Tokyo moves fast.
Tokyo’s always had a life of its own, even to someone like Katsuki who hadn’t grown up in its own kind of day-to-day endlessness. Tokyo stretches out from the center in all the ways it can—long days, huge districts, people anywhere and everywhere.
It’s a lot to come back to after the last couple of months, but this isn’t the first time Katsuki’s doing it.
Tokyo itself, as a whole, has its own soundtrack—not so much the sounds of a city but something much more subdued, even as the area throbs day in and day out like the heartbeat of something alive. It’s disconcerting for the first few days back, after long nights of slow, quiet overnight shifts, but Katsuki gets swept away in it.
It’s easy to get lost in all the noise.
And if Katsuki’s honest with himself, a part of him is seeking out the noise by choice, even if it means dragging himself over to a Denny’s nearby with his textbooks instead of doing his work from his bed. The Denny’s near his building refills coffee and tea even if he doesn’t order food, lets him stay until past midnight just marking up page after page. It’s familiar routine, and Katsuki thinks he’d be stupid not to recognize why his head still tricks him into going back every night.
It’s equally easy to get lost back into the pace of school—classes, things to memorize, things to read, sets to hand in. There’s urgency among his peers, this semester, now halfway into second year and with only months to go before their general education ends. It’s charged, the kind of energy this produces in Katsuki and the rest of the students, and, though Katsuki searches himself for what he wants to go into and doesn’t find a definite answer, it’s motivating.
But things loom in the backdrop of all of it: the scholarship, for one, making itself known every now and then with e-mail reminders about deadlines and transcript updates. Katsuki has an interview scheduled in November, but he feels nothing about the potential it offers—it’s a foreign idea, abandoning something, come what may, and it feels a little helpless not being able to do anything but think and wait for the November date.
Among the scholarship shit are e-mails from Katsuki’s mother, too; the restaurant remains as present as ever, throughout October, as his mother gets ready to step down and move on to the next place. There are updates on changes by the company—strict dress codes implemented, new staff systems as opposed to the non-existent ones from before, the manager the company’s sent to take over. It sounds like a lot of shit for the restaurant Katsuki remembers, so different now that he’s far away from where everything’s happening, that he doesn’t really bother replying.
Sometimes, it will be Uraraka, sending photos without captions—various parts of the dining porch repainted, Tokoyami showing up in a white dress shirt for the first time, or her own commentary on notes from the class she shares with Kirishima. It still feels tentative, on her part of the communication, but Katsuki’s one-word and one-emoji replies seem to suffice, for now.
Kirishima’s not too different—he still sends thirty texts at a time, telling Katsuki long-winded stories about rude customers or weird shit that happen in lectures. He’s also taken to sending Katsuki photos of the twins, even though Katsuki’s made it clear he wasn’t fucking interested.
It’s exactly what Kirishima used to do before, only he doesn’t call at all, in between being back in classes full-time, babysitting and working. Katsuki’s under the impression that Kirishima just likes having a lot on his plate, even if he complains about it multiple times via messages. He’s also under the impression, even if he’s never brought it up, that Kirishima’s just avoiding calls altogether.
That works, for Katsuki.
The thought of talking to Kirishima—hearing his voice, his laugh—leaves Katsuki’s throat dry, sends his heart clenching painfully. It’s not a good feeling, especially when he thinks about it in the middle of a math formula and thinks not of the test he has the next day but the way Kirishima’s eyebrows had scrunched up together when he worked on an Econ problem.
Being away should be an excuse to step back and think this shit through, but anything involving Kirishima has, at this point, become part of its own category in Katsuki’s head. Checking his phone in class to see if there’s a message, rereading texts if there aren’t. It’s like an itch he can’t scratch, no matter how often he lets himself get distracted by something else.
It’s always a downward spiral from there, thinking about Kirishima, and it’s something consuming, to be thinking so obsessively about something that the frequency of it drives him up the wall, pisses him off, sometimes.
Three weeks of it, and he’s cornered into doing something about it when Kirishima’s birthday comes around.
He’d have let it pass, if not for Uraraka’s rare message without a photo attachment.
I know you know it’s his birthday.
Don’t be a dick about missing him.
And no—Katsuki grits his teeth—he doesn’t miss him.
He plans on sending a message at midnight, be one of those people so neither Uraraka nor Kirishima can say he didn’t try, but instead he ends up stewing on his message—"Happy fucking day of birth, bastard. You better not be failing any classes."—for too long.
Kirishima doesn't need the greeting; surely he's spending the day out with his stupid friends or something like that.
Katsuki has a 9 A.M class the next day, but he sits up until two, futilely trying to teach himself the next unit in his class until he throws the textbook off his bed in frustration and decides fuck it.
True to form, Kirishima answers within the first three rings.
"Hello?" Kirishima’s voice is low, groggy.
"I woke you up," Katsuki says flatly, leaving no room for Kirishima to deny it. "I’m gonna hang up—"
"Katsuki!" There’s shuffling, Kirishima sitting up. "Wait, no, don’t hang up yet—"
And this—the feeling that comes with this, as Katsuki throws himself back onto his bed, glaring up at the ceiling—is the reason he hadn’t wanted to call to begin with. It’s hard to let go of something, anything, if he keeps letting it back into his life, replaying it in his head—like he does with Kirishima, constantly, because that’s just the kind of person Kirishima is.
"Happy birthday," Katsuki cuts into whatever Kirishima’s saying, before he can get side-tracked about what he called for.
There’s a surprised beat. "Thank you?"
Katsuki closes his eyes. "Now go back to sleep."
"No, no, wait—" Kirishima’s laughing. It’s fucking annoying, or it should be, at the very least, because Katsuki has no way of resisting the way a part of him jumps up in response to hearing Kirishima’s voice. "Don’t be like that."
"I literally just fucking called to tell you that," Katsuki says. "So I’m hanging up now."
"You still sound the same," Kirishima tells him, voice dropping to a low murmur, still drowsy with audible tiredness. Katsuki feels a twinge of something, at the realization that he really did wake him up. "It’s nice, getting to hear your voice."
Katsuki swallows. "You’re tired as shit."
"I am," Kirishima agrees, bordering on incoherent. "I miss you, though. So this could be a dream. Because I’m super tired."
"This isn’t." Katsuki stares up at his ceiling. "This isn’t a dream."
"The entire summer felt like a dream," Kirishima’s full-on mumbling now, each garbled whisper still clear to Katsuki. "Sometimes, I’m sure I’ll wake up and I’d have—like—dreamt up the past months. Being friends with you and stuff. I think that’d make me upset."
Katsuki doesn’t know what he should be saying to all of this. Kirishima’s not even gonna remember half the shit he’s saying now—Katsuki knows this from experience.
"Good night, idiot," Katsuki says.
Kirishima hums, already half-asleep by the sound of it. "‘Night, Katsuki. Take care of yourself."
When he hangs up, Katsuki lies there for a long time, until his pupils dilate and he can see the cracks in the ceiling paint where the moonlight’s shining on it.
Katsuki sends Kirishima a message, eventually.
Don’t tell me to take care of myself when you’re doing a fucked up job at it yourself.
You didn’t dream shit. The twin gremlins are there to prove it.
Too many weeks ago, in August, Uraraka had told him late nights did things to people.
It had felt like cheap sentiment, as most things did with Uraraka, but in that brief moment, it doesn’t feel too far off.
Uraraka waits for Katsuki to finish his interview.
Katsuki finds her in the cafe across the street, two mugs and a small tray of pastries in front of her.
She doesn’t look up at him as Katsuki throws himself into the seat across from her, busy taking a photo of latte art. "How did it go?"
He scowls, crossing his arms. "Fine."
Uraraka blinks, lowering her phone. "Really?"
He’s not really sure. Hakamata had grown more and more contemplative throughout Katsuki’s story—as contemplative as a pair of eyes and eyebrows can look—but he hadn’t said anything. He hadn’t asked Katsuki anything else, either, about the summer.
Katsuki glares at Uraraka. "Why the fuck do you look surprised?"
"Well, you look—" Uraraka shrugs, poking at the sweet mochi she’d ordered. "You don’t really seem bothered by the interview. So I’m surprised. Like a—‘whatever happens, happens’ kind of deal."
Hakamata’s handshake had been firm at the end, and he’d nodded at Katsuki when he’d said I’ll see you soon, then. Considering Katsuki’s not really sure how they release application results, that soon could mean a million different shit, as far as he’s concerned.
He doesn’t think he did badly—he hadn’t sworn once, hadn’t raised his voice. His voice hadn’t changed at all, careful and controlled, especially for him, and it’s almost something to be proud of, if dealing with an interviewer keen on learning the most random shit about him is supposed to count as an accomplishment.
Mostly, if anything, he hates the way Hakamata had looked at him, after it was all over, like he was satisfied with whatever the hell he’d figured out.
Katsuki doesn’t see the point to any of it, but he doesn’t really give a fuck anymore, either way.
"I have other shit to think about," he mutters, and it’s not untrue.
Uraraka hums. "Like what?"
"Midterms." The tea’s still on the warm side, if not unbearably hot to the touch. Uraraka’s latte is still mostly untouched as well—which means she’d waited for him to leave the building, despite her blatant attempts to make it look otherwise. "What to go into next year."
The honesty takes her aback, her thumbs stilling mid-tap on her phone screen. "You haven’t decided?"
"No," Katsuki says. "Whatever."
"You still have a semester and a half left," Uraraka points out. It’s fact, far from an excessive platitude, and it’s the correct thing to say, somehow. "Kirishima-kun told me you like plants. Have you considered—"
She breaks off, looking up from her phone with something almost apologetic.
Katsuki stares crossly at her, taking a pastry off the tray. "What?"
"Am I okay mentioning him?" she asks, disgustingly genuine. "You’re not going to—like, freak out on me?"
"Why the fuck would I freak out on you?"
"You freak out about a lot of things," Uraraka mumbles, finally setting her phone aside. "Especially when he’s involved. I don’t know. I just thought you were doing your silent treatment act with him. From a prefecture away."
Katsuki thinks he should be offended by that. "We fucking talk," he points out testily.
"You do?" Uraraka blinks. News to her, unusual for Kirishima—who, Katsuki has resolved himself into thinking, just has a shitty habit of talking to Uraraka about every damn thing. "I haven’t seen him much outside of class lately. He’s been doing, like, three shifts a week since the school year started."
That’s news to Katsuki. He narrows his eyes. "Why?"
"School, I guess?"
Either Uraraka’s assumption is wrong, or Katsuki had managed to get through Kirishima’s thick skull about not biting off more than he can chew. Katsuki doesn’t let himself dwell on it.
"Then," he says, poking at the pastry, "Do you know who sent all that shit for my transcript?"
Uraraka blinks again. "Sent what?"
Katsuki scrutinizes her blank expression for a long second. "Nothing."
Uraraka makes a face. "Why are asking me about—about whatever this is? Are you sure you’re actually talking to Kirishima-kun?"
"Yes, I’m fucking sure—"
"Talking-talking or talking as in avoiding the elephant in the room?"
Katsuki glowers. "What elephant in the room?"
Uraraka pops a mochi into her mouth. Around it, she says, audibly incredulous, "The one where he’s in love with you and you’re clearly on your way to feeling the same way."
Katsuki stares at her, the pastry crumbling in his hands. His chest flash through at least six different emotions in the span of ten fucking seconds, all too fast for him to register. Eventually, he manages, "What the fuck?"
"What?" Uraraka stares back at him like he’s being stupid. It’s her default expression at this point, when it comes to Katsuki. Lowering her voice and looking far too smug, she adds, "Oh, I’m sorry—‘Is it supposed to be a fucking secret? You’re doing a shitty job at hiding it.’”
Katsuki grits his teeth. "Fuck you."
Uraraka makes a noise of disapproval, picking at another mochi. "See, that’s what I mean. Kirishima-kun could be serenading you and you’d still—"
"Why the hell would he be—"
"Look," Uraraka cuts in. "My point is that there’s literally no reason for this thing you have with each other to keep being an ongoing thing. I don’t know why you both keep prolonging it. It’s obvious Kirishima-kun misses you, and I mean, look at you, you’re trying so hard to seem like you don’t—"
"I don’t," Katsuki hisses.
"Bakugou, this isn’t just about missing him," Uraraka says, weary now. She holds up a hand, starts ticking things off her fingers. "This is about how you stared back when he wasn’t staring at you. This is about how you got worried all the time, even though you were being an asshole about it. This is about how you’d have kept quiet about what I told you, if that’s what Kirishima-kun would have been more comfortable with. It’s about—it’s about you caring, and about you seeing him as an equal, even when all this time you’ve been running so fast without—without letting anyone else catch up to you. You—you always look back, at him. Don’t pretend you don’t."
Katsuki has difficulty focusing. "I—"
"Bakugou," Uraraka interrupts, before he can say much. "Aren’t you tired?"
Katsuki bites down on his teeth.
"I know you’re used to things eventually going away or things aligning themselves to your motives," Uraraka continues, voice soft, "but Kirishima-kun is the last person you should be stringing along. He adores you—more than you deserve, I still think—but aren’t you both tired of this?"
It’s kind of a stupid question because of course Katsuki’s tired—he’s been tired of this before he’d even left Musutafu, tired of the way Kirishima has made him feel all sorts of shit without even directly meaning to. Most of all, he’s tired, maybe, of the way he ends up second-guessing himself all the damn time when it comes to Kirishima, because it’s fucked up wanting to talk to and see and touch someone as much as he does, if he lets himself acknowledge it, with Kirishima.
It’s distracting, and it’s exhausting, always having to question the why’s and how’s when all he’s ever been up until this point is an expert at doing shit instinctively.
"Don’t fucking tell me what to do," Katsuki bites out.
"That’s—that’s true," Uraraka says, taking the last pastry. She falters briefly. "I don’t—I don’t have the right to be telling you how to feel. If you decide that what you want is this relationship you’ve already got going on, then—then fine. I don’t think he’ll go anywhere that will take him far away from you. He cares about you too much for that. But—"
She shrugs. "If you’re not interested at all," Uraraka continues, and the way she pronounces it makes Katsuki feel a little ill, "Then say so. Make it clear. At least give him the chance to actually want to get over you. Maybe you’ll feel better if you reject him for good, too. Who knows."
She’s crumpling up the paper around the pastries, having finished the last one, and it occurs to Katsuki that no, he doesn’t think that will make him feel better at all.
"Gross," he says, out loud.
Uraraka frowns at him. "You’re gross. All this pining and you’re still convinced—" She breaks off, shaking her head. "You know what. People have probably lectured you enough about this. You’re beyond help, Bakugou Katsuki."
Katsuki shoots her a dirty look. "What?"
"Nothing, nothing." Uraraka sticks her tongue out at him, gathering their mugs. "Let’s go. Show me around Bunkyo before the game."
The rest of November brings midterms, then end-of-term preparations, and, when December rolls around, winter in full swing.
School does get busier with the promise of each new term, and it’s the kind of steady hum and drum that’s almost fulfilling in that it never leaves Katsuki with nothing to do. Days file in and out as quickly as tests are dished out and marked, lecture slides breezed through and notebooks laid out flat on diner tables.
Katsuki gets further consideration for the scholarship, one candidate among three; it’s a conditional one—the foundation promising to support him if he ultimately goes into one of the environmental sciences next year and maintains his average. It’s not terrible, as far as life-controlling conditions go, and Hakamata Tsunagu’s obsession with telling Katsuki to fix his hair is bearable if it’s his foundation that’s going to be paying for 97% of Katsuki’s shit for as long as he wants to remain in Todai.
Katsuki doesn’t wanna admit to the relief he feels when he gets the email to show up back at the Shirokanedai Campus, but it’s there.
Uraraka had left a jade plant on Katsuki’s window before she’d left last November, after finding out his apartment faces east. He’s not a superstitious person by any means, and he doesn’t believe a plant will bring bullshit like family harmony and luck in scholarly pursuits—but the bit of green doesn’t hurt, when he’s coming back from Denny’s dull color scheme.
So much shit going, but everything still screeches to a sudden halt when Kirishima texts him;
can i visit u nxt wk
No punctuation, as usual, but no annoying emoji, either.
Katsuki wishes that didn’t bother him—but it does.
Not for the first time in receiving a text from Kirishima, Katsuki hears Uraraka telling him; you’re beyond help.
So Katsuki grits his teeth at his phone screen and types, smashing down on the periods with frustrated thumbs; Meet me on the 23rd. Oval Plaza. Toranomon. 9PM.
Kirishima doesn’t reply.
Kirishima still doesn’t reply, fifteen minutes before he’s supposed to meet Katsuki.
Or fifteen minutes after.
It’s fucking cold, a dry December night set on freezing Katsuki to death. But he thinks of Kirishima—who’s never the type to break promises, who’s never the type to disappoint Katsuki—and he sticks his hands into the pockets of his coat, his face into his scarf, and waits.
He waits. And waits.
By 10:30 P.M., he’s crouched on the ground, functioning out of sheer stubbornness.
He could fucking fall asleep right then and there.
Then someone’s stopping in front of him, skidding to a halt Katsuki’s seen before, and it’s not offensively yellow sneakers this time—but an offensively yellow beanie above Kirishima’s worried stare.
It’s such a familiar expression, despite being one he hasn’t seen in close to three months, and, for a moment, between the cold and the dozen other shit he’s feeling, Katsuki just stares.
Kirishima’s bending over him. "Oh—crap—Katsuki—"
It takes Katsuki a few more beats of staring at Kirishima before he registers Kirishima’s gloved hands on his face, the knitted material warm. Kirishima’s eyebrows are furrowed in concentration—the mission at hand, apparently, being to warm Katsuki’s face—and just like that, it’s like Katsuki hadn’t spent an entire season not seeing this idiot every night.
"Why are you still here," Kirishima whines. "You’re gonna get sick and then I’d have to go back and visit your mom to apologize."
"Why the fuck would you apologize to my mom," Katsuki says—or tries to say, except all that comes out is his garbled voice, hoarse and unused.
"It’s—" Kirishima makes a face. He’s so close, Katsuki doesn’t have to move much and lean over and kiss him. "It’s a long story. Can you get up?"
"Of course I can get up," Katsuki shoots back, irritable. He feels light-headed, unsteady as he gets up. "Why are you late?"
"Christmas traffic?" Kirishima reaches for Katsuki’s bare hands next, nestling them between his gloved ones. Fuck. And then he’s frowning, taking a knit glove off one hand, pressing it against Katsuki’s cheek.
Katsuki scowls. Everything feels warm. "What time is it?"
"What? Wait—" Kirishima blinks—and Katsuki doesn’t know if Kirishima’s eyes made him feel like this before. "Katsuki."
Katsuki untangles one hand from Kirishima’s to check the time on his phone himself. 10:48 P.M.
Out loud, he says, "Fuck."
"You—" Kirishima’s so fucking close, leaning towards Katsuki. "I think—I think you have a fever, dude."
Katsuki stares back at Kirishima. "Fuck no, I don’t."
"No, I—" For some reason, Kirishima’s laughing, slipping the hand that had been on Katsuki’s cheek back into a glove. "Where do you live, Katsuki?"
Katsuki stares around the plaza, at all the lights flashing to distant Christmas carols. It’s hard to keep his eyes open, and he’s pretty sure he’s this close to shivering more than those Christmas lights are blinking, so he grits his teeth.
He doesn’t let go of Kirishima’s other hand—tightens his hold and doesn’t allow Kirishima to let go, either—and when he turns around, towards the direction of the crowds, for once it’s Katsuki tugging Kirishima with him.
Kirishima’s sense of direction really is much better than anyone would ever give him credit for, because even as Katsuki slides in and out of feverish awareness, he manages to get both of them back to Katsuki’s apartment.
When Katsuki fully comes back to it, no longer shivering, it’s 11 P.M and he’s back on his bed, tucked under two layers of blankets and duvets.
There’s a clatter, and when Katsuki blinks next, it’s at the small kitchen, five steps away from his bed.
"Hi." Kirishima smiles. Hesitant, sheepish, familiar. But his hair’s shorter—much, much shorter, tips barely brushing his ears.
Katsuki swallows. "Your hair."
"Oh—The new boss is super strict about dress code," Kirishima explains, rummaging around Katsuki’s kitchen. "It’s not so bad. It was getting kinda annoying?"
Katsuki rolls his eyes. "It’s not the only thing annoying about you."
"You sure you didn’t miss me at all, Katsuki?" Kirishima grins, but he doesn’t wait for an answer. "Okay, so—the Internet tells me it might have been mild hypothermia."
"No shit," Katsuki says. His voice is still hoarse, but it doesn’t sound as strangled as it had been earlier. Leave it to Kirishima to search up this shit. "I told you not to make me wait."
"I’m sorry." Kirishima, in his sweater, looks bundled up and warm, padding over carefully with a mug. "You only had hot chocolate, so that’s what I made you."
Katsuki sits up. He’s no longer shivering, but the warmth of the mug is still welcome. "Still fucking impressive in the kitchen, aren’t you."
Kirishima hums, sitting cross-legged on the foot of Katsuki’s bed. "Have I told you about that one time I washed the dishes with laundry detergent?"
"Well, shit," Katsuki says, deadpan. "You really are a fucking disappointment, aren't you."
Kirishima clicks his teeth together and grins. "Have I ever disappointed you, though?"
"You were late today."
Kirishima crosses his legs underneath him, shuffling until he’s taking up the entire bottom half of the bed, back to the wall. He looks at home right there, comfortable. "I showed up, though, didn't I?"
Katsuki pauses, taking a careful sip. It’s too fucking sweet. He swallows with difficulty. "I didn't, back then."
Kirishima’s hands pause around each other, his expression small. Hesitantly, visibly having to untangle the words before he says them, "Why would you have? You didn't know me."
Katsuki stops; stills. "If I say no," he says, slowly. "Will you stop—" Distracting me, monopolizing my attention. "Bothering me?"
"Is that code for ‘Will you stop worrying about me?’ because—" There’s a pause, soft but rough-edged with contemplation, before Kirishima continues, "No. I could never."
Katsuki swallows. "You worry too much about people, Shitty Hair."
"Not the same way I worry about you, though," Kirishima says, and Katsuki still doesn’t understand how he could say shit like with that face, how Kirishima thinks he could get away with saying bullshit like that. "I would stop, if you say no. I think—I think that’s all I’m waiting for."
Katsuki has heard himself criticized for a lot of shit—antisocial, rude, disrespectful, vulgar, territorial. Never selfish, though; maybe because selfishness isn’t usually associated with the abstract, with the ideas that Katsuki has always been greedy about. But apparently he can be selfish about other people, too, because Kirishima would have to wait a long time, Katsuki thinks, for that no.
"Why did you want to come today?"
Kirishima starts, blinking like Katsuki had interrupted his thoughts. "Well," he says, careful and, knowing him, probably rehearsed. "The year’s almost done. So I came to collect."
"Collect," Katsuki repeats.
Kirishima hums. "You asked me to tell you, out loud, what I wanted."
Katsuki puts down the mug on his bedside, tries not to be too obvious about how it’s because he’s having trouble holding it steady. "And?"
Kirishima’s quiet for a while.
"What I’d really like is for you to be my boyfriend," he says, suddenly—and no, Katsuki still doesn’t understand how Kirishima could say shit like that and still keep his smile steady. "But I thought that might scare you off, so you know—"
Katsuki stares at him incredulously. "And kissing me won’t do that?"
"You can brush off a kiss, nothing attached to it," Kirishima says, patiently, like he’s thought a lot about this. Way too much, probably. The thought doesn’t necessarily comfort Katsuki. "But if I came up to you and said ‘I like you, Katsuki, and I want an answer’—what would you have said?"
Kirishima’s smile doesn’t waver—and Katsuki hates how composed this Kirishima is. He looks almost relieved. "I wasn’t gonna be that guy, Katsuki. I knew better than to put you in that position—"
It’s not a conscious decision, but Katsuki makes a sound, annoyed, before he grabs a fistful of Kirishima’s sweater and drags him in. He’d gone in for a short kiss, light against Kirishima’s lips, just to shut him up—a faint brush of skin, but there’s a rush that comes with it, darting through Katsuki’s veins.
His heart’s beating too fast.
His knuckles dig into Kirishima’s chest as Kirishima, just like that, melts against him, kissing him back, soft and gently, tilting his head so that his mouth fits better against Katsuki’s, better and easier and warm and breathy and sure.
Katsuki licks at Kirishima’s lips, comes in closer when Kirishima parts them, and he’s clutching at nothing but fabric and Kirishima—focusing on nothing but Kirishima, his hand on Katsuki’s cheek, chapped lips, wet kiss, chest pressed against his. Then Kirishima gasps into his mouth, and Katsuki’s mind stutters to a blank stop.
Kirishima breaks away first, back of his hand jumping to cover his mouth as he turns away, embarrassed.
"Payback," Katsuki mutters, even as his heartbeat doesn’t slow down, looking at Kirishima’s pink mouth, pink cheeks, and the way he stares back at Katsuki, his eyes for once not unsure. "I don’t know what the hell you mean, but I have no fucking problem with being ‘that guy’."
"If you ask me some bullshit like why me, I swear to god—" Katsuki doesn’t lean back. "It fucking irritates me."
Kirishima still manages to look sheepish, like that. "Sorry—"
"That’s not what I meant," Katsuki cuts in, counterproductive when he still sounds irritated. He takes a moment, crossing his arms and rearranging incoherent bullshit into intelligible sentences. "It—it irritates me when I see you—fucking sad. I always feel like—like I wanna do shit for you. And I—" Katsuki takes a deep breath, even that irritated, his pause awkward. "I wanna—I wanna fucking stay by your side."
When he looks up, Kirishima’s staring at him like he’s positive he’s dreaming.
His expression sends Katsuki’s chest clenching painfully.
Katsuki grits his teeth. "Doesn’t that—doesn’t that mean I like you?" It sounds vulnerable, like that. He clears his throat. "Or whatever?"
Kirishima’s still staring at him like he expects either Katsuki or himself to fade away in the next minute.
He eventually blinks—once, twice. "Katsuki," he calls, sudden. "But you—"
"Shut up," Katsuki groans, this time grabbing Kirishima by the arm. There’s a rush that comes with how easily he drags Kirishima along, pressing him against the bed, hands on either side of Kirishima’s head, knees on either side of Kirishima’s thighs, mouth already moving against his.
It’s so fucking familiar having him this close, and it’s overwhelming—how clear and vivid and present Katsuki feels about wanting this, about having wanted this. It’s easy to get lost in it, the way Kirishima kisses back—more unsure, at first—and the way both of them shiver when they pull away.
"We could have been doing this for three months," Kirishima murmurs.
Katsuki flicks Kirishima’s forehead. That, too, is payback. "Just shut up for a sec, holy shit—shut everything down, you’ll hurt your fucking brain—"
"I don’t understand what’s happening," Kirishima says, as Katsuki rolls back over to lie down beside him.
"Do you fucking have to?"
"Yeah, I do," Kirishima insists. "I—This is just a little—"
"What, you wanna talk more about feelings?" Katsuki kicks around for blankets; he sounds sure, so self-possessed, even as his heart throbs painfully at the way Kirishima nods, small. He wonders if maybe it’s because he’s had weeks, months to think about it, or if maybe he just hasn’t had the time to process, either.
Only Kirishima’s had much longer than him.
"Write me another fucking letter or some shit. And for the fucking record—I should be pissed at you."
Kirishima frowns. "What about?"
"For deciding shit for me before you chased me out of the damn city."
"I didn’t chase you out—what are you talking about, Katsuki?"
"‘You don’t have this figured out’," Katsuki mocks, rolling his eyes. "‘Come to me when you know what you want’—well, I fucking do now. I want you."
Kirishima swallows. "You can’t say stuff like that—"
"Tell me that again when you’re not the fucking reason I was shivering my fucking ass off," Katsuki says shortly, pulling the blankets, finally, over them. "I’m still fucking cold. Stay there."
For some fucking reason, Kirishima’s laughing—giggles and chuckles and just his laughter, right fucking there. "Man—you’re so cute."
"Shut the hell up," Katsuki grumbles, but he tugs Kirishima closer anyway.
And anyone can ask Katsuki what he wants, and he can try to answer all he wants, but there’s nothing that would come close to expressing how this feels, and how this and everything that comes with it is all that he wants, when it comes down to it.
"Was it you?"
Kirishima blinks—at the eggs frying on the pan, then at Katsuki, so blatantly in a trance that Katsuki has to yank the spatula out of his grasp. Katsuki shoos him away from the stove, sends him sitting in one of the two dining chairs Katsuki has.
"Was it you who sent all that shit for my transcript?"
Kirishima frowns; at least his facial muscles are doing something this time. "I—what?"
"No?" Katsuki scowls. "Then who the hell was it?"
Kirishima just stares at him.
He’s been doing nothing but staring the entire fucking morning—when they’d woken up, when Katsuki had gotten out of the bathroom, when Katsuki had come back from grabbing the mail.
"That’s fucking creepy, don’t do that," Katsuki had said.
"Sorry," Kirishima had apologized, but he hadn’t sounded sorry at all, just confused. What’s fucking new. "I’m just—I’m still not convinced this is happening. Maybe this isn’t real? Maybe I’m not real? Maybe this dreamt-up Tokyo just exists in, like, I don’t know, a pocket dimension?"
Katsuki had thrown a pillow at him.
"Have you asked your mom?" Kirishima asks now, having busied himself spooning rice into bowls while Katsuki rolled up the omelettes. "She has, like, the authority and—"
Katsuki holds out a hand, breakfast abandoned.
Kirishima hands over his own phone without wondering about Katsuki’s.
It’s just past 10 A.M, but his mother sounds groggy when she picks up, pausing after her hello before saying, "Wait—is everything okay, Eijirou?"
"Why do you have his phone number saved, that’s fucking weird," Katsuki says, in lieu of a hello.
There’s another pause, his mother probably checking the screen. "Katsuki?"
"It was you, wasn’t it?" Katsuki immediately asks, throwing himself into his bed. It’s a short walk from the kitchen, but Kirishima disappears into the bathroom, closing the door behind him and pointedly turning on the tap. Katsuki rolls his eyes upwards. "That sent all that shit to the foundation?"
His mother’s quiet on the other end.
When Katsuki had finished talking, Hakamata had said, "You’re a bit of a late bloomer, aren’t you. A diamond in the rough—but interesting."
Katsuki still doesn’t know what to make of that, but whatever it is—it had been because of the restaurant, and it’s what got him the scholarship, in hindsight.
Stiffly, Katsuki says, "Thank you."
There’s no answer.
Katsuki sits up, annoyed. "I said—"
"No, I fucking heard you," his mother cuts in—and they even sound the same, when they get choked up. Katsuki pretends not to notice. "God, don’t make it sound like I did you some huge favor."
"You kinda fucking did," Katsuki says, sullenly.
"You’re my son," his mother tells him, stern and firm but gentle. "I know you wouldn’t have thought about sending all that stuff in, as smart as you are. I know you."
There are so many times Katsuki had wished she didn’t—that she couldn’t read him as easily as she does, as easily as she and Katsuki’s father do. This isn’t one of those times, and instead the words get stuck, as they often do, in Katsuki’s throat.
"Katsuki," his mother continues, "I’m your mother and you’re my stubborn son and I will do anything for you. It wasn’t a favor, you little brat."
"You’re being gross," Katsuki manages, but his heart’s not in it.
There’s a little stuttered laugh. "I’m not the one calling his mother from his boyfriend’s phone," his mother returns. "If that’s what it is now."
The water’s still running in the bathroom. "I think so," Katsuki mutters.
His mother kisses her teeth. "Don’t be a dumb, incommunicative teenage boy. If that’s what it is, tell him. I don’t want him coming back here thinking you—"
"No, I get you," Katsuki interrupts. "Just—shut up, this is fucking weird. I’m hanging up."
He can hear his mother rolling her eyes. "Sure. I’ll talk to you next time you feel like it, brat."
"I’ll—" Katsuki chews on his bottom lip, then gives into a small frustrated noise. "I’ll see you in a fucking week or whatever. Winter break doesn’t start until the 27th."
For the third fucking time, his mother stays quiet.
She could very well have fallen back asleep.
Katsuki can feel her surprise through the phone, though—and it’s stupid and unnecessary, because he came back for New Year’s last year.
Eventually, she says, "Fine. I’ll pick you up at the station."
Katsuki scowls at his own ceiling. "That’s what you fucking said last time."
"Are you really complaining about being picked up by Eijirou right now?" She sounds so fucking amused. "Are you really?"
"Well, I’m really fucking hanging up now," Katsuki snaps. "Bye, hag."
He pounds on the bathroom door as soon as he hangs up. It gives away easily. "You can fucking come out now, idiot," he mutters, leaning against the doorway. "You didn’t have to fucking go."
"Well, I—" Kirishima hesitates. "Privacy?"
"It’s a single-room apartment."
"Exactly," Kirishima says, fidgeting as he’s caught between Katsuki and the wall.
"Stop that," Katsuki mutters. "Stop the—the hedgehog act. And the staring."
"I can’t help it," Kirishima says quietly. "I like looking at you."
And yet he’s looking everywhere but at Katsuki.
Breathing in, sharp, Katsuki grabs Kirishima’s face with one hand and squeezes, ignores Kirishima’s little yelp. He lets go quickly, but Kirishima’s the one to pull him in for a kiss this time, hand still hesitant on Katsuki’s arm. Katsuki’s heart is pounding, but even that is steady, and he could really get used to the way their mouths slide against each other, Kirishima against the wall.
He kisses Kirishima—lips, corner of his mouth, jaw. He nips at Kirishima’s neck, relishes in the shudder he gets for that. It’s so new, having Kirishima like this in front of him, but Kirishima is still warm and solid, letting out a small ah when Katsuki bites his bottom lip.
"Listen," Katsuki eventually pulls away to say, voice low and equally quiet. "Stop thinking about high school—or any of that shit. I know fuck-all about it and I don’t care. I’m fucking here. So are you. This is real." He kisses that spot on Kirishima’s neck, wiping at it. Swallowing, his throat dry. "Is that simple enough?"
Kirishima, slowly, nods.
The mark’s pink, shallow, a few shades off Kirishima’s hair as Katsuki tangles his fingers at the soft hair at Kirishima’s nape and kisses him, light, on the lips.
"Your hair’s so fucking short."
Kirishima swallows, but he smiles, small, against Katsuki’s lips. "If you stick around, it’ll get longer."
"Good," Katsuki says shortly, letting go. "Because I’m planning to."
He leaves Kirishima in the bathroom, catching his own breath, willing his own heartbeat to slow and all his nerves to calm the fuck down. When Kirishima comes back out, a lot less red and smile bigger, all he says, teasing is, "Leaving marks before the first date? How bold, Bakugou Katsuki."
And this is his Kirishima, sitting down cheerily at the dining table—the one that had picked him up from the station, the one that had wormed his way where there shouldn’t have been space.
"I’m serious about the first date," Kirishima whines. "Didn’t you wanna go to Tokyo Tower last night?"
"Yeah, before you kept me waiting," Katsuki retorts. "Tonight. We’re going tonight."
"Oh," Kirishima says. "It’s Christmas Eve."
"No shit," Katsuki mutters. "I’m making up for the three months you keep fucking whining about."
It’s four years, really—only he didn’t know Kirishima from high school, just like Kirishima hadn’t known Katsuki, not really. But it’s fine, because the way Kirishima beams now, bright, has always been something worth it.
"It’s so bright."
With flashier Christmas displays going on in other areas—Marunouchi, Roppongi Hills, Skytree—Tokyo Tower had been, from the very beginning, the better compromise between crowds and sights. There’s still a shit ton of people, mostly disgusting couples holding hands as they walk around the observatory levels far too leisurely, but with lights hung from the ceiling above them and the city glowing below them, it’s distracting enough that the crowds don’t matter.
Kirishima has both hands pressed right up against the glass—his face would be doing the same if not for Katsuki grabbing the back of Kirishima’s coat and tugging.
"You’re acting like a tourist," Katsuki hisses.
"I am a tourist," Kirishima says, sticking out his bottom lip. "Let me have fun. I’m not cut out for the big city life, anyway."
That's pretty fucking ironic, because Kirishima is exactly the kind of person who can fill the demands of a big city life—a small talk expert, running on an endless amount of energy and drive.
And Musutafu isn't exactly a small city. Katsuki’s figured out that much.
He rolls his eyes and lets Kirishima go.
Katsuki hadn’t realized how much of him had been wary—almost apprehensive—that Kirishima would be different, would have changed drastically in three months. And he does feel different; he’s less keyed-up, even if there’s visible tension in his body language when he catches himself while turning to Katsuki. Looking at Kirishima now, eyes wide and bright as he takes in Tokyo beneath them, there’s relief blooming in Katsuki’s chest, among other things.
Blinded by lights from all sides, it should be hard to look at other shit, but Katsuki, despite himself, still stares at Kirishima.
He feels stupid, having interpreted what he wants from Kirishima to be anything else but this and this alone: pressed up against him, shoulder to shoulder, Kirishima making a joke about the way the Skytree sticks up across the city, and Katsuki feeling more at home in Tokyo than he has in the past two years.
"Why did you wanna go to Tokyo Tower so bad?" Kirishima suddenly says, huddling close to Katsuki. They’ve taken over a tiny corner on the lower observatory level, and Kirishima looks completely comfortable leaning against the glass. "Not that I’m complaining—I just thought it would be, I don’t know, too commercial for you?"
"Since when do you go around using words like ‘commercial’?" Katsuki shoots back, raising an eyebrow. "I’m here because my shitty dad’s been bothering me about it."
"Romantic," Kirishima snickers. "Bothering you about Tokyo Tower?"
"‘What’s in the center of Tokyo that can’t be seen from Tokyo Tower?’," Katsuki quotes, scowling. "I’m not gonna fucking go here by myself to figure that shit out."
"Oh," Kirishima says, face scrunching up. Katsuki’s just about to tell him to save himself the trouble of overthinking when Kirishima adds, "Isn’t it just Tokyo Tower?"
Katsuki’s scowl immediately deepens.
"I mean, you can’t technically see Tokyo Tower from Tokyo Tower, right?" Kirishima makes a face. "Or is that answer too simple?"
And no—it’s exactly the kind of shitty, simplified answer Katsuki should expect from his parents. That’s what you’re like, his father had said, about personal things.
Never seeing the big picture, past himself.
Katsuki’s sure that’s an insult right there.
He feels really, really stupid, and he hates feeling stupid.
"Why did we have to go tonight, though? With all the Christmas crowds?" Kirishima suddenly says, rubbing his gloved hands together. It’s warm, in the observatory, but looking out at Tokyo basking in its holiday glow, it’s hard to forget it’s winter, Christmas, a season and a half removed from the summer in Musutafu.
"Some idiot told me," Katsuki mutters, "that you don’t really get to know a city until you’ve seen it lit up at night."
Kirishima blinks. Then he grins. "So you did like the view from the restaurant. Was that what charmed you?"
"Fuck you," Katsuki says. "Don’t get smug just because you grew up with that view."
Kirishima hums, leaning against Katsuki. "I think I’ll quit," he says, careful, "after I graduate. Maybe."
Katsuki considers that.
"I can just quit now but—" Katsuki feels more than sees Kirishima shrug. "—I think I’m gonna save up. Travel money. Or something. I don’t know."
"What’s your problem," Katsuki grumbles. "You’re thinking too much."
Kirishima nudges him. "I learned from the best."
Katsuki scoffs. "Do what you want."
"Another thing you’re an expert at, yeah?"
"I’m doing it right now," Katsuki says.
Kirishima’s smile turns soft. "You know, when I got my New Year’s fortunes last year," he says, "I thought it was too good to be true."
Katsuki doesn’t even remember what his omikuji had said, last January.
"My family got so many different fortunes—moving residences, childbirth, business dealings," Kirishima continues. "I got considerable luck—but really good fortunes for—" He pauses. "—for ‘one’s wish and desire’, for relationships and—and ‘person being waited for’. So—"
"Considerable luck," Katsuki repeats. "It should be fucking excellent luck."
That gets a laughs. "I think so, too."
Katsuki’s been called lucky, fortunate, favored. Maybe he is, or maybe luck doesn’t have shit to do with it.
Katsuki knows he works hard. But Katsuki also knows now that there’s so many people that work hard for the things they want, and sometimes—sometimes, they get lucky while they’re at it. But luck, whether good or bad, doesn’t even come close to describing the realizations and trials and all the other bullshit that come with growing up.
They didn’t tell Katsuki this when he’d started at Todai: how liminal it would feel, being there.
There are tips on how to get over homesickness. There are programs accommodating people that don’t ever want to go back home. But then there’s the gray area—stuck between two points, straddling a boundary and not quite belonging to either side. No longer teenagers, not quite full adults, either. First taste of the independence that comes with growing up, but equally aware he’s not quite past the threshold into adulthood. Caught between two places in the literal sense, home becoming something less tangible, less concrete.
There’s a word for that, somewhere, and maybe, in retrospect, it is luck.
Because, if he examines everything, looks at the big picture, Katsuki does feel pretty damn fortunate, to not have to choose just one place for home.
Maybe home is his parents’ house, and the bedroom he’d already given away. Maybe home is the one-room apartment, and all the apartments that will replace it, in the years to come.
Or maybe home is how Katsuki functions best in solitude, and Kirishima goes against the entire idea.
Or how, even where solitude reigns in every other aspect of his life, Katsuki doesn’t particularly miss it, when it’s Kirishima involved.
"Things change so fast," Katsuki says, abrupt.
Kirishima nods. "I know."
None of them—his mother, Uraraka, Kirishima—had been wrong, about Katsuki looking ahead, never around. The future is always a more comfortable idea to think about than the past, after all, and much more tempting than the present.
But for now there’s this—the present, Christmas Eve looming, Kirishima’s face half-hidden in a scarf but his eyes bright—and it’s not so terrible at all.