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what you think me to be

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What’s curious about everything is that you don’t even remember the argument that preceded it. Something that made him angry, surely, but that narrowed down absolutely nothing. It built, though, the anger. Noticeably — the nuclear vermillion flush on his face, how he clenched his hands into fists, the way he grit his teeth — but, god help you, you didn’t know why. And when you’d pulled him aside, because this was something you could definitely work out, the words and curses that came pouring out of him just heaped anger onto anger. Reason did nothing. If anything, it made his face twist further as you tried to be level-headed, as you refused to let him know he’d affected you at all — all the while wondering, in a corner of your mind, why you even bothered.

All that rage went somewhere, and it came out tightly packed in a little word on the end of a sentence all meant to hurt in:

“—Slut.”

Your eyebrows fly up. You try to think of all the ways his words could be interpreted because he didn’t really just lob that your way did he? But — no. He said it with his whole chest, like it’d been stewing for a while. There’s something almost sickeningly self-satisfied in the way his lips twitch as your mouth hangs open.

Fuck. Wow.

“Wow.” You nearly choke. “Wow, dude. What —“

It’s not nearly as snappy as you’d like but, god, it hits you like a thunderbolt and you’re about as delighted. His lips twist, like he’s going to say something, and though you’d like to leave and disengage and do the healthy thing, the churning and roiling in your gut pushes the urge to spew vitriol all over him. Your throat works. Fuck, you want to curl in on yourself too but that isn’t conducive with the “spew vitriol” goal you have so you compromise and let your expression drop and your back straighten.

“Yes, and - what? What about it?” Because fuck him for trying to make you feel ashamed. Fucking — fuck. “I don’t see how that’s relevant to the conversation we were having but clearly this is going nowhere. I’ll see you later.”

And as you turn your back you thank your lucky fucking stars you’d pulled him aside instead of confronting him in the middle of the dorm because apparently someone’s set up a pillow fort, courtesy of Yaomomo who always managed to make those cushions perfect down to the molecular level. There’s the unmistakable scent of artificially buttery microwaveable popcorn wafting through the room. Also, hot chocolate. You resolve to grab a mug.

“Hey!” The three on the couch closest to you — Ochacko, Midoriya, and Iida — greet you. Well, mostly Ochacko. Her bright smile and flail/wave capture the most of your attention and the little upturn of your lips could possibly be called a smile if you squinted.

“Sup guys.” Your voice comes out soft and whispery. You clear your throat. “What’re you watching?”

There is a veritable chorus of answers that result in squints around the room. Evidently that is a decision yet to be made.

“Hey hey!” Kirishima perks up. “You could be our tie breaker!”

“Eh, not in the movie mood.”

“Waitwaitwait but just listen and you can tell us which sounds better!” Mina chimes in from across the room, upside down on the couch cushions. “Okay, so listen to this: Alien cop, grizzled and worlds-weary, is called on an assignment to Mars. But his galactic-precinct tells him he has to have a partner on this one. And —“

“Sold.”

“Wh - “ Protest rises from your classmates, some of whom are lifting their own disks forlornly (curse the broken cable box for the only nice TV in the dorms!). Mina crows, lifting her own DVD like it was Excalibur.

“Everyone loves a good ol’ buddy cop movie. I’m into it.” You shrug. “M gonna go up now though. Night.”

It was barely six. Granted, it was winter, so you yawned lightly behind your hand before turning around. “It’s a weekend you nerds, watch all of them.”

There’s a gasp — you don’t know from who — but the renewed clamor makes you feel like a certified,  appreciated genius. You plan on riding that feeling all the way up to your room before you nearly clip someone. You’d barely taken a step, too.

“Ah, sorry about —“ Your eyes get all the way to the shoulder of that familiar flannel before abruptly skating over his shoulder. “—that. Good night.”

“You sure you don’t wanna watch with us?” Voices meld together. You’re not sure who’s asking but it anchors you to the spot and you can’t step away from him as much as you want to. It’s like a wretched kind of magnet that burns away your skin.

You force a short laugh. “Gotta finish some homework. If you’re all still going when I’m done I’m definitely coming back down.”

There’s a pair of eyes on your back. More than just a pair, actually, but you can only focus on the one that sears the back of your neck, that dips to look at your hands making little movements in your sleeves in an effort to burn off nervous energy. He knows your habits, your mannerisms, however much you now hate that he has that knowledge. How you show your irritation isn’t private anymore. Not even this, the way you fall back into old habits, is entirely yours. He’s had a peek behind the curtain, a grip on the handsaw chopping you in half. But, if you have your way, it’s the last thing of yours he’ll take.

 

oOoOoOo

 

Cordiality is the name of the game for days. Existing in the same space is an exercise in flexibility, and you catch his eyes on you more than once.

 

oOoOoOo

 

Monday. First day of the week, bane of the average citizen’s existence, and . . . it’s fine. Lessons are lessons, friends are friends, and not much has changed in the grand scheme of things. It’s all hideously normal. Routine takes you, absorbs all your attention like there’s no incessant buzzing in your head at the sight of blond. That slips to the back of your mind, unimportant. Soon the day is half over and you’re debating between going to eat in the cafeteria or skipping entirely to hang out in the library.

Someone calls your name and you turn around to see a shock of spiked, fire engine red hair. And, hovering next to him, an explosive blond presence. Your cordial smile grows a bit more distant.

“Ki-ri.”

He laughs and pulls you in for a hug that you reciprocate gladly. For a few seconds, even if he doesn’t know, it is solace. Safety. You squeeze him tighter, breathing in the cologne that would be obnoxious on anyone else but he somehow makes it work, for just a few more moments before an impatient growl makes you pull back. “Going to the library?”

When he’s close and that heartfelt, toothy grin is all you can see, it’s easier to smile back. “You know it. They’ve got those good desktops - “

“Are we gonna go get lunch or fucking what?”

“Ah.” Your hands fall from Kiri’s, settling back on the strap of your bag as you take a step back. “Won’t hold you up. Laters.”

The little jaunty salute that usually draws at least a snort out of your friend only evokes a confused smile that you refuse to linger on.

 

The desktops are, indeed, the good desktops and you fuck around to your heart’s desire before classes start again, the soothing routine, and then you’re headed back to the dorms.

As soon as you cross the threshold, you tense. There’s a thread of unmistakable tension your curiosity compels you to follow. It leads to the kitchen in which you find that magma-red and ashy blond — two halves of a whole, manly volcano. Kiri would appreciate that one.

“—but that’s not m - it’s messed up, dude.”

“Fuckin’ know that, shitty hair.” He hisses. “I’m not brain dead.”

“I mean I dunno, pulling something like that -“

“It was just fucking words!”

“Not everything needs to be said, bro.”

The wall is cool against your back, the light shining out of the kitchen already thrown into a contrast at the early winter dark coming in through the windows. With the layout of the floor they’re going to see you either way and going around through the living room was obvious avoidance.

The linoleum leeches your warmth through your slippers.

Kiri nearly drops the plate of steaming leftovers he’d just pulled from the microwave when he notices you.

“Uh.” Some of the rice on his plate slides to the side, grains dropping to the floor as he stares.

“You okay?” Bakugou’s back is to you and his shoulders jerk up to his ears at your voice. “What’s up?”

In an odd display of solidarity they respond in unison. “Nothing!” Though Bakugou’s half is definitely more hissy and Kiri’s smile is unsure. He settles his plate on the counter.

“ . . . See you later?” Tension, thick and uncomfortable, springs to life between the two when you round the island counter, fighting the urge to just book it to the stairs.

“Bakubro has something to say!”

You hadn’t even made it past the counter. As you turn around you anchor yourself to it, affecting an air of calm as you let out a noise that could possibly be interpreted to mean “go on.”

Kiri, to your surprise, elbows Bakugou. He shoves him back but he’s turned to you, eyes to the floor.

“Sorry.” He grits out.

You blink. “What?”

His eyes flick up to you, practically sparking as they hold your gaze. “Did you not hear me?”

“I did.”

“Then - “ He makes an aborted motion with his arms, a wide sweep that’s almost theatrical.

“Apology accepted.” You shrug. “Now - “

“No it’s not!” The linoleum shakes as he stomps up to you, hands curled into fists at his side. “I’m not fuckin stupid!”

“Never said you were.” You resist the urge to shrug again. “And I think I know my forgiveness better than you.”

“Fuckin - “

“I said I forgive you Bakugou, what more do you want?”

Surprisingly, he shuts down at that and there’s a faint, sharp intake of breath behind him. You hadn’t called him his full last name for years.

“Excuse me.”

Clearly, going by the warm hand on your forearm holding you in place, you are not excused.

“Can I help you.” Your voice is flat and inflectionless. His grip tightens.

“Just -“

“Bakugou, Kiri, I really do have things to do so if you could be so gracious as to let. Me. Go. It would be appreciated.” You slide your arm out of his grip and leave with a decisive stride, happy to think that’s that.

“Dude,” You try to shut off your ears but the natural, underlying curiosity rejects that even as you round the corner. “What did you say?”

“Don’t - get back here! We’re not - “ You should have left sooner. “ - done!”

He clamps his hand on your arm, wrenches you backward roughly to face him, to look him in the eye. You fix your stare at the second highest button on his flannel. Familiar warmth, laid against your skin, grows blisteringly hot.

“Stop running away from me!” It’s an explosion, scalding the flesh on your front. He pulls you closer to the epicenter, ignoring the way you try to tug your arm back gently, and then with force just shy of a yank.

“I’m not.” Bit by bit, control is slipping through your fingers. “I’m trying to go about my business, something I would recommend you do as well.”

“Would you just fucking listen - “

“There’s a saying that goes something like ‘when someone shows you who they are, believe them.’ I trust you, Bakugou. I trust what you showed me.”

“What’s with that shitty expression!”

“This is just my face.”

“That wasn’t - stop being difficult!” It’s childish and petulant, a flashback to when you’d all first met. Sometimes, you think, you brought out the worst in each other. The same kind of anger. You were just a little better at hiding the shameful outbursts.

“Let me leave.”

His fingers dig in to the flesh of your arm. “Just - fucking listen -“

“Let.” You tug your arm. Red hot poison is coursing through your veins, loosening your tongue, making your heart beat like you’re on the edge of dying. It’s a little like a drug and you feel like the biggest person in the room. “Me.” Again. “Leave.”

And there’s something desperate in his eyes, desperate and vulnerable and pleading. It makes your stomach twist into knots and the pits of anger dry up - but you will always have your stubbornness. “No!”

It isn’t a scream. You meet his eyes, take in his furrowed brow and face twisted in a snarl, but you don’t scream.

“What do you fucking WANT from me, Bakugou, because it’s obviously not my l - my friendship, let alone my goddamn presence. Fuck off. Fuck you. Fucking - ” In all honesty you don’t know what comes out of your mouth after that. More words, certainly, you can feel your mouth moving. Probably profanity, if you know yourself, and now it is Bakugou whose eyes can’t meet yours. A potent, cruel kind of satisfaction makes your back straighten, but it’s all progressively getting more distant. Your ears are ringing (when did that start?) and when the last word leaves your lips it’s like the last iota of life left with it. You’re left deflated, ashamed, and the only silver lining is that somewhere in between all of that Bakugou’s grip had loosened. You slump. Fuck, you’re tired, and the sight of Kiri trying to creep back into the kitchen just drives the shame deeper.

“Leave me alone.” Fatigue is steeped into every syllable that comes out of your mouth. One last time, you try to tug your arm away. There’s nothing more you have to say but he still isn’t letting you go.

“I just,” His voice sounds close to breaking with emotion and you look up almost reflexively from shock. Even with tears on his lashes and traces of anger on his face he’s still heartbreakingly beautiful.  “ . . . I’m sorry.”

“It’s - “ Okay? It isn’t.

“It isn’t.”

In any other situation the way he read your mind would’ve shocked a laugh out of you. “You’re right. Why?”

“I didn’t mean - “

“We both know that’s a lie. Pull the other one.”

“No! It - I didn’t want you to - “ A frustrated growl tears out of his chest, the familiar irritation giving him back his footing. “I don’t think you’re . . .”

“That wasn’t the part that sucked.” You can practically feel the question he wants to ask. “I saw that look. What sucked was that when you said that, you really wanted to hurt me.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I know. But I can’t just forget.”

“Then what - fuck, what do I do?”

“I don’t know.” You take a breath. “You hurt me. But I don’t like just cutting you out.”

“You did it fine.” Something like snark sparks in his eyes and it gets a little, tired giggle out of you.

“And it sucked.”

He nods, agrees, and his hand slips down your arms to yours. His fingers hook the side of your palm, waiting for you to reach back.

You take the chance. “We’ll figure it out?”

He nods. The flush on his face doesn’t look that angry anymore.

 

(“That was so manly.”

Baks jumps like he’d forgotten about Kiri and darts into the kitchen, shaking his fists. “ShiTTY-HAIR!”)