Brats were cute, and fulfilling students, but by Friday night Shinsou never wanted to see another child again. He loved his job as a teacher and he never regretted his decision to follow in his father's footsteps. He just wished that he could get through even one week without having to physically separate two children from fighting over a box of legos.
The purple-haired man walked into his home and unceremoniously dropped his bag by the front door, before looking at his incredibly empty apartment. He'd started living here after graduating from school and getting his teacher's license. His dad, Aizawa, and his papa, Hizashi, had chipped in on the deposit so he could move in before his job started in the fall.
Now it was two months into the school year and he was finding himself more exhausted than he had ever been in teachers college. When he was merely a student or assistant it was so much easier. There was a weight of responsibility that he hadn't felt until it was just Hitoshi and twenty children who depended on him for care and education.
He walked into what he called the living room but was honestly just the most open space in the studio apartment that had a couch shoved into it, and fell onto the cushions with a huff. Shinsou looked at his watch, a very practical gift from his sleepy dad, and saw he had exactly 11 minutes until his date.
Shinsou guessed that 'date' was a strong word for a streaming service he paid for. This site was run by a bubbly blonde guy with a weird black bolt in his hair who posed as the best friend, and sometimes boyfriend, of dozens of people each night. Ever since he'd found "Ch4rgeb0lt" and his stream he'd felt a lot less lonely.
Shinsou remembers when he first saw the ad for Ch4rgeb0lt's services. He was just messing around online when a pop-up appeared with his smiling face, one eye winking and the other brightly flashing with happiness. He took off his cat-eye framed reading glasses to look at the advertisement without barriers.
"Lonely? Tired of coming home to an empty apartment? Can't find anyone to listen to your problems? Say no more! For the low cost of $10 per stream, you can have all the company and love you ever wanted. Get a best friend for the best price!"
His first reaction was, "what kind of depressing loser needs to buy a boyfriend?" before he looked around at his empty home and realized he might be that depressing loser.
He grabbed his wallet from his pocket and stared at the $20 folded up, and fuck he never thought he'd have to look at money in increments of how many nights he could have of fake companionship.
It was every evening, around late dinner time, and an hour long. Whoever this kid was he was getting paid below minimum wage. Shinsou hoped that at least he ran his own business and wasn't giving 'relationship' money to some shady friend-pimp.
Hitoshi had spent that very first night inputting his credit card information into a dubious website and then microwaving a frozen dinner to eat while he watched. Shinsou had tried to convince himself he could use the experience for educational purposes on the human desire for companionship if nothing else. He hadn't been a psychology major for nothing. No money wasted. Hitoshi wasn't lonely, because he was doing this for science.
That first stream had him sold in ten minutes. Ch4rgeb0lt was as sweet as can be and waved to his webcam like the viewers were old friends. He must have really known who was who because he'd picked up on Shinsou being new right away.
"Hey there, MindWash! Welcome to the stream. Let me know if there's anything you want me to explain, ok? There is no such thing as a stupid question- except for all the ones I asked back in high school. Man, my teachers must have hated me."
Shinsou felt obligated to reply via the chat.
I'm a teacher, are you sure you should be telling me that? Doesn't bode very well for our future relationship to hear that upfront.
The blonde laughed, his eyes lit with mischief. "Well, we've got ourselves a fancy professor with us! You sound real bright. You must teach something serious. Like how western theology changed keystone aspects of medieval building techniques?"
No, something far more difficult. 4th graders.
Ch4rgeb0lt laughed uproariously, "4th grade?! That sucks, man! Doesn't that make them like, 10?"
9 or 10, yes, but they act like they're 5.
"Rough! So tell me, hot stuff. Have you decided whether you're on Team Besties or Team Bae?"
Shinsou was glad there was no video on any of the viewer's side or the blonde would see his eyes go wide.
Another member in the chat, MeatMeOutBack29, quickly typed into the chat the difference between the two: "Team Bestie is for those who are here for a platonic relationship. They are here because they want to talk with Ch4rgeb0lt and have him as a best friend. A person who wishes to 'date' Ch4rgeb0lt, to the extent that this medium allows, would consider themselves his partner or Team Bae."
For a long while Shinsou had confused user 'MeatMeOutBack29' as a moderator of some sort because they had this self-righteous idea that he/she/ze/they(?) were the one running everything and setting the rules. Hitoshi is glad people like them exist since it saves him the trouble of asking anything himself.
The chatbox to the right blew up with people's own stances, "team besties 4 lyyyyfee!" "Ch4rgeb0lt is BAE," and Shinsou's personal favorite, "insert the commercial with the taco girl saying 'why not both?' here."
The blonde responded to them all with an affectionate coo and then he wrapped his arms around himself in a big hug. "You guys are the sweetest!"
The chat responded positively and soon Ch4rgeb0lt built an easy rhythm of talking to his friends (?) dates (?) and generally making everyone feel special and paid attention to. The dorky boy sat there wearing an ugly zebra-print shirt and had his blonde hair clipped behind his right ear with two sparkly blue barrettes. He ate a Cup Noodles with the grace of someone dining on lobster, all the while cracking jokes and complimenting his virtual dates.
Sometimes Ch4rgeb0lt would playfully use his quirk to get a laugh. He had a surprisingly powerful electricity quirk, which lent itself to a lot of gags. On occasion, he would charge his phone by adorably biting on the cable. He sometimes decided to show off by licking the end of a flashlight to make it flicker, adding a "ta-dah!" afterward, but once he ended up getting accused of being lewd by a dirty-minded viewer and hasn't done it since. He got incredibly flustered. "Oh my gosh, you know I didn't mean it that way! Ughhh, you guys!" but even as he turned bright red he laughed right along with the rest of the chat.
Ch4rgeb0lt was a pure soul that sat across from him eating dinner and lavishing him with attention, and Shinsou couldn't get enough of it.
The purple-haired boy smiled softly just thinking about tonight's 'date' and what Ch4rgeb0lt would do or say. Hitoshi even bought himself a Cup Noodles so they would match, though he'd had to defend this decision when Aizawa caught him with some in his cupboard. ("I only eat it once a week, dad. I'm not going to die of malnutrition just because I don't come to you and papa for dinner every night!")
Hitoshi wasn't eager to tell his dad that it was so he could play pretend boyfriends with a cute blonde stranger he was paying for attention. His dad already had a cute blonde husband to eat with, and Shinsou was just trying to do his level best to have the same.
Hot water was poured into the styrofoam noodle cup, right up to the marked line on the inside, and the smell of dried processed chicken hit his senses. This was Hitoshi's favorite comfort food.
He checked his watch again and found he only had a few minutes left until Ch4rgeb0lt got started. He walked back to the couch and carefully set his steaming noodles on the table beside his ancient laptop. Shinsou pulled up the page he had bookmarked and entered his login information. Soon he was on the chat page with dozens of other early viewers waiting for the black screen to be filled with a pretty face and a welcoming smile.
His laptop's speakers crackled as the "live" signal flickered on beside a pixelated mess. Then, all at once, sound and light slid into place while Ch4rgeb0lt was adjusting his headphones with one hand and checking his mic with the other.
"Hey, gents, gals, and everyone outside and in-between! Gimmie, like, two shakes of a rabbit's tail or whatever." Ch4rgeb0lt was outrageously pansexual so the chat was made up of all sorts of genders.
He hummed to himself, the sweet voice warbling in and out, while he played with the cords on his set-up until the image went sharp. The blonde let out a relieved sigh and sat back.
Tonight he wore a just-a-bit-too-big sweatshirt with Pikachu on it and a pair of just-a-bit-too-short jean shorts. Shinsou had a feeling he wasn't going to be the only person enjoying that decision. His hair was pulled back into small but poofy pigtails, and he had his signature two silver lightning bolts hanging from his right earlobe. At first, Shinsou thought Ch4rgeb0lt was a bad dresser, had even mentioned it in the chat, and was met with a lot of protective fans. Ch4rgeb0lt himself had laughed it off and explained that everyone always said that in the beginning but these clothes made him happy so everyone will just have to deal with it. A fan had told Shinsou that "one day it'll become one of your favorite things about him, trust me!" and he might actually owe that person thanks. He's glad he stuck around, either way.
After the screen had fully buffered, it showed a freshly showered Ch4rgeb0lt, the ends of his pigtails still damp, blowing softly on the steaming Cup Noodles he held with both hands. The blonde smiled and waved at his camera with his pinkies.
"Hey, sweetheart, what have you been up to today?"
He sometimes spoke as if it was to only one person, and it really helped sell the idea that it was just you and him.
Shinsou typed a response, Just pulling jelly beans out of a child's nose. You know. The usual.
Ch4rgeb0lt's eyes skimmed over the chat before the blonde let out an adorable giggle-snort.
"Oh man, MindWash! You seriously need to start your own stream and just talk about your job. But don't stop watching mine when you get all famous, ok?"
No promises. I hear fame changes people.
Ch4rgeb0lt giggled again before turning to read the rest of the chat.
The usual answers to this question were a variety of "nothing that interesting," "just my dead-end job," and the vaguely creepy, "just waited for you all day : ) " thrown in. Shinsou was fairly confident that his replies were always the most interesting, and not just because his life was frequently ridiculous. Shinsou knew his dry sense of humor was the trick to making Ch4rgeb0lt laugh. Something that had become increasingly important to him over the past couple weeks, but he didn't like to think too deeply about that.
MeatMeOutBack29 had a habit of sending money through the website with a request attached. This feature was usually used to get extra personal attention. Tonight, MeatMeOutBack29 had sent $30 and instructions for Ch4rgeb0lt to look at the camera and say:
"Hey there, Shi-chan! Looking hot tonight, babe!" and then blow a kiss.
The blonde did this, gave his exaggerated wink, and then followed it up by slurping some noodles from his still hot cup. The chat exploded with things like "say my name too!" and "no fair!" MeatMeOutBack29 was smug enough to send a couple more dollars with the public note, "Just a smile this time."
Ch4rgeb0lt crossed his gold eyes and gave a goofy grin, most likely not the type of smile the viewer had intended, but it had the right effect of entertaining the stream. It devolved into random chatter and Ch4rgeb0lt worked his magic of paying everyone just enough attention to feel wanted, but it never felt like enough to Hitoshi.
Shinsou sent the boy $10 through the website, with a public note that read:
Please buy something more nutritious than Cup Noodles. I'm getting scurvy just watching you.
Ch4rgeb0lt's eyes lit up at the note, "Thanks MindWash! I can get, like, ten more Cup Noodles with these!"
Shinsou snorted into his dinner. He should have known that's how the blonde would react. The boy continued by adding, "And oh man, you must really like me. I mean, you're paying 10 bucks every night just to get scurvy? Love you too, sweet stuff!"
Hitoshi felt his pulse flutter. The moments where Ch4rgeb0lt threw out words like 'love' so easily were the ones that he kept closest to his heart. The stream immediately became a parade of "tell me you love me too!" and "forget him! I love you MORE!" to which Ch4rgeb0lt would just giggle and assure his fans, "Now, now you know I love each and every one of you!" before putting his food down to make a heart shape with his hands.
It wasn't long before the stream came to an end. It always felt too quick for Shinsou, but an hour goes by fast when you're with your virtual boyfriend.
Ch4rgeb0lt always finishes the stream with a particular ritual. Starting with the goodnight kiss. Sometimes the kiss will be him leaning over and smooching the webcam and other times he kisses his fingers and then presses them to the lens. Upon pain of death, Shinsou will never reveal that on those nights he does the same thing back.
Tonight, Ch4rgeb0lt lifted the webcam up and gave it a loud 'mwah,' giggling to himself. After he put it down he closed the show with his usual sign-off.
He lifted up one pointer finger on each hand, and let a strike of electricity jump from one to the other before chirping, "Zap you later, babe!" and used his quirk to shut down the video feed.
After the stream went dark, only the chat was left. Many quickly logged off but some would stay afterward and talk with each other. Occasionally, Shinsou would wait and read their conversations, which was usually a variation of "he looked so cute tonight!" "I told my mom I have a boyfriend now and she wants to meet him! Do you think I can just show her the stream?" and the recently popular "I'm saving up money for one of his special one-on-one shows!"
Ch4rgeb0lt had advertised that, courtesy of not making enough at the barista job he sometimes spoke about, he was taking some days off during the week and having special private sessions with people for a pretty penny. Shinsou thought about his teacher's salary and grimaced. It was fine. He didn't know what he'd do if he actually got all his "boyfriend's" attention anyway. Probably type awkward responses and end up telling student stories to distract the blonde from how bad he is at real one-on-one conversation.
The purple-haired man closed his laptop and put away his trash. He had half an hour to grade papers before a quick shower and then finally the sweet pull of sleep would (hopefully) claim him. He did his best to not let the image of kind yellow eyes distract him, but he knew he'd end up dreaming about them.
Shinsou sighed. He really needed to get a hobby.