his way in, dismayed by the line that backs up all the way to the entrance. He considers leaving right then and there, but his stomach growls in objection, convincing him to get a snack along with his coffee. It’s been that kind of day. 

He shoves his hands into his pockets, finding a loose thread inside to play with as he waits. His eyes wander the room, settling on the nearby wall where someone has carved the words “Fuck you, you fucking fuck” into the drywall. The amused snort it draws from him is involuntary; he kind of wishes he’d been the one to put that there. 

“Kacchan!”

His blood runs cold. Fucking Deku.

Katsuki’s first instinct is to quote the wall defacement right here and now. If anyone is a fucking fuck, it’s Deku. But, he won’t give him the satisfaction. Probably. 

“The hell do you want?” He barks instead, a little louder than he probably should in this quaint little shop. 

Deku coils back, his grin cracking on his face. “I, uh—nothing, I just haven’t seen you in a while, but here we both are.”

“Fancy that.” They both go to the same damn school, after all. 

“I just,” Deku pauses, his face going red and his eyes darting about. It ignites something ugly in Katsuki, something that makes him want to be meaner just so it might scare Deku off once and for all. “Are you doing okay? I know you can take care of yourself but at the same time—”

“I don’t need your help, you damn nerd!” Katsuki snaps, hands clenched into fists. “Mind your own business and stay the hell away from me!”

“But Kacchan, what about—”

Katsuki takes a jerking step forward, limbs lurching with him and stopping just short of Deku. He’s not going to hit him (he’s not a fucking moron), but he needs to scare him away. He needs him to stop talking before he has the chance to say it. 

Don’t. Don’t fucking bring that up, Deku. 

Deku, stubborn as ever, opens his mouth to say something more, but Katsuki cuts him off through gritted teeth.

“Fuck you, you fucking fuck.”

Fuck the coffee too, and the snack. Fuck his hungry stomach. Katsuki turns on his heel and storms out the door. He should go home but he doesn’t. He goes off campus, abandoning his car and all his responsibilities too. Out to the forest—to be alone.

When he’s far enough away from any passerby who might hear, Katsuki turns his face up to the treetops and lets a tortured roar escape from somewhere deep in his chest. His fist goes flying, searching for the nearest tree trunk, but he stops himself just in time. He’s not gonna stand out here and punch a damn tree. 

His phone buzzes in his pocket, and against his better judgement Katsuki checks the message. 

Deku - 7:39pm
I’m really sorry for upsetting you Kacchan. I just haven’t seen you since the funeral and I was getting worried that you weren’t coming back.

There it fucking is. The last thing that Katsuki wants to think about, but somehow the only thing he ever does.

Drained and hopeless, Katsuki rests his forehead on the tree trunk that was almost a victim of his fist. He closes his eyes and leans his full weight against it, uncertain that his legs can be bothered to hold him up at this moment. He tries to breathe deeply, tries to stay calm and remove all the poisonous thoughts from his mind. That never works, though. Of course it doesn’t. 

Through the treetops, Katsuki can both hear and feel the rolling thunder. The leaves can only do so much to catch the rain as the sky opens up above him, and before long the water is trickling down freely onto him. It soaks his hair and clothes, but Katsuki makes no effort to escape it. It’s just some damn rain. 

And if a few tears were to slip in there, who would ever know?

Chapter Text

 

A single negative thought can cost Katsuki an entire night of sleep, and he’s going to pay for it today. Most likely, nobody else will notice. He’s pretty bristly on a normal day, so no one will get close enough to witness the storm brewing beneath his skin.

“Oi, Bakugou!”

Katsuki winces at the sound of his own name. At that volume, whoever’s talking to him better be grateful he didn’t turn around and deck them. He does turn around, though, his body twisting in his desk to face his tormentor. He’s prepared to yell at them to leave him alone (he’s even opened his mouth to do it), but then he sees who it is. 

Spiky red hair, dopey smile. Yep, it’s definitely him. Shitty Hair—or, Kirishima? Yeah, Kirishima. 

“The fuck do you think you’re doing?” he asks as Kirishima takes the desk behind him. 

The comment seems to catch Kirishima off guard. He slows down, but doesn’t altogether stop as he gets settled in his seat. His shoulders raise up in a tiny shrug. “Same thing I always do?”

Katsuki frowns. Is he really supposed to believe that Kirishima has been sitting here every class this semester? And somehow Katsuki never noticed him?

Of course, Katsuki is always here early—and he’s never exactly made an effort to look at his classmates. But, he’s shushed them plenty of times. There’s always some moron behind him chatting it up, making it impossible to focus with his obnoxiously loud laugh. Katsuki glances at the white tile, inspecting the remnants of a stain from when the same mysterious “somebody” managed to spill their damn protein drink on the floor. Holy shit, it really was this guy. 

Maybe he should demand that Kirishima buy him a new pair of shoes. The stupid drink splattered all over his feet that day.

Katsuki just scoffs, opting to stay silent instead of stoking any embers of conversation. It works well enough for the moment, but as class begins, Katsuki is more aware than ever of Kirishima’s noisy existence. If he didn’t know better, he’d think those other two morons were in the room too, but he doesn’t dare turn around to check. 

After an hour and a half of gritting his teeth and clinging to his ability to focus, class lets out. For the first time, Katsuki inspects his classmates, hoping to be sneaky as his eyes wander the room.

He’s pretty sure Kirishima’s friends from yesterday are not, in fact, here in the room, but Kirishima is laughing and socializing all the same. He’s got a big crowd around him, and they all seem actively engaged in what he has to say. Stranger yet, Kirishima is just as interested in them. It’s weird to think about anyone having so many friends. How can he stand it?

For a split second, Kirishima’s eyes meet Katsuki’s. Shit. He grabs his things and shoves his way out of the classroom without so much as an idea of where he’s headed. Speedy as he is, Shitty Hair right at his heel. 

“Hey, man! Where you going in such a hurry?”

“Away,” Katsuki answers, taking a sharp left turn down the hall. 

“You wanna train again?”

Katsuki glances over his shoulder. “You really can’t take a hint, huh?”

“Guess not,” Kirishima says cheerfully. “It’s so much better to train with a friend than on your own. Competition really drives me.”

He’s got a point, but still… “I don’t do friends.”

“Workout partners, then?” Kirishima suggests, skipping in front of Katsuki and cutting him off. His smile disappears at last, replaced by pleading eyes. “You saw Kaminari and Sero yesterday. They’re great friends, but they don’t really challenge me all that much. How’s a guy supposed to get better that way?”

Now that speaks to Katsuki. He folds his arms, staring out the floor-length window to the school’s courtyard. He can’t look this guy in the eye while he considers actually hanging out with him. They wouldn’t be friends, nor would Katsuki just be taking pity on him by agreeing to this. It would be mutually beneficial. 

Besides, if Kirishima actually wants to get better, that makes him a hundred times less annoying than most of the stagnant-ass extras around here.

“Fine,” Katsuki says at last. “We’ll be fucking workout partners.”

The twinkle in Kirishima’s eyes catches Katsuki off guard. It’s only due to timing; the sun came out from behind the clouds just now, and it’s shining right into the window on them both. Katsuki doesn’t care about how the light catches every strand of Kirishima’s shitty hair, creating a red velvet halo around him. Somehow it softens his appearance a bit, but Katsuki just blocks it out. 

“Great!” Kirishima cheers. “Let’s hurry up and go. I’m ready for some fresh air!”

The sun hangs low on the horizon as they make their way to the track. This really is the best time to work out. All the midday heat seems to evaporate in the evenings, leaving the air cool and easy. At least Katsuki can enjoy that. 

They do their stretches and warmups in silence, but as soon as the real work begins, Kirishima starts jabbering away. Katsuki really isn’t listening to him, but his voice becomes something like a soundtrack. Once he drowns it out a bit, it’s not so grating. It ebbs and flows, lulling at times but always continuing on. Once in a while he’ll break into a big belly laugh, and Katsuki nearly rips his head off when he dares to give him a playful nudge. But, regardless of Katsuki’s grumbling and griping and threats, Kirishima remains uninhibited. 

Katsuki is just beginning to get used to his presence when he disappears altogether. It’s the silence that clues him in. Against his better judgement (he’ll be free of this loser if he just keeps running), Katsuki comes to a stop and takes a look around. Rather than being right at Katsuki’s heel, Shitty Hair is stationed several meters back, standing idle. 

Odd. Really fuckin’ out of character actually—not that Katsuki would claim or want to know the guy. But he’s just standing there, not talking or being annoying, and he actually looks kind of sad or something.

Great. What the hell am I supposed to do now? he wonders. Part of him would really like to shrug it off and abandon ship. Instead, he finds himself trudging back towards Kirishima. Yeah, Katsuki hates people, but he’s not fucking heartless. Something is obviously wrong. 

“The hell are you doing?” he asks, stopping about five feet from where Kirishima has planted his feet. 

Kirishima doesn’t look his way, so Katsuki follows his eyes across the soccer field to a small crowd of busy students.

“Shitty Hair,” Katsuki snaps when the appropriate amount of time has passed for Kirishima to answer. 

“Sorry,” Kirishima says, his gaze somehow both vacant and unwavering. “I just…”

“Just what?” Katsuki asks impatiently.

He wishes Kirishima would spit it out. Waiting for him to find the words is making Katsuki antsy. He watches carefully as Kirishima shifts his weight, wetting his lips and popping his knuckles anxiously. He cracks his last finger and then finally meets Katsuki’s eyes. 

“I just knew that girl once, that’s all.”

Based on a quick glance, there are multiple girls to whom Kirishima could be referring. None of them look especially interesting to Katsuki. 

“Ex girlfriend?” Katsuki has no idea why he’s guessing. 

Kirishima lets out a quiet laugh, but it doesn’t hold any joy. “Nah. Definitely not a girlfriend.”

And then, as if he’s on a timer of some sort, Katsuki runs out of words—no more conversation to be had. Where does one even take a conversation at this point? There’s not much else to say. 

Maybe Kirishima is smarter than Katsuki thought, because he seems to catch on. He clears his throat and rolls his shoulders back.

“Anyway,” he turns back to Katsuki, and for the first time Katsuki notices the color of Kirishima’s eyes. Red. “Where were we?”

“Uh…”

Katsuki can’t remember. He barely hears the question, in fact. At the moment, he’s a little lost. What’s so striking about Kirishima’s eyes? Katsuki’s own eyes are red—so what? Kirishima’s, though… Kirishima’s eyes aren’t red like blood or molten rock; they’re big and round and sparkly, shining like rubies. 

“Right, I was about to take the lead!” Kirishima exclaims, and by the time Katsuki registers his words, Kirishima has taken off in a blur of crimson. 

“Fuck you!” Katsuki roars, shooting after him.

Admittedly, he’s being a bit sloppy, but Kirishima caught him off guard! He’s not gonna lose just because his opponent took a head start. In fact, he’s gonna crush him even harder.

Katsuki takes a deep breath, focusing as he closes the gap between himself and Kirishima. He puts everything he knows into practice (and then some), pushing himself to his limit and coming up on Kirishima’s left. 

“Last lap, motherfucker!” Katsuki calls, stealing back his lead, as well as Kirishima’s shitty tactic from yesterday.

Kirishima manages to stay close, but by the end of it Katsuki still finds himself the victor.

It’s not his most glamorous win. They’re both panting like dogs, and Kirishima keeps laughing for fuck knows what reason. By some silent agreement, they collapse side by side in a heap, staring up at the pink and purple clouds above. 

“Next time,” Kirishima vows. 

“Not happening,” Katsuki replies.

He rests his hands behind his head, stretching out to allow as much air in his lungs as possible. That was a good workout. Ridiculous, but good. This Kirishima guy might be alright—for a workout partner, that is. 

“Who trained you, dude?” Kirishima asks after a moment, his breathing a bit more settled now. “You’re insane.”

“Doesn’t matter,” Katsuki says. He ignores the sweat trickling from his forehead. “I would’ve beat you no matter what.”

The grass tickles the backs of his arms when he shifts to steal a glance. Kirishima’s face is flushed as red as his wilting hair. It puts Katsuki at peace to see that he’s not the only one wiped out. If Kirishima had come out of that race anything less than exhausted, Katsuki would demand he get back up and race him again. He won’t accept any half-assed victory. 

Thankfully, that doesn’t seem to be the case here. 

“So what team are you on?” Kirishima presses. At least Katsuki got a couple minutes of relative silence. “You’re so in shape, you’ve gotta play a sport, right? And I think I heard you’re here on a sports scholarship—”

“Who the fuck is talking about me when I’m not around?” Katsuki barks, sitting upright.

Kirishima’s eyes widen like he’s been caught red-handed. He rubs at his eyes and looks away. “I dunno, I just—heard it?”

“Whatever. Not that it’s any of your damn business, but I’m on the—” Katsuki stops short. It really isn’t his damn business, is it? It’ll just bring up a lot more questions that Katsuki doesn’t feel like answering. “Forget it.”

Kirishima rolls on his side, bracing himself with his elbow. “Aw, come on.”

“Why do you wanna know so bad?” Katsuki asks, preparing the brick and mortar for the walls around his heart. Most people don’t ask him so many questions, and that’s how he likes it. 

“You just seem cool. I dunno. Why don’t you wanna tell me?”

Bakugou blinks. “Wrestling.”

It’s the easier question to answer of the two. 

“Whoa, sick!” Kirishima exclaims. “I should have guessed that. It makes so much sense! I used to watch pro wrestling all the time as a kid. My favorite of all time was—”

“Fuck off.” Katsuki jumps to his feet. It’s all he can do not to cover his ears like a child. 

This was stupid. This was so stupid. He’s gotta get out of here.

He shoves his hands in his pockets and stalks away. He’s not about to have that conversation. Not with some stranger—not with anyone. There’s only one place it could lead, and Katsuki won’t go there. 

“Hey, man, wait up!” Kirishima calls, running after him. He doesn’t give up, does he? “I’m sorry if I said something wrong! Can you tell me what it was? I won’t do it again.”

Katsuki just focuses on the loose pebbles on the ground as he crosses the parking lot. This is dumb. He never should have let anyone get this close—never should have given an inch. Now he’s got some idiot on his ass trying to learn all his personal business. 

The breeze picks up and the sun sinks down. Katsuki wishes more than anything that he’d been smart enough to park his damn car a little closer this morning, but he hadn’t anticipated another workout with Shitty Hair at the track. If only he’d known. 

His hands ball into fists in his pockets. His body wants to curl in on itself to combat the cold, but he won’t look weak—not in front of Kirishima. The moron is still following him like a lost puppy, and honestly, Katsuki doesn’t know what he’s waiting for. He’s not going to get a reply.

“Sorry,” Kirishima says once more.

Despite the cold air and Katsuki’s colder attitude, Kirishima remains warm. Even though his voice quivers a bit, there’s also something incredibly genuine about it when he speaks. Katsuki knows he’s not bullshitting. 

“Could we still work out and just do it in silence?”

Katsuki comes to a stop, staring back over his shoulder at this incredibly bold moron. Why won’t he give up? The persistence should bother Katsuki; for some reason he kind of admires it. 

Tch.” Katsuki scoffs. He waves his arm and takes off on a slow jog. If Shitty Hair wants to follow, then so be it. 

At the very least, they can jog back to the car. It’s basically across campus anyway. Beside him, Kirishima stays true to his word, jogging in sweet silence and not trying to pry any further. Like this, it’s actually kind of nice. Katsuki has spent so much time trying to get away from other people (and he doesn’t regret it! People are annoying!), and he never realized that just to have another being next to you could be somewhat comforting. Especially when that being learns how to shut his damn mouth. 

Maybe that’s why when they reach Katsuki’s car, he doesn’t get in. Instead, he sits himself down on a nearby bench and waits for Kirishima to inevitably join him. He does, and the silence continues, interrupted only by a chattering group of students exiting the library. They don’t seem to take notice of Katsuki and Kirishima; they’re too busy laughing and joking.

It’s really obnoxious. 

But then they’re gone, and Katsuki is impressed that Kirishima still hasn’t said a word. He’d think that the crowd would have sparked a need to speak, but Kirishima is just sitting there.

Katsuki rests his elbows on his thighs in a slouch, fingers folding tightly together. He’ll throw Kirishima a bone. Call it a reward for good behavior. 

“I’m on the wrestling team,” he says, glaring at the ground. “But I don’t like talking about that shit these days. For all I know, they’re gonna kick me off, and that’d be fine with me.”

At first, Kirishima doesn’t reply at all. He wants to, Katsuki can somehow tell—can feel it—but he says nothing. When Katsuki steals a glance, he’s met with Kirishima’s pleading eyes, as if he thinks speaking is prohibited. That is kind of what Katsuki said… He gives a nod of approval. 

“Why?” It’s a seemingly simple question from Kirishima. 

“Don’t like it’s anymore,” Katsuki replies. Easy enough. 

There’s a beat of silence before Kirishima speaks again. “Oh, gotcha. You seem like you’d be really good, though.”

“I don’t know.”

Katsuki squeezes his hands tighter. Why did he say that? Since when does Katsuki claim to be anything less than amazing? Dammit. His knuckles go white from the grip, and suddenly the electrical buzz of one of the parking lot lights above threatens to make his head explode. He’s bracing himself for the drama. 

“I get it.” Kirishima surprises him. “Sometimes I don’t know either. I got into this school on a sports scholarship, but sometimes I really don’t think I deserve it. It’s so unmanly, but I can’t help doubting myself.”

Truthfully, Katsuki expects people to laugh at him whenever he admits weakness. Maybe because it’s what he deserves. Shitty Hair isn’t doing that, though. Shitty Hair is making him feel valid.

Katsuki doesn’t even like to acknowledge his insecurities in the privacy of his own mind, but here he is in the middle of the campus with a near-stranger. A few words is practically pouring his heart out. It’s something he’s always resisted. 

“Fuck that shit,” Katsuki says to himself as much as to Kirishima.

“Ha, agreed,” Kirishima says with a laugh. “Don’t you wish it was that easy?”

Katsuki stares up at a moth as it flutters toward the light. It doesn’t even have a choice—not really. Mindlessly seeking, but never satisfied. Round and round in circles, getting nowhere.

He brings his folded hands up to his mouth, muffling a sigh.

“Yeah…”






Chapter Text

 

Katsuki awakes with a start. He gasps for air, relieved to be free of his nightmare but no less disturbed by the memories that plague him even in his sleep.

A layer of sweat coats his chest and face. He wipes it away with his forearm before pushing himself up and out of bed. He’s never been more thankful to have this shitty studio apartment. If the bathroom were any further away, he might not have the willpower to get there.

His feet drag along the rug fibers. When they touch the cool bathroom tile, he feels a bit more alive—a bit more separated from the darkness. The bathroom fan does little to drown out his thoughts, but the ice cold water of the shower sure helps.

Good thing he doesn’t have any early morning classes today. He wouldn’t have made it if he did.

Once he’s sufficiently freezing, he emerges from the shower and towels off. He should probably get dressed, even though he doesn’t want to. He should probably eat some breakfast, even though he doesn’t want to. Actually, he doesn’t really want to do anything today. Damn his discipline. 

His phone begins buzzing as Katsuki pulls a black tank top over his head. He’s already groaning in annoyance before he even sees the ID. Then the name Aizawa Shouta burns into his retinas. 

“Fuck,” Katsuki whispers. 

Taking that call is another thing he definitely doesn’t want to do. So he won’t. 

It’s actually quite unusual to get a phone call from Aizawa. He’s usually pretty hands-off as a coach. Katsuki would attribute that to their getting along so well.

What that means is Katsuki has probably pissed him off—crossed some sort of line. Not showing up for the last several practices might have something to do with that. Aizawa is secretly a hard-ass after all. 

Whatever.

Katsuki scarfs down whatever scraps are left in his pantry before heading out the door. He’ll leave his car behind today. If he walks slow enough, maybe he’ll miss his first class. He could ditch school and go for a hike instead. 

Of course, he could never actually let that happen. Despite his own wishes, Katsuki’s feet carry him too quickly to campus. He makes it with time to spare, and he can’t bring himself to actually ditch class.

Plopping down in a window seat in the student commons, Katsuki puts on a rotten glare to ward off anyone who might even consider approaching him. Unfortunately, there’s one person Katsuki can’t scare away. One person who might be even scarier than him. 

Aizawa seems to manifest out of nowhere. A menacing shadow in a well lit room. 

“Ignoring my calls?”

Katsuki pretends not to care, slinking back in his chair and crossing his legs. “That implies I care enough to actively ignore them.”

“It does,” Aizawa replies. Why is it always a competition of who can be the most dry and sarcastic? “You’re actively ignoring practice too.”

Katsuki clenches his jaw. “So what?”

“So, you made a commitment to my team,” Aizawa says, his tone growing sharper. “I don’t take commitments lightly.”

“What do you want me to say?”

Aizawa pauses, pursing his lips. “Are you quitting?”

Katsuki can’t help but wince at the word. He’s never quit anything in his life.

“I’m not a damn quitter.”

“Then show up for practice. If you’re won’t do that, then quit. I don’t need dead weight on my team.”

That’s probably the least sarcastic thing Aizawa has ever said. Every syllable cuts like a knife. He turns his back and starts to walk away. Katsuki should probably leave it at that, but there’s a question burning in his chest. It needs to escape. 

“Why don’t you just kick me off?” he calls after Aizawa.

His coach doesn’t even slow down to answer. “That implies I care enough to kick you off.”

The cafeteria is always so damn crowded. That’s why Katsuki hates it. That’s why he never comes here. But, after just one class, his stomach was growling like a fucking dog, so apparently his sorry excuse for breakfast wasn’t enough. And now he’s here—in the worst place on campus. 

It’s lunchtime now, so there are about a million people in here. Katsuki gets a tray full of the crappy cafeteria food and scouts out the most isolated table in the room. Tucked in the corner, away from everyone else (although he can still hear all the incessant chatter), this is as good as it’s going to get. 

He’s barely taken a bite when he catches sight of Deku’s shitty green hair and red shoes. Fuck. He ducks his head lower, hoping not to be seen. If Deku does see him, he’ll probably come over and try to talk. The last thing Katsuki needs right now is to get kicked out of the cafeteria for calling Deku a damn nerd. Which he is. 

But, his efforts to go unseen are all for nothing. Deku was probably looking for Katsuki anyway. That’s the only explanation for how quickly he found him. It takes all of two seconds for Deku to come hurrying over, that damn condescending tone in hand as usual. 

“H-hey, Kacchan,” Deku says. He’s smart enough to keep more than an arm’s length between them. “How’s it going?”

It takes everything in Katsuki to just ignore him, but he knows that’s by far the best choice. He grits his teeth and stares at his tray as if Deku isn’t even there. 

“Come on,” Deku tries again, some of that cheerful veneer wearing off. “Don’t you think we should talk about this?”

Katsuki pounds the table with his fist, rattling the dishes on his tray. “No, I don’t think we should fucking talk. About anything.”

“Are you ever coming back to practice?”

“Bakugou! Hey, man!”

The sound of Kirishima’s voice saves Katsuki from having to kick Deku’s ass. He’s not exactly happy to see Kirishima, but he’s a far superior option to Deku. Katsuki doesn’t stop him from sitting down. He even lets the other two morons join them. 

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you eating in here,” Kirishima says with a wide smile. “Couldn’t pass up the chance to sit with you. It might never happen again.”

“Whatever, Shitty Hair,” Katsuki grumbles. 

“Kirishima,” he corrects, and then his face lights up. “Hey, Midoriya! Fancy seeing you here too.”

Katsuki can barely contain a growl. There’s this weird feeling bubbling in his chest.

“You guys know each other?” Katsuki asks. 

Because of course they do. It sounds like an accusation. Maybe it kind of is. Or maybe it’s just that Deku being involved at all seems like a threat to—well, there’s nothing to threaten. Kirishima isn’t even Katsuki’s friend, so it doesn’t matter. 

“Well sure!” Kirishima says. “I see Midoriya at the gym all the time, and last year we had a class together.”

“Kirishima knows everybody,” that dumb Pikachu pipes up. “If you’re his friend, you’ll get used to it.”

“Alright, well,” Deku clears his throat. “I guess I’ll be going. Hope to see you around, Kacchan—and, uh, nice to see you Kirishima!”

And then Deku is shuffling away—back to his stupid boyfriend and their crowd of admirers. It makes Katsuki sick. He grumbles into his food as he takes another bite, hunching his shoulders as if they’ll actually block out all the morons that surround him. 

“Uhh, that was weird,” the plain-faced moron says, looking to his friends. “That was weird, right?”

“Kinda,” Kirishima agrees, and Katsuki rolls his eyes. Here comes the meddling. “There’s sort of a weird tension between you guys, Bakugou.”

Katsuki won’t mince words. “Because Deku is the worst person I’ve ever met.”

“Wait, for real?” Kirishima gapes. “He always seems so nice!”

And here comes the Deku praise. Katsuki should have known that Kirishima was too good to be true. The only bearable person he’s met in months, and he has to be a Deku fanboy. Well, Katsuki’s not gonna stick around for that. 

He piles as many noodles as he can into his mouth in an undignified manner. One last bite for the road, and then he’s out of here. 

“Fuck off,” he says, excusing himself from the table and dumping the contents of his tray in the garbage.

He vaguely hears Kirishima tell his friends to wait there, but his voice quickly gets lost in the crowd. If only Katsuki could do the same. But of course, Kirishima is right there. Katsuki probably couldn’t lose him even if he really tried. He should probably try harder. 

“Hey, man, you should come to a party with me tonight!” Kirishima says, swinging his arm around Katsuki’s shoulder like it’s the most natural thing. 

Like Katsuki didn’t just storm off in complete and utter rage. 

He’s too shocked to yell, or say no, or push Kirishima the hell off of him. How did they get here? Two seconds ago they were talking about how “great” Deku is, and now Kirishima is inviting Katsuki to a party? 

“Fucking—what?” Is all Katsuki can manage when he finds his words. For some reason he still doesn’t bother to shrug off Kirishima‘s arm. He’s still too confused for that. 

“Yeah! My friend Mina throws the best parties. Well, technically it’s her sorority, but I know she’s the one who makes them so kickass.”

“I don’t do parties,” Katsuki replies dryly, pushing the cafeteria door open. 

The hallway, in contrast, is empty—save for the crisp silence that fills it. Dammit, Katsuki should have eaten out here. It would have saved him all this trouble. 

“You don’t do parties, you don’t do friends,” Kirishima hums. He withdraws his arm from Katsuki’s shoulder, pacing ahead. “What do you do?”

“Whatever I damn well please,” Katsuki snaps. “Mainly, get away from all the annoying assholes at this school.”

Kirishima seems to actually consider this, coming to a stop and tapping his chin. “Yeah, I guess that’d be hard to do at a school party with your school friends. You might be surprised, though!”

“Why?”

Kirishima just blinks, and Katsuki can tell he’s going to have to explain. Can’t this guy reach any conclusions on his own? Katsuki sits on the window’s ledge, trying to decide if it’s worth the effort. It isn’t, but he continues anyway. 

“Why invite me in the first place if you like Deku so much and I hate him?”

“Deku? You mean Midoriya?” Kirishima drops his backpack and sits right on the floor. The light from the window shines on the surface so Katsuki can see all the dirt, but Kirishima doesn’t seem to mind. Gross. “I guess I just wanna be your friend—er, workout partner. It’s okay that you don’t like Midoriya! We don’t have to be friends with the same people. To be honest, I don’t even know him all that well.”

“Oh,” Katsuki says dumbly. 

Maybe he jumped to a few conclusions. Sue him. 

Has anybody ever been okay with Katsuki hating Deku before? As far as he can remember, everyone has always tried to convince him that Deku is amazing and worthy of Katsuki’s friendship. They could never leave well enough alone, and dammit, if that didn’t just make him hate Deku more.

If Katsuki hated Deku, then it must have been because Katsuki had done something wrong. That’s how everyone has always treated him. 

Kirishima doesn’t care, though. Maybe if he knew Deku better, he’d be just like the others, but for the first time in Katsuki’s life, he’s allowed to hate Deku. And allowed to be friends with someone who likes him. 

Not that Katsuki is looking for friendship. 

“So you should come,” Kirishima says earnestly. “They’re these great parties—they always throw them outside in the fresh air, and there are these really pretty lights on the back porch, and of course there’s booze, and music, and—”

“Alright!” Katsuki groans. “If I come will you stop fuckin’ nagging me about it?”

Kirishima leans back on his arms into a lazy position, smiling up at Katsuki from the floor. “You won’t hear another word from me.”

Katsuki scoffs. “I want that in fucking writing.”

“Meet me at the soccer field when your classes are done,” Kirishima grins. “I have practice tonight, so I’ll be there ‘til whenever.”

Katsuki huffs, wary of what he’s gotten himself into. He can’t quite remember why he’d so eagerly accepted the invitation. It all happened so fast after everything Kirishima said about Deku.

“This party better be damn good.”

Kirishima assures him that it will be, and Katsuki takes off before there’s time for any more conversation to sprout. He’s got classes to suffer through—and suffer through them he does. Fuck, could these students be any more annoying? Katsuki probably wouldn’t have to work for an A at all if he could get some damn peace and quiet during his lessons. 

He does make it through eventually. Of course, today he had his evening class. Hopefully Kirishima got tired of waiting for him and decided to leave him behind. Then Katsuki would be spared from this party. 

Unsurprisingly, Katsuki finds Kirishima exactly where he said he’d be. He’s the only person on the soccer field (the only person in sight actually), but the big flood lights above the field are still on and blinding as fuck, so practice must not have ended too long ago.

Katsuki lifts his hand in a half-assed wave, dragging his feet as if they’re made of metal and the ground is a magnet. He’s going to a party. A fucking party. Fuck him. 

“Wow, you actually came!” Kirishima muses, kicking his soccer ball at Katsuki. 

Katsuki stops the ball with his foot. “Unfortunately.”

Once Kirishima swings his bag over his shoulder, Katsuki sends the ball back to him. The redhead kicks it along as they walk, sparing Katsuki from any unnecessary conversation. In fact, it’s Katsuki who first speaks up—because they’ve only walked five minutes and Shitty Hair is already stopping. 

“The hell are you doing?” Katsuki asks as Kirishima veers toward one of the ugly brick dormitories. 

“Uh, going to my room?” Kirishima shrugs. He picks up the ball and tucks it under his arm. “I’m all sweaty and gross from practice. I gotta shower before we hit the party.”

“And what am I supposed to do?”

Another shrug, and Kirishima is inching up the front steps. “Just hang out in the dorm? Talk with Kaminari and Sero.”

“Pass,” Katsuki says, begrudgingly following Kirishima inside. “I’ll sit in silence.”

“Okay then,” Kirishima chuckles, leading the way up the stairs.

It’s a long walk down the hall, and Kirishima’s doorknob puts up a fight when he tries to turn it (fucking old buildings and their problems). Eventually, they get inside. Kirishima gestures to the desk and bed that belong to him, and promptly disappears into the bathroom with a bundle of clothes.

And then, Katsuki is alone. It takes him a second to actually realize it, but there’s nobody else here. Thank God. No dumb roommates. Just Katsuki alone, standing in the dorm room of someone who is basically a stranger. 

He should sit down. From his options, he chooses the desk chair, ignoring the way it practically collapses beneath his weight. Dorm life must be so strange. As he looks around the room, Katsuki becomes increasingly glad that he’s able to scrape up the money each month for a shitty apartment (because it’s still less shitty than this place).

He listens to the white noise of the shower. That’s gotta be the biggest amenity of the place, and Kirishima probably has to share it with whoever lives next door, plus his roommate. It’s just too tight of a space with far too many people. 

Still, small as it is, Kirishima has clearly made it his own. There’s an abundance of character in these four walls. Hanging above the bed are several posters of professional soccer players, and even of the old pro wrestler Crimson Riot. Kirishima did mention that he liked wrestling, but Katsuki kind of forgot until now. He should have pegged him as a Riot fan, but for some reason he assumed Kirishima would have favored All Might like everyone else. 

But he shouldn’t think about that right now. What else is in the room?

Well, there’s a punching bag that looks well-loved. Lots of red decor. There are some dumbbells in the corner too. It’s as he’s looking at all these things that it dawns on Katsuki that Kirishima is probably really fit. For some reason, the thought makes him blush—maybe because it’s immediately followed by the realization that Kirishima’s really fit body is naked in the shower right now. 

Dammit, is he twelve years old or something? Who cares about Shitty Hair’s dumb body?

He directs his attention back to the room. The other side is completely different. Somehow it’s louder and even more obnoxious—a messy arrangement of lava lamps and neon signs, a big checkered bedspread and entirely too much yellow. Who even likes the color yellow? It’s like a fourteen-year-old emo dumbass got a Hot Topic gift card from their grandma and went to town. 

The shower shuts off. Katsuki squirms a bit in his chair, trying to swallow this awkwardness that’s so foreign to him.

 A few minutes later, the bathroom door swings open, and out steps Kirishima. At least, Katsuki’s pretty sure it’s Kirishima.

There’s something different about him. It’s his hair. Usually, he has it all spiked up and crazy. That’s why Katsuki calls him Shitty Hair. That’s not the case now, though. Now, Kirishima’s bright red hair is hanging down freely. It looks so soft and smooth. How long must it take for him to spike it up all the time? And why wouldn’t he want to wear it like this every day instead?

“Y-yeah, I know my hair’s not done,” Kirishima stammers. Apparently, Katsuki was noticeably staring. Shit. “It only takes a few minutes to do, but I’ve already got us running late so I thought I’d just leave it this time.”

Katsuki has to tear his eyes away. “Whatever.”

He watches as Kirishima throws on a jacket and a pair of red Crocs. Fucking Crocs.

“What the hell are you wearing?” Katsuki can’t help but ask. 

Kirishima seems to understand right away. “What? They’re comfy!”

Honestly, he’s kind of relieved. For a minute there, Kirishima was starting to look attractive, and the Crocs really help to fix that problem. 

“Yeah, well good luck being an athlete with those piece-of-shit shoes,” Katsuki replies. “They’ll destroy your feet.”

Kirishima rolls his eyes, but less than a second later he’s grinning again. He opens the door and gestures for Katsuki to lead the way out. They step out into the hallway, but Kirishima stops short of locking the door. 

“Oh hey, you’ll probably wanna leave your backpack here, huh?” he suggests, nodding to the bag still slung over Katsuki’s shoulder. “Then you don’t have to carry it around all night.”

Katsuki’s hold on the strap of his bag tightens. His own personal stuff in this dorm room? Unattended?

“No thanks. I don’t feel like having my shit stolen.”

“No worries,” Kirishima says with a shrug. “It was just an idea. If it makes you feel any better, my roommate and suitemates are all at the party, and the door’s gonna be locked.”

“Whatever,” Katsuki grunts, pushing the door back open and blindly throwing his backpack in. “Let’s just get this over with, okay?”

“You mean, let’s get it started!” Shitty Hair cheers, holding his hand up for a high five. Katsuki leaves him hanging. “Party time!”

Katsuki lets out a sigh. “Woo-fucking-hoo.”

This is going to be a long night. 






Chapter Text

 

Despite the insane amount of people, this party has its redeeming qualities—mainly the canopy of leaves above and the cool, fresh air. Katsuki can almost forget that he’s at a party instead of deep in the forest. He can’t completely forget, though, because he’s got three idiots glued to his side and the thunderous bass blaring in his ears. 

“Now what?” he asks, now that Kirishima has shoved a beer into his hand. 

“Now you just have fun,” Kirishima says simply. “Relax, drink, dance, jump on the trampoline over there—”

“Not on your life,” Katsuki says. 

But Kirishima, per usual, is all smiles. “Whatever you want.”

“You don’t ask ‘now what’ at a party like this,” Pikachu chastises. 

“Yeah,” Plain Face agrees. “You just party.”

Katsuki’s fists ball up without his say-so. Obviously it was a huge mistake to come here. This was never going to be his thing, so why did he allow himself to be talked into it? He doesn’t do anything that he doesn’t want to. 

“If you assholes want me to be some social butterfly, you better stop trying to hang out with me,” Katsuki barks. “Or get used to disappointment.”

He means it too. Holy shit, does he ever mean it. Katsuki is aware that sometimes his threats come out a bit hollow, but right now, he’s ready to leave and not look back. 

Somehow, that doesn’t register with the three stooges here. 

“Wow,” Pikachu says, eyes wide. “He’s so broody and cool.”

“No kidding,” Soy Sauce nods, not really regarding Katsuki as he and Pikachu stroll leisurely towards the ocean of dancing bodies. Away from Katsuki, so that’s fine. “I should be annoyed by him, but I’m not.”

Even with one third of their stupid group still present, the air is significantly less irritating. Katsuki can breathe a bit easier. He half expects that Kirishima will retreat along with them, but that just makes him an idiot who hasn’t been paying attention at all. He should know by now that Kirishima isn’t one to run away. 

Katsuki tries a little harder to scare him off. “Why the fuck are you still here?”

For once, Kirishima contains his hearty laugh. His reaction is far more subtle—enough so that Katsuki has to look for it. It’s the tiniest of smiles, soft and easy. Gentle, but not condescending. 

Katsuki looks away, cracking open the beer in his hand and taking a long sip. The alcohol warms his insides and softens his hard edges ever so slightly. 

“You know, I didn’t bring you here to turn you into a social butterfly, or whatever you said,” Kirishima tells him. When he turns to walk away from the party and up the nearby hill to the front yard, Katsuki (for some reason) is inclined to follow. “You’re not some weird pet project for me.”

There’s something in Katauki’s chest. It’s warm and big and not altogether unpleasant. Relief, perhaps. There’s always a fear that those who dare to get close are only trying to change him. 

They cross the front yard and step onto the sidewalk. It’s a lazy and seemingly aimless journey, so Katsuki supposes he’s just along for the ride. He doesn’t have anything to say, but he doesn’t mind watching Kirishima’s broad form lumber around up ahead of him.

“And I knew you wouldn’t like all the dumb party stuff,” Kirishima continues with an uneasy chuckle. “That sounds bad I guess, but I knew you wouldn’t.”

“Then why invite me?”

It’s an unfair question, really; a lose-lose for Kirishima. Katsuki wouldn’t want to be invited under the pretense that he must enjoy the party and all that it entails, but the idea that Kirishima knew he would hate this and convinced him to come anyway… Well, that feels kind of shitty too. 

Kirishima’s Crocs crunch on the grass. The sound is more prominent than the music from the party at this point, and that’s nothing to complain about. It’s only now that Katsuki consciously realizes that Kirishima has been leading them somewhere. When Katsuki looks up, they’re far from the party—surrounded instead by dancing branches with the cool wind as their music. 

Katsuki comes to a stop, but Kirishima walks onward to rest against a wooden fence post. Somehow the rickety structure resembles a balcony here in the darkness. Fireflies illuminate the night air with their gentle strobes, floating about like slow shooting stars. Down below, the party goes on, but from way up here it’s not half bad. 

Those fairy lights that Kirishima bragged about offer up a comforting atmosphere, painting the dark sky golden. They look like glitter, or maybe confetti. Katsuki doesn’t like glitter or confetti, but in this case it’s okay somehow. The fireflies help. 

“Even if you didn’t like all the other stuff,” Kirishima says, his voice prompting Katsuki to come closer for a better view, “I figured you’d like this. I just wanted the chance to hang out a little more.”

“How’d you know?” Katsuki asks, because yes, this is really right up his alley.

The trees, the fireflies, the kickass view—it’s like it was hand-made for Katsuki in some Emergency Party Survival Kit. 

Kirishima hums quietly. “Eh, who wouldn’t like it? Especially since I knew all the partying stuff wasn’t your thing.”

They sip their beer in silence, and a thousand questions ruminate in Katsuki’s brain. It’s unprecedented, really. Katsuki never has questions for anyone—never has enough interest to think of them. Maybe it’s the alcohol. 

“You come here much?” The words just slip out, and it occurs immediately to Katsuki that they sound like a cheesy pickup line. 

Kirishima doesn’t seem to notice. He just looks out over the hill, eyes above the light of the party. “Eh, once in a while. I really do live for the parties most of the time, but every once in a while it gets to be too much. I’m kind of expected to be here for them regardless, so this is where I sneak off to if I need a breather.”

“What, they make you show up even if you don’t want to?”

“No,” Kirishima says, but he sounds uncertain. “It’s just that everyone knows me as the fun, friendly guy. I don’t wanna put up a fuss.”

“Screw that,” Katsuki snorts, chugging all that remains of his beer. “You don’t do any shit that you don’t wanna do.”

Kirishima sets his can down on the fence post, shaking his head. “I mean, that sounds nice in theory, but I’d feel like a bad friend.”

Katsuki’s tongue is feeling particularly loose. Now he’s sure that it’s the alcohol. In the back of his mind, he knows he should stop talking, but for some reason it just seems like such a good idea to continue. Apparently, one measly beer is all it takes to get him tipsy enough to actively converse. 

“I bet you do plenty for those losers,” he says, “but you gotta take care of yourself—and know that you’re fuckin’ worth it.”

Kirishima is surprisingly quiet. When Katsuki tries to sneak a glance, Kirishima is already looking right back at him. Katsuki can’t place the expression, but he’s smiling, so it can’t be anything bad. Admitting defeat, Katsuki diverts his gaze, and Kirishima chases him down with a playful nudge. He’ll get away with it just this once. 

“Thanks,” Kirishima says at last. “I guess I could learn more from you than just sports stuff.”

“Fuckin’ right, you could.”

“So what do you do?” Kirishima asks. “When it all becomes too much, I mean. When you need a breather.”

“Same thing, I guess.” It’s funny when it occurs to Katsuki. They’re so different, but their escape plans are eerily similar. He doesn’t mention that bit. “If it were my choice, I’d be a minimum of fifty miles from the nearest human being—preferably on a mountaintop. Given the circumstances, this is fine too.”

“A mountaintop,” Kirishima repeats, tilting his chin up like he’s impressed. “That’s pretty freaking cool. You’re being serious, right?”

“Of course I’m being serious!” Katsuki rolls his eyes. “When am I not fucking serious?”

Katsuki imagines himself there now. Not on just any mountain, but his most favorite one. When he reaches the top, he looks out over the wilderness and is met with the breathtaking, fiery views of sunset and painted autumn leaves. Home is somehow both hours away and all around him. He’s alone, but he’s happy. He’s safe. He’s at the top of the world.

“Noted,” Kirishima grins. “You’re a mountain climber then?”

“Hiker,” Katsuki corrects him. “I guess. It’s just a hobby.”

“But you enjoy it?”

“Better than sitting on my ass doing nothing. Way better than some stupid party.” Katsuki goes for another sip of beer, forgetting that he’s already finished it. He sets the can aside and leans against the fence, turning his back on the partygoers below. “The best part of my year is disappearing into the mountains for a weekend. Just me. Nobody else around to get on my nerves.”

“Whoa,” Kirishima admires. “All by yourself? Alone in the mountains?”

“That’s what I said.”

“What’s it like?”

It’s a welcome question. This is the only thing that Katsuki might be willing to talk about in detail—again, thanks in part to the alcohol.

“It’s fucking amazing,” Katsuki replies, folding his arms and looking directly into Kirishima’s ruby eyes. “You’ve never seen views like this. I always go in the autumn, so when you look out over the ridge, it’s like a fucking forest fire. All orange and red leaves. And you’re so far up that the air smells different. Cleaner almost. It’s a whole different world.”

Now that Katsuki thinks about it, he’s seen so many trees the exact color of Kirishima’s eyes. The exact color of his shitty hair. Maybe that’s why he enjoys looking at him so much. Normally, Katsuki would turn away after realizing something like that, but he doesn’t want to right now—and he only does what he wants. 

Dammit. Katsuki has never been a lightweight, but the alcohol is making him so soft tonight. It’s gotta be the alcohol. 

“That sounds,” Kirishima pauses, like he can’t quite find the words. Before he continues, he flashes Katsuki the most brilliant smile—bright and warm even in this darkness. “That sounds amazing.”

“Yeah, it is,” Katsuki agrees quietly. 

The early autumn wind makes him shiver, but his insides still feel red hot from beer and all these damn feelings. He’ll never get used to it. Fortunately, Kirishima distracts him with a deep laugh, doubling over and slapping his knee. Katsuki cranes his neck, following Kirishima’s gaze over his shoulder—back to the party.

“Bakugou, look!” Shitty Hair says, pointing specifically to Kaminari and Sero down below. “They’re so stupid. What the hell?”

They’re definitely stupid. Katsuki can clearly make out Pikachu’s form on Sero’s shoulders. They’re wobbling around precariously, looking something like a skyscraper swaying in the wind. Of course, their structure has been built with far less precision.

From this far away, it’s impossible to tell exactly what they’re doing. The music is still blaring (although Katsuki can hardly hear it from up here), and it looks like they’re trying to dance all stacked up on each other—for some reason. Usually, he would just roll his eyes and probably utter a curse word or two, but with Kirishima right here laughing his ass off, it somehow strikes Katsuki as kind of funny. 

The tiniest laugh manages to escape him. 

“Heh. Why do you hang out with those morons anyway?” he asks. 

It’s kind of an insult to the morons—but it could also be viewed as a compliment to Kirishima. Katsuki is all but saying that Kirishima seems way cooler than them. He almost hopes that Kirishima takes it that way. 

“They’re fun,” Kirishima shrugs innocently. “Besides, I’m a self-proclaimed moron, and stupidity loves company.”

Katsuki’s shoulders shake with another laugh, this time silent. Yeah, Kirishima is a moron. But he’s pretty cool too. 

“Sero’s been acting kinda weird lately,” Kirishima continues, and Katsuki doesn’t mind. “He’s usually a little more level headed. At least, compared to the rest of us.”

“The bar isn’t set very high,” Katsuki says. 

Kirishima snickers, staring fondly down at his friends. “Point taken. I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised to see him taking part in a chicken-style dance fight.”

Huh. Now that Katsuki takes a closer look, they do appear to have some competition. A couple of others are battling it out with them, but it’s nobody that Katsuki recognizes; just some purple-haired guy and a girl dressed entirely in pink. Probably morons. 

“You ever do that shit?” Katsuki asks. 

“Hell yeah! Maybe next time I’ll drag you in as my teammate.”

“I’ll kill you.”

They stand together on that hilltop for what feels like hours. Katsuki can’t be sure how much time passes, though, because he doesn’t bother to check his phone even once.

At times, they don’t say a word. The silence is comfortable, and it gives Katsuki a chance to listen to the wind’s whisper in the trees. Every once in a while, Kirishima will start babbling—buzzing with excitement that can't quite be contained in his skin. It seems to bubble out of him. Funny, though—the more he talks, the less Katsuki minds. Occasionally, he even engages. 

“You know, I don’t think you hate this,” Kirishima says with a smug little grin. “I get the sense that you might even like it.”

“Hah?” Katsuki scoffs. “No fuckin’ way. I’m tolerating this—nothing more.”

“Yeah, okay. Sure.” Kirishima clearly isn’t buying it. Katsuki doesn’t quite buy it himself. 

“Worst night of my life probably,” Katsuki tries again.

Now that’s an outright lie. His good mood sours a bit as he remembers the only night that truly deserves that title. Nothing could be worse than that one, and it’s not something he should ever joke about. 

But, that may be the first joke Katsuki has made since the accident. Maybe even longer. So that’s got to be a good thing, right?

“You’re fun,” Kirishima confesses, his voice almost a whisper. 

Something swells deep in Katsuki’s chest—a little tingle that prickles from his heart to his fingertips. He pushes off the fence, standing straight and stretching out his back. “We should probably get back down there. Looks like things are wrapping up.”

Kirishima nods, staying close by Katsuki’s side as they make their way back to civilization. “You weren’t gonna stay at this party a second longer than you had to, huh?”

“Got that right, Shitty Hair.”

There are still a few stragglers wandering around the backyard. Honestly, Katsuki is surprised that things have died down so quickly. It seemed like a relatively tame party, but don’t these things usually go late into the night? A quick check of his phone shows that it’s not even eleven o’clock.

Bunch of goodie-goodies, Katsuki decides, absentmindedly following Kirishima around to help clean up. 

He’s not sure why they’re doing this, except that Kirishima seems to be friends with one of the girls in the sorority. He mentioned her name earlier, but now Katsuki can’t remember. 

Of course, Kirishima has to turn the cleanup into a game. Katsuki doesn’t really mind, though—because he’s going to win. They take turns tossing abandoned soda and beer cans into the garbage, dragging the bag around with them as they go. 

“I’m five for five so far!” Kirishima cheers as he makes another shot. “Beat that, Bakugou.”

“Take the damn bag,” Katsuki replies, shoving it into Kirishima’s hands and gathering up an armful of cans.

Katsuki makes another six points, one after the other, but Kirishima just laughs and congratulates him on smashing his record. Then he vows to do even better next time.

They’re engaged in a playful argument (which Katsuki also would have won), when Katsuki stumbles backwards into someone else. He gets a glimpse of green hair as they both tumble to the ground. 

“Fucking Deku,” he growls before he even knows for sure, gathering the cans that have scattered on the lawn. 

“K-Kacchan!”

Yes, it’s him. Of course it is. 

They both get to their feet, and Deku is right on Katsuki trying to brush the dirt off of him and rambling on about nothing the way he always does—far too deep in Katsuki’s bubble, also like usual. And he’s touching him. The damn nerd should know better than to touch him. 

“Get the hell off me!” Katsuki yells, pushing Deku away. “Why are you everywhere I go?”

“Oh, uh, I—well, Ashido invited Uraraka, and Uraraka invited me, and I don’t usually see you at these sorts of things so I really didn’t even consider that you might be here,” Deku babbles. “I promise I’m not stalking you or anything—even though I’d love to sit down and talk sometime if you’re able, but it seems like you really don’t want to do that.”

“What I want is for you to leave me the fuck alone,” Katsuki says, turning his back on Deku and stalking away towards a dumbfounded Kirishima. “Get out of my life.”

“Bakugou.” Deku’s voice is serious now. More serious than Katsuki has ever heard it. He almost sounds pissed. It stops Katsuki in his tracks. “I don’t keep coming back because I like being yelled at all the time. I’m just trying to do the right thing because I feel like I have a responsibility to you.”

Katsuki’s chest tightens up, and he turns to look back at Deku. “I beg your fucking pardon?”

Deku falters a bit, that certainty and superiority fading. “It’s what All Might would have wanted—for us to stick together.”

Something deep in Katsuki snaps. It breaks right in two. The cans drop from his arms—all but the one in his hand which he promptly crushes. 

“Don’t,” he says through gritted teeth. “Don’t fucking say his name! Don’t use him as an excuse for your bullshit!”

Deku’s gaze darkens. “I’m not the one using him as an excuse, Kacchan, and you’re not the only one affected by his death!”

“No, that’d be you, right? It’s always you!” Katsuki roars. Anyone left at the party has stopped to observe, but Katsuki doesn’t care. Give him a damn audience. “But that’s exactly how you like it, so just leave me the fuck alone already! All Might had no responsibility to me, and you sure as hell don’t. For once in your life stop being so damn condescending.”

He lets the demolished beer can drop to the ground, turning with a huff and doing his best to block out the judging eyes as he exits the scene. He keeps his eyes straight ahead. It’s easy to blow up in front of everyone—easy to feel justified (and he is justified), but the aftermath always feels like a walk of shame. Maybe that’s because nobody ever sees things his way. 

“Bakugou…” Kirishima starts as Katsuki comes near, but he doesn’t finish, and Katsuki just passes him by.

He catches Kaminari and Sero’s wide eyes, and their thoughts are written all over their faces. Gone are the playful comments on Katsuki’s broodiness, and in their place are surprise and fear—maybe even disgust. That sounds about right. 

The murmurs are louder than the music ever was, and all eyes are on him. Why Katsuki ever thought coming to this place would be a good idea is beyond him. He should have known better. 

“Fuck you all,” Katsuki declares.

Twenty paces out of the yard, and he’s alone. Nobody comes chasing after him. Nobody tries to make it right.

Good. 

If nobody else is around, then he doesn’t have to even try in order to disappear. For once, the universe is making it easy for him. 



Chapter Text

 

Fuck. He can’t sleep. He’s been laying here for hours now with his eyes closed, and he’s tried every possible position to no avail. His mind just won’t stop reeling. 

From hating Deku to hating himself, it’s all a vicious cycle, repeating over and over again as Katsuki thrashes angrily in his bed. Beneath all of that are the embers of his worst memories, growing hotter and burning the inside of his rib cage. He doesn’t want to think about it. He doesn’t want to remember—but damn Deku won’t let him forget.

Katsuki’s thoughts veer towards hating himself again, and he growls into his pillow case. Lifting his head, he can see the hazy green glow of his bedside clock. 4:47am

Maybe it’s the impending threat of morning, or just that he’s too weak to stop himself, but Katsuki realizes with sudden and undeniable clarity that he needs to just let those memories loose. If he doesn’t, he might never sleep again. 

“Fuck it,” he mutters, rolling to his back and staring at the sliver of moonlight cast upon the ceiling. 

The guilt weighs upon him like a boulder on his chest, stealing away his breath and clouding his thinking. Every second of that fateful night is narrated with the same words, each one in Katsuki’s own voice: it’s all my fault

Even now, his subconscious is fighting the memories, trying to keep them at bay. Anything to prevent the suffering that will come of reliving that evening. 

There are parts that he can picture so clearly: the rain pelting down from the darkened sky, the reflection of red neon signs on the wet pavement. Katsuki can even smell it—fresh rain and smoggy city mixed into one. He’d never been there before that night, and he probably couldn’t find the place again if he tried, but it’s all very much alive in his mind. 

He remembers how proud he thought he was going to make everyone. Selfishly, that part almost might hurt the most. He was so fucking ready to prove himself—to make everyone (especially All Might) see his worth.

One underground wrestling match. That’s all it would take. It wouldn’t count anything towards his numbers or his career, but people would hear about it. All Might would hear. Deku would hear. 

Disgusting, he thinks of himself now. How could I have been so fucking stupid?

But then there were five faces in the ring. They’re nothing but shadows now—insignificant compared to everything else that happened. Their faces don’t matter. It’s that Katsuki fell for their trick and got his ass handed to him. It’s that he had to call for help. 

“I should have fucking called Aizawa!” Katsuki shouts at the ceiling, as if that will change the past. “Stupid, selfish, cowardly, dumbass!”

Aizawa would have kicked him off the team for being reckless and stupid. Katsuki would have deserved it, but he was too arrogant to accept that.

So he called the only person with a soft enough heart to let it slide—someone who would fend off Aizawa’s righteous anger. He called All Might. 

If he’d been stronger, those frauds wouldn’t have beat him and stolen his wallet. He could have taken the bus back home. If he’d been braver, he would have called Aizawa and faced the consequences for his stupidity. If he’d been better, he wouldn’t have had anything to prove to All Might in the first place. 

It’s all my fault! If I hadn’t called All Might, then…

He waited around for hours in the pouring rain. When a car finally pulled up to the curb, it was Aizawa who greeted him with a heavy gaze. There was no yelling, no anger, just silence. It lasted the entire hour-long drive after Aizawa told Katsuki what happened. 

He can still feel the cold glass of the car window against his forehead. He’d pushed himself into it, trying to become small, trying to escape the confinement of the vehicle so that Aizawa couldn’t see him.

Katsuki killed All Might. The moment he made that phone call, he’d killed him. All Might died driving fifty miles in a rainstorm to save Katsuki. He died knowing that Katsuki was a failure and a fool. He died knowing that he’d made the right choice in denying Katsuki as his mentee—that Deku was the superior choice.

Well, Deku didn’t get him killed in a car accident, so…

With all the things he wanted to prove to All Might, Katsuki only managed to prove himself wrong. And All Might paid the price. 

Katsuki hasn’t been able to face anybody since, and every time he thinks of that night (which is pretty damn often), he just wants to explode. He’s always been an angry person, but nothing has ever sent him into fits of rage like his own self-loathing. He’s kept himself isolated trying to avoid it. Going to wrestling practice would just make things worse. But then, blowing up at that party didn’t exactly make things better. 

Dammit. 

Katsuki rearranges his limbs, flipping to his side and taking a deep breath. He feels a bit lighter now. At least all those thoughts aren’t pounding in his brain anymore. For now, that might be enough. 

He closes his eyes, and by some miracle manages to squeeze in three hours of restless sleep before he has to wake up again. It’s better than nothing.

He goes about his morning routine as close to normal as he's able, shuffling around his apartment like a sleepy ghost and shoving some out takeout leftovers down his throat as a substitute for real breakfast. He doesn’t bother to heat them up. This is going to be a long ass day. 

He pulls on his shoes and reaches for his backpack, but there’s no backpack to reach for. Where the hell…?

Shit. Dammit. Fuck. 

He left his fucking backpack at Kirishima’s dorm yesterday. Then he proceeded to have a damn meltdown and say “fuck you” to literally everyone at the party—including Kirishima. 

Maybe he should just skip class today. God knows he needs the extra sleep. But what good would it do? He’ll still need the backpack tomorrow, and putting it off would just make him a coward. How could he do this to himself?

He practically throws himself into his car, burning rubber all the way to school. This is the parking lot he thinks is closest to Kirishima’s dorm, but his memory is kind of fucked, so who even knows? There’s a dormitory nearby, so it better be the right one. Katsuki’s already running late. 

Up the stairs he goes, popping his knuckles in his pockets. He really doesn’t want to face Kirishima. He doesn’t want to face anyone. It’s inevitable that Kirishima will want an explanation, and Katsuki doesn’t have even half the energy to do that. 

At the exact moment Katsuki realizes he has no idea which room belongs to Kirishima, that head of shitty hair appears in a doorway up ahead. Here goes nothing. 

“Oi, Bakugou! Great timing,” Kirishima grins. “I was just about to call you about your backpack.”

Kirishima ducks back into the room before Katsuki can respond, leaving him in utter confusion about two particular things. First of all, why the hell is he so happy to see Katsuki after last night? Secondly…

“You don’t have my number,” Katsuki points out when Kirishima reappears with the backpack. 

“Actually…” Kirishima shrugs, his smile flopping on one side.

Katsuki just rolls his eyes. “Damn Deku.”

“But yeah,” Kirishima says, holding out the bag. “I figured you’d need this.”

Katsuki grunts, taking the bag and swinging it over his shoulder. “Yeah, whatever.”

“So are we still on for working out today?”

“No.”

“Aw. Why not?”

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Katsuki snaps, not really caring about the answer and ignoring the way Kirishima’s face falls. 

“What do you—you mean last night?” Kirishima asks, but Katsuki is already halfway down the hall. Kirshima hurries after him. “I don’t care about that, dude!”

Katsuki pauses—just for half a second, but it’s enough apparently. Kirishima persists, going so far as to touch Katsuki’s shoulder and gently turn him around. 

“Look, man, I get it,” Kirishima says earnestly, eyes shining. “Hurt people hurt people.”

“Hah?”

For a second there, Kirishima almost had him. That soft look in his eyes had Katsuki feeling a way that he could only describe as warm and fuzzy, but with those last words his blood runs cold. 

Kirishima shifts, pulling back his hand and looking at the ground. He probably realizes his mistake. “I mean, like, when people are hurting, they sometimes lash out at others like a wounded animal. Hurt people hurt people. You know?”

“Wow, that’s great,” Katsuki says dismissively, his blood pumping fiercely in his veins. “Very philosophical, Plato. Now fuck right off.”

“What the hell?” Kirishima cries. “Come on, dude!”

Katsuki rolls away like a storm cloud, thundering down the hall and flipping off anyone who dares look him in the eye.

Where does that shitty-haired moron get off speaking to him like that? And with that stupid smile no less. Hurt people hurt people—bullshit. He has no idea who Katsuki is or what he’s been through. Well, he’s wrong. And apparently so was Katsuki. 

He thought Kirishima was different from everybody else. 

He slams the building’s door behind him, shaking with a fiery anger. His hands ball into fists, and he sees red. 

Dammit. All he sees is Red.

He goes through his classes like a zombie, far more concerned with what an asshole Kirishima turned out to be than he is with taking notes and studying. For some reason, Katsuki can’t let it go. Normally his walls are built so high that nobody can get in and Katsuki can’t even see out—but maybe that’s where Kirishima got him. 

As much as Katsuki didn’t want to admit it, they had something of a connection. It shouldn’t even matter, though. It’s not like it was a big deal! They just liked to work out in the same ways. Kirishima didn’t half-ass anything in his life, it seemed, and Katsuki kind of liked that. 

And he was persistent. It should have annoyed Katsuki, but for some reason it just worked. Kirishima wasn’t there to pass judgement on Katsuki, but he wasn’t going to blindly worship him either. Katsuki’s had plenty of people who wanted to do either or both of those things, and it’s all bullshit. Kirishima, though…

Katsuki presses down hard with his pencil, breaking the tip with an unsatisfying snap

Kirishima just wanted to be his friend. 

Katsuki chews on this thought throughout the day. That really is the kicker, isn’t it? For all of Kirishima’s bullshit, and all of Katsuki’s, Kirishima wanted to be friends—and he was willing to work towards it. Even after Katsuki blew up at the party.

But he pulled that “hurt people” crap! Katsuki’s most defensive side argues. Who is he to be so judgmental?

But wasn’t he right? Isn’t that exactly why Katsuki snapped at Deku like that?

Maybe—but also because Deku was way out of line…

Dammit. The more Katsuki thinks about it, the less Kirishima seems like an asshole. If he’s being honest, Katsuki knows the only asshole in this situation is himself. 

And Deku. Always Deku. 

But shit. He knows what he has to do, and he doesn’t like it. Really, he could just let it go. From what he knows of Kirishima, if Katsuki showed up and acted his normal version of “friendly,” Kirishima would probably be merciful enough to roll with it. But maybe that’s why he has to do it.

Katsuki can’t remember the last time he apologized for anything. That probably does make him an ass, but that’s never really bothered him. He doesn’t grovel for friendship—and that’s not what he’s doing now. He’s just...doing the right thing. Sue him!

How does one apologize? He wonders this as he packs up from his final class. He’s got about ten minutes to figure it out—or however long it takes to walk from here to the soccer field. Katsuki can’t be sure, but it seems like the right place to look for Kirishima. 

Usually Katsuki likes being right, but not this time. The fact that Kirishima is out there on the soccer field means that Katsuki has to go through with this. There’s no getting around it. Unfortunately, the entire team is out there with him, and Katsuki has no idea how long the practice will last. Today is Katsuki’s early day for classes, but he might end up being stuck here for a while. 

He parks himself on the bleachers, leaning back and observing the group of guys as they run around the field. Kirishima is easy to spot among them—the only head of bright red hair, and easily the rowdiest of the bunch. He sees Soy Sauce and Pikachu too, and their playing is just as unimpressive as when they faced off with Katsuki a few days ago. They’re so pitiful, Katsuki can hardly bear to watch. 

Since there’s still some daylight left, he decides to start on his homework instead. Considering how little he paid attention in class today, it’s best that he doesn’t put it off. Of course, it’s even more difficult to focus now. He has to apologize, and Kirishima is right out there running around and working up a sweat. Unlike Katsuki, he’s really putting his all into what he’s doing. Even from here, Katsuki can see the sweat glisten like gold on Kirishima’s skin. It’s a mark of hard work, and the light of the setting sun makes it even more obvious.

Katsuki’s notebook hangs open on his lap, neglected as he shamelessly admires Kirishima’s form on the field. Shitty Hair is a damn good athlete. Katsuki wants to be out there with him—competing or working together; who cares as long as he gets to be part of it? Watching from this far away isn’t enough. 

It’s at this point that Katsuki gets caught. Apparently, Kirishima didn’t notice him here before. Katsuki was kind of hoping he wouldn’t. However, one of the drills has Shitty Hair jogging to the edge of the field, close to the bleachers where Katsuki is observing. The massive double take he does would normally be enough to make Katsuki get up and walk away, but Katsuki probably couldn’t move right now if he wanted to. His body is completely frozen—so much that he can’t even look away when Kirishima meets his eyes. 

Like the moment before going over that first big hill on a rollercoaster, Katsuki sits there on edge—his eyes locked on Kirishima’s. They blink back and forth a few times, and then Kirishima looks away; no smile, no wave. Katsuk’s stomach drops. 

He definitely doesn’t get anything done for the remainder of the practice. 

His own determination is the only thing that keeps him plastered to those damn bleachers until the team finally huddles up. From there, Katsuki assumes that the coach shares some motivational words, because everyone cheers and high fives. Then, it appears to be over. A few guys stick around and chat, but overall the team disperses. 

Soon enough, there’s just two of them left beneath the hazy violet sky. The remnants of the sunset make Kirishima’s hair look almost purple, and Katsuki’s never been an artist, but for some reason he thinks that the sight of Kirishima beneath a few scattered stars would make a nice photograph. Once Kirishima reluctantly walks towards him, Katsuki realizes how stupid that thought is. 

Kirishima may look like an angel, but Katsuki feels like a fucking demon—and that’s gotta be how Kirishima sees him. 

“Hey,” Kirishima says, digging his cleats into the grass. 

Katsuki tosses his useless textbooks into his backpack and stands up, lumbering down the bleachers. He keeps a fair distance between them—as much out of consideration for Kirishima as for himself. His fingers dig into the straps of his backpack, and his throat burns with a word so foreign and vile to his tongue. 

“Sorry,” he finally manages. That wasn’t so bad. “I was a fuckhead this morning.”

Kirishima lets out the quietest of laughs, and Katsuki can’t tell if it’s genuine. He picks up his gym bag from the front row of bleachers and allows Katsuki to follow as he strolls off of the field. 

“Kinda. Maybe I said too much, though.”

As they walk along in silence, Katsuki can’t decide if he regrets coming here. It could be going worse, he supposes, but he really has no idea how to handle this. He hoped that Kirishima’s response would be a simple “I forgive you,” and now he’s not sure what comes next. 

Trees bend over the sidewalk, and in them, cicadas scream their song with no regard for the concept of peace and quiet. It’s definitive proof that summer isn’t quite over yet, even though it’s days are numbered. Maybe if they weren’t so loud and obnoxious, they’d be allowed to stick around longer. 

“I hate Deku,” Katsuki finally says, as if that’s an actual explanation. “I’ve known him my whole life, and that’s how it’s always been.”

“Okay,” Kirishima nods, but even Katsuki has enough social-wherewithal to know there’s more to that thought. “I’m kinda friends with Midoriya, but like I told you before, we’re not really that close. Even if we were, though, I’d like to think I could be friends with you both.”

Katsuki bites his lip. The entire motif of this week has been him shrugging off the word friendship, but it’s actually a relief to hear it again. How did Kirishima manage that?

“And with what I said,” Kirishima continues, “I didn’t mean to be an asshole. I just wanted you to know I wasn’t judging you—even if it didn’t come off that way. Sounds like it came off the exact opposite, actually.”

Thinking back on Kirishima’s words, Katsuki’s stomach twists in guilt. He’s already accepted that Kirishima’s judgement was probably correct, but learning that he hadn’t meant to pass judgement at all makes him feel even worse. It kind of does make sense. Kirishima was just trying to be understanding of Katsuki’s outburst. 

Well, now he knows how not to approach Katsuki’s feelings. If only Katsuki knew how to approach all this.

“Look, you don’t—shit.” Katsuki shakes his head. He’s so fucking bad at this! “I’m the one apologizing here, so shut up.”

Kirishima’s mouth turns up on a lopsided grin, his footsteps looking a bit lighter. “Coming all the way here to apologize is pretty manly.”

“Huh? I don’t give a crap about that.”

“I do!” Kirishima says proudly, motioning to himself with his thumb. “Who knew that Explosion Boy could be so chivalrous?”

Katsuki groans, staring into the blackened sky. “Ugh, don’t fucking call me that.”

“Blasty McSplode?”

“Shut the hell up!”

“Aw, come on. A blow-up like that demands a cool nickname! You give them to everyone else.”

So this is what it means to be friends with Kirishima. Officially. Katsuki’s a little out of practice on the whole “friendship” thing, so it’ll take some getting used to. He’s never shied away from a challenge, though, so he’s just gonna have to deal with it.

Call him crazy, but he almost thinks it could be worth his time.




Chapter Text

 

Once Katsuki accepts Kirishima as his friend, things get a lot easier. He’s less anxious somehow, and far less defensive. He doesn’t need to worry about keeping Kirishima at an arm’s length, because that’s not what he wants to do anymore. And, for his part, Kirishima is actually pretty freaking bearable to be around. Even though he’s constantly at Katsuki’s side, he somehow manages to respect his space and even his feelings. 

“Aw, man!” Kirishima laments, throwing his arm over his eyes and tossing away his phone. “I just saw my test results in bio and I fucking bombed.”

They’re having lunch out on the lawn together (only because Katsuki is allowing it). The temperature dropped pretty harshly from yesterday’s mild summer heat, so Katsuki almost regrets the choice to sit out here. The sky is murky and overcast, and the wind seems to seep right through the sleeves of Katsuki’s jacket. Kirishima, on the other hand, is happy as ever in his T-shirt and fucking Crocs. 

He also eats like a fucking animal, so he scarfed down his entire lunch in five minutes flat. Since then, he’s just been lying in the grass while Katsuki takes his time—and apparently, checking checking his grades online.

“The test from last week?” Katsuki scoffs, finishing off his apple. “That shit was easy.”

“Not for me! Man, and I tried so hard.”

Katsuki crosses his legs, not quite buying it. “Did you study?”

“Yes…?” Kirishima offers, but the answer took him too long, so Katsuki isn’t buying that either. 

“Really?” he asks, incredulous, and Kirishima squirms beneath the scrutiny. But Kirishima doesn’t seem like one to be easily embarrassed—or to lie about something dumb. It dawns on Katsuki quite suddenly. “You don’t know how to study, do you?

“I mean,” Kirishima frowns. “I don’t know. I try! I reread all the material like ten times.”

Oh gosh. Someone help this poor loser. He really is totally helpless, isn’t he? Kirishima never exactly came off as a brainiac, but Katsuki had no idea his situation was this desperate. 

“That’s not how you fucking study.” Katsuki shakes his head. “Not most people, at least.”

“Then how? If I don’t turn my grades around, I’m gonna lose my scholarship!”

Scholarship? Now that’s a detail that Katsuki didn’t really register before. Kirishima has mentioned it, no doubt, but he’s never elaborated much, and Katsuki has never cared enough to ask. He decides to let it go for now, because Kirishima looks like he’s on the edge of a meltdown and it’s making Katsuki really uncomfortable. He’ll have to put a stop to that. 

“Okay, okay! Calm down,” Katsuki urges him. “We’ll figure it out. You need a damn tutor.”

“We will?” Kirishima repeats, eyes sparkling. And then, “I do? I don’t know anyone who does that sort of thing, though. Maybe one of Ashido’s sorority sisters could help me? I think she said that Yaoyarozu girl is really—”

“No fucking way,” Katsuki objects, balling up his trash and throwing it into the nearby bin. He stands and brushes his pants off. “I don’t hang out with idiots, so we’re gonna have to do this right. That means I’m the one who’s tutoring you.”

“O-okay!” Kirishima agrees, hopping to his feet. “We could start today if you want. My dorm? Tonight?”

“I’m not subjecting myself to your idiot roommates. We’ll go to my place. Meet me after your classes are done.”

If you want a job done right, you often have to do it yourself. Katsuki knows that nobody else could tutor Kirishima like he would, so yes, of course he accepts the damn job! Even if Kirishima wasn’t exactly offering it to him.

Why he even cares is beyond him. Mostly he just wanted Kirishima to shut up with his whining, but part of him really believes Kirishima could do better with some effort. He seems like the kind of guy who would work hard to succeed, even if he doesn’t like school very much. Katsuki respects that. 

Kirishima just smiles at him, so pure and fond that it makes Katsuki’s stomach flip. What’s that about? Dammit, it’s not even anything that serious. They’re barely even friends—and Katsuki wouldn’t want to be friends with anyone he didn’t have a healthy admiration for. That’s why he has so few friends in the first place. 

He pulls his jacket close to his chest, as if that might provide relief from his erratic heartbeat and the misplaced warmth in his cheeks. Kirishima doesn’t seem to notice Katsuki’s odd behavior—or the chill of the wind, for that matter.

“You cold, man?” Kirishima asks, throwing an arm over Katsuki’s shoulder to shield him from the wind. 

“Fuck off.” Katsuki shoves him away lightly enough to show that he doesn’t mean anything by it. “Now get to class. If you’re late all the time, you’ll need a lot more than a damn tutor.”

Katsuko leaves it at that, ignoring Kirishima’s objection that he’s never late. Somehow, he doesn’t believe it, but it doesn’t really matter anyway. Katsuki just needed an excuse to get out of there. 

He spends the rest of the day tapping his pen on his desk, trying not to think about all the reasons that Kirishima is so damn likable.

He’s loud, he’s relentless, he has shitty hair and stupid outfits. He doesn’t know how to mind his own business, and he’s always humming the same obnoxious pop songs and dancing in public—where people can see him!

He likes to touch Katsuki. His hands are always on him somehow, whether it’s an arm around the shoulder, a playful nudge, or even being so bold as to mess with Katsuki’s hair. All this after just a week and a half of knowing each other—even less of Katsuki admitting that they’re friends!

These are all the reasons Katsuki should hate Kirishima, but they’re steadily turning into reasons he doesn’t mind him at all. 

Why is that so scary? It doesn’t seem like it should really be a bad thing, but Katsuki’s heart starts pumping every time Kirishima gets too close. He doesn’t want to feel him—or maybe he just doesn’t want to like it. 

Holy shit. 

Katsuki’s fingers tear into his notebook, destroying the page he’d been idly taking notes upon. It doesn’t make him feel any better, but he just needed to crush something with his hand. He squeezes the paper tighter, crumpling it up into a ball as it fully dawns on him what’s happening here. 

Now, it’s one thing to have a one night stand. Katsuki’s been able to find the occasional guy who can shut up long enough to have sex and leave (fittingly, he usually finds them at the library). Everyone has needs! He never sees those guys again, so it doesn’t affect his daily life whatsoever. No hindrance to his goals. 

Being attracted to Kirishima is something else entirely. Kirishima’s already a part of his daily life—only as of a week or so, but Katsuki would be hard pressed to get rid of him; he knows it. And although he hates to admit it, it’s been kind of nice to have a friend.

Of course, his first and only friend has to be completely fucking hot. Dammit! How could Katsuki let this happen? And now he’s invited Kirishima to come over—to his fucking apartment—for a study session. All alone. 

He puts his hands over his face, breathing deeply into his palms and trying to shut out the rest of the world. It’s going to be fine. They’ve been alone pretty much every time they hang out. All Katsuki ever wants to be is alone, so if he’s forced to have a friend, you’d better believe he’s going to have that friend alone. It’s nothing. The fact that they’re hanging out in Katsuki’s apartment is nothing. 

He won’t be defeated by this. 

His phone buzzes in his pockets ten minutes before his final class lets out. Katsuki doesn’t often get texts, so he decides to take a peek. 



Unknown - 5:55pm
Ready when you are explosion boy!



No doubt that’s Kirishima. 



Me - 5:56pm
Outside the Nezu Sciences building. Ten minutes.



Kirishima responds back with a bunch of emojis, a gesture which Katsuki decidedly ignores. He gets enough of that dorky behavior in person. 

When class finally does end, Katsuki is the first one out the door. He manages to dodge anyone who might have been considering talking and makes a beeline for the exit. The light from the sinking sun is blinding, but through it Katsuki can make out one shitty-haired silhouette. 

“Hey, dude!” Kirishima waves. “I’m ready to become smarter.”

Katsuki rolls his eyes, leading the way to his parked car. “Don’t be too confident, Red. Now hurry up and get in.”

“Hmm, I dunno. Is it safe?” Kirishima asks with a wicked grin. “Do you get road rage?”

Katsuki unlocks the doors and ducks into the driver seat. He goes so far as to turn over the engine and put the car in drive, rolling down the windows and inching forward. “Get in or get left, asshole.”

“Fine!” Kirishima calls, scampering to catch the car.

Once they’re both fully settled in, Katsuki gets moving. Now that they’re together, he realizes how normal this is. They’re just hanging out—more by necessity than anything, since Katsuki is tutoring Kirishima. And Kirishima is being his normal, annoying, nosy self. 

“So what are you majoring in?” he asks Katsuki, rolling his window up and down sporadically. 

Katsuki bites back the urge to say it’s none of Kirishima’s business. He’s gotta be less of a jerk if they’re going to be friends. 

“Biochemistry,” Katsuki replies. 

“Whoa, that sounds intense.” Kirishima clicks his window up, up, up, and then back down. “Majoring in biochemistry, here on a sports scholarship. Does that make you a nerd or a jock?”

Katsuki locks the window controls. “Neither. What about you?”

“I’m majoring in fitness!” Kirishima declares proudly. “Unfortunately, that means I have to take boring classes like biology.”

“And pass them,” Katsuki points out, prompting a silence that lasts the remainder of the drive. 

When they get to the apartment, a bit of Kirishima’s usual sparkle returns. He’s the first one out of the car, bounding ahead of Katsuki to the front door in a manner that strangely reminds him of an overly excited dog. 

“This place is so cool!” he exclaims once Katsuki catches up. “So old fashioned and stylish!”

Katsuki eyes the chipped paint on the baseboards and the water stains on the ornate ceiling tiles. “Not really. Come on, this way.”

He leads the way upstairs and down the hall, past all the other apartments that have been squeezed into this old mansion. He’s at the very end in a studio so cramped that he sometimes wonders if it was even meant to be there. It just feels like an afterthought. No matter, though, it’s a roof over his head, and usually it doesn’t even leak, so he’s not complaining. 

Once he finagles the door unlocked, Katsuki motions for Kirishima to enter first. The redhead kicks off his shoes and shows himself into the apartment, nodding thoughtfully as he inspects the space. 

“Nice, dude,” he decides. “Thanks for having me over.”

“Whatever,” Katsuki mumbles, turning on the lights.

It’s nothing impressive, but Katsuki takes care of the place enough that it feels somewhat like home. He keeps it clean and tidy, and he’s even put out a few personal items to make it his own.

Kirishima shamelessly explores, which Katsuki will let slide since there’s so little to see. He shuffles towards the bed, running his fingers over the covers and stopping at the nightstand. On it sits a small collection of trinkets and photos. Perhaps if Katsuki ever thought he’d have company that cared enough to look, he wouldn’t have set it out at all. 

“Wow, first place,” Kirishima remarks, inspecting the medal Katsuki won at a wrestling tournament back in high school. “You really are good. And who’s this?”

Katsuki almost chokes, but he tries to play it cool as he takes the photograph out of Kirishima’s hand and sets it further back on the table. “That old hag? My mom.”

“Aw, don’t talk about your mom like that! Look how much she loves you!” Kirishima scolds, motioning to the picture. 

Katsuki just cringes at the sight of the awkward photo taken by his dad. Any stranger like Kirishima would never know that she’d wrestled him to the ground just before it was taken; if there’s anyone who can compete with Katsuki’s stubborn attitude, it’s her, and she wanted that damn photo. And yeah, she probably does love him—enough to help him rent this crappy apartment, or the parts that his scholarship don’t cover. They don’t always get along, but Katsuki supposes that he loves her too. 

“She’s alright,” he says, and that’s all Kirishima is going to get out of him on the subject. “Anyway, ass in chair. Time to study.”

“Right!” Kirishima agrees, putting up no fight and sitting right down at Katsuki’s half-sized dining table. “Educate me.”

Katsuki tries. Dammit, does he try. They sit for forty minutes, with Katsuki barking orders that fly straight over Kirishima’s shitty head and into some abstract abyss, never to be heard from again. All the while, Kirishima doesn’t seem to be learning a thing. He completely lacks focus and discipline! Is it possible that Kirishima is unreachable?

No. No way. Katsuki can teach anyone. Katsuki can do anything!

“Okay,” he declares roughly, banging his fist on the table and making Kirishima jolt a solid meter out of his chair. “This isn’t working. Reading it out of your textbook wasn’t working, and clearly me verbalizing it to you isn’t either.”

Kirishima bows his head. “I’m sorry, Blasty! I told you, I’m no good at this stuff.”

“Stop the pity party. I wasn’t finished.” Katsuki pauses, trying to conceptualize his idea. He’s got to think outside the box—figure out something less intimidating for Kirishima. “Down on the floor. Bring your notebook and pencil.”

“On the…?”

“Just do it!”

Kirishima seems hesitant, but he does as he’s told, crawling onto the floor and waiting for Katsuki to join him. He looks so innocent down there—and truthfully, he is. He’s also a mess. Not only has this moron never learned to study, but he’s sitting there with crisscrossed legs in cargo shorts. Motherfucking cargo shorts. Katsuki can say with a level of certainty that he’s never met someone so fashionably inept. He can’t help noticing; his parents are damn fashion designers, and if Katsuki’s mom ever caught him dressed like Kirishima, she’d have him tarred and feathered.

What he can help, however, is noticing the definition in Kirishima’s calves. They’re so toned, so muscular. Who gave him the right? He’s a soccer player, so of course they’re going to be muscular. Katsuki would bet money that his thighs are just as toned. But he really can’t allow those thoughts. 

Katsuki rips a piece of paper from his own notebook and crumples it up. 

“Okay, now get out of your head,” he says, throwing it at Kirishima’s face. It’s also a message for himself.

Kirishima blinks hard, his ruby eyes wide. “Mission accomplished.”

“Good. Tear a page into squares. Don’t worry about them being perfect.”

“Okay?”

“Go through the chapter we just read, and write down every word in bold text or with a reference number on one side of the papers, and on the back write their definitions.”

Kirishima frowns. “That’s gonna take forever!”

“Yep.”

And it kind of does. That’s rather predictable, because Kirishima spends a good deal of time gabbing about school, and his friends, and sports, and candy, and pizza. Fortunately, Katsuki was basically planning on it. He figured that if Kirishima could work at his own pace, he might have a little more luck. Kirishima seems like someone who has to do things in order to learn them anyway, so as long as he’s writing down all the definitions properly, it should be fine. 

It’s not even too bad for Katsuki. Usually, he would hate to be subjected to someone’s mindless ramblings for hours on end, but in this case, he doesn’t really mind. Something about sitting here beneath the dim antique light fixtures on his ceiling, listening to Kirishima drone on and on about nonsense is almost peaceful. Maybe it’s because he knew what he signed up for, or maybe it’s because Kirishima’s got the dumbest laugh, and he laughs a whole lot—and at one point, he almost gets Katsuki to laugh with him. 

He’s got a pretty killer smile too. 

It’s in a rare quiet moment that Katsuki allows himself to truly inspect Kirishima—to admire the veins in his forearms, the shape of his strong hands as they scribble away on sloppy flash cards. He looks good in this warm, gentle light. 

He’s definitely in good shape. Katsuki can see his muscles as they pull at the fabric of his T-shirt. All that working out has clearly paid off for him. And it turns out, he’s willing to work just as hard at academics if it’s framed the right way.

“What?” Kirishima asks quizzically, apparently able to feel Katsuki’s careless gaze. His eyebrows dip down with mischievous curiosity, and for a moment Katsuki is sure he’s got him all figured out.

“Why the hell do you need all those pockets?” Katsuki deflects, directing his attention to Kirishima’s grass-stained shorts. 

“Huh? Oh, they’re really useful!” Kirishima assures him. “I never run out of room.”

Katsuki just snorts, pretending not to be interested as Kirishima goes one by one, emptying the pockets and setting out the contents between them on the floor: his cellphone, a pack of gum, a piece of hard candy with a noisy wrapper, a whole bag of shrimp chips, some spare change, some lint, a few coupons that are almost definitely expired, and then—digging deep into the lowest pocket of the shorts—something roughly the size of a pea with a dull shine.

Kirishima stops there.

“What’s that?” Katsuki asks, taking notice of how whatever it is clearly has Kirishima spooked.

Kirishima doesn’t move, holding the tiny object in the palm of his hand and staring at it like it murdered his entire family. Upon Katsuki’s question, though, he squeezes his fist shut around it and shakes his head. 

“It’s nothing,” Kirishima says gruffly, reaching for his pencil. 

Katsuki puts his palm on top of it, along with all his body weight. “Obviously not. What is it?”

Why Katsuki is so eager to hear what will certainly be a long-winded story is beyond him. He’s never cared for that shit, but he’s also never seen Kirishima so sullen and defensive. Besides, shouldn’t friends try to help out in times of need? Katsuki doesn’t have the capacity to do that all the time (it’s freaking exhausting), but every once in a while he can handle it. 

“Nothing,” Kirishima insists, making a move to shove the mystery item back in his pocket. It awakens a foreign desire in Katsuki—a need to know what’s being kept from him. 

He dives forward, knocking Kirishima over and pinning him to the ground. 

“W-what the hell, man?” Kirishima demands, eyes blown wide. 

“Stop lying,” Katsuki growls, gripping Kirishima’s wrists. “You’re upset. Why?”

Kirishima tries to wriggle his way free, thrashing uselessly beneath Katsuki’s weight. He’s got enough strength to shake Katsuki’s grip for a second (which is damn impressive), but he doesn’t actually stand a chance. 

“Nice try, but I’m a fucking wrestling champion,” Katsuki says, securing his knees on either side of Kirishima’s hips. He leans down close to his face just to look him square in the eye. “Talk to me.”

The breath that Kirishima releases his shaky, and unfortunately, Katsuki can feel it puff against his lips. It makes him realize how close he’s moved in—close enough to see the flecks of gold in Kirishima’s beautiful red eyes. That’s his own mistake. Collecting himself, he sits back up and looks down at Kirishima with narrowed eyes. He won’t relent until he’s promised answers. 

“Fine,” Kirishima sighs. “Maybe it’ll feel good to get it off my chest.”

“Alright,” Katsuki concedes, getting out of Kirishima’s space. 

He settles in for a nice, long talk, and judging by the heavy sigh that Kirishima releases into the air, that’s exactly what he’s going to get.




Chapter Text

 

Kirishima leans back, using the front of the couch to support his weight. The floorboards creak beneath him, their mournful cry matching his obvious discomfort. The longer they sit in silence, the more Katsuki fears what Kirishima will say. 

He’s never been good at talking. He can’t string two sentences together without cursing, and if this is a serious conversation, mindless cursing is probably the last thing Kirishima wants to hear. He’ll want comfort and kindness; two other things that Katsuki is absolute shit at. Why did Katsuki insist on knowing this? It’s so unlike him.

But, as always, the second Kirishima opens his mouth, all of Katsuki’s doubts melt into oblivion. This is becoming a pattern. 

“This is my soccer pin,” Kirishima says quietly. “From high school.”

“Okay,” Katsuki says with a nod, trying with all of his might to be patient as Kirishima gets to the point.

“My school was really competitive with sports. Not just with other schools, but student-to-student too. It was all a really big deal.” Kirishima twirls the pin in his fingers, studying it with unwavering concentration. “We all got these pins the year we graduated, but we had some underclassmen on our team too.”

“Yuck,” Katsuki remarks, picking at a hangnail on his thumb. 

Kirishima laughs quietly, sadly. “Yeah, that was the general feeling towards it. The younger guys dealt with some pretty intense hazing, and it could get really cruel at times.”

Katsuki looks up. “Cruel?”

“Yeah. There was this particular guy that everyone seemed to hate—a year or two younger, but he was really good. Most of the time the younger guys sat on the bench during games, but Coach was always playing him.” Kirishima pulls his knees close to his chest. This stance is a far cry from his usual bold, open body language. “It started to piss the other guys off.” 

Katsuki finds himself leaning forward, forgetting entirely about the concept of studying. 

“They told him to quit the team. He was taking playing time away, and he was making the rest of us look bad. Everyone wanted to be scouted for university, and they wanted less competition.” Kirishima’s voice begins to waver, and he swallows audibly. “But he wouldn’t quit.”

Kirishima is having a hard time getting it all out. It’s obvious from the way he’s clenching his fists and taking deep, practiced breaths. He won’t look Katsuki in the eye. Katsuki thinks once again that he made a huge mistake in dragging this story out of Kirishima, but this time, the regret isn’t for his own sake. He shouldn’t be subjecting Shitty Hair to this. 

“Forget it,” Katsuki says. “You don’t have to talk about this sh—”

“They claimed it was just hazing,” Kirishima blurts out, as if by some sort of compulsion. It’s like Katsuki isn’t even in the room anymore. “It wasn’t uncommon for hazing to get physical, but I could tell this was going to be different—I could tell it was wrong! I tried to convince them not to do it, but they wouldn’t listen. I should have told the school. Dammit!”

“Why didn’t you?” Katsuki asks, curiosity getting the best of him. It doesn’t seem like Kirishima to let an act of injustice slide. 

Kirishima blinks slowly, as if waking up to Katsuki’s presence. He bows his head low. “Coach had a policy about keeping disciplinary action within the team. No reporting, otherwise you’re out. If I got kicked off the team, I would have lost my scholarship.”

“Shit,” Katsuki mumbles. It’s obvious where this is going.

“It was really bad. So bad!” Kirishima emphasizes, fingers digging into his own hair. “They really beat him up—and I knew about it! I didn’t take part, but I didn’t stop it because of my own ambitions. Yeah, I got my scholarship, but that guy will never play sports again. I’ve never felt like less of a man than that day.”

The silence that follows is deafening. Kirishima sits as still as a corpse, while Katsuki’s eyes dart about the room in search of something to settle on. For once, he’s grateful that his apartment complex does lawn maintenance at ridiculous hours, because at least the sound of the mower outside is something.

Come on, idiot! Say something! Katsuki demands of himself, but what the fuck is he supposed to say? Kirishima just told him this big, personal story, and Katsuki knows for a fact that there’s no way anything he says will make him feel better. 

“Sorry,” Kirishima whispers, and the laugh that accompanied his words is hollow. “You probably weren’t expecting all that, huh? I’m kind of a train wreck.”

Me too, Katsuki thinks. 

“I mean, I made you tell me,” he says instead. “So I guess—sorry.”

“Look, uh,” Kirishima stammers, gathering up his school supplies in a messy pile. “I think I should go. Sorry you had to hear all that.”

“Fuck—wait,” Katsuki says, but Kirishima is already throwing his things into his bag and standing up. “You don’t have to leave.”

Damn his tiny apartment. It’s far too easy for Kirishima to cross the room and escape, slipping on his shoes in the doorway. Katsuki stands up, frozen in place with an arm that will barely cooperate enough to reach out. 

“I just need some space,” Kirishima says, opening up the door and taking a step out into the hallway. “Thanks for the help studying. Uh, I promise I’ll keep working at it.”

And then he’s gone. He’s fucking gone and Katsuki did nothing to stop him. He practically pushed him out the fucking door with his demands to know all that personal business.

Why is he such a bad friend? Dammit! He’s had twenty-one years to practice friendship, but he blew it off until it really counted. Now it’s too late. 

“Argh!” Katsuki growls, turning to punch the wall. “Idiot! Idiot! Idiot!”

Miraculously, his attack doesn’t leave the wall damaged. Maybe because he’s too angry to throw a proper punch. That’s kind of supposed to be his thing; he really is useless. Defeated, Katsuki flops down on the bed and screams into his pillow.

Two weeks ago this wouldn’t have mattered. One week ago it wouldn’t have. How the hell did Shitty Hair and his shitty Crocs worm their way so deep into Katsuki’s heart?

Well, he kept trying, for one thing. That fucker is persistent

So what should Katsuki do? He feels like he’s already screwed up enough that Kirishima should just give up on him. Maybe that’s what Kirishima will actually do. Maybe Katsuki should let him.

Katsuki sits up, alarmed by the defeatist attitude festering in his chest. “Like hell I’m gonna just give up.”

Because Kirishima didn’t give up—even when Katsuki was a total ass.

So what are the next steps here? Since he’s trying to be a good friend and all. Would a good friend give Kirishima space since that’s what he said he wanted? Kirishima has never given Katsuki space, and Kirishima seems like a pretty good friend. He’s probably treating Katsuki the way he himself wants to be treated. 

At least that’s what Katsuki hopes, because he’s going after him. 

He throws on a jacket and his shoes, shuffling down the hallway without a bit of grace and bounding out the front door into the chilly night air. His stomach roars hungrily along with the car engine, reminding him that he and Kirishima had never bothered to get any dinner. Damn, he really is bad at having friends, isn’t he?

After a quick stop at the nearest crappy drive-through, he speeds off to campus. It’s weird as hell being there at night. All of the academic buildings are shut down, darkened like the night sky. The parking lot is mostly empty, but Katsuki passes a few wandering students on his way to Shitty Hair’s dorm, and he can hear distant music that alludes to a wild party somewhere. Hopefully nowhere he’ll have to be. 

Even though the campus seems like a different world this late in the evening, Katsuki has a relatively easy time finding his way. His feet crunch satisfyingly atop a crisp orange leaf, and a couple more tumble through the air onto his shoulders. He brushes them off, letting himself into the building and jogging up the stairs.

He doesn’t slow down or allow himself a deep breath before banging on Kirishima’s door. No being scared. It’s prohibited. 

Still, in the brief pause between his knock and the opening of the door, Katsuki finds himself a bit shaken. He tries to shove the feelings down and keep his heartbeat steady. This is no big deal. 

The door opens with a creak. It’s not Kirishima. 

“Oh, uh—hey, Bakugou,” Soy Sauce says. 

“Move.” Katsuki pushes past him, walking heavily into a room that he finds to be empty. “Where the fuck is Shitty Hair?”

“Uh, I don’t know?” Soy Sauce shrugs. “I don’t know where either of them are.”

“Huh?” Katsuki pauses.

It’s a little awkward standing in the middle of this room—where he wasn’t invited, where Kirishima for some reason isn’t present. It’s just him and—whoever this guy his. Katsuki suddenly can’t remember if Soy Sauce is Kaminari or Sero. They’re usually together, so he hasn’t ever had to make a distinction. It’s weird seeing just one of them. 

“Yeah,” Plain Face sighs. “I kinda thought Kaminari would be home by now, but I guess not. Coincidentally, Shinsou is gone too.”

There it is. This is Sero. But who the fuck is Shinsou?

“Who?”

“Oh, Shinsou,” Sero says, sitting down on the yellow bed across from Kirishima’s. “My roommate.”

“Fucking—what?” Katsuki blinks. He looks around the room in a slight panic, as if he’s ended up in the wrong place with the wrong person. “I thought Kirishima was your roommate, and Pikachu.”

Soy Sauce just snorts. “What, you thought two of us shared a bed or something? Shinsou and I live next door. We’re all suitemates—but nobody is ever home these days, so it’s not like you’d ever know.”

Now they’re getting into shit that Katsuki really doesn’t care about. Sounds like a lot of drama that doesn’t need to involve him. There is one question that seems halfway relevant, though.

“If this isn’t your room, then why are you here?” He doesn’t care that it sounds accusatory.

Sero visibly hesitates, folding his hands together and twiddling his thumbs. Apparently, even that question relates to whatever weirdness is going on here. With a sigh, Katsuki sits on Kirishima’s bed, preparing for a staring contest across the room. 

“I’m just—waiting, I guess,” Sero says with a sigh, leaning to flip on a lava lamp on Kaminari’s desk. He stares into the pink neon light with sad, round eyes. “Kaminari said he’d be back by now, and we were gonna hang out anyways, and he usually doesn’t mind if I come in here, but… I don’t know where he is.”

Katsuki glances up at the ceiling. “Okay.”

What else is he honestly supposed to say? He doesn’t know this guy. He doesn’t really care to know him—or Kaminari, or that other guy he mentioned. Talk of their personal lives may as well be spoken in a foreign language, because Katsuki can’t possibly understand it. 

“He’s probably with Shinsou,” Plain Face continues, spilling more words into the void between them. “That’s pretty much par for the course these days.”

Katsuki just grunts, lying back on the bedspread and staring up at the cracks in the ceiling. He wishes that Kirishima would hurry up and get home—if he’s coming home at all. Even if he walked back, he probably should have beat Katsuki here, or at least arrived by now. 

“So what are you doing here?” Sero finally gets around to asking. “Is Kirishima gonna be back soon?”

“Beats me,” Katsuki says, folding his arms behind his head. “I figured he’d be here.”

“Wait, I thought you guys were already hanging out tonight.”

Of course Shitty Hair would mention that. This probably looks really weird. 

Katsuki gnaws on his lip before admitting the truth. “Yeah, we were. Then he left. I thought I’d catch up with him here, but apparently not.”

“Did something happen?” Sero sounds dead serious in his question, but there’s not enough edge in his voice to put Katsuki truly on guard. “Oh gosh. Did you blow up at him again?”

Gutsy, this one. 

“No, I didn’t fucking blow up at him,” Katsuki says pointedly. “I just—messed up.”

“Messed up? Kirishima’s a pretty nice guy. It’s kinda hard to mess up with him.”

“Fuck you.” Katsuki rolls on his side, hoping that the coolness of the comforter will soothe his increasingly fiery temperament. 

“Just saying,” Sero shrugs, lounging back on the bed. “You’re really bad with people, huh?”

Katsuki sits bolt upright. “I succeed at whatever I damn well please. Including people.”

“Yeah, okay,” Sero says with a dumb, soy-saucy grin. “People aren’t a competition to be won, though. Just food for thought.”

Katsuki’s face heats up, feeling called-out on his way of being. To him, everything is a competition. That’s always worked for him. Hasn’t it? It’s made him the best at so many things. 

Except people, apparently. He’s not about to admit it to Soy Sauce here, but yeah, his people skills could use some polishing. 

“Forget it,” Katsuki decides, getting to his feet and crossing the room. “Tell Shitty Hair I came by. Or don’t. I don’t care.”

“Okay then,” Katsuki hears Sero mumble as he slams the door.

He really did fuck up, didn’t he? Soy Sauce was right; Kirishima is the most easygoing guy ever, and one evening alone with Katsuki basically broke him. To make matters worse, this wasn’t just Katsuki being an angry asshole and not caring (which is, apparently, what everyone would expect of him). This was Katsuki really trying to be a friend—and trying was the part that messed it all up. 

Dammit. 

Katsuki shoves the heavy door open, trying not to succumb to a spiral of self hate. He trods down the steps to the sidewalk, kicking a pebble with his sneaker and watching it tumble away on a crooked path. It happens to come to a stop just in front of a pair of red Crocs. 

“Bakugou?”

Katsuki’s tongue swells up in his mouth. “Shitty Hair—uh.”

“What are you doing here?” Kirishima doesn’t walk towards him, perhaps too shocked to find Katsuki at his place of residence. His posture is stiff and his eyes are wide. Probably not a good sign.

Katsuki swallows, summoning up his signature scowl like a mask. “What, you think I’m so much of an asshole that I wouldn’t come after you?”

“Come after me?” Kirishima repeats, slack-jawed. 

“Yes, hair-for-brains,” Katsuki says, folding his arms.

His mind goes blank after that, and Kirishima is far too stunned to fill in the silence. It’s just the two of them in the streetlights; no distractions, no socially acceptable way out. He’s all on his own. If he can’t figure out what to say yet, then he’ll just have to stall. 

Katsuki clears his throat, shoving his hands in his pockets. “Come on. We’re going for a walk.”




Chapter Text

 

Despite his stubbornness in running off earlier, Kirishima doesn’t protest. He follows obediently along the sidewalk, still clinging to the backpack on his shoulders. The air doesn’t feel quite as fragile now that they’re moving. Somehow, the motion puts Katsuki at ease.

“Why’d you come here?” Kirishima asks, staring up at the moon. “After me, I mean.”

He’s cutting right to the chase, isn’t he? Katsuki can’t blame him for that; at least they’re not wasting time. If only Katsuki could put into words why he’s here. He doesn’t really even know. Is “just because” an acceptable answer? Probably not. 

So why, then?

For one thing, to make sure Kirishima is okay. The story was unsettling, but seeing Kirishima so down on himself was worse. And the thing is, he seemed to expect Katsuki to be just as critical. Maybe that’s why he’s here. 

“All that shit,” Katsuki begins, following Kirishima’s lead and directing his gaze to the sky. “It doesn’t matter. It sucks, but it doesn’t change anything.”

Katsuki catches the movement of Kirishima’s head from the corner of his eye—a quick, snapping motion to face Katsuki. It’s what he needed to hear, Katsuki knows, and in the face of Katsuki’s explosion at the party last week, it’s also what Kirishima said. Those words are healing. 

“You mean that?” Kirishima asks, coming to a stop. He shrugs off his backpack, letting it fall by its straps to the ground.

With no choice but to stop and face him, Katsuki gets a good look at Kirishima for the first time since they parted ways earlier. Even in the slanted cast of the nearest streetlight, Katsuki can see that Kirishima is in rough shape. Spiked hair droops down over heavy eyes, dragging down a face that looks so wrong without a smile. Katsuki really has to fix that. 

“I don’t say things I don’t mean,” he says, “and I can tell that’s not the kind of guy you are anymore.”

A tiny smile buds on Kirishima’s lips, sparking hope in Katsuki’s heart that maybe he’s not the worst friend ever. 

“I hope you’re right,” Kirishima says. “I swore to myself I’d never be that much of a coward again.”

Katsuki veers off the sidewalk, stepping into the cool, moist grass and lowering himself down to sit. Kirishima stays by his side, lying down comfortably in the bed of green. 

“Taking the reins on your life and making changes,” Katsuki says, leaning back on his arms to better look at Kirishima. “That sounds pretty fucking brave to me.”

For probably the first time in his life, Kirishima says nothing at all. It’s a comfortable silence, though. Katsuki can tell from the soft look in Kirishima’s eyes, and the way he lets his head fall back into the grass so he can stare up into the night sky. 

The gentle wind that moves through the branches and whispers to the leaves all around the campus also works its way through Kirishima’s hair. A tiny piece waves across his forehead. It looks so delicate, and like it’s probably tickling Kirishima’s skin or getting in his stupid pretty eyes, and for some reason, all Katsuki wants to do is reach out and brush it away. He can’t do that, though (won’t do it), so the second best option is to just keep watching. 

“Thanks,” Kirishima whispers after a long stretch of silence. His voice nearly slips away into the breeze. “You didn’t have to come after me, but I’m glad you did.”

“Course,” Katsuki says with a shrug, brushing off the sparks igniting in his chest. “Where’d you go, anyway?”

He doesn’t feel like mentioning that he went all the way up to Kirishima’s room and hung out with Soy Sauce for what seemed like a million years, but it’s probably fairly obvious; Kirishima caught him leaving, after all.

“I just took a walk around the campus,” Kirishima replies. “Pretty much, I wanted to get as far away from other people as possible. Ha, kinda sounds like I took a page out of your book, doesn’t it?”

Katsuki snorts. “Best book there is.”

“It was good to clear my head a little. Stuff like that, it’s hard for me to relive. Nobody here really knows about it, so it’s almost like I live in constant fear that someone will find out.” Kirishima rolls onto his side, facing Katsuki with far more ease than when they discussed this earlier. “How do you live so boldly all the time?”

Katsuki’s eyes widen so far they’re probably at risk of falling out of his damn head. That’s a loaded question—one whose answer Katsuki thinks Kirishima wouldn’t be ready for. 

He must think Katsuki is a lot braver than he is. Which is actually the impression Katsuki wants to give off. Still, if Kirishima only knew. Katsuki lives in a constant state of guilt and self-loathing. The only difference is, everyone who’s even slightly involved with the wrestling team knows exactly why he hates himself—and they probably hate him too. 

“I live boldly because I don’t have the energy to care about the little things,” Katsuki says. It’s not a lie. “There’s too much big shit to worry about.”

“You’ve got so much confidence, though,” Kirishima insists, and it’s all Katsuki can do to keep from laughing. “You make it look easy.”

“Well, it’s not,” Katsuki says. He watches the tiny blades of grass dance in the wind, brushing up against the prominent veins of Kirishima’s forearm. He’d like to reach out and touch him, but he keeps his limbs close. “It’s fucking hard. But you do it anyway.”

Katsuki would never survive if he lived any differently.

Kirishima nods slowly, letting out a long sigh. “The guy I told you about—his sister goes here, and I see her from time to time. I always wonder if she knows who I am.”

“You ever talk to her?”

“No,” Kirishima admits, collapsing onto his back and throwing his arms out in a T. “You said I’m brave, but I’m too scared to face her.”

Katsuki has to sit on that for a few moments. His first instinct is to bark that running away won’t help a damn thing, but his second is to swallow that comment and never let it see the light of day. It would make him a damn hypocrite to say that, and it’s probably not what Kirishima needs to hear. 

“I get it,” is what Katsuki settles for. He’s run away from his fair share of problems too. 

That seems to be enough for Kirishima. He settles back into the lawn, letting out something that’s halfway between a hum and a sigh. Whatever it is puts Katsuki at ease, and he finds himself lying back too, relaxing and releasing all the tension in his muscles.

“The stars sure are beautiful tonight,” Kirishima remarks.

Katsuki blinks hard, staring up into a sky too tainted by light pollution to hold any stars. At first, he thinks Kirishima must be crazy, but then he gets a good look at the shit-eating grin on his face and can’t help but laugh. “Dumbass.”

“They probably are beautiful,” Kirishima chuckles. “We just can’t see them from here.”

“I wish I was in the mountains,” Katsuki sighs.

“I bet you see a million stars out there, huh?”

“Yeah.”

“Can I come with you next time?”

Katsuki stiffens, his heart skipping a beat at the thought of spending a weekend in the mountains with Kirishima. “I go hiking alone.”

“Aw, alright,” Kirishima concedes, never one to pressure Katsuki. “Well, maybe you should go this weekend. I don’t know where you hike, but the weather is supposed to be beautiful around here.”

Katsuki considers it. “Maybe I will. It’d be good to get away from this shithole school for a couple days.”

“Good.”

Katsuki sneaks a glance at Kirishima, admiring the sharp halo of moonlight cast around his silhouette. The perfect slope of his nose is outlined in silver, and as Katsuki studies the dark lines and deep shadows of Kirishima’s neck and shoulders, he suddenly forgets everything he knows about human anatomy; is it possible for someone’s neck to be muscular? His eyes are just falling upon Kirishima’s lips when the redhead looks his way.

“The fuck are you looking at, Red?” Katsuki asks softly, as if he hadn’t just been shamelessly staring. He’d meant for the words to come out more forcefully—like he’s trying to scare some kids off his lawn, not as if he’s trying to seduce a delicate flower into blooming.

Kirishima grins, propping himself up on his elbow and braving Katsuki’s glare. “Nothin’. I’m just thinking that we’re gonna have to have a rematch.”

“A rematch?”

“Yeah!” Kirishima takes a sloppy dive at Katsuki, grabbing at his arms in an attempt to pin him down. “You beat me back at your apartment, but now my head is clear. I’m much more on my game!”

“Oh, you’re on!” Katsuki growls, pushing back at Kirishima and flipping their positions.

Kirishima doesn’t stay still. He’s got shit form for actual wrestling, but he’s pretty damn strong—strong enough to slip away and make a run for it across the lawn. 

“That’s not fucking wrestling!” Katsuki yells, chasing after him.

This would-be wrestling match turns into a full-on chase across the campus lawn. They’re pretty evenly matched in speed, but since Kirishima is wearing his motherfucking Crocs, he’s slipping around the grass like a wet seal. It’s the only way Katsuki manages to catch up and tackle him to the ground.

They roll around for a few moments, grunting and cursing—limbs all tangled up. They’ve swapped positions three times before Katsuki becomes overly aware of Kirishima’s strong thighs straddling his body.

Katsuki is on the wrestling team; gay or not, he should be somewhat of an expert at being cool with this sort of thing. Even so, the moment he thinks about Kirishima’s gorgeous, muscular legs, he freezes up.

Kirishima pins down Katsuki’s wrists, and their panting breaths mix in the air between them. For a moment, that’s all there is—the two of them in the night—and it’s terrifying, and strange, and good.

The way Kirishima is looking at Katsuki with such intensity, Katsuki prays to the universe that he’s not actually blushing. Dammit, he probably is. 

“So,” Shitty Hair breathes. “I win?”

“Fuck off,” Katsuki replies, but he lets Kirishima stay right where he is.

And then Kirishima is leaning down. There’s not that much space between them, so Katsuki barely has the time to process the wheel of emotions spinning in his mind. Fear? Excitement? Desire? Fear again?

Kirishima doesn’t go for Katsuki’s lips, though. He ducks into the crook of his neck, where his measured breaths warm Katsuki’s skin. The anticipation might just kill him. 

Somehow Katsuki can feel Kirishima open up his mouth before it even touches him, but what he’s not expecting is for Kirishima to straight up bite him. His teeth graze Katsuki’s skin—right where his neck and shoulder meet—and then he bites down. 

The gasp that would have escaped Katsuki thankfully gets stuck in his throat, but that’s only slightly better. Now he can’t breathe, and he’s definitely blushing, and holy shit, that felt good. 

“Victory is mine,” Kirishima says simply before crawling off Katsuki. 

“W-what the hell?” Katsuki chokes out.

The way Kirishima is laughing, it wasn’t even meant to be sexual. It was just a friendly bite? Is that a thing?

“I was claiming my victory!”

Katsuki just blinks, laying stiff as a board on the ground. He’s got to pull himself together. He’s got to be cool! 

“Your teeth are fuckin’ sharp,” he grumbles, willing his body to sit up and act somewhat human.

He rubs the afflicted area, trying to decide if he should commit the feeling of Kirishima’s teeth to memory or forget about it like a normal, non-creepy person. He has a feeling the choice isn’t his. It’s going to be stuck in his head forever.

“Sorry, I get that a lot,” Kirishima mumbles sheepishly, leaving Katsuki to wonder if he often spends his time play-biting other people.

Fuckin’ weirdo. 

But Kirishima is acting completely normal. He doesn’t seem to pick up on Katsuki’s complete and utter awkwardness, and Kirishima himself doesn’t seem to have a single awkward bone in his body. They end up laying there for quite a while, just talking. Well, Kirishima talks; Katsuki mostly just listens. 

“...and then Denki ran off with Shinsou and said something about needing a tux and having a redo of his high school prom,” Kirishima chuckles, and Katsuki is confused as hell, but he’s actually trying to follow along. “I think he’s in love or something.”

“Who the hell is Denki?”

“Huh? Oh, sorry! That’s Kaminari’s given name,” Kirishima explains. 

And Kaminari is Pikachu. 

“And Shinsou is Sero’s roommate,” Katsuki says, recalling his conversation with Plain Face earlier. Very interesting…

“Yep,” Kirishima says, seemingly unaware of the wires connecting in Katsuki’s brain.

Plain Face was pretty pissed that Kaminari wasn’t around. And he did mention that Shinsou was gone too. Could that be a coincidence? And maybe pissed isn’t the best word… Sad?

He thinks back a little closer, suddenly wishing he hadn’t been so eager to block out the conversation as it unfolded; now he feels this close to solving a mystery—one that Kirishima seems completely oblivious to.

“Katsuki,” Kirishima says, and the name on his tongue is enough to make Katsuki jump, no matter how gently it was said.

Katsuki blinks, returning to Earth from the far-off spaceship where drama between Kirishima’s roommates matters at all. Kirishima just said his name. Nothing else matters now. 

“That’s your given name, right?” Kirishima asks, smiling softly and rolling onto his stomach—closer to Katsuki. 

“Yeah,” Katsuki nods, eyes helplessly locked on Kirishima’s arms as they prop him up. “What about it?”

Kirishima shrugs, tilting his head lazily to the side, completely destroying Katsuki with his gaze. “I dunno. We were on the subject, but we’ve never really discussed it before. Have I ever told you mine?”

Shit, has he? It seems like something Kirishima would have mentioned—or that someone else would have at some point. Katsuki thinks back, tries to remember any mention of Kirishima’s given name.

Damn. For all the talking Kirishima does, most of it isn’t focused on himself. The only time he might have mentioned his own name was when he first introduced himself. It wasn’t that long ago, but that day seems so distant. 

Katsuki had been trying to get in a little exercise, and Kirishima—just a dumb stranger with stupid hair—kept bugging him. When Katsuki finally got fed up and yelled at him, Kirishima introduced himself…

“Eijirou,” Katsuki whispers, amazing himself with his memory. 

Kirishima’s smile is blinding. “Hey, you got it!”

Katsuki pulls up a few strands of grass, twirling them in his fingers. “You said it the day we met.”

“And you remembered? Huh. You know, Bakugou,” Kirishima says, deliberate in each word. “I don’t think you’re as mean as you pretend to be. You act like you don’t like anyone, or like you don’t care, but here we are.”

Katsuki wants to tell Kirishima that he is, in fact, a mean person. He wants to tell him that he can never remember anyone’s name worth shit. It’s true. Katsuki didn’t remember Kirishima’s name because of his own good character; he remembered it because of Kirishima. 

But here is Kirishima, looking up at him with more fondness and sweetness than Katsuki has ever seen. Nobody has ever looked at him like that before. The stars in his eyes far outshine the ones in the sky—they would even without all the shitty light pollution. If Kirishima believes that Katsuki is a good guy (for whatever reason), well… Katsuki wants to let him.

He wants to be that good guy for Kirishima. And that fact is absolutely terrifying. 




Chapter Text

 

His homework is done. His bag is packed. He’s ready to escape and go numb to all of the problems of the real world. At least, he’s mostly ready. 

Kirishima asked if they could grab lunch before Katsuki leaves, and of course Katsuki had to agree. He should have known better; now he doesn’t feel like going hiking at all anymore. It’d be much easier—much more fun—to sit here in this cafe all weekend with Kirishima and his shitty hair and stupid outfits and beautifully annoying personality. 

Damn, Katsuki is getting in too deep. All the more reason he has to leave. 

“Thanks for making time today!” Kirishima says cheerfully, shoveling a massive bite of food in his mouth. Unfortunately, it doesn’t make him any less attractive to Katsuki. “I would miss you too much if I didn’t get to see you at least once this weekend.”

Kirishima really can’t say shit like that.

Katsuki looks away, down to the cracks in the pavement where tiny specks of green are beginning to grow through. Kirishima got here early and picked out this table on the patio, out in the fresh air because he “knew you always like to be outside, dude!” It really is perfect—so Katsuki shouldn’t complain that Kirishima is being so nice. 

Still, he doesn’t exactly know how to respond. 

“You barely know me, dumbass,” he says, reverting to his tough exterior. “You’re not gonna miss me.”

“Sure I am!” Kirishima insists. “I know you a little bit.”

Katsuki scoffs. “I could be a serial killer, going off to slaughter my next round of victims, and you’d be none the wiser.”

“Hmm, true,” Kirishima hums. “You better bring me along then, just to prove your innocence. Or to be an accomplice, if you really are a murderer.”

Katsuki’s exaggerated eye roll is interrupted by a stray laugh that sneaks through his lips. “Fuck off, Red.”

“Mean,” Kirishima scolds, but he’s laughing too. Always laughing. He eventually tames the laughter, reining it in to a soft smile. “Have a good time, okay?”

Katsuki shifts uncomfortably, folding his hands tightly together. “Yeah.”

He hopes he’ll have a good time. He needs it to be a good time—so maybe when he comes back, he’ll feel more like himself. Kirishima has been a saving grace, providing a bit of sunshine in Katsuki’s dark storm cloud of a life, but he can’t depend on that forever. He’s got to fix things himself. 

Damn, though… He’d really rather stay.

He doesn’t voice any of this. They’ve got plenty else to talk about—enough that Katsuki finally has to put an end to it all so that he can hit the road, otherwise he’d never leave. It’s difficult to tear himself away, but once he lays eyes on that mountain, he knows he’s made the right decision. 

There’s enough cover from trees that Katsuki feels removed from civilization quite instantly. He’s been at it for less than an hour, but he’d never guess that at the bottom of this slope sits a regular parking lot on a regular road, not far from his very regular city. It’s a completely different world up here. This is where he wants to be. 

A breeze finds its way through the trees, blowing into the fabric of Katsuki’s shirt and filling him with life. It’s hard work getting up the mountain, traversing the rock and dirt, but it’s the kind of work that Katsuki enjoys. He imagines that Kirishima would see the value in it too; every step requires a bit more muscle, and to reach that beautiful view at the top, you have to push yourself.

Kirishima could do it.

Even so, Katsuki values his alone time. It’s strange how content he feels up here. For all of the burning in his calves, his footsteps have never felt lighter. The trees are his company, with their rustling leaves sounding something like an ocean in the wind.

Slowly but surely, the colors are changing. Katsuki spots splashes of autumn all around him, reds and yellows and oranges soaking through the green—such warm colors prophesying the coming cold. He’s always found it ironic. 

Katsuki allows himself the pleasure of stepping on a shriveled up leaf, going out of his way to get it since there’s nobody around to see. Its resounding crunch does not disappoint. 

It’s easy for Katsuki to find happiness up here. He’s so far removed from the rest of the world, away from his struggles. The peaceful environment doesn’t hurt either. Everything is so right—absolute harmony, where everything behaves just as it should. 

The people in Katsuki‘s life would probably be surprised to learn he even cares about all that. He’s pretty sure they’d lose their shit if they saw him out here, so serene and at peace. The muscles in his face actually feel relieved from a lack of glaring. He can relax a little. 

He decides to take a rest, sitting down on a nearby rock and taking a swig of water. It’s a good thing he wore a jacket; the weather is cooler than he expected it to be, but he always tries to be prepared. He pulls the windbreaker closer and sets down his backpack. A little snack wouldn’t hurt either. 

Exactly how long he sits there, Katsuki isn’t sure. That’s just another perk of being out here. There’s no schedule for him to stress over—no place he has to be. He’d like to make it over the mountain, but he has all weekend for that, and it’s not even that big. He can set up camp whenever he wants, and he can take a rest whenever he wants.

The views are good enough that he can appreciate them from anywhere on the mountain. Now’s as good a time as any to do that.

He isn’t extremely high up yet, but there’s still plenty to see. Beyond the nearest crest, more mountainous hills roll in the distance, each one alive with trees and vegetation. It’s absolutely breathtaking, and dammit if every roaring red leaf doesn’t remind him of Kirishima. 

Katsuki knows he would love it out here. If this wasn’t something that Katsuki did exclusively alone, he might regret telling Kirishima not to come along. That would be a disaster, though, even if Katsuki wasn’t starved for some peace and quiet. He would just overthink everything and fall harder for Kirishima than he already has. That’s the last thing he needs right now. 

In fact, he shouldn’t be thinking of Kirishima at all. It doesn’t help that his phone vibrates every five minutes, and there’s no one else who would dare spam him with texts like this besides Shitty Hair. Katsuki can’t be sure, though, because he refuses to check his messages. 

It’s because he has to preserve his phone battery, he reasons, not because he would fall down a well of feelings if he entertained any conversation with the redhead. 

He can’t help being reminded of him, though.

Out here in the wilderness, it’s all open spaces and freedom. There are no constraints, no worries, no pressure to be or do anything. It’s exhilarating—and yet, it’s familiar. 

It’s everything that Katsuki feels when he’s with Kirishima.

Fuck, he’s got it bad. It’s no wonder Katsuki likes him so much, though! He never made the connection before, but it all makes sense. Kirishima just lets Katsuki be himself. And Kirishima is dependable and solid, yet unpredictable and free. He’s like this mountain—he’s like all the mountains Katsuki loves to climb, and he’s like nature itself.

Katsuki stands back up, waiting until all of his things are packed up on his back to whip out his phone. He’s just going to take a peek. Then he’s continuing his hike. No conversations. 

One glance into his inbox, and he’s knee-deep in text messages. They’re overwhelmingly memes, with a few kind sentiments peppered in every once in a while.

The first thing that stands out to him is a selfie of Kirishima. He’s glittering with sweat and smiling even brighter than the sun’s reflection on his skin. From the looks of it, his hair started off in a ponytail, but it’s hanging messily around his flushed face and begging to be brushed away.



Shitty Hair - 3:44pm
Keeping up on workouts! Not as fun w/o u



That was an hour ago, and the photo is now buried beneath several memes that Kirishima has since sent him. It would be pointless to reply now, but the notion of falling into that chasm is enough in and of itself to keep him quiet.

He keeps moving, watching the sun float across the sky and turn red. He gets in a few more miles before deciding to set up camp for the night. On another mountain, finding a suitable campsite might be more difficult, but the earth is flattened and clear in many spots on his path; he’s got his pick of the bunch. 

Yes, better to set up now before nightfall. He pitches his tent and lays out his sleeping bag, but until he has to go in, he’d rather sit in the fresh air and watch as the sunset paints the sky to match the treetops. A carefully lit fire will keep the bugs away. 

He checks his phone as well, secretly pleased to see another load of messages from Kirishima. It’s only because they’re apart that Katsuki will tolerate this. If Kirishima sent him this many when they were together, he’d get himself an ass-kicking. But for now, it’s fine.

Usually, when Katsuki escapes the real world through his hikes, he gets the feeling that the world is also escaping him. It’s kind of nice to have someone checking in and waiting for his return. 

“Fuck it,” he mutters, giving in and typing a reply to Kirishima. 

 

You - 8:40pm
Stop fucking spamming me

 

Not the most loving reply, but Kirishima can take what he gets. 

Katsuki peels back the wrapper of his dinner and warms it over the fire, grateful that fishing isn’t even an option around this particular mountain. He’s ready to settle in for the night, and as much as he values hard work, he’s feeling a bit lazy. An instant dinner is just what he needs tonight. 

 

Shitty Hair - 8:44pm
Sorryyyy I just wanted u to feel connected to home and friends

 

Shitty Hair - 8:44pm
But now that I think of it ur trying to get away from home oops

 

Katsuki just rolls his eyes. Admittedly, some of those memes were pretty fucking funny. He’ll give Kirishima that much. And he’s certainly not complaining about the selfie. 

 

You - 8:46pm
Don’t fuckin hurt yourself working out alone

 

Shitty Hair - 8:47pm
Aww u do care

 

You - 8:47pm
Do not. 

 

He does, though, and they both know it. Katsuki isn’t ready to say as much; he’d rather not even admit it to himself. Funny, though, how he hoped to get away from his feelings for Kirishima on this trip, but they’ve only increased. He knows fuck-all about emotions, clearly. 

What is the fear with Kirishima? The harder he falls, the more anxious he becomes. Kirishima doesn’t make him feel anxious at all. Quite the opposite, actually; around Kirishima, Katsuki’s walls dissolve. He’s safe and he knows his value.

It’s scary to feel so safe. How the hell does that make any sense?

His phone buzzes once more. This time, it’s not Kirishima. 

 

Deku - 8:53pm
Do you think we could talk sometime? In person? Let’s just try and work all this out. 

 

Fuck. This is exactly why he should never have checked his phone in the first place.

The text itself isn’t that bad—not in comparison to many of the others he’s received from Deku. There’s no shitty apology this time, and no lecture either. Katsuki can appreciate that. It’s pretty straightforward.

Working things out, though…

 

You - 8:58pm
Fuck no

 

He’s not ready for that yet. Not ready for all that it would entail.

As the sky darkens, so do Katsuki’s thoughts. They float past his deepest, most painful memories and get caught in their gravitational pull. Soon he’s stuck in orbit, spiraling into a blackhole of questions about his past and future.

He doesn’t even try to fight it. If he’s not strong enough to ward off the butterflies that flutter around in his stomach every time he thinks of Kirishima, he doesn’t stand a chance against all this shit.

Katsuki reaches forward, stoking the dying fire with a stick and watching the sparks that crackle up and dissipate into nothingness. The flames grow stronger, but even without his help, the embers would sit active for hours—always ready to roar back to life, waiting to be provoked. 

Why can’t he let this go? Any of it—even a tiny fraction. He holds onto it all, white-knuckled and trembling as if loosening his grip on these terrible memories might be the death of him. But they’re so heavy. Katsuki is so heavy.

If he can’t figure this out, he’s going to lose his scholarship. There’s no way around it. Aizawa won’t let him ditch practice forever—not to mention all the matches he’s missed. Somehow the fear of losing his scholarship is no match for the utter horror he’d experience in facing the team again.

They know what happened. No doubt, they know. And they’d never forgive him.

But what if Deku did? He seems willing, even if he secretly hates Katsuki.

He shudders, sickened by the thought of sitting down and hashing things out—having to regurgitate the events of that night to Deku of all people. If Deku judged him for it, Katsuki would lose his mind. It’d probably be even worse if Deku turned right around and comforted him. There’s just no way to fix it. 

No matter what, All Might is still gone. 

The wind is beginning to pick up, and even with his jacket, Katsuki is getting too chilly to sit out here any longer. He dumps some water on the fire and shuts himself in his tent. Like a caterpillar in its cocoon, he bundles up in his sleeping bag and falls into a restless sleep.

Unlike a caterpillar, this sleep isn’t one of transformation. It’s filled with the same old misery, the same old dreams. Damn him for obsessing like that right before going to sleep. Now even in the arms of unconsciousness, he’s plagued by the memories of that night—every one of them just a little bit off, just a little crooked so they’re even more disturbing.

He wakes up once in a cold sweat, haunted by what he swore was All Might’s ghost but turns out to be nothing at all. There isn’t an ounce of sunlight, so he does his best to calm himself and go back to sleep—for whatever it’s worth. 

For some reason, as he tries to convince his heartbeat to settle down, he imagines what Kirishima might say to him. It makes no sense to wonder; Kirishima doesn’t even know about this crap. If he did, though, he probably would know what to say. He’d know how to calm Katsuki down. 

Katsuki can’t tell him, though. He’s pretty sure his body wouldn’t allow it, even if he tried. 

So he’ll just have to use his imagination. He thinks up kind and soft words, all cliches compared to what Kirishima would actually say, but he hears the words in Kirishima’s stupid voice, so it still kind of helps. It’s enough to put him to sleep. 



 

Kirishima’s fingers are feather-soft in Katsuki’s hair. They trace down his temple and along his jaw, turning up Katsuki’s chin to look into Kirishima’s ruby reds. For a moment, neither of them moves, save for the tiny grin on Kirishima’s lips that puts Katsuki’s heart in a headlock. 

What?” He asks of the grin, shuddering at the gentle touch of Kirishima’s thumbs rubbing back and forth on his cheeks. 

Kirishima just shrugs.

A cool breeze ruffles Kirishima’s hair. It’s down and soft and long—not spiked up and shitty like he always insists on wearing it. Katsuki kind of misses the spikes, but seeing Kirishima so soft and natural sparks a warmth that shouldn’t be possible this time of year. 

Katsuki settles back into Kirishima’s chest, gazing up at the kaleidoscope of autumn leaves above them. He’s glad he brought Kirishima along—glad that it’s just the two of them out here. It feels right. 

You make me happy,” Kirishima says suddenly, adoringly. He takes Katsuki’s hand and kisses his knuckles delicately. 

Bullshit,” Katsuki scoffs. He doesn’t make anyone happy. 

It’s true!” Kirishima wraps his arms around Katsuki’s waist, and he’s safe in a mighty fortress. “You’re a good person, Katsuki. You make me happy, and you’re a good person.”

Something about Kirishima’s voice—that slight growl to it—and his strong arms holding Katsuki so close… It gives him butterflies. Kirishima wants to protect him. 

Stop holding me like I’m a precious, breakable treasure or something,” Katsuki complains. He doesn’t try to remove himself, though. In fact, he finds his hands grabbing hold of Kirishima’s, just to hold him in place. 

I can stop if you don’t like it,” Kirishima offers, lips brushing Katsuki’s ear.

I do like it,” Katsuki whispers. “That’s why you have to stop.”

 

 

When he wakes up again—this time with his alarm—the dream is fresh in his mind. It was so real; he doesn’t have to try hard to feel Kirishima’s hands on him again. It’s as if he was really here.

He stares up at the ceiling of his tent, lost in the shadows of waving branches above. For a long moment, he stays there, flat on his back. There’s a flutter deep inside him, starting in his chest and stretching to his fingertips. There’s a longing; a loneliness; a happiness; a hopefulness. What the fuck is this? All from a dream?

He lies there until he can’t tune out his alarm any longer. With a hoarse groan, he rolls on his side and turns it off, checking his texts while he’s at it. Unsurprisingly, he finds one last message from Kirishima. 

 

Shitty Hair - 2:07am
I hope you find what you’re looking for out there man.

 

And there it is. The words hit Katsuki like a fallen tree on his chest. Katsuki doesn’t know if it’s the text, or the dream, or the fact that every nice thing he sees out here reminds him of Kirishima. Oh yes, Katsuki has found what he’s looking for, and he’s absolutely fucked. 




Chapter Text

 

How did he end up here?

One minute, he’s unpacking from his trip—two days later than he should have because apparently he’s fucking lazy these days—and the next Kirishima is at his door and going on about “pizza night” or some shit. Apparently it’s a monthly tradition among Kirishima’s friends, and Katsuki simply has to be there.

He should have told Kirishima to fuck right off. Actually, he did try (albeit half-heartedly), but here he is. Kirishima is pretty slick; he always manages to convince Katsuki when it counts. Katsuki’s gotta learn to say no. Of course, it would help if he was actually motivated to do it. 

“Whose foot is this?” That pink haired girl asks. (What was her name again?)

“Mine,” Kaminari grumbles, and there’s a low thud beneath the table that Katsuki can only assume is one of them kicking. “Keep your feet to yourself.”

“Any of you touch my feet and I’ll kill you,” Katsuki warns. 

There’s got to be a thousand better things Katsuki could do on a Tuesday night than be squished shoulder-to-shoulder in a corner booth with these imbeciles. Working out, for one thing. Then again, this must be pretty important to Kirishima if he’s more committed to it than his exercise routine. 

“Everyone, behave yourselves,” Kirishima scolds. 

It’s becoming increasingly clear that Kirishima is the mother of the group. Soy Sauce seems to have a decent amount of common sense, but he lacks any nurturing impulses whatsoever. Raccoon Eyes here seems downright wild, and Kaminari is a moron. That leaves Kirishima (because God knows Katsuki isn’t going to take care of anyone but himself).

“So, Bakugou,” Raccoon Eyes says, leaning across the table to inspect him. “I think we met briefly once—at a party. But tell me about yourself.”

“No.” Katsuki frowns, stiff as a board. He doesn’t like people invading his personal space like this. 

“Lay off, Mina,” Soy Sauce says, tugging on her arm until she sits back down. “Bakugou’s shy, you know.”

“Fuck you,” Katsuki scowls. “I don’t even want to be here.”

“Yeah?” Kaminari’s wicked grin makes it obvious that he doesn’t buy it. “Then why are you here?”

Dammit. That’s a fair question—and it probably sticks out to Kirishima considering that he’s heard Katsuki’s mantra of “I don’t do anything I don’t want to” time and time again. 

“Alright, alright,” Kirishima calms them, turning to Katsuki. “We’re just happy you’re here, bro.”

Katsuki hunches his shoulders as if that will build up a wall between himself and the others. Maybe Kirishima can stay inside with him. Maybe. He’s the only one Katsuki feels safe with here. The others are still new—still subject to Katsuki’s endless scrutiny. He’s good at finding reasons not to like people—not to keep them around. He’s yet to find any reason with Kirishima, though. 

And, try as he might to block them all out, he can’t help but watch the group with utter fascination. The walls he tried to build come out as windows. He’s a child at the zoo, watching the strange creatures and their strange ways, trying to make sense of it all.

They’re so in sync. It’s as if they’re all connected by a wire or something. When one of them laughs, they all do—even if it’s over stupid shit that isn’t even funny. They’re constantly talking over each other, and yet they all seem to know exactly what’s being said. They bicker like rotten kids one second, and laugh like fools the next. Most of all, Katsuki can see it in their eyes: the deep and undying trust between them all. 

That's something he’s never known.

They know each other. They love each other. He can see it in their playful shoves, in the way Sero lets Kaminari steal the pizza crust off his plate, in the way Raccoon Eyes keeps messing up Kirishima’s perfectly sculpted hair. And Katsuki just watches, a foreigner among them.

He’s never had any interest in friendships. The concept generally makes him uncomfortable, and he’s never understood the appeal of letting someone get close enough that they see all your flaws and you have to see theirs. As he watches tonight, though, he feels something deep inside him for the first time. 

Longing.

A longing to be a part of it. A longing to be among people who might look at him like that. What would it mean to laugh so freely? And to mean it? Katsuki’s never been that at ease.

It takes him back to his hike—all the thoughts he’d processed about Kirishima. The feelings he’s developed. Knowing that spending time with Kirishima means being a part of this makes him all the more amazing to Katsuki. It also makes his own feelings far more intimidating since there’s even more to lose.

Damn. 

They finish their pizza and then screw around for another twenty minutes before they pick up their bills. Katsuki’s portion of the bill got fucked up somehow, and at the last minute Sero insisted on paying for Kaminari’s food, so now it’s just the two of them waiting for the restaurant to sort out what they owe. The others have gone outside to wait in the chilly parking lot. 

“You were weird tonight,” Sero remarks casually. 

Katsuki stiffens. “Yeah, well you act weird all the time.”

“Sheesh, I’m just saying. You seem like more of the brooding quiet type, but tonight was different.”

Katsuki’s not about to get into all of this (not with Soy Sauce of all people), so he deflects with the first topic that crosses his mind. 

“What about you and Dunce Face?” he asks, pulling his jacket on one arm at a time.

“Me and…? Huh?”

“Kaminari.”

Katsuki watches intently as Sero scratches the back of his neck, staring up at the ceiling, out the window, anywhere but Katsuki’s eyes.

“Well, I—what do you mean by that?”

Katsuki scoffs. “Such a dumbass. Whatever, I’m not talking about this.”

At least now the heat is off himself. That’s how he prefers it. Just then, their waitress brings out their proper bills. Katsuki sends her back with cash and prepares to head out.

“Wait,” Sero stops him, and it’s all Katsuki can do not to groan in frustration. 

From the window, he can see Kirishima and the others out in the parking lot, bathing in the pale streetlights above them. A light rainfall glimmers in the sky, and at least from here, everything looks quiet and pleasant. Probably if he went out, he would find the same grating noise that the group always brings, but he wants to be there anyway. 

“You’re right about Kaminari,” Sero continues. “Ugh, I hate emotions. They’re so freaking annoying.”

“You got that right,” Katsuki says. At least they agree on something. 

“I don’t know how this happened,” Sero laments, sinking back into the booth dramatically. “He’s my best friend. I’m not supposed to fall for my best friend. And he’s a guy! Who knew I was gay?”

“You are what you are,” Katsuki says, taking a step towards the door and trying to shake off the discomfort that always comes with speaking on such issues. “Forget about the labels if you don’t like them. Just do what you want and be happy.”

The booth squeaks as Sero stands up, lingering behind Katsuki and gazing out the window. “Except I can’t. He doesn’t feel the same way. He’s falling for Shinsou. What kind of crappy YA novel am I living in where my crush falls for my roommate?”

Katsuki grimaces. “Don’t you think Kirishima would be a better person to talk with about all this shit?”

“Kirishima doesn’t know, and I’d rather not just tell the whole world. It’s embarrassing, man.”

Katsuki clenches his fists, wanting more than anything to indulge the invisible string pulling him towards the door—if Soy Sauce would just stop talking.

“Just fuckin’ tell him how you feel,” Katsuki says. “You won’t get anywhere until you do that.”

He’s no longer looking at Sero, but his frown is audible. “I guess. I have to decide if it’s worth it, though. Kaminari seems so happy. I don’t wanna ruin that.”

“Yeah, well you can’t have it both ways,” Katsuki says. Goodness knows he’s tried that with his own problems. 

With a final grunt, Katsuki excuses himself. That’s just about all the conversation he can handle for one day. He zips up his jacket and pushes open the doors, breathing out a rolling cloud into the cool, moist air. Even in the misty rainfall, the fresh air is preferable to being stuck inside a stuffy restaurant.

“Hey, there they are,” Kirishima waves as they approach. 

“Fucking hooray,” Katsuki says sarcastically.

The others just laugh. It’s actually a bit concerning how at ease they all seem with him. Katsuki is used to people cowering from him, sending him uneasy stares from across the room. It’s kind of the image he likes to maintain. But Kirishima isn’t scared of him, so apparently that makes the rest of these morons feel perfectly comfortable around him too. 

“Aw, Bakugou,” Raccoon Eyes teases in a sing-song voice. “We’ll make a friend out of you yet.”

Beside her, Pikachu shrugs his shoulders and smirks. “Can’t be stopped. Now who wants to go bar hopping?”

“It’s a fucking school night, asshole,” Katsuki barks. “Count me out.”

“Mm, yeah, I think I better not,” Kirishima agrees. “I should do some studying.”

Soy Sauce and Raccoon Eyes quickly jump on board Kaminari’s plan, chattering on about where they’ll go and who’s driving. That leaves just Katsuki and Kirishima here, so apparently Katsuki will be driving Kirishima back to the dorms.

They settle into his car, and Kirishima lets out a deep sigh.

“How was your first pizza night?” he asks Katsuki, leaning back into the passenger seat. 

“Fine,” Katsuki answers vaguely. “I doubt I’ll make a habit of it.”

Kirishima just scoffs. “You heard Mina, it’s gonna happen. You’re in the group now.”

Katsuki turns over the car engine, staring through the windshield, studying the glare on it from the streetlights. “I didn’t ask for that.”

“You make it sound like having friends is a bad thing.”

Katsuki chews on that thought as they hit the road, wondering why that’s so hard for Kirishima to wrap his head around. Katsuki’s made it no secret that he’s wary of friendships. They just...scare the shit out of him. Not that he’s about to admit it in so many words. 

He turns to look at Kirishima when they come to a stop, the crimson hues from the traffic light painting Kirishima’s skin to match his hair. Everything is Red.

“Friends can be a bad thing,” Katsuki says, and Kirishima’s eyes are brighter than the stoplight when he faces him. 

“I don’t see how that could be true.”

Maybe Kirishima will never understand. He’s someone who draws strength from others—probably always has. But Katsuki has only ever found disappointment with friends. Or worse, he’s been the source of disappointment. People make him feel weak. 

The light turns green, and the engine hums as Katsuki hits the gas. 

“Friends are just something to lose.”

Kirishima tries a few more times to initiate conversation as they approach the school, but for some reason Katsuki’s walls are up extra high tonight. Maybe he’s just all socialized-out from dinner.

The school lots are almost empty in the evenings. Even so, Katsuki is too lazy to be bothered with finding the best spot. Kirishima can stand to walk a bit considering that he cancelled their workout to eat all that unhealthy shit.

“Here we are,” he says when Kirishima doesn’t immediately get out. 

Kirishima sighs. “Here we are.”

It’s quiet then. They sit unmoving for what feels like an eternity, the car rumbling beneath them and the heater nearly stifling the air in his lungs. Still, Katsuki can’t bring himself to tell Kirishima to get the fuck out. He swears he’s two seconds from doing it when Kirishima speaks up. 

“Are you okay, man?”

“I don’t know,” he admits, fingers wrapped tightly around the steering wheel.

“Okay,” Kirishima says. He opens up his door and swings one leg out before pausing. “You should come in for a little while. If you wanna talk about it, then we can, but if not, I have plenty of awesome video games I could kick your ass at.”

Katsuki grits his teeth, ripping the key from the ignition and shoving his door open. He closes it with just as much force. 

“Fuckin’ fine. But I’m gonna win, not you.”

If he’s being honest, it’ll be nice to hang out just the two of them. Maybe even better than being alone—and Katsuki never does anything that he doesn’t want to do. 

Kirishima chuckles and closes his door, following Katsuki at a lazy pace. “Either way, Blasty.”

It’s a strange and unexpected relief to be closed up in Kirishima’s dorm. He’s only been here a handful of times, and never without feeling extreme anxiety and insecurity. This time is different, though. He’s been invited in by Kirishima, not to sit in anxious anticipation of a party, and not because he fucked up so bad he had to come fix things. They’re here together, and for the first time, he’s at ease. 

“Take a seat anywhere,” Kirishima tells him, and Katsuki doesn’t object. 

He sits tentatively on the edge of Kirishima’s bed, careful not to make too much of an indent in the covers. The biggest surprise of all is that the bed is actually made—or it was. Kirishima collapses next to Katsuki without a care, creating a giant ripple in the blankets. 

“Ah, it feels good to be home.” Kirishima leans back, tucking his hands behind his head. “I’m tempted to say forget about the video games. I could almost fall asleep right here and now.”

Katsuki rolls his eyes. “Then what’d I come all the way up here for?”

“Aw,” Kirishima nudges him with his knee, steadying himself on his elbows and flashing a boyish grin. “Don’t pout, I’m not going to abandon you.”

“You better not,” Katsuki replies, taking the words a little more seriously than he logically should.

It’s not actually that big of a deal. 

Except that it is. 

Thankfully, they leave it at that, and Kirishima moves to hook up his game system to the crappy little TV shoved in the corner. It’s amazing how much shit Kirishima and Dunce Face have managed to pack into this cramped dorm room. Despite the size and all the clutter, Katsuki can’t remember a time when Kirishima has ever complained about it. Katsuki certainly would. 

Because Katsuki is the guest, Kirishima says he has to choose which game they play first. He decides on a first person shooter game; he’s bad at them and he wants a challenge. That way it’ll feel even better when he wipes the floor with Kirishima. Of course, it also means he loses the first match and nearly breaks the controller in half with his bare hands (but he doesn’t, so that has to count for something).

“I should’ve known you’d be a sore loser,” Kirishima teases.

“I am not,” Katsuki lies. “Besides, you beat me before—at that dumbass wrestling match on the lawn last week.”

“Oh yeah,” Kirishima recalls.

Katsuki expects him to elaborate more on this because he’s Kirishima and he likes to fucking talk, but the only sound to be heard is the rustling of blankets as Kirishima shifts closer. His sharp teeth find Katsuki’s shoulder, sending tingles like electricity through his veins with a single bite through his T-shirt. It’s a wonder the blanket doesn’t tear with how hard Katsuki is digging his nails into it. 

There’s a deep canyon in the covers where Kirishima has rolled closer, a crater made by their combined weights. Katsuki is afraid he might dive into it and disappear, when the greater part of him wants nothing more than to take Kirishima by the shoulders and kiss him until both of their lips are raw.

But Kirishima acts as if nothing strange has happened here, so Katsuki denies both of his strongest inclinations and sits in silence until Kirishima starts the next match.

“I oughtta fuckin’ bite you when I win this one,” Katsuki grumbles, eyes narrowed as the match begins. 

“Ha, be my guest,” Kirishima says. “If you ever win, that is.”

Katsuki wanted a challenge, and he’s got one. Not only is Katsuki typically bad at these games, Kirishima is really fucking good. Hell, Katsuki is beginning to think there’s nothing Kirishima can’t do. 

Dress himself like a damn adult, he reminds himself, just so he feels a bit better. 

The match rolls onward, and by sheer force of willpower (there’s really no other way of explaining it) Katsuki finds himself poised to win. As the match nears its end, Kirishima resorts to drastic measures, trying to swat the controller from Katsuki’s hands. He abandons his own efforts to win altogether, focusing only on making Katsuki lose. His fingers wrap around Katsuki’s forearms and yank at them, giggling like a child all the while and taunting Katsuki with snarky comments.

The moment Katsuki’s win is secured, he throws his controller aside and devotes every muscle in his body to taking Kirishima down—for real, in real life. He maneuvers his legs around Kirishima’s, using the leverage to flip them over and pin him down. Kirishima whines in protest, crying out in surrender and saying that it’s not fair. 

“Who’s the sore loser now?” Katsuki scoffs, holding Kirishima’s wrists tightly in his hands. Now for the moment of truth. “I fucking win.”

He can’t afford what a deep breath would reveal, so he forfeits it, mustering up all of his courage and shifting down so that their chests touch. Kirishima’s body is warm against Katsuki, and damn, if he doesn’t like it. If he doesn’t make this quick, though, Kirishima will probably feel the stampede of Katsuki’s heartbeat against his chest. Still, Katsuki finds himself taking his sweet time, leaning down lazily and letting his lips linger above Kirishima’s exposed neck before doing anything more. 

He can feel each rugged breath that Kirishima lets out—can hear how every so often the air catches in his throat. If he really stopped to listen, Katsuki’s pretty sure he could even hear the blood pumping through his veins. They’re that close. 

His lips ghost across Kirishima’s skin first. He doesn’t mean for it to happen; it’s his own hesitation that causes it. After that, he dives in, opening his mouth and letting his teeth sink in.

Despite the fact that Kirishima knew this was coming, he lets out a quiet gasp, and it does something to Katsuki. He likes it. He likes how it made him feel to get a reaction like that. Maybe he can make it happen again. Tentatively, Katsuki allows his tongue to dart out between his teeth, licking the skin that he’s captured there.

Beneath him, Kirishima stiffens, a second gasp stopping halfway in his mouth. It’s enough to satisfy Katsuki. 

“Alright, asshole,” he says. “That makes us almost even.”

“Almost?” Kirishima chokes.

“Did I stutter? You’ve done that shit to me twice now.”

“Yeah, but not so—I don’t know.”

“What?” Katsuki asks, a wave of defensive energy flooding through him.

“Nothing! I don’t know,” Kirishima insists. “I just didn’t expect it.”

Only now, Katsuki realizes that he’s still on top of Kirishima. He rolls off, making himself comfortable. “I told you I was gonna win—and that I was gonna bite you when I did.”

Kirishima laughs quietly. “Yeah, I guess you did.”

They lie there in a silence that’s surprisingly comfortable. Katsuki would have expected to feel much more awkward considering the fact that they both just bit each other, but Kirishima seems to have gotten over it, and Katsuki actually liked it. Who the hell is he?

“I’m cold,” Kirishima announces with a shiver, reaching over Katsuki for the throw blanket at the end of his bed.

“Are you kidding? You’re like a damn heater. How are you cold?”

Kirishima shrugs. “Just am. Want some blanket?”

“No,” Katsuki says, but he still finds himself climbing up to the head of the bed when Kirishima moves up. He’d rather be next to him.

The repetitive electronica music from the game drones on as they lay in silence, a soundtrack that doesn’t quite fit the mood but fills the space nonetheless. Once Katsuki manages to block it out, it’s not so bad. He rests his arms behind his head, a makeshift pillow to keep his neck from cramping. Beside him, Kirishima lets out a contented sigh.

What was earlier a light rainfall has turned into something of a thunderstorm. Soon enough, the impact of a million droplets on the roof and window sill overpower the sound of the music. It’s preferable, Katsuki thinks, like the white noise he sometimes plays just to get himself to sleep when his thoughts are too much. 

“Have you lost many friends?” Kirishima asks quietly, suddenly. 

It’s a good time to ask questions. He’s calm now, all of the tension he’d been holding washed away by the rainstorm. 

“I don’t know. No.” Katsuki pauses, trying to come up with the most truthful answer. “Haven’t had many to begin with.”

“How is that possible?” Kirishima asks the question so earnestly that Katsuki could almost cry. He asks it as if Katsuki isn’t some “big bad” made of sharp lines and lighter fluid, ready to cut or burn anyone who gets too close. He asks it as if being Katsuki’s friend is easy—the most natural thing in the world. 

“I’ve had more fans than friends,” Katsuki reveals. It probably sounds fucking arrogant, but it’s true. “Anyone else is too fuckin’ scared of me to be a friend, and I’m not gonna lower myself for anyone’s approval.”

“Fans,” Kirishima repeats, turning on his side to study Katsuki. “People who are more interested in your accomplishments than who you are as a person?”

The night sky flickers with lightning, brightening the room with a quiet flash and spilling shadows across the ceiling. Katsuki counts—one, two, three, four seconds—until the gentle thunder follows. 

“Yeah.” He brings his arms back down to his sides, hands balling into fists. “And now even they’re gone.”

It’s his own fault. Who would want to stick around after all the things that Katsuki has done? He’s not a wrestling champion anymore, and he’s responsible for All Might’s very publicized death. A washed-up has-been—that’s the best way to describe him. His biggest accomplishments as of late are that he still does well in school and showers every day. 

But he prefers to be alone anyway. He always knew those fake friendships weren’t worth shit. 

“Why?” Kirishima dares to ask.

Admittedly, Katsuki wasn’t prepared for that question. As vulnerable as he’s allowing himself to be, he isn’t ready to get into all of that dirt.

He glares up at the ceiling, trying to decide how he wants to answer. There’s a spiderweb of cracks in the plaster above; maybe it will come crashing down on top of them so he doesn’t have to say any more on the subject. Kirishima would let it go if that happened, wouldn’t he?

“It’s okay, man.” Kirishima says. His hand reaches out from the blanket and takes Katsuki’s. “You don’t have to talk about it.”

Katsuki says nothing, but he doesn’t push Kirishima away either. His hand is warm and strong, and it feels so fucking good to be touched like that—even a gentle squeeze of the hand is more than Katsuki is used to.

“Hey,” Kirishima murmurs, drawing Katsuki’s gaze to his eyes. “You know I’m not gonna leave you, right? I’m not going anywhere.”

Kirishima means it. Katsuki can tell that he does, and with their hands firmly intertwined and Kirishima’s whispers tickling his ear, Katsuki almost believes it. 

“Thanks,” Katsuki says.

If he were more skilled in speaking, he would convey with accuracy what it means to feel safe and valued for once in his life. Those thoughts just don’t translate to words, though. Not from Katsuki. 

When Kirishima gives his hand one final squeeze and then lets go, Katsuki experiences loneliness in the most physical way. He’s never felt anything quite like that—the empty tingles in his palm and the ache in his chest. 

“Wait,” he finds himself whispering, because that feeling is worth a little embarrassment. “That felt nice.”

Katsuki’s face heats up like the surface of the sun, and the brief pause speaks volumes on how much Kirishima hadn’t expected him to say such a thing. 

“Oh,” Kirishima manages after a long moment. “I—I could do it again?”

Katsuki crosses his arms. “Only if you want.”

The feather-light touch of Kirishima’s hand on Katsuki’s body makes him shiver. He reaches across Katsuki’s chest to his opposite arm, tracing his bicep and gingerly taking hold of his shoulder. 

“How about this?” Kirishima asks, pulling Katsuki’s body into his own.

His arms close around Katsuki’s body, bringing him in safely against his chest. At first, Katsuki goes stiff as a board, too shocked to do anything but lie there. This is way different than holding hands. This is being held.

Holy fuck. 

Everything is warm and safe and comfortable. Katsuki can feel the movement of Kirishima’s every breath, can see the rise and fall of his chest up close and personal. He knew Kirishima was strong from all the times they’ve worked out, but it’s completely different now that he’s wrapped up in all those muscles. 

“Is this okay?” Kirishima asks. 

He bows his head into Kirishima’s chest, burying his face in the musky scent. With a deep sigh, Katsuki lets go of his fears, breathing out all the tension he’d held in his body. Yes, it’s more than fucking okay. His arms twitch once before responding to his commands and reaching out to Kirishima.

It feels good to be held. It feels just as good to hold Kirishima.

“We never speak of this,” he mumbles into Kirishima’s shirt.

He’s not really aware of Kirishima’s reply, if he even replies at all. He’s far too distracted by the way Kirishima is running his fingers through his hair, lightly massaging the back of his head. It’s cathartic. Absolute relief floods every joint and muscle in Katsuki’s body. This is relaxation like he’s never known. 

His fingers curl into the fabric of Kirishima’s shirt, snuggling closer and surrendering every last bit of his pride in favor of this feeling—this security that Kirishima is offering, whether he knows it or not. He wants this to stay. And Kirishima promised to stay.

His thoughts grow fuzzy, and he vaguely realizes that at some point his eyes fell closed. He doesn’t make the effort to open them again. 

“Stay…” he whispers sleepily.

The arms around him tighten.

Stay.






Chapter Text

It’s daylight when Katsuki next opens his eyes, and the heat of his body against Kirishima’s is sealed in by the blanket. At some point in the night, Kirishima must have wrapped them both up in it.

Damn, this feels so right.

He nuzzles into the crook of Kirishima’s neck, causing the redhead to stir. His arms move around Katsuki, snaking tighter around his waist and igniting his lower back with a flaming touch beneath his T-shirt. Twin breaths mix in the shared space, content and at ease. 

“Morning,” Kirishima croaks after a long moment, looking down at Katsuki with near-tangible fondness. 

Katsuki cracks a smile, distracted by the movement of Kirishima’s foot on his own. He wonders if it’s on purpose. 

“Did you sleep good?” Kirishima asks, carding his fingers through Katsuki’s hair. “I know I did.”

Katsuki’s heart swells with adoration, and his cheeks fill with so much warmth he’s surprised he doesn’t inflate and float away like a fucking hot air balloon. It’s all he can do to nod his head to Kirishima; his tongue is completely tied. 

“Wanna just stay here all day?” Kirishima continues. “I know that sounds silly and we both have classes—and you probably never skip classes, but… I dunno. What do you say?”

“I say you two are adorable.” Who the…?

Katsuki stiffens, lifting his head to peer over Kirishima’s broad shoulders and glare at Soy Sauce. He’s becoming increasingly suspicious that everyone has been pulling his leg this whole time—that Sero really is Kirishima’s roommate. Why else would he always be here?

Kirishima, looking mildly annoyed himself, sits up and forfeits his hold on Katsuki. “What are you doing in here, man?”

Sero lounges on Kaminari’s bed, scrolling through his phone too quickly to actually be looking at anything. Still, he keeps his eyes on the screen, no longer looking at Katsuki or Kirishima. 

“Denki invited Shinsou to meet us at the bar last night, and let’s just say that the evening ended with the two of them in my room, and me in here.”

Fucking yikes.

“Sorry, dude,” Kirishima frowns.

Last night, Sero told Katsuki that Kirishima didn’t know about his crush. It’s not surprising that Kirishima picked up on it, though. He’s damn perceptive.

Still, Sero tries to laugh it off. “Huh? It’s nothing, man. Although when I came in here and saw the two of you, I thought maybe I was still intruding.”

Kirishima throws his arm around Katsuki. “Can’t two bros just snuggle for kicks and giggles?”

Ah. Of course that’s how Kirishima would think of it. Katsuki himself hadn’t really gotten that far yet, but the way his heart sinks says enough about what he truly wanted from this. Can two bros just snuggle for kicks? Sure, but not Katsuki. Katsuki doesn’t let anyone this close. Even when he lets someone stay over after fucking, this doesn’t happen.

Kirishima, though… Kirishima is a touchy guy. It’s different for him, and Katsuki just has to be okay with that. Romantic or not, the things he’s done for Katsuki are special. Those things are good—especially holding him through the night when he’s sad and insecure.

“Anyway,” Sero drawls, standing up and stretching dramatically. “I’ll get out of your hair. Unlike you two, I don’t have the luxury of skipping classes. By the way, you guys said you were coming back here to study, but I have a feeling—”

“Come on, man,” Kirishima groans, flopping back on the bed. 

Sero just cackles and leaves them alone. If only they could get back to those peaceful first moments of consciousness once the door is closed. They’re awake, though, and the dreamy, sun-soaked mood of first-light has evaded Katsuki. Kirishima’s arms, however, are still very present. They find Katsuki with sweet and silent determination, drawing him in. 

“Ignore Sero,” Kirishima advises, resting his chin atop Katsuki’s head. “He just likes stirring the pot.”

Katsuki sighs, warming the fabric of Kirishima’s T-shirt with his breath and then snuggling right into it. Even being wide awake, this is still nice. 

“You okay, man?” Kirishima asks, fingers tracing Katsuki’s shoulder blades in dizzying circles. 

“Hm?” 

“You haven’t spoken all morning—you know, in the three minutes we’ve been awake.”

He hasn’t? Huh, weird. His mind feels a little foggy, but in a good way. He’s too mesmerized by Kirishima’s touch to bother with words. Even fully aware, Katsuki hates talking.

“Is this too much?” Kirishima ventures, anxiety trickling through his words. He’s about to shimmy away from Katsuki, untangling their limbs, but Katsuki grabs his wrist.

“Fuck off with the panic,” he murmurs, securing Kirishima’s hands right back where they belong—around Katsuki. “I’m just relaxing.”

“I—oh.” Kirishima’s body slowly softening once again. “So, are you staying?”

“Mhm.”

Kirishima’s breathy laugh tickles Katsuki’s forehead. “Good. I have a feeling you haven’t actually relaxed in a long time.”

A month ago that sort of assumption would have sent Katsuki into a fit of rage. Right now, he just closes his eyes and nods. “Not like this.”

Maybe this makes him weak. The thought of that still scares the shit out of him somewhere in the back of his mind, but right now Kirishima’s fingers are in Katsuki’s hair, and their feet are warm beneath the blanket, and the fact that Katsuki’s alarm mysteriously never went off this morning and his backpack is all the way back at his apartment seems like a sign. He should stay. He needs to stay. 

Maybe he even deserves it. 

Just for an hour or two. Just until one of them starts to regret it.

Katsuki thought he was wide awake, but a cozy blanket and a gentle scalp massage can do wonders in knocking someone the fuck out. He drifts in and out of consciousness for the next two hours, and every time he opens his eyes, Kirishima is there.

“I ordered us some lunch,” Kirishima says when Katsuki’s eyes blink open with a sense of finality. “Or, late breakfast maybe?”

He’s propped up on a pillow, using one hand to scroll through his phone. His other arm is slung around Katsuki. Somehow he managed to sleep through all that wiggling around and stay firmly rested on Kirishima’s torso.

“...Time is it?” Katsuki asks, sitting up and rubbing his eyes. 

“Close to eleven.”

“Shit,” Katsuki mutters, rubbing his eyes. “Guess I really did need the extra sleep.”

Kirishima chuckles. “Guess so. I wasn’t sure what kind of bento box you’d want, but I ordered yours with chicken and spicy sauce.”

“How much do I owe you?”

“Nothing,” Kirishima replies with a shrug. “It was my idea, so I’ll take care of it.”

Katsuki sits up, putting some space between his and Kirishima’s bodies for the first time in the past twelve hours. The air is cold without his touch. Realistically, he can’t spend all day tangled up with Kirishima in bed (and oh, the very sappy, very not-okay thoughts a phrase like that gives him).

Last night Katsuki said they would never speak of this again. That puts a lot of pressure on him to end all of this and act normal, but it’s also the exact reason he doesn’t want to. They’ll never do it again, so it’s tempting to draw it out as long as he can. What’s done is done, though, to Katsuki’s own dismay. 

“So, uh,” Katsuki clears his throat. Kirishima, curious, sets his phone aside and gives Katsuki his full attention. “Thanks. For last night.” He clears his throat once more. “And this morning.”

There. Now he’s really done talking about it. 

“Of course, dude! Any time, honestly. You know I’m a hugger, so hugging all night long? That’s like a fucking dream.”

Katsuki looks away, fending off the pleasant tingle in his chest. “Alright, alright. Shut the fuck up.”

A quiet knock at the door saves him from any further comments about last night.

“That’ll be the food,” Kirishima says. 

Katsuki bolts from the bed, practically flying over Kirishima’s legs to escape. He can’t be bothered with his dumb emotions if he’s busy answering the door. Oh wait, it turns out he fucking can. Why? Because when Katsuki opens the door, he isn’t greeted with their food, he’s greeted by the worst person on this entire motherfucking planet, and the last face he expected to see right now—or ever again, if he had it his way.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Katsuki roars, ready to wring Deku’s neck here and now. 

Deku flinches back, hands up in surrender as he jumps back to the opposite side of the hallway like a scared rabbit. “Kacchan, please! I just want to talk!”

“Yeah, well I don’t,” Katsuki says simply, moving to slam the door but finding Deku’s arm in the way. Slick fucker.

He’s not going to leave Katsuki alone, and unfortunately there’s no way Kirishima will let him pound Deku’s face in. If only Deku had approached him somewhere else—anywhere else. Which begs the question… 

“How did you find me?”

“Uhh…” Deku pushes the door open once again, then points over Katsuki’s shoulder. “Kirishima’s Instagram Story kind of made it look like you were here.”

Katsuki’s head snaps back to glare at Kirishima, who has apparently been watching in guilty silence all along. “Your fucking what?”

“Sorry!” Kirishima squeaks. “You just looked so cute when you were sleeping! I had to share it with the world!”

First of all, nobody gets to see Katsuki looking “cute.” Secondly, Katsuki would like to rip Kirishima’s head right off for exposing Katsuki’s location. To be fair, who could have known that Deku would be on the prowl out there? Even so… Dammit. 

“Let’s just settle this,” Deku says, taking a few tentative steps into the room and closing the door behind him. “Once and for all.”

Katsuki growls, turning to lean on Kirishima’s desk. “There is no ‘once and for all.’ This shit is forever; it’s not some rollercoaster you get to get off of and walk away from.”

“Why?” Deku asks quietly. “Kacchan, why? I need to know.”

Deku needs to know? Deku does? What about all the burning questions that Katsuki had for All Might before he died? He’ll never get the answers to those; what makes Deku think he deserves anything more from Katsuki? He already took everything. He practically had it handed to him. 

Katsuki grits his teeth. “Oh, it’s just tearing you apart, huh? What a fucking tragedy.”

That’s when Kirishima cuts in. “Hey, uh—I’m gonna give the two of you some space to talk things out.”

“No need,” Katsuki holds up a hand. He grabs his jacket from the desk chair and throws it on. “I’m outta here. You can give my lunch to Deku since you practically invited him here.”

He shoves his way past Deku, their shoulders clashing like swords. What a sour ending to a perfectly sweet morning. Deku even managed to ruin this. 

Katsuki is halfway out the door when Deku stops him again. “You’re going to lose your scholarship, Kacchan. You’re not answering Aizawa’s emails, and if you don’t show up in the next two weeks he’s done.”

Fan-fucking-tastic.

Katsuki gives a little extra effort when he slams the door behind him, thundering down the hall in a hazy rage. It seems that before he even blinks, he’s outside in the cold. Alone, as he should be. 

He turns his head to the midday sun and lets out an ugly, strangled cry, disregarding the startled expressions from onlookers. He just needed to get that out of his system. 

Why won’t Deku just leave him alone? Why? All Might is fucking dead; let the past die with him! Let Katsuki’s hopes and dreams die too. They’re none of Deku’s damn business in the first place. The scholarship? Well, that’s gonna be a fucking mess; a double-edged sword.

Katsuki can’t go back to the wrestling team. He can’t. For the sake of his pride and his sanity, he can’t. He’s not ready to face the judgmental stares of his teammates; he never will be. He’s not ready to have a whole-ass breakdown in front of everyone either.

But if he loses his scholarship… His mom will kill him, and his dad will just stand there watching and shaking his head in disappointment. Katsuki would like to pretend he doesn’t give a shit about what they think, but he can’t help caring. Not to mention enduring that inevitably long lecture from his mom sounds absolutely torturous.

What would happen to his schooling? Would he have to drop out? Would his parents fork over the money to keep him in? Surely, they could afford it, right? But they might deny him any help, just to reach him a lesson in responsibility.

He could always take out a loan…

“Katsuki?”

He lowers his head at the sound of Kirishima’s voice behind him. The voice—just as gentle as last night, just as tender—puts him at ease despite his best efforts to stay guarded. Katsuki says nothing, glaring at the pavement. All of the working out he does, and his muscles still aren’t strong enough to hold down all the emotions in the pit of his stomach. He clenches his fists. 

“Are you okay?” Kirishima tries again, inching closer.

And all at once, Katsuki is speechless again. This time, it isn’t from the sickly sweet sunrise or the safe and secure hold of Kirishima’s arms around his waist. He feels frozen. He can’t speak, he can’t move, and all he wants to do is run. 

Kirishima’s hand takes Katsuki’s, steadying him like an anchor in an ocean storm. 

“Katsuki…” Moving to stand in front of him, Kirishima takes Katsuki’s other hand as well, looking him in the eye. “You know I would never try to get Midoriya over here on purpose. I’m really sorry it happened.”

Katsuki swallows hard. “I know.”

“Good.” Kirishima squeezes his hands. “But—I don’t know. Should we talk about what just happened?”

“Don’t worry about it.”

The last thing he needs is Kirishima getting involved. If Kirishima is asking Katsuki to look him in the eyes and tell him all of the terrible details of his past, he’s dumber than Katsuki thought. He’s not physically able to tell the truth, but Katsuki wouldn’t do it even if he could. Then Kirishima would know. He would know everything that Katsuki is working so hard to erase. 

“You can tell me anything,” Kirishima promises fiercely. “You don’t have to, but you can.”

“You’re not my therapist.”

“And you’re not my client,” Kirishima says without missing a beat. “I’m not out here because I have to be.”

“Then why are you here?” Katsuki interrogates, finding it hard to believe that Kirishima didn’t chase after him out of some sense of guilt or obligation. 

There’s a flash of hurt in Kirishima’s eyes, probably because of Katsuki’s tone, but his hands remain steadfast.

“You’re upset,” Kirishima says with a soft smile. “Where else would I be?”

What did Katsuki ever do to deserve a friend like Kirishima? If he thinks he has any sort of chance with him romantically, he’s out of his mind. Kirishima is a fucking moron, but he’s way out of Katsuki’s league.

Looking into Kirishima’s eyes—so loyal and kind and genuine—Katsuki’s hands begin to tremble; it doesn’t matter that Kirishima is still holding them. He owes Kirishima the truth; he came and the way out here in the frigid air with his damn Crocs just to make sure Katsuki was okay. He held him all through the night.

Kirishima is good. Katsuki is pathetic. Somehow, Katsuki almost thinks Kirishima would forgive all his past mistakes, but he still can’t find his words.

“Are you cold?” Kirishima asks, definitely misinterpreting Katsuki’s trembling. “Come on, dude, let’s get out of here.”

“I’m not going back in,” Katsuki says stubbornly. 

Kirishima isn’t fazed. “Your place then. Anywhere inside.”

“Fine.”

They’re two steps towards Katsuki’s car when Kirishima goes sprinting off, hollering at the delivery guy who’s finally showed up with their food. Luckily he caught him, but Kirishima looks like a damn fool running across the parking lot like that. 

“Ah, toasty warm,” Kirishima sighs happily, clutching the delivery bag to his chest as they sit in the car. 

No doubt the food will have cooled down by the time they get to Katsuki’s apartment, but he’s glad that Kirishima is warm enough in the meantime. Frankly, Katsuki has lost his appetite, so at least the food serves some purpose. 

Once they make it inside, it’s all Katsuki can do not to fall into bed and sleep the day away. Kirishima came all this way, so it probably wouldn’t be polite, and for some reason Katsuki still gives a shit about that even though he’s slightly pissed. 

“Why’d you do it?” he asks, glaring over his own plate at Kirishima, whose appetite hasn’t been hindered by this mess. 

Kirishima takes his time chewing before offering a reply. “Do what?”

“Post that picture online of us—you know, asleep together.”

“I’m really sorry!” Kirishima cries. “If it helps at all, it wasn’t a picture of us together. It was just you—your face! You looked so soft and peaceful, and maybe even happy? I just needed a picture, but I shouldn’t have shared it without your consent, and you’re right to be mad at me for it.”

Well, maybe it does help a little. Katsuki certainly didn’t want that sort of vulnerability broadcasted to the entire internet—especially if it was a photo of him sleeping in Kirishima’s arms. 

“It’s something that I wouldn’t have thought twice about with Kaminari or Sero,” Kirishima says, his voice lower now. “But I should have known better. I’ll never do it again, I promise.”

“Alright,” Katsuki says, as if they’ve reached some sort of deal. 

They finish their meal in silence, and when Katsuki moves to do the dishes, Kirishima insists on helping out. He’s so dutiful—almost pitiful—that Katsuki has to let him. Clearly he still feels guilty. Part of Katsuki wants to let Kirishima sweat it out a little, but it feels so cruel. 

By the time they’ve sat on the couch and Kirishima has anxiously rambled through an hour of boring-as-fuck reality TV, Katsuki has just about had enough. Kirishima is bright and warm—the vivid orangey cast of the sun shining through autumn leaves. He’s a smooth breeze, a breath of fresh air. He’s everything easy about life, and therefore he should never be seen walking on eggshells with this nervous energy—not for Katsuki’s sake. 

“Would you stop being so nervous?” Katsuki grunts, muring the TV and tucking one leg under himself so that he can face Kirishima. “Forget about everything that happened, okay? It’s fine.”

“Sorry.” Kirishima’s hands come up to cover his own face, as if he doesn’t even realize that apologizing is exactly what Katsuki is trying to stop him from doing. “I just—I don’t know. I don’t want to mess things up with you.”

Katsuki’s face burns red with embarrassment. “What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”

“I’m really glad we’re friends, is all,” Kirishima says, scratching the back of his neck. “I just feel like I’m not very good at being your friend.”

Katsuki’s eyes widen, and his mouth starts blurting out words before he has the chance to think. “Shut the fuck up.”

“Huh?”

“Don’t fuckin’ say stuff like that,” he continues, enraged by the very idea that Kirishima isn’t a top tier friend. “You’re a damn good friend, okay? So stop it. You deserve better than the way you talk to yourself.”

Kirishima folds his hands together in his lap, staring at his twiddling thumbs with a tiny smile. “O-okay. Right.”

“Good.”

The rest of the afternoon passes peacefully. Katsuki manages to get some studying in, even though they’ve opted to skip all their classes for the day. Kirishima studies a bit too, but more than anything he serves as a much needed distraction; today is all about taking a break, so Katsuki really shouldn’t work too hard.

It seems like they’re on the same page. Kirishima is back to his sunshiny self, and the constant buzz of his words that fill the apartment rings with confidence, not insecurity. Perhaps someone else might not even notice the difference, but Katsuki can tell. 

Kirishima is so confident, in fact, that he marches right up to Katsuki’s carefully set boundary and pokes it with his toe—trying to see if he can budge it, or maybe just testing if he’ll catch fire from getting too close.

Katsuki is dialing the phone number to order dinner when Kirishima asks. He’s completely unsuspecting, but it must be that this thought has been stirring in Kirishima’s mind for the last several hours. The words come out like he simply can’t contain them any longer. 

“Hey, can we talk about what happened with Midoriya earlier?” Kirishima blurts. “Or… At least the part that seems to matter most? What are you gonna do about your scholarship? Can’t I help at all?”

Fuck. Midoriya really had to go and say all of that in front of Kirishima. Now there’s more out in the open than Katsuki would have ever preferred, and Kirishima has questions. (Of course he does! Who wouldn’t?)

And damn, there’s a big portion of Katsuki’s aching heart that longs to tell Kirishima everything. So far, Kirishima has taken each and every one of Katsuki’s flaws in stride. When Katsuki looks into his big, kind eyes, it’s easy to believe that Kirishima would forgive this flaw too—and all the others he’d have to unpack with it.

That’s a lot to hope for, though, and this isn’t a fairytale. On the inside, Katsuki is an ugly, gooey mess. The only thing holding him together is the hardened exterior he’s worked so hard to cultivate. If he lets that crack…

“Don’t push it,” Katsuki says, dialing the number and turning his back on Kirishima. 

Because he can’t let it all out. He can’t lose sight of reality. He can’t release all of that disgusting crap from his past—not all over someone as beautiful and perfect as Kirishima.

He can’t and he won’t.




Chapter Text

 

“Let’s change things up a bit,” Katsuki says one day before their workout. “I need to get away from this hellhole for a while.”

That’s how he ends up running through the trails near campus with Kirishima. It’s so much better than the sidewalks at school simply by virtue of the lack of people around. It doesn’t hurt that the air out here seems fresher and more free, the wind floods like a tsunami through the trees, and Kirishima looks just as beautiful on a backdrop of autumn leaves as Katsuki imagined he would. 

Katsuki’s really got to stop using words like “beautiful” to describe Kirishima, though. It doesn’t sound very manly, and fuck knows Kirishima is obsessed with that. He probably wouldn’t appreciate it. Also, Katsuki doesn’t need any reason to fall more in—well, whatever these feelings are—with Kirishima. He needs to tame those beastly emotions.

“Wow, you’re really killing it today,” Kirishima says with a laugh, bracing himself against a tree when they stop for a water break.

“Maybe you’re just being slower than usual,” Katsuki suggests, taking a long drink and letting the cool water trickle down his chin and neck. “Don’t get lazy on me.”

“Me? No way,” Kirishima insists. “I always give it a hundred and ten percent. Don’t tell me you’ve secretly been going easy on me all this time?”

Katsuki snorts; the very idea is ridiculous, and Katsuki is pretty sure they both know it. That’s what makes it so hilarious, though. Katsuki has never had someone who’s so comfortable joking around with him, and Kirishima always knows just how to do it without making Katsuki feel guarded. 

“Like hell I’ve been going easy.” Katsuki screws the lid back on his water bottle and stretches out his arms and shoulders. It’s time they get going again. “You’ll just have to be faster this time around.”

Kirishima readies himself. “You’re on.”

They take off through the trees, following the winding trail for another mile. A mile of back and forth, stealing the lead and losing it. Kirishima really picks up his game this time, clearly inspired by Katsuki’s taunts to work even harder.

If it’s a race, then Katsuki still wins, sprinting past the next mile marker and claiming victory. His win isn’t for a lack of trying on Kirishima’s part, though. As ridiculous as it had seemed to suggest that Katsuki might forfeit any form of victory simply to go easy on Kirishima, the idea actually did cross his mind just now. 

Kirishima really does give 100% to everything he takes part in (he wasn’t lying when he said it), and that effort is visible. To see the hard work Kirishima outs in—and the way he always does it with a smile—softens Katsuki’s heart. Hell, Kirishima’s smile alone has an iron grip on Katsuki’s ribcage, and every time he looks at Katsuki too long, it’s like he’s giving that grip an extra squeeze.

“I win,” Katsuki declares, leading the way onto a wooden viewing deck that overlooks a shallow pond.

“Ha,” Kirishima chuckles. “You’re not gonna bite me again, are you?”

“Hey, you started that shit.”

Kirishima just shrugs. “It’s fun.”

Fun for Kirishima maybe. Apparently, he’s not thrown into a fucking gay crisis every time it happens. Hell, he’s probably not even gay. That’s just about in line with Katsuki’s luck.

“Let’s take an actual break now, huh?” Kirishima asks, not waiting for an answer before he lays flat on the viewing deck to relax. 

Katsuki foregoes telling Kirishima that there’s a perfectly good bench right beside them, instead settling down next to him on the ground. It’s not the most comfy resting place, but after a three mile run, anything will do.

The sunlight casts delicate shadows through the trees onto Kirishima’s cheeks. Katsuki ignores the urge to reach out and trace his fingers over each one of them. He’ll have to settle for stealing glances out of the corner of his eye. Kirishima won’t notice; right now, his eyes aren’t even open. 

He looks especially soft in this moment, lips parted ever so slightly, his breathing still somewhat uneven from their run. His eyelashes look downright pretty, all fanned out over the barely-there freckles on his cheekbones.

Katsuki wants to touch him. He really fucking wants to. Just then, a tiny yellow leaf dances down from the heavens like an angel, perching in the spikes of Kirishima’s hair. 

Before he even registers what he’s doing, Katsuki is shifting onto his side. His hand reaches out, but instead of grabbing the leaf like he means to, the pad of his thumb rubs gently along Kirishima’s jawline in a sweeping motion. Kirishima’s eyes slowly blink open, but he doesn’t move. He just stares at Katsuki with tentative curiosity. 

“You have a leaf in your hair.” As if that’s any real explanation. Katsuki’s mouth dries up.

“Oh,” Kirishima whispers, arms twitching with the intent to grab it, but Katsuki stops him. 

“I’ll get it.”

Katsuki captures the leaf between his fingers, holding it up in front of Kirishima’s eyes as proof; the fact that he feels the need to justify his actions probably isn’t a good sign.

Kirishima takes the leaf from Katsuki, their fingers brushing briefly in the process. For a moment, Kirishima studies the golden leaf and its tiny green speckles, but then his eyes fall upon Katsuki. His smile is a bit sheepish in the face of Katsuki's awkwardness, and although Katsuki wants nothing more than to tear his gaze away, Kirishima’s eyes have Katsuki’s in a stronghold. 

Then the smile turns to a smirk, and Kirishima rolls flat onto his back once again. “This place is pretty. How did I never even know it was here?”

Katsuki readily accepts the invite to return to normal conversation. He answers back with a scoff. “Because it’s not a shitty bar.”

“Touché,” Kirishima admits. “But I know a lot of places that are actually cool, even if I don’t go there with my friends very often.”

“Such as?”

Kirishima pauses, and the next thing Katsuki knows, he’s propped up on his hands and leaning over Katsuki’s body with an eager grin. “Here’s an idea—why don’t I show you tonight?”

Katsuki frowns, throwing a sweaty arm over his eye and groaning. “No offense, but I don’t feel like going out with all the idiots tonight. I’m gross and wanna shower.”

“No other idiots,” Kirishima promises, peeling Katsuki’s arm away so he can meet his eyes. “Just you and me this time.”

“Just you and me,” Katsuki repeats, trying to process the idea. 

“Yeah,” Kirishima nods. “Bakugou and Kirishima. Blasty and Shitty Hair. You and me!”

Katsuki’s heart just about leaps out of his chest, overly excited by the many demonstrations of their names paired up like that. “Blasty and Red.”

Kirishima’s nose crinkles up. “What?”

“You don’t get to call yourself Shitty Hair,” Katsuki says simply. “It sounds too mean when you say it.”

Kirishima bursts out laughing. “And it sounds nice when you do? Fine, fine. Blasty and Red, if you insist.”

“I insist, Red.”

Katauki’s feet shuffle in the steamy hot water of the shower. He sticks his face directly into the stream of water just to see how long he can handle the heat. A competition with himself is a welcome distraction from the stupid nerves that keep boiling up in his stomach.

It’s just Kirishima. They’re pretty much always together these days, so why this evening is such a big deal is beyond Katsuki. Except it is a big deal—to Katsuki himself, apparently. Kirishima said it would be just the two of them going out to some mysterious, “cool place,” and Katsuki is having a hell of a time reminding himself that this is by no means a date. 

Even though he’d like it to be.

When his hair is washed and his fingers are all wrinkly from the water, Katsuki resolves to stop stalling and get out. He doesn’t want to keep Kirishima waiting, and they don’t have all night.

Once he’s all toweled off, he has to think about what to wear. It’s not something he wants to put a lot of thought into (he shouldn’t care so damn much), but he finds himself studying his closet with harsh scrutiny as if the perfect outfit will reveal itself through parting waters and sunbeams from above.

“Fucking stupid,” Katsuki mutters, swiping the first thing his hand finds and sticking with it. 

There’s no room for all that overthinking shit. 

He lets out a heavy sigh, inspecting himself in the mirror. He just looks like his normal self, which really is all he can ask for. At least the ensemble is familiar: his favorite skull T-shirt (to ward off morons, he’s always reasoned), his comfiest black jeans, sneakers, and a track jacket—because he thinks it looks cool, so what? 

It’s nothing special, but he’s put together, and this is how Kirishima knows him. Hopefully that’s good enough (and if not, who cares, because it’s not a fucking date).

Now that he’s ready, he has to get Kirishima. If this were anyone else, he’d tell them to get their own damn ride; he’s not their chauffeur. But it’s Kirishima. At this point, Katsuki is pretty sure he’d piggyback the guy around town if he asked. He’s fucking gone for Kirishima; no getting around it. 

On this particular night, Kirishima is running behind. That’s just Katsuki’s luck; he really needed some extra time to anxiously twiddle his thumbs in the car—thanks, Kirishima. All is forgiven, however, when he catches sight of Kirishima’s damn shitty red hair in the parking lot lights. It’s soft and free-flowing, and when Kirishima ducks into the car, it falls messily (but somehow perfectly?) in his eyes. Katsuki swallows hard. 

“Hey, man. Sorry I’m late! I didn’t even have time to do my hair before I ran out here.”

Katsuki grips the steering wheel. “Whatever. Where are we going?”

“Patience,” Kirishima smirks. “I’ll just give you directions on the way.”

Katsuki grumbles a few swear words under his breath, but they both know he’s not actually going to put up a fight. To his great surprise, Kirishima isn’t half bad as a navigator. He seems to know exactly where they’re going and directs Katsuki accordingly—and yet, when they take a turn away from the city into a more questionable suburb, Katsuki begins to have doubts. 

“Where the fuck are you taking me, Red?”

“Coolest place in town,” Kirishima replies. “You can park right up here.”

“Here?” Katsuki questions, parking the car on the side of the road.

As far as he can see, there’s nothing here at all. Just a bunch of houses. Porch lights speckle the road, up to the crest of a hill where Katsuki’s view cuts off into the night sky.

“Alright,” Kirishima sighs happily, getting out and closing the car door.

Katsuki follows along impatiently, wondering if this is some big dumb trick just to get his heart racing. If this were anyone else, Katsuki would halfway suspect he’s about to be mugged and abandoned. Kirishima would never do that, though, Katsuki reminds himself. It’s just his stupid past making him worry for nothing. 

“I know it doesn’t look like much,” Kirishima says, making his way up the hill, “but just follow me. It’s easier to find a parking space down here is all.”

Despite his doubts, Katsuki goes along with it, trekking up the incline of the street at Kirishima’s heels. Once they’re over the hill, Katsuki can see what Kirishima means. The area still seems very suburban, and yet he can see a few OPEN signs in what appear to be normal houses, and fairy lights hang from front porches to invite people in. The road is far more crowded here, so Katsuki understands why Kirishima had him park down the hill. What exactly this place is, however, is a complete mystery. You’d think it was some sort of festival or something. 

“Kirishima?” Is all Katsuki can manage, coming to a stop in the middle of the road. 

In the warm fairy lighting, Kirishima’s smile just about melts Katsuki. “Pretty cool, huh? I love this neighborhood.”

Most of the houses here have signs in their windows. Some appear to be boutiques, others restaurants. One even boasts that it’s home to the finest antiques this side of the country. How the hell has Katsuki never been here before?

“Do you wanna explore a little, or are you hungry?”

The answer is “both,” but that’s probably not going to work. This doesn’t look like a place where things stay open late into the night, but right now, Katsuki’s stomach is growling louder than his need to see more of these shops.

He can’t help hesitating before giving his answer. “I guess I’m hungry.”

“Hey, no worries,” Kirishima says, holding out his arm to Katsuki. “We can come back another time. Besides, there’s something I want you to see.”

Katsuki just stares at Kirishima’s outstretched arm, trying to figure out what the hell he's supposed to do with it. The obvious answer seems to be that he should take it, link his arm with it—but that’s too obvious, right? He’ll make a fool of himself if that’s not what Kirishima wants.

“Come on, Katsuki,” Kirishima laughs, taking control of the situation and tangling their arms safely together. “I don’t wanna lose you in the crowd.”

Together, they step onto the sidewalk and shuffle down the street. The crowd isn’t that dense, but there are enough people that it’s annoying to maneuver around them, and Katsuki is glad that his arm is linked with Kirishima’s. Where Katsuki mutters curse words at the people in their way, Kirishima smiles and politely excuses them.

It’s here on this enchanted street that Katsuki realizes what a pair they make. They’re so different from each other, but neither of them bothers to say a word about it. The total acceptance of their differences makes Katsuki somehow feel like they’re a perfect fit, even though it makes no sense. 

“Right this way, good sir,” Kirishima says, ushering them up a few steps and through the front door of a homey restaurant, the inside of which is either quaint or tacky—Katsuki can’t decide. It looks like the way his grandma decorates her house. “Can we get outdoor seating?”

It takes Katsuki a second to realize that Kirishima is speaking to the hostess, not to him; he was so consumed by his surroundings.

They have to wait twenty minutes or so for a table to open up, but when it’s finally time, the hostess directs them not straight to the back like Katsuki expected, but up a narrow flight of stairs to the side. Kirishima just smiles knowingly in the face of Katsuki’s utter confusion. He must take joy in knowing more than Katsuki for once.

At the top of the stairs there are more scattered tables, but they pass right by them, all the way to a door in the back of the room. Katsuki vaguely hears a bell ring as they pass through the door, but his focus is entirely stolen by what he sees outside. 

He follows Kirishima in a daze, his eyes studying his surroundings. The wooden floor creaks beneath their feet, its chipping paint only adding character. Maybe it’s the soft lighting that makes it look more luxurious than it is; Katsuki would never say it out loud, but fairy lights make everything magical. The lights are strung along the rail, marking the edge of the deck with corners filled by leafy potted plants. 

When they’re seated at the farthest table, Katsuki looks off the rooftop deck to take in the spectacular view. 

“You like baseball?” Kirishima asks proudly, motioning to the lit up stadium below.

This restaurant is in the perfect location—the top of this hill, overlooking what seems to be the entire world below, including a fucking baseball diamond. Now, Katsuki loves mountains; he loves nature; and he still very much hates people. This view, though, with city lights sparkling like stars beneath them, might be almost as good as being on a mountain hike. 

“How the hell?” Katsuki asks wordlessly, and Kirishima just laughs quietly. 

“That used to be a big league stadium,” he tells Katsuki, “but then they built a new one so now the lower leagues play there. This time of year it’s mostly community leagues practicing.”

“Still fucking cool.”

“Ha!” Kirishima cheers. “So you admit that I do know some cool places. I guess I win again.”

Katsuki sits back in his chair, blushing furiously. “Keep your teeth off me.”

If Kirishima leaned over and bit him here… Well, Katsuki is so pumped up on endorphins and adrenaline that he might just jump Kirishima and make out with him right now—forget the fact that they’re in public.

“Alright, alright,” Kirishima chuckles, opening up his menu. “What do you think you’ll have?”

“Don’t know,” Katsuki replies, hiding in his own menu and willing his blush away. “Whatever’s the best.”

“I wouldn’t expect anything less.”

They peruse the menu, and Katsuki endures Kirishima’s rambling small talk until the waitress comes to take their orders. For some reason, Katsuki thinks it’s a good idea to have some alcohol—just to calm his nerves, not to make him careless! Of course, it’s already so easy to get careless around Kirishima. Everything is easy with him.

Before the drinks even arrive, Katsuki finds himself increasingly close to the edge of a cliff—one that looks out over all his own darkness, a roaring sea with angry, crashing waves. Somehow with Kirishima, the waters seem calm, and Katsuki wants to dive in. He won’t, though.

“Cheers,” Kirishima smiles, holding his glass up.

It takes a second, but Katsuki gives in, meeting Kirishima’s drink in the middle and clinking their glasses together.

“Cheers to what?” he asks, as if Kirishima needs a reason to celebrate.

Kirishima’s eyes twinkle. “To you and me! I’m glad we’re friends.”

Fuck.

Katsuki clears his throat, at a loss for words. If Kirishima notices, he’s humoring Katsuki by not acknowledging it.  Katsuki should at least say something, find a way to agree or affirm what Kirishima is saying. 

Katsuki does agree. Their friendship means more than he could have ever imagined on that first day when Kirishima wouldn’t leave him the hell alone on the track. Now, Katsuki is just glad that he persisted. He’s glad that Kirishima’s will to be friends was greater than Katsuki’s will to be left alone. He’s glad that Kirishima has always somehow seen through Katsuki’s opaque, frosted-glass walls, that brittle exterior that he’s developed over years of self-loathing and insecurity. And selfishly, Katsuki is glad that Kirishima has thus far been blind to what lies beneath those walls, the somehow even more messy interior—his molten core, always bubbling and boiling, so disgusting and destructive. Kirishima looks into Katsuki and sees the best possible outcome.

“Anyway,” Kirishima says, and Katsuki’s chance to verbalize any of that is swept away on the breeze. “I’m surprised you haven’t mentioned it yet, but I dressed up for you!”

“Huh?” Katsuki can’t help the scrutiny with which he’s suddenly inspecting Kirishima.

So far, he’s really only noticed Kirishima’s hair—and who could blame him? It’s distractingly beautiful. He does look half decent in his attire, though; perhaps slightly more put together than usual. The outfit is still gaudy (a red floral letterman’s jacket? The fuck?) but it’s not a complete atrocity. It’s actually the level of atrocity that Kirishima can kind of pull off. 

“Check it out,” Kirishima grins, making a show of turning to the side and kicking his leg up. “No Crocs, just for you.”

“Where the fuck did you get those?” Katsuki practically gasps, admiring what are probably the coolest pair of sneakers he’s ever seen—definitely not the type of shoes one would ever go running in.

Kirishima shrugs bashfully. “Mina is the master of thrift shopping. She found them for me a while back, but I’ve been waiting for the right occasion to wear them.”

And this is the right occasion. That’s definitely the subtext. Katsuki won’t say anything about it, mostly because he’s already played the part of a blushing bride too many times tonight. Instead, he grunts out a “cool” and gulps down the rest of his drink like the alcohol will save him. 

What actually saves him is the arrival of their food. It’s a nice transition back into regular conversation in which Katsuki teases Kirishima for eating like an animal, and Kirishima teases him right back—because apparently Katsuki eats like he’s prim and proper royalty or some shit.

The alcohol does help to loosen Katsuki up a bit. It takes the edge off at least, but he’s not about to get drunk—not tonight, or ever (but especially not tonight). The food itself is pretty simplistic, but it’s good, and Katsuki knows they’re really here for the view anyway. 

“You like this place?” Kirishima asks curiously, smiling as he takes another bite. 

Katsuki takes a little longer than he needs to chew his food, deciding how to answer. Honesty seems like the best idea.

“Yeah,” he admits. “It’s actually pretty cool. I’m impressed.”

Kirishima’s face glows extra warm in this lighting, all rosy hues and blushing cheeks. Katsuki should dole out compliments more often. Sadly, he’s painfully bad at any type of vulnerable conversation, but at least he knows his weakness. He’ll have to work at it. 

In the meantime, things are pretty damn good as they are. Even with Katsuki’s stiff approach to emotions, they manage to have quite a few laughs. Who would have thought Katsuki would ever see the value in talking about nothing? He’s actually fine with it—as long as the pointless conversations are happening with Kirishima. They don’t seem so pointless that way. 

When their plates are cleared and Katsuki thinks that all the surprises are through for the evening, Kirishima pulls out one more—it’s his wallet from his back pocket, and he’s using it to pay for Katsuki’s meal. Katsuki tries to tell him to fuck off, but Kirishima is far too chivalrous for that. 

“Aw, come on,” he says angelically, flashing his ruby reds at Katsuki. “I asked you out here, so it’s only fair.”

Katsuki folds his hands tightly together, studying a spot on the deck below where the chipped paint and wood grain look like a tiny face. He’ll look that in the eye instead of Kirishima. “Whatever, man.”

Kirishima beams with pride, taking the opportunity and running with it. In the privacy of his mind, Katsuki resolves to either pay Kirishima back, or pick up the bill next time they go out. He won’t be indebted to anyone.

The crowds have significantly lessened since earlier, and most of the neon open signs have disappeared. Katsuki hadn’t realized just how long they were sitting there. 

“Kinda cold away from all the lights and people,” Kirishima says, rubbing his hands together.

Once they make it to the car, Katsuki cranks up the heat. Frankly, he’s more than warm enough, but he’d burn alive if Kirishima asked him to. Good thing Kirishima would never ask.

He keeps his lips sealed for the drive home, knowing that he’s far too elated to be trusted with the task of speaking right now. Who knows what kind of sappy bullshit he might say? Apparently, though, that’s still not good enough, because a wild thought occurs to him as he approaches his own apartment complex. He could drive right past it—should, because he’s supposed to be dropping Kirishima off at the dorms—or, he could go with option two and surprise even himself. 

“Hey,” he speaks up, thanking whatever spiritual entity is in charge here for sending them a red light and some extra time. Kirishima glances over curiously. “You wanna come over to my place?”

Katsuki would like to say he has no idea what he’s imagining with such a question, but Katsuki is no liar. He knows exactly what he wants, and now that he’s put the question out in the open, he’ll most likely have to spend the evening trying way too hard to control himself. 

“Ooh, inviting me in,” Kirishima teases, even though that’s exactly what Katsuki is doing. “Sure, why not?”

Katsuki regards Kirishima with a nod, playing it aloof—as if he’d not positively quaking with anticipation. He reminds himself once more that this isn’t a date, which means nothing is going to happen tonight. Not even if he wants it to. 

Chapter Text

 

“Toss your jacket wherever,” Katsuki instructs, draping his own over the back of a chair. 

Kirishima lays his coat on top of Katsuki’s, wandering towards the living area and folding his hands together. “So, we’ve had dinner, and it’s almost ten o’clock. What now?”

“I didn’t bother to make an itinerary,” Katsuki says sarcastically.

He kind of wishes he had. Now that they’re in here, Katsuki isn’t sure what to do with himself. What was the plan, exactly?

“No worries.” Kirishima collapses onto the couch. “We can just chill.”

“Move the fuck over,” Katsuki says, shoving Kirishima’s legs out of the way so he can sit next to him. 

Instead of sitting up like a normal person, though, Kirishima just rearranges himself to keep his lounging position, this time with his head resting in Katsuki’s lap. Katsuki watches him from above, admiring his silky hair and longing to run his fingers through it. It would be so easy. 

“What are you looking at?” Kirishima asks, prompting Katsuki’s heartbeat to speed up dramatically. 

Katsuki wets his lips, searching for any ability to play it cool. “Nothing.”

Real smooth. 

“I’ve been thinking about that girl,” Kirishima goes on.

Katsuki’s stomach drops at the words. He doesn’t know who this girl is, but he’s suddenly back in that place again, worrying about Kirishima’s sexuality. He really has no clue. In fact, the only conscious thought he’s truly had about it is the idea that Kirishima is the most stereotypical straight guy he’s ever met; that’s what Katsuki thought when Kirishima first introduced himself. When did that thought disappear? Even if Kirishima is straight, he’s far from stereotypical. 

“Oh, the girl from high school,” Kirishima explains, apparently taking Katsuki’s silence for confusion rather than devastation. “The sister of that guy on my soccer team—the one I let—well, you know… The one that got beat up because of me.”

Oh. Well, Katsuki is a fucking moron.

“What about her?” Katsuki asks, trying to conceal his embarrassment and dousing out flames of hope with some solid realism. 

Even if Kirishima isn’t thinking of this girl in a romantic way, that doesn’t mean he likes guys. That doesn’t mean Katsuki has any sort of chance with him. 

Kirishima takes a deep breath. “I think I need to reach out to her. Every time I see her around campus, it’s like I’m back to square one of the healing process—and I’m not even the one who got hurt! I keep running away, but…”

Kirishima’s face twists up in anguish, and Katsuki feels it deep in his chest. Without thinking much about it, Katsuki finally lets his fingers up into Kirishima’s hair. Part of him hopes that if he can smooth out the tangles, he might be able to smooth out that look on Kirishima’s face too. He just wants to help however he can.

Kirishima closes his eyes, neck arching slightly up into Katsuki’s touch.

“I promised myself I’d stop being a coward,” Kirishima continues. “But I’m still running away from my problems.”

Katsuki is careful to keep his hands from balling into fists, keeping time in his gentle scalp massage.

“You’re not a fucking coward,” he whispers.

You’re everything. 

“Then I’ve gotta stop acting like one,” Kirishima insists. “I think facing her is the only way for me to move on.”

The ache in Katsuki’s chest swells up. Can’t Kirishima see how brave that makes him? Katsuki is the only coward among them. 

“Fuckin’ manly,” Katsuki remarks, because he knows that’s the best compliment he could give Kirishima. 

Kirishima opens his eyes up into Katsuki’s, and they sparkle even in the dim lighting. His hand reaches up, caressing Katsuki’s cheek in a motion so delicate that Katsuki thinks he must be dreaming. He’s not, though. This is all very real—too real. He leans into Kirishima’s hand, skin tingling beneath the pad of his thumb as it strokes his cheek. It’s a good thing that kissing Kirishima in this position would be extremely awkward. That’s the only thing stopping him right now. 

“Thanks, Katsuki,” Kirishima says softly.

“No problem, Red.”

Katsuki plays with Kirishima’s hair until his eyes flutter closed once again and his breathing becomes soft and deep. He’s falling asleep, Katsuki realizes. They can’t stay like this all night. 

“Red,” Katsuki whispers, but Kirishima barely stirs. “Eijirou.”

“Hm?” Kirishima sighs, rubbing his eyes. “Shit, I dozed off.”

“I know,” Katsuki says. “Get up. I’ll grab you some pajamas.”

Kirishima sits up obediently. “I’m staying the night?”

Katsuki digs through his dresser drawers, fishing out some basketball shorts and a tank top. “Seems easier at this point, but you don’t have to.”

“Alright,” Kirishima agrees with a shrug, accepting the clothes from Katsuki and immediately stripping down. 

Katsuki tries to be cool about it. Kirishima obviously doesn’t think it’s a big deal, so Katsuki shouldn’t either. He grabs some sweatpants and a T-shirt for himself, turning his back to Kirishima so there’s at least a little privacy between them while they change. He offers Kirishima a toothbrush afterwards, and then they crawl into bed. 

It’s a bit strange, Katsuki admits. Last time they did this, it was pretty much unintentional. He didn’t realize they’d be falling asleep together. Now, he has to look Kirishima in the eye and coordinate with him to get situated.

Usually, when he has a guy stay over, he makes sure that they take the outside spot on the bed; that way they can leave in the morning without disturbing his sleep. It’s always about convenience. However, when he’s given the choice, Kirishima opts to sleep between Katsuki and the wall—closed in, like he’s not going anywhere. Good. Different, but good. 

The breeze ruffles the tree just outside Katsuki’s window, filling in the silence between them. For once, Katsuki is completely at ease. They don’t need to say anything; just to lay here on his side, facing Kirishima in his bed is enough. It’s more than enough.

Katsuki half expected that Kirishima would knock out as soon as they got comfortable. He was practically dead on the couch before, but now he’s just resting his head on Katsuki’s extra pillow and looking at him with peaceful eyes. Once again, Katsuki is filled with the urge to reach out and touch him. 

With a sigh, he rolls onto his back and glares up at the ceiling. It’s gotta be the damn alcohol making him so loose and affectionate. Forget the fact that it’s been a good two hours since then and Katsuki had plenty to eat along with it. This just isn’t like him. 

“You okay?” Kirishima asks. 

“Yeah,” Katsuki says, absorbing all the calm from Kirishima’s voice.

He’s fine. Truly, he is. He’s just got to stay out of his own head. This is Kirishima; there’s no reason to be afraid. Being here together, that’s how it should be. 

How the hell did he get so lucky? The fact that the only person in the world Katsuki can stand (the only person he’d dare say he actually likes quite a bit!) wants to be his friend... Kirishima wants to be his friend and he works damn hard to do it. He’s a fucking idiot, but more and more, Katsuki finds that he likes that about him. Maybe if Katsuki were more like Kirishima, his life wouldn’t be such a mess. 

“You probably think I should go back to the wrestling team, huh?” Katsuki says quietly, dreading Kirishima’s answer but needing it more than anything. 

Surprisingly, Kirishima doesn’t just start gabbing away. He pauses, taking time to think. 

“I think you should do what’s going to be best for you,” he says at last. “You have to take care of yourself, man.”

“Do you think I’m a coward for running away?”

Why does he care so much? Dammit. It matters to Katsuki. It fucking matters what Kirishima thinks—because Kirishima is the best person Katsuki has ever met. He wants to be like him, wants to be better for him, and it’s silly, but he wants Kirishima to like him just as much. 

“Of course not,” Kirishima says fiercely. It really sounds like he means it. “Look, dude, I don’t really know the situation, but just because I’m doing something doesn’t mean you have to do it too. You don’t have to face anything you’re not ready to face.”

Some of that tension melts away, and Katsuki feels safe enough once more to turn and look at Kirishima. His eyes are so gentle and accepting, it takes care of any remaining nerves. 

“I don’t know if I am,” Katsuki admits. “What I’m doing now, though… It’s not working for me.”

There’s a beat of silence. “What do you mean?”

“I have all these—these happy times in between. Really fuckin’ happy times, right?” Katsuki clenches his fists, struggling to get the words out in a way that makes sense. “I think I’m fine, but then the smallest thing happens to remind me of everything, and I fucking spiral.”

“That’s part of healing. Do you think going back to the team would help with that or make it worse?”

Kirishima is so patient with Katsuki. He always knows just the right questions to ask, how hard to prod, and when to leave Katsuki alone about things. 

“Hard to say.”

Katsuki studies Kirishima’s hands. They lie between them on the bedspread, fingers twitching every so often, tiny veins protruding from the back of his palms. If he thought he was even half worthy, he might reach out his own hand and intertwine their fingers. 

“You probably think I should at least talk with Deku,” Katsuki guesses. That seems inevitable. 

“Actually, I don’t think you owe him anything,” Kirishima says, eyes darting away from Katsuki’s. “I kinda told Midoriya to fuck off the last time I saw him.”

That...might be the hottest thing anyone’s ever said. 

“You what?”

Kirishima’s blush is visible even in the dark. “Look, I’m sure he’s nice and everything, but what he did really didn’t sit right with me. The way he said things—I don’t know. He never should have shown up unannounced, even if he meant well.”

Katsuki is speechless. He rarely has much to say anyway, but he would have expected himself to howl with laughter or even outright cheer. Instead, he’s just shocked. As the words settle in, however, Katsuki realizes that “shocked” is just the tip of the iceberg, and a handful of other emotions begin to surface along with it: grateful, touched, awestruck, to name a few. 

“Hey,” Kirishima whispers, his hand reaching out towards Katsuki.

It’s only now that he realizes his fingers are still tightly bound in a fist. All of his emotions have settled right there in those tiny joints, but he softens when Kirishima lays his hand on top. 

“Can I…?” Kirishima asks, barely touching Katsuki—always so polite, always so thoughtful. 

“Yeah,” Katsuki nods, opening his fist and turning up his palm for Kirishima to take.

The feeling of their fingers sliding into a perfect fit has Katsuki swooning, but he keeps quiet, focusing on matching their breaths so that he doesn’t freak out too hard. 

“Midoriya might be nice,” Kirishima says again, and Katsuki wants to tell him to shut up about that fucker. In the end, he’s glad he doesn’t. “But he doesn’t know you.”

“But you know me,” Katsuki hears himself say. He’s not sure if it’s a question or an answer, but it’s the truth.

Kirishima gives his hand a tiny squeeze. “I know you.”

He does. There’s so much that Kirishima doesn’t know about Katsuki, but never before has someone put in so much effort for him. Nobody has even wanted to know Katsuki until this point, but along comes Kirishima—this unstoppable force of kindness—so determined to be everything Katsuki never knew he needed. 

Katsuki can’t help but bring up his second hand, closing it in around the pair that they’ve already bonded together. He just needs to know that they’ll stay this way. He doesn’t want Kirishima to ever let go. 

“Katsuki?”

“Hm?”

“Keep holding on, okay?” Kirishima says with a yawn. “Even if I fall asleep.”

“I will.”

You better fucking believe he will. 

Katsuki’s heart twists up in his chest, and for once, he’s certain that it’s a good thing. This isn’t heartbreak or loneliness. This is something he doesn’t want to end. How the hell has he never felt anything like this before? This is happiness—but better. This is contentment—but better. This is admiration—but better.

Is this fucking love?

Katsuki was not made to be a dramatic person, but right now he fears that’s exactly what’s happening. How can he even entertain the idea of such a word? Love.

It almost sounds reasonable.

Just look at Kirishima. He’s inches away from Katsuki, holding his hand like it’s a baby bird or some shit, being so soft and solid and dependable. Kirishima is the personification of love. 

So is it dramatic, or is it true? Could it be both at the same time? Is Katsuki actually in love?

“You’re pretty, Katsuki,” Kirishima murmurs, on the edge of sleep from the sound of it. 

Even so, the comment has Katsuki’s skin bristling with blush. He should return the compliment. Heaven knows Kirishima is ten times prettier. 

“You deserve to hear that,” Kirishima continues when Katsuki takes too long. “...Really damn pretty.”

Katsuki’s hands spasm, pulling Kirishima’s just slightly closer toward his chest. “I—fuck off.”

“I mean it,” Kirishima insists, his voice lagging with each syllable as sleep stakes its claim. “Your eyes are like...these beautiful deadly lasers. Your hair is… And your smile—should smile more…’cept usually I’m the one who makes you smile. Makes me feel like I’m…”

Katsuki gives it a few seconds before deciding that Kirishima won’t be continuing. Whatever he was about to say must have been a good thing, though, because he’s dozed off with a sappy smile on his face. What more could Katsuki want from him?

Katsuki takes this opportunity to stare at Kirishima—to do it absolutely shamelessly. He wants to memorize every detail on his face; every pour, every freckle, every little stress line—because surprisingly, even someone as carefree as Kirishima has them.

Everything about him looks so damn soft—especially when his hair is unstyled like this, especially when he’s asleep. His cheeks are kind of chubby, Katsuki notices. That must be why he looks so boyish despite all his muscles.

Katsuki admires the way a sliver of moonlight stretches across Kirishima’s face. It sprawls across his hairline and down the perfect slope of his nose—right onto his lips. Damn. They look soft too, not like Katsuki’s which are always torn up and bleeding from his constant worrying.

“Damn you,” Katsuki breathes, “being so perfect all the time.”

He studies their intertwined fingers, every line and shadow between them. Someone should take a picture of that—high contrast, all black and white, lit up by the moon. Katsuki would hang that on his wall. 

He surrenders the extra grip from his other hand—just for a moment. Just long enough for him to bring Kirishima’s hand up to his mouth. His lips ghost across Kirishima’s knuckles, wondering if these hands have ever been bloodied from an unfortunate confrontation with a wall. His fingertips are calloused from hard work; Katsuki’s lips brush those too. He lands in the back of Kirishima’s hand, a long and deliberate kiss placed between two prominent veins. 

He told Kirishima that he wouldn’t let go, but he does. He does it only because he’s about to do something even better. Kirishima told him he’s always down for cuddling—he gave Katsuki permission for this. Katsuki gives himself permission too, cozying up to Kirishima’s broad chest and sneaking an arm around his waist. He freezes up when Kirishima stirs, but not a word is said; Kirishima wraps his arm around Katsuki and goes back to sleep—if he was even awake to begin with. 

Katsuki breathes in Kirishima’s scent—a bit of sweaty musk combined with what must be his cologne, and also the smell of Katsuki’s own shirt over his chest. Fuck, he smells good.

In this very moment, Katsuki would love to look to the sky and flip off the universe. For so long, it’s thrown him through the wringer, pelting him with every atrocity and humiliation it could muster up. Who knows what more of that shit is to come? Right now, though—Katsuki’s hold on Kirishima tightens—right now, Katsuki is winning.

For once, everything is absolutely perfect. If Kirishima is the sun, then Katsuki will gladly fly too close. He’ll let the fires swallow him up and burn him to ash and dust. He’ll let the scorching rays melt away his wings, and even if he plummets to the deadly ocean, he’ll keep his eyes locked right here. Right on this moment. 

Fuck you, Universe.

...And thank you




Chapter Text

 

Katsuki’s feet may as well be cemented to the sidewalk. He’s been standing outside the athletic center for five minutes trying to get up the nerve, but he can’t seem to budge. It’s just a couple of damn doors—and then everything that Katsuki’s been avoiding for months, but still. 

You know you don’t have to do this,” Kirishima said over breakfast this morning. His eyes were all misshapen with concern, and his lips were doing that pouting sort of thing.

He should have just kept it a secret—at least until he knew he’d make it in the fucking door. He’d shut down all Kirishima’s worries with snippy comments and glares, but now they actually seem somewhat reasonable. Honestly, he thought that once he made it to the building he’d be fine, but apparently not. 

I do have to.” That’s what Katsuki insisted. He still believes it, despite the crippling anxiety that’s got him in a chokehold. “Time to grow up and move on.”

The conversation had ended with Kirishima worried that Katsuki was just doing this because of him (he’s not), and Katsuki telling him not to be so full of himself. He knows that Kirishima is anything but full of himself, but he also can’t have him worrying—not for Katsuki’s sake.

Now is the time. If it’s marching in there and facing the wrath of his old teammates or losing his scholarship, there’s really no choice to be made at all. He can’t put it off any longer, or else he’ll lose everything. He can’t afford that—not after everything he’s already been through. 

Stop thinking. Stop feeling. It’s two hours of practice, then you can go home and sleep the night away. 

Except he can’t. He has homework and an essay that he really needs to start. Not to mention he’d like to see Kirishima if he has the chance. 

Shut up! He tells himself. No more thinking.

If Kirishima can be brave enough to face his fears, then so can Katsuki. He won’t even be afraid of them anymore. He can do this. 

With a deep breath, Katsuki finally manages to reach out and open the door. He has to clench his hands into fists to stop their trembling as he trudges along; no way is he about to walk into practice looking like some scared puppy. He’s Bakugou fucking Katsuki. Everyone better be scared of him, not the other way around. 

His stomach twists with every turn in the halls, his heart pounding like battle drums as he catches sight of the gym doors. This is it. Back to the wrestling team. Back to the place that ruined him—the place where he ruined himself. 

No fucking thinking!

He opens the doors with a hefty shove, wasting no effort on trying not to be seen. Everyone will notice regardless of what he does. 

Indeed, he’s met with bug-eyed stares and awkward silence as he walks in. A couple people at least have the decency to look away guiltily when they see him, but that might actually be worse. Who even knows at this point? It’s all terrible. Every person in this room knows what he’s done. 

They all know.

And of course, the biggest, roundest, most annoying stare of them all comes from Deku. He looks like he’s about to shit himself. Must be he knows that Katsuki is about to take out all this built up aggression on him under the guise of wrestling practice. Why did he ever leave again?

Clenching his jaw, Katsuki stares Deku down. He can see the green-haired nerd fighting his every instinct, taking a step towards Katsuki but then freezing in place. His mouth twitches like he wants to say something to Katsuki—as if there’s anything left to say at all—but Katsuki shuts him up with a scowl. There isn’t a single thing he owes Deku at this point, let alone a conversation. 

No matter. He marches right past everybody, straight to Aizawa. Katsuki’s coach is the only person here who doesn’t seem thrown off by his presence. It’s hard to get any emotion out of Aizawa, actually, so even when Katsuki grabs him by the elbow and pulls him to the other side of the gym, he doesn’t really react. 

“Is there a problem?” Aizawa asks flatly, looking about as happy to be here as Katsuki is. 

“Why’d you send Deku to talk to me? Is he your little messenger boy now?”

This is the one grace Katsuki is showing himself. It’s well within his rights to demand answers for this, and if he’s not satisfied with them, then fuck his scholarship; he’s not coming back to the team. 

Aizawa doesn’t even blink. “Would you have preferred I keep sending emails and phone calls for you to ignore?”

Katsuki opens his mouth, searching for a snarky reply. Unfortunately, Aizawa has a fair point. Even so, Deku of all people? The voice in the back of his mind points out that their issues are no problem of Aizawa’s. 

“I could have just kicked you off the team,” Aizawa continues, crossing his arms over his chest. “Should have, probably. I didn’t have to put forth all that effort to contact you. God knows I gave you enough chances.”

Karsuki’s stomach twists with guilt. “Yeah? Well, if you should have kicked me off, why didn’t you? Getting soft in your old age?”

If looks could kill… Still, Aizawa’s silence tells Katsuki that he’s on the right track. He probably hates that.

Aizawa pinches the bridge of his nose, closing his eyes and letting out a sigh heavier than Katsuki could ever lift. This man always seems two inches away from done. In his hands, Katsuki now notices, is a steaming hot cup of coffee. The smoke dances through the hole in the lid, but Aizawa lifts it to his mouth anyway. Apparently, he’d rather burn off his tastebuds than have this conversation. Respect.

Once he’s finished cauterizing his mouth, he finally continues. “You wanted to be the best. You made some mistakes along the way, but I don’t think you’re finished yet.”

Katsuki blinks. That sounds a hell of a lot like Aizawa believes in him. It’s gonna take a moment for him to process that; after so long living in shame, Katsuki isn’t used to it anymore. Aizawa has never been one to coddle people, though. Katsuki always liked him for that, and he’s pretty sure that’s the reason the two of them used to get along so well. If he says Katsuki still has a place here, he must mean it. 

“Fine,” Katsuki concedes, pivoting towards the locker room. “Consider me back on the team.”

“Fine,” Aizawa replies. “But if you ever grab my arm like that again, consider yourself back off the team—effective immediately.”

“Whatever, old man.” Katsuki mutters, but he knows he should probably be thanking him. Aizawa will get the idea, though—or he won’t care enough to bother with it. Either way. 

And so, Katsuki excuses himself to the locker room, closing himself in and taking a deep breath. He’s here. This is happening. No big deal. 

He gets changed and forces himself back out to be with the others. Nobody tries to talk to him; not even Deku. Maybe having someone as nice as Kirishima telling him to fuck off finally did the job. Or, maybe Deku is just satisfied that Katsuki is back; that’s what he wanted all along. 

Katsuki can still tell that the others are uncomfortable with him here. If he was unpopular before, he’s a complete pariah now. The guy who killed All Might. The ticking time bomb. They probably think he’s insane.

The practice itself goes well enough. Katsuki’s only a little rusty, but he’s quick to pick things back up. Aizawa is smart enough (unfortunately) not to pair him up with Deku. Maybe he’ll have the chance to get him in a chokehold next time. 

It’s the whispers that really get to him. He doesn’t have to deal with it during practice; only afterwards in the locker room. He lags behind the others, entering after the rest of them, and everything gets quiet when he walks in. It’s like they didn’t expect him to be here or something. What? Was he supposed to wear his sweaty-ass uniform home?

He grits his teeth, determined to ignore them. Who knows? Maybe they weren’t even whispering about him to begin with. Unlikely, but possible. Besides, they aren’t worth his trouble. 

He heads straight for the showers, letting the cold water numb him as it washes away his sweat and cools his aching muscles. He can’t stay in here forever, but he’d like to. That probably means it was a mistake to hide away here in the first place; he shouldn’t be hiding at all.

There are a few others left when he comes back from the showers. They’re still gossiping like school kids when Katsuki rounds the corner, and this time, he catches the tail end of it. 

“I never expected to see the guy’s face again, that’s all. After everything that happened?”

“Gutsy, I’ll give him that. Does he think we don’t know?”

Katsuki opens his locker forcefully, letting it slam against the others with a resounding clatter. The voices quiet, and one guy whispers to the others that he’d tried to warn them. Asshole. 

“You got a problem with me, you can say it to my face,” Katsuki says, pulling his shirt over his head and ignoring the way it tugs on his damp skin. 

Katsuki honestly doesn’t remember any of these losers. He couldn’t name a single member of the wrestling team besides Deku, in fact (and he’d forget Deku too if he was able). Maybe he’s just that bad with names, or maybe he actually blocked out the entire team from his brain; it doesn’t matter at this point.

The nameless jerk with silver hair comes marching over, ready to jab his finger into Katsuki’s chest. He better rethink that idea. 

“If I had something to say to you, I’d say it!” the guy barks. “You disappear for months on end and expect nobody to be surprised you’re back?”

“Be whatever you want, asshole,” Katsuki says. “Just stay outta my way.”

There’s a dramatized scoff from the far side of the room where two others remain. It must have come from the one with the creepy smirk and the massive douchebag energy. He’s sauntering over now like he’s a fucking prince. 

“I personally don’t think you should even be here,” he says, his voice sickly smooth as he squeezes past the bulkier, silver-haired guy to lean against the lockers. “One might question your dedication to the team after your leave of absence—not to mention the complete humiliation we all suffered from your little stunt.”

“Alright, Monoma,” the bulky guy says, the steely edge in his voice fading a bit. “Don’t go there.”

It’s too late, though. He already went there, and Katsuki is seeing through fire. This is exactly what he was afraid of. He told himself it wouldn’t happen, but he didn’t make it one day—a single practice—without encountering his past. Fuck. Fuck!

“Listen, ass-hat,” Katsuki growls, dropping his gym bag on the bench and stepping forward, using every millimeter of height he has on this guy to intimidate. “You better mind your own fucking business. I’ll destroy you—every practice, every match. Forget my ‘leave of absence,’ I’ll kick your ass into the dirt. You can get out of my face with that dumbass bowl cut.”

Bowl Cut flinches back, but he recovers quickly with a slimy smile, waving Katsuki off. “You’ll destroy me? Sure. You seem to be very good at destroying things. Guys like you always are. See you next time, I assume? Unless you get yourself kicked off for violence against a teammate.”

“Dude, stop provoking!” Steel Gray smacks him, yanking him away from Katsuki before any actual violence can ensue. The third guy follows, so thank the damn universe, Katsuki is left alone. 

It starts as a low growl rumbles in Katsuki’s chest, but by the time his fist meets the lockers it’s mutated into an ugly roar. He should have knocked that guy’s head off. Fuckin’ asshole.

He punches the lockers again. 

Who the fuck does he think he is, speaking to Katsuki that way? Who gave him the right? His fist pounds against the metal surface, punching harder with every ugly thought. This is just what Katsuki should have expected. He shouldn’t even care. He’s tougher than this. 

He draws back his arm once more, focusing all of his strength into his shoulder. He beats into the locker like breaking it in two will prove his strength of character. Like it would prove those assholes wrong. Why does he even care? He’s said all of those things to himself anyway—and far worse! It’s all true. He’s used to it.

If it’s true, it shouldn’t hurt so bad. But it fucking does. 

Katsuki growls like an animal on the prowl. But these lockers can’t feel a thing with their metal exoskeletons and lifeless interior, and he can’t do a thing to them. He lets out a shaky sigh, falling into the lockers and resting his head upon them. His knuckles throb and burn, torn up and probably bloody from his assault on the lockers. In a more gentle movement, he presses the afflicted areas against the cold metal surface, hoping to soothe the pain. The relief is so temporary it feels like a tease.

If Katsuki were a quitter, he’d be out of here with no plans to return. But that’s why he came back today—to prove he’s not a quitter. All his fears were justified, he realizes as he swings his bag with a limp arm and walks out the door. Everything about this sucks. But maybe in the back of his mind, he knew something more about this situation all along. 

He knew it would suck ass, but he also knew that the moment any moron spoke up against him, his pride would demand that he come back for every single practice just to prove his worth. Now that’s what he’s going to do. He’s fucking stuck in this situation—a prisoner to himself.

What would be worse? Quitting the team, losing his scholarship, and proving that fuckin’ bowl cut douchebag right? Or coming back every damn practice and enduring the judgmental stares and shit-talking from his supposed teammates? He’s really not sure. Maybe they’re equally bad. They both hurt his pride, but there’s only one scenario where he gets to be the unequivocal winner.

As he approaches the outer doors of the athletic center, Katsuki pulls himself together a bit—straightens his posture and holds his gym bag like a human who got more than five minutes of sleep in the last twenty-four hours. One might even be fooled into believing he’s his normal self—anyone besides Kirishima Eijirou at least.

Katsuki knows he’ll have to step it up before he gets to the dorm. Keeping his shoulders back and chin up has never fooled Kirishima before, and he’ll be extra attentive today considering how worried he was about Katsuki going back. The only way to fool Kirishima is to fool himself too. 

Aizawa believes in him; Aizawa wants him there. He kicked ass at practice and proved that he’s still got it. He didn’t even have to talk to Deku. What could be better than all of that?

And look at the weather. The air is crisp and lively, with just enough chill on the back of his neck to make Katsuki wish he had a scarf. He loves this weather. All the leaves have finally changed, and so has Katsuki, dammit! A few assholes aren’t going to get him down on a beautiful day like this...right?

His stomach churns, calling his bluff as the wind blows damp hair across his forehead. He’s got less than ten minutes to get his act together—or however long it takes to reach Kirishima’s dorm. The moment the building comes into view, however, Katsuki realizes it’s probably a lost cause. He’s always been an open book as far as Kirishima is concerned, whether he means to be or not.

That doesn’t mean he won’t still try, though. 

He clears his throat on the way inside, loosens up his shoulders as he goes up the stairs, takes a deep breath before knocking. 

“Hey, dude!” Kaminari greets with a wide smile, welcoming Katsuki in. 

It throws him a bit to see Kaminari here. He shouldn’t be surprised (it’s his room, after all), but it probably has to do with the fact that Katsuki can’t remember if he’s ever actually seen Kaminari in these four walls. He’s kind of an urban legend in his own dorm room. 

Further inside, Kirishima is lying on his bed with his face buried in a textbook. Katsuki has a feeling that he’s not getting very far with his studies (judging by that tiny crease between his eyebrows), but when he sees Katsuki standing there, he shoves all his work aside.

“Hey, you made it,” he says, and Katsuki can tell he’s actively holding back all the questions and concerns about wrestling practice.

He decides not to throw Kirishima a bone right this second, instead directing his attention to the discarded textbook. “Hard at work?”

Kirishima glances between the book and Katsuki, shrugging dismissively. “Sorta? Just doing some extra studying while I had the time.”

From the other side of the room, Kaminari snorts. “Who are you, and what have you done with my roommate?”

“Shut,” Kirishima waves him off, shoving the textbook and his backpack under his desk and motioning for Katsuki to sit next to him. “So? How did it go?”

“Fine,” Katsuki says vaguely, sitting down on the bed and staring into the smeared blood on his folded hands. 

“Fine?”

The sigh that Katsuki releases is a little tougher between his lips than he’d intended. That alone could give him away, so he’s got to make this good. He lies back and cozies into Kirishima’s fluffy throw blanket, pulling his phone out and scrolling nonchalantly through his Twitter feed. 

“Aizawa was glad to have me back,” he says, preparing to recite all the good things like he’d practiced on the way here. “And none of those losers stood a chance against me, so why wouldn’t he be happy? I kicked ass. Didn’t even have to talk to Deku.”

That’s the kind of stuff Kirishima would want to hear from him. The pleasant little details will satiate the thirst of his compassionate heart and soothe his anxious thoughts. Just to hear that Katsuki survived wouldn’t be enough; he’d need to know that he was happy. Truthfully, Katsuki killed it. If those jerks hadn’t opened their mouths, spouting off all these good things wouldn’t feel like such a lie. 

“Wow,” Kirishima nods, seemingly satisfied. “Nice job! I’m proud of you. Sounds like you really killed it, huh?”

“Guess you could say that,” Katsuki replies, inspecting Kirishima from the corner of his eye.

His shoulders are relaxed, and he’s leaning back to mirror Katsuki on the bed. Looks like he’s out of the woods.

“Whoa,” Kaminari cuts in, swiveling over to Kirishima’s bed in a desk chair. “Did you get in a fist fight with a cheese grater or something?”

Katsuki tenses up, adrenaline-charged fear pulsing through the veins of his body and swirling in the pit of his stomach. He drops his phone flat onto his chest and places his hands at his sides. With some careful positioning, he can keep either one of them from looking at his injury.

It’s nothing, he tries to say with unconvincing apathetic eyes. It’s nothing!

But the guilty staccato of his heart says that he knows otherwise, and if he realizes it himself, then there’s no chance of hiding it from Kirishima. Indeed, the redhead is already sitting up, eyebrows furrowing together. 

“Bakubro?” he says quietly, leaning towards Katsuki.

Damn him for letting Kirishima in—letting him get so comfortable. If he’d just instilled a bit more fear, Kirishima wouldn’t have the nerve to reach over Katsuki’s body and carefully take up his right hand for inspection.

“What…?” Kirishima asks wordlessly, but he doesn’t have to finish the question for Katsuki to know he wants answers. 

“See?” Kaminari says, ignorant to just how upset Kirishima is. “Like a cheese grater, right?”

The sigh Kirishima tries to suppress is still audible to Katsuki, and before he has the chance to say a word, Kirishima is taking him by the hand. Up from the bed and into the attached bathroom, Katsuki allows Kirishima to take control. He tried to cover it up, but it’s too late to stop this now.

With the door closed behind them, Kirishima gives Katsuki this look. The closest comparison Katsuki can draw is to his own mother whenever Katsuki’s done something that she deems “fucking reckless.” It’s the Mom Stare. Kirishima’s Mom Stare, however, is far softer and sadder than what Katsuki is used to. 

That better not be pity.

“Up,” Kirishima says shortly, tapping on the bathroom counter.

Katsuki blinks, but with a tone like that, he doesn’t dare to argue. He hoists himself up onto the counter and awaits further instruction. Kirishima is silent, though. He takes Katsuki’s hand again, turning it over in his palms and running his thumb along the edge of the torn up knuckles, just barely avoiding the sensitive raw flesh. Then, he turns the cold water on and leads Katsuki’s hand beneath it, using the most delicate of touches to clean out the open wounds and wash away the blood. 

Admittedly, it hurts like hell, but Katsuki isn’t about to say that out loud, so he just bites at his cheeks and frowns. 

“What happened, Bakugou?” Kirishima finally asks, and to hear the question is almost a relief. The words sound far less angry than the silence, and the displeased, downward quirk to his eyebrows is gone. 

Disarmed by the sad, inviting smile in Kirishima’s eyes, Katsuki tries to think of where to even begin. He watches as Kirishima digs through a drawer, pulling out a miniature first aid kit. If only a couple of bandages were all it would take to fix Katsuki. Kirishima can hope, though. Katsuki will allow it. 

“It’s not even bleeding anymore,” Katsuki says in spite of himself after Kirishima applies some ointment. “You don’t need to wrap it.”

That scolding expression flashes across Kirishima’s features again, so Katsuki decides to shut up and give him what he really wants: answers. He does his best to summarize, outlining the whispers and the stares. He gets lost in his frustration once or twice and takes an emotionally charged detour along the way, but when he comes to the part about All Might—or rather, what that dick with the bowl cut said about Katsuki and All Might—his engines stall. 

Katsuki takes a deep breath. “The gossip I can ignore, and the staring, but when I came back into the locker room… Fuck.”

Kirishima is listening intently, but when Katsuki suddenly goes silent, his posture shifts into something more protective. It’s like he can sense Katsuki’s trauma.

In contrast to his broad shoulders and balled up fists, Kirishima’s voice is small—right down at Katsuki’s level, ready to soothe him into safety. “It’s okay. You don’t have to say anything more.”

“It’s fine—it’s just,” Katsuki shakes his head, staring into the shower instead of Kirishima’s eyes. “This moron started questioning my dedication to the team—basically called me a coward, and then…” Katsuki’s throat starts to tighten up. He can’t form the words; he can barely breathe. “He brought up a bunch of dark shit from my past—rubbed my face in it. To him, it’s all just a sick game.”

That’s the only way he can get through it. By the time Katsuki is finished, Kirishima is glaring into the tile floor as if it’s the one at fault here.

“Assholes,” Kirishima curses. “Are you gonna be okay going back there?”

The million dollar question—with a two dollar answer. 

“I have to be.”

That elicits a sullen sigh from Kirishima, but when he looks back up at Katsuki’s eyes, he’s wearing a gentle smile. He’s got Katsuki’s damaged right hand in both of his own; when Katsuki moves to retract it, he holds tight. In response to Katsuki’s questioning gaze, Kirishima lifts the hand up to his mouth. For a second, Katsuki thinks he’s going to kiss it, and his heart, stomach, and all the blood in his veins flutter like a kaleidoscope of butterflies. The kiss doesn’t quite happen, but Kirishima does bring the bandaged knuckles to his lips, holding them there and closing his eyes. It’s almost a kiss. It’s almost better. 

“I’m here for you, man,” Kirishima says, giving Katsuki’s hand a squeeze. “And I’ll kick anyone’s ass you want me to. We’ll kick ass together.”

Now is not the time and Katsuki knows it, but damn, he wants to kiss Eijirou right now. It’d be so damn easy. He’s standing practically between Katsuki’s legs, gazing up at him with such fierce loyalty and determination. They’re practically holding hands. Were it not for the fact that they’re in the aftermath of Katsuki’s emotional breakdown, all the ingredients for a perfect kiss would be there. The context, however, would probably leave it spoiled.

“You deserve so much better than this,” Kirishima continues, looking straight into Katsuki’s soul. “So much better.”

Katsuki knows that Kirishima is mistaken, but even entertaining the thought is a bit of a relief. Nobody has ever thought that of Katsuki, so even if it’s not true, the idea is flattering. The fact that Kirishima sees any sort of worth in Katsuki is enough. It’s everything. 

And that’s why Kirishima can never know what Katsuki did. Katsuki can’t afford what it would cost him. 






Chapter Text

 

They’re lying in Kirishima’s bed that morning, the early morning sun slipping through the blinds and casting orange neon lines onto Katsuki’s arms. Kirishima’s fingers trace the lines with studied concentration, and his hands and wrists contort to allow for the cozy hold he has on Katsuki’s body.

Waking up like this wasn’t exactly the plan, but Katsuki wouldn’t call it a travesty either. After his disastrous wrestling practice yesterday, Kirishima wouldn’t let Katsuki out of his sight. That meant they ate dinner here, finished up homework here, and inevitably fell asleep here.

Katsuki isn’t complaining.

He tucks his face into the crook of Kirishima’s neck, letting the flesh warm his cheek. Even though he definitely shouldn’t skip class again, Katsuki’s body has zero intention of getting up and ready for the day. The very idea is almost heartbreaking. 

“Well,” Kirishima sighs, and Katsuki prepares himself for the end. “You were brave yesterday, so I guess today it’s my turn.”

Katsuki lifts his head, blinking with sleepy eyes. That wasn’t what he expected. “What do you mean?”

“You kinda beat me to the punch as far as facing our fears,” Kirishima explains. “I was the one who brought it up, but I haven’t done it yet. I’ve gotta contact Matsumoto.”

“The guy’s sister?” Katsuki guesses.

They haven’t spoken of her by name yet. The way Kirishima’s voice wavers a bit, Katsuki would almost assume he’s been afraid to say it. She shares the name with her brother, so it kind of makes sense. There’s no forgetting what he’s done if Kirishima has to say or even think of the name of the person he’s wronged—but now, Kirishima isn’t trying to forget. He’s ready to face it. 

“Matsumoto Kaori,” Kirishima repeats, his arms tensing up around Katsuki, and his eyes sharp with determination. “I need to apologize.”

Katsuki’s stomach drops with a dark thought. He doesn’t want to be a damper—doesn’t have the right to, when Kirishima has given him so much hope—but he also doesn’t want to see his friend get hurt. Looking once over his own bloody knuckles, he figures it’s worth approaching delicately. 

“Are you sure you want to do this?” he asks Kirishima, shifting to sit up and better look him in the eye. “What are you going to do if things don’t go your way?”

“I—I don’t know,” Kirishima admits, gripping the blanket now that he can’t grip Katsuki. “I need to make it right, though. Somehow.”

“I know,” Katsuki acknowledges. Once Kirishima sets his mind to something, there’s no stopping him. “Just—don’t go in with any expectations. That’s how you get hurt.”

Kirishima’s eyes fall to the floor, away from Katsuki and the confidence he’s trying to instill through a firm stare.  “You managed to go back to wrestling practice. If you did that, then I can muster up the strength to do this.”

“Hey,” Katsuki snaps, maybe a little too harsh in his tone. Kirishima’s body flinches, and he meets Katsuki’s gaze once again. He does his best to soften his voice without abandoning the deadpan nature that often gets his points across. “This is not a competition. You can worry about winning everything else, but with this shit—you and me—forget about that. We’re a team.”

He won’t have Kirishima putting himself in harm’s way—even if it’s merely emotional harm—to keep up with him. Katsuki wouldn’t consider himself much of a role model anyway, but now that he’s fought his own battle with the wrestling team and come back wounded, he’s gained a new perspective. Sometimes things don’t work out the way you hope, even if you’re trying to be strong and noble.

Kirishima’s determined smirk is laced with soft gratitude, and he punches his fists together. “Right. I’d say together we’re a pretty unstoppable force, huh?”

“Fuckin’ right, we are.”

Their shared confidence is enough to get Katsuki out of bed. He doesn’t have wrestling practice today, so that’s already a win. It also means he can put all of his energy into supporting Kirishima; it’ll be necessary since Kirishima is hoping to speak with Matsumoto this evening. They can’t both fall apart at the same time, so tonight could very well be Kirishima’s turn. 

They shuffle around the tiny dorm room in surprising synchronization. The light and shadows are slowly creeping across the floor, a reminder that they have to hurry; they spent far too long lazing around in bed. Still, they manage to get out the door without waking Kaminari, who’s been lying there dead to the world since last night. Then they part ways, and Katsuki knows he won’t see Kirishima again until tonight when it’s all over. 

He mentally prepares himself all day for the worst case scenario. He’s seen a dejected Kirishima once before, and he’d like to believe he could handle it better this time if necessary. Hopefully it won’t come to that.

Still, all of Katsuki’s notebooks end up filled with mindless dots from tip-tapping his pens all day, restless with anxiety for Kirishima’s sake. It’s all he can think about. That, and the fact that he had to come to class dressed in a T-shirt of Kirishima’s since he hadn’t packed his own clean clothes.

Kirishima is there in Katsuki’s every inhale.

He’s not there, however, when Katsuki returns to the dorm after classes. Katsuki knew this beforehand, of course, but he has nothing better to do than wait in miserable anxiety. His stomach is already in knots as he knocks on the door. Rarely has Katsuki been so nervous for his own sake, let alone someone else’s.

He wouldn’t care so much if it were anybody else. That much is clear. Most people, Katsuki doesn’t wish harm upon, but for most people, Katsuki also wouldn’t go charging into battle. Damn, he wishes he could be there by Kirishima’s side today. He’s half tempted to sneak after him and watch from a safe distance—as if he could control the circumstances. 

Katsuki knocks roughly on the door again, wishing he had a key of his own. It was probably a long shot that Kaminari would even be here (he’s never here), but it sure would have been convenient. He’s just about to give up and wait out the evening on the hallway floor when the door swings open at last. 

Kaminari isn’t even looking when he steps out, nearly barreling into Katsuki as he bops along to whatever garbage music must be playing through his earbuds. 

“Oh, hey!” Kaminari greets a bit too loudly when he takes notice of Katsuki. “I was just heading out for the night. Kiri isn’t here, though.”

“I know,” Katsuki says, eyeing the inside of the dorm. “I’m waiting for him.”

“Oh, sure thing. Be my guest,” Kaminari says with a nod. He looks over Katsuki’s shoulder and waves. “Hey, Sero!”

Sero waves back to Kaminari, sneaking past both of them to reach his own door. It doesn’t escape Katsuki how his eyes follow Kaminari down the hallway while he fumbles with his keys. The blond, in contrast, hardly seems aware of anything that isn’t the grim-looking guy by the stairwell. Shinsou was his name, right?

“Hey, babe!” Kaminari greets him with a kiss, and next door to Katsuki, Sero drops his keys to the floor. 

The lovebirds disappear down the stairs, and Sero attempts to disappear into his dorm room. Katsuki stops him, though. It’s uncharacteristic of him to meddle in other people’s business or to even care, but for now he’ll call it boredom—or a way to distract himself from worrying about Kirishima. 

“Soy Sauce,” Katsuki says sternly, catching the other’s attention. He points over his shoulder with his thumb. “Here. Now.”

With a defeated sigh, Sero retrieves his keys and comes to Katsuki without a fight. He doesn’t even know what Katsuki wants; whether it’s a fight, or a bank robbery, or sex, Katsuki has a feeling Sero would be down for anything right now. Weirdly enough, though, Katsuki just wants to talk. Not usually his M.O.

Sero goes right into the room, notably passing Kaminari’s bed and sitting on Kirishima’s instead. He looks so fucking pitiful, all folded in on himself like he doesn’t even have a vertebra. 

“Wanna tell me what the fuck that was?” Katsuki interrogates, although with every passing second he becomes more curious with what the fuck this is.

It occurs to Katsuki that he should probably sit down so he’s not standing over Sero like some creepy overlord. He pulls out Kirishima’s desk chair and plops down in it, fingers tapping on his thighs as he awaits an answer. 

“I dropped my keys,” Sero says lamely. “What about it?”

It takes about four seconds of Katsuki’s incredulous staring for Sero to backtrack. 

“Alright, fine. I was a little upset by what I saw back there. I’m fine, though.”

Katsuki rolls his eyes. “Whatever, Plain Face. I wanna know why the hell you let it happen.”

“Why I—you’re kidding right?” Sero sits bolt upright, utter betrayal reading on his face even to someone as emotionally blind as Katsuki. “What did you expect me to do? Run down the hall and tear them apart?”

“Obviously not,” Katsuki replies, although it’s possible he would have done that in Sero’s position. “You let it get that far, though. Why? I’ve known about your stupid crush for almost two weeks. You’ve probably known even longer.”

“What about it?” Sero asks, pulling out his phone and putting all his concentration into it. Katsuki would like to slap the stupid thing out of his hands, but he controls himself. 

Why is Sero so closed off to talking about this? It’s not like Katsuki particularly enjoys it either, but Sero is part of the Idiot Squad, and they all seem into that lovey-dovey, feeling shit. At least, that’s what Katsuki always thought. Since when is Sero different from the others?

Come to think of it, Sero didn’t seem completely open about it to begin with. He only revealed his feelings for Kaminari after Katsuki prodded a little, and Katsuki can’t actually remember a time when he was very direct about his feelings on anything. He seems to deal mostly in good-natured snarky comments and sarcasm.

“Are you scared or something?” Katsuki asks, and it’s not quite how he’d meant to phrase the question. Too late now, though. “You know what you wanted, so why didn’t you go for it?”

Sero rolls his eyes. “I told you before, all I want is for Kaminari to be happy.”

That doesn’t sit right with Katsuki. If he’s going to bother himself with a deep ass conversation, then everyone involved better at least be genuine with their words. 

“Liar.”

“Excuse me?” Sero sets his phone aside, sitting up a little straighter to glare at Katsuki. 

“All you want is for him to be happy? That’s not true. He looked pretty damn happy out there, and here you are sulking. Be sad if you want to, but cut the bullshit.”

“I—it’s not bullshit!” Sero insists, his face red with anger. “I do want him to be happy! I just—I also want—”

“You wanted it to be you. The real reason you’re sulking is because you didn’t even give yourself a chance with him. Why not?”

Silence. Clearly, that resonated with Sero to a degree. He doesn’t look like he wants to dive into Katsuki and tear his throat out anymore (but good luck to him if he tries). Instead, he’s studying something below Katsuki’s knees—probably whatever screw is loose in this creaky desk chair. Maybe he’s just avoiding Katsuki’s eyes. 

“What if I was scared?” Sero challenges. It’s like he’s testing the waters, seeing if Katsuki will ridicule him for it. 

“What if you were?” Katsuki replies neutrally. “Are you gonna do anything about it?”

Katsuki angles the chair towards the corner of the room. He can still see Sero like this—can even pass it off like he’s looking at him—but in reality, this conversation is getting a little heavy for him. He’s the one who initiated it, so he’ll see it through, but the only way he knows how to cope with the way his skin is crawling is to put up some sort of barrier. 

Where does this discomfort come from? Katsuki’s always been like this. He’s never liked discussing feelings and shit; all that deep, messy, abstract stuff makes him squirm, and by now it’s so well buried in his soul that it feels almost out of reach. They’re talking about Sero’s fears, but maybe Katsuki is the one who’s actually afraid. 

Why?

And if he is afraid, then he needs to ask himself the same questions he’s posing to Sero right now. What's causing it? What is he gonna do about it?

“I don’t know,” Sero says with a heavy sigh. He’s still not meeting Katsuki’s gaze. “Kaminari is everything. He’s like the fucking sun, you know?”

“Yeah…” Katsuki can relate.

“Maybe it’s enough to just be near him—to be his friend. It should be enough.” Sero shakes his head, knuckles white around his tightly gripped phone. “I guess in a way, I’d rather keep things as they are than risk losing our friendship. If I went for it and things fell apart—well, it’d be so much worse to not have him in my life at all.”

Fuck. Katsuki is a moron.

He’s going to try and offer Sero advice when he’s doing the exact same thing to himself? No way. No fucking way.

“That...” Katsuki pauses, adequate words evading him in the moment, “sucks.”

Is this Katsuki’s future? If so, then yes, it really does suck. Maybe that’s the most accurate response he could hope for. Unless he can turn things around and find a way to be open with Kirishima…

But Sero is right. It’s better to keep what you already have—to keep this one-in-a-million friendship—than to risk it all and lose it. Katsuki’s past is too much for even himself to bear; he can’t put that on Kirishima too. 

Dammit, this conversation was supposed to be a distraction; all it’s actually done is made things worse. Why do his thoughts always come back to this crap? He can’t do this today, not when Kirishima needs him to be at one hundred percent capacity. Today is about Kirishima. 

“Hey, uh,” Sero leans forward onto his thighs. “Are you okay?”

“Huh? I’m fine,” Katsuki says with a tiny jump. Distracted is what he is, just not in the way he wanted to be. 

Sero hums lowly. “Mhm. Who’s a liar now?”

“Shut up.”

“Is this about how you went back to the wrestling team?” Sero guesses, all too innocent in his tone for someone who definitely shouldn’t know that. Of course, by the time Katsuki opens his mouth to chew him out for it, Sero is already explaining. “Kaminari told me you got in a fight or something. That was his guess, at least.”

“Kaminari can fuck off.”

“The bandages say I’m right,” Sero points out. Fuckhead. 

Katsuki folds his arms, concealing the wound and trying to think of an excuse for why he can’t talk about this. He doesn’t want to, for one thing.

“It wasn’t a fight.” That’s all he can come up with.

Sero just shrugs. “Well, whoever you faced off against sure did a number on your hand. I’d hate to see the other guy.”

Well, the other guy is a set of lockers, Katsuki wants to say. And they made it out just fine

They settle into a silence that Katsuki wouldn’t exactly call comfortable. It’s more like they’ve run out of things to say, but Sero doesn’t dare to get up and leave because he’s afraid that Katsuki will yell at him or something. And Katsuki is too lazy to do anything about it. So they sit there, Sero lounging on the bed and Katsuki slouching in the chair.

Who knows how much time passes with Katsuki counting the dust bunnies beneath Kirishima’s bed and Sero presumably scrolling to the ends of the universe on his phone? Katsuki’s perception of time and space is askew until the rattling of the door shakes some life back into him. 

It’s Kirishima. Of course it is. The mere sight of him breathes purpose back into this miserable day. Katsuki’s own woes evaporate, kindly stepping to the back burner and making room for Kirishima—all of Kirishima, only Kirishima. 

“Hey,” Katsuki says, craning his neck to see into the doorway where Kirishima is slowly removing his jacket. 

Kirishima pauses to let out a sigh. “Hey.”

How much should he prod? If it were Katsuki, he wouldn’t want to be ambushed with a bunch of questions. He’d be worn out and searching for some peace and quiet. But this has been Katsuki, and Kirishima always prods—at least a little. Always just the right amount. 

“How did it go?” Katsuki asks, clearing his throat awkwardly. 

Kirishima hesitates. That’s all the answer Katsuki really needs. He feels his own heart sink in disappointment, wishing that Kirishima could have found some relief in all of this.

“It was fine,” Kirishima says at last, walking further inside. He must realize that he’s a shitty liar, because he follows up with something a bit more believable. “Or at least, it was what I should have expected.”

“Damn,” Katsuki curses, and in the space between the word and his next breath, Sero interjects. 

“Well.” Sero stands up with a tired grunt. “I’m just gonna sneak out now—leave you guys to it.”

Until this exact moment, Kirishima hardly seemed aware of Sero’s presence. He offers up a wave and a “Later, dude,” and while his eyes follow Sero out the door, Katsuki is busy watching Kirishima. He definitely looks tired, but who could blame him? Unlike Katsuki, however, he hasn’t returned to the dorm with bloody knuckles or any other apparent injuries. Of course not; Kirishima knows a thing or two about self control. 

“You and Sero hang out one-on-one now?” Kirishima asks suddenly, his eyes still on the door.

“Huh?” Katsuki blinks. “Not really. I guess? Nothin’ better to do.”

He’s not sure how to verbalize that he’d witnessed Kaminari kiss some guy who wasn’t Sero and that he then felt the need to call Sero in for a talk—to watch out for him like he was a wounded puppy or something. It sort of just happened

“I was here waiting for you,” Katsuki explains further, because Kirishima isn’t saying a word. “I wanted to be here when you got back in case—” he pauses. This is the just-in-case scenario, so he should choose his words wisely. “In case you needed me.”

Kirishima laughs at that—quietly, breathily, like maybe it’s not actually funny. He could easily sit down on his own bed, but he doesn’t. Instead, he lowers himself to the floor, sitting at Katsuki’s feet like a child at story time. When he looks up into Katsuki’s eyes, however, he’s void of any childlike wonder—just pure, raw honesty.

“I need you,” Kirishima says seriously.

Katsuki’s mouth goes dry. “Do you wanna talk about it?”

“Mm…” Kirishima considers it, then shakes his head. “Not really. Not yet.”

It’s unusual for him. Katsuki is used to Kirishima talking about everything—more than Katsuki even wants to. Silence from Kirishima is a little unsettling. He’ll do whatever Kirishima needs, though. Whatever he needs to heal. 

“Okay,” Katsuki replies, wracking his brain for a different solution. “Do—do you need…?”

He knows where he’s going with it, but he can’t quite find the words. He can only hope that Kirishima will understand. His palms open up, arms spreading toward Kirishima in a gesture that’s meant to welcome him in. A wave of confusion seems to pass over Kirishima, but just as quickly, Katsuki can see the wires connecting. He shifts on the floor, coming nearer to Katsuki.

It might be dumb, but Katsuki’s breath hitches when Kirishima lowers his face towards Katsuki’s leg. He recovers quickly as he realizes what’s actually happening. Even through his jeans, Kirishima’s forehead is warm against Katsuki’s knee. He rests there, eyes closed and arms limp at his sides. For all the times that Katsuki has seen Kirishima sleep, he’s never looked this tired.

Katsuki knows he can’t just sit here, but his first instinct is to tense up. So far, Kirishima has been the one to pull Katsuki in—to comfort and hold. This is new.

His fingers find Kirishima’s hair (he’s done that before) and comb through the carefully sculpted spikes. Beneath his hand, Kirishima doesn’t move away, so Katsuki keeps going. His other hand doesn’t move with such expertise. He finds himself hesitating, eventually letting his hand settle on Kirishima’s shoulder. A restrained sigh slips through Kirishima’s mouth, and he brings one hand up to his shoulder, weakly holding onto Katsuki’s. 

“You did your best,” Katsuki whispers. He doesn’t know what happened, but he knows that much is true. “At least you put yourself out there.”

Kirishima’s hand squeezes, but he says nothing. So they sit there, silence claiming every inch of the room beyond the breaths they expel from their lips. Their position is a bit odd—too much bending and contorting for far too little contact. If the tables were turned, Kirishima would be wrapping up Katsuki’s entire body with a hug, and he deserves the same in return. Katsuki shouldn’t be sitting here above him. 

As gently as he can manage, Katsuki shifts his weight in the chair, trying to keep his hands right where they are. The goal is to get closer—to be on the same level—but the moment Kirishima feels Katsuki’s movement (the moment he hears the damn creaking of the chair) he pulls back. 

“Sorry.” Kirishima shakes his head, forcing a laugh that doesn’t fool Katsuki for a second. “You shouldn’t have to see me like this.”

Katsuki throws caution to the wind, dropping to the floor and kicking away the desk chair. He takes hold of Kirishima’s shoulders so that they’re looking at each other head-on. “See you like what?”

“Weak.”

“Fuck that,” Katsuki growls, yanking Kirishima in for a hug. His arms close as tightly as he can manage around Kirishima’s body, trying to become a fortress. “You’re fucking brave. What you did today wasn’t easy.”

“No,” Kirishima sighs, hands gripping the back of Katsuki’s shirt. “No, it wasn’t.”

Kirishima’s body melts into Katsuki, a collapse of muscles and bones against his chest. The weight is heavy, but Katsuki is suddenly very certain that everything Kirishima has been carrying around inside of him is much heavier. Katsuki will hold it for him now. 

He’s always smiling. Always building up others. Nobody would ever know the depth of his regrets—they would never know that the very reason for Kirishima’s fierce kindness is a desire to escape all of the things he once was. And Kirishima will never truly know how far he’s come from all of that.

Someone’s got to tell him.

“Don’t listen to that stupid voice in your head,” Katsuki whispers, bowing his head close to Kirishima’s ear. “You’re more than you give yourself credit for.”

“I’m not—”

“Yes,” Katsuki insists. “Yes, you are. And Eijirou?”

Kirishima’s hold on Katsuki loosens, and his eyes peek up curiously at Katsuki.

“You can be weak whenever the hell you want around me.”

The look that Katsuki gets in return for that comment is beyond his wildest dreams. It’s hardly a smile—it’s something far more beautiful and gratifying than that. It looks similar to the adoration Katsuki feels whenever he’s around Kirishima. It sends tremors through his bones. It’s everything. 

Kirishima’s arms slip up and around Katsuki’s neck, fingers playing with the hair at his nape. Their eyes are firmly locked together in a stare that’s quickly turning Katsuki’s stomach into a cage of hyperactive butterflies. 

“Could...” Kirishima whispers, eyes flickering down. “Could I kiss you?”

Surely, Katsuki’s heart stops. Surely, all of his blood freezes in his veins and the planet stops turning, the universe stops working. Surely, he heard that incorrectly.

In the moment he needs them most, all words evade him. 

“Just once?” Kirishima continues, his uneven breaths tickling Katsuki’s lips. “Just tonight?”

And then, Katsuki’s heartbeat returns with a vengeance—a pounding drum, a wild crescendo that massacres his senses. His hands tremble, but his eyes are steady on Kirishima.

This perfect man wants to kiss him. Katsuki’s been so worried about making everything perfect—waiting for the right moment, waiting for these struggles to clear and the storm clouds to part. But Kirishima is here in the middle of his own storm, and he wants Katsuki now. They’re so close, and for once, Katsuki doesn’t deprive himself of what feels so easy and right. 

He swallows hard, summoning what little fraction of his voice is willing to respond to commands. What escapes from his mouth sounds like a poor imitation of his typical bravery, but the words are there. 

“Yeah, Red. Kiss me.”




Chapter Text

 

A thousand thoughts flood Katsuki’s mind as soon as he says the words. Is this the right choice? Will he regret it? He can’t actually have Kirishima, so why trick himself with unearned affections?

Just once. Just tonight. That’s what Kirishima said. Katsuki can either be sad that this is a one-time opportunity, or he can be grateful that the experience comes without any strings attached—particularly, without him having to unload his messy past. This isn’t a relationship; this is just a kiss. A kiss that will make Kirishima feel better.

A kiss.

It’s actually going to happen.

Kirishima’s fingers curl into Katsuki’s hair, guiding him in. His eyes flutter shut and he draws nearer to Katsuki, but he stops just short of their lips touching. He lingers, mere millimeters between them, and while this close and personal view of Kirishima’s face is nothing to complain about, Katsuki has never been one for patience. 

“Well?” Katsuki asks, holding himself back from tackling Kirishima and kissing his lips raw. 

“I just,” Kirishima pauses, tracing Katsuki’s jawline with his fingers. “I want to do this right.”

It could be the words, or it could be the unreasonably delicate touch, but Katsuki’s cheeks burn with a warmth that reaches the depths of his soul. Part of him wonders if Kirishima has changed his mind, but he’s not moving away from Katsuki, so Katsuki doesn’t move either. He can wait nicely—for Kirishima, he can do that. 

With a newfound patience, Katsuki stays perfectly still. He closes his eyes, taking in the feeling of Kirishima’s calloused fingers exploring the organic shapes of his cheek and jaw. Every touch sends red-hot tingles deep into Katsuki’s skin, and suddenly the cool air of the dorm room feels like the dead of winter. The touch moves into Katsuki’s hair, circling down and around his ear before settling again at the base of his neck. The nervous breath that Katsuki both hears and feels tips him off—just before Kirishima finally presses his lips to Katsuki’s. 

Despite the fact that he knew this was coming, Katsuki’s eyes open lazily upon feeling the kiss—they don’t fly open like he’s overslept on an exam day; no, it’s more like he’s waking up on a sleepy Sunday morning to sunlight dancing in the window, and everything is beautiful and peaceful. Yes, that’s what this feels like. He just needs to sneak a glance. 

Kirishima’s features are softened, void of tension or despair. It’s difficult to tell from this angle, but it isn’t hard to guess that Kirishima is the picture of contentment. Good.

His eyes fall closed again when Kirishima deepens the kiss, reminding him to enjoy this while he has it. That’s the easy part. 

Kirishima’s lips are soft against Katsuki’s. Even his kisses are gentle and sweet. There’s a bit of uncertainty mixed in there as well, and Katsuki hopes to quell it with hands that tangle into Kirishima’s hair and clutch the fabric at the lower back of his shirt. He brings Kirishima closer, suppressing a satisfied sigh when the arms around his own body tighten with equal strength.

“This is okay, right?” Kirishima asks, pulling away just far enough to pant out the words. 

Katsuki’s eyes are closed, but he’s still rolling them. Kirishima really is a dumbass; the fact that he even has to ask that question (although Katsuki appreciates his asking) proves it. He’s not going to bother with words now. Instead, he pulls Kirishima back in with a hard kiss to the mouth, sitting up on his knees in search of a better angle. Their chests push up flat against each other, and oh, Kirishima really responds to that.

A shaking breath escapes between their mouths, and then Katsuki’s nerves ignite with the grazing of Kirishima’s teeth across his bottom lip. Shit, that feels good. The second that Katsuki’s mouth opens with a gasp, Kirishima’s tongue darts softly inside, prodding at Katsuki’s and pushing him further up into this hazy cloud where the only thing that matters is kissing Kirishima Eijirou until neither of them can breathe anymore. 

At the same moment that Katsuki attempts to pull Kirishima closer, Kirishima pushes towards Katsuki, and they go barreling backwards onto the floor. Kirishima lands squarely on top of Katsuki, barely registering the fall. Their legs are somewhat tangled, with Kirishima’s thigh between both of Katsuki’s, but Katsuki is purposefully not going to think about that. He’s not going to think about how the warmth of Kirishima’s body on top of him is saving him from the freezing concrete floor, or how safe he feels beneath him. 

He digs his fingers into Kirishima’s hair just to keep them busy, letting out a hissing sigh when Kirishima’s hands brush the bare hip bones beneath his T-shirt. Kirishima seems to like that, breaking their kiss and working his way down to Katsuki’s neck. What starts with gentle open-mouthed kisses to his pulse point ends with sucking and nibbling, and fuck, it feels so good that Katsuki doesn’t even care if he ends up with a hickey—doesn’t care that the low throaty noises escaping him should be utterly embarrassing. 

He holds Kirishima’s head in place, bending one knee as if to box him in. He needs him to stay just like this. Without his say so, Katsuki’s hand slides down to squeeze Kirishima’s ass through his jeans. The groan that it earns from Kirishima rumbles against Katsuki’s throat.

Fuck. He can’t believe this is happening. Physically, it’s real, but emotionally he doesn’t know what this means for Kirishima; he’s got to keep himself together. He almost forgets about that when Kirishima comes back up to Katsuki’s mouth and kisses him like it’s the only thing in this life that matters.

His hands take Katsuki’s, roughly forcing them to the ground on either side of Katsuki’s head. Their fingers intertwine, making this simultaneously the most arousing and tender position that Katsuki has ever been in. To be trapped beneath Kirishima like this...fuck. Katsuki could do this for hours. Maybe they do. 

At some point, Kirishima releases Katsuki’s hands, letting his own roam Katsuki’s body without destination. Katsuki leans into his every touch, craning his neck and arching his back to get closer. He can feel them both getting worked up, breaths building rapidly, blood pumping to all the right places. It’s the way Kirishima’s hips are beginning to move against Katsuki’s that tells him he could probably let this go all the way if he wanted.

And he does want. Damn, he really does. 

But when Kirishima goes to remove Katsuki’s shirt, somewhere in the deepest part of his consciousness, Katsuki finds the integrity and willpower to put his hand over Kirishima’s and stop him. 

“Wait,” Katsuki rasps, turning his head to end the kiss. 

Kirishima braces himself on his hands, hovering above Katsuki and staring down with glassy, lust-filled eyes. “What—are you okay?”

If only Katsuki could tell Kirishima just how okay he is. This is the point of no return, though, and they can’t pass it. Katsuki has to speak with some sense, forget the fact that all of his words are coming out in broken, gasping breaths. 

“I said I’d do this to help you feel better,” Katsuki says, forcing himself to meet Kirishima’s eyes, “so I can’t let you do something you’re gonna regret tomorrow.”

“I—I won’t,” Kirishima says, just as out of breath as Katsuki. “I want this.”

Dammit, Eijirou. Never did Katsuki think he’d be in this position—with Kirishima practically begging to have him and Katsuki saying no. Sure, Kirishima wants this now, but what about tomorrow? What happens then? It’s not like Kirishima initiated this on some sunshiny, carefree day while the two of them danced in a field of flowers. (Gross.) This happened when Kirishima was at his lowest low—because he was at his lowest low. 

With a sigh, Katsuki sits up and puts some space between them. “If we go any further, things are gonna get weird between us. I don’t want that.”

“Me neither,” Kirishima concedes, returning to a sitting position. “Sorry.”

Kirishima… Always giving—pouring himself out like a fountain, ever a current of selflessness. He gives life and love to others, and the moment he even thinks about taking, he begins to feel bad. Who the fuck made him that way?

“Don’t be,” Katsuki says simply. “I wanted to do that.”

A beat of silence. 

“Oh.”

“So are we gonna talk about what happened at your meeting, or no?” Katsuki asks.

It seems like the next thing to do, logically. The last thing he wants is to pressure Kirishima, but he knows that until the words come out of his mouth, they’ll just be floating around restlessly inside of him. Eventually, it’ll all bubble out of him like a baking soda volcano—messy and reactive and difficult to contain. When Katsuki isn’t expecting them, those sorts of conversations can easily slip right through his fingers. He might say the wrong thing, or worse, say nothing at all in his surprise. 

They’ve already done the reactive part tonight. Better to get to the talking while they’re both calm and fairly disarmed. As long as Kirishima is ready. 

“I guess we should,” Kirishima says. “Can we get ready for bed first?”

There’s an unspoken decision within that question that Katsuki will stay here tonight. Neither of them needs to ask or confirm it. Katsuki follows Kirishima to the bathroom and accepts the spare toothbrush he offers. He accepts the basketball shorts from the drawer under Kirishima’s bed and is settled in the sheets by the time Kirishima emerges from the bathroom. Then he accepts Kirishima crawling into bed and wiggling swiftly into his arms. 

“Okay,” Kirishima sighs. 

“Okay.”

“So, she didn’t forgive me,” Kirishima starts, but he cuts himself off with a bitter laugh. “I mean, of course not. And she doesn’t have to! I probably wouldn’t forgive me either.”

“Would’ve felt nice if she had, though,” Katsuki guesses, arranging the pillows beneath his neck so that he can better support Kirishima’s weight.

“Mhm,” Kirishima hums quietly. He nuzzles closer into Katsuki’s collarbone, and the drooping spikes of his hair tickle Katsuki’s chin. When he finally breathes out his next words, Katsuki feels them against his skin. “She already knew who I was—remembered me, I guess. Actually, she was really polite to me, despite everything.”

“That’s,” Katsuki hesitates. What would the correct word be? “That’s nice.”

The words are disingenuous, though. Simply being polite doesn’t feel good enough to Katsuki—not good enough for one as pure as Kirishima. How could anyone refuse forgiveness when offered a sorrowful heart and almost-definitely-perfect apology on a silver platter?

But Kirishima did her wrong. Katsuki reminds himself of this, because—dammit—he’s attempting to be more empathetic these days. This girl, Matsumoto, doesn’t know who Kirishima is in the present. She doesn’t know his relentlessly kind nature, his beautiful heart, how hard he is on himself in his quest to grow. Hell, she probably didn’t really know him back then either, when Kirishima made a terrible, grave mistake out of fear, not malice—Katsuki is sure that even in those darker days, Kirishima didn’t have a malicious bone in his body. 

She knows only what he did, and the consequences his actions had on her brother.

Understandable as her feelings are, Katsuki still longs for Kirishima to be free of this burden he’s been carrying.

“I told her everything,” Kirishima says, fingers drumming mindlessly on Katsuki’s chest. “I told her how I tried to stop the guys from going after her brother, but also how I didn’t go for help outside the team. I told her how I’ve been trying to be a better man. And I apologized, of course. I did that a lot.”

Katsuki finds his eyes locked on the ceiling, searching for answers in the cracked plaster. “That’s good. You did good. What did she say?”

Kirishima takes a breath. “She’s glad that I’ve changed for the better. She thinks her brother would probably forgive me, but… Well, she’s right about this part—my apology doesn’t change what happened. She said it’s good for other people that I’ve changed, but to her it’s irrelevant. Then she wished me the best and left. Honestly, I’ve never been told to fuck off in a more polite manner.”

That does seem to be the long and short of it. From what Katsuki’s heard, he imagines Matsumoto as a lawyer in an expensive suit, not as some innocent university girl. Very pragmatic. Still hurtful to Eijirou. 

“You didn’t deserve that,” Katsuki huffs, breaking his staring contest with the ceiling to rest his chin on Eijirou’s head.

“I kinda did,” Kirishima sighs. “I don’t know why it made me so sad. I guess it just hit me for the first time that there’s really nothing I can do to fix things. I really wanted to fix them.”

Somehow, it clicks for Katsuki just then. Maybe it’s an act of God that he finally has something to say that feels worthwhile. Whatever it is, Katsuki will take it—take it and run. Forget the restraint he usually exercises and the guard he always has up. He’s got to get these words out and get them out right; for Kirishima. 

“You can’t change the past,” Katsuki says. “I know you want to, but you can’t. That doesn’t have any bearing on who you are now, though.”

“It does, though.”

“No,” Katsuki argues. “You did everything right today. Your part in fixing things isn’t to get forgiveness. It’s to lay your shit out there and apologize—that way this guy’s family can finally move forward in peace. You succeeded in your part whether they forgive you or not.”

In an alternate timeline, Katsuki is rolling his eyes at himself. All that cheesy shit sounds like something said by that shrink his mother made him see in middle school. In this timeline, however—the one where he’s lying in bed and stroking Kirishima’s hair with a touch more gentle than he knew he was capable of—Katsuki is pretty damn proud of himself. 

Kirishima seems to consider this, rolling onto his back next to Katsuki. He stares intently, like he’s piercing straight through the ceiling with his eyes and gazing at far-off galaxies. Meanwhile, Katsuki just wants to look at him. If Kirishima can see through time and space, then Katsuki can see through skin and bones—straight to Kirishima’s perfect, unmarred heart.

Katsuki has no qualms with his nickname for Kirishima. Red is the perfect name, and it is Kirishima. Kirishima’s heart, though… That is pure gold. 

“I guess you’re right,” Kirishima decides with a half-smile. “It’s pretty selfish of me to only think about what I’m getting out of my apology.”

“You’re only human,” Katsuki says.

Kirishima rolls onto his side, blinking into Katsuki’s eyes with an innocence that makes his heart flutter. “You’re good at this. Be my therapist?”

“Pretty sure therapists aren’t allowed to make out with their clients,” Katsuki replies.

Kirishima cracks a smile at that. The bed creaks beneath him when he turns over to shut off the lamp, and in the pitch darkness Katsuki feels him settle once again at his side.

It’s been a strange night to say the least. Right now, much of it doesn’t feel real, but Katsuki knows he’ll have a lot to process in the morning. He hopes that regret isn’t part of that package for either of them. It seems implausible that he could ever regret the feeling of Kirishima’s lips on his own, his hands on his body, and his hips…

Katsuki really should redirect his thoughts. 

“Are you gonna be okay?” he asks Kirishima, noting the unusual amount of silence coming from the typically boisterous redhead. 

“Hm? Yeah, yeah. I’m fine—just thinking,” Kirishima responds absentmindedly. Were the lights still on, Katsuki is sure he’d see Kirishima’s thoughts written all over his face. 

“Thinking about what?”

“Lots of stuff,” Kirishima says. “Everything. You.”

Katsuki stops mid-breath, his entire body hanging on that single word. What the fuck is he supposed to say to that? And how can he say it in a way that doesn’t give away how hard he’s fallen for Kirishima?

When Katsuki comes up empty for words, Kirishima continues. As usual, he’s unbothered by Katsuki’s awkwardness. 

“I’m really glad I met you,” he says, one of his fingers finding Katsuki’s in the dark and brushing against it. “Glad to have you in my life. I think so highly of you, dude.”

And there it is—that toxic combination of butterflies in Katsuki’s stomach and a painful, guilty squeezing in his chest. The deeper he falls for Kirishima, the more terrified he becomes of the truth he’s lived—the more he wants to hide it. The other option is to put some distance between them (running away in a more physical sense), but they’re here in bed together, and Kirishima is taking Katsuki’s hand now, and the last thing he wants to do is move away from him. 

He accepts Kirishima’s hand, praying that he won’t feel the anxious beating of Katsuki’s heart through his palm. While Kirishima drifts off next to him, Katsuki searches his mind and the universe for a solution to save himself—a way to have it all somehow. He wants Kirishima (he’s pretty sure that he’s fucking in love with him), but he can’t lie to him about the darkness of his past. 

It’s getting to the point where Katsuki will have to make a choice, and he’s terrified of what he’ll decide.  




Chapter Text

 

Remnants of sunlight still saturate the evening sky as Katsuki walks to wrestling practice. Kirishima is by his side, having offered to make the journey with him. Internally, Katsuki knows Kirishima is doing it because he feels bad for Katsuki (knows that he should refuse the offer for the sake of his pride), but he lets him come along anyway. Besides, it’s not shameful if Katsuki pretends he’s the one having mercy by allowing it. 

The walk has taken place in relative silence. Kirishima tried a few times to strike up conversation before he accepted that Katsuki’s mood is far too grim for 

distractions. Still, it’s comforting to hear Kirishima’s footsteps alongside his own, and it’s also a measure of accountability; Kirishima would most definitely notice if Katsuki ran for the fucking hills. 

Katsuki shoves his hands into his coat pockets when a sudden gust of wind sends a chill through him. Leaves blow around the campus like tumbleweeds, dry and crunchy so that they scratch against the pavement.

Up above, the moon lounges in a crescent shape. Katsuki studies it, for some reason remembering the way his dad used to point at the moon on nights like this and joke that it was actually a giant’s toenail. Shitty humor like that is probably why Katsuki is the least funny person he knows, but he can still appreciate (can still hear) his dad’s resounding laugh. For such a quiet man, he really does howl like a hyena when he gets going.

“Hey, you good?” Kirishima asks as they approach the athletic center. 

“I’m the best guy on the fuckin’ team,” Katsuki replies, even though he knows perfectly well that’s not what Kirishima meant. 

“Alright, alright,” Kirishima chuckles. “Will I see you afterwards?”

“Some of us actually do our homework, Shitty Hair.” Katsuki’s knuckles shift in a tighter grip around the strap of his gym bag. He’s teasing, of course—if you could call anything that Katsuki does teasing. Whatever it is, it’s hopefully enough to convince Kirishima that he’s okay. “I’ve got a shitload of it tonight—study guides and all that crap.”

“Hmm, such a nerd,” Kirishima says with a mischievous grin, lightly punching Katsuki’s shoulder. He really thinks he’s gonna get away with that, huh?

Katsuki leaps ahead of Kirishima, blocking his path and stepping on the stairs ahead of him. He takes full advantage of his newly granted height, staring down with folded arms. “You better take that back, or I’ll kick your ass.”

The words and tone are all there, but Katsuki’s lips twitch with a traitorous smile. Of course that doesn’t get past Kirishima. 

“I’d like to see you try,” Kirishima goads him on, letting his shoulder brush Katsuki’s as he passes by on the stairs. 

“Hey, dumbass.” Katsuki skips the remaining two steps to catch up with Kirishima just outside the athletic building doors, grabbing his shoulder and turning him around. “In case you forgot, we already did that and I won.”

Is it possible for a smirk to become more smirky? A deeper smirk? Either way, the look in Kirishima’s eyes is one of knowing.

“Yeah,” he shrugs innocently. “Maybe I just wanted you to bite my neck again.”

Katsuki feels his mouth drop open, feels the blood rush to his unsuspecting cheeks. Damn, Kirishima is getting bold. And Katsuki is becoming more susceptible to his teasing; unlike Katsuki, Kirishima is actually good at it. 

“Shut the fuck up,” is all Katsuki can grumble, earning a hearty laugh from Kirishima.

“Yeah, yeah,” Kirishima says. “You know where to find me, though.”

Kirishima continues on with a joke and a laugh, but Katsuki barely registers the sound of his voice. He’s too caught up in the head of green hair bobbing down the sidewalk towards them. Fucking Deku.

It shouldn’t be a surprise—isn’t one, really—to see Deku here. They’re both on the team, unfortunately. Still, the very sight of him makes Katsuki’s stomach twist up in knots and his chest fill with fiery anger. 

“H-hey, Kacchan,” Deku greets apprehensively. He pauses before the door, perhaps waiting for Katsuki to answer him or maybe even mulling over what it would cost to stick around and try for a conversation. 

Kirishima is quiet and faithful at Katsuki’s side, standing broad-shouldered and alert as if he’s a guard dog waiting for the command to strike. Katsuki doesn’t even notice the supportive hand on his shoulder until Deku gives up and disappears into the building.

“Like I said,” Kirishima gives his shoulder a squeeze, his voice lower now, “you know where to find me. If you need anything at all—”

“I’ll be fine,” Katsuki says with a heavy sigh, shrugging off Kirishima’s hand.

He can’t entertain the thought of backing out. He can’t because it would be far too easy to give in.

Instead, he says goodbye to Kirishima and fills the remainder of his walk with thoughts on how worthwhile this all is. This is to keep his scholarship. This is to prove himself. This is the only thing preventing him from having a very uncomfortable talk with his parents in which they discover that he’s not “fine” like he’s been telling them. He’s the opposite of fine. He’s a mess. 

But he’s got to stop being a mess. The first step to that is taking this bull by the horns and going to practice again—even when he really doesn’t want to.

Since he’s more or less on time today, he has to go into the locker room any change while everyone is in there. It’s shameful how his chest clenches at the very idea. He shouldn’t be so scared of these losers; they’re nobody. Nobody at all.

Katsuki counts it as his greatest blessing that nobody speaks a word to him. He tells himself it’s because they’re afraid of him—they know not to mess with him. If they’re smart, they’ll be too afraid to talk behind his back too.

He has an unfortunate level of awareness when it comes to everybody else today. He’d like to be ignorant of their presence, but as Aizawa is laying out the agenda for today’s practice, Katsuki can’t help but notice the hushed, friendly conversation Deku is having with that loud dumbass, Inasa. On the other end of their little crowd stands Bowl Cut and the other loudmouth with the crazy eyelashes from last practice (what was his name? Tetsutetsu?). They’re snickering and joking around, and when Aizawa shoots them an unimpressed glare, Tetsutetsu snaps the strap on Bowl Cut’s uniform to shut him up. 

Katsuki’s stomach churns. Why is he here? This is supposed to be a team, but he doesn’t feel like a part of it. Of course, it’s not like he was friends with any of these people before, but it never used to bother him. With Kirishima, though (hell, with Sero and Kaminari even), Katsuki has gotten a taste of friendship. Coming back to a place like this is like stepping into the bitter cold of winter when you’ve been snuggled up indoors by the fire. The absence of warmth is impossible to ignore.

This is stupid. Katsuki reminds himself that he’s not a quitter, but dammit, he really wants to be one right now. Imagine the earful he’d get from his mother if that happened, though—it’d no doubt be worse than if he were kicked off the team. Willingly walking away from a commitment? She’d call him a fucking weakling and probably come up with lots of other creative expletives to describe him. 

Does he really want to put up with that?

Not to mention his dad. It’s a different sort of feeling, imagining having to face his dad. While Katsuki has always been a disappointment to his mother one way or another, most of the time his dad truly seems to support him. Even when Katsuki’s being an ass, his dad waits patiently and instructs him gently. He’s always had faith in Katsuki. Quitting the team would be a huge slap in the face to that faithfulness. 

It seems like a flimsy reason to stay in the face of the absolute arsenal of reasons to quit, but Katsuki finds that it’s somehow enough. Maybe he’s just getting better at doing things for other people. 

They run through a few drills as a team, and Katsuki keeps to himself as much as possible. All the while, he can feel Deku’s energy radiating in the gym. It’s slipping under his skin, making him paranoid he’s gonna try and talk to Katsuki at some point. He has a feeling that Deku is watching him, but he isn’t about to look around and check. He just follows along and participates and ignores everyone else. The strategy is working pretty well for him, but apparently Aizawa is feeling extra lazy today. Just Katsuki’s luck.

“Everybody pair up amongst yourselves,” Aizawa instructs them. “Run through practice matches and critique one another. I know you’re all capable of that much, so I’m going to go take a nap in my office. I only got three hours of sleep, so please do hesitate to let me know if there’s a problem.”

Fucking shit…

It’s obvious from the moment Aizawa gives the command that nobody is gonna volunteer to work with Katsuki. No way in hell. Of course, he’s not all that interested in working with them either, but it’s going to come down to him and someone. It’s just a matter of who. He halfway considers approaching that Testsutetsu guy (yeah, he’s annoying and had shit to say to Katsuki, but he seems like an honest guy who isn’t actively looking for trouble), but Bowl Cut snags him right away. Is this what loser nerds felt like in elementary school during partner assignments?

“Kacchan?”

“No fucking way,” Katsuki growls, not even turning to look at Deku. 

“Come on,” Deku persists. “Everyone else is partnering up anyway.”

“I said no,” Katsuki snaps, his voice echoing off the bare gym walls. 

He doesn’t know what his plan is, but he’ll refuse Deku until his face turns blue. It’s an instinct, but even if he stopped to think harder about it, Katsuki wouldn’t ever work with Deku by choice.

“He just doesn’t stop, does he?” Katsuki hears someone say. His head is whipping around before the sentence is even finished. Of course it’s that Bowl Cut moron, Monoma. The guy makes eye contact with Katsuki—like he wanted him to hear—and continues. “He’s like a wild animal—a scared one, at that.”

“I beg your fucking pardon?” Katsuki barks, marching over.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Were you listening?” Monoma feigns embarrassment. “I shouldn’t have said anything. I know you’re quite fragile.”

Katsuki is dead silent, but he knows he must be red with anger. He can feel his body charging up like a video game character generating power for a final move. He’s gonna punch this guy’s face in.

“Ignore him!” It’s that Tetsutetsu guy. He shoves Monoma behind him, but his eyes are fearfully wide when he looks at Katsuki. “He’s an idiot who doesn’t know when to stop.”

Katsuki considers decking them both, but he’s really trying to be good. He has to, even if it hurts. 

“I’ll say,” he grumbles, turning back to Deku. “Come on, you damn nerd. I’m not scared of anything.”

Deku follows after Katsuki in obedience. He doesn’t even try to talk to him, which is good, because Katsuki would rather deal with an awkward silence than whatever other shit Deku usually pulls. Besides, this is bad enough without Deku’s damn voice in Katsuki’s ear.

Katsuki’s skin crawls in every place Deku’s body touches him. They run through some drills and practice matches together, and Katsuki is surviving; that's all he can ask for, really, even though he’d ideally ask Deku to get his fucking hands off of him. That alone, is a lot to bear. 

This is just how it has to be. He’s got to learn to deal with these things—to break free from this prison he’s been locked in. But Deku is the guard of that prison, and right now he’s got a death grip on Katsuki’s brain. It’s stifling, strangling his self-esteem and stomping out the breaths that used to come to him so easily.

Everything used to be so easy. But for Deku it was easier, and over time Katsuki found himself shrinking in both skill and significance. Now Katsuki is nothing at all.

Katsuki shoves Deku hard into the mat, pinning him down with gritted teeth that would probably drip vengeful slobber if he were any more feral. He doesn’t feel the need to tout his victory (it speaks for itself), so he stands up and gives his body a twist, breathing out as the tension stretches thin in his muscles. 

“You haven’t lost your talent,” Deku says, getting to his feet. “I’m glad you came back, Kacchan.”

“Yeah, I bet you are,” Katsuki says dismissively. 

“W-what? What does that mean?”

Damn nerd. Always playing the idiot like he doesn’t realize exactly what he’s doing. If he knows Katsuki as well as he seems to think, then he should know not to pull this shit—should know that it makes Katsuki’s blood boil.

But he can’t afford to have his blood boiling right now. 

“Forget it,” Katsuki says. “We’re here to work, so let’s work.”

“No,” Deku says defiantly. “What is your problem with me? We were friends.”

Katsuki blinks. “What? When we were snot-nosed kids?”

“And after, I’d like to think,” Deku says, taking advantage of Katsuki’s utter confusion and plowing through the silence like a bulldozer. “We’ve known each other forever, and we’ve been through too much for me to just let this go! You can call it bullshit, or whatever excuses you like to make, but you know I’m right.”

“You just can’t fucking fathom the idea of being wrong, can you?”

“Not about this. You’re putting up walls just to block me and everyone else out, and—and now you’ve got Kirishima telling me to fuck off?” Deku throws his hands up, and Katsuki can tell they’re diverting deep down a twisted rabbit hole. “I thought he was my friend, but now he’ll barely look at me! What’s with that? What is with any of this, Kacchan?”

“Don’t fucking call me that,” Katsuki growls. “You don’t say shit like that and then call me that stupid nickname. We’re not kids anymore, and you’re not my ‘guardian angel.’ I’ve got too much else to deal with to be worried about your precious feelings.”

“You’re the one bullshitting right now, Bakugou,” Deku says, and Katsuki’s hands spasm. He balls them up into fists to keep them steady. “Ever since All Might died you’ve been shutting the world out and pitying yourself, and you keep trying to blame me and everybody else for it when it’s your fault! It’s your choices that have brought you here!”

Katsuki’s fingers go slack, collapsing from fists into pathetic dangling noodles. Fuck. The burning in his chest could be from rage. Should be. Katsuki isn’t sure, though. Everything suddenly doesn’t fit—Katsuki doesn’t belong. His kneecaps turn to jelly, bringing him to the floor. 

“Shit—Kacchan, I—I didn’t mean it like—it’s not your fault that All Might died. I just meant that—I’m sorry!”

That rambling is all it takes to convince Katsuki that the burning isn’t from rage—but it mutates into it with every clumsy, passing word from Deku. It’s an ugly rage, one that fills his vision with hateful red hues—one that pumps his fists full of rogue energy. Before he even realizes what’s happening, he’s diving on his knees at Deku.  

It feels better this way. Better than whatever else was being tossed around in his chest. He should be mad! So he embraces it, pulling Deku to the ground and landing one solid punch on his jaw. Deku fights Katsuki’s grip, using the strength in his legs to push Katsuki away and wriggle free. The fucker has always been fast, but Katsuki is too. He doesn’t let him get far. 

“Kacchan—stop it!” Deku yelps, dodging a swing but ultimately letting his bicep fall into Katsuki’s open palm. The next second Deku is back on the ground. 

Vaguely, Katsuki hears some hooting and hollering behind him, but anyone else in this room—in this damn world—is far from Katsuki’s mind right now. He gets a fistful of the wrestling mat rather than Deku’s face on his next swing, and the noise he emits is closer to a snarl than anything else. With his left hand, he digs his fingers into Deku’s hair, holding him in place so he’ll stop fuckin’ dodging, then he plows his fist into Deku’s nose. He’s about to go for a second hit when he feels foreign hands pulling at his limbs. 

“Get off! Get off him!” Someone yells, and Katsuki half expects that it’s Aizawa pulling him off of Deku. When he looks up, though, Aizawa is just now rushing out of his office, rubbing his eyes and looking...unhappy. 

Katsuki pushes his captor away with a huff, glaring first at Deku and then at Aizawa himself. He’s about to make the rounds—stare down every person in this room—when Aizawa speaks.

“Midoriya, in my office! And Bakugou…” Aizawa’s glare darkens. “Get out of my gym.”

Katsuki’s bones and muscles sit brittle within his skin. They don’t cooperate with him, keeping him frozen in this nightmare—forced to look upon Deku’s cracked, bloody face. For some reason, the sight doesn’t make him feel any better; maybe because right behind Deku, Aizawa’s lips are pressed together in a tight, thin, unmistakably disapproving line, and his eyes…well, Katsuki can’t meet them. Aizawa’s eyes are the thing that propels Katsuki out of the fucking gym. 

Somehow he has the sense to grab his bag from the locker room before he leaves. Good thing, too, because there’s no way in hell he’d make a return rip to get it. There’s also no way he’s walking past that crowd, so he slips out the back door of the gym and into the night. 

He shivers in the dark, wearing nothing but his wrestling uniform. It does nothing to shield his body from the wind’s harsh sting, but he can’t bring himself to care. In fact, he’s all “cared” out. The freezing cold is the only thing that seems real right now, so maybe he should be grateful. Everything else feels hazy and numb. 

The clatter of his keys hitting the ground briefly wakes him, and it takes him a moment to realize that he’s the one who dropped them. He didn’t even notice he’d made it to his car. It’s probably not a good idea to drive in this state, but Katsuki does it anyway. Call it a lapse of judgment or perhaps something even worse. He’ll scold himself for it tomorrow.

Somehow he makes it home in one piece, and he sulks into his apartment, not caring about how roughly the door slams behind him. Exactly how long he stands there in his own entryway, he can’t be sure. He stands until the ugly beige paint on the wall is burned into his memory along with every chip and stain on it from its years in this ancient apartment.

The next thing he does (although without much of a mission) is to shuffle into the bathroom and immerse himself in the scalding water of his shower. The water pressure is low today, lacking the pelting strength that Katsuki would have liked to beat the tension from his stiff shoulders. Still, the heat slowly unravels the tightness of his muscles; he stands in the steam long enough to make sure of it.

All the while he thinks nothing. Or everything. Somehow both at once, existing in a tiny pocket universe where everything is upside-out and inside-down, and maybe he isn’t real.

He wishes that he wasn’t.

It’s only as he reflects on his own self-loathing that he fully realizes what he did back there. He punched Deku, and he did it more than once—and he did it in front of the entire team.

That look on Aizawa’s face… It is, perhaps, the only thing keeping him tied to reality. There’s a lot of shit that Aizawa disapproves of, and he’s always been easily annoyed, but Katsuki has never seen that look before. He sure as hell never thought he’d be on the receiving end of such a glare from the only authority figure who’s ever understood him. 

Is that what his dad will do too? His dad is quite a bit sweeter and softer than Aizawa, but they’re both quiet types, and it’s occurring to Katsuki now that they’re two people who have always seemed to believe in him—even when they had no reason to.

His mom will be pissed; there’s no getting around it. She usually is, though, so that’s not so unsettling as pissing off his kind and patient father. 

And Kirishima. Shit. What will Kirishima say? Katsuki’s 99 percent sure that he just got himself kicked off the team. All that praise Kirishima has given him for his supposed bravery is now wasted. 

Katsuki feels sick. It could be from standing in this damn heat for so long; it could be from the rising panic in his chest. Regardless, Katsuki leaps out of the shower, his wet feet slipping on the floor and landing him precariously at the toilet bowl. There, he throws up all of today’s food and then some.

He’s vaguely conscious of his body as he stands up and flushes the toilet. He’s pretty sure he rinses out his mouth, and he manages to pull on a pair of boxers over his soaked skin. The important thing is that he makes it to his bed and cocoons himself beneath the covers. He hopes that, come morning, he’ll have some profound metamorphosis. He hopes that like a butterfly, he’ll emerge newer and better and more beautiful.

There’s not much stock in those hopes, though, or in any hopes at all. The years have left Katsuki without any metamorphoses—only ugly mutations.

His eyes quickly grow as heavy as his heart, and he doesn’t fall asleep so much as he collapses into it. The hours that follow are filled with grim thoughts and visions of how things could possibly get worse, as they always seem to, and somehow in his unconsciousness, Katsuki knows that he won’t feel any better in the morning.




Chapter Text

 

Sero Hanta has never been one to meddle in situations that don’t pertain to himself. He lets everybody else figure things out on their own, sits back and speaks only when spoken to unless it’s to crack a joke or exercise his well-trained sarcasm muscle. He’s chill—sometimes to a fault. 

He’s thinking about that now as he sits on his bed, propped up on a mess of pillows and gently bopping his head along to whatever Euro-pop record Shinsou has playing at the moment. It’s not what Hanta would have chosen, but that’s the least questionable thing he’s let slide lately. 

Opposite to his own bed is Shinsou’s, and he’s sitting on it now with Denki tucked snugly between his legs. Hanta tries to be subtle as he watches the two of them—imagines how warm it must feel between Denki’s back and Shinsou’s chest, admires the perfect fit of Shinsou’s chin on Denki’s shoulder as they read from a single textbook.

Could that have been him?

It’s a stupid thing to wonder—utterly pointless and unproductive at this point—but the question keeps coming to him. Even when the pair aren’t around (but they’re always around) Hanta finds himself pondering the useless possibilities.

With a shake of his head, Hanta turns back to his own book, turning a crisp page without even finishing what’s on it. He’s been “reading” since classes let out, but he can’t remember a single word of it.

He wants to be a good friend. Hell, he even wants to be a good third wheel. Sure, he has a crush on Denki, but that shouldn’t dictate any part of their friendship. He imagines that once he puts this all behind him, things will go back to normal. For now, he’ll just have to deal with this restless discomfort, this squirming and shifting in his own room like he doesn’t belong.

“Did you get what they meant on page 264?” asks Denki, and Hanta glances up to be sure the question was actually directed at him.

“Uh, sorta,” Hanta mumbles, even though when he checks his own page number, he’s only on 256. “It’s all Greek to me, honestly.”

“Damn,” Denki frowns. “Me too.”

Hanta wishes he had more to say. He wants to make Denki laugh—to get him rolling in a ring of jokes that won’t end, to keep his eyes on Hanta. It’s selfish, he knows, but he wants Denki for himself. He wants him even though he could never have him.

For his part, Shinsou is a good guy. He’s quiet and a bit sullen in his demeanor, but he treats Denki well. Somehow Denki has cracked the code that Hanta hasn’t figured out after months of rooming with the guy; he unlocked these quiet laughs from Shinsou, pulls out smile after smile like a magician manifesting silk scarves from his sleeve. Shinsou keeps Denki in line. Shinsou silently holds his hand or tucks his arm around Denki’s waist. 

They really are a good fit. Perhaps the worst part of that is the fact that Hanta is nothing like Shinsou. Maybe because of that he should be glad that he never made his move on Denki. Suppose Denki had said yes to him and ended up less happy than he is now with Shinsou?

The silent kiss that Shinsou presses to Denki’s neck doesn’t get past Hanta. He then, presumably, begins explaining the contents of page 264 to Denki in a hushed voice, pointing to different places on the page as he goes. Denki nods along, probably not any closer to understanding but definitely comfortable in his position. Hanta, on the other hand, feels entirely out of place. 

Suppressing a sigh, Hanta sets aside his book and stands up. He explains (if they even wanted to know) that he’s going to stretch his legs, and they don’t seem to notice how he slips his shoes on and then detours through the conjoined bathroom to Kirishima’s room. 

He knocks, and then enters the room tentatively. It’s barely lit and deadly silent, and when Hanta gathers the bravery to venture in, he finds Kirishima all alone. That’s quite uncommon these days. 

“Oh, hey.” Kirishima gives a slight wave. “You okay?”

“Maybe I should be the one asking that,” Hanta remarks, but Kirishima just seems confused by it. “I’m fine. Just got tired of being the third wheel in there.”

“Gotcha,” Kirishima says. He’s lying on his side, completely on top of the covers. Parallel to his body lies his phone, face up and black-screened. Kirishima’s eyes study the phone rather than looking at Hanta. “No need to worry about that in here.”

“Guess not,” Hanta says, helping himself to Kirishima’s desk chair. “So, uh, what are you up to tonight?”

Kirishima is so still that for half a second Hanta wonders if he’s even breathing. Then he gives a slow blink and a tiny sigh. 

“Not much.”

That was...sad.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Hanta asks, drawing his words out nice and long so that Kirishima has a moment to think about his answer. 

He twirls around in the desk chair and kicks his feet up on the desk itself, second-guessing his instinct to come in here. Something weird is definitely going on with Kirishima, and with all the weirdness that Hanta is already feeling, he hardly feels qualified to help out. 

When Kirishima offers him no reply, Hanta continues with a chuckle. “Did you and Bakugou break up or something?”

Kirishima sputters, choking on nothing and bolting off the bed. “Wha—no! No, we didn’t break up. We’re not—we weren’t even together! We’d have to be together in order to break up.”

“I was kidding,” Hanta says slowly, startled by Kirishima’s reaction. “But I mean, he usually would be here. Or you’d be with him.”

“Oh.” Kirishima sinks back down. “Yeah, he’s just busy, that’s all. Classes, the wrestling team, all that.”

“But everything’s fine?”

“As far as I know,” Kirishima says, but there’s an unmistakable doubtfulness in the words. 

Hanta bites his lip, considering his options here. In truth, he came to Kirishima hoping for comfort or counsel. The last thing he expected was to find Kirishima in just as rough of shape as himself. What the hell is going on here?

Bakugou should be here. It’s weird that he’s not. Kirishima’s reaction to Hanta’s questioning was weird too. It’s occurred to Hanta more than once that Kirishima and Bakugou would make a good (if not slightly strange) couple, but what if there was actually something to that?

Was being the operative word, because Bakugou’s not here now, and Kirishima seems to be in a funk. Maybe something really did happen. 

“Do you wanna watch a movie or something? Give yourself a distraction from…” Hanta pauses, “all this?”

Kirishima rolls onto his back. “No thanks. I’m probably not gonna be that much fun tonight.”

Hanta sighs, standing up once more. “I’m gonna go stretch my legs. Again.”

He accepts the weak hum from Kirishima as a goodbye and sneaks out the door. Where exactly he’s going, he can’t be sure. Away—is that a passable answer? His own room is too crowded by the lovebirds and a wide selection of Hanta’s own regrets and second-guessings. Kirishima’s room seems to parallel that with seeds of an ending that’s meant to be much better than it’s turning out. He can’t bear to watch Kirishima’s would-be “happily ever after” turn to dust.

This whole building feels haunted right now, in fact, so Hanta leaves. Any place else has got to be better than this one.






Shitty Hair - 7:12pm
Hey, I didn’t see u after classes today. U ok?

That’s a polite way to say that Katsuki has been avoiding him. Generous too, considering that they haven’t hung out all week. Katsuki’s barely answered a text. 

Not a single word from Deku either. It should make sense (does, really), because any normal person would completely cut off the asshole who punched their face in. But shit like that usually has Deku more determined than ever to make Katsuki talk, and Katsuki refuses to believe that he’s the asshole in this scenario, despite how it might appear from the outside. 

He doesn’t know exactly what he’s waiting for. What good is it to ice Kirishima out like this? It’s not quite intentional, though. It’s just that everything else is so heavy; he can’t bear the additional burden of explaining what happened to Kirishima. 

Apparently, he’s becoming a dedicated collector of guilty secrets to be kept from his best friend. It’d be so much easier to stock up on antiques or baseball cards. 

He’s sitting at his crappy little dining table, barely able to shift his elbows because the surface is so full of binders, and textbooks, and notebooks, and flash cards. What a way to spend his evening. Really, he should have gone to the library; it’s impossible to focus here. His kitchen sink has been dripping for hours, and this damn apartment is so small that he can’t escape the sound. 

Studying has never been so difficult. It’s never been so necessary either; Katsuki’s been a zombie all week, and zombies don’t retain much information during class.

At one point, he finds himself scrolling through his phone. He can’t remember having picked it up in the first place, but now he’s in his messages, looking back on all the texts he’s ignored from Kirishima. 

Tuesday
Shitty Hair - 2:03pm
My practice got cancelled tonight. Wanna go for a run?

Shitty Hair - 5:17pm
Bakubro?

Wednesday
Shitty Hair - 6:40pm
Bro laminator just face planted on the soccer field n ate dirt. Thought u would like that mental image

LOL autocorrect changed Kaminari to laminator. Petition to change his nickname from pikachu to laminator?

Today
Shitty Hair - 2:07pm
Wanna go back and check out that cute shop neighborhood again? Its supposed to B warmer today

Shitty Hair - 7:12 pm
Hey, I didn’t see u after classes today. U ok?

And now the weekend is approaching. Katsuki is weighing the consequences of his actions. Either Kirishima will use all of his extra free time to hunt Katsuki down and make him acknowledge the distance between them, or he won’t. Katsuki can’t decide which idea is worse. 

He’s an asshole. He knows it, and he’s always known it. This may very well be the worst thing he’s done, leaving Kirishima hanging without any explanation, but Katsuki can barely pull himself out of bed in the morning. No way in hell he can regurgitate the whole of what happened at practice—and then answer the questions that will inevitably come with it.

Drip. Drip. Drip. 

“Dammit!” Katsuki slams his textbook closed, halfway contemplating tearing the leaky faucet right off but ultimately deciding he needs to get the hell out of here and finish this stupid study guide. 

With his books hastily thrown into his backpack, Katsuki rolls down the hallway at a speed too fast to be called a trudge but with form too low-framed and careless to be anything more. Then he throws his bag and himself into the car and tears off towards the university.

Thankfully, the campus library is open late, but if it weren’t Katsuki might just break in. Probably not, but it’s nice to think about.

He parks his car and takes a moment to inhale deeply the fresh night air. When he lets the breath back out, it dances away in a moist puff of steam. The sky smells like rain, and the wind feels like Halloween and late autumn nights from his childhood. The library, once he makes it inside, just smells and feels like sterile misery. 

He closes himself into a study room and hunkers down. It’s a little easier to focus here since the only adversary is his own mind, but that proves to be quite the opponent too. As if he didn’t know. 

An hour or so passes, filled by the sounds of flipping pages, pencil scratches, and Katsuki’s annoyingly persistent yawns. He’s at serious risk of falling asleep on top of his textbook when the buzz of his phone jolts him awake. Three buzzes, actually, in quick succession. 

Shitty Hair - 9:14pm
Is this about what I did the other night?

The kiss I mean. I should be man enough to say it

I’m really sorry man. I didn’t mean to make u feel awkward

Katsuki grips his pencil tightly, the notes on his paper blurring with whatever emotions are welling up in his eyes right now. The kiss has been the farthest thing from problematic for Katsuki. Hell, he’d like to say he’s spent all of his spare time thinking about it and fantasizing, but it’s been far from his mind with every other problem he’s facing. 

Of course Kirishima would blame himself.

Katsuki cleans up his materials with as much care as he’d unpacked them—which is to say, none. There won’t be any more studying tonight; he won’t be capable, he knows.

This is all stupid. And all Katsuki’s own fault. He passes by the night-time librarian on his way out and realizes that he must be quite a sight; she looks terrified when she sees him. Neither of them says a word, though, and somewhere between her and the door, Katsuki decides that he’s going to see Kirishima and set this right. 

Then, between the door and the sidewalk, he changes his mind. He stalls like a car, coming to a stop and sinking to the freezing concrete stairs outside the library. The ground may as well be ice, and the cold slips right through his jeans to the backs of his thighs. It doesn’t take long before he’s rubbing his nose and eyes, surprisingly not from his own overflowing misery, but from the weather conditions. Still, he must look pretty pathetic. 

“Bakugou?”

Ah, right on cue. He really wanted someone to call him out at this moment. It’s the perfect addition to a perfect night.

“What?” He practically groans the word, not willing to look up and face the voice that he recognizes as Sero’s. 

“What are you doing out here? It’s, like, deadly cold. And dark.”

Katsuki just scoffs. No doubt Sero realizes the hypocrisy of his question, so Katsuki won’t point it out. He rubs his palms together instead, hoping to warm himself with the friction. There isn’t much to be said since Katsuki doesn’t feel like explaining. 

“Man, what is with you two?” Sero asks bitterly, the question barely reaching Katsuki’s ears in its hushed tone. The next second, Sero appears on the steps next to Katsuki. “I guess I’m just destined to deal with everyone else’s problems tonight.”

“Nobody asked you to,” Katsuki snaps, and then adds, “The fuck is that supposed to mean, anyway?”

Sero leans back, resting his elbows on the step behind him. It’s really not fair that Katsuki has to sit through all this crap; he has a feeling that some big, emotional speech is coming his way. But, he’ll let it slide on account of the fact that he literally doesn’t know what else to do and he’s too frozen to move. 

“I’ve been regretting my choices lately,” Sero confesses quietly. The chuckle that follows is half-hearted. “Too little too late, I know, but I’m kinda wishing I’d given myself a chance with Kaminari.”

“What changed your mind?” Katsuki asks, curiosity overriding his own stubbornness. The last time they spoke, Sero was quite adamant about all this. 

“Just watching it all play out, I guess. It’s dumb and selfish, but I just wish I knew what Denki would have said. He probably would have turned me down, and if he’d said yes to me then I’m sure he wouldn’t be as happy as he is now, but—but it just sucks not to know. I guess that makes me a dick, huh?”

Katsuki folds his arms over his chest. He didn’t ask Sero to sit down here, and he’s not in the mood to play therapist tonight. If Sero wants to talk, he should at least make these supposed revelations exciting. 

“Probably.”

The breeze tosses a yellowed leaf to Katsuki’s side. It burrows into the crevice of his leg and the pavement, seeking solace from the cold. With a single finger, Katsuki turns the leaf over and feels its veins and ridges. He explores every millimeter of its surface, but unsurprisingly, there are no answers in this dead leaf—none for Sero, none for himself. 

“You should be with Kirishima,” Sero says suddenly. Katsuki’s head snaps up like it’s on a spring, but his mouth is far slower to the chase, and he doesn’t get a word in before Sero continues. “You two have it so much easier than me. There’s nothing stopping you from making it happen.”

“Fuck you!”

“Alright, alright,” Sero surrenders, throwing up his hands. “I guess I don’t know your whole situation or whatever, but, I don’t know. Whatever’s going on that’s got you out here all alone, Kirishima is miserable without you. You seem pretty miserable too. Kaminari might be happier without me, but Kirishima…?”

It’s a lose-lose, Katsuki realizes. Whatever he and Kirishima are, Sero is right about one thing: it sucks to be apart. So what is he supposed to do? Coming clean about his part in All Might’s death would probably destroy Katsuki himself, along with his chances with Kirishima. But this distance and separation? This hurts too. 

Is it worth while to delay the inevitable?

“I know you hate conversations like this,” Sero adds. “Sorry, dude.”

“Whatever,” Katsuki says, probably absently.

He watches from the corner of his eye as Sero bites his lip, leaning down onto his knees to peer over at Katsuki. It’s really fucking annoying that this plain-faced random has become so familiar—that he knows Katsuki well enough to make these bold claims, and that Katsuki doesn’t even have the urge to kick his ass for it. 

“I’d just hate to stand by and watch you make the same mistakes I did.”

Or maybe an ass-kicking is in order after all. Katsuki crinkles up the leaf he’s been playing with. “I don’t need anyone taking care of me.”

Sero just laughs. “Obviously not. Can you even imagine trying to parent you? Yikes. Not interested, man.”

“Then why the fuck are you telling me this?”

“Cuz?” Sero shrugs. “Kirishima is my friend? You’re my friend? You guys have a real shot here. Don’t throw it away. Do it Alexander Hamilton style.”

 Confusion, for that brief moment, is an adequate distraction from the cold. “What the hell kind of sexual innuendo is that?”

“You really aren’t with the times at all, are you?” Sero shakes his head. He stands then, stretching out his arms and shoulders and shooting Katsuki an apologetic grin. “Look, I’m sorry for all this. I’m having a shitty night, so maybe this whole talk has been me projecting my problems onto you. Do whatever is right for your situation, okay? If what I said doesn’t work for you, just forget about it.”

“Yeah, I will,” Katsuki replies dryly, pursing his lips as he watches Sero descend back to the sidewalk. The need to say one more thing overcomes him just as an especially cold gust of wind blows through. “Now fuck off, Soy Sauce.”

Sero’s laugh echoes across the cool currents of the sky. “Yeah, yeah. Love you too, man.”

And now Katsuki is alone again. He wouldn’t say he’s any better for the conversation with Sero, but he’s not any worse either. It’s a weird sort of give-and-take that has provided him with some level of clarity, and a handful of new questions too.

His backpack is still strapped on, forcing him into a painful slouch that doubles the existing discomfort from the cold. He leans back on it, forcing a view up to the empty black sky. It stares down at him, cold and blank and heartless. It won’t even give him a clue. There’s nothing up there for him. As it stands, there’s nothing down here either.

Well, maybe there’s one thing—and it seems that for the past week Katsuki has been doing everything in his power to throw it away. What the fuck is wrong with him?

Katsuki pushes himself up off the pavement, thankful that nobody is around to hear his elderly grunt and the popping of his knees. He can’t sit out here any longer; all he’s doing is wasting away. 

He wanders along, hood up and back hunched, counting the lamp posts as he passes through their cool-toned light. For the moment, his only focus is to get home. Everything will be alright once he’s there. 

Why, then, does he find himself standing outside Kirishima’s dorm building?

When his hand finds the doorknob, he’s met with disappointment and rejection; it’s locked, of course. Through the window, however, the RA spots him and shows mercy. It speaks to how often he’s here, that the RA assumes he’s a resident who’s lost his keys. They let him in and hurry back to the common area couch to finish whatever book they’re reading; Katsuki hurries through before they realize the truth. 

Up the stairs he goes, following the path with the same muscle memory that brought him here without his permission. His body seems to know what he needs—what they both need. It’s only when he makes it to Kirishima’s door that Katsuki pauses. What the hell is he going to say?

It takes him a full minute to come up with the most basic of answers: it doesn’t fucking matter. Only one thing does.

Katsuki tries the knob. This one opens right up. Maybe it wasn’t even latched. Katsuki will scold Kirishima for that in the morning—he will—but right now, he couldn’t care less.

He creeps through the dark of the room, discarding his shoes and backpack somewhere along the way and noting in his gentle footsteps how uncharacteristic it is for Kirishima to be asleep at this hour. There’s a lot he needs to say to Kirishima, but since he doesn’t know how to even begin, he approaches the bed in silence. Kirishima’s sleeping form lays facing the wall, covered up to his chest in soft blankets, hair loose and unstyled across his pillow. 

With a careful but unwavering hand, Katsuki pulls back the covers and shrugs off his coat. It’s so easy to slip into the bed, so easy to find Kirishima’s body in the darkness and pull him close. His arm wraps around Kirishima’s waist, safe and secure, and the warmth from Kirishima’s back against Katsuki’s chest stifles a shiver. The blankets close him in with all of Kirishima’s glorious heat, and the leftover chill from outdoors is snuffed out. 

How could he ever think that to be away was a wise choice? Katsuki buries his face between Kirishima’s shoulder blades, reveling in every inch of contact between them. He can tell that Kirishima is awake even before his fingers come one by one to lay on Katsuki’s arm around his waist—before he gives Katsuki a tiny affirming squeeze. 

“It wasn’t the kiss,” Katsuki murmurs, and that explanation will have to be enough for now. 

Kirishima’s thumb traces circles on Katsuki’s arm. For a long moment, nothing is said. If not for that small movement, Katsuki might wonder if Kirishima was awake in the first place, and now he’s at risk of falling asleep himself.

“I left the door unlocked for you,” Kirishima replies at last, slow and sad. 

Katsuki holds Kirishima a little tighter, his hand sprawling across the abs beneath Kirishima’s T-shirt. Kirishima’s body heat could very well scorch Katsuki’s palm, but he presses closer, trying to hug away his guilt. Kirishima shivers at his icy touch for only a fragmented second, and then they both settle into a peaceful stillness, free from any additional torment of anxiety.

Katsuki breathes in Kirishima’s minty, musky scent like it’s a lullaby. Every inhale inches him closer to sleep, and every exhale holds the daunting emotions that Katsuki dares not speak. 

I’m falling in love with you. 

It’s terrifying and wonderful. 






Chapter Text

Kirishima keeps Katsuki warm through the night. They must have settled into quite a cozy position together and kept it, because when Katsuki’s eyes blink open, he finds that his right side is completely numb. It’s no concern, though—not when Kirishima’s head is resting on Katsuki’s chest and his hand curled around his bicep.

Remnants of the sunrise filter through the frosted window, but the light comes in looking milky gray; it must be overcast outside. The cool tones match the frigid air in this icebox of a dorm. With his left hand, Katsuki pulls the comforter up higher, tucking it under Kirishima’s chin and holding the redhead closer.

It’s that movement that seems to pull Kirishima into consciousness. Katsuki feels him stir, hears him inhale deeply before he lifts his head to peer into Katsuki’s eyes. Katsuki’s breath hitches in his throat.

What are they going to say now? How can Katsuki possibly explain his behavior?

Kirishima just smiles, though, soft and sleepy. He snuggles right back into Katsuki’s chest, and it’s at this point that Katsuki decides he isn’t going to class today. There are plenty of reasons not to:

He needs a break. He’s missed Kirishima. It’s too much to deal with both at once. They’re all valid. The bottom line is that he’s not going anywhere.

Kirishima allows Katsuki to sit in silence. Maybe he should be concerned by that, but right now he’s just relieved. He’d rather believe it’s because Kirishima is a merciful angel who always lets Katsuki take his time processing shit than believe that Kirishima is mad at him. It’d be fair if he was mad, though.

The sweet caress of Kirishima’s fingertips on Katsuki’s arm has him thanking the universe; it seems like a good sign. He can’t help but sigh at the touch, can’t help but let his eyes flutter closed in perfect contentment. For just those few seconds, his fears and self-loathing melt away into gold.

Kirishima shifts, his body separating from Katsuki’s for one torturous second before he lies flat on his back and guides Katsuki into his chest. Katsuki doesn’t object (could never object), and takes the opportunity to wiggle the fingers on his right hand to bring back some feeling. Then he snuggles right into Kirishima, throwing an arm and a leg over his sturdy body. It takes Kirishima all of two seconds to roll onto his side so that their limbs are fully tangled, their bodies nearly one beneath the covers.

Katsuki should speak now. He should tell Kirishima about how he punched Deku and got himself kicked off the team; he should tell him how his own foolish actions had taken All Might’s life and ruined his own. He should say these things, he knows, but there’s a lump in his throat so great that he can barely breathe, let alone speak.

Kirishima, as always, does nothing to push the truth out of Katsuki. He combs his fingers through Katsuki’s hair, spreads his palm flat on Katsuki’s back and rubs relaxing patterns into him. He lets Katsuki dig his hands into his shirt and shamelessly breathe in his scent. He says nothing, and Katsuki says nothing, but somehow it’s understood that this is safe and real.

How could one week—less than one week—feel like such an eternity? More importantly, how is it that Katsuki survived like this regularly before he met Kirishima? He’ll never be able to go back to that life, he now knows. He doesn’t want to be alone anymore.

He wants to be with Kirishima.

Katsuki nuzzles into the crook of Kirishima’s neck, sighing into his skin and reveling in the shudder that his breath draws from Kirishima’s lips. He pushes himself up on his forearms, pulled steadily as if by some magnetism to face Kirishima. For the first time, he allows himself to fantasize about the kiss they shared. It’s dangerous, he knows, to think about it at such proximity, but maybe he wants that—maybe he wants it to fuel him.

Kirishima can feel it too, no doubt. Katsuki sees the way Kirishima’s eyes break from his own, flickering down to his lips. Katsuki is hungry. He’s hungry and in love, and Kirishima is right here—always right here. Kirishima’s hand slips around the back of Katsuki’s neck, and Katsuki is close enough to feel the breath between their lips when Kirishima bows his head.

“I think you should get out of here, man,” he whispers, and the smile he’s wearing just has Katsuki more confused.

He really fucked up, didn’t he? Why the hell would he think that Kirishima would actually want to kiss him? A real kiss? Especially after icing him out all week. He’s such a moron!

“I… Okay,” Katsuki mumbles, detaching himself from Kirishima’s body and nearly falling off the bed in his scramble to get away. But then two strong hands are grabbing him—steadying him—and pulling him right back into place.

“Wait, wait! Shit, that’s not what I—I didn’t mean leave the room, or like, that I don’t want you here,” Kirishima stammers. “Dammit. It was supposed to be a sweet moment! Like, I think you should escape from this dumb school for a while. That’s what I meant to say, and then I was gonna—well, never mind.”

Katsuki blinks, accepting Kirishima’s arms as they wrap around him. “What do you mean?”

“This school is toxic right now, and I don’t think it’s been good for you lately,” Kirishima says, his lips brushing Katsuki’s ear. “I was gonna offer to take you out for the night, but actually—I remember a while back you mentioned a big hiking trip you take every year in the autumn. Have you done that yet?”

The mere mention of the trip shoots a pleasant, nostalgic heat into Katsuki’s veins. He’s hardly thought of it these days, but damn if he doesn’t want to be there.

“It hasn’t really been on my radar with everything else happening.”

“Fair,” Kirishima says, sitting back to look Katsuki in the eye. “I know you probably have wrestling stuff this weekend, but maybe you could talk to your coach about taking some time off?”

Katsuki’s brows twitch with guilt. “Most likely not a problem.”

“Good. I’d miss you like hell if you were gone, but,” Kirishima pauses placing a hand on Katsuki’s knee, “maybe some time away in nature would do you good. Re-center, and all that? I know you enjoy your solitude.”

“Solitude,” Katsuki repeats, studying the joints of Kirishima’s fingers. He sees how they tense. “What do you mean by that?”

Kirishima retracts his hand, tangling it up with its twin in his lap. “Nothing, I just—I didn’t mean anything by it.”

Katsuki would like to believe that. Maybe it’s true, even, or maybe Kirishima doesn’t realize what he meant. Katsuki does, though. He can see it: a tiny fracture, a fine-lined crack in the foundation beneath them. It didn’t come from Katsuki’s nightmare of a past or the revelation of his secrets; Katsuki did this to them. He did it by running away, by shutting Kirishima out. Dammit.

“Are you mad at me?” he asks, trying not to sound too pathetic.

“No—of course not.” Kirishima shakes his head fiercely. “I’m really not. I’ve just been worried. I actually thought you were mad at me or something.”

Katsuki bites his lip. He’d like to bite right through it, just as punishment for himself. He can picture Kirishima all holed up in this concrete cage, alone and confused, completely ghosted by Katsuki. He imagines him going to bed early (which Kirishima never does by choice), and leaving the door unlocked—just in case Katsuki might decide to come around. How many nights did he leave it open before Katsuki wandered in of his own pathetic volition?

Fucking hell.

Sero’s words from last night come back to him now—something in their mirrored slouching posture reminds Katsuki. It was pointless for them to suffer apart; that’s what Sero said. It only hurt Kirishima more, and it didn’t help Katsuki feel better, that much is certain. He’s not here to play games with Eijirou.

“M’sorry,” Katsuki mumbles, and he kicks himself internally, because Kirishima deserves a better apology than that. “Sorry I left you hanging. It wasn’t fair. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

The tiniest bit of light returns to Kirishima’s eyes. “O-okay. Are you sure?”

“Would I say it if I wasn’t?” Katsuki challenges. “Maybe you’re right. It’s this damn school. We should get the hell out of here.”

“We?”

Katsuki only processes his own words when Kirishima questions him, but he knows without a doubt that he meant them.

“You heard me,” Katsuki says dismissively, as if his own heart isn’t fluttering at the idea.

It’s so obvious, though. Obvious when he doesn’t think too hard about it. Of course Kirishima should come with him. Sure, the last time Kirishima asked about it, Katsuki gave him a big “hell no,” but then he regretted it all weekend long. He can’t pass up this chance again. Kirishima belongs with Katsuki in the autumn paradise.

“I mean…” Kirishima rests his elbows on his thighs, the smile on his face growing into a laugh before he springs up to his feet. “I mean, yeah! Definitely! Let’s do it, man!”

“Fuck yeah.” Katsuki high fives him, eyes glued to that damn smile. It’s gonna be the end of him.

Wasting time isn’t an option. While Kirishima takes the world’s fastest shower, Katsuki throws together a pack of clothes for him. Heaven knows Kirishima can’t be trusted to pack for himself; this way, Katsuki can be sure that those dumb Crocs don’t get anywhere near the bag.

As soon as Kirishima says he’s decent, Katsuki shoves his way into the bathroom. He swats at Kirishima’s hand on his way to the shower. “No hair gel. There’s no time to maintain that shit in the wild.”

“Aw, come on!”

“Go pack yourself some snacks and a water bottle instead.”

Katsuki doesn’t leave room for argument. He closes Kirishima out and strips down, practically leaping into the chilly shower water. (Dammit, didn’t Kirishima even warm this thing up?)

As the water pours over him, Katsuki tries to shed his demons and anxieties. Of course, that’s what this trip is all about, but he’d rather take care of it now than waste a perfectly good weekend with Kirishima. Perhaps it’s the near-glacial temperature of the water, but Katsuki can’t shake off that certain heaviness that comes with these sorts of bad days. Overall, he’s feeling much better, but the heaviness lingers, looking over his shoulder.

When he re-emerges from the bathroom, Kirishima has dressed himself in the outfit Katsuki laid out for him—a gesture that Kirishima describes as “cute.” Katsuki just scoffs, going over a mental checklist in his head before ushering them to his car. A quick stop to his apartment for his own pack will do it. That part will be easy.

Katsuki packs them up plenty of food, and he gives Kirishima the extra sleeping bag from his closet. When he’s sure they have all the supplies they could need tied up on their backs, Katsuki calls for the Uber.

“Don’t you wanna take your car?” Kirishima asks, rubbing his hands together for warmth as they stand waiting by the curb.

Katsuki watches the cars pass by on the street. “Getting out there is a trip in and of itself. Uber, train ride, and another Uber. Hope you’re up for it.”

“Oh, yeah—of course. Wow, it’s cold out.”

“It’s a little late in the season for this,” Katsuki admits, halfway tempted to take Kirishima’s hands into his own. “I put a couple heat packs in your backpack. You gonna be okay?”

Kirishima nods wordlessly, bouncing around a bit in place. He’s got the right idea. Moving through those steep, rocky hills in the mountain will be a saving grace as far as keeping warm goes. It’s much worse to sit idly like this. Katsuki can’t help the absentminded worry that breathes down the back of his neck, sending a shiver of dread through him.

He hopes this isn’t a bad idea. Maybe he should have thought harder before dragging Kirishima out into the freezing wilderness for a weekend of...what? Katsuki considers this as they pack their bags into the trunk of the Uber.

What really is the goal here? For Kirishima, the goal is to mend Katsuki’s low mood; that much is clear. It’s a predictable, if not out-of-reach, goal. Katsuki’s goal, however… He’s not really sure. He just knows that he wants to be with Kirishima—and he doesn’t want to be at school. Taking Kirishima to the most breathtakingly gorgeous place on Earth seems like a decent way to kill two birds with one stone—maybe it even takes out a third, less defined bird.

Kirishima makes it difficult to get lost in these worries. His hand rests leisurely on Katsuki’s thigh, giving a gentle squeeze and a smile when the car comes to their stop. Katsuki pays the driver, and then they haul their bags down to the train. He won’t mention just yet that this is only the first train they’ll be taking; Kirishima will figure that out as it happens.

This first ride takes them through the city, hidden away from daylight in tunnels and the shadows of shiny glass skyscrapers. It’s this part of the trip that always has Katsuki itching to escape—wishing that the train would move faster or simply spring him out through the roof like some cartoon slapstick. He’d much rather fly through the sky on a spring-seated projectile than be cramped in this dirty, gray tube full of dirty, gray people.

Kirishima, in contrast, is patient. He sits with a steady smile, his leg bumping up against Katsuki’s to prove that this tight space is worth the trouble. The look of wonder in Kirishima’s eyes at every little novelty is merely a bonus. If Katsuki didn’t know better, he’d think that Kirishima had never traveled anywhere before.

The second train is better. Kirishima doesn’t question Katsuki as he directs them through the quieter part of town to a new station. He jabbers on about this and that, coaxing a laugh or two out of Katsuki with a few especially bad jokes while they wait for the train to come through.

This train is older and more quaint than the first. Slower too, but somehow in this environment, Katsuki perceives that as an opportunity for relaxation; it helps that there are fewer people on this one.

They have room to spread out. Their bags sit at their feet without crowding them in the slightest, and their seats are cushioned. Since they’re leaving town now, there’s actually something to look at out the windows. Sterile skylines turn to fiery landscapes, ripe with color against the saturated patches of blue sky that poke through the clouds.

“This is the long part,” Katsuki warns, and Kirishima responds by cozying into the seat further and throwing a casual arm around Katsuki’s shoulders.

“I think I can handle some extra chill time,” he says once he’s settled, the weight of his arm pulling Katsuki just slightly towards him. “Helps that I have good company.”

Katsuki snorts. “I guess the feeling is mutual.”

He leans back, studying the neat row of seats before them. The other side of the aisle is a mirror image, and the whole thing is hazy with sunlight. Katsuki has never been one for romance, but this setting always puts him squarely in the middle of some old film—and for once, he is the main character, discovering new lands, discovering himself on this old-school locomotive as it chugs through the countryside. And this time, Katsuki isn’t alone. 

“This is nice,” Kirishima muses, resting his head on Katsuki’s shoulder. “I should get out more often.”

“You travel much?”

“Nah. My moms don’t live far out of town, so that’s pretty much the only place I go. Living on campus was my big adventure.”

“You moms?” Katsuki repeats, glancing at Kirishima from the corner of his eye. “You don’t talk about them much.”

“Really?” Kirishima sits back up, incredulous. “I must have. Or maybe I just talked about them separately so you didn’t realize I have two.”

“Could be.” Katsuki shrugs.

Kirishima’s hands tangle together in knots in his lap. “I guess it’s a little weird talking about it—not cuz I have two moms, but because I’m adopted. I didn’t wanna get too personal.”

Katsuki nods slowly, but it seems like they’re kind of past that point—at least on Kirishima’s end. All that stuff about Matsumoto isn’t exactly common knowledge from what Katsuki’s gathered. Still, Katsuki has no room to talk. There’s a million things he hasn’t told Kirishima about himself. Of course, maybe that’s part of the problem.

“You can,” Katsuki pauses, searching for the balance between saying too much and nothing at all. “You can tell me whatever you want. All the personal shit. If you want.”

“Oh.”

Katsuki folds his arms, glaring off to the other side of the train, away from Kirishima and the window that’s pouring sunlight on his hair like a halo. “Or not. I don’t care.”

And then there’s a hand on his arm—fingers calloused but delicate as they tug at Katsuki’s elbow, pulling him into an open position. Then they trail down to his wrist. Katsuki can’t look away as their fingers intertwine, linked together and looking unbreakable.

“You want my whole life story, huh?” Kirishima asks, and Katsuki can tell he’s grinning even though he’s still lost in their joined hands.

“Hmph.”

“Hey, you asked for it, man.”

And so, the following hour is filled with tales of Kirishima’s youth—how he went to three different grade schools; how he grew up helping out in his moms’ art store, watering their plants and dusting the paintings and pottery; how it became obvious very early on that he didn’t have an artistic bone in his body and was meant to be a jock (much to the dismay of his moms, who Kirishima describes as textbook hippies).

“It was the first week of kindergarten, and I was running around the shop after school, being too rough and hyper,” Kirishima says with a quiet, knowing laugh. “My moms were always telling me to slow down, be careful, all of that, but you know me; I’m a ball of energy that can’t be stopped.”

“Yes, I’ve noticed.”

“Well, I ended up colliding into one shelf, over-correcting and backing into another. I don’t remember which one it was, but one of them—a whole shelf of pottery—came down on top of me.” Kirishima grins at Katsuki, no doubt hoping to impress him with this big story. It’s kind of working. He lets go of Katsuki’s hand, tucking one leg beneath himself to fully face him. “Got this nifty scar from a shattered bowl.”

Katsuki allows himself to lean closer, inspecting the narrow line that splits perpendicular to Kirishima’s right eye. He’d never taken much notice of it before, but imagining that it came from a sharp piece of clay—Katsuki can’t help but shudder. Without thinking, he reaches up with his thumb, grazing the scarred flesh with a featherlight touch. Kirishima’s eyelashes flutter closed, tickling the side of his palm.

“I was so afraid of what my moms would say,” Kirishima continues, and Katsuki takes that as his cue to withdraw his hand. “I’d just destroyed months of their hard work, you know? I was sure they’d be pissed—but they didn’t even care, not outwardly at least. They just wrapped me up in their arms and comforted me. Sometimes I still can’t believe it.”

Katsuki looks out the window, watches the trees go by with their pretty leaves and bending branches. “Merciful.”

“No kidding,” Kirishima chuckles. “I think about that a lot. I dunno, maybe that event shaped my identity and how I view other people—all that psychological stuff.”

Katsuki snorts, but it actually makes a lot of sense. How many times has Kirishima forgiven Katsuki for shit that would have caused anyone else to throw him to the curb? His moms must be really kind people.

“Anyway,” Kirishima drawls when Katsuki is silent for too long. “I had to get two stitches. Definitely the worst part of that memory.”

“Huh,” Katsuki replies—it’s something of a laugh, he thinks. Kirishima is still right here, raising an eyebrow at Katsuki as if to challenge him, and Katsuki doesn't know what to say. Really, all of this backstory on Kirishima is far more fascinating than Katsuki would like to let on. “So you grew up with two moms and still became the manliest jock there is. Way to defy stereotypes.”

Kirishima smirks. “True, but I’m also hella gay—so maybe that’s a stereotype too.”

“You’re—?” Katsuki nearly chokes. What a dumbass reaction. He has to have known this, right? In his heart? But he also didn’t want to assume—get his hopes up.

“I—yeah,” Kirishima stammers, putting both legs in front of him once again, feet flat to the floor and eyes lowered to the ground. “Does that make some of the stuff we do awkward? Sorry, I—I thought you knew.”

Katsuki swipes Kirishima’s hand into his own, squeezing tightly just to prove a point. “I don’t care about that shit. Doesn’t make any difference to me. And…” he pauses in spite of himself. There’s no reason to fear. “Me too, so…”

“Oh,” Kirishima squeaks, his cheeks rosy, the corners of his mouth pulling up into a smile.

If it weren’t for that smile, Katsuki would feel pretty fucking dumb. Why he saw the need to announce his own sexuality is beyond him; how desperate that must look! Katsuki’s always been of the opinion that who he does or doesn’t stick his dick in is nobody else’s business, but apparently Kirishima is exempt from that rule.

They hold on tight to each other’s hands, sitting in the easy silence that Katsuki has gotten so used to with Kirishima. Even when his stomach begins to rumble and they pull out some snacks for a makeshift lunch, Katsuki makes a point of eating with his left hand so that his right can keep holding onto Kirishima’s. It’s worth the extra crumbs that he gets on the floor.

It’s amazing how quickly the time passes, even when there’s nothing more to be said and Kirishima slumps into Katsuki’s body for a long and unannounced nap. Katsuki is a little sleepy himself, but someone’s got to keep their eyes open for their stop. Besides, this isn’t so bad. Katsuki looks down at their hands, still clasping one another, and he can’t help but smile. He’s perfectly comfortable waiting out the ride like this.

Chapter Text

Kirishima’s smile is as wide as the mountain itself as they start up the slope. The canopy of trees quickly envelopes them, and Kirishima gasps with awe and wonder at the sheer amount of scenery around them.

“It never ends,” he exclaims, throwing out his arms and spinning in a circle. The heavy pack on his back clunks around somewhat clumsily with his movement, but it doesn’t impede Kirishima’s happiness.

Katsuki knows he can’t stare at Kirishima this whole trip (knows there’s the aforementioned literal paradise to be appreciated on all sides of him), but it’s an actual effort to tear his eyes away and lead the hike through the winding, wooded path. Thankfully, Kirishima is right at Katsuki’s side—more faithful than his own shadow. There are plenty of opportunities to steal glances as they trek the mountainside. 

Before they got here, Katsuki hadn’t given much thought to the notion of teaching Kirishima how to hike. Kirishima is a coordinated guy—an athlete—so it seems natural that he’d take right to all of this. He doesn’t, though, not that he utters a single complaint to Katsuki about it.

Watching Kirishima slip around the leaf-strewn path like an unsteady toddler (with a childlike grin to match his movements), is actually damn entertaining. Katsuki tries to hold back his snickers when a damp patch of bronzed leaves nearly sends him into the splits, but Kirishima laughs outwardly at himself.

“You made this sound so easy,” he remarks, getting to his feet and dusting himself off. “Guess I’m not much of an outdoorsman, huh?”

“You’ll get the hang of it,” Katsuki smirks. “Just try to watch where you’re stepping. These aren’t like the defined trails back home.”

“Definitely not.”

Much less than defined, actually. The ground is becoming steeper with every step, which Katsuki is used to from years of experience, but he’s a little worried about how Kirishima will handle it. They come to a particularly sharp incline where a large boulder pokes up through the dirt. All in all, the distance to be climbed can’t be more than six feet or so, but that’s six feet of steep, smooth stone.

Katsuki makes his way up first, his hands finding purchase on the top edge of the boulder. He turns around to instruct Kirishima, impressed by how the redhead has already made it halfway up on his own. Still, Kirishima accepts Katsuki’s outstretched hand and allows himself to be hoisted up to more level footing.

“Hoo,” Kirishima exhales. He rubs his hands together and stands up straight. “That was really cool.”

“Yeah,” Katsuki replies absently, admiring the way Kirishima’s hair blends into the crimson leaves around him.

It’s a portrait of Red. The forest floor is carpeted with fallen leaves, splatters of red and orange as far as the eye can see. The trees above hang half full, still sporting their fantastic colors and turning them up to show in the sunlight. And there is Kirishima in the middle of it all, looking like he was born just to stand here and be a part of it.

“I can’t believe you brought me here,” Kirishima sighs dreamily, turning his face to the wind and then seemingly regretting it. He shudders, but only to himself. “This is like...your home.”

Something about that makes Katsuki’s stomach bubble with warmth, like it’s turned into hot chocolate beneath his skin. Instead of focusing on that, he crosses the distance to Kirishima and points to his pink, probably-freezing hands.

“You doing okay?” he asks, covering both of Kirishima’s hands with his own and trying to squeeze some heat into them.

Kirishima nods quickly. “Yeah, I just—that stone was really cold.”

“Hold on.” Katsuki dips around to stand behind Kirishima, unzipping the back pouch on his backpack and pulling out heat packs. “Put these in your coat pockets with your hands.”

“Thanks, man! You’re the best.”

“I’m not,” Katsuki disagrees with a quiet chuckle, shaking his head and starting up the mountain once again.

Kirishima follows after him, more steady in his walk now that the incline is less intense. That’s good, because with his hands stuck in his pockets, Kirishima would have no way of catching himself if he tripped. He seems confident, though, trodding over slippery leaves and scattered rocks with ease. And of course, he fills the silence with whatever thought comes to mind.

“You really are the best, though,” Kirishima continues, sprinting a few steps to Katsuki’s side. He leans over, trying to make eye contact; Katsuki can’t hold it.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, you’re just so good at this,” Kirishima shrugs. “It’s like you know exactly where we’re going and how to get there. You’re navigating us like a trained professional. And you’re so prepared!”

Katsuki frowns. “I’ve been doing this for years. It’s not that impressive.”

“Since when can you not take a compliment?” Kirishima laughs. “You usually eat that stuff up.”

“Maybe if it’s true, yeah,” Katsuki says, his chest tightening.

He really doesn’t know why he’s fighting this so hard. It’s just that he feels gross for some reason. The compliments are making him feel gross. Maybe he’s just frustrated by all the noise out here—not from Kirishima, but the way Katsuki’s boots crunch over only the loudest leaves and keep snapping unseen twigs buried beneath them. It’s too much noise.

“What?” Kirishima pauses for half a second in his walk, but he recovers quickly enough to catch right back up again. “Of course it’s true.”

Or maybe it’s the cold, Katsuki considers, because the sudden chill that runs through him rattles his bones like a full set of keys. He pulls his arms tight to his chest, on guard from the wind and unwanted praise.

“You know I’ve always thought that, dude,” Kirishima says, treading a bit more lightly but not giving up his end of the fight. “And you deserve to hear it.”

“Well, I don’t want to.” Katsuki grits his teeth, his calves burning as he ups the pace, trudging at high speed up the next hill.

“You are good, Katsuki.”

Of course Kirishima would see right through him—would detect Katsuki’s battle for goodness and realize the way he confuses it with greatness. He sees that without Katsuki having to say a word. But he still doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about. He doesn’t know.

Damn Kirishima for being such a fast learner. He’s right at Katsuki’s heel, not to be shaken off. Truthfully, Katsuki doesn’t want him gone. He just doesn’t want to talk to him about this. They’re getting dangerously close to everything Katsuki’s been avoiding for months now.

Katsuki shakes his head. “You don’t get it, Red.”

“But I get you.” Kirishima’s voice is strained and raw, as if he’s been screaming for hours and his vocal cords are fried—except that he hasn’t. He reaches out for Katsuki’s hand, but Katsuki yanks it away. “If you would just tell me—”

“Kirishima!” Katsuki snaps like a rubber band. Every single tree branch in the wind, not just Kirishima, seems to flinch at the sudden volume of his voice. “Just—just don’t!”

Kirishima blinks rapidly, confusion reading clearly in his eyes as he takes a couple of steps backwards. Still, he nods to Katsuki. “O-okay.”

“Fuck.” Katsuki whispers. He’s never regretted anything so fast in his life. The next words that come out of his mouth are vicious screams, but by the time he has to stop and take a breath, the shouting and the silence have reached equilibrium. “FUCK! I’m sorry, Kirishima! That—that wasn’t—I wasn’t—it’s not your fault. None of this shit is your fault.”

Two long seconds pass before Kirishima answers him. That’s all it takes for Katsuki to know he’s truly messed up this time. Kirishima isn’t rushing to his side, isn’t so unbothered by Katsuki’s words that he can brush them off like usual. He’s standing back, shoulders tensed up and eyes wide like Katsuki is a ferocious beast about to strike.

“Are you sure?” Kirishima asks at long last, eyebrows furrowing together as he looks anywhere but at Katsuki. “It just feels like it sometimes.”

“No—I mean it.” Katsuki covers his face with his hands, hoping that the oxygen he breathes in through the spaces of his fingers will somehow sustain him more than the open air. It doesn’t. He turns out to the mountainside, where the ground drops off and the wind can sting his nose and eyes. “It’s not you, Ei. I promise.”

“But then—” Kirishima cuts himself off, and Katsuki can hear him struggling to find the right words—can hear it over the wind and the rustling leaves. It’s not a good sign. “You just left. Without warning. You ignored my texts and calls. I wanna be patient with you, Katsuki, but what am I supposed to think? I don’t wanna force anything—make you talk about anything but…”

Kirishima’s voice breaks, and Katsuki’s heart goes right with it. He turns on his heel, startled by the way his own vision is blurred with tears as he takes hurried steps to Kirishima. He can’t cry right now—not when Kirishima needs him.

“I know, I know,” he whispers fiercely, throwing his arms around Kirishima and pulling him in. Kirishima’s forehead is cold against the exposed skin of Katsuki’s neck, but Katsuki holds him right there. “This shit is so messed up—because of me, not you.”

The hushed reply tickles his skin. “Katsuki…”

“There’s stuff you don’t know. I want to tell you, but…” Katsuki’s arms loosen around Kirishima until they fall to his sides. “Everything would change if I did.”

For a moment, Kirishima’s head continues to hang low, as if he’s resting it on an invisible shoulder in Katsuki’s place. “It wouldn’t, though. You know the worst parts of me, and you’re still here. You think I wouldn’t do the same for you?”

“I couldn’t ask you to.”

“You don’t have to.” Kirishima takes Katsuki’s hands, looking him in the eyes with a level of determination that makes Katsuki’s heart flutter.

Katsuki comes up empty on a reply. He figures he should thank Kirishima, but how can he even verbalize such gratitude? Besides, the gesture might be a little premature. Kirishima doesn’t know what he’s signing on for yet.

“You don’t have to tell me everything, not until you’re ready,” Kirishima says, resting his forehead against Katsuki’s. Katsuki leans in close, seeking all the warmth that Kirishima will give him. “But if you ever need space, just say so. Please. I’ll understand, I won’t bug you about it. I just need to know or else I’ll worry.”

I don’t need space. The words are caught in Katsuki’s throat, just barely out of reach despite his genuine desire to speak them. Kirishima will understand, though. He always does.

“I really want to kiss you,” Kirishima murmurs. “Would that be okay?”

For all the ways Katsuki’s heart is lighting up and his cheeks heating to match the cherry-red leaves around them, all he can choke out is, “Why?”

Kirishima pulls back just far enough that Katsuki can see his smiling eyes, still close enough that when he chuckles Katsuki feels it on his chin. “Because I want to prove how much I adore you. And because I’m hoping you feel the same way.”

Katsuki doesn’t wait. He doesn’t wait until he’s found the most eloquent of replies, doesn’t wait until he feels brave enough or good enough. He just leans in.

Kirishima stops short of his lips. “Is that a yes?”

“Yes, dumbass,” Katsuki grumbles, but his mouth is still stretched into a smile when it finally meets Kirishima’s.

A shiver rattles Katsuki’s body with the touch of Kirishima’s cold lips. Katsuki grips the collar of Kirishima’s coat, pulling him closer as if this desire could be satiated by mere touch. The chill gives way to heat as Kirishima tilts his head and deepens the kiss, letting Katsuki into the warm, wet interior of his mouth.

Holy fuck, this is happening. It happened before, yes, but this is different. It’s not happening now because Kirishima is sad, but because Kirishima adores him. Katsuki can feel whatever he feels without shame—and Katsuki is feeling a lot of things.

The gentle movement of Kirishima’s lips on Katsuki’s own is enough to make his heart melt. The way he’s caressing Katsuki’s face so delicately—like Katsuki really does matter, like he’s treasured and wanted and cared for—has Katsuki weak in the knees. Kirishima is always the perfect foil to Katsuki’s fire and intensity.

One of them—maybe both, Katsuki doesn’t know—gasps when their tongues meet. The weak groan that follows definitely comes from Katsuki, though, all because of the way Kirishima is sucking on his bottom lip. It’s not fair that he has this effect on Katsuki, but Katsuki certainly isn’t complaining.

Kirishima’s arms twist around Katsuki’s body, and even through all the layers of coats and clothing, it’s as though they’re one single body—one being. Even when Kirishima pulls back, breaking the kiss to steady his breathing, Katsuki feels connected.

“Did I mention last time how good you are at that?” Kirishima asks, and Katsuki’s head is far too hazy to remember.

“You’re one to talk,” he compliments right back.

He lets his fingers tangle into Kirishima’s hair, combing it out and lightly massaging the back of his head. The urge to steal one more kiss comes on too quickly for him to control, so he finds himself lunging forward and pressing his lips hard and hungry to Kirishima’s. There’s no time for him to be embarrassed, though, because Kirishima is right there chasing down every last drop of the kiss, responding with fervor.

They’ll spend the rest of the evening like this, Katsuki knows, if they don’t stop now. Tempting as that is, now really isn’t the place for it.

“We should keep moving,” Katsuki pants, breaking the kiss and taking a decided step back from Kirishima. “We’ll need flatter ground to set up camp—and we need to do that before nightfall.”

“Mm,” Kirishima pouts. “Why do you always have to be so practical?”

Katsuki just smirks. “Someone has to.”

The need to move forward doesn’t stop Kirishima from taking Katsuki’s hand for the remainder of their walk. They go another hour like this, joined by the hand even when the terrain makes it inconvenient. It’s the best way to travel, Katsuki quickly decides. The deathly cold wind even feels a bit less deathly. 

“Can I get one little tidbit of your life story?” Kirishima asks as they pass over the crest of another steep hill. He grunts and squeezes Katsuki’s hand harder as a few pebbles slip beneath his feet.

Katsuki pulls him upright. “What do you want to know?”

“I don’t know,” Kirishima shrugs. “Doesn’t have to be anything big. What was your favorite color growing up?”

“Black.”

“What is it now?”

“Still black.”

Kirishima isn’t subtle as he studies Katsuki, a hint of a smile on his lips. “Hmm, very interesting. Mine is—”

“Red,” Katsuki fills in the blank.

“Yeah,” Kirishima hums. “Must be pretty obvious.”

“It’s not a bad thing,” Katsuki tells him.

It’s actually quite endearing—and such a Kirishima thing to do. See, Kirishima likes the color red, so he surrounds himself with it. His hair is red, his shoes are red, so many of his outfits and even school supplies have been bought with that extra effort. It doesn’t matter to Kirishima if those things look good or “cool.” It’s his favorite color, so of course he’s going to choose red at every opportunity. To Kirishima, it’s that simple.

“Did you have a favorite dinosaur?” Kirishima asks, putting on his best interviewer’s face.

“Velociraptor,” Katsuki answers, a little surprised by how quickly it comes to him. “They’re the smartest and therefore the best.”

“Nerd,” Kirishima snorts, giving a playful shove with his elbow but still keeping his hold on Katsuki’s hand. “Velociraptors may have been smart, but did they have a spiky club tail?”

“Stegosaurus?” Katsuki gapes, suddenly very invested in this debate. “Of all the damn dinosaurs you could have chosen, you picked the stegosaurus as your favorite?”

“Yeah, man!” Kirishima exclaims, jumping up and down with such excitement that Katsuki is worried he’ll slip and have them both barreling down the mountainside. “Stegosauruses were just big ole plant boys—peaceful vegetarians who also happen to have the means to stab anyone who dares cross them with their big ass tails! Don’t mess with a stegosaurus, because they will cut you!”

“Makes sense, actually,” Katsuki says, concealing a sly grin.

“What does?”

Katsuki slows down, reaching over to fluff a strand of Kirishima’s hair with his fingers. It’s so soft and silky; one would never imagine the state that it’s usually in.

“All those spikes you always have in your hair. You want to look like a dinosaur.”

“Actually,” Kirishima replies, fully prepared. “It’s supposed to be like a dragon.”

“Of course it is.”

Shit. Kirishima is so cool.

When they do finally select an adequate camping ground, it’s a battle to get the tent up. It turns out, Kirishima has never done that before either. Katsuki is impressed by his own patience as Kirishima tinkers with the various rods and stakes; his determination to figure it out is adorable, if not utterly fascinating.

“I think I got it!” Kirishima declares, motioning proudly to his handiwork.

The rod at the peak is bowing a bit in the middle, but other than that the tent looks pretty solid. Katsuki gives a nod of approval as he snaps the rod into place. For all the struggling, Kirishima made pretty good time. Next on the list is getting a fire started so they can heat up some dinner. Katsuki takes care of that part himself, and as he warms his own hands over the flames, he admires the view before him.

The sun is dipping down toward the horizon, casting rosy, fluorescent colors onto the already-vivid treetops. Kirishima, too, bathes in the pinky-red hues. He’s the sunset personified—loud and red and beautiful and impossible to ignore. Kirishima doesn’t even know how stunning he is.

Katsuki’s hands fumble a bit as he opens the can of beans and pours them into a pan over the fire; it’s just now occurring to him that once they settle all this dinner business, he can kiss Kirishima again.

“You good?” Kirishima asks, crouching down by Katsuki’s side.

“I’m fine,” Katsuki says, probably failing at being casual.

Kirishima smiles knowingly. “Yeah, me too.”

Dinner is a blur—by far the least exciting part of Katsuki’s day. Of course, with everything that’s happened, it’s a pretty stiff competition. Kirishima seems to enjoy it, though, going on all the while about how nice this is. Like a cookout but better, he says. It’s nice to have a friend at least, Katsuki thinks, or whatever Kirishima would be considered now.

Katsuki mulls that over while he cleans up. He’s probably making it more complicated than he needs to. Kirishima was pretty clear with his feelings; adoration isn’t something you confess to a mere friend. What about Katsuki, though? Was he as open as he should have been? He never seems to be.

“I like you,” he blurts out as they’re unrolling their sleeping bags.

Kirishima stops abruptly, and for half a second Katsuki’s heart is pounding with anxiety. Then Kirishima flashes a lopsided grin. “I know, dude.”

The dude throws him off a bit. Not that he minds; he just needs Kirishima to understand. Katsuki can feel his face heating up with a thousand degrees of embarrassment, but he pushes himself to speak anyway.

“No, but—I like you a lot. As more than a—”

“Katsuki.” Kirishima takes Katsuki’s face in his hands, shutting him up with a single, long kiss, taking his time. “I know.”

Before Katsuki can even think of a response, Kirishima is flopping back onto his sleeping bag, poking the side of his hand into the barely-there space between their sleep spaces.

“Not much room in here, huh?” Kirishima muses, not appearing to be bothered by it.

“This is really a single person tent.”

“No biggie,” Kirishima says, patting on Katsuki’s sleeping bag until he lays down next to him. “It’s pretty cold out anyway, so it’s good that we can keep each other warm.”

That’s one way to put it.

Katsuki swallows hard, already feeling the heat between himself and Kirishima. He’s not sure if he should be disappointed or relieved when Kirishima crawls into his own sleeping bag, putting extra layers of fabric between them like cement walls. All he knows is that his heart is beating explosively in his chest, and even after he cozies up in his sleeping bag, he finds his hand reaching out—magnetically pulled to the place where Kirishima’s is resting on the tent floor.

Kirishima shifts, lightly kissing Katsuki’s knuckles and igniting chills that shoot from his fingertips to his heart.

“G’night, Blasty.”

“Night, Eijirou.”

Chapter Text

 

Crisp, chilly morning air bites at Katsuki’s nose and cheeks, prickling the skin on his face like a gust of wind frozen in place. Snug in his sleeping bag, however, the rest of his body is toasty warm. It helps that during the night, Kirishima had rolled into him—sleeping bag and all—and is still curled up close.

It’s always impossible for Katsuki to sleep late out in the wilderness. All the sunlight pours right in; no curtains to keep it at bay. Of course, these trips aren’t really about lounging around and getting extra sleep.

Katsuki’s hand dares to venture out into the cold and brush the crimson hair from Kirishima’s forehead. Kirishima smiles in his sleep, wiggling closer to no avail. For half a second, Katsuki contemplates the idea of unzipping their sleeping bags and trying to maneuver Kirishima into his arms without waking him. It seems next to impossible with the cold, though, so Katsuki goes with option B. 

“Hey,” he whispers, stroking Kirishima’s hair. The redhead stirs. “Hey, do you wanna come here?”

Kirishima’s eyes blink open, and he moves impressively in tandem with Katsuki to unzip and roll out of the sleeping bag, right into Katsuki’s arms. He’s pretty alert for someone who's also half-sleep.

“Morning,” Kirishima mumbles, and Katsuki wonders if the way he’s pressed up so close against him has anything to do with harvesting every bit of Katsuki’s body heat. 

“You sleep okay?” Katsuki asks. 

“Mmm,” Kirishima hums. “Mostly. Kinda cold.”

Katsuki rubs his hands up and down Kirishima’s arms in an attempt to distribute as much warmth as possible. Beneath the insulation of the sleeping bag, they’re heating up quickly. The tension in Kirishima’s joints is melting away, and he sighs into Katsuki’s chest. 

“Missed you.”

Katsuki’s breath comes out as a laugh. “While we were sleeping?”

“Maybe.”

Katsuki is just about to question Kirishima’s mischievous tone when he feels two hands slide beneath the fabric of his shirt, burning the skin on his bare back. He shivers at the feather-light circles being rubbed between his shoulder blades, bites back a groan when Kirishima turns up his face and presses his lips to Katsuki’s throat.

His hands grab at Kirishima’s hips, pulling him closer. Kirishima takes the cue, rolling on top of Katsuki and straddling him with his strong thighs. The unzipped sleeping bag slides right off his shoulders. For a moment, he just sits there above Katsuki, trailing his fingers down Katsuki’s neck and looking him over with half-lidded eyes. 

“The morning looks so good on you, man,” Kirishima whispers adoringly, bowing down to kiss his lips.

It’s all Katsuki can do not to eat Kirishima alive. He shows restraint, maintaining Kirishima’s torturously slow and gentle kisses even as his breaths come out in ragged, choppy measures. It helps when he tangles his hands in Kirishima’s hair—keeps him anchored and gives him something to hold.

Kirishima smells like sleep, twice as musky as usual, but it’s all the more appealing in this morning light. Katsuki only has one thing on his mind right now. 

“You okay?” Kirishima asks suddenly. “You’re kind of shaking.”

Katsuki’s face heats up. “Just shut up and fuckin’ kiss me like you mean it.”

“I do mean it,” Kirishima smirks. “Maybe I just like teasing you.”

“Fuck you.”

Katsuki sees the immature comment as plain as day behind Kirishima’s eyes and the playful quirk of his brows, but he hides it behind a tiny smirk. When Kirishima leans forward this time, Katsuki feels all of his weight pressed on top of him. It’s not suffocating, though; it’s safe and comforting, and Katsuki finally latches on to that slow and easy pace Kirishima has been teasing him with. 

There’s no rush. Not like this. It’s just the two of them out here, and they can take their time. 

Katsuki holds Kirishima just as firmly, but somehow lighter now. Maybe Kirishima was onto something; maybe Katsuki actually was nervous. He’s not nearly as shaky now. When he guides Kirishima back to kiss him, he allows himself to savor the moment. 

Kirishima’s lips are just like the rest of him: a bit rough on the outside—a bit chapped from the cold—but so kind, so gentle with Katsuki. That shouldn’t be a surprise. Isn’t a surprise. It’s just that Katsuki never tires of it, the contradiction that Kirishima always seems to be. It’s always a pleasant realization. 

Kirishima rubs his thumb along Katsuki’s jawline, suckling his bottom lip. Katsuki inhales sharply at the feeling of Kirishima’s teeth lightly nibbling, arches his back when Kirishima’s other hand flattens against his abs. They’ve spent so long dancing on that line of physical contact that just to have Kirishima touch him like this with romantic intention is insanely addictive. He snakes his hands around Kirishima’s waist, squeezing his ass and pulling him down closer by the hips. 

Fuck yes. Kirishima grinds down into Katsuki, igniting every nerve in his body starting right at his hips. They’re finding a rhythm together, and Kirishima’s mouth is hot on Katsuki’s neck. A moan is just tearing through Katsuki’s throat when a loud buzz penetrates their shared tranquility. Were it just a single interruption, Katsuki could ignore it—maybe he wouldn’t have even noticed—but it goes on and on until Katsuki registers that it’s a phone call. 

“Shit,” Kirishima curses, rolling off of Katsuki and digging through his bag. “That’s me. My phone, I mean.”

Katsuki doesn’t try to hide his disappointment. He collapses onto his back, lamenting all of the want that will most likely go unfulfilled now. Kirishima mumbles that it’s Kaminari and steps out of the tent to take the call.

How is his phone even charged? Reluctantly, Katsuki pulls out his own phone now, which has been completely silent due to his “do not disturb” setting. Miraculously, he’s still at about 20% battery from lack of use; he’s never in a hurry to contact the outside world on these hikes, and the only person he’d be tempted to call is here with him. Why, then, does Katsuki have two missed calls and a voicemail?

In the biggest “fuck you” to his better judgement, Katsuki checks the calls. His stomach drops as fast and hard as he would have expected. One call is from Aizawa. The second call and the matching voicemail are credited to none other than Katsuki’s father. That combination of names tells him enough. The news is out. 

It’s probably been made official or something. Maybe it’s a practice of U.A. to notify parents of things like lost scholarships and expulsion from teams? Seems a bit juvenile, but considering how Katsuki acted at that fateful wrestling practice, he probably can’t argue that he’s a mature adult.

He really wanted to have that conversation with his parents himself. Well, he really didn’t want to (as demonstrated by the fact that he’s shamelessly avoided it), but he would have preferred the news to come from him. Who knows what Aizawa told them? They’re probably pissed. If they didn’t hate him before, they definitely do now. 

He’d like to say he doesn’t care about that. Usually he would. In this red hot moment, though, he cares. He fucking cares too much. He’s a failure to them, and they have every right to hate him.

Dammit. They’re probably going to cut him off, or kick him out. And if his parents have heard the news from a hundred miles away, then everybody else at school must know too. And Kaminari just called Kirishima...

At that moment, Kirishima stumbles back into the tiny tent. “Oops. Kaminari was freaked out because he woke up this morning and I still wasn’t home. I guess I forgot to tell him I was even—Katsuki?”

Katsuki can’t move. He can’t speak, can barely even breathe right now. The way Kirishima is looking at him, wide-eyed and panicked, Katsuki must be a sight.

The tent is too small for the both of them, so it takes less than a second for Kirishima to get to Katsuki’s side. “What’s going on? What’s wrong?”

Katsuki just shakes his head, afraid that if he speaks at all he’ll break in two. The words are stuck in his throat anyway, blocked by a heavy lump that feels a lot like a sob. Now his head isn’t the only thing shaking. As Kirishima puts both hands on his shoulders, Katsuki becomes keenly aware of the way his own limbs are violently trembling. 

“Hey, hey,” Kirishima says in a hushed tone, “come here, it’s okay.”

Katsuki doesn’t make any moves, but he allows Kirishima to pull him in so that he’s shielded by muscular arms. It should make him feel better, but he just feels like a phony. He doesn’t deserve this level of comfort. 

“Katsuki,” Kirishima whispers soothingly, smoothing our Katsuki’s wild bedhead. “Katsuki… I’m here.”

Of course he is. Kirishima is always there. But he shouldn’t have to do that. 

“Kirish—” Katsuki cuts himself off, mortified by the way his voice breaks. He wrinkles up the fabric of Kirishima’s sweatshirt with an iron grip. “Dammit…”

Kirishima, too, seems startled. He doesn’t know the half of it, though—unless. Unless Kaminari spilled it all. 

Katsuki fights every muscle in his throat that wants to clench up and sob. He holds back his tears. It’s barely enough to whisper, “Did Kaminari tell you?”

“Tell me what?” Kirishima asks, sounding concerned. 

“The wrestling team,” Katsuki offers. It’s all he can manage to spit out right now. 

There’s the slightest of pauses. “No, he didn’t tell me anything. Katsuki, what’s going on?”

In theory, Katsuki doesn’t have to say anything more. His secret is still safe for the time being, but it’s too late. His body is in panic mode, and even as he tries to swallow the words back into the hellish depths that have hid them for so long, they come bubbling up from his throat like water from a busted pipe. 

“The team,” Katsuki chokes out. His body is at war with itself—one half of it forcing the words out by some compulsion, and the other too weak to speak. Kirishima’s fingers comb through his hair, grounding him slightly. “I’m kicked off—kicked off the team. My scholarship…”

“Katsuki, I’m so sorry.” Kirishima’s arms don’t retreat. They only tighten around him. “I’m so sorry.”

Katsuki shakes his head, burying his face in Kirishima’s chest. He can’t face him, and his words still aren’t cooperating. “I did it. I mean, it’s my fault. I—fucking punched Deku. I was—he was saying all this shit. I was trying so hard to just ignore them all but then…”

Kirishima rests his cheek on the top of Katsuki’s head, warm and soft against him. “Shh, Katsuki. Breathe. It’s okay. You were trying to ignore him but then what? And only if you want to talk about this. If it’s too hard—”

In a desperate need for oxygen, Katsuki finally lets the sob loose. It cracks through the air, barely muffled by Kirishima’s shirt. However, after that Katsuki is able to breathe in a big gulp of air. The exhale is another choked sob, and before he can stop them, all of his hidden tears come rolling down his cheeks. 

“Okay, that’s good, that’s good,” Kirishima encourages him, rubbing his back affirmingly. “That probably feels a lot better.”

“He said it was my fault. It was my fucking fault that All Might died,” Katsuki sobs, ugly and hard to understand. “And he’s fucking right, but I couldn’t—I didn’t think. I just fucking punched him.”

“Midoriya said that to you?” Kirishima asks, something dark in his voice. When he next speaks, he’s back to that quiet, comforting tone. “Katsuki, listen to me. It is not your fault. It’s not. I don’t even know why he would say something like that—”

“Because it’s true,” Katsuki argues. He can feel his heart rate picking up again. His words come out watery, and his breaths staggered. “It was my fault. I was—I was mad at All Might. He was working with our team, and he chose—he fucking chose Deku over me.”

“I didn’t know,” Kirishima whispers. Katsuki can hear his own words; he knows he’s probably not making any sense, but Kirishima still tries to keep up. “But what does that have to do with…?”

“I was such a fucking moron!” Katsuki cries, a new batch of tears welling up as he recalls that dark time. “I was—I went—I wanted to prove myself, so I went to these, these underground fights. Got—got beat up really bad…”

Kirishima holds Katsuki close, practically cradling him in his arms as he whispers kind words and tries to encourage Katsuki’s breathing. Part of Katsuki wants to stop now. But he’s already started—already gone too far to quiet down. Whatever is to come, there’s no stopping it. 

“I called All Might. He was coming to get me when—fuck, and it’s all my fault,” Katsuki sobs, shaking both of their bodies with his heaving breaths. “If I hadn’t called him. If I hadn’t been so stupid in the first place. If I was stronger—”

“Katsuki, don’t do this to yourself,” Kirishima begs. “Please, don’t. This isn’t your fault. Midoriya never should have said that. Never. You went through something terrible that night. I read the news article about what happened. It said All Might was in a car accident. It said it was because of the weather conditions. Blame the rainstorm, baby, don’t blame yourself.”

“I was so angry,” Katsuki says shakily. It’s like Kirishima doesn’t understand. Is he hearing Katsuki at all? Hasn’t he lost all respect for him? “I’ve been so angry. For so long. You should be angry—angry that I didn’t tell you.”

“No way,” Kirishima vows, enchanting Katsuki with the conviction in his voice. “Katsuki, I would never abandon you. Not over this, not over anything. Try and understand that.”

Katsuki does try. The words are something out of a fairytale as far as he’s concerned, but he tries to reconcile them with his much darker reality. Could it be true? He keeps going back over his confession just now, trying to remember what exactly he said in his panic. It’s already a blur. Could it be that he just left something out? An important detail that would clue Kirishima in to how much of an ass Katsuki really is?

“Breathe with me, okay?” Kirishima requests, positioning Katsuki into something of a sitting position. 

He cups Katsuki’s face between his hands, breathing in and out in a pattern of carefully measured segments. Katsuki’s attempts to match his breaths are futile at first, but after a few minutes, his head feels a bit more clear, and his lungs more normal. 

“There, that’s better, right?” Kirishima whispers, going back to his loving touches as he embraces Katsuki once more. “You’ve been holding all of that in for a long time.”

Katsuki nods, tucking his chin over Kirishima’s neck and practically slumping into him. The release is exhausting. He could fall right back to sleep despite the early hour. 

“Eijirou?” Katsuki says, his voice more hoarse than usual as he fights his heavy eyelids. “Did you mean it? I did some fucked up things.”

“Of course I meant it. We’ve all fucked up, but that’s not even what this was. I’m not going anywhere.”

A few stray tears work their way out of Katsuki’s eyes, prompted by Kirishima’s faithfulness. He’s spent so long fearing this exact moment, but now the truth is out there and all Kirishima is doing is loving him in spite of it.

“You’re my best friend, Katsuki, and you’re also more than that. So much more.” Kirishima lies back, taking Katsuki with him and pulling up the sleeping bag over them both. “And for the record, I see good in you—not buried deep down beneath darkness or a hard exterior, but right on your surface too, in the little things you do all the time. You are good.”

For once, Katsuki doesn’t fight Kirishima on it. Maybe it’s because he’s too tired for that, but maybe a small part of him actually believes it. He’s going to try at least—keep the words in his back pocket, pull them out and read them over once in a while to normalize them in his brain. This idea that he could be good...that he is good, maybe if he repeats it enough he’ll get used to it. Maybe if he gets used to it, he could even believe. 

His fingers trail the exposed skin on Kirishima’s neck, enjoying the raw body heat as it radiates from him. He feels Kirishima bend to kiss his forehead, a barely-there touch of the lips to Katsuki’s hair. He nuzzles into Kirishima’s chest, breathing in his scent and feeling close to sleep. 

“Do you wanna rest a while longer?” Kirishima asks, already cozying deeper into the covers. 

Katsuki does, but should they make that choice, their entire schedule will be thrown off. “Do we have time for that?”

He doesn’t know why he’s asking Kirishima when Katsuki himself is really the one who knows how all of this works. Maybe he’s hoping for a specific answer. 

“Of course, dude,” Kirishima replies, and relief floods through Katsuki. “If need be, we can just camp here for another night, right? We’ve still got some sick views. I just think we should take it easy today.”

“Fine,” Katsuki mumbles, hiding his enthusiasm.

“Good. If you want to sleep some, I can get the fire going and make us some breakfast.” Kirishima makes a move for the door, but Katsuki holds him right in place.

“Stay,” Katsuki says sleepily. “Please?”

“Yeah,” Kirishima agrees, settling back in with Katsuki. “Yeah, okay.”

It’s easy to fall asleep with Kirishima here. Katsuki drifts peacefully in and out of consciousness, but each time his eyes flutter open, Kirishima is there, striking Katsuki’s hair and holding him close. He can’t be sure how much time has passed when his eyes open with some finality, but Kirishima is still awake (he must have been this whole time) and looking down at Katsuki with the gentlest of gazes. 

“You okay?” he asks Katsuki, kissing his forehead.

“Better now,” Katsuki says. “Nice to forget about everything for a couple hours.”

“Makes sense,” Kirishima nods. Katsuki can tell by his quiet tone that he’s chewing on some thought. He waits a few seconds, and eventually Kirishima continues. “When you disappeared last week—was that because of what Deku said to you? Is that when it happened?”

“Huh? Yeah, I guess so,” Katsuki says, not sure why it matters. Maybe Kirishima just wants answers about Katsuki icing him out. 

“Gotcha…” Kirishima sighs, his arms tightening around Katsuki’s waist. “Not gonna lie, I’ve been laying here this whole time thinking of various scenarios where I punch Midoriya in the face. It’s not a feeling I’m used to.”

Katsuki laughs outright, but he’d be lying if he said that the thought doesn’t bring him satisfaction. “Not necessary.”

“I wanna defend your honor, dude,” Kirishima insists. “I know you already did that yourself, but—I just can’t believe he’d talk to you like that. It’s bullshit, and don’t try to argue that with me.”

“Told you Deku is an asshole.”

“Yeah, just a little.”

Katsuki pauses then. There’s still one more thought—one more fear—gnawing at him. “I think my parents found out.”

He peels himself away from Kirishima just long enough to search out his phone and reveal the suspiciously coincidental order of missed calls on his phone. Kirishima regards them with an unreadable expression, lightly tapping his chin as he thinks it over. 

“How much did they know already?” Kirishima asks at last. 

“They knew about All Might dying, and the—the fighting shit,” Katsuki says, still unable to believe that he’s speaking these words aloud. “Nothing about my troubles since then. Definitely not about me getting kicked off the team. They’re probably going to hate me for all of this. I’ve been lying through my teeth about being fine.”

“They’re not going to hate you,” Kirishima says. “They wouldn’t.”

“They probably will. They don’t like being lied to, and my mom is always going on about not wasting 

opportunities.”

Kirishima draws swirling lines on Katsuki’s back. “Why do you think you lied to them about being fine?”

“The old hag is real annoying about any kind of feelings. She’d probably smack me upside the head for being weak or have a meltdown if she realized I was serious. It just seemed like it’d probably be easier to forget about it all. But I couldn’t.”

“You know, you say the word ‘probably’ a lot,” Kirishima points out. “How do you know any of it is true?”

“I don’t know that it isn’t.”

Eijirou is quiet for a long moment—long enough that Katsuki is able to study the shadows of waving tree branches and their leaves as they find Eijirou’s perfect face through the tent canvas. They make him look even more soft and delicate than usual. Somehow that appearance disarms Katsuki, chips away at his self-loathing resolve. Someone as soft and pretty as Kirishima wouldn’t lie to him—just look at how he’s taking his time answering; he'd only give Katsuki the best of his thoughts.

“That’s not fair to you, though. I mean, you can’t go back in time and tell them all of that, so there’s no use worrying about it now. But if they’re going to find out or already have, don’t torture yourself like this. It sounds like your parents care a lot—like, really loudly—” Katsuki has to laugh at that. Loudly is a bit of an understatement. Despite Katsuki’s snickering, though, Kirishima is serious. “They won’t hate you for this stuff. I don’t know how they’ll react, but once they’re through with reacting, they’ll still love you.”

“Thanks,” Katsuki says, and the word doesn’t feel like enough. There’s nothing else he can say, though, except, “I’m glad you’re here.”

Kirishima hums happily. “I’m glad too. Should we get a start on breakfast?”

“Yeah,” Katsuki agrees, even though he’d much rather spend his day warm and snuggled up against Kirishima.

“Cool. I’ll take care of it for now if you wanna get dressed or freshen up or anything.”

Katsuki takes him up on that offer. He wanders off, just out of sight, and wipes himself down the best he can without running water. A little deodorant goes a long way in helping him feel clean. He’s just finishing brushing his teeth when he hears Eijirou’s curious call. 

“Katsuki?”

He spits in a bush and takes a swig of water. “You good?”

“Yep,” Kirishima says with a nod as Katsuki enters their campsite, now dressed in clean, warm clothes. “Kinda have to pee, though. Could we switch off?”

“Go for it.” Katsuki waves for Kirishima to take off, poking at the fire and getting it nice and strong. Since they’ll likely be here all day, they may as well stay warm. Thankfully, Kirishima has already gotten their food started, so there isn’t much for Katsuki to do except be sure it doesn’t burn.

When Kirishima returns and they sit there together enjoying breakfast and huddling closer to the fire, Katsuki realizes that today will be different. He’s never had a day like this before. His hikes are always peaceful but also active days for him—there’s always a destination to be reached. Today, he’s just enjoying his surroundings. And he’s doing it with Kirishima. 

There are a million things for Katuski to do, all of them equally daunting. He has to talk to Aizawa; he has to talk to his parents; he has to figure out what university will look like without his scholarship. Today, Katsuki won’t worry about any of it. This is his calm before the storm, but dammit, he’s going to enjoy it. The sweet but undeniably determined light in Kirishima’s eyes makes certain of that.




Chapter Text

 

It’s nearly sunset when Kirishima asks for Katsuki to take him on a tour. Katsuki has no idea what that’s supposed to mean, but when he presses for clarification, Kirishima assures him it means exactly what it sounds like. 

“We’re not hiking today, but give me a tour of the local attractions,” Kirishima says, leaning forward on his knees with innocent excitement. “Which tree is the best? Where is the nicest view? That sorta thing.”

“Uh, I haven’t really paid attention to that stuff today,” Katsuki admits, but Kirishima remains unbothered. 

“That just makes it extra easy, because now you get to make it up as you go!”

This is definitely an attempt to keep Katsuki’s mood up, but Katsuki will bite. It’s impressive how good Kirishima is at cheering up Katsuki; he’s barely thought about this morning’s incident at all.

“Fine,” Katsuki frowns, but he doesn’t actually mind all that much. He tightens up the laces on his hiking boots and stands up, grimacing at the cracking of his ankles. 

And so, they end up trailing around the campsite, never far enough that Katsuki has to worry about them getting lost, but with enough distance to whet their appetite for adventure. Kirishima is increasingly enthusiastic with everything Katsuki shows him. It’s actually a little contagious. 

In the pinky afterglow of the sunset, Katsuki’s eye is caught by a particularly vibrant color on the ground. A single orange leaf—burning fluorescent among shades of brown and dull yellows—stands out to him. He crouches down and presents the leaf to Kirishima. 

“And here, Red,” Katsuki says from his stance on one knee, just a twinge theatric in his tone, “is the prettiest leaf on the mountain. It’s precisely the reason I chose this fuckin’ campsite for the evening.”

Kirishima giggles. “That’s the best thing we’ve seen so far! It’ll look even prettier in direct sunlight. Are you going to tuck it behind my ear all romantic-like?”

“No, fuck off,” Katsuki says, but he does tuck it in Kirishima’s coat pocket for safe keeping.

Kirishima nods in satisfaction at that. “Good. Now, onto the next attraction. I was promised an amazing view.”

“You demanded an amazing view.”

“I requested an amazing view,” Kirishima compromises. “I’m ready whenever you are.”

“I’ll give you a view,” Katsuki considers, “if you can beat me to that tree over there without face-planting.”

Kirishima grins wickedly. “It’s on.”

They take off in unison, the slick ground seeming to slide back and forth beneath their feet. The aforementioned tree is a couple dozen meters off, marked by the generous amount of crimson leaves still clinging tight to its branches. Most of the trees around it are half-naked at best, with their fallen leaves strewn haphazardly across the forest floor.

Surprisingly (blame it on the rough morning), Katsuki is the first one to truly fall. His right foot must land wrong, and it goes slipping out to the left, causing his whole body to tumble out from beneath him. He lands on his hip—a position that would probably be seriously dangerous were he a bit more frail. Kirishima slides to a stop, but keeps right on going as soon as he sees that Katsuki is up and moving again.

“Yes, yes, yes, yes!” Kirishima cheers, each word growing louder as his outstretched hands meet the selected tree trunk. Katsuki arrives less than a second later, but undeniably in second place. “I think I’d call that a victory.”

“I think I’d call that pure luck.”

“Don’t be a sore loser,” Kirishima scolds. “I won fair and square.”

Katsuki folds his arms and leans back on the tree. “Yeah, yeah. Congrats. Do you want a trophy or something?”

Kirishima narrows his eyes and smiles. “I just want my prize. What was it we agreed on? Oh yeah, an amazing view.”

Katsuki rolls his eyes, still playing along in their fake argument. “Fine, asshole. Come on.” 

He moves to push off the tree, but Kirishima’s hand rises to Katsuki’s shoulder and holds him in place. He rests his other arm beside Katsuki’s head on the tree trunk, leaning in so their bodies are pressed together. 

“Hold on,” Kirishima commands quietly.

The air in Katsuki’s lungs seems to freeze, stealing away his breath as he stares wide-eyed and blushing at Kirishima. It’s not often that Kirishima demands anything of Katsuki, and right now his voice is so low and husky. Katsuki swallows thickly as Kirishima bows his head and puts his mouth to Katsuki’s neck.

His teeth pass over the skin once, barely grazing Katsuki but leaving him with goosebumps nonetheless. The second time, Kirishima lets his teeth sink in a bit, lets his tongue flick across the skin as he nibbles. Katsuki’s head spins, falling back against the bark of the tree and leaving an opening for Kirishima to dive deeper. Unfortunately, Kirishima doesn’t take him up on the offer. He pulls away all too soon, planting a quick kiss on Katsuki’s cheek. 

“It’s tradition,” Kirishima explains, looking extra smug. “Besides, I know you like it.”

Just like that, Kirishima turns and strolls onward, leaving Katsuki redder than the leaves above him. He’d like to tell Kirishima to fuck off, but his words and breaths are still stuck in his throat, and Kirishima is dead right anyway. What use is it to lie?

“Aren’t you supposed to be leading the way?” Kirishima calls teasingly over his shoulder, beckoning Katsuki away from the tree and back to his side.

For some reason Katsuki feels an extra amount of pressure to find a good view now. He wants to impress Kirishima—to show him all the beauty out here that Katsuki has been going on about since they first met. It’s not as if he has this entire mountain memorized, though, despite what Kirishima seems to think, so he’ll have to do some looking himself.

It doesn’t help that he can still feel every single one of Kirishima’s teeth on his neck as they trudge along. He’d like to reach out and take Kirishima’s hand as they’d done yesterday, but he doesn’t really trust himself to do that right now without getting distracted from the task at hand. His own hands are suffering from the cold, though, and he wishes he’d packed enough heat packs for both of them.

Just as a shiver is rumbling through Katuski’s veins, Kirishima links their arms together, tugging Katsuki just a bit closer. Whether it’s enough to actually feel any of Kirishima’s body heat, Katsuki can’t be sure, but it does lift his spirits.

He can smell Kirishima from here. The wind is blowing his subtle scent straight to Katsuki’s nostrils, probably from his free-flowing hair. In a way, Kirishima just smells like a person, but that can’t be completely true, because Katuski has never craved the smell of another person before. 

“How are you feeling?” Kirishima asks suddenly, bringing Katsuki back down from space to this mountain—to this roaring autumn paradise that they share. 

“Good,” Katsuki says truthfully, realizing only after that Kirishima was probably asking in regards to this morning. That doesn’t affect his answer. 

“Finding any good views yet?”

Now, Katsuki is certain that he couldn’t muster up the obvious (but still true) cheesy reply even if he wanted to. And actually, he kind of does want to. Kirishima out here in these trees is undoubtedly the most spectacular view Katuski is going to enjoy on this trip. Somehow, he’s not sure how to verbalize that, but he knows that Kirishima is into all that romantic stuff. His best reply is to smile warmly and knowingly at Kirishima, letting the flaming blush on his own cheeks do the talking for him.

Kirishima seems to get the message—he’s smart like that—and diverts his eyes with an equally bashful grin. 

“We should try to get up a little higher,” Katsuki decides, clearing his throat and directing them to a small, rocky slope where the views will be better. 

Kirishima follows, never doubting Katsuki’s abilities, always so trusting. Up the mountain just a small ways—and then atop a boulder that juts out to the cliffside—Katsuki takes Kirishima’s hand and helps him get steady. He doesn’t look out over the ridge until they’re able to do it together.

“Holy…” Kirishima breathes, not finishing the statement as he gapes at the sight before them. 

Dusk has painted most of the sky a cool, deep blue, but just above the treeline, the clouds are lit up in defined rows of vivid purple, hot pink, and molten orange. The light shining through the leaves is red. Red, red, Red. Red like the trees, red like Katsuki’s cheeks, red like Kirishima and every sickly sweet, comfortingly warm, scalding hot emotion he draws out of Katsuki.

It takes Katsuki a moment to realize he’s not even looking at the view anymore, but he makes no effort to stop his shameless staring. Kirishima is totally wrapped up in the actual view right now, so Katsuki indulges himself. Kirishima’s eyes reflect the ruby hues beyond the cliff, filled with wonder and awestruck beauty. His smile is wider than the mountainside, lighting up embers in Katsuki’s heart. 

“Well, you certainly followed through on your end of the deal,” Kirishima says, still gazing off into the distance. “This is incredible.”

“Glad you like it,” Katsuki says, studying Kirishima’s perfect profile. 

He watches Kirishima as the sun sinks beneath the horizon—seemingly all at once. They witness it in peaceful silence, and at the last possible second, Katsuki takes quiet breath and reaches out his hand, nudging Kirishima’s fingers with his own. Kirishima glances his way and smiles, happily intertwining their fingers.

They remain there until the last drop of sunlight is gone. Katsuki is vaguely thankful that he didn’t take them far from their campsite. Even though he doesn’t really want to go back, at least they won’t have to struggle in the dark for a long distance.

“Should we?” Katsuki asks, motioning back to the forest. 

“Yeah, I guess so.” From the sound of it, Kirishima doesn’t want the moment to end either. Unfortunately, the sunset had different ideas and was too stubborn to be bothered with their sentimental wishes. 

Katsuki leads the way back to the forest floor, climbing carefully off their little boulder and then turning to Kirishima. He puts his hands on the redhead’s waist, holding him steady until his feet are safely back on the ground. When at first Kirishima grabs Katsuki’s hand, Katsuki thinks he just wants to be close as they walk back. As Katsuki takes a step, however, he finds Kirishima unmoving.

Katsuki whirls around. “What’s wrong—”

And then Kirishima’s lips are on his. Katsuki's body is responding faster than his brain, kissing him back hungrily while his mind is still reeling and his heart is still fluttering. Maybe that’s just a side effect of kissing Kirishima, though. Katsuki grabs the back of Kirishima’s head, pulling him closer, discarding the restraint he’s been showing for far too long. Kirishima takes the hint, pushing Katsuki back against the nearest tree and resting his full weight against him. 

Their tongues meet in a frantic dance, and the first opportunity Katsuki gets, he bites down and sucks on Kirishima’s bottom lip. Kirishima gasps, fingers digging in the outer layer of Katsuki’s jacket. Katsuki hardly feels him let go until he’s reached down to squeeze Katsuki’s ass, pulling his hips closer in the process. 

Fuck, it feels so good. It’s so much on Katsuki’s very sensitive, very wanting nerves right now. He can feel the outline of Kirishima’s dick through his track pants, and it’s fucking doing things to him. It’s not in his own control when his hips buck out and rub needily against Kirishima’s thigh.

“Katsuki…” Kirishima groans, breaking their kiss to bury his head in the crook of Katsuki’s neck.

What he does there is a straight-up attack, biting and licking and sucking—every bit of Katsuki’s chilly, exposed skin, Kirishima finds it, and when he runs out of exposed skin he unzips Katsuki’s jacket in search of more. He kisses down to the neckline of Katsuki’s shirt, and then back up to his jaw, expertly moving his hips and drawing hushed moans from Katuski’s mouth. 

“You like that?” Kirishima whispers against Katsuki’s ear. Katsuki’s dick twitches in his pants, and he’s sure that Kirishima can feel it. That’s just confirmed when Kirishima smirks and cants his hips slowly (torturously) against Katsuki’s once more.

Fuck, Katsuki is getting hard. He was doomed from the second Kirishima bit him earlier. No doubt Kirishima got him wound up on purpose. Katsuki doesn’t even care as long as the job gets finished.  

Katsuki’s hand shoots down, grabbing Kirishima’s bulge. He palms it through the revealing fabric, feeling out the length, rubbing and squeezing. Kirishima nearly collapses on him, crying out and pushing closer into Katsuki’s hand. It’s so fucking hot, Katsuki could come purely from arousal at Kirishima’s desperation.

“Fuck, Ei,” Katsuki groans. “Want you so bad…”

“You too, Katsuki,” Kirishima pants back. Pausing to kiss him hard on the mouth. “I want you too.”

Kirishima gently pushes Katsuki’s hand away, making room between them so that he can massage Katsuki’s growing erection between them. His hand remains there only for a moment—just long enough to draw out an embarrassing moan from Katsuki. And then his touch is gone, and he pulls back even from Katsuki’s mouth, leaving him cold and wanting.

When Katuski’s eyes blink open in confusion, he finds Kirishima staring right into him. He’s so wrapped up in the ruby-eyed gaze that when he feels Kirishima’s fingers hook onto the waistline of his pants, he actually flinches.

Kirishima stops immediately. “Is this okay?”

This is all happening so fast, and yet Katsuki feels as though he’s been waiting a millennia. All of this tension has built up for months now; it’s no wonder that at the first opportunity they get they’re going to jump right in.

“Fuck yes,” Katuski replies. 

Without another word, Kirishima bends to kiss Katsuki’s neck, and his hand slips beneath Katsuki’s boxer briefs. The amount of pleasure coursing through Katsuki’s veins right now is dizzying. His neck arches to rest his head against the tree trunk, all of his nerves on fire from Kirishima’s grip on his dick. He’s so fucking sensitive right now, and Kirishima is once again torturing Katsuki with his deliberately slow pace.

He strokes Katsuki up and down, nipping at his neck while he works, getting Katsuki rock hard in his hand and fondling his balls. There’s already precum on Katsuki’s tip, and Kirishima slicks that down his shaft. The wet, slippery grip that Kirishima has on him sends Katsuki’s brain into a cloudy realm of pleasure. He rests his head back against the tree and digs his hands into the bark.

Katsuki isn’t sure how much longer he’ll last when Kirishima drops to his knees, tugging Katsuki’s pants down below his hips. The frigid air on his dick is enough to jar Katsuki back into consciousness for a second, but the anticipation of what’s to come promises to bring him right back to the edge.

Kirishima pauses, looking Katsuki over and rubbing his thumbs back and forth over his bare hip bones. Then he places a soft kiss on each one, right, and then left, and then tentatively licks the head of Katsuki’s dick.

Katsuki hisses, closing his eyes and letting his head fall back. Kirishima runs his hands up and down Katsuki’s shaft as he lightly sucks the tip of Katsuki’s cock. He pauses then, pulling back, and Katsuki isn’t sure if it’s the chilly wind on his wet dick or the tone of Kirishima’s voice that sends a violent shiver through his body. 

“Katsuki,” Kirishima says lowly, sternly. “I want you to look at me.”

It’s only when Katsuki forces his eyes open that he’s keenly aware of his own heartbeat pounding in his ears. Coupled with the wind’s deafening dance through the trees and its freezing assault on his skin, Katsuki's senses are ablaze. His eyes have long since adjusted to the darkness, but he hopes that Kirishima’s haven’t yet; surely, Katsuki’s cheeks are lit up with a fierce blush.

It’s quite a sight, Kirishima down on his knees before Katsuki. He’d like to close his eyes again, suddenly too bashful to be seen. It’s new for Katsuki to feel this way—to care so much. But Kirishima wants him to look, and for some fucking reason, Katsuki really wants to please him. He maintains eye contact, breathing shallowly as Kirishima ducks his head and takes the whole of Katsuki’s dick into his mouth.

Kirishima’s eyes are piercing.

Katsuki bites his lip, determined to hold back the moan his body so desperately wants to release. He can’t make a sound like that when he’s looking Kirishima in the eye. No fucking way. But oh, he wants to. 

The night air is frozen, but Kirishima’s lips are red hot around Katsuki’s dick. It’s almost immediately too much for him to handle. Kirishima’s head moves up and down Katsuki’s shaft, sucking hard on his length and licking in every spare second when he needs to take a breath. His fingers dig into Katsuki’s bare hips, and for a moment, Kirishima breaks eye contact to release a deep moan and let his eyes roll back in his head. Katsuki feels the vibrations all through his body.

“Fuck,” he gasps, bucking his hips at Kirishima before he can stop himself. “Fuck, Kirishima…”

Kirishima gags, but recovers quickly, steadying Katsuki’s hips hips in place and sending Katsuki a smile far too soft and angelic for what they’re currently doing. He kisses the bottom of Katsuki’s shaft before getting right back to it, and when his tongue flicks Katsuki’s slit, Katsuki practically crumbles. It’s all he can do to remain standing, but he can feel his climax building.

Kirishima is merciful, not demanding that Katsuki meet his eyes any longer. Maybe he knows that Katsuki couldn’t even if he tried. At this point, the only thing Katsuki’s mind can focus on is the feeling of Kirishima’s lips sucking his cock; he can’t even be bothered to conceal the needy, erratic moans that are escaping him freely now. His head is foggy, and he’s moaning out words he can’t even hear, and his hips are rocking, and his knees are shaking, and Kirishima is moaning too and Katsuki’s vision flashes white. 

“Mmm, Kirishima… Fuck—Eijirou! Ah!” Katsuki groans, cumming hard into Kirishima’s mouth.

Kirishima drinks his juices down greedily, caressing Katsuki’s hips as Katsuki relaxes his body against the tree. Katsuki combs his fingers through Kirishima’s hair, feeling him stand up level with him. He places a soft kiss on Katsuki’s mouth. 

“You—you’re really amazing at that,” Katsuki pants, too blissed out to be guarded with his words. “Really fucking good.”

Kirishima nuzzles Katsuki’s neck. “I enjoyed every second of it. I’ve wanted to do that for so long.”

To that, Katsuki doesn’t know what to say. Words have never been his strong suit, and it doesn’t help that his brain still feels like a fried circuit at the moment. Instead of saying something dumb, he pulls up his pants and directs Kirishima’s chin to meet his eyes.

It’s a different sort of moment—far from the hot and heavy, lustful gazes they’ve been sharing for the last several minutes. Katsuki just wants to appreciate Kirishima for a moment, all of his softness, his kindness. He wants to convey with a look just how much Kirishima means to him. Then, just for good measure, Katsuki hopes to convey it in a kiss. 

He touches his lips to Kirishima’s, kissing him slowly and deeply, playing with Kirishima’s hair and bringing him close. Kirishima responds without hesitation, arms wrapping around Katsuki’s waist and slipping beneath his jacket. Before they can go further—before Katsuki has the opportunity to even think of reciprocating what Kirishima has done for him—Kirishima shivers and pulls back. 

“It’s cold out here,” he says to Katsuki, huddling closer. “Can we go back to the campsite?”

Katsuki leads the way, enjoying the warmth of Kirishima’s hand in his own as they walk along. The fire is nearly dead when they get back, so Katsuki has to take the time to nurture the flames and get things going again. He crouches down, poking at the embers with an stick and releasing dancing sparks into the air. Kirishima stands behind him, rubbing his shoulders and never going beyond Katsuki’s reach. Katsuki hopes they’ll always be this connected. 

When the fire is strong again, Katsuki sits back and guides Kirishima down to join him. The bright, flickering warmth of the fire shows on their skin, casting shadows in Kirishima’s dimples when he smiles at Katsuki. Damn, he’s so beautiful. Kirishima rests his head on Katsuki’s shoulder, for once completely silent as they stare into the mesmerizing flames together. 

Nothing could ruin this. Katsuki knows that to even think that is to dare the universe, but he doesn’t care. He’s certain that this—what he has with Kirishima—is beyond the clutches of any evil that might want to hurt them. They’re together, and no matter what happens, they’ve had this moment, and nobody can take that away. 

Time passes in a strange way that feels at once infinite and far too fast. Somewhere along that line, Kirishima begins to doze off—Katsuki can tell by the way his breaths become soft and slow. Every time Katsuki shifts to check, however, Kirishima’s eyes blink open stubbornly like he doesn’t want to be caught. 

“You’re sleepy,” Katsuki accuses gently. 

“I’m fine.”

“Come on,” Katsuki says, standing up reluctantly and motioning towards the tent. “It’s been a long day.”

Kirishima pouts, but does as Katsuki says. They change into pajamas and get settled in, using their sleeping bags more like blankets and snuggling close together. Kirishima is made completely of muscle, but somehow he feels small and delicate in Katsuki’s arms tonight. It could be the tiny kisses he keeps planting on Katsuki’s collarbone, or the way he’s folded himself up to fit snugly against Katsuki’s chest.

Yes, Katsuki was the one just accusing Kirishima of being tired, but he can’t help wanting to kiss him right now. He gently turns Kirishima’s chin up and kisses him softly on the mouth. He’s surprised by how quickly his own hunger for Kirishima seeps into the kiss, and how quickly Kirishima reacts to it.

Kirishima repositions, propping himself up on one arm and using his free hand to card through Katsuki’s hair with his fingers. When Katsuki bends to kiss down his neck, Kirishima lies back onto the floor of the tent and pulls Katsuki on top of him.

Katsuki is suddenly very certain that he could spend every night for the rest of eternity like this. The shared warmth, the sweet kisses, and Kirishima’s touch are all that he needs to survive, right? It’s unrealistic, but he can’t imagine any timeline where that’s not true. 

Katsuki relishes every touch, every kiss, every shift of Kirishima to pull him closer, closer, closer. They feel so right together. Fuck, Katsuki is so in love. 

His hand travels down to Kirishima’s pants, and he pauses to ask, “Can I?” With Kirishima’s go-ahead, Katsuki dips in and explores Kirishima’s body, feeling out every inch of him and searching for any new piece of skin to put his lips on. Katsuki familiarizes himself with the sound of Kirishima’s moans as they fill the tent, and even when they’re through, Katsuki plays them over in his mind with the knowledge that he did that—he made Kirishima feel that good.

Forget the wrestling team; forget stupid Deku and Katsuki’s scholarship; forget the conversation he has to have with his parents once this weekend is over. He’s got something good here. What he ever did to deserve it is beyond him, but Kirishima seems convinced that Katsuki isn’t so terrible. Katuski can hold onto that—onto all of this—as proof in those darker moments.

He’s always seen a brighter side of the world with Kirishima, but this feels like something final. Something tangible. Katsuki rolls onto his side, hugging Kirishima from behind and kissing the back of his head. This is something Katsuki can keep.




Chapter Text

 

After such a wonderful weekend away, the last place Katsuki wants to be is home. At least he’s returning with plenty of things to be happy about. He’ll have to keep those in his arsenal for when times inevitably get dark. 

He still hasn’t listened to those voicemails. In fact, he’s sitting on his couch right now—fully packed bags abandoned next to him on the floor—staring at his phone screen. Maybe if he keeps refreshing the voicemail box the messages will just disappear. He could always delete them, but that would be running away from his problems once again. And it wouldn’t change anything. 

His thumb scrolls down, watching the bar on the side of the screen shrink. Gnawing mindlessly on his lip, Katsuki let’s go and watches the bar spring back up to the top. The screen refreshes to no avail. What he really needs is some sort of time machine. 

“Hey,” Kirishima says, and it’s a word of comfort. He sets down two glasses of water on the side table and sits down next to Katsuki. “We could always unpack first.”

“What’s the use?”

Kirishima shrugs. “Do you want me to listen to it for you?”

“Hell no,” Katsuki refuses. And then, thinking better of his tone, he adds, “Thanks, though.”

It’s something he needs to do himself. He’s been running far too much lately, and Kirishima has helped him out enough. Regardless of who listens to the messages first, their content will be the same. Katsuki already knows what they’ll say, so why is he dragging his feet so much?

Next to him, Kirishima sighs and hands him the glass of water. The glass is chilly in his hands, damp from condensation. Katsuki wipes his hands on the couch cushion one by one, then brings the glass to his lips. He can feel Kirishima’s eyes on him until he takes a few gulps, waiting to be sure that he’s taking care of himself and staying hydrated. 

The ice water does help to ground him in a way. He was getting lost in his thoughts for a second there, and that’s never a good place to be when his thoughts are so dark. 

“Alright, fuck it,” Katsuki says, setting the glass down. “Time to listen.”

Katsuki unlocks his phone, and with a slightly trembling finger, he clicks on the first message—the one from Aizawa. In the brief second of silence before the message plays, Katsuki steals a glance at Kirishima. The redhead nods to him, a signal of fortitude that Katsuki attempts to inhale through a shaky breath. 

Aizawa’s signature sigh is fuzzy through the phone speaker. “Bakugou, there are things we need to talk about. I mean it this time. This is no small matter. Call me.”

That’s it? Katsuki stares at his phone until the screen goes black. What the fuck does that even mean? He expected more yelling—in that sleepy, completely-done-with-you, Aizawa fashion. Why is he being so cryptic? Where is the notice that he’s lost his scholarship?

“Did you hear that?” Katsuki asks, not looking up from his phone. 

“Yeah,” Kirishima says slowly. “What did that mean, exactly? It didn’t sound like you’re kicked off the team.”

“I am,” Katsuki replies quickly, because he’s not about to get his hopes up. “He probably just didn’t want to say it over the phone.”

Of course, he’s never known Aizawa to beat around the bush. The vagueness of his voicemail just makes Katsuki more anxious to listen to the one from his father. That’s the big one anyway.

“Katsuki?” Kirishima says quietly, reaching out a tentative hand to rest on Katsuki’s knee.

He’s been quiet too long—motionless too. It would seem strange to anyone other than Eijirou, who’s been around Katsuki enough to know he’s not always the boisterous, rage-filled asshole that most people see. Eijirou knows what Katsuki really is. He knows everything now. 

Something gives way within Katsuki. He unlocks his phone once more, and this time hands it over to Kirishima. He can share the weight of this; Kirishima won’t judge him. With his eyes closed, Katsuki can’t see whatever shocked expression is on Kirishima’s face, but the silence illustrates it well enough. It’s followed by a soft pass of his thumb over Katsuki’s knee cap.

“Ready?” Kirishima asks, and when Katsuki doesn’t object, the message begins. 

Hi, Katsuki. Uh—we just got a call from your wrestling coach. What’s going on with you?” His father’s voice is far from accusatory, but it’s filled with all the concern Katsuki has been dreading. “You got in a fight? Katsuki, I know you hate when we worry, but please call us. We need to talk about our options here—and we should discuss everything that you’ve been dealing with alone. Just call us—please? We—ah, shoot. I locked myself in the bathroom to make this call in peace but your mom’s back with a screwdriver.”

In the background, Katsuki can hear muffled crackling sounds and some light banging—paired with his mother’s faint shouts. Then the voicemail ends. The couch creaks as Kirishima shifts uncomfortably. 

“Is—is your dad okay?”

“Huh?” Katsuki looks up. That wasn’t the question he expected. He realizes then that not everyone is used to Katsuki’s interesting family dynamic. “Oh, yeah. The old hag just gets overly excited sometimes. She probably wanted to break into the bathroom and scream at me herself.”

“Gotcha,” Kirishima says, and he doesn’t bother Katsuki about it after that. 

Katsuki folds his hands together, staring at the zig-zag lines between his fingers as if he’ll find answers within them. Nothing makes sense, and nobody is saying enough. Katsuki just wants to know the cut and dry truths of this situation—except that he doesn’t want to know, or else he would have talked to Aizawa by now anyway. But if he has to know, he’d rather hear it without the obligatory, sentimental garbage, and certainly without these looming threats of we need to talk

Someone’s gotta give it to him straight. He already knows that his dad would never, and that he can’t handle it from his mom right now. That only leaves one option. 

Calling Aizawa isn’t really a consideration—even though Aizawa would probably prefer that. Katsuki needs to have this talk in person. Somehow he feels like he has more power when he can look someone in the eye. It has to be Aizawa, though. Katsuki knows that much. 

Katsuki’s already made up his mind before they crawl into bed together, but his stomach is in knots over the idea. Kirishima rolls onto his side, staring into Katsuki with big, round, concerned eyes. Katsuki is doing his best to ignore them—is reaching over Kirishima’s broad shoulders to flick off the lamp when he’s met with a question. 

“What are you thinking?” Kirishima asks. To some extent, he must know. Kirishima always knows. It’s something of a curse, or maybe a deal with the devil of sorts, because Katsuki knew what he was signing up for when he allowed himself to fall head-first in love with this intuitive, unstoppable force of a man. 

“I gotta talk to Aizawa,” he confesses.

The beat of silence tells him enough, but Kirishima replies anyway. “You...don’t wanna talk to your parents first?”

“No,” Katsuki says stubbornly. His jaw clenches like a steel trap in his mouth, but the tension softens when Kirishima’s hand finds his.

“What are you gonna say?”

Katsuki collapses back onto his pillow, glaring up at the ceiling like it’s the thing that’s caused all his problems. “I don’t know. I just need to hear the truth from him—easier that way than going into a conversation with my parents blind.”

“Katsuki…”

“Eijirou,” he mirrors.

Kirishima’s lips brush the inside of Katsuki’s wrist, and his eyes flutter closed on instinct. The softness of Kirishima’s touch is contrary to every hard, jagged emotion that’s crackling through Katsuki’s chest right now—so necessarily contrary. It allows Katsuki to inhale a single, full breath, one not marred by the tightness in his lungs. 

It’s unfair, probably, that Katsuki turns the tables on Kirishima, twists the spotlight off of himself and his own anxiety to inspect Kirishima instead. There’s something looming over him that Katsuki can’t quite identify. Something that seems a little out of place. The tone of Kirishima’s voice paired with that tiny crease between his eyebrows gives it away to Katsuki. 

“Why are you worried?” he asks Kirishima. 

“I’ll come with you,” Kirishima replies instead of answering the question. 

“Hah?”

“When you talk to your coach,” Kirishima explains, but Katsuki is still lost. “I—I just don’t want you to have to do it alone.”

Kirishima is decidedly avoiding Katsuki’s eyes, something out of character for the typically bold redhead. Katsuki can fill in the blanks. “Because of what happened last time.”

Kirishima opens his mouth once, then closes it again with a quiet snap. Guilty as charged.  Katsuki can’t blame him for it; there’s every reason for him to worry just based off of history, and Kirishima isn’t stupid. 

“I’m not gonna disappear again,” Katsuki says, turning his wrist over in Kirishima’s palm to intertwine their hands. “I’m done with that bullshit.”

Kirishima’s gaze is locked on their hands, and he rubs his thumb back and forth over Katsuki’s. “What about you, though? Are you gonna be okay if you do this?”

Katsuki’s heartbeat falters with a slight tremor. He can’t show it, though, not when Kirishima is already worried. He lets go of Kirishima’s hand in favor of combing back the red hair from his forehead. If he can convince Kirishima that everything will be fine, then it will be fine. It has to be. Katsuki has no choice.

“I’ve gotta get this shit figured out,” Katsuki tells him. “It’s gonna come back to get me if I don’t.”

“Maybe not?” Kirishima offers meekly, his voice so void of his usual gusto and confidence that Katsuki can’t help but outright laugh at the ridiculous suggestion. 

“Eijirou,” Katsuki says with one final snort, storing away the rest of his laughter for later, because Eijirou doesn’t seem reassured by it. “Avoiding the truth won’t change it. I’m gonna find out one way or another, and I’d rather it be from Aizawa than from the day my hag mother storms into my apartment to get answers.”

“I guess. Just—if things get to be too much, tell me? Please? And I’ll be right there with you.”

“Fuck off,” Katsuki scoffs, but he’s weak to Kirishima’s pouting lips. “Fine.”

That seems to satisfy Kirishima. He turns over and shuts off the lamp, and without Kirishima’s nagging concern, Katsuki has no more reason to lie to himself. In the moment, his courage had felt genuine—maybe it was—but now that he’s not trying to convince Kirishima that he’s okay, well… He feels a lot less certain that he’s okay. Or that he’s going to be. 

Dammit. 

He scoots closer to Kirishima, chest to his back and arm around his waist. He nuzzles into the back of Kirishima’s neck, pushing silky red hair to the side with his nose and pressing his lips to the newly exposed skin. Kirishima’s breath hitches, and he leans into Katsuki’s touch and fuels his desires. His skin is hot and inviting. Katsuki kisses slowly, sucks lightly, nibbles softly.

“Katsuki?” Kirishima whispers, looking over his shoulder to meet Katsuki’s eyes. 

The fabric of Kirishima’s shirt is soft in Katsuki’s hand, bending to his will, crumpling in his fist. He bows his head, hiding his gaze within Kirishima’s shoulder blades. He’s being so fucking obvious. 

“Alright, so I’m a little nervous,” he admits, as if Kirishima can’t tell. 

“I know,” Kirishima replies, and if the words hadn’t come out so sweetly, Katsuki would have sworn he was being smug. He flips over then so that they’re face to face, gazing at Katsuki with eyes that are clouded in something

“What?” Katsuki asks, studying Kirishima’s lips without thought. 

Kirishima reaches out, caressing Katsuki’s jawline and running his thumb over his bottom lip. He gasps when Katsuki’s tongue darts out to flick it.

“Do you…” Kirishima stammers, his breaths a bit heavy. “Do you need…?”

Katsuki nods once, laying a hand on Kirishima’s shoulder to gently push him back onto the bed. Yes, he needs. Needs distraction. Needs comfort. Needs Kirishima. His hand slips beneath Kirishima’s shirt, tracing his abs as he bends to connect their lips. Kirishima is patient with Katsuki, matching his unhurried tempo, so pliant and easy as Katsuki takes charge and climbs on top. 

Katsuki licks at Kirishima’s bottom lip. Somehow it’s the way that Kirishima cranes his neck and pulls Katsuki closer that steals his breath away. He knows Kirishima would do anything for him, but it’s so clear that he wants this too—this isn’t mere pity.

Wanting nothing more than to please Kirishima (a mission worthy of distracting him from his fears), Katsuki kisses his way down to Kirishima’s pulse point and pauses for just a moment to listen to every ragged breath that pierces the air. Kirishima really has no idea how fucking hot he is. When he wraps his legs around Katsuki’s waist and grinds up against him, Katsuki just about loses his mind. 

He bites hard into the space between Kirishima’s neck and shoulder, reveling in the whimper it earns him. The moans that follow only encourage him to ignore the fact that this will definitely leave a mark; if Kirishima doesn’t care, then Katsuki certainly doesn’t either.

“Katsuki,” Kirishima whispers shakily, his erection rutting against Katsuki’s own. “Fuck… Katsuki…”

Katsuki pulls away just long enough to hoist Kirishima’s shirt over his head. He wants to feel his skin, to be as close as possible without any layers between them. With that in mind, he sheds his own shirt as well. The feeling of their bare chests touching just grows Katsuki’s hunger.

He rolls his hips against Kirishima’s one final time before kissing down his chest to suck on one of his nipples. Kirishima’s back arches slightly, and he lets out a choked moan that has Katsuki racing back to his lips. He wants to taste that sound.

Kirishima whimpers into his mouth, burying his groans with kisses while Katsuki makes it his goal to get Kirishima as loud and unhinged as possible. His chest is already heaving, but when Katsuki palms his erection through the loose basketball shorts he’s wearing, Kirishima’s breaths turn to gasps. 

“Ah! K-Katsuki,” Kirishima chokes out, hips canting up into Katsuki’s hand. “Katsuki—please…

Fuck yeah. Kirishima’s begging is so hot; he doesn’t even realize that Katsuki would do anything he said, no asking necessary. Just to know that Kirishima wants him… Katsuki is getting so fucking hard.

He can tell that Kirishima is at full interest, but he wants to take him over the edge. 

“You’re so fucking hot, Red,” Katsuki grunts against Kirishima’s lips. “So beautiful. Just wanna make you feel good…”

He sits up, yanking off Kirishima’s shorts and underwear all at once. Kirishima’s cock springs up, fully aroused and dripping with precum. Katsuki can’t help the lustful smile that spreads over his face at the sight. Kirishima’s hips twitch needily, but for just one second, Katsuki takes his time, rubbing his thumb across Kirishima’s slit and spreading the precum. Kirishima’s uncontrolled groan is intoxicating.

Katsuki moves down to kiss the insides of Kirishima’s thighs, taking the moment to appreciate the view of Kirishima’s hazy, lust-filled eyes and heaving chest from down here. His whole body is trembling, and his hands tug at Katsuki’s hair, urging him towards his cock. Katsuki is more than happy to comply. It’s all he wants. 

He licks Kirishima’s entire length once and then twice before sucking his tip. He lifts his head slowly and drops back down, finding a rhythm and dipping lower each time. Kirishima’s hips wiggle on the bed, and Katsuki can tell he’s making a concentrated effort to keep still; Katsuki doesn’t want Kirishima focusing on anything except his own pleasure. He’d let Kirishima fuck his face off if it made Kirishima feel good.

“Relax,” Katsuki whispers, lifting his head to look at Kirishima. He rubs calming circles on Kirishima’s rib cage, working his way down his hips and trying to dissolve the tension in them. “You don’t have to be so stiff.”

“Sorry,” Kirishima replies, still panting. “I just—I don’t wanna—”

“You’re not gonna bother me,” Katsuki insists, reaching up to intertwine their fingers. “Just fuckin’ enjoy yourself.”

He goes down once again before Kirishima can argue back. It seems that his words sink in, though. Kirishima channels all of the tension into their joined hands, squeezing hard on Katsuki and letting his hips raise up in tandem with his increasingly breathy moans. Kirishima is completely undone, Katsuki can tell, and the way he becomes quieter with every gasping, moaning breath is the hottest plot twist of Katsuki’s life.

Kirishima’s hips move erratically, and every shove of his cock further into Katsuki’s mouth is something that Katsuki takes as a challenge. He hollows out his cheeks to take Kirishima fully into his mouth, sucking as his lips reach the base and Kirishima’s dick hits the back of Katsuki’s throat.

The way Kirishima’s body stiffens is different this time. He’s gasping for air and arching his back, grunting out Katsuki’s name incoherently. Katsuki can tell he’s getting close, and fuck, Katsuki could almost come too. He massages Kirishima’s shaft with his tongue as he sucks, moaning in unison with Kirishima because this is all so fucking good.

“Fuck—fuck, yes,” Kirishima gasps. “Baby, I’m gonna—I’m gonna—fuck…

Kirishima’s cum is hot in Katsuki’s mouth. He swallows it down, fingers spreading across Kirishima’s abs and eyes closing as he waits patiently for the last drop. When he emerges back at Kirishima’s side, he’s met with a passionate kiss on the lips. 

“That was so good,” Kirishima says dreamily, short of breath as he practically collapses onto the bed.

Katsuki feels his cheeks heat up. Mission accomplished. “Thanks for that.”

Kirishima’s grin is slightly lopsided. “Shouldn’t I be thanking you?”

Katsuki just snorts and lies down next to him. “That was a good fuckin’ distraction.”

“Believe me, I was more than happy to help,” Kirishima says with an amused smile. Then his eyes flicker downward at Katsuki’s erection. “I could distract you a little more.”

“Probably won’t take much,” Katsuki admits, inhaling sharply as Kirishima strokes him through his pants.

And it doesn’t. Kirishima’s hands make quick work of him despite the lazy pace he starts off with. Katsuki is so worked up just from getting Kirishima off that he’s already dangerously close to the edge of his own orgasm. Every featherlight kiss from Kirishima on Katsuki’s body (his neck, his shoulders, his chest—every place Kirishima’s mouth can find) lights up a different nerve sensor. He’s whispering sweet affirmations to Katsuki, making both his mind and his heart flutter, his vision cloudy.

Katsuki can hear his own moans as they bounce off the walls, and he tries to quiet himself. He wants to hear Kirishima’s hushed words, but the more Kirishima speaks, the less Katsuki can contain his own noises.

“I adore you, Katsuki,” Kirishima whispers, kissing down past his navel and hastily removing his pants. “I fucking adore you.”

Kirishima must know that Katsuki’s climax is near, because he wastes no time teasing. He takes Katsuki’s full cock into his mouth and begins to suck. It could be two minutes of this or twenty seconds, but Katsuki counts himself lucky to experience it at all. He digs his hands into the sheets and lets his mouth fall open, coming with a raspy moan. 

Kirishima crawls back up to his side, running his fingers through Katsuki’s hair and kissing his forehead. He pulls the blanket up over their bare bodies, laying a protective arm over Katsuki and huddling close. Their legs tangle together, and Kirishima’s calm breaths warm Katsuki from the inside out. 

“You know I would do anything for you,” Kirishima whispers. “You know that, right?”

Katsuki laughs quietly, settling in against Kirishima’s chest. “You’re not subtle, Red. I had a feeling.”

“And you deserve the world,” Kirishima continues, a bit of urgency in his voice, like this matter is paramount. “You believe me when I say it, don’t you?”

Katsuki can’t help the tiny smile that tugs at his lips, but he also has to be honest. “I’m working on it. I’m trying.”

His eyes are heavy, but his heart is so light. Is there any better way to fall asleep? It’s probably the best way to wake up too. 

“We should get some rest, hm?” Kirishima suggests. Always a mind reader. “See you in the morning.”

That’s all the permission Katsuki needs to dive into a deep and surprisingly peaceful sleep. He doesn’t stir a single time in the night, too warm and safe to be bothered by the need to roll over or readjust. His anxieties feel miles away, even after the night passes and his eyes open to the morning light.

He wakes to Kirishima’s sweet touch, the feeling of abstract designs being traced onto his back and shoulders. Although he was dead asleep, Katsuki is certain that Kirishima didn’t move at all in the night either; he’s holding Katsuki just the same way as when they drifted off.

A chilled draft is slipping in through the ancient apartment windows, cooling the air a bit more than Katsuki would like. He shifts closer to Kirishima, arms wrapping further around his body, lips brushing his collarbone. 

“Morning,” Kirishima whispers, kissing Katsuki’s hairline. “Ready for today?”

Katsuki is grateful for the way Kirishima’s hold on him tightens. “Ready as I’ll ever be.”


The campus is barren at this hour. Only idiots who hate themselves like Katsuki who schedule classes before 10AM are around, most of them already holed up in classrooms and lecture halls. They really shouldn’t miss another full day of classes now that they’re back, but Katsuki is willing to sacrifice one just to get this dreaded conversation over with.

Honestly, he’s glad that Kirishima is tagging along. He can’t remember if he’s actually said that out loud yet, but it’s true. If he had to do this by himself, he’d be a much bigger mess—and he’s still kind of a mess as it is.

Before they enter the athletic center, Kirishima pulls him aside. He takes both of Katsuki’s hands and rests their foreheads together. 

“Is it okay if I kiss you here?” Kirishima asks, eyes locked on Katsuki’s. 

He must be talking about PDA. Katsuki never would have pegged himself as someone who gets close to others in public, but he’ll be damned if he lets anyone keep Kirishima away from him. 

“You kiss me wherever the hell you want,” Katsuki says with a glare that just makes Kirishima laugh. 

“Okay,” Kirishima nods, chuckling as he closes his eyes and embraces Katsuki with a long kiss. That’s all it takes to get Katsuki’s head spinning, but it’s better than being wrapped up in his nerves. “You’ve got this, dude. I’m right here with you.”

It’s only when Katsuki reaches for the door that he wonders if the athletic center is even open—if Aizawa is even here this early. How hilarious would that be? Unfortunately, Katsuki won’t be getting any extra laughs today; the door opens immediately.

They shuffle down the empty hallways, and the opening and closing of the gym doors sounds off with a resounding echo into the empty space. Not a single soul in sight. Kirishima gives Katsuki’s hand one final squeeze before setting him free and taking a seat on the bleachers.

Aizawa’s office is hidden away in a little alcove at the back end of the gymnasium. It’s unlikely that Aizawa himself had any say in that, but Katsuki knows he must like that. Right now, Katsuki isn’t too fond of it; every footstep is a battle not to turn around and run the other way. When he does eventually make it, his heart sinks.

Aizawa’s desk lamp is on, but the overhead lights are switched off, and he doesn’t actually see Aizawa here at all—at first. Something in the back of Katsuki’s mind tells him to investigate further, so he steps into the office and nearly has a fucking heart attack. A pair of legs are sprawled out on the floor, peeking out motionlessly from behind the desk. 

“What the fuck?” Katsuki squawks, his entire body coiling back. He did not come here to find a dead body!

And then the body starts to move (because of course it does), and Katsuki’s mind quickly catches up to the situation. Fucking Aizawa. This man really decided to take a nap on the floor of his office? When there’s a perfectly good couch right on the wall?

“Bakugou,” Aizawa croaks, his head of messy, matted hair appearing above the desk. He rubs his eyes, making no apologies for his current strate. “What can I do for you?”

Katsuki can’t quite focus on the important matters he came here to discuss. This is too fucking weird. “Did you sleep here last night?”

“I sleep wherever I need to sleep,” Aizawa says, settling into his desk chair. That’s just more confusing. 

“Wait, do you fucking live here?”

“No! I was just waiting for—” Aizawa seems to catch himself then, shaking his head. “Sit down and tell me what you want.”

Katsuki declines the offer to sit down, much preferring the ability to intimidate with his height when standing—not to mention the ability to dart right out the door if needed. 

“I want to know what you called about,” Katsuki says, clearing his throat. “Your message was a little...vague.”

Aizawa’s eyebrow twitches with annoyance. “It was a lot to put into a voicemail that I, frankly, was quite certain you would ignore.”

Fair enough.

“Well, here I am,” Katsuki says, folding his arms. “So what is it?”

He’s testing the man’s patience, he can see that. Aizawa pinches the bridge of his nose and takes a deep breath. Katsuki halfway thinks he’d better prepare for battle; he always feels that way around Aizawa (maybe that's how others feel around Katsuki), but his rage rarely comes to a boil (unlike Katsuki).

“I had every intention of kicking you off this team after what happened,” Aizawa says at last. Katsuki’s stomach ties up in a double knot. “That would mean losing your scholarship, I’m sure you’re aware.”

Katsuki swallows thickly. “Yep.”

“It wasn’t something I relished doing, something I wanted to do, but what you did can’t be ignored. I have a zero tolerance policy for that sort of behavior.” 

Aizawa looks Katsuki right in the eye the entire time. Is he even human? The man is fucking intimidating and he knows it. Katsuki enjoys a good verbal sparring with him, but the truth is he’s terrified—especially now. 

“However.” Aizawa says, pausing as if just to torture Katsuki. “Someone else on the team—Tetsutetsu, actually—came forward and shared a version of the story that felt a little less biased than what I heard from Midoriya. You were provoked?”

Katsuki’s mouth goes dry. Somebody stood up for him? Someone else saw what happened and didn’t view Katsuki through the lens of a black-and-white villain? Tetsutetsu of all people too—Katsuki had a feeling that guy wasn’t so bad. 

“Bakugou?” Aizawa grabs his attention back. “I said, were you provoked?”

“I guess you could say that,” Katsuki manages, still too baffled to think straight. “Deku—he said a bunch of stuff about—”

“All Might,” Aizawa finishes the sentence, and Katsuki loosens the fists he didn’t realize he’d been squeezing at his sides. “You don’t have to repeat it; Tetsutetsu told me. I just wanted to be sure the stories lined up.”

Katsuki glances around the office, looking everywhere but at Aizawa. He’d much rather study the backs of the picture frames on the desk (surprising personal tokens for a private man like Aizawa) and wonder whose faces grace their front sides. He’d rather scoff in disgust at the thick layer of dust covering the nearby bookshelf, or notice the giant, fluffy sleeping bag kicked sloppily in the corner. None of that has anything to do with the outcome of this situation. 

“So?” Katsuki finally asks, curiosity tearing him apart.

“I can’t just let it go, Bakugou. You attacked a teammate, provoked or not. But I still believe in you, and I don’t think this has to be the end. What I have for you is a deal.”

“A deal?”

“You can stay on the team—keep your scholarship—if you agree to speak with a counselor and work through some of the things you’re dealing with. It’s not my place to suggest such a thing, and usually I wouldn’t even bother,” Aizawa says, for the first time breaking eye contact and toying with a pen on his desk. “I just wanted to give you the option. If I have some sort of reassurance that nothing like this will ever happen again, then I won’t feel the need to remove you from the team.”

Motherfucker. Katsuki feels the dramatic, contorted wince on his face, but he doesn’t even care. This is—this is a lot. 

Aizawa picks up the pen and sticks it in the cup of other utensils before him, clearing his throat and looking very official once again. “This wrestling season is nearly over, so if you commit to this, I’m willing to bend the rules and allow you another leave of absence for you to work through things. I won’t mention it to the scholarship committee, and you can come back to the team next year.”

An offer like this is something unheard of from Aizawa. He never bends the rules. Never. It’s basically being given to Katuski on a silver platter, but is it what he wants?

“I took the liberty of notifying your parents,” Aizawa adds, sparking a dissatisfied scowl on Katsuki’s face. “Since I couldn’t get a hold of you, I wanted somebody to know what was going on. They accepted my offer on your behalf, if for no other reason than to insure your spot on the team. Should you want to turn me down, that’s still an option.”

Katsuki’s insides feel numb. He could tell from his dad’s voicemail that he must know, but this whole situation is still mind-boggling. What the hell is he supposed to do?

“Just think on it,” Aizawa says, and Katsuki can tell from his tone and the way that he turns to look at his computer screen that this conversation is wrapping up. “Unless I hear otherwise, I’ll assume you’re in agreement. Questions?”

Before Katsuki figures out how to verbalize that he somehow has a million questions and none at all, he hears the back door to the gym open. 

“Shouta! Sorry I’m late, traffic was INSANE, but believe me, I was thinking of you the entire—oh.” The noisy man that Katsuki recognizes as the announcer for their wrestling matches stands tall, gangly, and clueless in the doorway. Katsuki certainly has questions now, but none related to his scholarship. 

“You can go, Bakugou,” Aizawa says quickly, depriving him the opportunity. Still, as he stands up and files out of the office, he doesn’t miss the blush on Aizawa’s cheeks, nor the wicked grin that the other man sports.

He doesn’t feel the need to stick around. Actually, he’d like to get out of here as quickly as possible. He’s got a whole day of classes to survive, and the sooner he gets to them, the sooner they’ll be over. Then maybe he can think about this mess in peace. Of course, all of that comes to a crashing halt when he rounds the corner and sees Kirishima engaged in a heated conversation with none other than Deku.

Damn fucking Deku. 

For some reason, his first instinct is to jump back around the corner—to watch this unfold in secret. They’re standing near the corner, as if Kirishima saw Deku pass by through the main entrance of the gym and chased him down. Deku’s back is to Katsuki, but the tension is obvious in his stance. 

“Kirishima, none of this has to involve you,” Deku says, taking a nervous step back. “It really has nothing to do with you. I don’t know what Kacchan has told you, but—”

“I’ll stop you right there. Katsuki is pretty guarded with all this stuff, and he doesn’t tell me much, but I’ve seen plenty on my own.” Kirishima’s voice is so serious.

It dawns on Katsuki for the first time how intimidating Kirishima could be if he wanted. What an act of mercy to the rest of the world that this tall, muscular man with a deep voice and pointy teeth chooses to be an absolute ray of sunshine ninety-nine percent of the time. Of course, he doesn’t seem very sunshiny right now. He seems pissed. 

“I think you probably mean well, Midoriya,” Kirishima continues, “but your head is so far up your own ass that you can’t even see the damage you’re doing. Katsuki isn’t broken, and he isn’t bad! So stop treating him like it! I know he punched you, and I know what you said to him before it all happened so I know that you fucking deserved it.”

“That’s not true!” Deku objects, and Katsuki wonders which part he thinks is a lie. 

“It is!” Kirishima shoots back, taking a bold step towards Deku with a raised fist. “And you don’t get to treat him like that!”

Katsuki himself draws back in fear. A punch from Kirishima would be no joke. He could easily break Deku’s nose with a single blow, and in that instant Katsuki isn’t sure he actually wants to see that—not at Kirishima’s hands. Thankfully, at the last second Kirishima pulls back his fist and sighs. 

“Bakugou doesn’t need to be fixed, and if he did, it wouldn’t be by you,” Kirishima says darkly. “Fixing him won’t bring All Might back, and it won’t fix any of your problems. Fuck off and get some help, Midoriya.”

Katsuki’s heart flutters with red-hot gratitude. Now is definitely the time to make his presence known. He rounds the corner and passes Deku by without a single glance, taking Kirishima’s hand and leading the way towards the gym doors. He can feel Deku’s eyes on them as they leave, and it must be that Kirishima can too, because just before they hit the exit, he stops Katsuki and kisses him hard on the mouth for Deku to see.

Katsuki kisses him back hungrily, grinning wide when they separate. “You’re fucking amazing, you know.”

Kirishima just shrugs. “It’s like I said last night. I’d do anything for you.”

Making it through the day is going to be a hell of a lot easier now.




Chapter Text

 

The ceiling in Kirishima’s dorm room is ugly. Katsuki has been staring at it for the last forty minutes, and that’s the conclusion he comes to. He’s lying on the bed like an inanimate object, collecting dust while he tortures himself with the endless storm of thoughts that spin and swirl in his head. His poor brain is clouded. 

The only reason he’s even here is because Kirishima dragged him over after their workout tonight. Otherwise he’d be back at his apartment staring up at his own shitty ceiling and contemplating the meaning of life. Kirishima knew that, of course, and probably hoped that Katsuki would find something more useful to do with a change of scenery. 

“Katsuki,” Kirishima whines, giving him a little shove so that he can sit next to him on the bed. “You’ve gotta be patient with yourself.”

“I have to make a decision,” Katsuki insists. “I can’t just coast on some deal my mom made with Aizawa. Besides, think of all the things that entails.”

It’s not a great many things—not when you write it out as a list with simple words. The problem lies in seeing them through. Going to therapy (or counseling, as Aizawa said) is more than a single, one-and-done word. It’s a commitment. And it’s just a little fucking scary.

“You’ve been thinking about it,” Kirishima says, looking down at Katsuki with a heavy gaze. “All week long. And it’s making you miserable.”

He’s not wrong. Katsuki can’t help obsessing over the decision, though. Whatever he chooses will affect everything: turn down the deal, lose his scholarship, lose the wrestling team, have no direction in life. Alternatively: accept the deal, go to therapy and uncover a shit ton of inner drama, heal (allegedly), go back to the wrestling team… Katsuki feels ill. Those are his choices, though.

“Fine,” he agrees, not really hearing himself or understanding what he’s agreeing to. In this moment, he just can’t bear to debate with himself any longer.

“Thank you.” Kirishima kisses his forehead. “Let’s get out of here, huh? Find something more fun to do?”

Katsuki rearranges his limbs to lean against Kirishima’s torso. He’d be more easily persuaded to stay right here with his human space heater boyfriend—if that’s what Kirishima is. 

“Katsuki?” Kirishima chuckles, not about to let Katsuki waste away. Well, the joke’s on him; Katsuki could really thrive like this.

“Something fun like what?” Katsuki replies at last, always weak to Kirishima’s desires. 

Kirishima hums thoughtfully, drumming his fingers on Katsuki’s back. Whether he knows it or not, Kirishima could convince Katsuki to do any number of things if he just kept doing that. 

“Rumor has it that Kaminari, Sero, and Shinsou are going out to that cute neighborhood I took you to before,” Kirishima says. “I’m sure they wouldn’t mind us tagging along. Sero would probably be grateful if we saved him from ‘third wheel’ status.”

“By being the fourth and fifth wheels?” Katsuki snorts, but Kirishima has his attention. He’s been hoping to get back to that neighborhood ever since they first visited. 

Kirishima just smiles like he knows Katsuki is going to give in. “Exactly. Let me send them a quick text.”

No doubt Kirishima is right about one thing. Sero is going to appreciate some extra company. The last time Katsuki had a real conversation with Sero was before the camping trip, and at that time Sero had been in pretty rough shape. Of course, Katsuki wasn’t in much of a mood to help him at that point. Now that he’s worked out his own shit, Katsuki’s stomach turns over in guilt for how he dismissed Sero’s struggles. 

“Are we going or what?” he grumbles, tugging on his shoes and coat. 

Kirishima smirks. “Someone’s changed their tune. Yes, they’re just about to leave.”

They meet up with the others downstairs, catching them just as they’re walking out the door. It’s quickly agreed upon that Katsuki will be the one to drive, because as much as he doesn’t want these idiots packed into his car, there’s no way in hell he’s putting his life in the hands of anyone else. Annoyingly, he needs Kirishima’s directions to find the neighborhood, and he keeps having to yell at everyone to shut the fuck up, but as soon as the car is parked all of his stress melts away. 

“Ready to get out and explore a little more?” Kirishima asks, closing the car door and coming around to meet Katsuki.

Katsuki just nods and shoves his hands into his coat pockets. It’s been a while since they first visited, but from what he remembers there was a lot to see. 

His breath shows like smoke in the air, and the wind rumbles low and deep through the trees that line the street. Kaminari and Shinsou take the lead, wandering up the hill, their hair waving wildly in the heavy breeze. Katsuki can’t help watching them, trying to see if there’s anything to the claims Sero keeps making. Is Kaminari really that happy with this guy? Happier than he’d be with Sero?

Really, it’s none of Katsuki’s business, and he doesn’t actually care that much—but Kaminari seems like the type of guy who could be happy with anyone, so why not Sero? Of course, that just makes him more difficult to read.

He’s seen Kaminari do plenty of laughing with Sero—that obnoxious, mischievous snicker when they’re up to no good. And they’re usually up to no good. They have fun together, and even though it’s typically at the expense of Katsuki’s sanity, he can appreciate that.

Still, he can’t help but notice a slight difference as he studies Kaminari now. His gaze lingers unmistakably on Shinou’s face, and there’s a gentle sort of way about him as they walk and talk together, like he’s hoping to draw out a smile or a laugh. He’s willing to do the work. Katsuki has seen that sweet sort of determination before—in Kirishima, every moment of every day since they first met. Katsuki wouldn’t trade it for the world. 

“You alright?” Kirishima asks curiously, nudging Katsuki as they walk side by side. 

Katsuki clears his throat, embarrassed to be caught staring. “Hey, Soy Sauce,” he calls instead of answering. Sero has been wandering up the street all on his own. “Pick a group and stick with it.”

Sero pauses, glancing back and forth from the two pairs as they near the top of the hill. He’s going to get left behind if he doesn’t hurry his ass up, and Katsuki isn’t feeling so sympathetic that he’d stop to wait. It could be born of ease since it’s Kirishima and Katsuki who are approaching Sero and the others walking away, but Sero does choose them. He falls into step easily by Katsuki’s side and nods a silent greeting. 

“You’re quiet,” Kirishima remarks. As far as Katsuki knows, Sero hasn’t told Kirishima about his feelings for Kaminari, but Kirishima is usually pretty intuitive about these things. “You doing okay?”

“Me?” Sero asks, fiddling with the zipper on his coat. “Yeah. Why do you ask?

Kirishima just shrugs. “It’s kind of annoying when they go off on their own, but it’s just because they’re a new couple. It’s all exciting for them.”

Yes. Kirishima always knows.

When Sero doesn’t appear to be comforted by those words, Katsuki gruffly adds, “Yeah, well I think they should get the fuck over it.”

You don’t see Katsuki and Kirishima out here acting like that. How embarrassing. And they’re a newer couple than Kaminari and Shinsou—if they are a couple. There’s that nagging question once again. 

Sero sputters with laughter at Katsuki’s comment, and Katsuki will count that as a win. If he couldn’t make Sero feel any better, at least he could validate his feelings. 

“Hey, slowpokes!” Kaminari hollers from the crest of the hill. “Hurry up, will you? Everything’s gonna close down before you catch up to us.”

“See?” Kirishima grins, trotting ahead to join the others. 

Sero shrugs his shoulders with a sheepish smile before following suit, leaving Katsuki to speed walk up to them. 

The early evening sky is painted deep blue, but as they pass over the hill they’re met with the soft glow of fairy lights hanging from porches and tiny lanterns lining the sidewalks. This place in all of its sweet little beauties is everything that Katsuki isn’t, but he can’t help loving it. Maybe for the specific reason that it’s so unexpected. 

“Hey, Bakugou,” Kaminari calls, waving Katsuki over to him. “Have you ever been to this place before, or is it your first time?”

Katsuki huffs, detecting a shit-eating grin behind Kaminari’s massive scarf. “I’ve been before. Fuckin’ why?”

Kaminari shrugs, linking his arm with Shinsou’s. “This is Kirishima’s favorite place, so I was just trying to gauge how serious he is about you by whether or not he’s brought you here.”

Far be it from Katsuki to ever be speechless, and yet here he is. It once again begs the question of what he and Kirishima are. It probably should be obvious, and yet they’ve never bothered to clarify any title. Katsuki’s not usually one to care about such things, but with Kirishima, Katsuki finds himself caring too much about everything. 

He watches Kirishima without shame, admiring the way the warm lights reflect off of his hair and make his rosy cheeks glow. How could he possibly not care about this man?

“Aw, come on, Denki,” Kirishima scolds, throwing an arm around Katsuki’s shoulders. “You know I brought Bakugou here a while back. I told you all about it.”

Curious. 

“Yeah, but it’s fun to get him all tongue-tied,” Kaminari admits, earning a snicker from the usually stoic Shinsou beside him. “Maybe I’ll make a habit of teasing Bakugou, hm?”

“You’ll have to teach me your ways,” Sero chimes in, skipping to stand by the pair. He taps his hand along the posts of a white picket fence as they stroll along. “I tease Bakugou all the time, but he just seems to shout louder and louder when I do it.”

Katsuki flips him off. “Okay, asswipe, that’s about enough out of you.”

“I see what you mean, dude,” Kaminari says, unsuccessfully stifling a laugh. “The key seems to be catching him off guard.”

Sero nods. “Noted, noted.”

“You guys are mean!” Kirishima accuses, but he’s laughing too. It’s difficult for Katsuki to keep a straight face when Kirishima is beaming like this. 

Sero is the first to erupt with laughter, but the other two quickly follow. “We’re mean? Have you even met Bakugou?”

These fucking assholes. How dare they make Katsuki laugh at a joke at his own expense! It is funny, though. Funny that these morons aren’t in the least bit scared of him. Funny that Katsuki is actually kind of glad. It’s funny enough, apparently, that he has to laugh along with them. 

Since they’ve made it here a bit earlier than last time, they have the chance to explore before sitting down for dinner. The first stop is an unassuming little store with handmade soaps and salts. Katsuki has no interest in them personally, but the building does smell nice, and he gets a peek into a back room where it appears everything is made. Kaminari tries to convince him to sneak in, but he’ll be damned if he ever listens to one of Kaminari’s terrible ideas. 

It’s Kirishima who suggests they venture into the self-proclaimed junk store across the street. Actually, he’s doing more begging than suggesting, and Katsuki simply can’t say no. So they duck inside the building with its rickety floors and old light fixtures, rummaging through shelves full of old, traditional decor and walls housing beautiful paintings and tapestries from a time long passed. He’s about to scold the morons for tugging at the tassels of one such tapestry, but Shinsou beats him to the punch. Maybe this guy isn’t so bad after all. 

It’s the thrift store that (surprisingly) Katsuki enjoys most. He somehow gets roped into trying on a bunch of ridiculous outfits. He does Kirishima’s little fashion show in protest, and as embarrassing as it all is, the morons seem to like him a lot for it. If he weren’t here, he’d be hanging out alone at his apartment and hating his life. He’d probably still be in turmoil over the wrestling team and his scholarship, so this is preferable to say the least. 

Seemingly before Katsuki even has the chance to blink, they’re being ushered into a restaurant of Kaminari’s choice. Katsuki could only begin to describe it as a dive bar—one with kitschy wallpaper and ugly neon signs behind the counter. Its appearance is grubby at best, but damn if the food doesn’t smell delicious. They’re just getting ready to order some drinks when the bell on the door rings with a clatter and Raccoon Eyes comes flying in. 

“Since when am I not invited on date night?” Ashido pouts, pulling up a chair from a nearby table. She shots a glare that’s got to be fake at both Katsuki and Shinsou. “I don’t know which of you is attempting to take my place, but you’re both poor imitations of me, I’ve gotta say.”

Kirishima humors her. “Nobody could take your place, Mina. Didn’t you have a sorority thing tonight?”

“Cancelled,” she says. “Lucky for all of you. And before you grumps actually take me seriously, I was just joking. I think it’s sweet that our little family is growing!”

Amidst the chorus of AWWWs from the rest of them, Katsuki just shakes his head and snorts. “Don’t get your hopes up for me taking you seriously anytime soon, Raccoon Eyes.”

“Aww!” Ashido echoes, reaching across the table to squeeze Katsuki’s hand. “And he’s teasing me right back.”

“Again, all I get is more yelling,” Sero mutters, feigning annoyance. 

So this is what it’s like to have friends. Katsuki has pondered the concept more than once when in a group environment with these exact people. Somehow, it feels less intimidating this time around. Maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing to claim these morons as his own. They certainly seem open to the idea.

“Would you look at that,” Kirishima remarks, nudging Katsuki and pointing to the window.

Katsuki glances up, and beyond the cozy walls and glowing signs that adorn them sit frosted window panes speckled with snow. The thin snowflakes dance whimsically in the night air, blowing in the wind and making Katsuki shiver in anticipation.

“Oh yeah,” Mina says. “That started as I was heading inside. Glad I missed most of it!”

They place their orders shortly thereafter. Katsuki is glad that everyone else at the table is so damn loud that they can’t hear his stomach growling. Of course, Shinsou is pretty quiet too. A couple times he meets Katsuki’s eye to share a tired glance, and they both shrug off the irresistible, hyperactive energy that their partners continually give off. 

When at last their food arrives, Katsuki is pretty sure he’s never been happier to see a toasted sandwich and fries. Everything is crispy and hot and exactly what he needs on a blustery night like this.

Beneath the table, Kirishima’s hand finds Katsuki’s knee, drawing designs with his fingers and sharing a bit of extra warmth with him. He smiles at Katsuki from the side, and Katsuki longs to lean over and kiss the blush on his cheeks, to brush their lips together. It’s a strange urge to have in this ugly dive bar, but Katsuki can’t imagine a scenario in which he wouldn’t want to kiss Kirishima. 

Once their bills are paid, they decide to walk down to the end of the street and back, just to appreciate the lights and the cozy environment. Surprisingly, Katsuki finds himself going along with the plan without any objection. He’s not ready for this evening to be over.

The wind has grown stronger since the beginning of the night, and paired with the snowfall it’s a little hard to deal with. Kirishima, despite always feeling warm to the touch, shivers, flinching at a snowflake that lands squarely on his nose. Since the moment they met, it seems that Kirishima has always been miserably cold. Katsuki pulls him aside and takes both of his hands into his own, rubbing them together and warming them with his breath. 

“Thanks,” Kirishima says softly, a look of absolute fondness glowing in his eyes. 

Katsuki kisses Kirishima’s knuckles before letting go, but he makes sure to stay close to Kirishima as they continue their little journey. That’s easy enough, and they manage to keep it up until Katsuki has driven them back to campus, at which point Sero cuts between them and herds Katsuki away. 

“So,” Sero drawls, his eyes on the others as they all walk ahead. “Things seem to be going well with Kirishima.”

Katsuki frowns. “I don’t know what that’s supposed to mean.”

“Come on,” Sero prods. “I can see an obvious difference between now and when you were both sulking around a couple weeks ago. You’re back to how you always were—except, maybe a little different from that too.”

“Maybe,” Katsuki admits, his eyes falling upon Kaminari and Shinsou now. “What about you?”

“What about me?” Sero mirrors, determined to be difficult. 

“Is that your answer?”

There’s a beat of silence. “Yes, I suppose it is. There’s not much else I can say. You saw how happy he is.”

“Yeah.”

Katsuki almost hates to admit it. It seems almost unfair that Sero should have to suffer when Katsuki of all people gets a happy ending. But then, love was never about being fair. It’s not a science to be researched or explained with equations, nor is it a resource to be rationed out to those most in need. It’s an anomaly. 

“I’ll be okay, though,” Sero says, and dammit, he must be getting really good at reading Katsuki. He can clearly tell that his lies aren’t being received whatsoever. “I will! I’ll get over it, you know? In life, you can’t always be happy. Not all the time. So be it.”

That’s the truth if Katsuki’s ever heard it. He’s spent the better part of a year being painfully unhappy. Miserable, actually, and he couldn’t imagine a day when that was no longer the case. He couldn’t imagine a day like today.

“Just keep moving,” Katsuki hears himself say. “One day you’ll wake up and none of this will matter.”

“Here’s hoping,” Sero scoffs, perhaps not realizing that Katsuki would never offer such gooey, sickly sweet words as advice unless he was certain. “Hey, man. I’m glad that things at least worked out for one of us. You and Kirishima, well—you deserve it, dude.”

Katsuki can’t detect any insincerity in Sero’s voice. He folds his arms across his chest, guarding himself from the wind and fending off the warm, bubbling gratitude that is making his cheeks glow pink. Rarely has anyone voiced that he deserves happiness—anyone besides Kirishima. It hits a little different hearing it from what Katsuki has so often perceived as the outside world.

All he can do is mutter a thank-you and start off towards Kirishima’s dorm. By the time he’s caught up, Kirishima is just about to slip in his door after Kaminari, but Katsuki calls out to him. 

“Kirishima.”

Kirishima looks over his shoulder and smiles, closing the door and meeting Katsuki halfway down the hall. He nods as Sero passes them by and slips into his own dorm, and then turns his attention to Katsuki. 

“Have a nice time?” he asks, leaning against the wall and grinning.

Katsuki doesn’t even have the desire to lie. “Yeah. Really fucking good, actually.”

“You really do fit right in.”

Kirishima says it tenderly. He knows what those words mean to Katsuki—of course he does. They fill him to the brim with tingling, gentle joy. It’s the kind of rightness Katsuki couldn’t dream up on his own.

“I love you,” Katsuki confesses, his voice a hurried whisper. It’s something he’s known for ages, but he’s never actually said it out loud. 

Kirishima’s eyes widen, but they soften just as quickly. He takes Katsuki’s hand and draws him close. “I love you too. I love you, Katsuki.”

And then he’s being pulled into a crushing hug. Katsuki wraps his arms tightly around Kirishima, holding him close, hoping to breathe through his limbs all of the love he feels. It’s not enough just to say it.

“Katsuki?” Kirishima whispers, his lips moving lightly against Katsuki’s ear. “Do you think—do you think you could call me by my given name?”

Katsuki blinks. Sometimes he does use Kirishima’s given name, but it never occurred to him that he’s been inconsistent with it. And here, Kirishima has been using Katsuki’s for as long as he can remember.

Eijirou. Katsuki tries the name out in his mind, hoping to establish some sort of permanence. 

“Sure,” Katsuki agrees, “if you can clear something up for me.”

Eijirou pulls back, his eyes twinkling. “Of course.”

“What are—are we a couple?” Katsuki asks, feeling stupid as the words exit his mouth. 

“Wait, didn’t we ever…? Did we never establish that?” Kirishima paces backwards, hands flying to his head. “Damn, and I’m supposed to be the romantic one. I’ve failed you!”

“I mean, I was just wondering.”

Eijirou turns around, walking back to Katsuki and placing a kiss on his forehead. He closes his eyes and laughs quietly to himself, keeping Katsuki in suspense until his eyes blink open with that steadfast determination Katuski has grown so familiar with. 

“Sorry, dude. Let me fix that now, huh? Katsuki, I really like you—in fact, I love you. Would you be my—”

“Wait, wait, wait,” Katsuki objects. “I’ll do the asking.”

“Fine,” Eijirou sighs, shaking his head at Katsuki. “Go ahead then.”

“Eijirou, you’re the best person I know, and you know how to kick my ass when I need it. Will you be my boyfriend?”

“Yes,” Eijirou flicks Katsuki’s forehead. “Obviously yes.”

Katsuki grins smugly. “Good choice.”

Eijirou kisses his lips once and then twice, inhaling sharply when Katsuki pulls him closer by the hips and deepens the kiss. They haven’t done this all day, and maybe it’s pathetic, but Katsuki has missed it. He’s missed Eijirou’s soft lips, missed the way he tastes and the grazing of his teeth and tongue.

“I love you,” Katsuki breathes into the kiss, just because he can. Because he wants to. 

Eijirou rests his forehead on Katsuki’s. “I love you too.”

In the end, they decide to go back to Katsuki‘s place. It’s been a lovely night, but they both agree that they wouldn’t mind finishing it out without Kaminari’s presence.

As Katsuki pushes through his apartment door, his lips are already back on Kirishima’s, and his mind is in a far better state than when he was last here. This night provided him with everything he’s been missing—everything he’s been in need of, including clarity. Although they barely breached the subject of Katsuki’s big decision, he somehow knows what he has to do. What he wants to do. 

He’ll sleep on it just to be safe. There’s no need to bring it up before then. However, if he feels half as peaceful come morning as he does right now, then he’ll have his answer. 




Chapter Text

The winding freeway is seemingly endless. It twists and turns around clusters of brown, barren trees, stringing Katsuki along with its mystery but never actually bringing him to the required exit. It might help if he turned on his GPS, but he hates being yelled at by a damn machine, and he can find the way himself. They’ve gotta be getting close now. Of course, he’s thought that a hundred times already.

“There it is!” Eijirou practically cheers. Perhaps he can feel how the car is dragging too.

Indeed, there it is. Katsuki can’t decide if the exit sign should be doused with sunbeams and haled by angels or if it should be clouded with darkness, framed by fearsome lightning—maybe with a few bats flapping around for emphasis. On one hand, he’s terrified. On the other, it might be good just to get this over with.

“Hard to believe it’s only been an hour,” Katsuki grumbles as he at last pulls off the freeway and into this shitty town that’s barely on the map.

It’s halfway to his parents’ house. That’s the main point. They drove an hour to get here too, and while Katsuki will hopefully leave with some sense of relief, likely all they’ll be taking with them is disappointment.

His sweaty palms are slick on the steering wheel as he makes a right turn at the stoplight. That’s when Eijirou reaches over and takes the nearest one.

“So hey,” Eijirou begins, and Katsuki can tell he’s treading lightly. “What’s the game plan here? Should I wait in the car? Come inside?”

“Come inside,” Katsuki says.

It’s kind of a selfish choice, he knows. They’ve been dating less than twenty-four hours and Katsuki is already dragging Eijirou on a road trip to meet his parents. That would be awkward enough without all this Lifetime movie drama thrown into the mix. It’s not fair that Eijirou should have to witness this shit, but Katsuki can’t stomach the idea of sitting down all by himself and looking his parents in the eye.

Eijirou swallows thickly, but he doesn’t object. “Okay. And Katsuki? Don’t be mad at me, but—are you completely sure about this? About your decision?”

Katsuki keeps his eyes on the road ahead, studying the line of trees on the horizon. “Yep.”

“I just don’t want to see you in pain anymore.”

Katsuki squeezes Eijirou’s hand, tearing his eyes from the road to look at Eijirou with certainty. “This is what I need to do. I’ll explain it to you when I tell my parents. I don’t feel like saying all that shit twice, so for now you’ll just have to trust me.”

“I trust you,” Eijirou replies, turning so that he can hold Katsuki’s hand in both of his own. “I’ve got your back, man.”

They spend the rest of the drive in silence, but the warm, secure hold of Eijirou’s hands comforts Katsuki more than he’d like to admit. It’s so much better than the iron grip he’d been keeping on the wheel. For a few short moments, all the tension in his bones morphs into jelly.

When they do at last pull into the parking lot of the run down diner they agreed upon, the gravity of this situation becomes far more real to Katsuki. Everything is going to change after this conversation—his family life, his academic life, everything. He’s got to fight off the infectious fears that are beginning to fester within his stomach. They tell him that this is all a mistake, that he’s about to ruin his life.

But if he doesn’t do this, it’ll just be more of the same. Katsuki knows himself well enough—better than he did a few months back.

“Ready?” Eijirou asks, and through the passenger window Katsuki can see his parents’ parked car.

“Ready.”

His parents are already seated when Katsuki and Eijirou walk in. This is not a place Katsuki would ever choose to be—not in normal circumstances. He’s never seen a restaurant so garishly decorated. The walls are marred by kitschy pink wallpaper with flowers, birds, and ribbons. The too-cushy carpet beneath their feet is green of all colors. None of the colors belong together, and to say that they clash with Eijirou’s hair is a criminal understatement

Approaching the table feels like a walk of shame, but that’s ridiculous, because how could Katsuki ever be ashamed with Eijirou by his side?

“Katsuki,” his mom greets, and he can tell by her carefully measured tone that it’s taking everything in her not to explode right now.

“Mom,” he answers curtly. Beside him, Eijirou clears his throat. Right… “Dad, Mom, this is my boyfriend.”

“Uh, Kirishima Eijirou!” Poor Red has to scramble to introduce himself thanks to Katsuki’s half-assed explanation. “So nice to meet you both!”

“Boyfriend, huh?” Katsuki’s father replies with a smirk. “Never thought I’d see the day Katsuki brought someone home. It’s nice to meet you too. I’m Masaru, and this is my wife, Mitsuki.”

“I wish I could say I’ve heard a lot about you, but Katsuki can never be bothered to call us,” his mother adds, somehow managing to smile at Eijirou while glaring at Katsuki.

He could murder them both right in the middle of this restaurant. Why do they think he never tells them anything? Just look how embarrassing they’re being! It hasn’t even begun, though. When they hear what he’s done—what he’s going to do… Well, maybe he should just let them keep fussing over Eijirou.

“In all seriousness,” his dad says, clearing his throat, “I’m glad you called us, Katsuki. We just want to know that you’re okay.”

Beneath the table, Eijirou finds Katsuki’s hand and offers a squeeze. At that blessed moment, the waitress drops by with two cups of coffee ordered for them by Katsuki’s parents, and he takes a deep breath to collect himself. He tries to adopt the same emptiness as the coffee—the black, mystic void. It’s a worthless attempt, though; he cares too damn much.

“I’m not okay,” Katsuki confesses, squeezing Eijirou’s hand so tightly that it might just shatter in his grasp. He stares at his coffee, determined not to look up. “It’s been a really shitty year.”

“Oh.” The single syllable comes from his mother. It is, perhaps, the least she’s ever spoken in her life.

He can’t blame her for being surprised. When has Katsuki ever admitted his own vulnerability? Never—especially to her. He’s spent this entire year insisting that he’s fine and dodging her phone calls. Now he’s called her up and sat her down to tell her the exact opposite. Even if she’d suspected that something was wrong, she never would have anticipated him confessing it.

It’s Katsuki’s father who speaks first—but not before he clears his throat (a nervous habit) and glances toward Eijirou and then back to Katsuki. “Well—thank you for telling us. I know it’s not the easiest thing for you, and—”

“Dad,” Katsuki warns, taking a loud slurp of his coffee.

“Anyway,” his dad continues, taking the hint and foregoing all that emotional crap. “I’m sure it’s been a rough year. Would you like to tell us anything more?”

Would he? Katsuki sends a pleading glance to Eijirou, wishing that he could find answers in his ruby eyes. What he finds isn’t so much clarity as it is safety, though, but that might be even better. Even if Katsuki fucks up and says the wrong thing here, he’ll be okay.

The yellowing lace curtains on the windows are gaudy, but the patterned shadow they cast upon Eijirou’s face in the illuminating sunlight is nothing short of beautiful. Katsuki lets himself appreciate it, fighting a smile for the first time since they sat down here.

“Katsuki, you’re killing me here,” his mom gripes, taping on the table with her pointer. “I want to respect your boundaries, but come on!”

“Alright, fine,” Katsuki sighs, meeting her eyes. “For the better part of the year I’ve been avoiding wrestling practice like the fucking plague, and when I did finally go back it was a nightmare. I couldn’t face everyone in their judgement.”

“Why the fuck wouldn’t you tell us?” his mom practically howls. There’s no malice in her tone, but even from the corner of his eye, Katsuki can see how Eijirou jolts at her use of the f-bomb.

“It doesn’t fucking matter,” Katsuki replies, surprising himself with his own cool tone. “I’m telling you now, and I’m doing something about it. Aizawa called you, right? So you know about the deal.”

She nods. “We do. Honestly, you’re just lucky that your coach has so much faith in you. Your dad and I discussed it with him already, and fortunately it’s all going to work—”

“I’m not taking it.”

Katsuki steels himself for the big explosion. He didn’t really expect to blurt the words out so carelessly, but if he’d allowed her to go on and on about the amazing possibilities of this deal, well, he might have lost his nerve. Now he’s said it, they’ve both heard it, and there’s no turning back.

This is the right choice for him. He knows it.

Beside him, Eijirou tenses. He knew this was coming, but perhaps he expected that Katsuki would handle it a bit more delicately. Katsuki kind of expected the same. His pulse is probably pounding into Eijirou’s palm, so he clenches his hand to smother it.

“You’re—you can’t be serious,” Katsuki’s mother stammers.

Honestly, she might be more intimidating like this than when she’s yelling. Yelling is something Katsuki is used to, but he’s never seen her at such a loss before. She looks from Katsuki to his father, her round eyes completely mortified.

“Don’t be a dumbass, Katsuki, please! This is—this is the best case scenario here. You can keep your scholarship! Stay on the team! Not to mention—Masaru, help me out here!”

“Not to mention the opportunity to work through some of your trauma,” his dad adds carefully, taking her hand on the tabletop. “Katsuki, I know you’re not a fan of therapy or counseling, but if you would just give it a chance, you might find it really helpful.”

Oh. Right. Katsuki should probably elaborate a bit more. Eijirou has got to be dying from pure secondhand embarrassment next to him, but Katsuki taps his thumb on the back of his hand—a signal to listen up.

“I’m gonna go to counseling.”

“You are?” Eijirou asks meekly, relief radiating from his tiny smile.

“Then what’s the problem?” his mom groans. “Katsuki, I don’t get it.”

“Shut up and I’ll tell you!”

He’s thought it all through. He barely slept last night, his brain reeling with every possibility and eventuality. This isn’t some hasty choice, and for what feels like the first time, he’s letting go of his pride and living for more than his image. Feeding the image he’s manufactured of himself has become something of a compulsion. He’s always had to be the best, always needed it for himself. Somewhere along the way he lost his identity in the mess of it all.

He’s never had friends—never wanted them, and insisted that he didn’t even need them. What a fucking lie. He’s never had hobbies other than being the best at everything he touches. What does he even enjoy doing? He’d like to find out.

“I’m going to therapy and quitting the team for the same reason,” Katsuki mumbles, bouncing his leg beneath the table. “I want to be happy.”

“Happy?” his mom echoes back quietly, visibly perplexed by the word.

Katsuki shrugs. “I never cared about it before, but that’s just because I didn’t know what it felt like.”

“And now you do,” his mom fills in the blanks with a nod towards Eijirou. “I think I understand.”

Across the table, Katsuki’s dad smiles at him, the kind of warmth on his face that plainly says he doesn’t care about the prestige of the wrestling team. And Eijirou—Katsuki doesn’t even have to turn his head to know that his smile is wider than the horizon. Katsuki’s might be too if he’s not careful.

“Mitsuki?” his dad questions, leaning over to catch her eye.

She bows her head towards the table, sighing deeply. “I hate to see you turn your back on an opportunity—you know that—but if your heart’s not in it then you’ll be no good anyway.”

“Thanks, Mom,” Katsuki scoffs. The response is still far more tame than he expected.

“Katsuki,” she says seriously, looking him square in the eye now. “I do want you to be happy.”

“We’re proud of you, son,” his father adds. “True ambition is seeking out what you want, not what others want for you.”

“Ugh, gag me with a fucking spoon.”  Katsuki waves him off, but the warm gratitude taking root and spreading in his chest is undeniable.

There’s not much to be said about that—not much that Katsuki wants to sit and listen to at least. He shuts up both his parents as they attempt to suffocate him with all the sentimental talk, and then he gets Eijirou and himself the fuck out of there. He gave them their answers, and he doesn’t feel obligated to do anything further.

The drive back to campus is mostly quiet. If not for Eijirou stealing the aux cord and playing his synthesized bubblegum pop, Katsuki may have been at risk of falling asleep at the wheel. All of that talk was exhausting, and he didn’t even say that much. It’s as if he’s coming down from an adrenaline high—crashing down from one, actually. He’s supposed to go to classes still, but he might skip once again.

“Hm, being my tutor, you sure do encourage me to skip class a lot,” Eijirou remarks once they’re back at the university. Katsuki has collapsed face first onto Eijirou’s bed and doesn’t look up. “Please know that I’m totally kidding.”

Katsuki turns his head to the side, peeking out from the blankets. “And please know that I’m going to sit you down and catch you up on all your shit.”

The bed creaks when Eijirou perches on its edge. He lays a hand on Katsuki’s back, a comforting source of heat between his shoulder blades. “I’d much rather hang out with you than go to class.”

“That’s why you need a damn tutor.”

“And that tutor is you, so...win-win!”

Katsuki rolls onto his back, studying every line on Eijirou’s form above him. Maybe if he can memorize every curve, every edge, every shadow and dimple, this moment will remain frozen in time. At least he can hold onto it in his mind.

“I'm really proud of you,” Eijirou whispers, that same hand now resting on Katsuki’s chest. Katsuki wonders if he can feel the beating of his heart. “Sorry—I know you don’t wanna hear all the emotional stuff.”

“I don’t mind it as much with you.”

Eijirou shivers when Katsuki slides a hand up his arm, landing on the back of his shoulder and pulling him downward. “Why is that?”

He doesn’t answer, instead bumping his nose to Eijirou’s and lightly nuzzling his face. That’s enough talking for now. Eijirou seems to agree, enveloping Katsuki’s lips in a soft and slow kiss. His arms wrap around Katsuki, warmer and more comforting than the blankets beneath them. It’s more than enough to be here with Eijirou, just to hold him and be held, to feel his kiss.

Katsuki shifts in Eijirou’s arms, huddling closer and humming lowly when Eijirou’s hot tongue licks into his mouth. He tilts his head to let him in, his hands drawing lazy circles on the back of Eijirou’s neck. This is so good—so different. There’s no hurry here, no end goal. It’s nice to take it easy and just feel one another.

The minutes turn to hours with their limbs as tangled up as they could possibly be, and Eijirou pressing gentle kisses to the skin on Katsuki’s neck. There isn’t an ounce of desperation in either of them today, only contentment. They’ve settled into a comfortable position, simply holding onto each other and timing their breaths in unison. Katsuki inhales Eijirou’s scent, hoping that it might send him off to sleep. Before he has the chance to drift off, however, a rumbling in Eijirou’s stomach jars him awake.

“Hungry?” Katsuki asks, poking the redhead’s abdomen.

“Maybe a little. We didn’t really eat when we met up with your parents.”

Katsuki’s own stomach twists—in guilt more so than hunger. How could he be so wrapped up in his own bullshit that he forgot to feed his boyfriend? Honestly, he could stand to eat too. 

“Come on.” Katsuki stands up and pulls Eijirou with him. “We’ll get some food.”

“From where?” Eijirou asks, but Katsuki can tell he’s already got an idea.

“Dunno. You tell me.”

At first, Eijirou says nothing. He looks away shyly as he pulls on his shoes and coat, like he thinks Katsuki will despise whatever he’s about to suggest. Katsuki slips on his own shoes and waits as patiently as he can for Eijirou to gather his nerve.

“We could see what the gang is up to and catch a bite with them?” Eijirou suggests at last, and Katsuki wants to roll his eyes at how sheepish he looks. “Shitty cafeteria food can be fun once in a while, right? When you’re with the right people?”

Katsuki zips up his coat. “You’re the right people. Now put on a scarf, asshole, it’s freezing out there.”

Eijirou grins widely, complying with Katsuki’s demand and fishing a scarf out from a pile of winter gear under his bed. He tosses one to Katsuki too, patiently waiting to make sure that Katsuki practices what he preaches. Then they set off down the hallway that’s become so familiar to Katsuki. Coming to this place is as natural as going to his own apartment.

Eijirou shoots off a text to the group as they walk out the door, remarking that they’ll all be at the cafeteria by the time they arrive.

The air outside has a wintery bite to it, with a bitter wind that no longer speaks to the autumn. Katsuki pulls the scarf up tighter around his neck, grateful for the extra insulation and secretly just as happy that he doesn’t have any gloves so that he can feel the skin of Eijirou’s palm against his own.

Eijirou’s hair looks particularly red against the milky white sky, and Katsuki can’t help wondering if he’ll somehow manage to look even better in a snow-covered winter than he did in the autumn leaves.

“Katsuki?”

“Hm?”

Eijirou pauses. “Are you really gonna be happier like this? Without the team?”

“Hell yes,” Katsuki says without hesitation. “Why would you even ask that?”

“I just—I mean, that was like your whole life,” Eijirou shrugs. The brief silence is filled with an empty and resounding wind that blows across the barren campus. “That’s what you were working for all this time.”

“I guess, but I don’t want that to be my life anymore. I didn’t even like it; I just wanted to be the best. There’s a difference.”

Eijirou’s low hum is barely audible above the wind. Maybe the only reason Katsuki hears it is because he’s so attentive to any sound Eijirou makes. He can tell that his answer wasn’t satisfactory, and he braces himself for more questions. This is something he has to be patient with; Eijirou could question him for hours and Katsuki would never find him to be out of line. He deserves answers.

“Can I ask why you did it for so long?” Eijirou asks at last, and then adds, “And why you changed your mind?”

“Such a moron.” Katsuki shakes his head, biting back a smile. “It’s because of you—and the other morons too. I figured it out yesterday, but it’s been true for a while.”

Eijirou comes to a halt, eyes sparkling with tentative bliss. “Figured what out?”

Katsuki feels his face heat up in stark contrast to the freezing temperatures of the real world. “That I’d rather be around my friends than torture myself with the assholes on the wrestling team.”

Since he’s having trouble meeting Eijirou’s eyes at the moment, Katsuki strolls ahead to approach their destination. He’s thinking about how the shitty food at the cafeteria will make a fine distraction when Eijirou’s ever-curious voice stops him in his tracks once more.

“You figured that out last night? You mean—when we were all hanging out?”

Katsuki groans with fake annoyance, turning around and grabbing both of Eijirou’s hands. “Yes, that’s what I said. Is that so hard to believe? I kinda like you, you know, and sometimes I don’t mind the tag-along group of idiots you introduced me to either.”

In sync with a particularly strong gust of wind, Eijirou practically leaps forward and surprises Katsuki with a deep kiss. Katsuki falls a single step backwards, catching them both and kissing Eijirou back with all of his might. They only break apart when a quiet thumping pieces their ears.

Both of them glance around, but it’s Eijirou who points behind Katsuki. Across the lawn, the three idiots themselves are crowded at the cafeteria windows—Sero, Kaminari, and Ashido, all three of them banging on the glass and making ridiculous faces.

“Those are the friends you chose,” Eijirou smirks. “Any regrets?”

Katsuki flips them all off. “Not really. Tell them that and I’ll kill you.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it.”

For just a second longer, Katsuki ignores everything and everyone else, taking the opportunity to lift his hand and rub his thumb across Eijirou’s cheek. He wants to zoom in there—to appreciate the curvature, the softness of his skin, the pinkness of his cheek that could just as easily be from bashfulness as the cold. He allows himself to zoom out a bit, noticing that all of the leaves that complimented Eijirou so well are now gone. There isn’t a thing in their place; all the trees are bare and fruitless, their empty branches swaying in the wind. His favorite season is over.

Somehow that’s okay.

All things come to an end—seasons, novels, civilizations. In time, everything must end in favor of new beginnings. The leaves have withered and died now, but what a wild and roaring climax this autumn was. Spring may be the season of rebirth, but this is a good ending. There’s hope on the horizon, and the promise of renewal right here in the palm of his hand.

Katsuki gives Eijirou’s hand a gentle squeeze and turns to keep walking. Across the lawn and away from the cold, his friends await.

 

Chapter Text

The cream colored walls of the athletic center are tinted icy gray in the afternoon light. They match the sky outside and the murky snow in the parking lot, and as Katsuki pads down the hallway dressed head to toe in black, he’s pretty sure the whole scene could be mistaken for some old noir film—void of color, cloaked in silence.

He picks up the pace a bit because he knows he’s late. His shift at the coffee shop ran twenty minutes over, and all the hushed curses he’d muttered hadn’t brought the next employee in any sooner. That sort of bullshit is to be expected at a university coffee shop, of course, and that’s exactly why Katsuki put off getting a job like this one for so long. But, it pays for his apartment, and at the moment it’s also keeping him from drowning in his nerves as he makes the familiar walk to Aizawa’s office—no time for anxiety.

It’s been a few months since he stepped foot in here. How many exactly, Katsuki can’t be sure. Frankly, he hasn’t cared enough to count, and that seems like a good sign. When he last stood in Aizawa’s office, it was to inform him of his choice to leave the wrestling team. The response he received was about as heartfelt as he’d expected: a dejected sigh, and a “suit yourself.” However, when Katsuki added that he would still be seeking counseling (because for some reason, he thought Aizawa deserved to know), the old man eased up a bit. He repeated the same two words over, this time with a smile behind his eyes. It was clear as day to Katsuki.

The gymnasium door opens with a huff, sighing into the open space as if to welcome Katsuki back. He studies the reflection of the fluorescent lights above as he walks, wobbly little fairies on the shiny floor beneath him. This place isn’t so bad when Katsuki isn’t bound to it by chains the size of death.

He finds Aizawa asleep at his desk, lounging back in his chair with feet spread out in opposite directions, arms dangling at his sides. Katsuki barely has to clear his throat to rouse the coach back to consciousness—that is to say, if Aizawa is ever fully conscious.

“Bakugou,” Aizawa says with a yawn, eyebrows raising a millimeter or two to give away his surprise. “It’s been a while.”

“Yep.” Katsuki invites himself in, hands shoved into his pockets. He takes a breath, the reality of his being here finally hitting him in the quiet of this moment.

When his mother advised that he pick up the documents from the wrestling team pertaining to his scholarship, Katsuki didn’t object. He probably could have found someone else to come here in his place—probably could have sent an email or arranged for Aizawa to fax him what he needs—but for whatever reason (and without much thought) he decided to do it himself. Call it growth or the subconscious desire for closure; Katsuki doesn’t care. He calls it getting the job done.

“I’m here for some paperwork,” Katsuki explains, because of course Aizawa isn’t going to ask. The old man looks ready to fall asleep again, so Katsuki knows he needs to be quick. “Whatever they gave you about my scholarship way back when. If you didn’t throw it out already. Just thought it’d be good for me to keep track of.”

“Very responsible,” Aizawa remarks, ignoring how Katsuki rolls his eyes.

He turns in his chair to a filing cabinet behind the desk, opening the top drawer and fingering through the meticulously kept tabs until he finds Katsuki’s file. For a man who looks like he hasn’t showered in three weeks and doesn’t even know what it means to press your clothes, Aizawa is surprisingly orderly in his workspace. He seems to know exactly what he’s looking for, uncovering it with ease and handing across the desk to Katsuki.

Now that it’s in his hands, Katsuki can’t help but stare down at the documents—the university logo gracing the top right corner, the text carefully outlining the terms of his scholarship. This had once meant everything to him. It’s strange to hold now that it’s null and void. It bears no power.

“Anything else?” Aizawa asks, never one to waste time with pleasantries. Katsuki respects that about him, and yet he finds himself glancing around the office without purpose. Maybe he just wants to take it all in since he’ll likely never see this place again.

There isn’t much to see of course. The things in Aizawa’s office are of little significance to Katsuki. Perhaps he should be looking at Aizawa himself, committing his face to memory. Better yet, he could ask if they might catch up over a cup of coffee sometime. That’s something adults do, right? But any time Katsuki isn’t in class, he’s busy serving coffee for his job. He kind of hates coffee now, and he’s never been a normal adult anyway.

He continues avoiding Aizawa’s stare, instead letting his gaze fall upon the group photo on the shelf at the room’s rear. It’s the wrestling team’s portrait—always taken at the end of a season. He can clearly see this year’s date engraved on the bottom of the frame, and yet there’s something off about it. Why he’d noticed it so immediately is beyond him, but there’s a distinct lack of green-haired dumbass in that photo.

Aizawa clears his throat, following Katsuki’s gaze to the photo. “Is there a problem?”

“Where’s Deku?”

The slight pause illustrates Aizawa’s confusion more than any of his expressions ever could. “Not there. Why would he be? That photo was taken at the end of the season.”

“So?”

“You don’t know me well at all, do you?” Aizawa sighs, shaking his head as if the wires are connecting. “Midoriya got the same deal as you. It just so happens that he took it. He was already on leave from the team when that photo was taken, but I suspect he’ll be back next year.”

Katsuki blinks. It makes sense, honestly, and yet he’s still surprised to learn that Deku got any semblance of a punishment. Maybe that has more to do with his view of himself than his view of Aizawa; maybe Katsuki believed he was the only one who deserved to suffer.

Thankfully, as it turns out, therapy hasn’t been total suffering. It’s difficult sometimes, sure, but Katsuki isn’t ashamed to admit how much better he feels since starting. He’s in a good enough place that he can almost hope Deku finds similar healing. Maybe he’d be less of an asshole if he did.

“You thought I would only hold you to that standard?” Aizawa questions, grabbing Katsuki’s attention once more.

Katsuki shifts his weight, his fists opening and closing awkwardly. The papers in his hands wrinkle a bit. “I guess.”

There’s another beat of silence. Fuck, they’re both so terrible at conversation.

“Does that change your mind at all about the team?” Aizawa asks, his chair squeaking as he sits up a bit straighter.

“No,” Katuski answers honestly. “I’m happier now.”

Aizawa nods, standing up and coming around the desk, folding his arms. “Fair enough. Whatever you do, do it with the same tenacity you had for wrestling.”

“I’ll do it even better.”

“Right. Well, if you need anything at all—wrestling related or not,” Aizawa says, extending his hand towards Katsuki, “don’t hesitate to ask.”

Katsuki’s eyes flicker from Aizawa to his hand, at first too stunned by the gesture to do or say anything. Realizing that Aizawa will retract it if Katsuki stands there staring like an idiot any longer, Katsuki forces his own hand out, meeting Aizawa’s in a firm shake.

“Thanks.”

“Anyway, I’ve got a nap to continue.”

“See you around.” And Katsuki actually hopes he will. For all the time he spent dodging Aizawa’s phone calls, he actually doesn’t mind the guy. It was his trauma he was trying to avoid all that time. Aizawa himself isn’t all that bad.

Now isn’t the time for this sentimental bullshit! He reminds himself. He’s running late, after all.

Katsuki books it across the gym, his sneakers squeaking and chirping on the floors in a rhythmless beat that would make him cringe if he had the time to care. He doesn’t, though, and yet he still comes to a dead stop at the gym door. He finds the time for that when he’s met with a golden plaque, right there at eye level. Now that definitely wasn’t there a couple months ago.

The All Might Memorial Gymnasium

Fuck. They named the gym for him. It’s about damn time. It’s a good thing. It’s a good thing! So why is his heart squeezing tightly in his chest? Why are his breaths bundled up in his throat? No, he can’t let this get to him.

Hey! He starts to scold himself—almost tells his sadness to shut the fuck up. Then he hears the voice of his therapist and corrects the self-loathing thoughts before they can fully form. His therapist would tell him to be more merciful. It’s okay if you’re sad. You’ve been through some shit, so of course you are.

That alone is enough to lighten his load a little. He’s never given himself the chance to hurt. He’s never acknowledged that pain until recently. Somehow, he can breathe a little easier when he does. Beating himself up only makes things worse.

Katsuki takes a deep breath—the kind he’s been practicing with Eijirou lately. On the exhale, he lets it all go—all the tension, all the self-loathing that he’s grown so accustomed to. It’s not a sure-fire fix, but damn if it doesn’t anchor him back to reality just a little bit.

It is good that this gym is now named for All Might. And it is okay if Katsuki is still hurting over that loss. Things are getting better, slowly but surely. Katsuki’s level of guilt has been at an all time low these days, and he hasn’t heard from Deku at all. A few weeks ago Katsuki saw the nerd on campus, but Deku scurried away without a word, barely making eye contact, and Katsuki has hardly spared him a thought since then. It’s actually quite remarkable. So yeah, if being reminded of All Might’s passing stings a little, Katsuki is okay with that. Over all, he’s doing really well.

With one more measured breath, Katsuki pushes out the gym door and enters back into the gray-blue hallway. He follows the glossy concrete floor all the way outside where the ground is wet, the trees look dead, and the sky is as white and blank as a canvas. The cold air prickles his throat as he breathes it in, but Katsuki still finds himself smiling.

Waiting on the sidewalk is his boyfriend, probably ready to lecture him for taking too long. Thankfully, lectures from Eijirou are never too grating. With his bright red hair, rosy cheeks, and glimmering eyes, Eijirou looks nothing like the winter, and Katsuki is fucking glad about that. Eijirou stands out before the lifeless monochromatic backdrop—a drop of color in a grayscale world.

“You’re late,” Eijirou says with a grin, tugging at Katsuki’s collar and pulling him in for a quick kiss. Eijirou’s nose is freezing when it bumps against Katsuki’s cheek. “Tetsutetsu is probably already seated at the restaurant. You know how hangry he gets.”

Katsuki shakes his head, starting off towards the parking lot. “I still can’t believe you brought that moron into our friend group.”

“I won’t remind you that you’re the one who said I should meet him.”

“You just did, asshole.”

Eijirou shrugs innocently, linking his arm with Katsuki’s and glancing at the documents in his hand. “Did I? Oh well. Can’t be helped now. I guess I’ll just have to praise your instincts, because you were right. The dude is insanely cool.”

“I’m always right,” Katsuki lies. “And would you hurry up and ask? I can tell you want to.”

“Fine,” Eijirou chuckles. “I was trying to be good, but you got me. Did it go all right? With Aizawa? You seem like you’re okay.”

“I got the papers, didn’t I?”

“Throw me a bone here, Katsuki.”

Katsuki comes to a stop, his feet crunching satisfyingly in a snowy tire track at the edge of the parking lot. He shoves the documents into his coat pocket, shifting his weight from foot to foot . The snow rises and falls beneath his soles, mesmerizing—or perhaps simply easier to look at than Kirishima’s eyes right now.

“They dedicated the gym to All Might.”

He’s not sure why he says it. Apparently there are a few stray feelings scattered about in his dumpster-fire of a brain. Maybe it’s for the best that he lets them loose.

“How do you feel about that?” Eijirou asks, still and patient by Katsuki’s side.

“It’s nice.” He steals a glance at Eijirou’s ruby reds—just for that one second, because he wants to see the way they light up with a tiny smile. Katsuki can’t hold the gaze, though. “He deserves it. Also—it makes me feel like All Might’s legacy didn’t end with my fuck-ups.”

There it is.

So often he can’t pinpoint his own feelings until he clumsily puts them into words. He’d rather be eloquent or say nothing at all, but he finds more often than not these days that a little peace of mind is worth sounding dumb. Besides, Eijirou never minds.

The snow creaks like a wooden floor, giving Eijirou away before he’s even landed his hands on Katsuki’s shoulders. Katsuki lets him do it anyway—lets himself be turned and stared down by Eijirou’s relentlessly kind eyes.

“All Might’s legacy is far from over, Katsuki.” Eijirou brings one hand up to Katsuki’s face, thumb swiping his cheek with more care than Katsuki could ever deserve. “And so is yours.”

“Shit,” Katsuki mutters, heart fluttering and words escaping him. “I love you.”

Eijirou’s grin is show-stopping, and the rosy flush on his cheeks has got to be from more than the cold. He takes Katsuki’s hand, softly kissing his knuckles before leading him off towards the car. And Katsuki lets him. He lets Eijirou treat him like he’s delicate and innocent, lets Eijirou take the lead, lets him hold his hand. Katsuki even lets him ramble on and on about love, and fate, and all the shit that Katsuki pretends to hate. He loves hearing it when Eijirou is the one talking.

“You’ve come so far, Katsuki,” Eijirou praises. “I think I loved you from the moment I saw you, but seeing all the ways you’ve grown and fought for yourself—you really are amazing. How did I ever land a guy like you?”

“Because you’re the only person I’ve ever wanted.” He meant it to sound sarcastic, but how could words like that ever be said in sarcasm? Especially when he means them so completely.

Eijirou walks a little closer. Sometimes the silence is more telling than any words could be, but it’s a good thing this time; the little squeeze on Katsuki’s hand assures that.

“Here we are,” Eijirou announces when they finally reach Katsuki’s parked car. “Maybe if we hit all the green lights we can still make it on time.”

Katsuki walks Eijirou to the passenger side like a true gentleman, opening up the door while he’s at it. His left hand is still safely tucked in Eijirou’s, and considering the fact that Eijirou isn’t making any move to get into the car, it might stay that way for a while. Katsuki wouldn’t mind that—doesn’t really—except that Eijirou is the one who was worried about being late, and now he’s utterly distracted.

“We’ve got dinner with Tetsutetsu tonight,” he mumbles, clearly going over some sort of mental checklist, “and we have that bio test next week, so we should make time to study for that. But this weekend we have that big dinner with our parents. Is it weird that I’m a little nervous for them to meet?”

“Red.”

“I know, I know. I shouldn’t be nervous. They’ll all love each other! It just feels very ceremonial, you know? Like an initiation into—well, into a more serious relationship. Kind of next level, I guess.”

“Red.”

“Oh, s-sorry.” Eijirou scratches the back of his neck, cringing a bit. “Is it okay that I said that? This dinner doesn’t actually have to be a big deal or make us any more serious than we have been. I just—”

Eijirou.” That seems to get his attention. Katsuki lets go of the car door to put a second hand on top of Eijirou’s. “First of all, don’t worry about shit like that. I’m the one who just said you’re the only guy I’ve ever wanted. You’re not gonna scare me.”

He plants a quick kiss on Eijirou’s forehead, and then a second one on his sheepish grin, before continuing.

“Second, stop stressing out over your to-do list. Life is busy and it sucks ass. So does winter. It’s all shitty.”

Eijirou’s ruby eyes glimmer with adoration. “That’s quite the pep talk, babe. But since when are you the guy who’s not stressed over these things?”

“Since when are you the guy who is?” Katsuki points out, but any stored up sass evaporates from there. He digs his toe into the slushy ground. “I just meant that we should enjoy the moment we’re in. Appreciate it, or whatever.”

“And what moment is that?” Eijirou asks, and although Katsuki can tell he’s just being coy, he does his best to answer anyway.

“An ugly winter, and being so busy we don’t have time to think straight. At the end of the day, we get to go home together, though, and that’s pretty damn great.”

Katsuki is surprised by the way Eijirou grabs hold of his collar and pulls him in for a kiss, the hunger of his lips and stealing Katsuki’s breath away. He didn’t mean to have a public makeout session, but when Eijirou’s tongue brushes his bottom lip Katsuki lets him right in. He would kiss Eijirou anywhere—dig his hands into that crimson hair in plain sight, close his eyes and fall head over heels for all to see, completely losing himself in the arms of this unstoppable man and his unstoppable love.

It’s Eijirou who pulls back first, his breathing labored. He ruffles Katsuki’s hair, so bashful as he diverts his gaze that one might think they’d never done this before. Maybe it just never gets old.

“What was that for?” Katsuki asks when he can afford the breath it takes to speak.

“I dunno. That was just particularly manly, and I liked it.”

The words warm Katsuki from the inside out. “Yeah, well—you’re the one who taught me that attitude, so sing your own damn praises, huh?”

The smirk on Eijirou’s face says that he’d like to kiss Katsuki all over again, but he ducks into the car instead, winking on his way. For a few seconds too long, Katsuki lingers. His hand rests on the door, but he doesn’t close it. He’s not ready to have any barrier between them, no matter how small. Forget the fact that he’s wasting valuable time.

Eijirou looks up at him, blissfully unaware of his own magnificence. If he only knew how he’s changed Katsuki’s whole world, he’d never doubt his own worth again. But the gentle upturn of his lips and the sparkle in his eyes says that even if Eijirou doesn’t know his worth, he knows how much Katsuki loves him, and that seems like a good place to start.

“Ready, babe?” Eijirou asks, knocking on the door of Katsuki’s dreamy thoughts and inviting him back into a world that’s just as sweet.

Katsuki bites back a silent prayer of gratitude to the universe and all its winding ways of mystery and glory. They’ve got a dinner to attend, after all, and there’s no time for sappy thoughts like that. For now, he settles on the knowledge that Eijirou’s hand is his to hold for the entire drive and every moment beyond. It’s enough for him.

“I’m ready.”