A/N: This was written for the TakeMyHand Kiribaku Fanzine. Cover art by insta user: _bakubaku
Hope you enjoy!
The night air was crisp against his skin, but Kirishima didn't notice. It wasn't until the sound of a door sliding open snapped him out of his reverie.
"Oi. I thought you needed tutoring or some shit," a gruff voice called across the gap between their verandas. It was impatient, but not too terribly aggravated. With a gentle whoosh, the door slid shut. "I was gonna head to bed soon."
Kirishima smiled wistfully, eyes still locked on the heavens above him. "Hey, Bakugou."
It wasn't until Bakugou padded forward to his balcony's railing that Kirishima stole a glance in his direction. His hands were deep in his sweatpant pockets, deep red eyes regarding him with only mild curiosity.
"I keep finding you out here."
"Hm." Kirishima returned his attention to the sky once more. "Stargazing."
"Well, yeah, I fucking gathered."
From the corner of his eye, Kirishima could see Bakugou crane his neck to study the flecks of light that speckled the night sky. A comfortable silence began to settle, when—
"'S not like you can see much."
"I know, that's the problem," Kirishima whined, lolling his head back in frustration. "It's like this back home, too. Not even a cloudy night, but between the light pollution, and the actual pollution…"
"Seems pretty hopeless if you ask me."
Kirishima's shoulders sagged. "Yeah." He watched his foot tap against the concrete . "Yeah, I guess you're right."
For a moment, neither of them spoke, but then Bakugou turned, back leaned against the railing, arms crossed. Without having to look at him, Kirishima could feel Bakugou's gaze.
"Okay, something's up with you."
"No, no," Kirishima rushed, shaking his head. "It's nothing."
"Sure don't seem like nothing."
Only Bakugou could make that sound like a challenge. It was in the way he stood – eyebrow raised, disbelieving, waiting for Kirishima to explain himself. Like he knew of the weight that was pressing down on Kirishima's heart.
"It's just…" Kirishima trailed off, losing himself in the dull night sky again, searching for the right words. With a huff and a pout on his lips, he tried again. "There are millions of stars in the universe. Billions. But from here, in the city, they're all so dim. We can only see a couple dozen of them, and even out of all of those, I have to squint to make most of them out. It's a little… disappointing, isn't it? Only a few are really bright." He pointed to a reddish dot closer to the horizon. "Like that star right there."
"That's Mars, genius."
"Oh." Kirishima gnawed at his lip, eyes scanning before pointing his finger again. "Then, that one."
"That's not a star either. Probably Venus or something."
"Okay, hold up," Kirishima turned to face him. An amused smirk looked back at him. "Why in the world do you know so much about space anyways?"
"I don't. But at least I can tell the difference between a star and a fucking planet."
"Of course you can." With a roll of his eyes, Kirishima rested a cheek against his loose fist, but it wasn't enough to hide his smile.
His gaze circled around the faint glow of the waning moon and the spaces between Mars and Venus, searching for more. Even still, the specks of white were barely discernible against the black backdrop. His smile faded with each dull star he found. He sighed.
"D'ya think we're kinda like that?"
Kirishima didn't have to take his eyes away from the sky to know that Bakugou was giving him a funny look.
"Listen, I know I've brought it up before, but sometimes when I think about you and our classmates and the amazing things that you guys are capable of, I can't help but feel… lackluster. And I guess, when I look up at the stars, it just reminds me of that all over again."
"Kirishima, what are you—"
"I want to help people, Bakugou. I want to save lives. Be a real hero. But if I let myself get overshadowed, then that means there are people I can't reach." He shrugged, small and simple, as if that would help mask the weight of his words. "Only a few heroes impact society for the better. Only a couple stars are truly bright. When I think about it like that… it seems pretty hopeless. One in a gazillion. Because honestly," a bitter laugh escaped his lips, "what's the chance of some kid like me growing up to be a hero as bright as…" he pointed, "… as that star right there?"
Bakugou followed his arm's line.
"That's Mars again."
"For God's sake—" Kirishima dropped his head in exasperated defeat, half-tempted to shake his fist at the sky. "That just makes it worse, damn it!"
"So. Let me get this straight," Bakugou started slowly. "You're telling me that, instead of spending this past hour studying for our test next week, you've been standing out here giving yourself a fucking existential crisis. And that, the way you see it, if heroes are like stars, the star that represents you is probably one that we can't even see. And that's making you feel like your entire existence is dull. That it?"
Kirishima let out a heavy sigh. "Sounds stupid, I know. But, basically, yeah."
"It sounds stupid because it's complete bullshit. It all comes down to arbitrary shit, anyways, like what hemisphere you're in, how urban or rural you are, the weather – hell, even whether you have a fucking telescope on hand or not."
"But that's not the point—"
"—And what is?"
His voice was sharp, but when Kirishima met his gaze, Bakugou's eyes were gentle. There he stood, pointedly silent, peering at Kirishima, into his soul, as if daring a response. Kirishima had none. When that became clear, Bakugou sighed and looked back at the sparse night sky.
"You can't see one specific star in the entire goddamn sky – so what? Doesn't mean no one can. It could be bright as hell to someone else and you'd have no clue."
Kirishima let out a huff. "You'd probably need the strongest telescope in the world to see me."
He didn't mean it, not really. At least, that's what he told himself. It was just the frustration getting to him.
But Bakugou paused. He studied Kirishima with such intensity that Kirishima had to look away, something akin to shame settling in his stomach.
"You're really getting yourself down about this."
"Sorry. I'll stop now."
"You don't have to fucking apologize. But, you are being pretty silly, and mulling about it all night is just gonna make it worse for yourself."
"It's getting late, anyways." Bakugou pulled back from the railing, hands finding their way to his pockets again. "You fucking better get some rest. I think you need it."
"You're probably right about that, too."
Kirishima pushed off his own railing and made his way to the veranda door. With a gentle tug, the door slid open, right as Bakugou's did the same. Before crossing the threshold, he couldn't stop himself from glancing over to his classmate one last time.
Bakugou looked back at him.
They stepped into their respective rooms, and firmly shut their doors behind them.
There was a banging on his door. Kirishima jolted awake, squinting into the pale light of early morning, and he groaned. As he allowed his initial panic to ebb away, he rubbed a hand against his eye.
The knocking continued.
Kirishima narrowed his eyes at the door. He barely managed to mumble a gravely "Coming, coming, one sec," before stumbling out of bed and reaching for the door handle.
As the door swung open, he came face-to-face with none other than Bakugou. Kirishima blinked. Before he could mumble a groggy 'good morning', Bakugou cut him off.
"Get up, get dressed," he snapped, voice way more alert than it had any right to be that time of morning. "It's gonna be fucking chilly, so wear your jacket. If you waste time on your hair, I'm leaving without you."
"Wear comfy shoes. Bring your sticks, too. And put a change of clothes in this."
Bakugou pushed a nylon hiking backpack into Kirishima's chest. He blinked drearily down at the bag, in too much of a daze to even grab it.
"It's, like, six in the morning."
"More like seven thirty."
"On a Sunday."
"Hurry up. Or we're gonna get a late start." Bakugou shoved the backpack firmly into Kirishima's chest and this time he hugged it close on reflex. "Head over to my room when you're done so I can finish packing that up. Today's gonna be a long day."
And with that, Bakugou turned on his heel and walked to his room. The door closed firmly behind him.
The mere act of existing so early in the morning was proving to be difficult, and for a moment, Kirishima just stood there, backpack clutched firmly between his arms, staring where Bakugou had disappeared.
After clearing his head with a shake, Kirishima retreated to his room. Squinting curiously at his clock, he sighed. 7:28am.
Leave it to Bakugou to plan some impromptu hiking trip at seven thirty in the morning.
This wasn't the first time Bakugou had shown up on his doorstep at an ungodly hour to take him hiking. This was, however, the first time without warning. He glanced at the backpack still snug against his chest. It was new, or at least new to him, a little bigger than the daypack Bakugou usually had him wear on their hikes. Bakugou hadn't packed it yet, which was sure to change, but since when did he need a change of clothes?
Well, whatever Bakugou had planned for the day was probably better than anything the dorms had to offer. With a hefty yawn, he changed into what he hoped was suitable gear, and into the backpack went a second pair of everything. All that was left were his sturdy hiking boots, and lastly, his jacket.
Or, well, Bakugou's. It was a spare lent to Kirishima on their last day hike, when the weather had made a change for the worst at the last minute. The jacket was more of a raincoat than anything, but it was lined with warm fleece and was sure to combat the chilly autumn air. It was also shiny, and reflective, and burnt orange. It screamed Bakugou, and the thought made something flutter in Kirishima's chest. He pulled his arms through the sleeves and snuggly zipped it up.
After he slung the backpack over a shoulder and grabbed his hiking sticks, Kirishima marched to Bakugou's door. He gave a sharp knock.
The door opened, and Bakugou greeted Kirishima with a once-over and a nod, apparently satisfied with his state of dress. Motioning for Kirishima to come into his room, Bakugou grabbed the bag from him. Kirishima could only watch curiously as Bakugou stuffed the bag with various items, food, cutlery, and first aid that had been strewn out on his bed.
Kirishima cleared his throat. "Umm, been wanting to ask. Where exactly are we going?"
"The mountains," Bakugou offered, as if that clarified anything.
Much more care was going into packing this bag than Bakugou usually bothered with, although he was clearly not a stranger to this routine. The order of packing was too meticulous to be random, as if each item had its place, until it was completely and utterly overstuffed. Bakugou even managed to fix some rolled-up padding to the underside.
He turned to Kirishima. "Put this on."
"Okaaay…" Kirishima hoisted the backpack onto his shoulders, fitting the two sets of clasps against his torso. It was just as heavy as it looked. "Do I really have to walk with this?"
Bakugou ignored him, tugging against a few of the straps to adjust the fit as needed. Stepping away, he gave Kirishima another once-over as if inspecting his handiwork. He nodded to himself, pleased, before grabbing yet another overstuffed bag from the foot of his bed.
Kirishima couldn't help but gawk at it. "Yours is even bigger than mine."
"Let's not go there."
"Surely this is overkill."
"Listen," Bakugou mumbled as he adjusted his own straps, an edge of impatience coloring his otherwise disinterested voice, "if you want to sleep on the cold hard ground and get mauled by a bear, then by all means…"
Kirishima grimaced. "No thanks. Though, you didn't tell me this was an overnight thing."
"Well I'm telling you now, aren't I?"
"Is this even allowed?"
"Tomorrow's a holiday," Bakugou reminded plainly. With the fit of his own backpack meeting his standards, he looked over to Kirishima. "Ready?"
Kirishima sighed. "Ready as I'll ever be."
"Then come on. Got a train to catch."
Even on the train, Kirishima still wasn't any closer to figuring out where they were going, and Bakugou was being oddly illusive about it. No amount of pestering had gotten Bakugou to reveal even a small tidbit of information about their destination. Still far too early in the morning for small talk, Kirishima eventually found himself staring out the window instead.
He had almost fallen asleep when Bakugou nudged him.
"Here," he whispered. "Breakfast."
Kirishima blinked down at the handmade onigiri that Bakugou held out.
"When did you have time to make this?"
"This morning." He shook the cling-wrapped meal a little until Kirishima took it off of his hands. "While you were being such a fucking slow-poke."
"Aww come on," Kirishima snorted, unwrapping the onigiri. The rice was still warm under his fingertips. "I didn't take that long."
"Nah, I already had the rice cooker going."
"That sounds more like it."
Kirishima eagerly took a bite. Shrimp and sesame seasoning, just the way he liked it. Cheeks stuffed and lips pulled in a grin, he turned to Bakugou and mumbled a 'thanks!' around the food. Bakugou rolled his eyes, taking a bite of his own, lips upturned the slightest.
Outside, the sparkling urban cityscape slowly made way for forests and hills and valleys peppered with small towns, all colored by the morning sun with splashes of autumn hues. As their journey crawled from the first hour into the second, Kirishima found himself hoping that each approaching train stop was theirs. It never was.
He wasn't used to sitting on trains for so long and it was getting a little uncomfortable. But as Bakugou leaned against him and fell asleep, the unfortunate truth settled in – they were on this train for the long haul.
With the trust that Bakugou would wake him when the time came, it wasn't long before the gentle swaying of the train lulled Kirishima to sleep as well.
A pat on his arm stirred Kirishima. He grunted awake, then quickly jerked away from where his head rested on Bakugou's shoulder.
"We're here," Bakugou said.
As the train slowed, Kirishima peered curiously out the window.
Their destination was rural. Like, really rural, not an inch of urban jungle in sight. Curiously, Kirishima checked his phone. It was past 11. They had been on the train for almost three hours.
They departed the train station to find a cozy town sprawled in front of them, a small mountain range beyond. Bakugou paused to take in his surroundings, as if deciding which way to go, as if remembering, before decisively crossing the street and picking a road to walk down. Without question, Kirishima followed.
Kirishima gnawed on a protein bar and kept up mindless small talk as they trudged through the small town, the mountains ahead of them looming closer and closer. After a few minutes, Bakugou turned onto a pathway that jutted off the road. 'Hino Shrine', the sign post read. Far ahead was a staircase, and the bright red of the torii gate that was stretched above it lived harmoniously amongst the surrounding autumn leaves.
They passed under the gate with a bow, their next steps on sacred land. It was tranquil, serene, the very air around them urging them forward. Only a holy place such as this could demand such solemn reverence.
After washing their hands and mouths with purifying water, they paid their respects and left their prayers for the gods. Bakugou even tossed a few five-yen coins into the donation box before he grabbed Kirishima's arm.
They arrived at the tree line that lay just beyond the shrine. With hiking stick in hand, Bakugou whacked at the dense underbrush a few times to clear an opening.
Kirishima peered into the shadows. "Are you sure this is—"
"—Come on," Bakugou interrupted, ducking his head to avoid a sagging branch.
Bakugou seemed to know what he was doing, so Kirishima quickly followed.
The groundcover was thick. Barbed seeds and thorny stems snagged the hem of Kirishima's pants and jacket, but after a few steps it cleared away. The trees were tall. Their leaves blocked out sunlight and left the forest floor bare of weeds and shrubs. And sure enough, underneath their feet was a trail.
How did Bakugou even know this was here? Kirishima desperately wanted the answer, but Bakugou had already begun their trek onwards.
The trail ambled leisurely through the trees. Gold and auburn leaves fluttered down, but the canopy was still dense enough to shield them from both the crisp wind and the worst of the sun's rays. Bakugou maintained his lead, familiar with the trail, and Kirishima fell into place behind him. For a while, the only sounds that filled the air were the crunch of freshly fallen leaves and the bells ringing against their chests.
Their hikes always began like this. Bakugou wasn't much of a talker, and the tranquility of the shrine had not yet left them either. It was nice. It gave Kirishima the chance to explore the world around him and take in every sensation.
Without the quiet, Kirishima wouldn't be able to hear the wind, the wildlife, the shrill call of birds as they found their homes for winter, the final hum of insects before they died out for the season. Perhaps he wouldn't notice the smells the forest, the earthy tones wafting with the scent of maple and chestnut. Or he wouldn't feel the hard earth beneath his feet, how the tips of his hiking stick broke through the soft dirt. It was nice to tune into nature like this every once in a while.
But – as always – the wordless void between them started to grate uncomfortably against Kirishima's ears.
With a quick jog, he fell into step at Bakugou's side. "Are there really bears out here?"
Bakugou's eyebrows knitted together. "What?"
"This morning, you said I could get eaten by a bear."
"Fucking— Yes, Kirishima, there really are bears out here. Why else did you think we wear these bells?"
Kirishima blinked down at the little yellow bell that was attached to a strap of his backpack. "To… find each other? If we get separated?"
"Right. Ever ran into one?"
"Not yet. Nor do I ever want to."
"Not even from a distance? Come on, it'd be pretty cool."
Kirishima loved moments like this, when the two of them could just talk on and on about nothing in particular. Bakugou didn't seem to mind it, either.
The trail wound through the forest, slanting up and down, eventually cutting against a steep incline. To their right, the mountainside reached heights well above the tree canopy, and to the left, it extended downwards. Soon, their chatter was drowned out by the rushing of a small river in the valley below.
The trail curved to the left, tilting ever so slightly downwards. Kirishima could just barely make out the glistening of the burbling water beneath the trees as it carved its way through the landscape alongside them. He could pick out the sharp scent of algae from the blooms of the unusually warm autumn. Before long, the trail disappeared beneath their feet, the soft dirt replaced by a narrow stony riverbank. Without a trail, Kirishima was as good as lost, so he stuck himself behind Bakugou again.
And Bakugou was… well, his eyes were searching for something ahead of them. After several hundred meters, he stopped dead in his tracks. Kirishima promptly ran into him.
"What the hell—?" Kirishima mumbled, regaining his balance.
Bakugou paid him no mind. Instead, his eyes were locked ahead. Kirishima peered over his shoulder, followed his line of sight until he caught sight of a small pyramid of stones where the bank met the tree line, perfectly balanced and definitely manmade.
"Almost missed it." Bakugou's voice barely reached over the cacophony of river. He turned to Kirishima. "This is where we cross. See the rocks?"
Bakugou pointed a hiking stick from one large river stone that jutted out of the river to the next, across the short expanse of rough water and all the way to the other bank.
"The water's from the mountains, and it'll be fucking freezing this time of year, so be careful." Bakugou approached the first stone and hopped on to it. "You ready?" he asked over his shoulder. Like it was a challenge or something.
With a deep breath and a smirk on his lips, Kirishima nodded.
Bakugou leaped from one smooth rock to another, sure to land on dry spots to keep from getting wet. Kirishima kept a mental note of where Bakugou stepped, copying his movements (and thanking god that the soles of his shoes seemed to have good grip) until he caught up about halfway across the river.
When he jumped onto the last rock, Kirishima instantly knew he had made some sort of mistake. One of his shoes slipped the tiniest bit, just enough for him to lose stability. He yelped, breath caught in his throat, arms flailing around desperately for balance or something to grab on to when—
A hand grabbed his. Tightly. Maybe enough to leave bruises. But it didn't matter. Bakugou had him. Bakugou held on, eyes wide with fear.
"Fuck, Kirishima, your quirk isn't gonna help you in the water you know!" he shouted over the whirling rapids.
Kirishima looked at where their hands were linked. Without realizing, he had activated his quirk, jagged skin almost cutting into Bakugou's palm. Instantly, he reigned in his hardened skin and tightened his hold. Bakugou pulled until both of Kirishima's feet were planted firmly on the rock. With one last hop, they reached the other side and Kirishima felt like he could breathe again.
"That was too fucking close," Bakugou panted, hands on his knees. "And when you're falling like that, don't just fucking grab at anything, you could have taken me down with you, fucking hell…"
"Sorry, sorry," he laughed with frayed nerves. "Thank you for saving me though! I owe you."
Bakugou tch-ed. He slung his backpack off and kneeled by the river, taking out canteens and a filter.
Kirishima had seen him do this before – filter the river water so they could drink and cook with it later. There wasn't much he could do except wait for Bakugou to finish.
"It's pretty much uphill from here, so this water has to last," Bakugou started saying as he capped the last bottle, but Kirishima's ears were trailed on something else.
There was a rumbling from nearby.
"What's what?" he heard Bakugou say.
Kirishima focused on their surroundings. The trail restarted in the trees behind them and turned sharply to the right, steeply climbing uphill, along the river. In the direction of the rumbling.
In a moment of impulsivity, Kirishima darted to the trail, scrambling up it, over rocks and tree roots, practically on hands and knees from the incline.
"Kirishima—" Bakugou called after him.
Kirishima kept climbing, noise growing louder and louder. When the trail finally leveled off, Kirishima stood to his feet and caught his breath. With a step forward he stared, mesmerized at the view below him.
"Don't—" Bakugou shouted after him, voice nearly drowned out by the pounding water. He lumbered up the trail and caught up to Kirishima with a wheezy "Don't do that!"
"Don't… do what?"
"Go running off like that! I swear to god…" Bakugou trailed off, but Kirishima couldn't really hear. Not over the waterfall.
He stood in awe as it tumbled down the well-worn mountainside before plummeting into a small pool below. At the impact, mist billowed about and caught every color of the rainbow. Where the pool overflowed, the water converged and swelled to become the white waters of the river beyond. It was breathtaking.
"Kirishima," a voice cut through his trance.
With a blink, Kirishima turned to Bakugou.
Bakugou's eyes were warm. He smiled, .
"Let's set up lunch here."
They reached the clearing Bakugou had been looking for with only an hour or two of daylight to spare. There was a place for them to build a fire, burnt into the landscape by many adventurers before them, and Kirishima set to work starting their own while Bakugou assembled the tent.
With their sleeping quarters finished and flames reaching to the sky, Bakugou placed dinner at the base of the fire – foil packets filled with hearty grub that was sure to be filling. While the food sizzled away on the hot coals, the two of them got ready for bed. Before long, the warming scent of dinner wafted through the air, making Kirishima's stomach rumble.
Some rice and vegetables should not have smelled as good as they did, but after a long day, god knew he needed the calories. After thanking Bakugou for the meal, he scarfed down the food in a matter of minutes.
They finished eating just as the sun reached the horizon. Bakugou stood from his log and cleaned their utensils with the remaining water from his first canteen, and used the last of it to brush his teeth. Kirishima followed suit as Bakugou put the trash in a plastic bag and fitted everything neatly into his backpack. Just before sunlight died away, Bakugou used his rope to hang both of their backpacks from a high tree branch about a dozen meters away.
As Bakugou tethered the free end of the rope to the ground, Kirishima tilted his head curiously.
"Bears," Bakugou nodded, standing. "And raccoons. And, people."
The chill of dusk quickly filled the air. They gathered close to the fire, poking at it, mesmerized by the dying flames as the rest of the world became dark around them.
"How'd you manage to pull this off?" Kirishima's voice finally cut through the quiet. He drew his knees up to his chest for warmth, keeping his eyes on the blaze and embers. "You have a hard enough time as it is getting permission to go out on our day hikes."
"It's not like I'm all alone or something," Bakugou mumbled. "When I said I was taking you, they allowed it."
Something in Kirishima's chest sank. Was that really all there was to it? He sighed, pressing on. "So then, why else did you bring me up here?"
"No, seriously Bakugou."
"If you're worried I'm just using you so I can go backpacking, then don't be because it's not like that."
The sinking in his chest stopped, but not the confusion in his head. "Then why?"
"Wanted to show you something."
"What is it then? Something specific?"
Kirishima faced Bakugou, searching, waiting for an answer. Barely anything was discernible in the dim light of the dying embers, but he could make out the sharp edge of Bakugou's jaw line, the shadows it was casting. His face was turned up.
Kirishima followed his gaze. From their clearing, he could see the stars burning above them. They seemed to fill every corner of the night sky, unpolluted and stunning.
"Whoa," he whispered, breathless. For a moment, he just sat there, staring. He looked back to Bakugou. "They are beautiful, aren't they?"
"Hm. And bright."
"And you can see stars now that you couldn't before, yeah?"
"Yeah." he returned his gaze to the sky. "Yeah, you can."
The layers to their words hung heavy in the air. The two sat there, watching, allowing the sight to leave imprints in their memories, allowing the feeling of existing among so much universe to seep into their skins.
Kirishima sighed, hugging his knees even tighter to his chest. "Kinda makes ya feel even smaller. Ya know?"
Bakugou turned to him sharply. "… You serious?"
"Sorry," Kirishima winced, and that was supposed to be all he was going to say, but Bakugou was giving him a look, so he continued. "With what we talked about a few nights ago… At first I was worried about what sort of impact I would have. But the more I think about it, the more I look up at the stars, I can't help but think that, even if I do make a name for myself… even if I can be seen, I'm still gonna be outshined."
"But you'll be seen, right?" There was an edge to Bakugou's voice, like he was getting frustrated. "Being seen, that's what matters. Right?"
"Yeah, but I won't be noticed."
The two fell quiet.
For a moment, Bakugou stared at the faint flames, their colors reflecting off of his irises. When he spoke, his voice was soft. "Seeing the sky lit up like that, it can make ya feel tiny. But, you keep talking like you are one specific star, like a fixed point or something, when it's all relative. Because this shitty way that you see yourself? Isn't how others see you. Isn't how I see you."
For a moment, Kirishima could only stare. "I've… never heard you talk like this before."
Bakugou snorted. "Don't get used to it."
Kirishima laughed and looked back up to the abundant stars. "Well, if what you say is true, then I think… you're that one."
"To me. You're that star. The sort-of… reddish one right there."
Bakugou followed where his finger was pointed. "That's Mars again."
"Don't even care anymore, it's in the sky, and it's what you are to me now. Fiery—"
"—Mars isn't on fire—"
"—God of War or something, so damn bright it's apparently the only thing in the entire night sky I can consistently point out…" He let out a laugh. "Yeah, that's you."
Bakugou snorted, leaning back on his hands. "It's the fucking red planet, that sounds more like you if you ask me."
"Come on, you know I'm not… not that."
"You don't think so?"
"I sure as hell ain't that bright."
With a click of his tongue, Bakugou looked away. Maybe it was all Kirishima's imagination, but it looked like his shoulders sagged, just a bit.
"You still don't get it," he said.
The silence that followed was as stifling as the campfire smoke that surrounded them.
Kirishima shifted in his seat. "You didn't have to do all of this."
"Shut up, ok?" Bakugou mumbled. "I wanted to."
"To… thank you."
Bakugou shrugged. "Everything."
Kirishima blinked. "If this is about what happened back at Kamino, that was like, months ago. You didn't have to hike me to the top of a mountain to try and make it up to me. You've done enough of that already."
"Not if you still think about yourself like this."
"I've thought about myself like this all my life," Kirishima spoke slowly. "Force of habit, it's going to take a lot to reverse it. And it's my problem," he finished firmly, "no one else's."
In the silence that followed his words, the very last of the flames petered out until all that remained were hot cinders.
Suddenly, Bakugou poured water from his canteen over the glowing remnants of the fire until it was nothing but sizzle and steam. He stretched and let out a groan. "Let's get to sleep. Early day tomorrow."
Kirishima mirrored Bakugou and stretched as well. He ached all over, especially his calves and hamstrings, and after such a long day, a good night's sleep was starting to sound like a fantastic idea.
When Bakugou stood, Kirishima followed suit and they blindly made their way to the tent. They unzipped the entrance and crawled inside, settling down quietly into their sleeping bags.
"Goodnight, Bakugou," said Kirishima.
"Goodnight, Kirishima," said Bakugou,
Side by side, the two fell asleep under the same bright stars.
"Kirishima," a voice whispered. Someone shook his shoulder. "Kirishima, get up."
Kirishima jerked awake in near total darkness. He could barely make out Bakugou looming over him in the dim, dim light of early morning.
He yawned, rubbing at his eyes. "It's still almost all dark out."
"Long day. Gotta hike the rest of the way out, be back at UA before nightfall."
Repacking camp and preparing for the return hike didn't take too long, but Kirishima's stomach was starting to grumble. Just as he was going to ask about breakfast, Bakugou lead him across the clearing.
They hiked for what couldn't have been more than a couple dozen meters up a rocky path to a lookout, the view hazy in the morning fog. As he took a seat on a rock near the edge of the cliff, Bakugou passed a granola bar to Kirishima and set up his portable stove to boil water.
"When I was a kid, my dad used to take me up here," he explained as he lowered the tea bags into their cups. "This was my favorite hike, and this lookout, my favorite part." He handed a mug to Kirishima. "I wanted to show it to you."
Kirishima imagined a young Bakugou clambering up the mountainside to bask in the sight of the waterfall. Kirishima imagined a young Bakugou pointing to every planet and constellation in the night sky. Kirishima imagined a young Bakugou drinking tea on these very rocks, sitting in awe of the shades of autumn coloring the trees below, of the fogged mountain peaks in the distance, of the pastel sky above.
He smiled. "I can see why you liked it. It's beautiful."
"Yeah. It is."
They sat in silence for a few minutes, a peaceful one. With warm mugs in hand, they watched the stars disappear along with the night sky. There was a shift in the air, too. A change in the wind. A burning of anticipation as the world became lighter and warmer with every minute that passed.
When the sun finally peaked above the distant mountains, Bakugou set his mug down beside him.
"That's you," he said.
Kirishima turned to him, eyes wide. Then, slowly, he turned back to the sunrise.
"I don't know if you just blinded yourself or what, but what you were talking about last night was bullshit. More than anyone else's – your light reached me, Eijirou. Just like your hand did, at Kamino."
Kirishima furrowed his brow. "Bakugou…?"
"But it's more than that. It's with everything that you do. Every day." Bakugou let out a shaky breath. "All that time you spent comparing yourself to all the stars in the sky, and you forgot about the brightest fucking one."
Too stunned to say another word, Kirishima watched Bakugou. His gaze was fixed rigidly ahead, his hands fidgeted. His eyes spoke of honesty, his nerves of vulnerability. And in that moment, to Kirishima, Bakugou looked a little like the sun too.
He looked down to where Bakugou's hand rested on the stone beneath them. He took it in his own. Their fingers interlaced.
And together, they watched the new day arrive.
Hand in hand.