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3 a.m.

Chapter Text

Although he didn’t shoulder the fate of the entire country, nor did he bear the responsibility of have to saving the world, he felt tired. The reason was simple – another “worst day ever” had happened in the life of Teruki Hanazawa. Today ranked second on the list of the worst days ever. First place wasn’t really important right now, and Teru didn’t want to think about it. The third worst day ever was related to a sad childhood event. And the fourth...? Fourth, fifth and later, and he didn't remember those, which meant they were of no consequence, he supposed.

But today, oh God, today will embed in the memory of not only Teruki, but also all of Japan. The abduction of the Prime Minister, the fierce battle with Claw, and even flying buildings. An explosion and a huge stalk of broccoli grown in the middle of Seasoning City – who could forget today? On top of all that, Teru was involved in all of this chaos, or at least he had watched the events closely, so he had extra awful points for his memories. Hurray.

Maybe he should start a blog where he described all his adventures? It wouldn’t be as interesting as Kageyama's experiences, but if Hanazawa tried, he could get a few fangirls (and fanboys). Maybe he could make some money out of it, or even...

Teru leaned his forehead against the wall, clenched his fists, and held his breath. He banged his head against the wall, lightly, only to drown out some stupid ideas, brought to life by fever and fatigue. What the hell? A blog, money, fangirls? No way. The most important thing now was regaining his strength and taking care of problems at hand. A blog, that's a good joke.

With a wandering, shaking hand he found his key leash under his t–shirt and took it off. Before reaching the lock, a few seconds passed in Teru’s perception, while a few long, long moments passed for anyone standing nearby and watching him. Teru was slowly losing contact with reality, and only by some miracle did he make it to his apartment. He should have stayed at Reigen’s place; he overestimated himself.

He didn’t remember whether he closed the door behind him or not. Closing doors was so instinctive that he sometimes didn’t even notice. Anyway, even if somebody came and robbed his house or tried to kill him, Teru would let them, because… well, whatever. If something got stolen, it’s just stuff that he can buy again. And if someone killed Teru, at least he won’t be so tired and sick any longer.

He stood beside the bed and looked at the duvet. Glass. He looked at the floor. Glass. He looked at the table. Glass. Glass. Glass. It was everywhere, just not where it should be – the frames of the windows were empty. Yesterday's ambush by the random Claw esper has left his apartment in ruins, with broken windows among them. Teru didn’t have time to take care of it – he had to chase his enemies first, and then only come back to change clothes and take some medicine. “I'll fix it when I get back home,” he said to himself. Good joke, just like the one about writing a blog.

He considered lying down on the glass for a moment, because – once again – whatever. But he didn't want tomorrow’s Teru to hate the present Teru; tomorrow’s Teru certainly wouldn't be so “whatever.”

Just thinking about getting rid of the shards on the bed was overwhelming. Teru would have to use his powers or pick up the duvet and shake them off. Difficult. Unnecessary. Maybe tomorrow’s Teru will be understanding, and he could forgive Teru for sleeping amongst the glass. It would be a good idea to leave him a note. “Sorry, dude, you were too dead to take care of that.”

Teru closed his eyes. His head felt heavy and full of cotton wool, and Teru couldn’t think logically or force himself to do anything. And he still had to take off his clothes and lie down. And it wouldn't hurt to take some more medicine and eat something. Medicine, right.

Loud pulsing in his brain was driving him crazy. Thud, thud, thud. With each pulse, the pain in his throat and lungs rose and rose, and Teru felt more and more heat flooding his face.

But taking medicine without eating anything? Bad idea.

Medicine, food, glass, clothes – for God’s sake, Teru had to take care of all of these. If mom were here, she would at least have made tea and dinner, and she would hug him and say that everything was all right and Teru didn't have to go to school tomorrow, and she already called for new windows and, and, and…

Teru hid his face in his hands. He gave up. Lazily and without bending over, he took off his shoes with his feet. He unzipped the tracksuit jacket and winced at the pain in his torso. Fighting with the nameless esper had left traces in the apartment, but the battle (well, you couldn't call it anything else) with the blind Nostradamus of our time completely ruined Teru's body, especially his bones. At least he didn't have to pay much for the hospital, thank you very much, so tomorrow or the day after tomorrow he will see someone to put him together. Teru could take serious hits during battles, but he didn’t even want to count how many times his barrier was broken during that fight. Tens, hundreds, maybe even a million times. He had never before experienced something like this. Even Kageyama (or the messed up creature inside him) didn’t do as much harm.

A cool gust swept Teruki's body. Hanazawa didn't open his eyes. It was just wind, a draft; there were no windows, so it was understandable.

Glass shards fell on his feet, small and sharp, but fortunately not pricking his skin. They just dropped from somewhere in the apartment, the wind probably swept them from the shelves; glass was everywhere now, maybe even in the containers of soup in the fridge.

Teru flinched when he felt something unpleasant; strange and difficult to describe. For a moment he couldn't associate the feeling with anything. He looked around the room to find its source, but he saw nothing but the darkness. The feeling faded away, but only for a short while. It appeared, disappeared. Once again it appeared and disappeared.

After an eternity that lasted for a minute – it clicked. The noise was a vibrating phone, tucked in his pants pocket. Teru tried to smile at his tiredness and stupidity, but he couldn't find any strength for that either.

Three missed calls from Reigen and four unread messages.

 

“Are you home yet?”

“Are you home???”

“At home??????///”

“RPLY!!!”

 

“Yeessssdd” – was the only thing Teru managed to write. If he could, he would've added “mom,” but he tapped “send” faster than he thought about calling Reigen “mom”. But one day he’ll do it, yes.

He dropped the phone on the mattress near the pillow and took off his jacket. It caught on his elbows. Almost there. He was almost undressed. C’mon, Teru, you can do it, you believe in yourself.

He snorted impatiently. He snorted? Teru didn't remember snorting. Boy, it was getting worse and worse. It happened literally a second ago. Did you or did you not snort? Or was it only your imagination?

Teru got lost searching for the truth of (not) snorting, so he didn’t even feel anyone grasp the sleeves of his jacket. He only felt a short, light tug on the material. The tracksuit fell softly around the boy's feet and Teru was finally free. And pants… pants… Fuck the pants.

Finally, he lifted the duvet and hurriedly slipped under it. He reached for the phone to make sure it was there. It disappeared! B-but he put it right there...! Uh, okay, never mind, it probably fell somewhere under the pillows. Teru would look for it tomorrow.

Disappearing glass that had previously been scattered on the bed also went unnoticed. Teru forgot about it. It didn't matter that much. The most important thing was that Teru was lying under the duvet, and the pillow was so wonderfully soft, and the mattress was so familiar, and school was probably closed the next day. It was good to be alive.

He fell asleep.

Chapter Text

 Teru slept for only three hours before a crushing pain in his chest woke him up. He turned from his side onto his back and breathed through his clenched teeth. Damn Kageyama, why did he have to... No, wait, it wasn’t Kageyama this time; it must have been someone else that hurt Teru in this recent fight. But half-asleep Teru couldn’t – nor did he want to – remember the events of the previous day.

 He tilted his head to the side and frowned, irritated by his bedroom's uncommon brightness for nighttime. He looked around; the TV was turned on and lighting up the entire room. Its sound was on minimum. There was a drama airing and a message bar at the bottom of the screen. Teru read the first few words, then closed his eyes. He didn’t remember turning on the TV yesterday, but nah, it was okay, let it be. At least the room wasn’t quiet. Teru hated silence.

 He’d love to drink some water, but he couldn’t move – it felt as if boulders were lying on his legs, heavy and impossible to move. His hands were already trapped under the pressure of a soft duvet, and there was no chance Teru could win against that. He'll definitely die of thirst at this rate.

 Teru swallowed. His throat burned with a pain that made him groan and swear silently. Now he really knew what it meant to live alone; there was no one who would give Teru medicine and a glass of water. If only he had the strength to kick off the duvet and get up...

 Maybe it would be better in the morning. He didn’t have to go anywhere or do anything right away, so he could sleep as long as he wanted. He had plenty of time to recover.

 He closed his eyes and tried to fall asleep again. He only needed a few moments before sickness and fatigue overwhelmed him and pushed him into a daze. For a few seconds, he was drifting between dreaming and being awake, slowly losing contact with his surroundings, barely noticing the strange but familiar premonition of someone else’s presence. At first the foreign aura only stroked Teru's sixth sense. It got stronger after a few breaths, when the boy was finally sleeping.

 Teru heard neither the rustle of paper nor the crinkle of glass shards. He didn’t even move when a cold hand touched his forehead and cheek, although it took Teru out of the net of sleep for a few seconds. He wasn’t even sure whether someone had actually touched him – maybe it was just a drowsy hallucination. It didn’t matter anyway.

***

It was about eight in the morning when Teru woke up for real. The sun lit the room, irritating and hurting his eyes with its bright impudence. Normally in the evenings, Teru would close the curtains, but after the fight, they were reduced to shreds. He’ll have to buy new ones today. That was all he could do for now.

 Whatever he denied himself at night, it came back to Teru now – he had to get out the house and deal with a few things. The hospital wouldn’t visit him, and the windows wouldn’t buy themselves. And the very first thing he had to do was to clean up the apartment.

 He wanted to look around the room, but his eyes instead landed on the turned off TV. Next to it stood a glass of water and a paper shopping bag. Teru opened and closed his mouth mindlessly, and then narrowed his eyes. That was not how he left things last night. Something was wrong.

 He reached under the pillow where he usually kept his phone during the night. Sure enough, his hand found a familiar, cool phone case and its cable. He lifted the mobile above his head and traced the trail of the cord– it was plugged into the wall, just behind the bed. Weird. He didn't remember plugging his phone in. Either Teru was sleepwalking or perhaps Reigen had rushed over to make sure everything was okay. Teru couldn't come up with any another explanations, although both of these options seemed unlikely.

 Teru muttered unhappily and rubbed his forehead and nose. He felt less tired, but his cold had definitely become worse – he was hot, his head was still pulsing, and there was some cross between a tickle and an itch between his eyes. When he tried to get air, pressure weighed on his lungs, trying to break into a cough. At least Teru didn’t have a runny nose. Yet. Experience taught him that a little medicine and a few hours in bed should do the job, or at the very least, get Teru well enough that he could go out without fainting in the middle of the city.

 There was cold medicine in the kitchen, in the cupboard above the sink. But that was a long way away, and Teru didn't want to overdo his powers by using them to fetch such a small thing. And he needed to change clothes as well. So getting out of bed was necessary.

 Hanazawa sat up and froze, his blood running ice cold. At the other end of the bed, just beside his feet, sat Shimazaki; hunched, with his chin resting on his palm, looking slightly battered after yesterday's fight, but clean and seemingly well-rested. He turned his face towards Teru, while the boy only thought about calling for help.

 “Good…” Shimazaki said faintly, “Well, either morning or afternoon, I can’t tell.”

 "Morning," Teru said, trying to calm his pounding heart. He took several deep breaths, trying his best not to cough.

 "Just stay calm, stay calm!" his mind shouted over the annoyingly pulsing fear. He knew he was fucked. He barely had enough strength to stand, much less to fight with one of the most ruthless espers he had ever met. On top of it all, it was Shimazaki's fault Teru was feeling sick and sore all over his body. Apparently after what happened yesterday, Hanazawa was now waiting for death, or maybe something worse.

 "He would have made his move by now if he really wanted to harm you," said a soft, internal voice of reason. How long had Shimazaki been here, anyway? Teru couldn’t sense his presence or aura until now.

 “I was waiting the whole night for you to wake up,” Shimazaki leaned back on his hands against the mattress behind him, “and I wondered why you didn’t notice me before.”

 “The whole… Whole night... Oh, hell.”

 Teru looked around the room. The TV being turned on at night, the plugged-in phone, and the glass of water – those had all been Shimazaki's doing. But worst of all, Teru didn’t even notice the older esper. Was he so tired at night that he ignored Shimazaki? And then he just got used to his aura and presence? Was it even possible?! It was damn dangerous, that was for sure.

 “You let yourself in, so you can find a way out,” Teru snorted.

 “Ohh... are you kicking me out after everything I did for you? You have zero hospitality.”

 “And did anyone ask you for help? I don’t think so.”

 He knew he could only throw Shimazaki out of here by force. And in more favorable circumstances – if he had his health and after drinking at least one coffee – Teru could do this without a problem. After all, he figured out Shimazaki's fighting style and almost defeated him once already. But now, honestly, Teru needed help.

 “I couldn’t just stand aside and let you roll in the glass,” Shimazaki muttered, amused. He tilted his head and smiled slightly. “Unless you are a masochist.”

 "I’m not," the answer barely passed Teru's lips. Nervousness from this unexpected meeting with Shimazaki didn’t help his fever – Teru felt the heat in his face intensify, while more and more coughs tried to break through his lungs, and sweat flooded down his neck and back. Maybe if he sent out a distress message now, someone would come to help soon... wait! The others were probably dead tired after yesterday's events. Damn it! Getting everyone up and bringing their asses to Teru's apartment would take an hour, if not longer.

 But Teru needed them. There was a damn Claw esper sitting on his bed, and Teru couldn’t throw him out by himself. Ha, in the state he was in, he probably wouldn’t even manage to touch Shimazaki. There was no chance.

 Teru grabbed his phone and chose the numbers of Reigen, Ritsu, and, after a second of thought, the older Kageyama. He was tapping the first words when Shimazaki suddenly appeared beside him. The esper's hand snaked out to grab at Teru's throat.

 “N–no...!” Teru cried weakly. Shimazaki's other hand caught his palm holding the mobile and pushed Teru back against the soft cushions. Hanazawa gasped nervously and clenched his teeth as the man hovered over him.

 For a long moment, neither of them moved; they both waited to see what the other would to do.

 The fingers of the former Claw esper burned Teruki's skin and fueled his panic, speeding up his heartbeat. The grip was not strong, but the touch itself suggested that Teru would have to fight for air if he merely said a wrong word or made any suspicious move. What's worse, Shimazaki's face remained emotionless; he certainly knew that the boy had no chance to win.

 “I do not want to fight,” Shimazaki said suddenly. “I have a little proposal for you instead.”

 Teru frowned. He must be joking!

 “No.” He answered immediately.

 "If you won't agree ..." Shimazaki's grip tightened around Teru's throat. After a moment, he loosened his hold and started stroking the skin under his thumb. “I won’t hurt you in any way, my dear... What was your name again...? Teru?”

 Teru gritted his teeth again. Know your enemy, right?

 “Hanazawa. Teruki Hanazawa.”

 “Oh. So, my dear, little Teru, I will feed and take care of you, and you’ll appreciate it like a good kid, and in return you’ll let me stay here until things in the city calm down. Both of us gain something. You can tell that’s a pretty cool proposal, hmm?” The grip on his throat had trailed upwards, where now Shimazaki was gently stroking Teru's cheek. His other hand covered the phone that was still in Hanazawa's hands. His fingers slowly closed around Teru's hand to try and take that unnecessary object away.

 "Cool," Teru echoed, unimpressed. “Perfect. I just hope I don’t get Stockholm syndrome.”

 First, he would have to lull Shimazaki into lowering his guard while Teru thought up a plan. The, at the right time, he could call the other espers... Unless he recovered quickly enough to throw Shimazaki off the balcony himself.

 “Stockholm Syndrome? I wouldn’t mind.” Shimazaki smirked. He took the phone from Teru and laid it on the floor under the bed. As he bent over, the boy felt a familiar, sweet smell.

 Fear gave in to a moment of confusion. Shimazaki used his shampoo. This circus started even before Teru woke up.

 For a moment, Teru simply stared at the face of the older esper. He shuddered when Shimazaki covered him with a duvet.

 “I'm glad you agree,” Teru heard before warmth flooded through his body once again and tried to push him to sleep. “I’ll try not to break you even more.”

 Teru didn’t want to fall asleep, and he fought stubbornly for a few good minutes. The last thing he noted was the lack of weight on the bed as Shimazaki stood, and the pounding pressure lifting from his head. A warm, wet towel instead was laid gently over the boy's forehead, but Teruki was no longer awake to appreciate it.

 He fell asleep, not for the first time and not the last time that day.

 

Chapter Text

“Sick kids should stay in bed, not wander around the apartment.”

“What do you know about taking care of a sick kid, huh?" Teru scowled at Shimazaki. "More than that, you're blind, you won’t do anything right!”

“I'm blind and I beat your ass two... no! Three times, and now you’re telling me that I can’t handle taking care of you? Stop joking.”

“Okay, fine. Go on.”

Teru leaned his hip against the cupboards and wrapped the duvet tighter around his shoulders. He had come to the kitchen barefoot, because his slippers were lying God knew where, and there was no chance he would be able to find them. He had to watch over Shimazaki, see what he was doing. What if Shimazaki tried to poison or kill him? No one said that the Claw’s esper had any good intentions. Even if it had been their deal – I’ll take care of your sick ass, if you let me live here until things get better – Shimazaki could still try to get rid of Teru in at any moment. After all, he was a terrorist, and terrorists have no honor, right?

“Where do you keep the medicine?” Shimazaki asked.

In response, Teru tapped the cabinet hanging just beside Shimazaki's head. He opened the door, pulled out the box with medicines, and with a loud thud placed it on the counter.

“You are very helpful, Teru. And now, if you excuse me.” Shimazaki started taking out boxes and pill bottles. He searched for letters on each of the packages, reading with his fingers. He set some to the left, others to the right side. The latter, as Teruki noticed, were for a cold. Okay, he could distinguish types of medicine, that was a point for Shimazaki.

“See?” Shimazaki asked. “Now go back to bed.”

“Why do you even care? It’s in your own interest if I don’t feel better so fast.”

"I don’t want to catch this shitty cold of yours."

Shimazaki moved past Teru, his hand searching for cabinet handles. He walked across the kitchen, from the door of the fridge and back, with his free hand holding the edges of the countertops.

“Where do you keep tea? And mugs? Kettle? Everything?”

A few minutes later, Shimazaki was familiar with the whole kitchen. He had to count cabinets and steps two, three times. The room wasn’t even spacious, and Teruki wondered why Shimazaki needed so much time to learn everything. He laughed at this in thoughts; but aloud – he didn’t dare.

“And now you can go back to bed.”

“You just like having an advantage over someone," Teru snapped. "It doesn’t matter whether it's about their health or in a fight.”

"I will always have the advantage over you. Get lost.”

Teruki moved back a few steps, but stopped at the door. He turned to Shimazaki as quietly as he could, just to watch as the man pour water into the kettle and rummage through tea boxes. The Claw’s esper looked tired and irritated and his movements were sharp, sometimes unnecessary, and even once he stumbled over his own feet. At one point Shimazaki leaned his forearms against the top of the table and hung his head helplessly, as if the greatest horror of the world had happened to him. Hmh, poor dude.

Shimazaki stood there for several long seconds. Suddenly he straightened up and moved towards Teruki. The boy jerked to attention and started to step back again.

"Okay, okay," said Teru, trying to calm Shimazaki down. But the Claw’s esper was still walking in his direction, until they both passed through doorway of the room. He stopped only when Teru stood by the bed, took the duvet off shoulders, before turning on his heel and going back to the kitchen, slamming the door behind him.

Okay. It wasn't really "okay", because it was Teruki's apartment, not Shimazaki’s, damn it. But everything might end up worse – Shimazaki could have grabbed Teru by his neck and sent him flying through the room, straight into the bed. Luckily, this time Shimazaki only used a delicate suggestion. Thank you very much for your kindness, Mr. Terrorist.

Teruki sat on the bed and pulled his knees to his chest. He looked at the windows and sighed at sight of foil, temporarily replacing the glass. It was going to be a hard day, but Teru would get through it somehow and go to school tomorrow and maybe try to get rid of Shimazaki. He should find Kageyama and ask him for help... No, wait, Teru could not ask Kageyama for help. He would handle Shimazaki fine on his own. The man was tired and apparently shattered mentally, most likely after the unsuccessful world domination attempt. After a speedy recovery Teru would get rid of Shimazaki once and for all.

At least, that’s what he hoped.

The kettle began whistling just as Teruki laid down. He heard the noise calm, muffled by many layers of blankets. Fine, maybe Shimazaki could make a tea, but how about dinner? He was blind after all, and surely a blind terrorist couldn't cook, who would teach them that? Probably Claw had a few cooks employed, who traveled around the world alongside of them, so the espers didn’t have to worry about dinners. They might’ve been commoners, Teru wondered, watching Shimazaki entering the room. Did Claw treat them like they treated other people? Looking down on them and saying they were all inferior, and meanwhile feeling too important to cook their own meals?

“What's for dinner?” Teru asked, looking at Shimazaki's hands, reading the boxes and bottles and taking out pills.

“We’ll get a take–out.”

“So you can’t cook.”

"Do you trust me enough to let me cook for you? That's so sweet.”

Of course he didn’t trust Shimazaki! Not at all! He just wanted to tease him a little, for Gods’ sake. Ugh.

Teru pulled the duvet over his head, ignoring the man standing next to him with a cup of tea and a handful of pills. Neither of them moved for a while until Shimazaki crouched by the bed and set the mug on the ground. Teru peeked out from under the blanket.

"Do you have anything to eat so you don’t have to take this on an empty stomach?" Shimazaki asked.

Hanazawa had no appetite nor was he hungry. His thoughts wandered to the cupboards full of sweets. He tried to recall where he hid the strawberry flavoured Kit–Kats.

"Yeah, there’re chocolate bars in the fifth one from entrance," he said after a moment.

“Are they in the cupboard, or a drawer...?”

“Yup.”

Shimazaki waited a few seconds for more hints. When nothing came, he rubbed the temples of his forehead, and with long sigh extended a hand holding the medicine to Teruki. The boy clenched his fists, grit his teeth, but after a short battle with his own thoughts, finally raised his hand. He jumped when Shimazaki grabbed his wrist and covered his hand with his own, trying to hand over the medicine without dropping them. The older esper stood up and went to the kitchen; Teru heard the sound of drawers being opened.

"It’s just one day, one damn day," Teru repeated to himself.

He looked at the medicine Shimazaki gave him. He knew them, they were to help his immune system, or to fight a cough or fever, all in the right amount. It was almost a professional care... although pills weren't all that Teru needed. Yeah, it was true that Shimazaki showed Teru some mercy and bandaged his chest and sore ribs, but that was all. He hadn't let Teru to go to the hospital. Meanwhile, bending and making sudden movements was painful, so Teru couldn’t catch a deep breath, not to mention he was coughing. But this… wouldn't kill him, right? And wouldn’t hurt forever?

He raised his head as Shimazaki extended a pink Kit–Kat under his nose.

“I took one for myself.” Shimazaki grinned.

Teru wasn’t surprised at all. He shrugged, started to unwrapping the bar, and moved slightly away as Shimazaki sat on the bed. They didn’t say a word for awhile.

Shimazaki’s silence was a bit of a shock to Teru, because the Claw’s esper seemed to be a man who never shut up and kept talking and talking and talking. Not that Teru complained; he didn’t want to have a conversation with the terrorist anyway.

He noticed more scars and bruises on the other man, ones that had been hidden under Shimazaki's jacket before. Shimazaki stank of sweat and dirt, and no wonder; he found the boy's apartment just after the battle and didn’t seem to have any clean clothes.

“Take the medicine and go to sleep. And stop staring at me.”

“And what are you going to do?”

"Hmm." Shimazaki pretended to give this some thought. “Maybe I’ll burn your apartment down, sell all your stuff, kill your friends... I don’t know, I haven’t decided yet.”

Teru bit his tongue. He swallowed the medicine and drank the tea, then looked around, searching for his phone. He hadn't seen it or his laptop in a while; Shimazaki must have hidden them somewhere to cut off the boy from his family and friends. With a little luck, someone would get worried and come to see why Hanazawa hadn't spoken to anyone lately... If anyone had even tried to contact him. Maybe mom, but she was probably the only person who would think to look for him at all.

That thought hurt Teru. Many times before he wished he could have established a closer relationship with his friends, and now that loneliness stung even more. Especially now when he was in danger. Help would be nice... no, Teruki could handle this. Nothing bad would happen to him.

He buried himself in the blankets. He turned away from Shimazaki, facing the wall. It wasn't like he was sleepy; he wasn’t tired at all, to be honest, but he needed to get some sleep to recover faster.

Teru held his breath as he felt the mattress bend under Shimazaki's weight. The bed frame creaked. Shimazaki had laid down near Teru, the boy was certain. Teru moved closer to the wall and shuddered.

One day. One damn day.

***

"I'll pay, but you're opening the door," was probably the strangest request... no, the strangest command Teru had ever heard. Of course, Shimazaki was a wanted criminal, so he couldn’t be seen picking up a delivery order from a random employee who happened to deliver food to a random apartment.

Without hesitating, Shimazaki pulled out a few banknotes from his wallet and gave them to Teru to pay for the food. Hanazawa noticed an ATM and credit cards inside as well.

"The bank will definitely block his accounts," he thought with satisfaction. He grinned broadly, then started coughing, dropping his chopsticks.

"You have cough drops," he heard Shimazaki say. He shook his head. They hadn't worked.

The cough was getting worse. It seemed as if all his guts wanted to jump out; they prickled, ached, and didn’t let him breathe. Teru was beginning to doubt he would go to school the next day.

“There, there.”

He felt Shimazaki's hand on his back, but he didn’t even have the strength to react. The coughing fit strained him and took away any willingness to do anything, especially to finish his dinner. He closed the take–out box and pushed it away, as far as he could reach and rest his forehead against the table. Shivers went through Teru’s body, making him shudder.

“I'll buy some antibiotics,” he heard the other esper say.

“No one will give them to you,” Teru muttered, getting no answer in return. The tension in the air briefly raised and disappeared in the blink of an eye. Teru blinked and lifted his head. Shimazaki was gone.

He stood abruptly; the chair clattering loudly to the floor. Teru looked around the room, searching for his mobile and laptop. He ran to the wardrobe, looked through the shelves and pulled away the hangers. Nope. He checked the corners, dived under the bed, looked into the balcony. Nope, nope, nope. There was nothing in the kitchen as well. Discouraged, he returned to his room and sat down on the bed, hiding his face in his hands. Shimazaki probably took his stuff out of the apartment, maybe just threw them on the roof. It would be stupid if Shimazaki had them somewhere where Teru could easily find them. BUT...!

Hanazawa jumped to his feet.

His neighbors could help him!

He was heading for the door when the atmosphere filled with Shimazaki's aura again. Teru stopped abruptly and turned on his heels to face Shimazaki, half a foot in front of him. The Claw’s esper pushed three small boxes into Teru's hands.

“It took a while, the pharmacist was pretty stubborn," Shimazaki said. "This medicine should be more helpful. And you have to sleep... And actually sleep, don't just lie there and stare at the wall, damn it.”

He grabbed Teruki by the back of his neck and pushed him towards the bed. Hanazawa growled and gasped, letting Shimazaki know he didn’t like the whole situation. Moreover, he didn’t want to sleep. How much could he sleep anyway, with a terrorist in his house?

Teru practically tore apart the boxes to get the medicine out. He skimmed through the directions.

"Twice a day, in twelve–hour intervals," he said after a moment, then glanced at the clock. It was three o'clock. "There's no way I could get up in the middle of the night and... Ugh. Okay, nevermind.”

Yeah, he could talk as much as he wanted, but he needed to feel better before Shimazaki recovered from their fight. Who knew how long the Claw’s esper was going to stay and when all of this shit would calm down. A week or two? A month? No, no, Teru wouldn't let him stay here for that long, no way. He would go insane. Ha, even NOW he felt like a madman, letting Shimazaki stay at all.

Finally Teru took the medicine and laid down as gently as he could. He levitated a book to himself. He wouldn't fall asleep, so he would at least read, learn or whatever. It may make the time fly faster.

***

But, of course, he fell asleep, and he didn’t even know when. He woke up a few hours later, wrapped tightly in the blanket, sweaty and confused. His pulse rumbled in his head and behind his eyes, and his throat was squeezed with pain and dryness. The room was dark, except for the dim light coming from Shimazaki's phone. The esper was sitting by the bed, with a mobile near his ear, and in his other hand he held a bottle of something that smelled like beer. He spoke to someone in a whisper.

“I won’t go back to the apartment yet, no way. Maybe I'll check it for a moment and take a few things, but in maybe... Ugh, I don’t even know, in two weeks, three? You need something?”

Teru frowned. Two weeks, three? And just "check it for a moment?" He must be joking. Hanazawa would give him one more day to get out; and if not, he would grab Shimazaki and throw him off the balcony.

“What time is it?” Shimazaki murmured. Teru glanced involuntarily in the direction of the clock, but didn’t see anything in the almost complete darkness. “Two o’clock? Time just can’t go any slower.”

Eleven hours. So many hours Teru slept, completely unmoved by nothing or nobody. At least one day had passed... and it wasn't as if Teru felt any better. There was no chance Teru could go to school tomorrow; he didn't even have the strength to cross the street. But the day after tomorrow? He’d have to. Even if he had to spit his lungs out, break his ribs– he'd get out, away from this asshole.

Teru twitched as Shimazaki turned and reached for him. Teru closed his eyes, tensed, waited for whatever the man wanted to do. Shimazaki could just check if Teru was hot, or wake him up, maybe something else. Teru would never understand this guy – in the morning Shimazaki would kick your ass like no one before, and then lull you to sleep the evening; an unpredictable man.

A few heartbeats later, nothing happened, there was no touch or sound. Teru peeked one eye open; Shimazaki's hand had stopped just above Teru’s forehead.

“How long have you been awake?”

Teru bit his lip but didn’t answer.

“I wasn’t talking to you. I'll call you back.”

Shimazaki hung up and put the phone somewhere on the ground.

“Stop pretending you’re still asleep,” he sighed.

“I just woke up.”

“Sure you did.”

He moved, turning to sit facing Teruki, and leaned his elbows on the mattress. Whatever Shimazaki had intended to do earlier – he gave up.

And he stank of beer. Not like a drunkard, only like he drank one or two bottles, but Teru hated it anyway. Hanazawa moved away from Shimazaki and covered his nose with the duvet.

“Who were you talking to?” he asked, although he didn’t expect an honest answer. And he was right, because Shimazaki only raised an eyebrow. "I'll have to call someone too... or at least check if someone is looking for me."

“'If?' So you aren't even sure?”

Touché.

“I need to call my parents at least," Teru said. "If they saw what you all did to the city…”

“I’ll think about it.”

Teru snorted. He turned to face the wall and moved closer to it.

“Just don’t fall asleep. You have to take the meds soon.”

Of course, yeah, meds, sure. Teruki covered his head with the duvet. He could be stubborn and refuse to take medicine until Shimazaki let him call his parents, but – firstly – it wouldn't do any good. Secondly, the older esper would probably get mad and eventually shove the pills down Teru’s throat.

Oh GOD, why did Shimazaki care so much about this? Why was he so crazy about Teru’s health? Shimazaki could do something else anyway – get rid of someone he didn’t need (probably Teruki) and stay in their apartment for as long as he wanted. And why did it have been Hanazawa? How did Shimazaki know that he lived alone...?

Various scenarios and answers went through Teru's head. One of them included accusing Shimazaki's of stalking, another suggested that Claw probably kept information about Teru. Either way, Shimazaki had to be somehow interested in Hanazawa. Great.

"Let me check," Shimazaki muttered, pulling back the duvet. Teru clenched his fingers around the sheets to keep it close, but the man uncovered Teru's face anyway. Shimazaki placed a hand on Teru’s forehead.

"At least your fever is better than yesterday," he commented. “See how I care about you? Professional care in every way.”

Teru didn’t comment. He wanted to smash his head against the wall.

***

Nineteen missed calls and thirty–four unread messages. Teruki checked every single one, and a heavy hand of fear clutched his throat and heart harder and harder. The calls were mostly from his parents trying to contact him; the last message said they were on their way to the airport. Sent three hours ago.

That’s what Teru was worried about the most – that his family would panic and decide to get on a plane to fly from the other end of world. He wasn’t surprised, but preferred to avoid similar situations; he didn’t want to expose his parents to danger.

He dialed the number hoping someone would answer. One ring, a second, a third.

“Teruki!” yelled his dad on the other side of call. Teru twitched, scared. Lying nearby, Shimzaki chuckled.

“Why weren’t you picking up your phone?! Do you even know how much we were worried?!”

Teru was ready to sing a serenade of apologies and assurances that everything was ok. He had also thought up a logical explanation for the current situation and his disappearance. Unfortunately, he had to listen to reprimands and threats first.

"What a nice man," whispered Shimazaki. “I wanna meet him.”

"Teru, honey," Mrs. Hanazawa took her husband's phone. She didn’t scream; Teru had the chance to hear the noises in the background – crowd murmurs, the clatter of wheels and some other things he didn’t want to think about right now.

“Where are you?” he asked.

“We are going to the airport. What happened? On TV they said that…”

Another minute of explaining what Teru knew perfectly well. Abducting of the prime minister, destruction of the city, broccoli. Thank you very much for reminding him. Now let's get back to the important topic.

“Are you all right, Teru?”

Thank you.

No, he wasn’t all right. He had a foil instead of windows, and beside him there was a damn terrorist who didn’t allow Teru to go to the hospital. To make things worse, the boy coughed, sneezed, sometimes twisted in pain and had no appetite, and the icing on the cake was his ambition of going to school the very next day. He wanted to say it all, complain and cry to his mother like he used to. But when he opened his mouth, he felt a gentle touch on his chest. Shimazaki's fingers slid across his ribs, making a path around the broken bones.

Teru swallowed and squeezed the phone harder. He could barely restrain himself from cursing or punching the older esper.

"Well, yeah, I’m fine," he said with fake confidence. “I'm just tired. Yeaaah, everything you said happened, yes. But I stayed away from it and just helped people later. Aaaand I lost my phone and I just found it. You don’t have to come, seriously. Everything is all right.”

He added a series of apologies and thanks for their concern. He had to make sure his parents wouldn't come. Sometimes his voice broke when Shimazaki's fingers wandered around the most aching places of his body. When asked what was wrong, he blamed fatigue and sore throat... There was no other good answer for that.

Shimazaki took his hand the exact moment as Teru finished the call.

"You are such a obedient boy," he said, reaching for the phone. “I really hope they won’t visit you.”

He disappeared, probably to hide the mobile God knows where.

The hours were passing incredibly slowly.

 

Chapter Text

Teruki spent the rest of the day thinking about tomorrow. He had to go to school. He could die on the way, but he would go. Didn't Shimazaki realize that Teru had some things he had to do (mostly because he didn’t want to stay with Shimazaki)? Would he let Teru go or start a fight? The boy was determined to defend himself, even if the brawl would be short and merciless. He was sure he wouldn’t win anyway.

Teru could just walk out in the morning, not looking back, without explaining, but merely shuffling to his bag and leaving his flat behind. Catch Shimazaki unaware... and wait for a very sharp reaction (damn, there was no perfect solution!)

So Teru would have to gently inform Shimazaki about his plans. But in a way where Teru wouldn’t end up tied to a chair or, even worse, to the bed.

Starting with "You know, I thought to myself" was too nonchalant, as if Shimazaki was a colleague. "Listen to me" in turn, was just asking for a fight. Saying "I have school tomorrow" could receive an answer like "Just like you did today – so what?” Nothing was good enough. The easiest way to break the news would be to simply say, "I’m going to school tomorrow." Maybe with a little luck, Shimazaki would think it was a joke and brush it off. Hm, maybe that was the perfect situation, because if Teru gave a warning, Shimazaki couldn't complain later.

Well, that was what Teru would say. Next was the more difficult part – gathering enough courage to say it. Which was theoretically easy, because Teru would just need to open his mouth and let the words flow. Teru never had a problem talking – he talked to whoever he wanted and rarely met with any unpleasant consequences. But with Shimazaki it was worse, and Teru didn’t know why. He tried to tell himself it wasn’t fear, but he couldn’t think of any other reason. The words stuck in his throat, and his stubborn mouth refused to open. The only thoughts that crossed his mind were "Now!" and "In a minute" alternately. But he had been thinking "now" and "in a minute" for three hours already. And throughout this, Teruki sat on the bed with a book in his lap and stared at the blanket, zoned out, ignoring anything Shimazaki was doing.

He flinched when the older esper shoved a bowl filled with steaming soup into his hands.

“It's amazing how long you can just sit and do nothing," muttered Shimazaki, turning on his heel and heading for the table. “You meditate or what?”

“N-no.”

On the one hand, Teruki was grateful for the break in the silence, and angry on the other, because he was about to tell Shimazaki about going to school...! He would tell him after dinner. Otherwise he’d never say a word.

He drank some of the soup's broth and grimaced at its too salty taste. He wanted to comment on it, but he bit his tongue. If he started talking about the soup now, he would never touch on the subject of school – Teru would be stressed over things he shouldn’t, and it would take up unnecessary thoughts and time.

Delaying it wasn’t a good solution either. Most likely if he waited to tell Shimazaki at the end of dinner, he might find another reason to not to say it. Now was the best moment for it – just after Shimazaki broke the silence. Come on, Teru.

“Hey.”

So far so good. Teru had his attention, and there was no chance that either of them would withdraw from this conversation.

Teru took a deep, calming breath and thought about how much he wanted all of this to end.

“I’m going to school tomorrow.”

“Okay.”

Okay. The young, battered Teruki Hanazawa had been fighting with himself for the last three hours over all this.

"Okay" – and that was it. There must have been a catch, and Teruki tried to spot it in Shimazaki's attitude and voice. But he couldn’t find anything. Shimazaki sat unmoved, his back to the boy, arms folded behind his neck. What a good actor.

“Alone,” Teru added after a moment of hesitation.

“Ah,” Shimazaki sat up straighter and turned to him. He smiled sympathetically. “That could be a problem. You see, my dear Teru... I'm not entirely convinced about the condition of your health.”

Teru raised an eyebrow, gritted his teeth. Wonderful. Just... wonderful.

Shimazaki continued, “You haven’t recovered yet and you already want to go back to school? What if you faint on the way?”

"You don’t care about my health," Teru snapped. "You're afraid that I'll tell someone about you.”

"Naaah." Shimazaki tilted his head. "If I was worried about you doing that, you know I'd just kill you.”

Yeah, Teruki knew that. But there were hundreds of ways Teru could still contact other espers. He could send an email, borrow a phone, tell someone to deliver the letter... Just to get someone to help and not have to deal with this situation alone. Otherwise there was another, more problematic solution that Teru knew of and wanted to use from the beginning – he could wait until he fully recovered and get rid of Shimazaki himself. And no matter how long it could take – days, weeks – it didn't matter. The satisfaction would be greater if he defeated Shimazaki himself. He would wait and lull Shimazaki into a false sense of security and kick him out, as far away as he could. Wonderful! All he had to do was to survive. Easy, haha... ha...

But would that satisfaction compensate for all of this? It would be a long time, filled with sitting with Shimazaki in a poisonous silence, slowly provoking paranoia. "If he sits there and does nothing, he’ll get bored, he’ll go mad!" – over the last two days Teru had such thoughts, because Shimazaki was SITTING and doing NOTHING this whole goddamn time. It was probably him who was meditating, and not Hanazawa.

He had to survive. If his strength hadn't returned in the meantime and things started looking really bad, then Teru would ask Kageyama or someone else for help. But only as a last resort, because Shimazaki was Teruki's problem; no one else's.

"I'll go to the hospital after school," Teru added. "I have to see if everything is okay with my ribs... Uh, your help with them hasn't been great.”

“I wasn’t even trying, to be honest." He shrugged. “I'll teleport you where you need to go, so you… won’t get lost on the way.”

Teruki sighed in resignation, almost spilling his soup.

But he did it. He would be able to leave the house. Hallelujah. Thanks to anyone in the heavens who watched over him.

***

It was raining and was the first sign Teruki's day wouldn't be as good as he hoped. First of all, the downpour was used as another pretext for Shimazaki to help him get to school.

“Do you like getting wet?" Shimazaki asked. "Okay, normally you can do whatever you like, but now you're sick, so I can’t let you get worse.”

He wrapped an arm around Teru’s waist before he could react. Shimazki’s power tugged, took his breath away, and stirred inside Teru's head. A second later, the two espers stood in a side street near his school.

Teru staggered; the world flickered in front of his eyes, and his ears rang. Teru leaned against the wall and wrapped his arms tightly around himself. Being teleported during the fighting was troublesome, and now it felt even worse. He didn’t know why this time it felt so different.

"You're getting wet," Shimazaki murmured. He nudged Teruki with his foot. “Get up, there's no need to wait.”

Huh, easy for him to say. Teru’s stomach rolled; at any moment his breakfast could end up on the ground. If that was how teleportation worked, Teru preferred to go all the way on foot, even if he would get wet.

Teru stood and moved slowly along the wall. Thick drops of rain ran down back of his neck; they chilled Teru more than the cold wind had as it blew through his windowless flat.

For a split second, the air tensed. Teru's heart and mind were squeezed with an unpleasant feeling, something between fear and panic. Everything was over before the boy realized it was Shimazaki's aura – it always reached its the highest intensity just before he teleported.

So Teru was alone. He could finally enjoy freedom and peace.

***

Or Teru would have if he could have focused on anything all day. His head was heavy, and his body burned with pain. He didn’t say a word in his classes, he ignored his friends and classmates. A few teachers wanted to send him to a nurse, but he refused. He said he felt "fine." He'd just recently had a few bad days... Like everyone else in the town lately.

The school lessons passed Teruki lazily, far beyond his normal perception. He could see and hear through the fog, but he didn’t understand most of the words that were spoken to him. He just sat at his desk and didn’t engage in anything. And at least nothing that required any effort – he had been perfect all year; he was allowed to zone out this one day, only once.

He indifferently noted every passing hour. He stopped caring about being away from Shimazaki and only dreamed about going home and sleeping, sleeping, sleeping... He should have stayed home. And he would tomorrow. And even the day after tomorrow. Maybe even forever if he had to.

"That was probably a bad idea, huh?”

Under normal circumstances and in good health Teruki would probably have been frightened by the sudden voice. Now he barely heard Shimazaki, didn’t even sense his aura like he normally would. Teru glanced over his shoulder; Shimazaki looked blurry, leaning against the school corridor.

“Why?” Teru asked.

"Because you're just standing here without moving... and you didn’t even notice me. And you look awful.”

“I do?” Teru tilted his head. “Everyone has been telling me that today.”

Silence. Shimazaki raised an eyebrow and smiled slightly. The rain was the only sound that was surrounded them. The noise from the school was long gone already; no one was wandering around corridor or in the courtyard. Empty, cold, and moreover, it was already dusk.

Something in Teru's brain clicked.

"Wait," he said. “How do you know what I look like?”

“I checked your reaction time. And I told you to better stay home.”

“Shut up.”

They stood motionless for a long moment. Teru didn’t think that he should probably approach Shimazaki to get out of there. He couldn’t think of anything at all. All he knew was that he had to go to the hospital for an x-ray. The visit to the hospital had already been arranged, and with a little luck he wouldn’t wait too long in the line.

Teru heard the click of someone’s heels approaching them, echoing down the corridor.

"Well okay," Shimazaki murmured. “You done with the meaningless standing? We're getting outta here.”

He walked quickly to Teruki, and again put an arm around his waist, firmly, without hesitation. The boy clung to him and clenched his teeth, ready for the nasty discomfort that teleportation caused.

They disappeared before they were noticed by the teacher.

***

"No strenous activities, take painkillers if anything hurts, apply a cold compress" – these were things said by the doctor after he x-rayed Teru's ribs. His broken bones hadn't damaged any organs, thank God, but Teruki was scolded for coming to the hospital so late. The doctor also yelled something about Teru’s parents, using words that he probably shouldn’t – too sharp and direct. But... what was Teru was supposed to say? He stared blankly at the doctor and pretended to be repentant, and the doctor’s words fluttered through his head, leaving no trace behind.

“Visit me in two weeks to see how you're healing. And come with your parents this time.”

Of course, with parents. Or maybe a fake older brother who accidentally was also a terrorist? He would avoid trouble by skipping the next appointment entirely.

He thanked the doctor and headed for the exit. His legs were getting heavier and he was barely able to walk, his eyes almost closed, his head still pounding. But okay, no worries; soon he would be home and in bed. He couldn’t wait.

At least it had stopped raining, although it was still cold, and the wind was chilly through Teru's clothes. According to Teruki's plan, he hadn't expected to stay outside long – only between teleports and getting inside buildings – so he hadn't dug in the closet to find warmer clothes. He regretted that now.

He hid in the street where he was supposed to meet Shimazaki. The man was not there yet. Okay, Teru would wait. He would definitely going to get colder, get even sicker, but he would wait politely. It was too far to the train station, and if he took the bus, he would have to change stops somewhere… he didn’t even know where the nearest bus stop was anyway.

Teru leaned against the wall and crouched down. He put his face in his hands. Hurry up, man; Hanazawa was hungry and tired and had to get home as soon as possible.

It started raining again.

***

Teru stopped thinking about the passing time. He didn’t know when exactly he left the doctor’s office – maybe half an hour, or maybe an hour ago? But at 7'oclock when Shimzaki still hadn't shown, Teruki decided to go home by himself. He stood up and headed to a taxi stand. He didn’t notice people who watched him as he passed, didn’t hear any street noise. The only thing that existed for him was the sight of the pavement and the recurring thoughts of "taxi, house, bed, sleep." He felt stupid for waiting for Shimazaki. How could he rely on the Claw esper at all? Sucker.

It's not that he felt betrayed. Hah, no, it was a different feeling – more like being cheated after trusting someone waaay too much. Sweet. He'd played right into a fucking terrorist's game.

But why had Shimazaki dealt with him for the last two days just to leave him now?

He tried not to fall asleep in the taxi. He forced himself to not to close his eyes. He stared at the scenery that passed by – the city was slowly calming down and heading for a well deserved rest. With each passing street, there were less and less people, the lights in stores went out, and car parks filled with cars.

Soon he would rest well too, finally. He already recognized his neighborhood. One or two more minutes, and he would be able to lay down in his bed.

He seemed to have lost consciousness for a moment. The last sight he remembered – the smiling face of the driver when he got the money – was now replaced with a view of his apartment door. What happened in between was unknown. But more importantly, Teru was finally home. He wasn't even inside before he pulled off his school uniform blazer. He crossed the threshold as he loosened his tie, and turned on the light. Something was wrong. He didn’t know exactly what, but there was something wrong in the silence that so often filled this apartment. There was a strange tension in the air, a heavy, unidentified source, similar to that sort that stretched between two people after an argument.

Shimazaki was nowhere in sight. Earlier, Teru had assumed that the man had just ignored him and stayed home... But now he was gone. And with any luck, he would never come back.

Again, Teru lost a sense of time and didn’t know how long he stared ahead. His eyes eventually landed on the balcony windows. Windows. Windows... The windows, Jesus Christ!

He ran to the windows, stumbling across the carpet and his feet. He reached for the frame and started checking them from top to bottom. They were covered in glass; new and undamaged! But how? Did Shimazaki kidnap someone? Or he somehow stole a window from the factory? The mortar at the jams hadn’t dried, so it must have been finished recently.

Anyway, it would be interesting to see whether the workers were still alive or not.

Teru shook his head. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see a dark shape on the table. He turned on his heel and froze. It was his laptop, and next to that, Teru's phone.

“What...?” It was the only thing Teru could say. Shimazaki had left. Had he been scared that the young esper would turn him in? Or did he get bored? Found a better place to hide?

No, it didn't matter. Shimazaki was gone and that was the most important thing. If he had been feeling a little better and more confident, Teru might have thrown a party to celebrate that fact. It should have to cheered him up that he was alone, but the tension hanging in the air still hadn't left. Teru tried to ignore it; it was probably only a strange hunch, something based on his irrational fears. He would feel better with some rest.

He grabbed his blazer off the ground and walked to the closet, thinking about supper. He had to eat something before sleep; he didn’t like to go to bed hungry. In the fridge there would be some food leftover from yesterday or he’d just order delivery again. He didn't really have the strength to prepare anything.

He opened the closet door swiftly. He froze. Some of the shelves that had been empty until today were occupied now by dark t-shirts and several pairs of trousers. Jackets hung on previously empty hangers.

Shimazaki hadn't left. He had moved in for good.

Teru stared at the inside of the closet for what seemed like hours, completely turned off from the reality.

Chapter Text

Tick-tock-tick-tock…

Teru opened his eyes, his heart pounding. He gasped and bit his lip. A cloudy nightmare had torn him out of sleep and pushed him into reality’s arms at exactly three o'clock in the morning. It wasn't the first or the last time, and Teru had long since stopped wondering about what had woken him up. Everything started two weeks ago, when he took the second dose of the antibiotics. He hadn't been taking the medicine longer than a few days, but he was still waking up in the middle of the night; all of sudden and without anyone or anything’s help.

And every time Teru woke up, his heart was pounding, practically jumping out his ribs, like it was scared of something it saw in Teru’s nightmare. Teru never remembered his dreams, he didn't want to, which was why he didn’t know what his heart was so scared of. He quickly tried to calm it down, so he would be able go back to sleep. He stared at the ceiling, practiced deep, calm breathing and… that’s all. Teru couldn’t really do anything else, but lie in his bed until he fell asleep again.

Sometimes sleep wouldn't come again for hours. During these times, Teru was too awake to even think about resting. He could barely stop himself from getting up and leaving the apartment for a short walk. With each sleepless night, his fight against going out right now was weaker and weaker. “I’ll get up in a moment,” he would always think. But he didn’t get up. But he felt so close to doing it. So close.

This night Teru considered taking a stroll more than he had during the previous nights. He was fed up with his insomnia and he knew he wouldn't fall back asleep this time. It seemed like he would spend this night staring at the ceiling again, in almost complete silence and loneliness. Almost, a key-word.

The ticking of the clock was the only sound that disturbed the silence, and lying nearby, Shimazaki – the only company Teru could count on. Tick-tocks and Shimazaki were little things, but they still overwhelmed Teruki and tried to rush him out of his bed. The only things that advocated for Teru staying in bed; a blanket, embracing Hanazawa with its warmness, and soft mattress. Two simple things, but very convincing.

A short beep from Shimazaki’s watch announced another hour had passed. Four o’clock. Today's first sixty minutes of insomnia had passed quickly and Teru hadn't even been bored. It seemed overthinking took over his mind, so he had forgotten about the passing time.

But he should finally decide. He should go out, and see how the world looked like at this hour.

Teru quickly thought about all the possible destinations of his stroll. The park, the outdoor gym, the cemetery, another park – and then a third, a fourth… Or maybe he'd go to all the places, if the night was long enough. Maybe on his way, he would think of other spots he could see. The last option was just moving forward, without any specified destination or direction. Wherever his feet would take him.

He sat slowly, gently, so as not to wake Shimazaki. He crawled on all fours across the bed and went to the wardrobe, groping for clothes in the dark. One minute later, Teru was ready to leave. He left the apartment through the balcony. He didn’t even think about leaving Shimazaki a note; he would be back soon anyway.

“I guess,” Teru thought pulling up the hood of his sweatshirt. He soared off the balcony to the ground, jumping over the fence and flying into the street.

Shimazaki, still deep in his sleep, turned onto his other side, brazenly taking Teru’s place on the bed.

***

Teru should’ve known that taking a walk would make him overthink everything, just like he would lying in his bed and staring at ceiling. He remembered a few conversations he had with Shimazaki during the two last weeks, but a particular one – he had never paid much  attention to before –  stuck out:

 

“Did you notice you're living alone?” Shimazaki had asked him. Teru had looked up from his notebook and raised his eyebrow.

“I’m not the blind one here,” he had said.

“Sure. But did you notice? Don’t you think it’s a little… strange?”

Teru didn’t answer. He had pretended not to hear the question and returned to his homework.

 

It wasn’t “a little” strange. It was “completely” strange and Teru was very much aware of it. Of course, when he first started living alone he got a lot of praise from kids his age – “Wow, you can do whatever you want without your parents!” or “Teru, you're so mature! Do you cook too?” And at first Teruki enjoyed this freedom. But with time it weighed on him more and more. Laundry, chores, homework, cooking, shopping – everything was his responsibility, and took most of Teru’s free time. The only moments when he could take a break were evenings and nights, when his neighbors were fast asleep, and it didn’t seem right to make noise so late.

Lately it was easier for Teru. Not only because the meetings of Awakening Lab were canceled (ergo – more free time), but also, surprisingly, because of Shimazaki’s help. Shimazaki was as terrible as always, but at least he cooked and prepared all the meals (ergo – even more free time.)

Teru rested his chin on his arms, crossed over the railings in front of him, and stared at the city on the horizon. Wind swept across his face and under a collar of his hoodie, making Teru shiver. The cold started to bother Teru, but he didn’t want to leave yet. He didn’t want to go back home.

Cold. Winter. Yes. Winter was around the corner, and so was New Year's, exams, Valentine’s day, and the second anniversary of his moving to Seasoning City… It had been almost two years of the completely strange situation that was living alone. How long would it last? Teru had no idea. Maybe he would never go back to his parents. It’d be the best and safest solution; no one knew what dangers were waiting for Teruki… And he would have to get rid of Shimazaki first anyway, in a way that Claw's esper would never come back to bother Teru.

Teru pressed his face against his arms, curled up, sniffled. Yes, he was cold already.

For fourteen long days Teru had tried to throw Shimazaki out. He tried to fight and tried to talk, all for nothing. Shimazaki only laughed at his attempts, then changed the subject or fell quiet for a few hours. Sometimes Shimazaki disappeared, but always came back. Teru thought he would go crazy soon.

The neighbors had started asking questions. “Because we heard (and here, depending on the situation) an unfamiliar voice/conversations/arguing/fights,” and “you used to do laundry more often" and "you don’t bring your friends home as often as you used to,” and so on. They cornered Teru with their questions, and Teru tried his best to make something up. He told Shimazaki about all of this, but Shimazaki laughed again and just shrugged. He liked to tease Teru, and didn’t seem to care that this snooping of Teru’s neighbors could cause them both problems.

Hah, at least when the real fights happened, Shimazaki was smart enough to teleport them somewhere far from the apartment, where they could argue without anyone overhearing (should Teru really be happy about that? Maybe if they fought at Teru’s place, someone would take an interest in Hanazawa’s situation and try to help him.)

Despite all the problems that Shimazaki had caused, he was… tolerable. A little tolerable. As much as a terrorist can be tolerable. And in Hanazawa’s dictionary “tolerable Shimazaki” meant “hadn't pissed me off so much I wanted to snap his neck,” but not quite “I can fully stand his presence.” Because still spending time with Shimazaki for even part of the day resulted in Teruki getting annoyed. Sometimes Claw’s esper seemed to to push him off balance with well-placed remarks about everything that surrounded Teru: his school, his parents, his psychic abilities. And even if Teru tried to say something back, he usually couldn’t find an answer that was good enough to shut Shimazaki up.

“You lack life experience,” Shimazaki had said one day. “Maybe you’ll win when you grow up, little Teru.”

As if he and Teru would be still in touch. Their damn “relationship” should have ended long time ago. The whole fuss around Claw was slowly calming down; people on the news weren’t talking about the terrorists as much as they were two weeks ago. They still were looking for Shimazaki and the other esper, but the story seemed to have calmed down.

Citizens of Seasoning City had started to get back to their previous lives, and the center of the city, destroyed by the fighting, was slowly being rebuilt. The main problem now was the broccoli. If that was for better or worse – Teru didn't know. Something was wrong with this phenomenon for sure, but at least it masked all the mess and curiosity around Claw.

But for Shimazaki, it wasn't enough; it wasn't safe for him to come out of hiding yet. He didn't talk about his plans for the future, and the fragments of the phone conversations Teru sometimes overheard hadn't told him anything. It was as if Shimazaki didn't know what to do with himself.

Because what Shimazaki would be doing now anyway? Start working at Reigen's psychic agency too? That's a good joke (the whole situation with Serizawa was hilarious to Teru too, but he didn't say that aloud. Shimazaki hadn't said anything about it either, although when he heard the news about Serizawa, he simply smiled and shook his head.)

Teruki tried not to sound like an idiot when he had asked Shimazaki where he planned on working next.

“Job? The government will be looking for me for the rest of my life and you want me to get a job? Besides that, you really think I'd be able to find something legal?"

But Teru didn't say anything about a legal job. Shimazaki was fit for something shady, maybe working for the yakuza or something like that. He would probably be welcomed there with open arms. And that had been what Teru meant, but he didn't say it. He didn't want to give Shimazaki any ideas, if the former Claw esper didn't think it up himself.

Anyway, who even said the government would be looking for Shimazaki for the rest of his life? They went easy on Serizawa and that other esper (Mine...something.) The remaining two espers seemed to have slowly blended into society, although this Minesomething had way more problems with that, somehow. All Shimazaki needed was a good alibi and he would be free of his shit too. Hmmm, maybe say he had been hypnotized? Damn, if only Shimazaki felt bad or embarrassed of what he did with Claw...

Teru pushed away from the railing and with loud thud fell on a bench behind him. He crossed his arms over his chest. Was he crazy? Why was he thinking up excuses for this jerk?! Shimazaki was a criminal, he couldn't get away! So why would Teruki think about how to help him? Did he get this Stockholm Syndrome or something?

His stomach ached with regret and anger at himself. Why hadn't he noticed it earlier? Why was he stupid enough to let Shimazaki wrap him around his finger so easily, even when the older esper did absolutely nothing? Shimazaki simply... existed. And occasionally paid for food, and told stories, and pissed Teru off with his presence, and...

Things were bad. It was really bad and Teru needed to talk with someone about it. He couldn't keep Shimazaki's presence in his apartment a secret any longer! Because now Teru's mindset was slowly changing and he hadn't even noticed, and that could cause more troubles than neighbors' snooping!

Too bad Teru only noticed it just now.

Better late than never, they say, but it didn't make him feel any better.

***

On his way home, Teru went over all the people he knew, but couldn't help him. Because let’s be real, he needed someone’s help. Of course, he had planned to get rid of Shimazaki himself, but he had failed miserably so many times already… There were no chances he would defeat him alone.

Direct actions weren't taken under consideration – attacking or scaring off Shimazaki could end with the death of Teru or someone close to him. He needed a plan that involved someone smart, someone who could capture Shimazaki. The best choice would be someone who could do everything alone, without Teru's help... in case something went wrong.

Everyone from the Super Five was out the question, although Serizawa might have been a good fit – a strong man full of remorse, eager to help. But Teru didn't want to risk it; there was always a chance that Serizawa would support Shimazaki in a fight out of sentiment.

Kageyama and his brother, on the other hand... But it would be difficult to hide them with their strong auras. Shimazaki would run away before espers like the Kageyama siblings even knocked on Teru's door. Reigen? The first time he defeated Shimazaki was only because Claw's esper was careless. Of course Shimazaki still thought that Reigen was someone special, but how long would take him to see through the lie? Teru didn't want risk that happening either.

The 7th Division was out of the question too because they weren't strong enough. Ekubo? Teru hadn't seen him in long time. The only person that left was Shou. Teru barely knew him and they had only shared a couple of words between them. But apparently he had grown up around the Super Five... So who would know Shimazaki better than Shou? Moreover he was around when Suzuki had been arrested, so maybe Shou might know someone who could help against powerful espers.

Unfortunately Teru didn't know where Shou was right now. Serizawa or Ritsu might have a contact for him. But Teru would have to get it without raising any suspicion.

Back at home, Teru leapt to his balcony and walked inside. Behind him, the sun was rising, hidden behind thick clouds. A gust of wind passed, causing Teru shiver even more.

He glanced to his bed and sighed, annoyed. Of course Shimazaki had to roll over to Teru's side of bed and even take his blanket. And nothing had woken him up – not Teru's aura disappearing or its reappearing. He slept like the dead, not disturbed by anything. Teru could put a knife in his back and Shimazaki probably wouldn't notice. Teru could do that... and would, if the problem lying in his bed didn't get solved soon.

For now he had to contact Shou. Teru wondered if Ritsu was still asleep.

Teru's eyes shifted from the bed to the table and stopped at Shimazaki's mobile. Hanazawa had tried a couple of times to look through Shimazaki's phone, especially the contacts, but every time the older esper noticed too quickly and moved the mobile out of reach. Now Teru had a chance to see who Shimazaki was talking with so often. Maybe it would give a hint on how to get rid of him.

Teruki took one, two steps closer to the phone. Shimazaki was still asleep, and Hanazawa reached for the phone while watching the other esper closely. Shimazaki didn't move. He didn't even wake up at the sound of Teru unlocking the screen. Great.

First Teru would check the recent calls. He tightened his fingers around the mobile and prayed he would see someone else from the Super Five there; it would be easier for the boy to deal with that – he could hand them all over to the police.

He opened and frowned at the list of recent calls.

“Unknown number” was all over the list. Teru scrolled down and down and down... Unknown number, unknown number, unknown number... Almost as if Shimazaki hadn't spoken to anyone from his contacts. The times of calls were around the same as when Teru had heard Shimazaki talking with someone. And no outgoing calls. Damn.

Teru bit his lip and glanced at Shimazaki. With his free hand he used his abilities to bring a paper and pencil to him. He sat down and quickly took down any numbers and names that looked suspicious or useful. For a moment he considered deleting his contact. He wanted to, but he shouldn't leave any trace that he was in Shimazaki's phone.

He focused on his task, lost in browsing through the contacts. The surnames didn't mean anything to Teru, but most of them were on speed dials. That meant Shimazaki used them often. That meant they were important. And there was also Shou.

He was just rewriting last number, when Shimazaki rolled onto his back and sighed in his sleep. Teru glanced at the clock on the phone; it was nine in the morning. That was a good hour for Shimazaki to finally wake up and start living.

Carefully he placed the mobile on the table and turned to Shimazaki. He felt a prick of irritation at the rolled up sheets and pillows tucked against the wall. Add that to the fact that Shimazaki was taking up the whole bed, like it belonged to him. Teru wondered if Shimazaki might have done the same if Teru had stayed in the bed. If so – Hanazawa would have punched him and kicked him awake.

Shimazaki ran a hand through his hair, humming loudly. He was waking up slowly, maintaining his senses and ESP; days ago Teru figured out that the other esper needed some time to come back to reality from his sleep. And when Hanazawa was home, Shimazaki would always turn to him and say hoarsely:

“Good morning.”

It wasn't any different now. Teruki ignored the welcome and looked at the paper he was clenching in his hand. He would call Shou today. And maybe that was one of the last good morning's he would ever hear from Shimazaki.

Chapter Text

 Shou wasn’t picking up. Teru had tried to call him before and after dinner, all for nothing. He had even sent him a few messages, but he still hadn’t got any answer. It had made Teru wonder if Shimazaki even had the right number for Shou. Ahhh, he should have taken the contact from Ritsu, at least then Teru would be certain if he was being ignored or if Shou was busy.

Although, to be honest, Teru didn’t really want to see Ritsu. Last time they had spoken was three days after they had disbanded the Awakening Lab and they both had already been aloof… Which was quite unusual in their case; like they didn’t bond over all those lessons and fights with enemies.

Teru’s aversion to speaking with Ritsu was nothing compared to his aversion to living with Shimazaki. So he would have to do this, even if it meant leaving at a late hour.

“Leaving so soon?” asked Shimazaki, leaning against the door frame. Teru didn’t answer right away. He tied his shoes and got up. It wasn’t unusual for him to leave the apartment in the evenings, just to be away from Shimazaki, and he didn’t need to explain himself to anyone. Especially to this jerk.

“I have a date,” he lied instead. “I need to stay social, even if you keep pestering me.”

“A date. How adorable.” Shimazaki's voice dripped with sweet poison. Teru clenched his fingers around the doorknob.

He shouldn’t have said anything, he shouldn’t have said…

“Just watch out for yourself, Teru… And your friends.”

He wouldn’t let Shimazaki provoke him. Shimazaki was constantly prodding at Teru’s weak points and using words that could hurt him the most, raise the most fear. Most of their conversations came to this point – learn as much about Teru as Shimazaki could, and make a list of people that could be possible victims of Hanazawa’s mistake. The more he knew about Teru, the more Shimazaki could be certain the boy wouldn’t turn him over to the police. They both knew it. To protect people, Teru often lied about his life; about his parents – where they lived and worked – and Shimazaki had believed those. But it was harder to come up with fake stories about other Teru’s aspects of life – about school or his social life because Shimazaki could check on those things. But the Hanazawa parents were safe, and that was the most important for Teru.

He closed the door behind him, leaving without another word. He dialed Ritsu’s number. If Teru was lucky enough, maybe the younger Kageyama would pick up.

 

Ritsu did pick up and he agreed to see Teru, although reluctantly. Of course, Teru could get Shou’s number over the phone, but he would feel bad just calling after two weeks of giving no signs of life and asking right away about things that didn’t matter to their relationship. It didn’t seem right. Moreover, they had stuff they had to talk about. Hanazawa didn’t really know what exactly stuff. He knew he had done something that upset Ritsu and made him so aloof since last time they saw each other. Ritsu not saying what was wrong was unusual too, because Ritsu was honest (sometimes too honest) and had never seemed to hide his feelings before.

“Surprised you could slip out at such late hour.” Teru greeted Ritsu as he approached the swing occupied by Hanazawa. “Kicking this rebel phase?”

Ritsu shrugged and leaned his back against the frame of the swingset. He held Teru’s gaze and crossed his arms.

“So… What’s up?” Teru tried some small talk before asking about Shou.

“It's been a tiring week. And you?”

Such short answer wasn't like Ritsu. It’s not like Kageyama was the most talkative person days ago, but he was more friendly at least. Before he wouldn't just say the week had been tiring, he'd give reasons that had made it tiring. And Kageyama would normally be sighing, complaining, shaking his head. Now he stood beside Teru, completely unmoved, frowning like he didn’t want to be there.

“A tiring two and half weeks,” said Teru, fake smile on his face. He rubbed his neck. “Busy. I didn’t even have time to call you.”

“Same.”

“S–soooo I’ve heard there was a Culture Week… at your school...?” He frowned seeing Ritsu squinting. “How was it?”

“Wonderful.”

This whole small-talk thing was overwhelming Teru and made him want to shut up and never speak to Ritsu again. Why did he even bother? He should just take Shou’s number and then they both could go wherever they wanted to be instead.

“Uh, okay,” he muttered. “I need Suzuki’s phone number. Maybe you have it?”

Ritsu’s expression eased and the tension in his arms vanished, as if by magic.

“Suzuki?” he asked. “Yeah, I have it.” He patted his pockets, searching for his mobile. “You could have just asked me that over the phone, and not dragged me out in the middle of the night.”

“I needed a walk.”

“What do you need this number for? Did something bad happen?”

Teru took out his phone, carefully watching Ritsu. The change in his mood was so sudden, even though Teru had asked for a favor. Maybe Ritsu simply hated small talk too, or maybe he was just waiting for this meeting to end so he could go back home and rest after this tiring week (which probably wasn’t even as tiring as Teru’s.)

“Sorry, can you repeat that?” asked Hanazawa. He so caught up in his thoughts he hadn't been listening when Ritsu recited Suzuki's number. This overthinking would kill him one day.

He stared at the number he got from Ritsu and considered it. It was the same phone number he had taken from Shimazaki's mobile. That meant he met with Ritsu for nothing, and that Shou hadn’t picked up nor answered because he had reasons, and not because Teru had the wrong number. Okay, maybe Shou really was busy, and maybe he would call back soon. Teru had to wait, but impatience had been gnawing at him all day and he was starting to feel irritated.

“If it’s something urgent,” Ritsu spoke again. Teru looked at him carefully. "Suzuki is in Seasoning City right now.”

Teru held his breath and clenched his fingers around his phone. In Seasoning City? What luck!

“You can meet up with him,” Kageyama went on, “but I don’t know where he’s staying. I'm seeing him tomorrow, so you… you…”

He looked away from Hanazawa. The sand under his shoe crunched as he thoughtlessly drew zig zags on the ground.

“You can join us if you want.”

Relief and a beacon of hope. Teruki hid his face in his hands and sighed deeply. He couldn’t see the look Ritsu gave him – a bit worried and pretty confused.

“Are you alright?” asked Kageyama. Teru reflexively shook his head, but then nodded a few times, too energetically to call it honest. He put his hands down and even managed to smile.

“It would be great to go out together. Even if I eventually need to meet with Suzuki alone…”

Ritsu’s bad mood from earlier returned. Kageyama winced and crossed his arms again. Okay, fine, Teru got it. Ritsu was happier when a conversation wasn’t about him and Teru. Those conversations were usually bad news. Something somewhere had gone wrong and had hurt younger Kageyama. Teru quickly recalled all their last meetings, but couldn’t find any exact moment he had said anything amiss.

“Is anyone else invited?” Teru returned to a safer topic.

“Suzuki’s friends and my brother. Just espers hanging out.”

“Espers hanging out.”

He swallowed. He felt a little bitter he wasn’t invited. Maybe it had to do with how Teru wasn’t answering most of Kageyama brothers’ messages over the past few days.

“Where?” he asked.

He got the address and meeting time. And after that he didn’t know what to say next. But he knew that one day he would need to talk with Ritsu to learn what he was so upset about, what went wrong. Maybe not now, because Teru’s thoughts were too occupied with tomorrow’s meeting with Shou; and it was too late to start any new topic today anyway.

“Thanks,” he muttered. “See you tomorrow then?”

Ritsu only nodded and said reluctantly, “Goodnight, Hanazawa.” Teru stared at his back as he was walking away. For a moment he wanted to catch up to Ritsu and walk him home, to hear this “Goodnight, Hanazawa,” at the door and no sooner. That’s how it used to be – on the weekends they wandered around the city until late hours, and they said their goodbyes in front of Ritsu’s house. Now Teru got his “Goodnight, Hanazawa” in an overgrown park, in a forgotten playground.

Teru eventually got mad, and spent the next hour sitting in one place, wondering where the hell he had made a mistake.

***

While Teru was on his way back home, he hoped Shimazaki was already asleep. Teru didn’t really know what evening routine of the older esper kept – especially not what hour he went to bed, because it was always Teru who was the first one to end his day. Shimazaki didn’t look like someone who would stay up late… And whatever he was doing when Teru wasn’t around probably required him to be well-rested… also in case he needed to flee all of sudden.

That’s why Teru was surprised seeing Shimazaki still awake and in his daily clothes, even though it was midnight. Shimazaki stood on the balcony, his back to the door, holding a lit cigarette. He hadn’t even turned when Teru had shown up at the door.

Teru breathed slowly. He felt anger trying to take control over him – to push him to barge onto the balcony and throw a hook at this damn jerk. He clenched his teeth. How many times had he told Shimazaki to not to smoke here? Their neighbors were nosy, and would smell right away if someone smoked on the balcony. They had already asked Teru about this, and only by a miracle, had he managed to avoid answering. Shimazaki didn’t care, of course.

Shimazaki seemed like he felt Teru’s anger – he rubbed his neck and took a lungful of smoke, stubbornly not turning to Hanazawa. His arms tensed as if he was waiting for a confrontation.

“Third time this week,” thought Teru making his way to the balcony. He tried to walk calmly, even though his anger was telling him to RUN, RUN! Kick in the door, grab this jerk by his rags and throw him over the railing and…!

“Welcome back,” greeted Shimazaki when Teru stopped beside him. He was just finishing the cigarette, but his other hand was reaching for a pack in his pants pocket.

“I told you not to…”

“Yeah, yeah, leave it. Oh, unless maybe you just want one too?”

And he held the pack to Teru. Hanazawa eyed the cigarettes, then glared at Shimazaki, clenched his fists. This. Fucking. Jerk.

He took a swing trying to grab the pack. Shimazaki was faster; he pulled it back, far from Teru’s reach, and smiled mockingly.

“A ‘no’ would've been enough,” he said and took out another cigarette. Before he could put it between his lips, Teru jumped at him and tried to snatch it. Hanazawa wasn’t fully aware of what he was doing. The anger took its lead and clouded all reasonable thinking. The fog cleared a half a second too late. Shimazaki caught Teru’s arm.

A tug.

A gasp.

After a second Teru was surrounded by the stench of something burning. Smoke filled the air.

“Hey!” yelled Teru. He struggled with Shimazaki’s hold, and took a step back. His one foot landed in the air and he lost his balance, tilted to one side, almost falling into clouds of smoke and stench. Shimazaki held him firmly and helped him regain his footing.

“Easy, Teru,” he said.

Teru looked around confused. The city stretched on the horizon, and the nearest surroundings were lit up by factory lighting. The espers stood on the edge of a dozen floor's high chimney.

“Are you nuts?!” Teru glared at Shimazaki again. Almost always when their brawls had started to get outta control, Shimazaki had teleported them both out of the city, so they could “talk it out” without the neighbors hearing anything. And the places where they had been fighting up until now was always neutral... But now? The top of the chimney was another story; here Shimazaki had an advantage.

Teru tried to yank his hand out of Shimazaki’s grip.

“Let go!”

“One moment.”

Shimazaki twisted Teru’s hands to his back, holding him fast, so Hanazawa wouldn’t slip on the spin; he turned them both to face the flue and tilted Teru slightly forward.

Teru gasped. He stared with horror into the dark abyss, where he saw no bottom. Only Shimazaki’s hands – one gripping Teru’s both wrists, the other holding him by his t–shirt – kept him from falling down.

“Breathe some fresh smoke. Maybe then it won’t bother you at home,” hissed Shimazaki. Teru reflexively took a breath. He smelled the stench of burning… wood? Plastic? He couldn’t even recognize it.

“Shimazaki, that’s not funny,” Teru growled. He tried to stay still; his feet were on the edge of the chimney, one wrong move and even Shimazaki wouldn’t be able to help him. He swallowed and closed his eyes tight. The smoke stung. “You know that neighbors…”

“Oh, yes, that’s not important. We have another small problem.”

The hold on the t–shirt disappeared, and Teru though he would start falling. But Shimazaki put his free hand around Hanazawa’s waist and leaned forward, pressing Teru’s back to his chest.

Teru flinched at this. Then he felt Shimazaki’s warm breath on his neck and froze. He couldn’t say anything – all words stuck in his throat, as if in fear that something would stir the older esper up even more.

“I wanted to ask you about that in a more friendly way, but I see you are in a fighting mood today,” explained Shimazaki. “It would be a shame to not to jump at the chance.”

A quiet “Mh…” was the only sound that left Teru.

“Tell me, little Teru, what did you want from Suzuki Shou?”

Fear clutched Hanazawa’s heart. How did Shimazaki know? Had he spied on Teru? Or eavesdropped? But Teru wasn’t even talking with Shou, he was just messaging him, that’s all! And he even kept the mobile near him, so Shimazaki couldn’t have checked it in any way. Also, Shimazaki hadn’t been nearby when Hanazawa had met with Ritsu; Teru hadn’t felt his aura. So how the hell did this damn Claw’s esper know…?!

“I–I don’t know what do you mean,” Teru whispered. He tried to lie. Up until now, he was pretty good at lying to Shimazaki, but right now he didn’t know where the other esper got his information. So Teru didn’t know where to start his fake stories... But trying wouldn’t hurt. Probably.

“Oh, yes, you do,” Shimazaki chuckled, although it was a forced laugh, and that paralyzed Teru even more. Until today Shimazaki during their fights was, of course, aggressive, but also annoying – he was taunting, yelling, goading. Now he was scary and threatening for the first time in the past three weeks.

“I–I really want to know,” Teru stammered.

“Don’t talk to me like I'm an idiot, boy, because I’m not the one standing on the edge, at the mercy of a… Hmm…”

“Freak,” Teru said with shaking voice.

“Freak, okay. So?”

“Why do you think it has something to do with you? He’s an esper, I’m an esper. I think it’s normal I want to know other espers.”

The grip on Teru’s wrists loosened a bit. Shimazaki hummed thoughtfully and rested his cheek on top of Hanazawa’s head. When he spoke again, his voice was quiet and calm – too calm:

“'It’s Teruki Hanazawa. I’m sorry that I'm writing all of a sudden, but I need your help.'”

Teru’s first message to Shou. All thoughts and feelings left Hanazawa, leaving only confusion. How… how did he…?

“'Call me if you can',” Shimazaki kept on. It was the second message. After a while, there was another:

“'Sorry, maybe you don’t remember me. I was among other espers who fought with Claw.'”

He stopped and sighed lingeringly.

“You want me to go on?” he asked. “And maybe count all these times you tried to call him? Or maybe you could stop lying and making me look like an idiot.”

Teru didn’t even flinch.

“I’ll kill you,” he hissed.

“I’d love to see you try.”

And he would. Teru jerked with his arms; it didn’t free him from a firm grasp but distracted Shimazaki. Teru threw his head backwards into Shimazaki’s jaw. He heard an angry growl and curses and felt the grip loosen. The hand around his waist disappeared. A light push. And then he was falling.

In the very last second, he turned on his heel, facing Shimazaki. The darkness and smoke quickly surrounded Teru, the wind whistled in his ears. Hanazawa isolated himself from the world around him, and let the energy slide down his arms. It took him a second to target the other esper – Shimazaki was still standing on the top of the chimney. The whips of energy snapped and flew up, wrapped around the man’s legs. Teru tugged at them, pulling Shimazaki down with him.

He wasn’t sure if it was a good plan. But it was the only one Teru had managed to think up right now. Shimazaki could escape any time and Teru didn’t know if the teleportation would work on him too, considering they were connected with the gold chain of power.

A tug. The whips went loose. Shimazaki escaped, and Teru was still falling. Fuck.

A tug again, after a second. Shimazaki appeared just beside Teru and reached for his neck. They both gasped, choking on smoke.

Another tug and before Teru realized where he was – he was slammed into the ground. Shimazaki landed on top of him, his heavy body knocking the breath from Hanazawa’s lungs. He got up hastily and teleported a few steps away, bent over and coughing.

Teru tried to stop himself from a cough that was choking his lungs and bringing tears to his eyes. The view went blurry, but the boy recognized where they were – the light reflected by the moon illuminated their surroundings; forest, outside the town, remains of Claw's 7th Division facility – a common place where the two espers had fought.

“Damn brat,” Shimazaki coughed. He leaned with his arm on a ruined wall, hid in shadows, between stones and broken walls; shaken. Teru didn’t let him to recover – he jumped up and dashed at Shimazaki.

One, two, three steps further, he almost reached the man, grabbing one of the rods torn off a building on his way. Teru bounced off the ground aiming for Shimazaki’s back.

Shimazaki teleported away, far from the boy.

“Didn’t you want an explanation?” Shimazaki asked, still coughing.

No, he didn’t want any now, but he wouldn’t say that aloud. He was focused on getting Shimazaki.

And killing him.

Teru moved on with his next attack, lifting debris with his powers – rods and pieces of walls swinging in the air, waiting for Teru’s command. Teru flung the debris at Shimazaki, but he escaped again. If Shimazaki would just stay still, he would get stabbed and stoned to death.

Teru growled annoyed and turned just in time to notice Shimazaki behind him. He swung with the rod in his hand, aiming for his chest. Energy lit the lengths of the metal – the one rod held by Teru and those floating beside him. Shimazaki disappeared. The bars twisted through the air blindly, in various directions. Teru hoped at least one of them would hit.

A yelp and a furious cry filled the forest. He got him.

Teru looked around, but he couldn’t see Shimazaki. But the man was nearby, Teru sensed his aura.

“Show yourself,” he whispered walking along the wall. The rod was heavy in his hand, digging sharply into his skin, but he didn’t care. Just like he wasn’t aware of all the debris flying around him. The air was filled with energy that flicked against the wall, making holes and tearing away at the remaining paint.

Teru’s senses focused on searching the source Shimazaki’s aura – he tried to find him and also recognize condition he was in. It was hard; Shimazaki was teleporting every few breaths, each time maintaining a greater and greater distance from Teru.

“You said you’d like to see it!” yelled Teru. “Why are you hiding now?!”

He didn’t get any answer and it pissed him off even more. Shimazaki had been such tough guy, and now he was hiding and avoiding the fight.

“Show yourself!”

The air tensed.

There he was.

The air loosened up. Teru dodged in time – Shimazaki had jumped at him from above, trying to kick him to the ground. The he vanished, but not before Teru noticed the red covering chest and right arm.

“Did it hurt?” Teru asked, an ugly smile on his face. “DID IT HURT?!”

He turned on his heel, trying to jab with a hook. The other esper caught his arm. Teru blinked, surprised.

“Wanna see yourself?” asked Shimazaki before he seized the boy’s throat. He shoved him into the wall, Teru’s arm only missing a protruding rod by a millimeter.

Teru's head hit the wall so hard he saw stars. He couldn't recover before a heavy fist punched him in his guts. He choked. The next blow hit him in his jaw. Then the world fell quiet and vanished into the darkness.

When it returned, the first thing Teru heard was Shimazaki’s heavy breathing. The older esper held him by his t–shirt, his head low, almost leaning his forehead against Teru’s arm.

“Calm down,” he hissed. Teru didn’t want to listen. Shimazaki was right in front of him, alive, but hurt. He wouldn’t get away this time.

Teru raised his hand to hit again. Everything seemed to slow down; the power barely slid down his arm, but Shimazaki reacted quickly. He sighed and just when Teru wanted to attack, Shimazaki slammed him against the wall again.

A blow, light, warmth. That was all Teru noticed. Energy cascaded around his body and pulled away, swirling around the two espers. The grip on Hanazawa’s shirt didn’t loosen, but the boy heard a hiss and some curses. Something whistled, something snapped, something collapsed. Teru tried to look around. He didn’t see anything; a golden light filled his view, and Teru couldn’t get rid of it, no matter how hard he squeezed his eyes shut. With his heart pounding, he reached for the power wildly roaring around them. He tried to catch it and take control, but slid between his fingers, ignoring his commands.

“Calm down!” yelled Shimazaki. Teru clenched his teeth. Blindly, he found the other’s esper’s body with his hands and held it. He tried to anchor himself with something material, something that would help him to relate to the reality. He heard his shaken breath as he tried to calm down his nerves. The power didn’t vanish, it was still orbiting around, and kept destroying everything in its wake.

“Breathe, you brat!”

He was breathing, or at least he was trying to. Teru couldn’t take a deep breath; an unknown being was clenching its hands on Teru’s lungs, caused pain.

The power hissed and a fragile something that was too close cracked. Teru noticed a small chip, a tear that could be a hole in Shimazaki’s barrier. He heard another curse, and before he could do anything, he was punched in the jaw again.

The light was gone as if on command. Teru finally took a deep breath. He opened his eyes and looked at Shimazaki – covered in dirt and blood, as white as a sheet. Everything behind Shimazaki was lying flat – all the trees and walls that had stood firm before were now were on the ground, cracked, ruined.

Teru kept his hands on Shimazaki, one at his throat, the other squeezing his right arm, the exact place where he had a still bleeding wound.

“'The hell was that?” gasped Shimazaki. Teru tried to look around, but his body refused to move. And not because of anger; that feeling had left him. He couldn’t figure it out.

“I don’t know,” he whispered. He had never lost control of his powers before, so he didn’t know how to explain that. He was scared, but also excited, because he had managed to break Shimazaki’s barrier without using a distraction. That was something new.

“You really tried to kill me,” Shimazaki went on. “A–are you... what the fu…”

“Are you joking?” Teru snapped. “You started it all. You. Started. It.” His gripped Shimazaki’s arm harder; that was all he could do for now. The Claw esper hissed, and his knees buckled. His free hand grabbed Teru’s wrist.

“Did you really think I would let you fall? After you asked someone for help? I told you I’m not an idiot.”

“How did you know?”

“By accident. We were checking all the people that could be after us. We checked Suzuki, not you.”

A strange excuse. It seemed that Shimazaki wasn’t afraid of Teru or the possibility of being handed over to the police, not even a little. He was so certain of Teru’s cooperation because he had his family and friends on his mercy. He was more afraid of Shou than Teru, even though Hanazawa could easily beat him if he had a support.

Hah! Even now he had beaten him… Kinda. It was a draw – Shimazaki was hurt, but he could still fight, and Teru couldn’t move, but he didn’t feel hurt or tired.

(But why he couldn’t move? Teru wondered. Was it because he overdid his powers or he lost the control? It was dangerous, he would need to careful.)

“You tried to kill me,” Shimazaki repeated in disbelief.

“When are you leaving?”

No answer.

“You can find another place to stay, that’s not even a problem!” said Teru. “There are lots of apartments empty because people are moving away from the city. You can even fly to other country… Hah, or a continent! But for some messed up reasons, you decided to stay and wreck my life!"

Shimazaki chuckled and rested his forehead on Teru’s arm, hiding his smile in a shadow. He fell silent, and Teru didn’t say a word, waiting for any other reaction from him. He wanted to know a reason, even the stupidest one, why the hell Claw’s esper had stuck to him.

The dust that had been raised during the fight finally settled, and they both didn’t move, until Teru clenched his fingers in Shimazaki’s wound again. Finally, the man spoke:

“Do you really think I like it…?” he started bitterly. He sighed, and spoke again, calmly now. “Maybe I don’t like being alone. Maybe I like having a company.”

“That’s a stupid reason.”

“Said by someone who lives alone for… how long? Nevermind. You live alone, but you like having people around you. You know how I feel.”

Teru knew, but he would never ever say it aloud.

Shimazaki took his hands off the boy; Teru removed his hands as well. He finally regained control over his body, although every move was heavy.

“Give me two weeks,” said Shimazaki. “We’re almost done with our preparations.”

“Two weeks and no longer.”

Shimazaki nodded and extended his hand to Teru, offering to teleport them back to home. When they returned, they landed on the balcony.

“Don’t you dare smoke here,” said Teru. “Don’t… don’t smoke anywhere. Quit smoking.”

Shimazaki nodded again, probably as a reflex. They went inside. It was three in the morning. 

Chapter Text

Teruki could read between the lines. It helped him maintain his with relationships his peers. Boys were straightforward and simple, and no one had to strain their brain to understand what they meant. But girls... It’s not like Teru thought girls were complicated, no; maybe they were just too shy and it wasn’t often they said their real thoughts aloud. For example, instead of just saying “No” maybe because they were scared of Teru laughing at them, girls made up various excuses for not going on dates. Teru never tried to find out if the excuses had been true or not – by reading between the lines he had saved a lot of time and energy. He had just chosen the best and the most comfortable solution and had moved on.

Dealing with adults was a different story, and Teru had less patience there. Hypothetically, the adults should be more honest and less afraid of saying their thoughts. And yet something stopped adults from doing so. And when Teru had made up his own assumptions in place of the truth, these adults had got angry, because that wasn’t what they had meant.

Theoretically, Shimazaki was easy to read – a jerk who would stab you in the heart whenever possible, looking for fun anywhere he could, hard to throw off his balance, hated losing. He said what he thought and wasn’t afraid of other people’s opinions.

And that’s what Teru had thought – up until a day ago. Shimazaki saying 'Maybe I don’t like being alone' had changed everything. Now Teru wasn’t sure if Shimazaki had been honest or had just tried to play with Hanazawa’s feelings or put Teru's suspicions to bed. Truth to be told, Teru shouldn’t care – Shimazaki would eventually have to leave and take responsibility for his actions as a Claw member.

Two weeks. Shimazaki would leave in two weeks unless Teru could find another way to get rid of him. Either way, he couldn’t wait until it was finally over; when he could come back home, not afraid of someone waiting for him. And he would happily welcome the loneliness and the burden of cooking these damn dinners for himself.

Although Shimazaki cooked quite well.

“Hm? Hanazawa?”

Teru flinched and looked at the older Kageyama brother sitting beside him. Their whole group had rented a karaoke box for the afternoon, and Shou was singing – or rather yelling – one of the songs, while his three friends were talking with Ritsu about some boring stuff. Teru was holding the second microphone and, as he just noticed, had almost broken it, clenching his fingers too hard around the plastic, his psychic energy wildly sparking around.

“I got lost in my thoughts,” he said with a smile. “Sorry. Did you say something?”

Kageyama lowered his gaze and swirled the water in the glass he was holding.

“Only that I’m happy you finally talked to us,” he said. “It was so hard to convince you to meet with us lately.”

Teru felt warmth slowly creeping up his neck and ears. He swallowed and moved his gaze to Shou, who was squealing a high note.

“Y-yeah.” Teru nodded. He had deliberately ignored most of the messages from Reigen and the Kageyama brothers, especially those asking to meet up. He didn’t feel like seeing anyone; he wanted to get rid Shimazaki before he started living his full life again.

“I had a few problems,” he said. Shigeo and Ritsu deserved an explanation – or at least part of one. Or half-truths. Anything.

“But it’s better now,” Teru went on. “Now I just need to catch up.”

Shigeo answered with only a short hum. He didn’t question anything, so it seemed this version of Teru’s story was enough for him. Teru inwardly breathed a sigh of relief. The conversation with Ritsu would be much more difficult, but it would happen later – after Teru’s talk with Shou or maybe even after Shimazaki left his apartment. The second option was more likely only because it would let Teru focus on fixing whatever he – or Ritsu – had messed up between them.

Unconsciously he was staring at Ritsu. He only noticed it when the younger Kageyama had caught his gaze and frowned in a silent question. Teru opened his mouth to say something when suddenly Shigeo said:

“You've changed.”

“Huh?” was a surprised reply from Teruki. Shou had just finished singing and was reaching for the remote, but he stopped and stared at Hanazawa, just like his friends and Ritsu.

“These two last weeks must have been really tough,” Shigeo continued, his voice quieter. “You were always... radiating happiness and so confident, talkative... Now you’re barely saying a word and you're lost in your thoughts. I... I hope we'll get the good old Hanazawa back soon.” He glanced at Teru from the corner of his eye and smiled slightly.

'Good old Hanazawa.' Teru tried to recall what the 'recent Hanazawa' was like for the others. He hadn't even noticed that he had changed. But it was true. Now he wasn't shining among people like the popular guy he used to be, yeah... To be honest, he avoided his friends too. Not only because he didn't want to risk their lives, but because arguing and dealing with Shimazaki had left Teru worn out.

“The 'good old Hanazawa' will be back soon, don't worry,” Teru said. “I miss him too.” Teru tried to smile all the time, no matter how much his smile was fake or tired. Fake it 'till you make it, or at least until Kageyama stopped worrying.

“Are you gonna use that or...?” Ootsuki asked, nodding towards the microphone. Teruki handed it over; the second one was now in Fukuda's hands. They choose a song while Shou said he was going to find something to drink. Without a second thought, Teru ran after him. It was the only chance he could talk with Suzuki alone and he didn't want to waste it.

“Shimazaki is in my house and I need your help to get rid of him,” was a really good opening line. Straightforward and on topic. Teru could start their conversation with that, but an unexplainable hunch stopped him – it tugged his heart when he wanted to speak. Teru bit his tongue; he had learned well to trust his hunches.

“You afraid I'd get lost?” asked Shou when they stood beside the drink dispensers. “You didn’t even touch your coke, and we've been here for two hours already. You...” He tilted his head. “Really lost contact with the world. You weren’t like that in Ritsu’s stories.”

Ritsu had been talking about Teru. For a short moment, Hanazawa’s heart felt lighter, and he felt a little better. But he couldn’t let himself to think about it for longer.

“Did you get my texts?”

Shou frowned and looked around.

“I don’t like questions like that.”

Teru wrung his hands.

“Those kinds of questions always mean I’ve got this one dude on my tail,” said Shou. “And it seems we have a similar situation here.”

Teru sighed with relief and rubbed his eyes. He didn’t know Shou that well, so he thought that Shou might have a negative attitude towards him. But it turned out they had a similar problem.

“That’s what I wanted to talk about,” Teru muttered. “Among other things.”

“Turn off your phone.”

“Wha…”

“Just turn it off. And pull out the sim card, for a good measure.”

There was nothing to question, although the request was uncommon. Still, if someone could read the texts Teru had sent to Shou, they might be able to intercept the conversation right now.

He froze when he noticed his phone was on a call with an unknown number. He looked up at Shou, who was staring unimpressed at the screen, hands in his pockets like he was used to being intercepted.

Shou leaned towards the phone and, not caring about the dozens of people around, yelled:

“Hatori, you dipshit!”

His face remained passive, calm, but his aura burst around them, riled-up and sliding across the ceiling.

The sound of the call ending surprised Teru. Hanazawa looked at his phone, then at Shou again. His aura had calmed down fast.

“What the hell?” Teru hissed.

“Hatori Nozomu. One of two of the Super Five the government can’t find.”

“Yeah, I figured." At Teru's reply, Shou cocked his head and raised his eyebrows. "Uh, I mean…”

Teru did some very fast thinking.

“I’ve heard the police are looking for him, I saw it the news.” He put his phone on the table, after turning it off and pulling out the sim card. Occasionally he glanced at it to make sure it wasn’t on the line again. “How is he doing that, by the way?”

“He can manipulate electronics. He hijacked the tv signal back then, so intercepting texts and doing these sort of things,” Shou nodded at the phone. “Aren’t any problem for him… Aaand that’s why he’s so hard to find because he knows where they're looking for him.”

Teru hummed and looked around, noting all the people who probably had their phones with them. Hatori could hack them too… Teru and Shou could still be bugged.

“So, you tried to reach me and now Hatori was bugging us,” said Shou squinted suspiciously at Teru. His aura was still calm, although it was circling leisurely, carefully, like an animal of prey waiting for a good moment to attack.

Shou wanted explanations. Teru swallowed. Here we go.

“Shimazaki is living with me,” he began. “For almost three weeks.”

He crossed his arms over his chest and looked out the window, suddenly feeling silly for not searching for help earlier. Suzuki opened his mouth to say something, but Hanazawa didn’t let him interrupt.

“I couldn’t ask anyone for help because he was… threatening he would do something to my parents. And… I tried to get rid of him alone, but,” he continued bitterly, “I couldn’t manage it. Now… Now I don’t even want to think what he'll do if Hatori tells him we met. They must still be in touch and because Shimazaki knows I tried to reach you earlier.”

“Dude,” Shou whispered and took a step towards Teru. He started to reach out to grab Teru's arms, but stopped himself. “We totally need to do something about that. Joseph has been looking for them for… yeah, almost three weeks!”

Joseph. Teru had never heard this name. He hoped it was someone strong enough to catch Shimazaki.

“He is from the government,” explained Shou. “He looks after Serizawa, Minegishi, Shibata and… well…” he winced. “After my pop too. Though he's in the jail and the Super Five is as free as wild pigs.”

“Isn’t that weird?”

“That they didn’t put the Super Five in the prison? If you ask me, yeah. But I won’t question Joseph’s decision. I guess he knows what he’s doing.”

“He won’t make a difference with Hatori and Shimazaki,” muttered Teru, anxiously rubbing his arm. Unwittingly he pressed down on one of the bruises from yesterday’s fight. “He just wants to keep an eye on them? And he’ll let Shimazaki and Hatori go, even though they kidnapped the prime minister and tried to take over the world?”

“Dunno, maybe." Shou shrugged. "It may be a little different with Shimazaki, because the whole country saw the kidnapping, there are videos of it all over the web. If he could find a job after that, you'd call him a lucky guy.”

“Well, he could always apply to the yakuza,” thought Teru. For a moment he considered suggesting Shimazaki talk to Joseph; he could always teleport away if something went wrong, right? Besides, now that Shou knew Shimazaki was staying at Teru’s place, he would be on the government’s radar soon. Killing Hanazawa or his family wouldn’t improve his situation at all.

Although that didn’t mean he wouldn’t hurt anyone…

“Meet with Joseph,” said Shou. “We’ll see what he says. I’ll contact you with him and… If you need my help, I’m here.”

“To be honest, I thought maybe you’d come help me kick him out. I’ve been dealing with this jerk for almost three weeks, and now he knows I met you. I bet we’ll have a fight again soon.”

“An afterparty?” Shou suggested.

“What?”

“Or a pajama party! We’ll all come over and if he doesn't get scared off, all…” he quickly counted the number of espers, “seven of us will kick his ass. Have you ever had eight espers at your place?”

“But it’s Monday tomorrow.”

“Yeah, and? Is that a bigger problem than some asshole sleeping at your…” Shou stopped. He squinted and leaned towards Teru. “Ritsu said you live alone. That means… you only have one bed.”

“Stop it,” snapped Teru. The warmness crept up his neck and ears. He hoped he wasn’t blushing. However it sounded, sharing a bed with Shimazaki was the worst part of living with him.

“Oh my god, you can’t even jerk off!” gasped Shou theatrically.

“Exactly. The most important problem of teen's life,” thought Teru sarcastically. He rolled his eyes. He didn’t feel like laughing, but he managed a forced smile.

“I still have a bathroom, so despite appearances, I do have some privacy,” he explained. But he kept to himself the fact that since Shimazaki moved in, Teru had been too stressed out to think about anyone like that.

“What do you think?” asked Shou. “We have the room only for one more hour and we've got nothing to do later anyway.”

No matter if Teru agreed or not – in both cases he had just as much to lose. He thought briefly about his parents; he had texted them this morning, just after Shimazaki had left, but he would need to check on them later too. Teru had lied about where they lived and worked, but he was still anxious about their lives.

“We’ll buy something to eat on the way,” he decided.

If he was home now, Shimazaki would run away before they encountered him, Hanazawa was certain of that.

***

Of course, Shimazaki wasn’t home when Teru and other espers got to Hanazawa’s place. There was no sign of Shimazaki or his aura. Probably he hadn't come back after he left in the morning.

Teru hadn’t told the others about Shimazaki. He had planned to tell them when they reached the building where Teru lived, so not to cause a panic earlier. Now Teru changed his plans. If Shimazaki wasn’t home, Hanazawa could spend some fun time with his guests, and worry about the jerk later. Shimazaki probably wouldn’t appear suddenly in the apartment, since he would feel the auras of the other espers, the older Kageyama’s especially… So Teru had time.

“The more people know, the better,” Teru thought as he was pulling out plates from a cupboard. The rest of the espers took up the bed and floor; Ritsu and Suzuki looked through the console games and shouted over themselves trying to pick one. Teru didn’t mind the noise, still lost in his thoughts:

“And now there’s no difference if only Suzuki knew or the others know too. I ratted him.”

He was setting down the glasses when he heard the older Kageyama entering the kitchen.

“You need help?”

“No, it’s okay," Teru replied. "Sorry for the mess, but I had other things on my mind, and this whole so-called after party was so spontaneous and…”

He turned to Shigeo and paused. Kageyama was looking meaningfully at the table behind Teru. Teru held his breath. He was surrounded by the auras of seven other espers, so lost in setting things up that he might not have even noticed if Shimazaki had showed up suddenly. If this jerk was just sitting at the table as if nothing…

“You smoke?” asked Shigeo quietly.

Teru sighed with relief. He glanced at the table and winced, seeing a cigarette pack lying there.

“Sometimes,” he replied. “Leftovers from old times when I was, you know, a delinquent. Smoked to show off.”

He didn’t know why he had lied... The espers would learn about Shimazaki sooner or later anyway. Maybe lying about Shimazaki had become a habit of Teru's, one that might stay long after the older esper moved out.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t believe you,” said Kageyama.

Oh, thank god.

“My lies have lost their quality?” asked Teru with a forced smile, too common lately.

“No, I don’t think so. It’s just… Smoking doesn’t fit you. You look like you would prefer perfumes over some smoke’s stink." Shigeo was thoughtful. "It’s more like a higher standard of presenting yourself… I think.”

Oh. That was nice. And it was nice to hear such flattering words from a rival.

“Can I ask you something?” Teru asked rhetorically; he didn’t need the quiet “mhm” that Shigeo had murmured. “What do you think about the espers from the Super Five and their lives now?”

Luckily Kageyama easily took the bait of a new topic. He shuffled his feet and stared at the wall with a louder “hmm.”

“They’re better people now,” he answered after a moment. Teru had assumed an answer like that.

“You said once that Serizawa was manipulated and used,” Teru said. “And that would explain why he didn’t go to the jail like his boss. But how about the other two? Mine… Uh…”

“Minegishi.”

“I will never remember his name. And the other one, this huge dude," Teru began slowly. "They knew what they were doing this whole time they were in Claw. But still, they escaped punishment.”

“You think so?”

Teru crossed his arms over his chest and leaned his hip against the cupboards. Shigeo stared at something behind Hanazawa. The game’s music came from the other room, apparently Ritsu and Suzuki picked a racing game. Higashio, Ootsuki, and Fukuda were cheering for both of them.

“Of course they did,” Teru snarled. “Are they in a jail? No, they’re free like they did nothing wrong. That’s unfair. No one deserves easy redemption if they were aware of what they were doing and they hurt a lot of innocent people.”

In a second, Kageyama looked at Teru. Something had changed in him, he was frowning slightly, with his lips shut tight.

“No one?” Shigeo whispered after a moment.

Teru felt smaller. Small and weak, just like he had felt a few months ago, standing in the ruined walls of his school. And just now he noticed that in some ways he wasn’t really different from Shimazaki and other espers from the Super Five.

“They have to live with the burden of their pasts, trying to be better people now,” said Kageyama. “Isn’t that enough?”

Teru couldn’t agree. But if he wanted a harsher punishment for the Super Five, he would have to be punished too. He couldn’t be a hypocrite; he shouldn’t – he was a better man now after all.

Teru nodded and said a short “you’re right,” just to drop the subject. They went back to the other espers. Teru decided to not to say anything about Shimazaki yet. He wanted to talk with him himself first.

***

Shou and the others left, and still Shimazaki hadn’t come back. Teru peeked at the clock every couple minutes while talking with his mother on the phone. Mrs. Hanazawa talked about New Year plans, even though it was barely the end of October. Teruki listened to everything carefully, content that his parents were safe.

And surprisingly, his heart wasn’t squeezed with any unpleasant feelings or hunches. He wasn’t stressed or afraid, but rather calm compared to how he had felt over the last few days. Nothing would happen soon, Shimazaki couldn’t do anything to him.

Teru started to become stressed out because he was too calm. He growled irritably.

“What happened?” asked Mrs. Hanazawa.

“I forgot to do something for school.”

They ended the call. Teru threw his phone on the mattress and hid his face in his hands.

It was ten o’clock and Shimazaki still wasn’t home. Earlier this morning, when he teleported them to the apartment after the fight, he had disappeared shortly afterwards. He had come back after four hours just to change his clothes, before leaving again. Since then Teru hadn't felt his aura or heard from him.

Of course, Shimazaki disappearing was common, but the other times before he left he would say something like “I’ll be back.” This time he hadn't said anything.

Teru went to bed. He slept well, and nothing woke him up at three in the damn morning.

***

When his alarm rang a few hours later, Teru rolled onto his side and noticed that Shimazaki was still gone. The cigarettes in the kitchen were untouched since yesterday, but his clothes were still in the closet.

Teru was alone, at least for now.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

This day was strange; it was way too calm in comparison to the last two and half weeks. When Teru had spoken with his friends, he didn't have to lie about his after-school plans. Before today he had to come up with the most boring activities he had supposedly planned, so people wouldn’t want to accompany him… And the reason for this deception? Always the same – he didn't want Shimazaki to see Teru with any of his friends. But now Hanazawa could meet with anyone, anywhere, and do with them whatever he wanted – even go on dates or invite them home. Shimazaki was done, and no threats would change that. With a little luck, Shimazaki was aware of that.

Shimazaki hadn't given Teru any sign of life the whole day – no calling or texting with shopping lists or questions about whatever. Complete silence. Like he didn’t exist. It had never happened before. The only texts Teru got were from his parents and Shou. The one from Suzuki was what had interested him the most.

All it said was “Café Café Café 5.” Teru knew right away what it meant: Joseph would be waiting for him in that café at exactly five o’clock in the afternoon. Teru knew this place was on the other side of the city, and to get there on time after school, he would need to take a taxi or use his powers.

And even though he saved some money these past few weeks, it was hard for him to say goodbye to extra cash. So no taxi.

Speaking of money, Teru would need to buy something for dinner. The fridge was terrifying in its emptiness and there was nothing decent to eat. The question was, should Teru buy something for Shimazaki too? He didn't consider that for very long, only on his way to the café, before he decided he would live like Shimazaki wasn’t part of his life anymore.

“Good riddance,” he thought, dashing from one roof to another. It was a bit before five o’clock when he approached where he was supposed to meet Joseph, so he wouldn’t be late or miss the man. From what Shou had said, Joseph should be easy to recognize – a light haired European, with a cigarette practically glued to his lips.

Teru landed on the pavement near the café. He ran a hand through his hair, which had grown out enough to remind Teru to dye it again soon. Seriously, this whole living with Shimazaki had been too much for him; Teru hadn’t even had time to take care of himself.

The name “Café Café Café” stretched out over the whole wall of the building, which was a few windows wide. Teru glanced skeptically at the scraped walls and falling plaster. The cafe didn’t look inviting, but unfamiliar psychic aura coming from inside told Hanazawa he was in the right place. He went inside and had to immediately step back and cover his nose with his jacket sleeve, as he was overwhelmed with the sudden stink of smoke. He was so nauseous he almost left, but he eventually powered through it and stepped into the dark and stinky room.

Teru glanced at the people sitting at the tables around him; a few of them looked at him too, but didn’t show much interest before going back to their business. Teru didn’t see anyone who might look like Joseph. Maybe the aura he had felt from outside wasn’t his? It could always be another random esper.

Trying not to draw any more attention, Teru approached the counter and ordered a tea. Then he took a place at a table in the corner, so he would have a better view of the whole room.

He didn’t exactly fit in. He was a kid in a place normally preferred by adults. Most people were smoking cigarettes and there was alcohol on the menu. Teru didn’t see anyone his age. He shouldn’t be here, he was certain of that. But, well, he wasn’t the one who had picked this place, so no one could fault him for that.

A waitress brought the tea just as Teru sent another text to his parents. He thanked her, added sweetener to the drink and put it aside. It was five past five. He would wait until Joseph finally showed up. And if the man didn't come – Teru would find Shou and kick his ass for wasting his time on his first day of freedom.

“You've never asked about the weather here before,” Teru read the message from his mom. “Are you alright, sweetheart?”

He felt silly for looking for a reason to text his parents. Almost like he was paranoid something had happened to them. The over twenty messages he had sent since this morning proved very well that he was on edge.

   “ Shimazaki wouldn’t hurt them ,” said a voice in his head, reasonable maybe.

         “ But what if he did? ” asked the other voices, more paranoid.

   “ It would be a stupid move.

         “ But you would learn a lesson.

“Are you Teru?”

Teruki jumped, suddenly hearing a voice near him. He looked up. Next to his table stood Joseph, or someone Hanazawa rightly concluded to be Joesph from his bright hair, European features, and a cig between his lips. Everything fit. His aura was strange, it made Teru think of a sticky smoke that clung to his senses and confused him.

Joseph sat across from Teru and tapped the ashes off his cigarette.

“Who’s the other esper here?” asked Teru. He had tried to identify the person in the cafe with that unfamiliar aura before, but he had failed, although he had looked over the other people in the cafe a few times.

“My friend,” muttered Joseph. “Don’t mind him. Young Suzuki said you wanted to talk with me. I hope you aren’t wasting my time.”

“And I hope you aren’t wasting my time and can help me somehow,” Teru snapped. Joseph let out a puff of smoke and squinted at him. Hanazawa held his gaze, although Joseph’s cigarette stank worse than the other smells around them. Teru suppressed a cough.

“I’ve heard you’re the one who’s keeping an eye on the espers from Claw. Especially on the Super Five,” he said. “Is that true?”

“Maybe.”

“Um… Okay. Yeah. So. Shimazaki, Ryou Shimazaki, was living with me for the past two weeks. And this whole time he was in touch with Hatori. I know you are looking for them.”

Joseph leaned forward, interested.

“Hmmm… Was living? But not anymore? You sheltered a terrorist? How lovely.”

Teru shook his head. He took his cup in his hands and began explaining.

***

That evening, Teru hadn’t been able to cook dinner. He had talked with Joseph for so long, it was too late to go to the grocery store, let alone prepare anything. So he had to order take-out again.

“This is the last time,” he said to himself for the third time this week. Take-out was an easy alternative for when Teru or Shimazaki had been too lazy to cook anything themselves. But for those last few weeks, it had been Shimazaki who had always paid for food. And starting today it was on Teru… Too bad, especially if he wanted to save money.

Teru sat on his bed, munching on rice and staring at the TV. There was a drama quietly airing in the background as he was recalled his earlier conversation with Joseph.

The man had heard Teru’s whole story and – thank God – offered to help, but only after some negotiations, and thinking up a plan with the other espers from the government. If Shimazaki returned, Teru was supposed to contact Joesph at once. Teru trusted him, of course, he did. Joseph was kinda abrupt and straightforward, but in Hanazawa’s eyes, that was to his advantage; he hadn’t cried over Teru’s life or played the role of a kind adult who had to help a kid. And Joesph knew who he was fighting – he hadn’t been even a little surprised when Teru had spoken about all of Shimazaki’s skills. Well, Joseph reportedly had been a spy snooping on Claw, so that would explain a lot.

DING! A text.

Teru grabbed his phone. His heart skipped a beat when he saw Ritsu’s name on the screen.

 “They said there are nice views from the Whale,” said the message.

He didn’t know he was smiling as he pressed the phone to his chest. He wanted to squeal.

The Whale, that was the name of place outside of town – a small hill with a gentle slope on one side, and a steep drop on the other. That’s where most people went when they wanted to have a picnic or just meet outdoors.

And Ritsu, with his typical grace, had suggested a meeting. Or a date. It was a good day, a good day.

Teru answered immediately:

 “On bikes? Tomorrow?”

“If you pick me up after the student council meeting. And if you bring something to eat. I’ll be starving.”

It sounded like a one on one, but Teru wanted to be sure:

 “Only us or are you taking your friends too?”

“..........you want me to invite someone else?”

“NO NONONO”

“Good.”

He didn’t know how to answer so he left it at that. He finished his meal and rushed to the bathroom to wash off the hair dye he had left setting in his hair earlier. Ritsu, Ritsu, Ritsu – echoed in Teru’s head. They would finally talk and clear everything up. And maybe they would date for real. A first date, a second, a third, mom, dad, this is Ritsu .

He was so distracted in his daydreaming, he almost bumped into a cabinet, as he was drying his hair with a towel. And he and nearly fell on the ground when he jumped happily and slipped on the tiles. One more mistake and Teru would probably break his neck. He had to calm down, to direct his energy somewhere else, do something useful. Laundry!

He dived into the laundry bin and started sorting the darks from the lights. During the sorting, he was lost in thought about his outfit for tomorrow. Would he even have time to go back home after classes to change AND make them something to eat (or buy a take-out again? Ugh.) Hmm, maybe he would make bentos in the morning and ride to the school on his bike, without going back home after classes… Well, he looked good in his school uniform, right? Yeah, he looked good in anything, so he didn’t have to waste time going home. He could pick up Ritsu, without a fear of being late and…

The air around him tensed, and fear grasped Teru’s heart. The apartment flooded with Shimazaki’s aura.

Teru heard quick footsteps approaching the bathroom. He straightened and clenched his hands around the laundry basket. His heart was racing, the world spun. No, no, no, goddamnit, no! This jerk was back, he was here, and he was probably pissed off. Teru could say bye to the date. Hah, bye to his life! Teru couldn’t even call for help – he'd left his phone in the bedroom, and between it and Teru was Shimazaki.

The footsteps stopped. Neither of the espers moved for a couple of breaths.

“Teru?” Hanazawa heard. He blinked.

“No, it's Santa Claus.”

Silence.

“So can I sit on your lap?” Shimazaki asked.

What the hell?

“Forget it," Teru snapped. "You were mean.”

“Damn. Hey, um, I need to take a shower. Are you done in there?”

Teru looked at the basket, then at the door. He had finished sorting, so yeah, he was done. But that meant, he would have to face Shimazaki, and he wasn’t ready for that.

When was the last time he had messaged his parents? Why did Shimazaki want to take this shower so urgently? Was he covered in someone’s blood?

“Why?” asked Teru.

“What's with that ‘why’?”

“Why do you need to take a shower?”

Shimazaki answered him with an impatient sigh and then:

“Because I stink. And I’m dirty.”

“Of blood?”

“Luckily no. I was careful when I was cutting this guy’s head off so not to make a mess.”

Teru knew that was a sarcasm, but it only made his mood worse. Until now this Monday had been okay. Too okay. Teru should have known that sooner or later something would ruin it.

He looked around, seeking possible weapons. If they started fighting, he could throw everything that was in here – cosmetics, clothes, accessories – at Shimazaki to divert his attention and run for his phone. The small space in the bathroom was to Teru’s advantage, who would be able to see all the obstacles, in contrary to the other esper.

“You can come in,” he said. He didn’t have to say it twice, Shimazaki opened the door and hurriedly rushed towards the shower, shoving Teru out of his way.

“Doing laundry?”

Teru nodded. He looked him over – Shimazaki was dirty, right, but not from blood. Dust and mud covered his body, as if Shimazaki had rolled on the ground.

“Washing dark clothes,” said Teru, not sure how much of this information was important. Well, Shimazaki was back and he behaved like nothing had happened, like he didn't know Teru had sold him out to Joseph. But Shimazaki had to know about it, it was obvious!

“Good,” Shimazaki said. “Here, have this too.”

He started taking off his blazer and t-shirt.

Teru blinked, confused. Shimazaki was just stripping in front of him, completely unmoved, but clearly upset by something else. And it wasn't as if Teru hadn’t seen Shimazaki without a shirt before (it had happened a few times), but it was more like…

“You want to fight me naked ?” he asked. Shimazaki’s hand stopped in the middle of unbuttoning his pants.

“You’re asking for trouble with those stupid questions.”

He reached out for Teru. Hanazawa glanced at his hand, then up Shimazaki’s chest, studying the marks and bruises on his skin. His attention landed on a gauze on Shimazaki's shoulder, that covered the wound Shimazaki had got when the rod almost had pierced him two evenings before. Seeing this made Teru more confident. Wherever Shimazaki had just invited him, Teru would use the surroundings again to defeat him. All alone.

He grasped the basket with his one hand, and lifted his head (and he let his gaze hang for a moment on Shimazaki’s sharp muscles) before and reaching for Shimazaki's hand. If Shimazaki wanted to fight, no problem. Bring it on.

Shimazaki teleported him across the apartment and then disappeared, leaving Teru alone with the washing machine.

Teru didn’t comment on this strange development, not even in his thoughts. He simply started loading the clothes inside.

***

Usually while waiting for the machine to finish its mission, Teru had waited on the balcony or gone shopping, just to not be in the apartment with Shimazaki. But now he ran back to the bedroom, stumbling over his feet. He noted that Shimazaki just finished his shower as the sound of the water stopped right as he grabbed his phone. Some time between washing his own hair and the laundry, Teru had got another message from Ritsu:

“...but you’ll come, right?”

Teru completely forgot about him. Shimazaki showing up had clouded all his earlier happiness about the date with Ritsu, dammit.

Shimazaki, right. Joseph needed to know he was back.

Hanazawa was just writing first characters of his message when Shimazaki came in.

“Teru?”

The boy looked up. Shimazaki was standing a few steps away, holding a first-aid kit in one hand and a shirt in the other. At least he had put on pants, thank you very much. Teru glanced again at all the bruises and scratches, and internally patted himself on the back for putting such nice decorations on Shimazaki’s body.

“I need you to…” Shimazaki pointed at the wound on his arm. Stitches marked a long path over the injury.

“To what?”

“To put a gauze on that.” He waved with the first aid kid. “And check if everything’s alright with… with the thing you did. The wound.”

Teru smiled to himself.

“And you have no one else to ask for help,” he hummed pleasantly.

“They didn’t want to help me, cowards.”

“Ah.” Teru straightened and put away his phone with ‘He’s back’ remaining unsent to Joseph. “No one at all? Minegishi? Shibata? Serizawa? Hatori… ? Looks like I won this round because I have friends who would help me if I needed.”

He didn’t regret his words. He stood firm as Shimazaki approached him, but clenched his fingers around his phone.

“If you're stupid enough to try anything…” Teru added. But Shimazaki simply pushed him aside and sat down on the bed. Teru breathed a sigh of relief.

“Okay, let me see that,” he said, moving in front of Shimazaki. He had to stand between Shimazaki’s legs to have a better view of the wound. “Who stitched it?”

Teru had no clue about stitches, so he couldn’t tell if the job had been done well or not. The wound hadn't festered at least.

“The guy I know is a surgeon,” answered Shimazaki. His warm breath teased the skin of Teru’s neck. “But as soon as he was done he told me to leave and never show up again,” he added bitterly. Teru nodded and hummed. It was good someone had helped Shimazaki with the wound, but it seemed that Shimazaki had caused more problems than his friends had predicted, and they had abandoned him. It would explain the long time Shimazaki was away and the state he had been in when he came back – he probably had checked with everyone who could be able to help him and only decided to return to Teru when he had run out of options.

They didn’t talk when Teru rinsed the wound with a disinfectant and put on a gauze. The silence was different than the ones that had previously stretched between them when they had been busy with their business. Now the roles had been reversed; this time it was Shimazaki who was recovering, was the one who wasn’t certain of his future. Ergo – he wasn’t teasing and being mean to Teru. He had lost and he knew it.

“Okay, done,” Teru said quietly, patting the gauze flat. “I don’t know much about wounds, but it doesn’t look bad. Anything else you want me to check?”

Instead of answering, Shimazaki gave a lingering hum and leaned his forehead against Teru’s arm.

Teru twitched in surprise but didn’t move away. It started to feel awkward that this whole evening Shimazaki hadn't been aggressive. He was clearly tired, fed up. But it couldn’t be the only reason for Shimazaki's strange behavior right now.

“What is it?” Teru decided to ask.

“I didn’t sleep at all today.”

“Oh, but I did. I finally rested. It was so nice having the whole bed to myself again.”

“Mmmmhhhh…”

“Then get some sleep if you’re sooo tired,” Teru wanted to say, but then he felt a light touch on his legs. He peeked down. Shimazaki rested his hands over Teru's knees, fingers catching slightly against Hanazawa’s pants.

Teru wasn’t held, but he felt like he was in the trap of a sleepy, wounded beast. The beast – although he had bared its teeth and clenched his claws on its prey days before – now was helpless and weak. Remorse pricked Teru’s heart, but he stifled it effectively. A terrorist, a jerk; Shimazaki didn’t deserve a sympathy.

“No?” something said in Teru’s head. It had Kageyama’s voice and now Teru felt bad. He and Shimazaki were similar, they both had been using their positions and powers to cause chaos. The only difference was that Shimazaki waited longer to feel remorseful, and in meantime, he terrorized Hanazawa, fought and threatened him… Teru had seen himself Shimazaki's awful conduct and attitude, and…

And all of this made Teru aware that he was the perfect person to lead Shimazaki on a good path, one where he would finally come out of the shadows and meet with Joseph.

DING! A new text. Teru ignored his phone and focused on Shimazaki. He absolutely had to tell him about Joseph now, even if he was within the beast’s claws. He had to tell him that the others from the Super Five had met with Joseph and now were living new lives, and that there was a chance for Shimazaki too.

Teru took a deep breath. He put his one hand on Shimazaki’s unwounded arm. His other hand began combing the man’s wet hair, calmly and slowly, as if trying to get the beast used to his touch, to help Teru in taming him.

“Are you sleeping?” he asked. Shimazaki shook his head. “Do you know I saw Shou?”

No reaction.

“And Joseph. You know him, right? They both know you’re here.”

“And do you know that…”

“That what?" Teru cut him off. "That you could do something to me and run away? Of course you could, if you wanted to. But how long are you going to hide? And what’s point of that?”

Shimazaki sighed and embraced Teru’s legs with his hands, pulling him closer. Hanazawa swallowed. He wouldn't let this man threaten him. He lifted his hand from Shimazaki’s hair and placed it on the wound as a reminder he could defend himself if needed.

“You’re the most stubborn of all of them,” he said. “The others from the Super Five started putting their lives back together a long time ago. What’s stopping you?”

“Because I can’t.”

“You can’t what?”

Shimazaki was silent. Teru waited patiently for the answer.

“I can’t have regrets,” the man said quietly after a few minutes. “I can’t be like them, whipping myself every morning for what I've done. I was doing all of this for fun, you know. So why do I have to feel bad about it?”

Oh. So Teru was wrong. He had thought that the beast had changed and started crying over his past, but no. He thought about his answer for a moment.

“Um, well, no one said you should whip yourself.” Certainly, Teru hadn't done that after he changed from the person he used to be.  “Just... Change your life. There’s no way to go back to Claw because it doesn’t exist anymore. You can come out of hiding, show that you don’t want to be the bad guy. That’s what the others did, right? Maybe not Hatori, but I bet he’ll break soon too… Uh, anyway, you don’t know their thoughts, you don’t know if they feel bad about their pasts or not. But they go on because that’s the only thing they can do now.”

No answer again. Shimazaki hugged Teru. The warmth of the hug and closeness was a little too much for Hanazawa. Moments ago he had tried to not to think too much about the awkwardness of this situation – two days ago they fought practically to the death, and now they were close, chest to chest. But he didn’t want to free himself from the embrace yet. Yes, he felt like prey, but he also felt like it helped him in convincing Shimazaki. Well, at least the man hadn't ruled anything out; he was still listening carefully.

“You’ll meet Joseph tomorrow,” Teru said, quieter. “He won’t do anything besides giving you a really small, tiny implant, just to keep an eye on you. Just like they did to the others. And then you can live again.”

“I don’t know how.”

Teru bit his lip. What did he mean by “I don’t know how?” He was an adult, dammit!

“The others managed, and you will too. Just stop resisting.”

“I need to think about it.”

“You will meet Joseph tomorrow. I’ll text you where and when.”

“I’m going to sleep.”

Teru tried to step back. Shimazaki let him go and hanged his head.

“Then go,” Teru said. “I still have a few things to do.”

Shimazaki nodded, put on his shirt and laid down, lazily and sleepy.

That’s it. They were done. Teru grabbed his phone and the basket for the laundry and retreated from the room. He closed the door behind him, and slid down the wall, with his face hid in his hands. He barely noticed he was shaking.

Finally. Finally. FINALLY . He knew Shimazaki hadn't agreed to anything yet, but Teru was certain this was the end of his suffering, he felt it in his bones.

Now he could check the messages he had received earlier.

Ritsu again.

“...Hanazawa?”

Teru remembered he hadn’t answered the last text.

“Yeah, I’ll be there.”

On his way to the washing machine, he dialed Joseph’s number.

Chapter Text

Shimazaki woke up to the feeling of a warm breath teasing against his neck. The man mumbled a question and was about to free his hand from under the blankets to shield himself, when he felt Teru’s aura – sharp and awakened – leaning over him. Shimazaki decided to lay still, waiting for the boy's next move.

Teru froze as well, and then slowly leaned over on his forearm, his other hand close to his side. He was probably waiting for the right moment or until Shimazaki went back to sleep. Only after a few more breaths did Teru raise his hand and brush his fingertips carefully against the bruises decorating Shimazaki’s arms and chest. The touch – not so light that it tickled and not enough to wake Shimazaki even if he was asleep – was approaching the gauze over Shimazaki's stitches.

Shimazaki’s heart began beating faster and he tried not to move, stopped himself from grabbing or pushing Teru’s hand away. Of course, he could guess what Teru's next move might be – Teru's touch might study the biggest wound on Shimazaki’s arm – but Shimazaki didn’t know what would happen after that or what exactly was on Teru’s mind. So Shimazaki lied still on his back, on his side of the bed, in the middle of the night. Well, he could only assume it was middle of the night – he hadn’t heard any noises from outside, and those noises from inside included only the ticking of the clock and the rustle of the sheets.

Suddenly Teru’s aura swirled in excitement and thinned, and then shifted from a thick slime, almost oil-like, to something as light as water. It peeled back from the boy in streams, coiling around him wildly and shaking as Teru tried to calm himself down. For the first few seconds Teru couldn’t control his aura, so he froze again and breathed deeply. He lowered his head, but his hand was still on Shimazaki’s arm.

When Teru had calmed down, his aura thickened again. Those changes weren’t similar to what had happened to Teru in the woods two nights before when he had lost control of his psychic powers. Now the aura betrayed all too well how Teru felt. The odds were the boy didn’t even know that Shimazaki could read him like an open book from only a short glance.

Teru got up on his knees and leaned over the man again. Now Shimazaki was even more confused, he couldn’t think what motivated Teru or what he was so excited about. These wounds weren’t anything serious, just some scratches. That could happen to anyone – so what if they were from a fight? No one had won anyway, so there was nothing to be happy about.

But Teru’s aura brightened and deepened, thinned and thickened, all depending if the boy managed or not to calm himself down in time. He was still tracking the bruises and marks, and now Teru's touch wasn’t that light, but firmer. Teru was leaning closer and closer; if he tilted his head and turned his face towards the man, Shimazaki could kiss him if he wanted. That was a bad joke, but maybe it would teach Teru to not molest other espers while they were asleep. A different kind of a lesson from their usual fights.

Fortunately for the boy, Shimazaki didn’t move his head. Teru's wandering hand found a comfortable place to rest on the gauze and his fingers traced up and down the stitches. They didn’t press or cause any pain, but Shimazaki clearly felt the touch… and he grew annoyed with Teru’s behavior. Admittedly he had heard a bit about Hanazawa before he had appeared in his apartment, but in between notes about Teru liking torturing the others and not stopping himself from killing if needed, there was no mention of Teru being fascinated with someone’s bruises. Maybe he was a sadist; Shimazaki wouldn’t be surprised by that at all.

The hand started wandering again, hesitantly, this time in the direction of Shimazaki's neck. Shimazaki frowned. He felt a change in the boy’s aura – it was growing under a thin layer, that could snap in any moment after being put under too much pressure; suppressed, but barely trained and wild somewhere deep inside. The aura was getting harder to stifle the nearer Teru’s hand was to Shimazaki’s neck. It was only a matter of seconds, and Shimazaki caught the changes because the aura grew, and grew, and grew…

Shimazaki wasn’t afraid of what might happen, but he also didn’t want to find out if Teru would try to choke him. He mumbled in annoyance and, as if in his sleep, turned onto his side, his back to Teru. The boy’s aura quickly contracted and returned to its old pattern, with a small pinch of confusion. Then Teru laid back down and didn’t move for a long time.

That night Shimazaki didn’t sleep well.

***

Shimazaki had slept only a half an hour, but when he woke up with Teru’s alarm, he felt as if he was well rested and could conquer the world. He got dressed, brushed his teeth and shaved, and had sat down to eat breakfast before his fatigue caught up with him, and his face almost landed on the plate of food. Teru didn’t look much better – his aura barely smoldered, and if something fanned it, it only grew off-balance and twitchy. Neither of them talked; even Shimazaki wasn’t trying to goad any information out of the boy. He couldn’t even think about that right now, his mind covered in a mist of exhaustion.

The silence broke the moment Shimazaki pulled out a cigarette.

“No,” Teru growled.

“Let an old man have a smoke in the morning.”

“Get. Out.”

Shimazaki wanted nothing else but peace, so he obeyed. He grabbed his coffee and teleported to the balcony. Teru reacted in no time and rushed after him. Shimazaki sighed and moved to the roof, hoping he would get there with some time to himself. He sat down on the edge of the building, put his mug aside and finally lit the cigarette. He could sense Teru standing in the middle of the bedroom and didn’t move for a moment; maybe he was considering going after Shimazaki. It made no difference to the former Claw esper if only Teru would be quiet.

The chill air, the coffee, and the cigarette woke Shimazaki up, but he still felt he would need to get a few more hours of sleep after Teru left for school. The question was, which did Teru care about more – going to school or choking Shimazaki? Would Teru come back just to check if Shimazaki was asleep and use the chance?

Well, yeah, that sounded like paranoia, but after earlier that morning, Shimazaki didn’t know what he could expect from the boy. Teru hadn’t behaved like that before… although some of Claw’s reports said that Teruki Hanazawa could have some mental problems, even for a kid his age. Torturing and drowning people? At the age of fourteen? Good grief.

Shimazaki assumed it had something to do with Claw espers hunting Teru for a long time; they weren’t exactly gentle in persuading people to their ideas after all. So Teru had to choose between giving in or fighting with tears in his eyes and turning into a bastard, similar to those men who were chasing him.

Except that Shimazaki promised to meet with Joseph, so Teru had no reason to behave strangely, right? Or was his nature a result of something more than the fighting with Claw?

Anyway, Shimazaki should have noticed the oddness of the kid before, when he had “moved in.” He should have, but he hadn’t. The last two weeks had wrung all the strength and determination from Shimazaki thanks to Teru – on top of being a madman – and his attitude. He had not even once let up on Shimazaki, even if he had been losing every battle this entire time. Ultimately desperation had won, and without caring about the lives of his family and friends, Teru had decided to seek help. Shimazaki wasn’t surprised. He was only mad that Joseph traced him before he and Hatori managed to find a perfect place to hide.

It could be so beautiful. If they would have had only a few days more… Hatori had promised he would stitch everything up in no longer than two weeks; after that they would be impossible to track until the world forgot about them. Teru had known about it, and Shimazaki hadn’t wanted to lie to him (especially not after their last fight)... Only Teru didn’t believe him. And here Shimazaki wasn’t surprised again.

Now Shimazaki had nowhere to hide and he had to meet with Joseph. He couldn’t imagine what would happen during this meeting. Would Joesph tell him he was free to do whatever the hell he wanted? Just like the others from the Super Five? There had to be a catch.

Teru found him on the roof, although Shimazaki hadn’t intended to hide. Hanazawa approached him, buttoning up his coat, or the man guessed from hearing a rustle of material.

“I’ll contact Joseph and give you details about the meeting,” said Teru. “I wanna get you both over as soon as possible.”

Shimazaki tilted his head and considered telling Teru about his plans. He hadn’t planned meeting Joseph alone, he wasn’t that stupid. And maybe the presence of Teru as a hostage wouldn’t give him much of an advantage, but he didn’t want to be an easy catch.

“And… And I won’t be home for a dinner,” Teru added. Shimazaki turned his head to him and raised his eyebrows.

“You think you’ll still find me here after this meeting?” he asked. Because, well, he was sure he would be sleeping in a prison bed tonight.

“Saying just in case you're still here. Good luck.”

So Shimazaki didn’t say anything about his plans. Teru would leave him with no choice, but Shimazaki could deal with that later. Wherever Teru would be after the school… Finding him shouldn’t be a problem. And if Teru was hiding, Shimazaki would ask Hatori for help in tracking him.

Several minutes later the boy moved quickly up the street in the direction of his school. Shimazaki guessed Teru had taken his bike. It was too chilly for his liking, but it seemed that wasn't a problem for the younger esper. Kids these days, they were just asking for a cold.

Maybe it was a good thing he would meet with Joseph today. Even if the man put Shimazaki into a prison, this whole circus with hiding at Teru's would be over. On the other hand, now, the others from the Super Five were more free than ever before, and the government imprisoned only Toichiro... Shimazaki and Hatori could have surrendered right after the battle back then, but how could they have predicted it would end up like this and not in jail...? Especially when you take into consideration that, besides the boss, Shimazaki was the one who caused the most chaos. After kidnapping the prime minister and losing the battle with a bunch of kids, it was hard for Shimazaki to bend his knee to just anyone and accept the punishment. So he had had to look for a shelter. And maybe irony or karma had decided to finally show its claws just in time, just as Shimazaki had found his perfect hiding place at the apartment of a kid who caused him the most trouble.

Shimazaki had learned during their first fights that Teru was not only a sadist but damn talented sadist... But at least he lived alone, according to the Claw informants. Moreover, Shimazaki had felt that after this battle Teru would be tired and hurt and wouldn't put up much of a resistance. Aaaand he was sick as well. Shimazaki hadn't wanted to take care of a sick kid, but damn if he had had any other choice.

Shimazaki had lost to weaklings, that's right, but the sheer force of numbers had been to his disadvantage back then. And Teru was the only one here to fight Shimazaki this time, and Teru might be smart and sneaky, but on his own he never stood a chance against Shimazaki. Especially after Shimazaki knew his own weak points and learned how to effectively use his new ESP powers.

Teru had to be aware of this, but he kept on stubbornly fighting. Shimazaki was almost impressed. Yeah, he was tired of all the quarrels and fights, but still impressed.

Well, it was hard to not to recognize Teru. He was different from all other esper kids that Claw had obtained and who Shimazaki had had a chance to meet. They were aware of their psychic powers, but they still had been in diapers, weak and afraid of fighting; they had treated their psychic powers like something cool (no wonder of course) but they still had lacked composure, skills, or a readiness to learn from their mistakes... And in the end, they had all broken under the pressure of Claw's training and if they hadn't killed themselves, the kids had become demented puppets with no utility. Teru on the other hand? Using psychic powers for him was not only as easy as breathing, but he also knew many techniques and could use all of them flawlessly. And he was still learning. All alone! Maybe Shou was stronger than Teru – as Shimazaki could assess – but before running away, young Suzuki had teachers who had showed him how to use his psychic powers, while Hanazawa was self-taught. Who knew what Teru would become in a few years! Maybe someone could help him and Teru would be even more powerful, maybe even more than Toichiro. If he had the proper motivation, that is.

But there was something wrong in Teru's approach to his special powers. Fake modesty. Shaky distance. Trained restraint. Teru looked like he wasn't himself, he came off as someone who once had been smashed to pieces and then rebuilt based on a specific pattern. “I'm just a commoner,” a boy said, who in a blink of an eye had deciphered one of the most powerful espers in the world. “I'm just a commoner,” said a boy who had been the only one who could stand on his own after Shimazaki's knockout attack. “I'm just a commoner,” a boy said who was one of only few espers who could use more than one fighting technique at once. “I'm just a...” “DAMNIT, NO!” – Shimazaki wanted to yell, to grab Teru's arms and shake him. How could he think of himself as a commoner when he was an esper like this?! Why couldn't Teru see that he was above the others, better, smarter? Everything he said in this regard sounded so fake. Teru just needed to take a few steps, needed a small push to stop believing in this stupid “commoner” thing. He had a chance to become the ideal esper. Why wouldn't he take it? What was stopping him?

Even if he didn't want to use his psychic powers against regular people (because Teru said that's wrong, for some strange reason) it was obvious he was better than them, and it wasn't healthy to live in such denial.

Unless... What had Teru said during their second fight, shortly after he had figured Shimazaki out? “There are espers in the world with power greater than you can even imagine”? And Teru had been talking about his friend, the one who had shown up at the very end of the battle... Uh, okay, his psychic powers were indeed greater than Teru's, but that wasn't any reason to give someone a complex! Seriously, Teru needed somebody who would help him fight against that! (But not Shimazaki, no way. It was enough for him to get his ass beaten up, he didn't have to add any more bricks into building Teru's ego.)

Teru was wasting his potential. Moreover, he was living alone, without parents so instead of getting the best out of his life he was doing all the stuff his old folks should be doing. Shimazaki felt sorry for him.

Speak of the devil.

Shimazaki's mobile rang with a cheerful tone. Shimazaki – who had tried to sleep in but failed to rest – struggled for his phone and picked up, his cheek buried in a soft pillow.

“Hm?” was his greeting.

“Half past noon,” Teru snapped. “At the corner of Mita and Otome streets.”

“Mhm.”

Surprisingly Teru didn't hang up. He was silent.

“What time is it anyway?” asked Shimazaki. It felt like he'd been trying to sleep for a long time, and he hadn't checked the hour.

“Ten o'clock.”

“You don't sound amused. What's wrong?” It wasn't as if Shimazaki was super interested in Teru's mood, but the boy should be happy he would be rid of Shimazaki soon, right?

“I don't know why, but Joseph wants me to come with you.”

“Oh.” Shimazaki rolled onto his side and tucked Hanazawa's pillow under his head. Joseph had made his task easier; now Shimazaki wouldn't have to kidnap Teruki, thanks, thanks. “Yeah, strange. This doesn't have anything to do with you.”

“Exactly! Like I wouldn't have better things to do during lunch.”

“I can pick you up if you want. To be honest...” he yawned. “I don't know where those streets you mentioned are. Mi... uh... ta?”

“Mita and Otoma. Fine. I'll be waiting at the same place as always. See you.”

“Bye-bye.”

Shimazaki hung up and set an alarm, just in case he did fall asleep. Then he rolled onto his stomach and snuggled his face into the pillow. The material smelled familiar, of Teru's shampoo scent. “Familiar and nice,” the thought flickered in the back of Shimazaki's mind. He still had two more hours to enjoy to the fullest his familiar surroundings, before he would go to Joseph, who would be waiting for him with his damn ideas and plans.

***

Teru's aura was sharper than it had been in the morning – that, or Shimazaki's ESP had been muffled with fatigue and was now sharper in the face of danger. But maybe it was just Teru who was different, simply excited about the events that were about to happen.

“I hope you won't surprise us with a fight or something,” Teru said as they walked down Mita street. It wasn't too busy or empty, accurate to the time of the day when most people were at school or work. Only a few men passed the espers, giving them as much attention as they were receiving.

“I haven't decided yet, to be honest,” answered Shimazaki. It didn't matter if he cried 'nooo, I'm not planning anything, I swear!' Teru would stay alert anyway, so there was no point in lying.

“Shimazaki.” Teru suddenly came to a stop and turned to him. “You still don't believe they'll let you go? Don't pick a fight or you'll get yourself into bigger problems.”

“And you believe that?” Shimazaki shrugged. “Imagine being a guy who kidnapped the prime minister and made a damn mess out of a city, killing people and other espers. Would you let them go?”

“Honestly? No.”

“Exactly.”

“But considering they didn't put the others in jail, I have to believe them," Teru said. "This all doesn't make any sense for me, but... You see how it is.”

“I hope for your own good that they'll really let me go.”

“Seriously?” Teru's aura glowed and lit up the gray silhouettes of passers-by. “Or what?”

“I wouldn't hurt you, that's for sure. But don't let the others pay for your mistakes.”

“What the hell is this again?”

Shimazaki tilted his head and sighed loudly. Oh God, okay, Teru had his head on the right way and could lie like no one else, but he had forgotten one important thing – Shimazaki wasn't an idiot.

“Your parents,” Shimazaki said, closing the distance between them with three slow steps. “You weren’t honest about them. Although it would have been a stupid move if you had told me the truth about them.”

Teru swallowed and clenched his fists. His anger was trying to take control of him and push him to attack Shimazaki, but he was resisting. He stood firm, not moving.

So Shimazaki had him by his throat. He and Hatori had traced Teru's parents days ago, but they had kept this information as long as they needed. And now was a good moment to use it, just in case something went wrong during this talk with Joseph.

“You aren't making it easy for anyone,” snapped Teru. “Especially not for yourself.”

“I haven't had it easy since I was born, and I lived with that. But thanks for your concern.”

“You know I'm not afraid of you.”

“You are definitely trying not to be afraid, I'm certain of that.”

Teru growled something in return and turned on his heel to continue down the street. Shimazaki followed him. He started noticing auras of other espers who were in a building somewhere in a distance. He guessed it had to be Joseph and his team. Good, at least he wouldn't need to wait for him and this bullshit would be over with soon.

“Why didn't he bring the whole army?” Shimazaki asked under his breath. Teru didn't answer, but his aura tensed. “Hey, I was just kidding, okay? I don't want to fight anyone, but if they try to jail me then, sorry, but it won't be that easy.”

“Mhm.”

After a few minutes of a rushed walk, they finally reached the meeting place – a closed restaurant; there was no staff inside but all the tables were occupied by espers of different ranks and psychic power strength. Their auras each tensed and sharpened as Shimazaki and Teru entered the building.

The door immediately shut behind them, closed by someone's use of telekinesis, and a shiver went down Shimazaki's back. The lock scraped shut. The world and auras around them suddenly blurred as Shimazaki lost his orientation in the room. He came to a stop.

“Right,” he muttered. “Of course they'd use some damn seals.”

He still could sense the presence of other espers, but now instead of carefully studying them, he could only tell they were somewhere here. If they rushed at him, Shimazaki would only know about it when they hit him. Cute.

“And here's Joseph,” he heard Teru say. Yeah, no shit. Shimazaki tried to teleport two steps back, but his psychic powers refused to work. Well, it looked like they would put him in jail for real. Why didn't he predict they would meet in a sealed place? It was the first and the last time they had duped him. But he still could predict their moves. Maybe not by reading their auras but...

He flinched when he felt Teru's hand squeezing his wrist.

“This way,” said the boy. His hand slipped down and his fingers entwined with Shimazaki's. They moved ahead and stopped after a few steps; Teru first.

“Well, finally.” Shimazaki recognized Joseph's voice. He felt a choking smoke, too thick and sleazy to call it normal.

Teru pulled his hand away.

“Good afternoon,” answered Shimazaki.

“You've been hiding for so long,” said Joseph. “And at some kid's place... Like you didn't have enough problems.”

“I had too much fun to come out and see old friends like you. I hope you're in good health.”

“Where's Hatori?”

“Straight to business, huh?" Shimazaki grinned. "Why do you even think I know?”

“You're in touch, right?”

“Yeah, and? There's something called a phone. I don't need to know where he's hiding to be able to talk to him. It wouldn't be a good thing to know anyway.”

The reek of smoke came even closer, brushing against the former Claw esper’s face. Shimazaki felt a grasp on his jacket, a tug. The next second his face smashed against something hard and wooden – surely the top of a table or a counter. Pain flared up his temple and the side of his face, piercing down his injured arm.

“Wow,” panted Shimazaki.

“Where's Hatori?” it was Joseph again, his voice calm. He was holding Shimazaki by his hair and the back of his neck.

“I don't know,” Shimazaki growled. His hands struggled to find the edge of the countertop. “He doesn't like talking about himself.”

“Then you'll ask him in... What time is it?”

“Twenty to one,” an esper answered from the other side of the room.

“In three minutes. You'll be a good boy and call him and ask about everything we need to know,” explained Joseph.

“I won't do that.” Shimazaki smiled to himself, amused. “I don't have his number. He's the one who's always calling me.”

“And why would I believe you?” Joesph emphasized his question by slamming Shimazaki's head against the counter again. For a second the other espers' auras disappeared. When they returned, they were more blurred than before.

“Take my phone and check it, fuck,” Shimazaki hissed. He felt someone's hands patting his pants pockets. The smell of the smoke was replaced with a scent of Teru's shampoo. This damn brat...

“Hmmm.” Joseph probably considered whatever he saw in Shimazaki's phone. “Fine, but we'll take this. For a day at least.”

“And you'll give it back?” Shimazaki asked, fidgeting under his hold. “That's so nice of you.”

“I'm nice like that."

He heard hurried steps and tried to lift his head, but Joseph pushed him back down. Joseph took his hand from Shimazaki's neck and tugged his shirt collar back, uncovering the skin there. Another pair of hands grabbed Shimazaki's arms.

His heart skipped a beat. He tried to get free from the hold, but the two other espers were stronger.

“Easy,” purred Joseph.

Anxiously Shimazaki tried to look around the room. Teru's muffled aura stood out amongst the others; it was a bright spot among other auras that were smokey, oily, veiny, and all the other various types Shimazaki hadn't managed to see before now. Shimazaki tried to anchor himself in the boy's appearance and told himself that as long as Teru was here, Joseph wouldn't hurt him. It was a strange thought, but somehow Shimazaki believed it.

A sting on his neck tore him away from Teru's aura. Shimazaki hissed in pain. There was a stretching feeling against a spot on the nape of his neck; it felt like something was crawling deep beneath his skin, slowly and with difficulty. It must've lasted ages and took away the rest of Shimazaki's senses and will to fight. He tried to find Teru's aura again; Hanazawa was somewhere nearby, blinking at him in the darkness, thank the Lord.

The hold on Shimazaki's arms and neck disappeared, although the pain stayed. Shimazaki's knees knocked against the floor, and he almost fell on the ground.

“Tell me when you're ready to talk,” he heard Joseph say behind a thick fog of pain and confusion. “There are things we need to discuss.”

“Fuck you.”

“Choose a good moment, because I won't repeat myself. I don't want to waste my breath for a trash like you.”

Shimazaki tried to lift himself up, but his legs wobbled under his weight and he didn't stay up for long. He tried that a few more times before he felt Teru's hands under his arms. With the boy's help, Shimazaki sat heavily into a chair.

“Thanks,” he muttered.

“I'm in hurry, okay?” answered Teru. He heard a click of a lighter, and smelt a new intensified stink of smoke. Shimazaki wanted to smoke too.

“I would give you a cigarette, but I don't share,” said Joseph. “But maybe someone has one to spare, hm?”

A shuffle of legs, a few lazy steps. An aura that reminded Shimazaki of a rolled-up string of barbed wire approached Shimazaki. The former Claw esper reached blindly to find the pack of cigarettes with his hand.

“Give it to me,” Teru sighed. A second later Shimazaki felt a cigarette on his lips and heard a click of a lighter again. He inhaled deeply.

“You've got experience in taking care of this asshole,” said Joseph, sounding surprised. “Funny you're still doing it after all this.”

“Someone has to be the good person here.”

“Can I explain what just happened?” Joseph asked, the question clearly directed to Shimazaki. He nodded. He wasn't sure how much he would remember of this conversation, but they couldn't sit here for ages. Teru was listening to everything carefully and he would probably repeat anything said to Shimazaki a few times.

“We implanted a chip in you,” Joseph explained what Shimazaki already knew. “Every one of your friends has a similar one. And every of those cute chips has a cute, tiny GPS, that shows us where you are at all times. We have an eye on you every day, every week, the whole year.”

Shimazaki sighed. Teru had already told him this. So it was nothing new, and nothing too bad.

“And another thing,” Joseph went on. “I want all of you in one place, you sons of bitches.” He tapped the lighter against the counter. “That's why you can't leave the city. For you, pretty face, I'd say ten years of that sort of house arrest should be enough for now.”

Oh. Shit.

“'The fuck?” Shimazaki gasped. “I've got a family in north Japan, I have to visit them sometime.”

“Stop talking bullshit, you haven't seen them in over five years. We checked with your family at the very beginning of the search.”

“You can call them,” suggested Teru. “Every day, if you care so much about them.”

“Listen to the kid, it sounds like he has some experience here.”

Shimazaki snorted. He clenched his fists and forced himself not to do something stupid, like seizing Joseph and punching him. He felt confident that Hatori could simply hack those chips and deactivate them.

“And if you or your friends,” said Joseph again, “try to mess with the implants... Well, I can only wish you good luck. I won't bore you with all the details, but I'll just say we'll instantly know about any interference to our lil' cute devices. And they've got something called firewall, that could harm a carrier... And what exactly does it mean... Well, I leave that to your imagination. Understood?”

“Jesus fuck,” snapped Shimazaki.

“I'll take that as a 'Yes.' I'm glad. There's one other thing we need to talk about.”

Great. There's something else. What – did this implant sense if Shimazaki did some good deed and would electrocute him if he wasn't nice at least once an hour? Goddamn. Okay, maybe this whole deal was better than putting him into a jail, but to be trapped in this city for ten fucking years? And what if Shimazaki couldn't find a job here or manage to start a new life? All the people living in this city had seen the kidnapping of the prime minister and they all probably had heard about the searches. Great. Fucking great.

Not to mention he wouldn't have any way to warn Hatori or how to run away to wherever they were supposed to hide in those two weeks.

“What's that?” Shimazaki asked.

“Work with us.”

“What?!” yelled Teru and Shimazaki.

“He's a terrorist!” Teru added.

“Forget it!” were Shimazaki's next words.

“If you want.” Joseph shrugged. “But good luck in getting your new life together. You're a bastard, but I wish you the best. You can leave. Teru, we need to talk.”

Shimazaki stood up and pushed the chair out his way; he heard as it hit the table. He rushed in the direction of the door, as he calculated. Teru didn't run to guide him, so he guessed he was going the right way. The click of an opened lock and door confirmed his hunch.

“Oh, hm... Shimazaki,” Teru called from behind him. Shimazaki stopped. “My lunch break is over in five minutes...”

He shrugged. What a kid, now he wanted a lift back to school. And what else? Buy him food on their way?

The exact moment Shimazaki passed the entrance of the restaurant, all auras of people and espers surrounding him sharpened again. He was able to predict the move of every passers-by, every flinch. He didn't try to teleport, but he was certain that this power was back on track too. It was a strange feeling – being ripped of his psychic powers, but not unfamiliar. A few years ago he had tried to train in a sealed room, but it was only a simulation. Later he came to the conclusion that there was no point in depriving himself the pleasure of using his powers.

“You rely too much on them,” he remembered Teru's words during their first fight, shortly before he had brought Shimazaki down to earth, literally and figuratively.

Shimazaki smiled sadly to himself. If he had been smarter all those years ago and trained persistently in this sealed room, maybe his situation now would be different. Better, and without this shit in his neck.

The door shut closed behind him so he didn't hear what Joseph and Teru were talking about. Maybe with a little luck, the boy would whine about this conversation later. Shimazaki knew it had to be something about him or Hatori, otherwise, they wouldn't be so discreet about it.

It took them a few minutes. And finally, Teru stepped out the restaurant and grabbed Shimazaki's hand, saying:

“Teleport me to school, the closest as you can.”

Ah, right, it was long after the bell, and the perfect boy couldn't be late.

Two seconds later they stood in the school, in the middle of one of its halls, a place familiar to Shimazaki that was near the classrooms. Teru almost turned to run, but he squeezed the man's hand and sighed deeply.

“Shimazaki...”

“Hm?”

Teru turned to him, his aura radiating calmly. It was a contrast to his shaking voice: “My parents.”

Right. They still were Hatori's target, and he and Shimazaki still could get rid of them if they wanted. If Teru started acting weird, Shimazaki only needed to say the word. Shimazaki didn't know what Teru and Joseph had planned now, but... That didn't really matter anymore. They got him, they had their eyes on him. Shimazaki couldn't do much, couldn't run away, all his aces in the hole were useless. He had to start his life anew, here and now.

“Don't worry about them,” he finally replied.

“This one time,” Teru said quietly, “this one time I'll trust you. Don't mess it up.”

Teru tried to pull his hand from Shimazaki's grip, but the man held onto it.

“Teru,” now it was harder for Shimazaki to talk, as this too familiar feeling of loss and shame squeezed against his throat. But he had to say it before Teru would go back to his own life. “Thanks, for everything.”

Teru held his breath.

“And sorry. For everything,” Shimazaki added. He wasn't sure if he really felt sorry for everything he had done in the past two weeks. He had his reasons, yes, but the boy didn't deserve all of this... or at least half of it.

“A cheap 'sorry' won't be enough,” said Teru. “Any 'sorry' wouldn't be enough. To be honest I'm not sure if I'll ever forgive you for this shit you put me through. You're feeling sorry all of sudden, because someone beat your ass, and not because... Ugh, nevermind.”

“Any requests for dinner?” Shimazaki asked.

“I won't be back for a dinner. I told you I have a date,” Teru muttered finally taking his hand from Shimazaki's grasp.

“Ah, right, you mentioned that. Have fun then.”

Teru answered with a nod, turned and dashed away. Shimazaki followed him with his ESP for a moment before teleporting back to his apartment.

He stood in the middle of the room, not sure what he should do now.