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Bakugou’s thoughts are Kirishima’s favorite channel. Kirishima tunes into them like they’re a podcast, the bursts of introspection at the periphery of his mind soothing with how familiar Bakugou’s voice is to him. Musings and observations, gravel-rough yet calm.

If it were a podcast he’s listening to, it would be one with a hell of a chaotic update schedule – Kirishima has to really focus to make those thoughts into more than indistinct murmurs. Bakugou seems to be thinking about a myriad of things at any given moment, so it’s hard to understand even then. Not really a constant tap on the guy’s stream of consciousness, more like...

A glimpse. The comforting presence of a loved one on the other side of a door, their absent-minded humming filtering through the gap.

Because that’s the thing: Kirishima loves Bakugou, is pretty sure he’s in love with him, big red hearts and butterflies and all. And he was pretty sure that Bakugou doesn’t return those feelings, would’ve sworn it on his favorite signed Crimson Riot poster not even twenty-four hours ago.

But.

Kirishima has learned a lot of things about Bakugou since then.

Gaining access to people’s thoughts, including those of his crush-slash-best-friend, is quite the development. It’s not what Kirishima signed up for when he joined Fat Gum on his morning patrol, but it’s certainly what he got after a civilian stumbled into him and started apologizing profusely.

Did I touch him with my palm?, a woman had whispered, a little frantic. Not like... spoken words, more like impressions projected straight into his brain. Mr. Hero? Can you hear me right now?

Kirishima had only blinked, his dumbfounded stare apparently passing some sort of test because the lady nodded to herself and relaxed instantly.

Nope, okay. It’s all under control, perfect. Where was I?

The internal monologue just kept going, touching upon the image of a grocery list and the shops still left to visit while Fat Gum told her not to worry and to have a nice day. (Kirishima had been too busy coming to terms with the fact that he’d definitely heard this random woman’s thoughts and that, yup, that was his mentor’s voice wondering, Is Little Riot alright? He looks a little out of it.)

One confession of accidental mind-reading abilities later, Fat Gum had sent him home with a pat on the back and a promise from Kirishima to go to Recovery Girl if the quirk turns uncomfortable in any way. And Kirishima had fully intended to inform his class of the reason why he showed up to homeroom after having waved them goodbye a mere hour earlier.

But.

It’s not that easy to get a word in when every person clamors to know if everything’s alright, both via their mouths and with their... brains? (Yeah, this isn’t getting any less weird.)

In any case, thinking thoughts very, very loudly, until–

Huh, Kirishima’s back. Glad he’s okay.

Kirishima zeroes in on the oasis of calm that is Bakugou. Bakugou looks back at him, one eyebrow twitching upwards in silent challenge. Yet what he thinks is:

Can’t these dickheads shut up for a second? He’ll talk about whatever happened when he’s ready.

There’s a thread of protectiveness connecting every word. For a fraction of a second, Kirishima sees the hallway to their rooms, a hand knocking on a door, himself opening said door – Bakugou’s gaze cuts away to Aizawa and the mental image disappears.

Kirishima blinks, struggling to process that Bakugou calls him by his actual name in his thoughts much less... everything else.

Holy shit.

“Take your seat, Kirishima”, drawls Aizawa in his usual monotone, lacking any added layers or sensations whatsoever. Does Aizawa’s quirk make him immune? “As I was saying...”

Needless to say, Kirishima spends the rest of homeroom and a good chunk of Present Mic’s class figuring out how this new quirk of his works:

One, it’s only really effective in direct line of sight; trying to read a crowd gives him a headache, so he focuses on one person at a time.

Two, given it’s less thoughts per se and more someone’s way of perceiving reality, only those he knows well already are a comfortable presence in his head, which narrows down the possible pool of people to the squad.

Three, while he can close his eyes and thus be alone in his thoughts again, he hasn’t found a way to turn off the quirk entirely. If Kirishima wants to, like, continue participating in life, he has to risk listening in on someone until it fades – which could be anywhere from a few hours from now to a few days.

(Kirishima will give it one day. One day for the quirk to wear off, and then he’ll be able to tell his class what’s up without immediately getting slammed with a wall of pure emotions for his trouble.)

Each and every friend of Kirishima’s has an incredibly specific view of the world and it’s fascinating to see. Like, Sero spent a good few minutes imagining what would happen if he’d stick one long line of tape to every single classmate and poor, unsuspecting Mic, and pulled.

Ashido’s thoughts swirl with colors and shapes and textures of different fabrics, which start to make sense once Kirishima catches a glance at her notes and sees they’re full of sketches of her hero costume. (He didn’t even know she’s planning a redesign. They really gotta catch up on Eijirou-and-Mina time this week.)

The mindscape Kaminari inhabits is similarly chaotic, if only because he’s zipping back and forth between five different trains of thought at the same time and keeping up with even one of them sounds exhausting. Then there’s Jirou, whose brain is like switching on a radio station that has no intention of sticking to a genre.

Kirishima listens to smooth jazz immediately followed by nu metal-esque screaming, and decides to revisit when Mic isn’t teaching them exam-related stuff.

So, Bakugou it is.

Bakugou, who is actually paying attention in class, bless his nerdy heart. Most of his internal monologue seems to be following exactly what Mic is saying, then drifting off into different examples of that same thing, only to snap back once Mic moves on to the next point. Methodical, clean and precise like clockwork.

It’s easier for Kirishima to follow Bakugou’s version of the lesson than the lesson itself. Before long, he finds himself with his chin in his hand, pretending to look out the window while his eyes are trained on Bakugou's back. It happens with Midnight and Art History, too, and then in Ectoplasm’s Math class.

Only, that’s not all Bakugou thinks about, no.

Midnight presents them an overview of different woodblock prints from the Edo period along with their year of origin. Bakugou goes through it top-to-bottom and, there at the end of the list, Kirishima catches an impression of the dates lighting up in yellow, the names in purple. Hiroshige and Hokusai, murmurs Bakugou in Kirishima’s head, Kaminari will recognize the Great Wave at least. Gonna need more visuals for the other artists, though.

When Ectoplasm hands out worksheets at the end of the class, Bakugou takes one look at it and spends half of their lunch break musing on how to best break it down for Kirishima later, or if they should study at all today.

Is Kirishima up for it? He’s been spacing out all day.

...While he’s chewing on his curry right next to Kirishima, average amounts of Bakugou grumpiness on his face.

Bakugou rolls his eyes at something Sero is snickering about and thinks, Good to see him happy. Jirou talks about this obscure band she found that fits none of their music tastes and yet there Bakugou sits, mentally shoving his holy sleep schedule back by half an hour to listen to an album of theirs before bed. Fifteen minutes after that, he’s getting roped into dance training with Ashido later in the week, huffing and puffing on the outside and full of praise for her skills on the inside. By that point, Kirishima has to force himself to look elsewhere.

It’s one thing to be aware Bakugou likes them beyond what his grouchy old self lets on – and another to hear him plot through their study sessions and hangouts with nothing but fondness.

Closing his eyes, Kirishima wills away the sappy tears welling up. I’m not gonna cry about Bakugou being secretly soft. I’m not gonna cry, I’m not, I’m–

“Shitty Hair?”

Kirishima clears his throat, “Yeah, bro?”, looking at the ceiling before he looks at the half-empty plate in front of Bakugou. Anything but Bakugou himself, or he’ll lose it immediately.

“Lunch Rush fuck up your food or something? Eat. We got hero training in ten.”

Bakugou’s words are followed by Kirishima’s tray being pushed closer to him and, a hesitant second later, an apple jelly pouch placed on top, too. Even though Kirishima has his own, strawberry-flavored one and that’s the only snack Bakugou allows himself on a day-to-day basis.

Oh fuck. Screw secret softness, Kirishima can take Bakugou being openly soft even less right now.

No, wait, he can do this. He’s Red Riot! He can make it through another day of loving Bakugou intensely without his heart bursting through his chest. He’s done it before, he can do it again.

No problem at all. Yes.

Kirishima steels himself with a slow inhale that turns into a yawn so he can rub the moisture out of his eyes. “Aw, Baku, thanks! Eating up ASAP, I’m just a little sleepy. Math, y’know?”

Then, because guilt is eating him up: “You sure you don’t want yours?”

There’s no way Kirishima can get through an entire interaction with Bakugou without looking at him; he shakes the jelly pouch for emphasis and glances at Bakugou’s face. One quick little glance. Innocent enough, hopefully.

Bakugou’s eyes narrow. On Kirishima, on the pointy tips of his teeth poking out from his waning yawn. “Nah, keep it”, he says. Thinks, Why is he so cute? Fucking shark teeth. Shit.

It is then, in that exact moment, with Bakugou turning away to finish his curry and Kirishima fighting off a blush that would make a stop sign look dull in comparison, that he realizes the true depth of the predicament he’s in.

He really, really didn’t sign up for this.

*

Twenty minutes into Heroics, it occurs to Kirishima that he can’t do this, actually.

For once, it’s not up to willpower, or conviction, or pushing his quirk beyond all limits and gritting his teeth against the pain. It’s not about the doubts Kirishima can’t quite rid himself of, tendrils of fear reaching for his heart with every sentence that starts at ‘what if’.

It’s none of the ghosts that haunt Kirishima at night: Neither the shaken expression on Bakugou’s face as he watched All Might’s final battle flicker over every screen, nor Fat Gum getting punched within an inch of his life, every bit the shield Kirishima couldn’t be. What breaks Kirishima this time isn’t a physical force, or his own shortcomings, or a harrowing, once-in-a-lifetime event.

It’s the sight of Bakugou, feral grin in place and thoughts streamlined to a brilliant point of win, win, win as he goes after the top score held by Todoroki–

And the moment his eyes land on Kirishima, and that grin tempers to a smile, softer, and those thoughts turn warm. Warm like sunlight on naked skin, like a good meal after a day spent out in nature, the mountain air cold enough to cloud every breath. Like watching a movie again and again for that one action scene that’s so perfectly choreographed and executed it becomes pure comfort.

Bakugou looks at Kirishima, and Kirishima sees himself through his eyes: Bright and glowing like he’s something precious, someone unique, confident and strong and breathtakingly beautiful.

It’s exactly how Bakugou looks to Kirishima. It’s love, simple and straight-forward like little else is in life.

I can’t do this, Kirishima thinks, Bakugou heading towards him with sweat dripping from his chin, shoulders relaxed. Happy, because that top score is his and he knows Kirishima will demand they knock fists to celebrate it as they always do.

“I can’t do this”, Kirishima tells him instead, head full of admiration worth five people. Or perhaps just two: Just him and Bakugou, and the desperate hope that there is ground to stand on the other side of a leap of faith.

There’s no way Kirishima can keep pretending the world hasn’t shifted beneath his feet, that he doesn’t know. This changes everything, and Kirishima wants.

A day is simply too long to wait.

“Hah?”

Bakugou’s smile dims, falls off his lips entirely. His idle daydream gives way to confusion, blooming concern, “Can’t do what?”, a rapid-fire mind circling a problem with too many blank spaces to solve it. Yet they are surrounded by classmates, narrowly escaping their questioning glances by the merits of Midoriya absolutely crushing the training exercise they're supposed to be paying attention to.

Bakugou doesn’t even notice, focused entirely on Kirishima.

“I gotta tell you something”, Kirishima explains without explaining, wincing at the immediate flash of alarm in Bakugou’s eyes. “It’s not bad. Well, you definitely won’t like parts of it, but– Okay, just... Give me a second.”

He needs Bakugou alone for this. It’s not like Bakugou has the habit of involving other people like most members of the squad tend to do; still, Kirishima grabs Bakugou’s hand, uncaring of how sweaty it is, and drags him along to where Aizawa is already watching them.

“Recovery Girl?”

Fat Gum called ahead, then. Kirishima’s appreciation for his mentor shoots up another level, if that’s even possible. Nodding, “Something like that. Or, uh, not at all”, he amends, guilty even if it would’ve been a lie by omission. “But yeah. Need a moment.”

(Kirishima will go to Recovery Girl... later. At some point after he’s been exploded into little stony bits for purposefully reading Bakugou’s mind for hours on end without his consent. Oof.)

“I’m going with him”, Bakugou cuts in before Aizawa can grant the break he’s clearly offering them, fingers tightening around Kirishima’s. A wordless warning that Kirishima hears loud and clear, quirk or no quirk. The unimpressed blink of Aizawa’s remains the same, too, good old deadpan exasperation that Kirishima is glad not to explore any further.

“Dismissed, both of you. I’ll see you in the morning.”

Which is code for, ‘Bring me a note from Recovery Girl to homeroom tomorrow, or you’re toast.’

Kirishima nods again, sees Bakugou do the same in the corner of his eye, and that’s that. They head to the changing rooms, grab their stuff, get cleaned up and back in their school uniforms in complete silence.

Frankly, Kirishima would’ve expected at least a fraction of the storm brewing in Bakugou’s head to figuratively or literally hit him in the face the second they’re out of earshot. The tension is definitely there, solid enough to take up physical space between them. It’s Kirishima who’s taking the lead on this one and Bakugou the one who follows, and the blatant trust in that gesture alone is nearly enough to make him crack and spill his guts anyways.

Not here, not here, a mantra that carries Kirishima the entire way to the dorms.

The elevator ride up to the fourth floor is downright brutal, Kirishima’s stomach twisted in knots from his nerves and the taste of Bakugou’s growing apprehension on his tongue. A brush of shoulders, “I’m not dying or anything”, Kirishima tries to soothe without looking too closely. Bakugou’s thoughts are churning so fast it’s nauseating, too quick to catch.

A muscle in Bakugou’s jaw twitches, he’s clenching it that hard. “Your room or mine?”

Bakugou’s home turf versus giving Bakugou a place to retreat to when everything is said and done – Kirishima ventures, “Mine?”, over the ding of the elevator announcing their arrival. Bakugou shrugs and again he follows, down the hall and past the threshold of Kirishima’s door.

It shuts behind Kirishima with a definitive click and Bakugou is upon him. Arms crossed, mouth set under serious, red eyes–

“Talk”, he commands and...

Oh. Kirishima was so focused on the burning need to tell him that he didn’t think of what to say, exactly. A headache pulses behind his temples, like his brain is a muscle on the brink of tearing from overexertion. Worn out from processing other people’s lives when it’s only supposed to be Kirishima in there.

“Kirishima?”

A touch to Kirishima’s arm, cautious. Bakugou’s hand, he recognizes instinctively, skin thick and callus-rough to withstand the heat it contains. “Look at me”, calmer now, gentle, almost. “The hell’s going on?”

Kirishima didn’t even realize he’d looked away. A deep breath, “It’s, um. It’s kinda weird and I’m already sorry. Hear me out before you kill me, okay?”

A shy glance reveals Bakugou is already staring at him, gaze flitting left to right to catch Kirishima’s. Bakugou’s frown deepens. He nods. As if I could ever be mad at you, adds Bakugou’s mind, and okay, Kirishima really needs to speak up before he goes completely insane.

“I got hit with a mind-reading quirk while on patrol this morning.”

There. It’s out. Kirishima doesn’t let himself stop there either, not even when Bakugou lets go of him and he immediately misses that warmth.

“This lady ran into me, apparently when she touches people she transfers her quirk or something? She didn’t think she got me, but that’s the thing, bro – I know she was thinking that, because I could hear her. Or, I could... feel? A piece of her thought process? I don’t know, I can’t really explain it.”

Somewhere in there Kirishima gaze wandered again. Shit, he’s getting annoyed with himself now.

Yeah, it’s overwhelming to keep track of two different layers of conversation – the one actually happening, and the one that he shouldn’t know about – but it’s his quirk accident, his responsibility to handle from the second that quirk activated. Kirishima won’t run away. He’s not that kind of person, not anymore.

This is no exception.

“When I look at people”, Kirishima keeps talking because Bakugou isn’t, the small distance between them stretching on endlessly; Kirishima looks and Bakugou looks back, wide-eyed. “When I look at you”, softer now, gentle too, “I get a glimpse of you. What you’re seeing, feeling, thinking in that moment. I can’t turn it off, I can only redirect it, and...”

Bakugou’s mind, completely blank from sheer shock, comes roaring back. Oh fuck, a thought so loud it echoes, reverberating within itself. Fuck, fuck, fuck–

Because Bakugou remembers Kirishima spacing out, remembers his absent eyes on his back, tingling pleasantly from the attention. Remembers thinking, over and over–

“I like you. I really like you, Katsuki, you’re my best friend and the most amazing person I know. Being in your head felt like being at home, and I just... I couldn’t help but return, y’know?”

“You...”

Bakugou swallows, arms coming up and around his chest, eyes cutting away. “You saw? You heard... that. All day.”

Guilt crashes into Kirishima with twice the force. “I did, yeah. Not everything, but enough. I’m sorry, man, I thought I could wait it out and tell you then, but it, um. The quirk’s still there, so.”

The admission goes through Bakugou like a shiver, a physical thing. Their eyes meet, Can you hear this?, projected clearly into Kirishima’s head.

Kirishima nods, hesitantly. Bakugou groans, starts to pace, both hands rubbing down his face and pressing against his cheeks, blushing an intense shade of pink.

Stop that shit, like the blood in his body would fold to the harsh demand just like that, and then, when Kirishima makes a faint choking noise: Fuck you. Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you.

That makes Kirishima laugh, he can’t help it. Bakugou squints and bares his teeth, huffing his offense despite the fact it all lacks any sort of bite.

“Shitty Hair.”

“Sorry, sorry”, Kirishima wheezes, physically trying to push his ill-timed chuckling back into himself with the back of his hand. “It’s not funny, it’s really not. I totally get if you’re pissed at me, it’s... It’s a lot and I should’ve come clean from the start.”

“A day. You couldn’t keep your shitty secret for one fucking day?”

There’s genuine annoyance in Bakugou’s voice. It’s just not what Kirishima expected Bakugou to be annoyed about in this entire mess.

“I mean– Listen. You kept thinking all this sappy stuff about the squad and about me and I almost cried three times, bro! How am I supposed to keep a secret like that? It’s freaking impossible!”

“You’re such a moron!” Again, no bite, as Bakugou is flushing to the tips of his ears and is painfully aware Kirishima knows he doesn’t mean it, either. “You can read minds and you didn’t even get the full damn story?! What kinda bitch ass quirk did you catch!”

“Well, it’s not like I asked for– Wait, what? What full story?”

Before he can blink, Bakugou has stopped pacing in favor of punching Kirishima’s shoulder instead. That one he does mean, Kirishima muttering a quiet “Ow” that Bakugou hisses at.

“I had plans, dumbass!” I wanted to be the one to tell you.

“But then you started acting off and shit and I didn’t– I had a plan. Couldn’t you have waited for one more night?” You deserve that. You deserve to not have to reach out, for once.

Alright, that’s it. That does it.

All day Kirishima has had to scoop up the molten puddle between his ribs and pour it back into a vaguely heart-like shape – no amount of resolve can stop him from tearing up for good now. “Bakugou...”

“Wha– No, wait, stop, you don’t get to– Kirishima.

Kirishima laughs again, wiping stray tears off his cheeks. “You call me that in your head, too, it’s so cute.”

“Cute?! It’s your name”, Bakugou tells him, more than exasperated. “You called me Katsuki two fucking seconds ago.”

“I did, huh?” It’s Kirishima’s turn to blush. “You can call me Eijirou, if you wanna.” Then Kirishima shakes his head like a dog shaking rain off its fur, that line of conversation pushed far back in his priorities.

“Dude! I like you!”

“You already said that”, Bakugou grumbles.

“And you like me!”

Bakugou grits his teeth. “Obviously.”

“So?!”

“So. We’re dating.”

Boom. Just like that. Kirishima gapes at Bakugou.

“You got a problem with that, Shark Teeth?”

In what world is that even remotely a possibility? “No! But like, shouldn’t we talk about this?”

A twist to Bakugou’s mouth. “Maybe. I guess. But I don’t– I’m an open book to you right now, and you’re not to me.”

Oh. Yeah, that doesn’t sound fair. “True. After the quirk thing blows over, then?”

Bakugou nods. Not for the first time, Kirishima’s hand goes for Bakugou’s, rough palm against rough palm. Kirishima squeezes, and Bakugou squeezes back, pout mostly gone.

A beat. “Um. What now?”

Bakugou clicks his tongue. Says nothing as he pulls Kirishima behind himself, side-stepping the weights on the ground and pushing him into his desk chair. Bakugou sits on the edge of Kirishima’s bed, elbows on his knees, hands linked between them.

“Now, we make a new plan. Think that quirk of yours can last another day?”

The question is asked with a smirk dawning on Bakugou’s face, one that spells trouble. Kirishima’s answering grin is immediate, all pointy teeth and mischief.

“I hope it does.”

*

Recovery Girl listens to Kirishima’s story for a grand total of a minute before she sighs, slides over a box of aspirin and says: “Thirty-six hours. By this time tomorrow, you will get less and less glimpses, then they’ll stop altogether soon after. Let me know if the headache persists but otherwise, your condition is completely harmless. Any questions?”

Blinking, Kirishima gets as far as “Uhhh, not rea–” before Bakugou barks, “Yeah”, from where he’s slumped in his seat next to him, legs crossed at the knee. The Bakugou version of an attentive position, all things considered.

“How sure are you about that time frame? And what about long-term effects? What if Rock Brain over here, I don’t know, keeps parts of the quirk around or some shit? What then?”

That’s... a lot of questions. Good questions, actually, stuff Kirishima would’ve come up with late at night just before falling asleep, then spent hours and hours failing to rationalize a way out of the resulting anxiety.

Still, Kirishima elbows Bakugou. Bakugou gives him a pointed look, Let me, exactly as huffy as it would sound out loud.

“Permanently transferable quirks don’t exist”, Recovery Girl interrupts their silent bickering, the narrow-eyed glare Bakugou gives her puzzling Kirishima as much as it amuses her. “Even if they did, which they don’t, young Kirishima here is the third case of this I’ve come across. The quirk will fade, don’t you worry.”

Kirishima’s definitely missing parts of the conversation, here. Bakugou relaxes, though, gets up and grabs the meds to shake them in front of Kirishima’s eyes.

“Let’s go, c’mon.”

A swiftly signed note for Aizawa, a hurried bow from Kirishima, then they’re off, walking back to the dorms at a leisurely pace.

Night is falling, the oncoming winter announcing itself with shorter and shorter days, a touch of snow in every inhale. Bakugou seems a little cold, a sensation that filters through their one-sided bond more than any physical gesture, so Kirshima stays close.

A breath, catching twilight in faint mist. Bakugou’s hand brushes Kirishima’s, his pinky caught before Bakugou conquers the gaps between his fingers, like he’s always belonged there. Careful, warm, the pad of Bakugou’s thumb rubbing a tentative rhythm into Kirishima’s skin.

Kirishima’s cheeks are warm as well, his giddy smile pressed into Bakugou’s shoulder. “I’m gonna miss this”, he tells him, a low whisper.

What ‘this’ is, exactly, he can’t properly define. They will have each other after the quirk is gone, this closeness that’s both new and the continuation of something familiar. That extra bit of insight is just a reassurance, the nudge of Bakugou’s thoughts against his a comfort, to feel how neatly their edges fit together.

Bakugou gets Kirishima, he always will. Leans into their connection and hums. Me too.

Kirishima wishes Bakugou could read his mind instead. To show him the aspects of himself he so rarely acknowledges, the gentleness, the myriad of ways he cares, the tiny bursts of happiness over important things and mundane things, otherwise lost to the whirlwind that are their lives. If Kirishima is radiant as a sun in Bakugou’s eyes, then Bakugou is the wide-open sky in his, thunder storms and deep, dark night and golden morning light and every shade of red in-between.

This moment in time will fade, will become part of the story they will tell many, many times over. By then, Kirishima hopes, he will have found the words to translate every adoring beat of his heart for Bakugou.

*

Kirishima definitely loves Bakugou. Butterflies, big red hearts, nothing has changed about that.

Kirishima also hates Bakugou, because his best friend and newly-minted boyfriend is wonderful in a million ways that take away Kirishima’s breath at a moment’s notice – and he’s a gremlin, a brilliant, evil gremlin of a man dead-set on making Kirishima’s life hell.

See, when he agreed to aid Bakugou’s frankly ruthless revenge campaign for all the pranks the squad had pulled on him this year, Kirishima had automatically assumed they’d be allies, partners in crime. Like, he’d always figured Bakugou would eventually cash in on some of the threats he’s thrown around with an impressive variety of insults to go along with them. Bakugou forgives but doesn’t forget, that sort of thing.

It turns out Bakugou doesn’t even forgive. Not without making the people who wronged him suffer, first.

So, like a fool, Kirishima trusted him and didn’t breathe a word of the quirk situation to anyone else. All throughout breakfast, him and Bakugou have been completing each other’s sentences, moving as one, a level of synchronization that has their friends freaked out in the matter of minutes.

“Dude, what the– How?!”, Kaminari yells, stumbling to his feet beside a bewilderedly-blinking Jirou. Kirishima has briefly stopped talking to catch the pancake Bakugou launches at him from the kitchen with a confident chomp of sharp teeth, not unlike a dog catching a frisbee.

“How what?”, Kirishima asks, the picture of innocence.

Equally disturbed and squinting with a healthy dose of skepticism, Sero mutters, “Did you two unlock best friend telepathy, or something?”

If only you knew, Kirishima thinks, munching on delicious – if incredibly hot, since: straight from the pan – Bakugou Food.

On their way to class, Kirishima rattles off the number Pi flawlessly up to a good dozen decimals on a dare, since Bakugou is the exact kind of nerd who has stuff like that memorized. Ashido had gone a little pastel pink around the edges by the time Kirishima smiles brightly and goes, “Or something like that!”, his head filled with Bakugou’s internal cackling.

(‘No cheating’ had been the first rule they agreed on for this, meant for surprise tests and their individual contributions in class and not, well, giving Kirishima’s oldest friend heart palpitations via Math.)

All this practice has made Kirishima incredibly proficient with these mind-reading powers, borrowed as they may be. Which means that, after an uneventful hour of homeroom in which Kirishima dutifully delivers Recovery Girl’s note, he settles in to attend Mic’s lesson through Bakugou’s eyes...

...and is mentally slapped with the image of muscles moving under sweat-slick skin, a wonderfully developed bicep flexing, then relaxing.

Kirishima can’t suppress the choked squeak that falls from his mouth, waving off Mic’s head-tilt of concern with frantic urgency. Face burning a bright, hot red, Kirishima tries to blink away the– Was it a bodybuilder? Or one of the wrestlers Kirishima has a not-so-sneaky man crush on? There’s no way in hell Kirishima will tune in to check, clearly it’s a trap, but–

It’s not much, not even a chuckle or anything, more an amused huff.

Kirishima is looking before he can stop himself, Bakugou’s mouth covered by his hand like he’s thinking hard on what Mic is saying. The corners of Bakugou’s eyes are crinkling, though, a soft Eijirou tickling the back of Kirishima’s mind, impossible to ignore.

This time, it’s the smell of grilled meat, a truly beautiful ribeye steak sizzling over an open fire. It doesn’t matter Kirishima has had breakfast a short while ago and technically isn’t hungry, he’s swallowing his own saliva like three times as Bakugou walks through the process of cooking it to perfection in excruciating detail.

Fuck. Of course Bakugou would weaponize the use of Kirishima’s given name.

He sounds so fond, even as he goes back to torturing Kirishima with, yup, that’s his favorite wrestler’s abs right there. Kirishima has stared at those long enough to recognize them on the spot.

This has to count as cheating. Not only can’t Kirishima use a single braincell for class when Bakugou parades around the things he likes without shame, he also can’t get back at him without ratting himself out in the same breath.

Again, the wish arises to give Bakugou the quirk. Kirishima would return fire with a fine selection of the most embarrassing All Might merch he has witnessed in Bakugou’s room with his own two eyes. Maybe one or two instances of natural geometry so satisfying to look at, Bakugou will climb over his considerable pride to ask for the reference.

Bakugou won't be able to resist a succulent growing in perfectly symmetrical little spikes. Neat things get to him, Kirishima has no qualms about flexing his in-depth Bakugou Knowledge now.

Yet he keeps coming back, keeps heeding that call. Eijirou, Eijirou, followed by things that make Kirishima blush, that make him happy. Glimpses of the puppy they saw two weeks ago, a smile made of little fangs and a delightfully pink tongue; the memory of the first time Kirishima achieved Unbreakable, and the unprecedented levels of badass he had looked to Bakugou.

By the time the bell rings for lunch break, Kirishima stomps over to Bakugou and drags him away like he did the day before. Out the classroom, down two hallways, until they’re blissfully alone. “Katsuki”, he starts, turning on his heel–

“Eijirou.” Bakugou’s grin, finally uncovered, is smug, big enough to show his canines, reaching glinting red with ease. “Close your eyes, will ya?”

It’s another one of their rules, a safeguard for Bakugou’s privacy that Kirishima insisted on himself. Kirishima trusts Bakugou, so he does, pouting all the same. “For how long? I still wanna chew you out, bro.”

All kinds of weird, to be suddenly alone in his mind. Bakugou’s voice is close, “Chew me out later”, all snark and indulgence.

And Kirishima’s face is cupped in gentle-rough hands, warm, so warm. “Gonna kiss you”, closer still, calm like Bakugou is merely informing Kirishima of the thoughts he’s missing out on.

Before Kirishima’s heart can finish skipping a beat, there are soft lips brushing his, nervous in their fleetingness, a tender touch. Eyes resolutely closed, Kirishima reaches up to grasp Bakugou’s wrist, his thumb resting lightly over Bakugou’s racing pulse. Kisses him back, just as clumsy, just as nervous, chest so full it’s bound to explode for real any minute now.

Then it’s over. Bakugou exhales a breath against Kirishima’s mouth, a sigh of relief or one of those quiet-fond laughs of his. “S’whatcha get for stealing my thunder”, he says in the small, intimate space between them, and Kirishima doesn’t need to look to know he’s smiling that smile again.

Out of all the favorite things Bakugou has shown Kirishima, this is the best one by far.