Written for BakuTodo Week 2018. Prompt: Flowers, Friendship (second chapter to be posted)
By the time Bakugou is 10, his back is covered in flowers.
The tattoos spread from the stem on his spine, the one that'd showed up on his skin months after he was born; the one that signaled the fact that his soulmate had cried for the first time. According to his mother, the flowers had appeared at a natural rate during the first years - tiny blossoms along the stem, for a baby's feelings weren't complex, the awareness of the emotion behind their crying still primitive.
Not long after Bakugou turned 6, however - old enough to know what the occasional burning of the tattoos meant - the flowers started to spread. Not small, but large, the size of Bakugou's fist; the delicate design would mix and twirl around itself as it grew, feathery leaves intertwining with clusters of flowers and covering every inch of available skin.
It was annoying.
The pain came at the most random times, often distracting him. Eventually, Bakugou had grown accustomed to it, but he still wondered why he'd been so unlucky as to have such a crybaby of a soulmate. At this rate, his entire body would be covered in flowers.
When Bakugou reaches his teenage years, however, they stop.
Not completely - the occasional tiny bloom still appears, result of inconsequential crying that's most likely due to a broken arm, a stubbed toe or something like that - but the big, painful tattoos cease showing up, and Bakugou is relieved to be able to push them to the back of his mind.
He's reminded of it by his father every once in a while. Masaru insists on asking him from time to time if he's found out who his soulmate is yet, and Bakugou is confused by the worried expression on his father's face when he says he hasn't. It's not like it's that important, anyway - a soulmate has nothing to do with becoming the best hero, so why should he worry about it?
"Man, those are a lot of flowers."
Bakugou doesn't deign the comment with a response, instead covering up his tattoos with his hero costume as he finishes putting it on. Some still show up where the fabric doesn't cover his shoulders, but there's nothing he can do about that, nor does he care - he's more focused on the thrill of wearing the costume for the first time, on the blood pumping through his veins in anticipation for the battles All Might's prepared for their class.
It's only his second day at UA, but he's ready to prove to everyone what he's capable of.
"What the fuck are you staring at?" he growls at his gawking classmates, slamming his locker closed. "You should be getting prepared for me to kick all your asses."
There are a few protests thrown his way, but Bakugou doesn't pay much attention to them either as he leads the way out of the locker room and into their first Foundational Hero Studies lesson.
Whatever confidence Bakugou had when he walked out of the room is gone by the time his battle ends.
He doesn't kick everybody's asses. Instead, he gets his kicked, by Deku of all people, and for the whole class to see.
It tears at him all day, making his insides churn with anger and fear and other things he can't name, keeping him on edge and unable to focus on anything else. It only gets worse when Deku confronts him - spouting some bullshit about his Quirk - and before Bakugou can think twice everything is bubbling up and he can't stop the hot tears that spill down his cheeks as he speaks.
Bakugou hates feeling weak, but most of all, he hates crying, because he knows there's someone out there with a new flower blooming on their skin every single time he does, and they'll know. But he still can't stop it, anger and frustration only making it worse. He blows up at Deku and then at All Might, raising the count of people who know how fucked up he feels and all he wants is to get out of there.
At least his soulmate can't throw useless pity at him if they don't know who he is.
Bakugou finally stalks away, back shaking with his failed attempts to stop the tears. He has barely passed UA's gates, however, when he runs right into someone rounding the corner, and of course it turns out to be the last person he'd want to see in the state he's in.
There's no way to mistake that red and white hair.
"Watch where you're going, bastard," Bakugou growls, turning his face away to hide the tears, though the shocked look on ice guy's face tells him he wasn't fast enough.
"Mind your own business," Bakugou mutters. He can feel the guy's gaze on his back as he walks away.
Between the USJ incident, classes and having to deal with his annoying classmates, Bakugou's first month at UA goes by in a blink.
The sports festival catches him fighting his way to the top with all he has, completely immersed in the rush of competition and the need to prove himself in front of everyone who's watching. Even when he's waiting at the bleachers for his turn to battle, his eyes are set on the arena - first with nothing but the desire to observe potential adversaries' fighting styles and take note of their weaknesses, but then with a hint of curiosity when Deku steps up to fight Todoroki.
Bakugou hasn't had a chance to see the limits of Todoroki's Quirk yet, so he watches with interest as the fight keeps being prolonged. He hadn't thought Deku would be able to hold out for so long - it's fucking annoying, really, given how strong Todoroki is - but it gives him time to study the Half-'n-Half's power more closely.
Something's off, though. Bakugou can see Deku is saying something, but he doesn't know what - it's hard to hear over the noise of the crowd - but judging by the way Todoroki's attacks are getting more desperate, it's only serving to rile him up. His movements are slower, too, more clumsy - Todoroki is clearly reaching his limit.
The burning starts so suddenly and with such intensity that Bakugou gasps.
By instinct, his hand grasps his right arm and he winces at the pain. It's been so long since he felt it that it takes him by surprise. For a brief moment, he wonders what brought this on - what the hell is his soulmate feeling if it's making it hurt this much? - but then he's distracted by a rush of heat coming from the arena.
Todoroki's flames rise high, a swirling mass of red and orange surging from his left side. Bakugou can barely see through the smoke that surrounds him and Deku, nor can he tell what exactly the nerd did to get Todoroki to use his fire side after that conversation Bakugou had overheard. The reality of Half-'n-Half's sheer power is indisputable, even more so than Bakugou had thought it'd be, and he watches with a mix of shock and interest in seeing how Todoroki uses this side of his power.
But then something else catches his attention.
Even with a close-up, it's hard to see through the fire and smoke, but the way Todoroki wipes his eyes with his hands makes it easy to guess that he's crying.
Bakugou stares at the screen and then at his arm, still throbbing with a dull pain. It's a coincidence - it has to be.
There's no way Todoroki Shouto is his soulmate.
Todoroki Shouto is his fucking soulmate.
Everyone's attention is on the chaos of the battle arena below, but Bakugou's eyes are glued to one of the big screens that had been transmitting the whole thing, now showing a close up of Todoroki - a wild look on his face and half of his shirt gone, revealing the flower tattoo that grows from the stem near his heart.
It's not as big as Bakugou's, just a few tiny flowers and even fewer bigger ones that barely reach his throat, but what Bakugou can't stop staring at is their design.
Feather-like leaves, clustered flowers at the center of surrounding petals. Bakugou knows this type of flower, because it's the same one he has tattooed on a good part of his skin.
It could be a coincidence - there are only so many flower types in the world, and while between soulmates they're always the same, it's been proved that just because you have the same flower as someone else doesn't mean you are their soulmate.
This would be one coincidence too many though, and Bakugou isn't stupid. He still feels the lingering burn on his right arm. He remembers the conversation he overheard, and how with a childhood like his, it wouldn't be surprising if Todoroki's crying had been more frequent and more emotional than other kids'.
And then there's that moment Bakugou had almost forgotten about, when Todoroki had seen him crying and started speaking.
Now he knows what Todoroki had been about to say.
As unexpected as it is to suddenly find out who his soulmate is, for the next hour Bakugou focuses on winning his battles, pushing the subject to the back of his mind every time he catches sight of Todoroki. It feels like some kind of irony when he turns out to be Bakugou's adversary in the final.
It isn't until Bakugou accidentally enters the wrong waiting room that he brings it up, the Half-'n-Half's nonchalant attitude made even more aggravating now that he knows the truth.
"You knew, didn't you?" Bakugou asks, jabbing a finger onto Todoroki's chest, right at the spot where he'd seen the tattoo.
"That we're soulmates?" Todoroki's expression is of mild surprise, not that different from when Bakugou had kicked the table moments ago. "I suspected it. I suppose by your reaction that we are, then."
Bakugou grits his teeth. Was that why Todoroki hadn't acknowledged him as his rival, but fucking Deku instead? Because he had knowledge of Bakugou's weak moments engraved on his skin?
"It still doesn't change anything," Bakugou says. "I don't care what you think you know about me, or what these fucking flowers mean - soulmates or not, I'm going to win. So you better not hold back."
He doesn't wait for an answer.
It didn't look like Todoroki had one anyway.
Bakugou refuses to cry. Todoroki might be unconscious, but there'll be a new flower on his skin when he wakes up and Bakugou will die before he lets that Half-'n-Half know how much this stupid fight got to him. Anger and frustration bubble beneath his words as he tries to shake the other awake, but Todoroki remains inert and Bakugou is left with a hollow victory in his hands.
He's almost thankful when his senses start to dull and Midnight's quirk makes everything go dark.
By the time Bakugou tries to sleep that night, he's exhausted, but he keeps tossing and turning in his bed. He's still seething over the whole fiasco of the afternoon, the gold medal seeming to taunt him from where he threw it on his desk, flashes from the confrontations with Todoroki not allowing him to fall asleep.
When he finally does, his rest is short-lived.
Bakugou wakes up to the same burning he'd felt earlier that day, this time on his left arm. Cursing, he feels for his phone on the bedside table, using the screen light to illuminate the flower that is taking form on his skin. This one is slightly smaller than the one on his right, but still big enough that it can't just be because Todoroki has fallen out of bed or something.
Which means the pain might last for a while. Great.
Bakugou lets his head fall back against the pillow, but the burning continues, driving sleep further away the more he tries to will it back. He finally gives up with a sigh, picking his phone back up and scrolling through his contacts until he finds the one labeled Half-'n-Half.
Maybe knowing who his soulmate is has its advantages, like being able to complain directly to them about their crying at 3 fucking am.
[3:12AM]: can't you wait until the fucking morning i'm trying to sleep here
Bakugou doesn't expect a response; he and Todoroki haven't talked since their fight, and it's not like they were texting buddies before that, either, but moments after the message is marked as read his phone vibrates with a reply.
[3:15AM] HALF-'N-HALF: I can't control when I have nightmares, Bakugou
[3:16AM]: ignore them and go back to sleep
[3:16AM] HALF-'N-HALF: I can't.
Bakugou snorts - what is Todoroki, a fucking kid? What could he possibly have nightmares about that he can't ignore-
Todoroki hadn't emotionally cried for years - and then he had, twice in less than 24 hours. Bakugou can't possibly see how this could be about anything other than his shitty childhood. And maybe it's because he's extremely tired or because his arm still burns, but Bakugou feels kinda bad for him. It's not exactly Todoroki's fault that his father is a scumbag.
Bakugou doesn't realize he's forgotten to reply until his phone lights up with another message.
[3:20AM] HALF-'N-HALF: Did you fall asleep?
Bakugou's finger hovers over the screen, unsure of what to answer. It's not like this conversation is going anywhere, and it shouldn't make a difference to Todoroki whether he's back asleep or not.
A few minutes tick by, and Bakugou is starting to feel sleepy again when Todoroki replies.
[3:30AM] HALF-'N-HALF: I'm sorry, Bakugou
The logical interpretation would be that Todoroki is apologizing for keeping Bakugou awake, but scrolling through his previous messages, it makes no sense - and it doesn't feel like this is what Todoroki is apologizing for.
For giving up the fight? For not recognizing Bakugou as his rival?
For the flowers that cover his back?
Bakugou doesn't know, and he isn't going to ask.
[3:32AM]: you better not have any more nightmares, half-'n-half
Bakugou mutes his phone, putting it aside without waiting to see if Todoroki will say anything else. His mind is too tired to handle all the questions that swarm inside it, this soulmate bullshit tangling with his life way more than he would've liked.
It isn't until he's almost asleep that he notices the burning on his arm has stopped.
For the next couple of months, Bakugou doesn't bring up his soulmate connection with Todoroki again. There's no crying, no new flowers on his skin after that night, and Todoroki seems content to let the subject slide. Bakugou is certainly not going to complain.
The knowledge still sits in the back of his mind, however, and try as he might to ignore it, sometimes Bakugou catches himself stealing glances towards Todoroki, looking away quickly on the occasions he finds mismatched eyes staring back at him.
None of them mention it out loud, however, and Bakugou busies himself with his internship - he never wants to see a fucking pair of jeans in front of him again afterwards - and later with his preparation for the exams.
It is then, during the practical exam, that Bakugou cries again. He hates how Deku always brings out that reaction in him; he hates how time and time again, it's thrown in his face how much stronger and better he still needs to be to reach his goal.
And he hates that, when he sees Todoroki the following day, there's a new flower on his neck, spreading out from beneath his uniform until it ends beneath his chin.
Bakugou acts like he hasn't seen it, and he expects Todoroki to do the same - which is why he's caught by surprise when Todoroki calls out to him when he's leaving UA after classes.
"What the fuck do you want?" Bakugou whips around to find Todoroki breathing harshly, one of his hands clinging to the shoulder strap of his bag. "Did you just run all the way here?"
"You left class too fast," Todoroki says.
It doesn't explain why he chased after Bakugou in the first place, but Todoroki offers nothing else and Bakugou's patience starts to run thin.
"Are you going to tell me what you want or just stand there? I don't have all day."
"I-" Todoroki stops, gaze flickering to the side before he looks back at Bakugou. "Are you okay?"
Todoroki tilts his head back, pointing to the flower tattoo there.
As if Bakugou could'vemissed it.
"It hurt a lot," Todoroki says. "So I wanted to ask if you're okay."
Bakugou grits his teeth.
"Is this your idea of a joke?"
"What?" Todoroki looks genuinely taken aback by the question. "Of course not."
"Then what does it matter to you?" Bakugou growls, hands closing into fists. He'd thought he and Todoroki had some kind of unspoken agreement - apparently, he was wrong. "You think you can throw it in my face every time I cry-"
"That night-" Todoroki cuts him off. Bakugou has rarely heard him raise his voice, so he's momentarily silent at the outburst and Todoroki takes advantage of it to continue. "I know it wasn't intentional, but your texts distracted me. It helped."
Bakugou opens and closes his mouth, not sure how to react to this sudden confession.
"I wanted to... return the favor, I guess." Todoroki shrugs.
Shock turns back into anger, and it takes every ounce of self-control Bakugou has not to blow up his face then and there.
"So what, you just… felt like you owed me? Is that it? Because you don't. I don't need- I don't need your fucking pity, Half-'n-Half," he says, voice raising with every word.
Todoroki shakes his head, his neutral expression turning slightly annoyed.
"It's not about pity. You think I don't know you have at least twice as many flowers on you than I do?" His voice doesn't waver when he says that, but Bakugou swallows hard, wondering if Todoroki is about to bring up his childhood.
Todoroki doesn't elaborate on it though, quickly going back to the main topic of their conversation.
"It felt wrong to ignore this." He once again points at his newest tattoo. "So I acted on that feeling. That's all there is to it."
"Well, I'm fucking fine, see?" He opens his arms wide. "So you can go now."
Bakugou thinks Todoroki is going to insist on pestering him. After a few moments of silent staring, however, he only sighs and nods.
"Okay. See you later, Bakugou."
Bakugou watches in disbelief as Todoroki walks past him without another word, as if they've just had a simple conversation about homework. He stares at Todoroki's back until he turns the corner, trying to understand what the fuck this was all about, the mess of feelings and thoughts making his head hurt.
He never thought Todoroki would be one to care about this soulmate bullshit. He's not even sure if that's really it - if it isn't just some kind of guilt Todoroki has after all that's happened between them already.
For some reason, the latter makes his stomach churn. If Todoroki is going to confront him every time he cries, Bakugou doesn't want it to be over some sort of sense of obligation.
Not that he wants Todoroki to confront him, he reminds himself. He doesn't. It's bad enough already that they share this connection without delving too much into it. His weaknesses are his own; Bakugou will get rid of them by himself.
These thoughts keep running through his mind as he leaves UA, and he's halfway home when his phone buzzes with a new message.
[3:52PM] HALF-'N-HALF: By the way
[3:52PM] HALF-'N-HALF: You're a terrible liar
"Stupid Half-'n-Half," Bakugou curses out loud, earning a glare from a woman passing next to him. He ignores her, shoving his phone back in his pocket without answering.
The fact that Todoroki has seen through him so easily is unsettling.
(Yarrow is a medicinal herb that's been widely used for a long time, and its flowers have their meaning often associated with healing (not only physical, but mental and emotional as well). Its history is also related to magic, as it was believed to have protective powers that helped ward off evil and negative energy.)