I’ve been here before
I know this shade of blue
Saitama wakes up humming, pleased to the core about something that he isn’t quite aware of yet. Is there a sale today? he wonders, stretching languidly. Low prices on good lobster? Or oooh, maybe king crab! Or beef! All but dreaming, he plots out what kind of dinner he and Genos can have if the imaginary sale is actually taking place.
He can almost taste it, soft and buttery and delicious, but his hand brushes against something strange, and he freezes midstretch, the fantasy flittering away before the reality of something soft and silky brushing against his hand. His eyes flutter open to give the ceiling an accusing stare. Did Genos bring a cat into his apartment or something?
Come to think on it, where is Genos? Usually, he could hear him puttering about this early. There should be quiet banging in the kitchen, and the odd whir of cybernetic parts doing whatever they do to keep Genos functioning. But he can’t hear it. What he does hear is the unfamiliar noise of a busy city, in the early morning. Cars and the occasional murmur of people beyond his apartment, moving carelessly about whatever business they have.
Deciding that lying where he was isn’t going to get him answers, he sits upright, only for his brain to stutter at what he sees. His old apartment, the one he had way back before the crab guy with the sharpie nipples. It’s even dingier than he remembered. And there’s no way he should be here.
Yet, when he looks around, he can tell that it’s still his space. There’s that cactus that kept trying to die. Here’s his favorite blanket, though it feels almost new, like the cotton is still slightly stiff because it hasn’t been through the wash roughly a thousand times.
He keeps trying to put two and two together, but the only thing that comes back was a solid “What the fuck?” which he ends up whispering under his breath.
Confusion isn’t a good reason not to start the day right, he decides, and meanders into the bathroom for the usual morning ablutions. With no mishaps on the way, Saitama figures he’s off to a decent start. He’s halfway through brushing his teeth before he even looks at himself in the mirror. When he does, he spits toothpaste and water all over his reflection.
He has hair.
It seems that two plus two really does equal WTF.
Things are different. Of course they’re different. Saitama’s memory is shit when it comes to things that don’t interest him, and that’s almost everything. But he knows it’s different.
Such as: He lost his part time job before he should have. That was a date he remembers fairly well, because originally, it had left him feeling dead inside, in a way that carried from interview to interview to interview - something he wasn’t planning to bother with this time, considering that even back then, he had bombed every single one. This way, he won’t have to waste money on a bargain bin suit, and can start hero-ing early.
He also finds that his three years of training were worthless. His strength and invulnerability are not a physical factor, because here he is, two years before he even started that training, and whatever that power is, it came back with him. While killing the occasional monster around bits of off-the-books heavy labor - haha, college turned out to be such a waste - he ponders what that actually means other than that he accidentally lied to Genos.
Saitama always meant to be honest. Doesn’t like that he had lied to Genos, whether or not it was on purpose. Dishonesty isn’t exactly abhorrent - he’s aware that for some people it was a necessity, even, and the world isn’t black and white. But it isn’t something he needs. Yet he told everyone who asked that it was because of his tough training he had become so strong. Now, he finds that it turned out to be a lie.
It still means that he can patrol and kill monsters sooner, though. While he occasionally misses them, since it’s a good five or so years in his past, monsters aren’t prevalent yet. Which means that he’s bored. It doesn’t matter how much he patrols, if there are no monsters, there’s nothing to fight. Assuming that would alleviate his boredom.
The real difference between what would have been and now is this: He has hair.
Okay, so maybe there’s more to it than that. Saitama had gotten used to having Genos around. Maybe he’d even gotten used to the others.
But now he’s alone. No game dates with King to stave off boredom. No lunch with Mumen Rider when he starts feeling empty again. No coercion attempts from Fubuki, or even Bang’s attempts to teach him and Genos real martial arts - things that always surprised him with a feeling that he was actually wanted. No Genos, doing his Genos-things, constantly humming with tension in the background, intent on Saitama in a way that should have been awkward at the least, but just... helped with the loneliness.
Oh. So that’s what that emptiness is. He stops in the middle of the sidewalk, a rock in the middle of a river of humanity, and how can he be alone surrounded by so many people? Jostled from either side, as people get used to the change in the flow of foot traffic, he eventually moves to the wall of a nearby building.
It’s just shy of noon, but his luck is such that he fetches up against an open bar, and in the manner of lonely people all over the world, goes inside. Inside is a generic mix of characters that Saitama has no interest in, and a bartender in a red vest and a dark green apron, cleaning a glass. Now that, he has some interest in, even if his wallet is feeling a little shy. Good alcohol isn’t cheap, and his stomach cringes at the idea of trying bottom shelf liquor. That’s a stomach ache waiting to happen. The good stuff is bad enough.
He squints at the middle shelf for long enough that the bartender grows impatient, before ordering a plum sake that he vaguely recalls from his stint at college. The sake tastes almost exactly like he remembers - a hint of plum mixing into a particular flavor that he can only describe as death. Finishing it will be a trial. Leaving it would be a waste. He’s torn.
About twenty minutes in, the bartender starts casting concerned glances in his direction. After an hour, the man flat out stares, and Saitama doesn’t have to be an esper to know what he’s thinking. ’What is wrong with this dude?’
Truth is, Saitama isn’t sure what is wrong with him. Sure, he knows why he isn’t finishing the sake - death isn’t a good flavor, no matter how you try to disguise it with the fragrance of plum. But he doesn’t know why he’s sitting here. Surely, it can’t just be loneliness. If that’s the case, shouldn’t he be staring morosely at the other people, rather than his drink?
His mind keeps going back to his old, nonexistent, tiny apartment, shared with a nosy cyborg who thinks the world of him. Back to the fact that he couldn’t convince Genos that he had nothing to teach him. Back to Genos’s neat freak tendencies, and the fact that even if he spaced out his chores over a week, he can’t accomplish as much as Genos did in one day. Every day. Tirelessly.
He grows tired just thinking about it. And the fact is, right now, he’s avoiding chores, among other things. Normally, at this hour he would be making at least the vaguest attempt at picking up. Instead, here he is, staring into a god forsaken cup of plum sake that he doesn’t even want.
At last call, he’s jolted out of his reverie, and takes a deep breath. By ordering it, he bought it, and he can’t bring himself waste it, so he bolts it down in three gulps, gagging a little at the last.
On the way home, he continues to try to chase the taste from his mouth - once with tea from a vending machine, then with a soda from another one on the last leg of his walk. Once he gets to his building, he stops, keys dangling loosely in his hand. Light filters out his window, but he isn’t sure if he left the light on or not.
Probably not, he judges, watching the curtain flutter. He’s too conscientious of the money he doesn’t have to do something like leaving on lights. An open window? Yeah, he probably would assume he did. But lights? Besides, the window is closed, and he’s certain that he left it open.
The keys jingle in his grip as he approaches the door. It opens with a twist of the handle. Against expectations, the intruder hadn’t locked the door behind them. “Hello?” he calls, stepping inside. Movement comes from the kitchen.
“There you are!” exclaims a female voice, and Saitama blinks when he sees her. Her appearance registers quickly: Too pretty to be with someone like him. Too angry to be a friend, probably. She’s familiar, certainly, but he can’t put his finger on why. A roommate? he wonders, as she goes into a rant about being worried about him - her and their coworkers. How he hasn’t called her in over a week, and that even their boss (his ex-boss) is worried about him.
“I know you,” he muses aloud. Coworker, he gets that part, and he still can’t put his finger on it, but he’s growing surer by the second that he did indeed know her as something else. He isn’t so sure of the roommate theory, but anything else doesn’t really make much sense. Her red eyes are fascinating though, especially when they flare wide with shock and anger.
“You idiot! Have you been drinking?” She leans close, takes two dainty sniffs, a scowl marring her dainty features. “You have! Saitama, what the hell?”
“It was only one.” Is that defensiveness creeping into his own voice? It might be. Then it clicks. Yeah, he knows her alright. She was a coworker from his part time job... that he had tried dating, once upon a time. It was partly their break up that had lead to him being fired the first time around (while this time it was absense). It wasn’t that he blamed her, but... That had been one of the worst points in his life. One of the few times he had taken action to end it. “Right. I’m going to want my key back.”
She flinches. “Wh-what? Saitama, are you okay?” There’s a guilty quaver in her voice, but it doesn’t stir him at all. Nothing much does anymore.
“Hmm? I’m fine, but we can’t date anymore,” he says, shrugging. “It’s just, I know about you and... uh, what’s his name? Your buddy from when you were kids? Yeah, I know you’ve been sleeping together. And it would have been fine if you’d just said something, but…” He makes a vague gesture over his head. “I guess I actually have more self-respect than that. Go figure.”
Those crimson eyes are still wide, but they narrow suddenly with violent intent. He doesn’t even bother to avoid the open handed slap, just blinks at her when tears creep into the corners of her eyes. Whether it’s pain or anger, he doesn’t know, and while he doesn’t want her to cry, he doesn’t know how to stop it. “S-saitama, you…” Her voice is shaky but vicious, and she digs into her pocket to throw the key into his face. “It would have been fine?” she spits. “Fine? You’re telling me you wouldn’t have cared? That you don’t care?”
That isn’t quite what he said. It isn’t what he meant, either. But her voice grows shriller with each word, and she eventually spins on her heels, snatches up her purse, and runs from the apartment. Then she’s gone.
The next day, after killing a monster in the morning that seems intent on showering passersby with love - ew - he goes back to the bar, and ends up relating what had happened with his ex to the bartender, while staring morosely into a shot glass filled with something a grassy shade of green. It smells like licorice, and while he doesn’t mind licorice, this stuff tastes even more like death than the plum sake. “And when I woke up this morning the phone was off!” Apparently she had paid for his phone. He hadn’t remembered that.
The bartender snickers into his tie. “Man, you’re the oblivious sort, aren’t you?” Another patron takes to giving the bartender side-eye. “She probably wasn’t satisfied. Add into that that you didn’t seem to care? I think anyone would have lost their temper and left.”
Not satisfied? The words play on repeat in the back of his mind. Ignoring the other patron, whose look had grown incredulous while the bartender spoke, he says, “But if she had told me, we could have worked something out, probably. Like, I could be there for the emotional stuff - not very good at it, but I can listen as well as anyone else. I don’t mind cuddling, or whatever. And she could go and have sex with whoever, since I don’t actually care about that kind of thing. As long as everyone’s on the same page, that’s what’s important, right?”
“You are weird,” says the bartender. And that’s that.
At last call, Saitama again downs his drink in one go, gagging and coughing on the flavor of licorice death. He’s not trying absinthe again. Ever. Probably.
Visiting the bar turns into a regular habit. The bartender is always the same guy, and although he seems bemused by Saitama’s habits, he doesn’t say much about it, just listens when Saitama complains, gives him his one drink and occasional advice. The atmosphere is calm and pleasant, and after a while, the scent of alcohol stops being offensive. The place feels welcoming and undemanding, and Saitama needs something like that.
After about a week, the bartender asks if he’d rather have a glass of water to stare into, but it doesn’t change anything really, so he goes back to trying out various cheap liquors the next day. Somewhere into the second week, a monster attacks the bar - a grotesque, gelatinous thing that reeks of artificial fruit flavoring and cheap vodka. Saitama suspects that it had already hit up several other bars along the way. “I am the Demon of Gluttony,” it bellows, waving slimy tentacles after the various patrons. “I am here to - hic - cleanse the world of sinful places like this! I aim to destroy - hic - every bar I can find. And I’ll drink all you lushes.”
Saitama, unlike the other patrons, doesn’t bother fleeing. There’s a smaller dude - one he would have mistaken for a kid, if he’d run into him in the streets - who was knocked over in the initial onslaught, and Saitama weighs whether or not he’ll need help. Yamanaka-san just called last call before the attack, so the internal debate is essentially what he should do first. Finish his drink? Kill the monster? Help the little guy up?
For some reason, he decides to chug his drink first, and gags on it, as usual. Still gagging, he flashes between the little guy and the monster, lashing out with his fist. It begins disintegrating with a sad little “nooooo”, splattering to the floor in gelatinous bits. Finally, he places that artificial fruit scent - Jello. It had been a Jello-shot monster. “Ew. I want water,” he grumbles, and walks back over to his seat, ignoring the little guy who is just starting to get up.
In spite of damage, the bar is open again the next day, and Yamanaka-san gives him a glass of something blue that smells like oranges. It probably tastes as much like death as anything else in the bar. “You don’t have to pay. At all. Knowing you, you’ll only get one drink a day, but... because of yesterday I almost lost my business. If you hadn’t been here I would have had to go back to therapy…” The man shakes his head, with a look Saitama can only guess is bewilderment. “You’ll always be welcome here.”
Free drinks for life, it sounds like, which is kinda cool, even if he doesn’t like the taste of alcohol. Saying what he’s thinking, “Cool,” he takes his first sip of the blue orange stuff. Orange death. He winces and pushes it forward slightly, and the bartender laughs silently at him. Then the little dude from yesterday comes and sits next to him.
The bartender greets him as “Chief” which Saitama thinks is a cool nickname, and pours him something that’s layered and brightly colored. Being a good bartender requires some talent, he decides. And since he has free drinks for life, he might actually start trying mixed drinks once he drinks through the shelves. They might even taste better.
The little guy takes to staring after a few minutes, and if Saitama was anyone else, he might be creeped out. Or at least admitted that it’s creepy. Fuck, he hopes that he isn’t about to get hit on. He can handle the Genos-brand form of hitting on him - mostly because Genos was so out of touch with his own emotions that he didn’t really realize that he was doing it. Saitama determinedly keeps his eyes forward. If he doesn’t make eye contact, maybe the guy will get the point.
No luck. After a long while staring unblinkingly - which makes it creepier - the guy lets out a little attention calling cough. Stomach filling with dread, Saitama tries to offer a polite smile. “You saved my life yesterday. I wanted to thank you.”
His smile wavers. “Uh... Cool?” He never had gotten the hang of dealing with people thanking him. It doesn’t happen often enough for him to grow used to it. Selfconscious, Saitama scrubs his fingers through the hair at the back of his neck. “There’s no need to thank me. It’s just what I do. For fun mostly.”
“Just what you do?” the little guy - Chief, because that’s easier than thinking of him as “little guy” - asks. “You do that kind of thing often?”
“Yeah. If I don’t do it, who will? Besides, the monsters cause a lot of damage if they aren’t stopped. Mostly I wouldn’t care, because it isn’t my business, but since I can do something…” he trails off with a shrug. “I don’t want to see my favorite store demolished by a monster if I can help it. Or any other place I go to, really. I figure everyone else probably feels the same.”
Chief smothers a laugh. “We get calls at the station for rampaging monsters sometimes. Would it be possible for me to pass that information to you? And would you be willing to go out of your way to fight them?”
Saitama blinks. “I... Well, I don’t have a phone. If you’re trying to ask for my number, that is. It’s too expensive, and I’m living on a questionable budget so... yeah. I don’t have a computer, either.” A quick glance shows that Chief was staring again. “I’d be willing, though. It’d be a good way to pass time.” Pass time until what? He has no idea.
The next day, Chief gives him a phone. It’s a cheap affair, and Saitama only stops feeling guilty about it when Chief tells him that it’s paid for by the Station, and that it doesn’t come from his own budget. Saitama is starting to suspect that Chief has something to do with the police, but keeps the thought to himself.
Cheap or not, he quickly realizes that it has several features that would be useful in his day to day life. First and most importantly, it has a calendar. He can schedule things with it. And it will remind him of when things are happening - such as sales, timed or otherwise.
Secondly, there’s the texting option, which, with the only number already programmed into the phone, he uses to let Chief know that an inconvenience was heading his way shortly. Chief is good at getting these things cleaned up.
Third, he discovers, is the camera. He begins using it to take before and after photos of the monsters he encounters. Those too, he sends to Chief.
Little does he know that this simple object, and his use of it, will change the course of history for City Z.
Saitama continues making regular visits to the bar, but his days are interspersed with the occasional “Such-and-such monster is wreaking havoc on so-and-so lane. How quickly can you be there?”
Usually, faster than the signal can keep up. The phone always seems to drop calls when he runs, which is fine, because Chief can’t hear him when he runs anyway. Something about rushing air over the microphone.
It almost becomes routine. And since things are the way they are, he ends up making the acquaintance of more than a few cops. Mostly, he misses out on their names, and thinks of them by something that stands out about them. Such as, there’s that one guy, about his height, with the big, messy ponytail, and the big messy breakdowns, and his partner, whose hair is white, eyes are sharp, and tongue sharper. Those two always end up yelling at each other, and between the two of them, they have a habit of making bystanders cry. Usually by accident.
Things get weird though, when he runs into the green goblin. She has no idea who he is, but when he interrupts her sound thrashing of an enemy (by accident, he swears, both loudly and repeatedly), she turns her formidable telekinetic power against him.
Nearly two hours later, they limp into Yamanaka-san’s bar, the both of them visibly worse for wear, and Saitama orders, “Whatever’s next on the list for me, and whatever the goblin wants.”
Tatsumaki huffs, and Yamanaka-san arches an eyebrow at them. “If you’re covering for her, only the first one’s free.”
“It’ll probably only take one,” Saitama replies cheerfully, and Tatsumaki peers back and forth between them, wavering between pout and glower.
“One Fireball,” she says, with a dainty sniff, then gapes when the bartender immediately set a shot glass in front of her and readies himself to pour. “O-oi! Aren’t you going to card me?”
“She over twenty?” asks Yamanaka-san.
“She’s older than me,” Saitama replies, mildly aggrieved. Well, not counting the five years time travel. If he counts that, he’d be thirty (actually, he would only be 26 - the age he was before the time travel thing, but he’s crap at math that has nothing to do with his budget). So he isn’t going to count it. At all.
“What kinda skeezy place did you drag me to, idiot?” Tatsumaki snaps, when Yamanaka-san takes him for his word and immediately pours the drink.
“I didn’t drag you here! You followed me!” He’s distracted by his own drink appearing, and Tatsumaki huffs again. This time, the alcohol is a pale yellow, and smells like honeysuckle. He grimaces at it, but takes the obligatory first sip. It isn’t as bad as usual, but it still burns a bit. “Yamanaka-san, I almost like this one.”
The goblin grumbles a bit, called him a lightweight for drinking “weak, sweet drinks” that only “scared virgins” would actually order. The bartender turns his back on them, unsuccessfully trying to hide his laughter.
So, she’s goading him, and he knows it. Not ten minutes later he regrets falling for it. That Fireball stuff is strong - the initial taste is that of straight whiskey, but it ends on a fiery sweet note. After a few shots of it, it starts tasting good, like cinnamon disks. It isn’t that long before it starts really hitting him - his tongue and lips numb, a strong flush suffuses his cheeks, and he starts to get a strange floating feeling while his limbs start to feel like lead. A vague dizziness comes soon after.
He doesn’t know when it turned into a party, but there are other people there too, laughing loudly as he tries to tell a story about something that hasn’t happened yet. Tatsumaki is at least as drunk as he is, giggling constantly in response to almost every word out of his mouth, even when he insults her.
So he tells her about the first time he remembers seeing her, “a sassy lost child” at the Heroes’ Association, and how she had slammed Genos into a wall because Genos was mouthy as hell when he got started. Recreating the insult used turns her giggles into choked off snorts. The other voices, unidentifiable, seem to approve of that story as well.
Some time later, she’s a warm weight at his side, and dizziness has his head tilted back against his seat with his eyes closed. The voices and laughter peter out, and the world slowly spins. This drunk thing is kinda fun, once he gets past what he has to taste to get there.
He feels like an old wet noodle, gathering dirt on the sidewalk, and he doesn’t remember coming home. Why is he in the entryway, anyway? Shouldn’t he have at least gone to bed? Did he just step inside, close the door and collapse?
Do noodles feel pain? he wonders, when a brief glimpse of light is like a hot knife through his eye. He knows that the noodle couldn’t get up. Noodles are notoriously sloppy. No cohesion. Even if part of him manages to move, the rest will just drag.
Ugh, he’s hungry and he’s nauseated, and his mouth feels like the Sahara Desert. He isn’t sure, but he might need to throw up. There’s a feeling at the back of his throat that insists that it’s going to happen sooner or later.
Aspirin, water and a shower. That’s what he needs to feel approaching human again.
Afterwards, he still feels like utter crap, but he’s able to make a simple breakfast and not gag on it. So hey, improvement. A quick check of his phone, and he sees two missed messages from Chief: I see you had fun last night. Let me know when you can walk straight again. The second is: Also, you’re welcome.
Saitama fires off a text - a mixture of confused thanks and yo, I’m alive - and goes to brush his teeth, which he should have done first thing anyway. While brushing, he tries to recreate yesterday’s events.
Let’s see... He and the goblin went to Yamanaka-san’s bar. They drank. A lot. Fuck, they drank a lot. He doesn’t even know how he gets when drunk, but he vaguely remembers laughing a lot, and hearing an obnoxious giggle for what seemed like hours. He highly suspects that Tatsumaki is the dangerous kind of drunk. So... that’s it. Yamanaka-san is never going to let him come back.
Eh, he’ll have to drop by in the evening just to make sure that it’s just his imagination running wild on him. He definitely doesn’t want a drink today. He should still check up on things... His phone buzzes, and he rinses his mouth out before checking it.
It’s a slew of curse words, and he immediately knows that it isn’t Chief. Did he give the goblin his number? Why would he do that? Mouth pulled into a perturbed slant, he scans the long text for anything important, and choked on nothing when he sees woke up in fucking handcuffs, you asshole! don’t tell me that cop wasn’t a buddy of yours! he fucking knew you! don’t deny it bastard!
“What cop?” he wonders, and texts back those exact words. Because he seriously has no idea what she’s on about.
Beep. Check. grey blond, scar, almost as short as me? RING ANY BELLS?
Huh. She must mean Chief. Saitama is mildly surprised that she didn’t mention the eyes, which he would swear are an unnatural shade of pink - not that he would be rude enough to point that out. Or, you know, the bigass flower he has on that pack he always brings to the bar with him - which is occasionally clipped to his hair instead. Nice to know that he’s right, and Chief is a cop. Weird to think that a cop would carry something like that around with him... Wait. Why did he cuff you?
The responding beep is almost immediate. fucker! you were there!
I think I passed out at the bar, he replies.
Beep. you danced on the table Then, before he can reply, with a “No I didn’t!” the phone beeps again. naked Beep. kissed the bartender Beep. and the bouncer Since when was there a bouncer? Beep. then you fell asleep on me in the police car. AFTER he cuffed me
Okay, I can believe the last one, but until I see Yamanaka-san, I can’t believe you about the rest. I would NEVER do that.
Beep. lightweight Beep. pussy Beep. baldy
No way is he going to stand for that when he actually has hair! I am not bald!
Beep. you smell like konbu
Now that’s just rude.
Beep. WHY CANT I OPEN THESE! FUCKING METAL BRACELETS!
If he read that right, she’s still cuffed. Or you could break them?
Beep. THEN I LOSE THE BET Beep. IM SO MAD RIGHT NOW YOU HAVE NO IDEA
Huh. We must have had a great time, if you’re still cuffed from last night. Still dealing with the side effects at nearly noon means it had to have been fun. No need to know the details. That would ruin it.
Beep. WHO THINKS LIKE THAT? yeah we should totally do that again. just not right now. im hungover
Did he just make a friend? It seems like a goblin way of making friends, but he can roll with that. He kinda misses having friends. And having someone around who’s at least an equal will probably be good for her. He can maybe steer her away from being mean to Fubuki for having friends. Even if he still thinks that Fubuki’s way of going about it is weird.
He misses having friends, so thinking that the green goblin is one is... kinda nice.
This time travel thing isn’t so bad, except that he’s missing the people he likes having around. Genos would be a happy fourteen year old boy now. No one he knows would be heroes yet. Tatsumaki is an unusual case - less a hero, and more what one would call an anti-hero. She does as he does. And they both basically do whatever they want.
What Saitama wants is a good fight, even now, but he knows that the possibility is unlikely. The closest he can get is playing with the goblin occasionally. Which is fun, sure, but it doesn’t require the fire that he used to feel, back when he could barely handle his opponents.
Basically, he wants to say that he’s bored. The loneliness is mitigated by the few people he spends time around - his bartender, Chief and the goblin, namely. But it doesn’t do much for his boredom. Even the monsters don’t alleviate that. Just one punch. Always one punch. That’s all it takes, unless he’s screwing around. And that, well, he really shouldn’t do that. Because monsters are usually after people, and yeah. People dying because he wants to play? He isn’t that much of a jerk.
Even as he continues doing as he does, time goes on. The Chief - his name is Yagura, apparently - confronts him at one point with a bank card. Many of the monsters he had slain had bounties on them, and since they didn’t have his full information, they considered loading the bounties into an account for him to be a sensible compromise.
The money makes him feel awkward, just knowing it’s there. Instead of using it, he continues taking odd jobs as necessary to cover things like rent, utilities and food, only breaking into the new account for emergencies.
Somehow, he ends up making up with his ex - they never get back together, as she had married that other guy, but she’s added to his short list of friends, as is her husband, who is a decent sort, nice and steady. He likes the guy - accidently says he would have been up for a threesome if only she had said something, and then can’t really deny it once confronted. Though he totally meant something else.`
Eventually, comes Crablante. How he remembered the shitty crab-man’s name, he isn’t sure. And he almost wants to kill him the same way he did before, but he isn’t dressed for it. Crablante laughs his particularly grating laugh, saying he’s in pursuit of a brat with a huge cleft chin - which makes sense. He even has the same sharpie nipples that he had before.
The monster lets Saitama go, in much the same manner as before, and Saitama keeps walking, wondering if he’s going to see the kid or not. Because some things change, while others don’t.
One change: Instead of a nice, if ill fitting suit, Saitama meanders past the park in a comfortable tracksuit, the same medium blue of the one he bought when he began to train the first time. He isn’t sure he’ll ever again wear the yellow uniform with red boots and gloves, and his white cape. As much as he likes it, it feels like a relic of another time. And this isn’t the same world, no matter how much he might wish that. And he isn’t the same man.
For every change, one thing stays the same. The brat, with his dull, blank eyes and gigantic chin, playing with his soccer ball in the park. If Saitama’s memory is right, this, at least, is entirely the same. “Oi, brat! Were you messing around with some crab monster?”
The next five minutes are similar to what he remembered. With one exception. Crablante is incredibly slow, and also, incredibly weak. Then again, Saitama should have known that before engaging. After all, he managed to kill it back when running a few kilometers was hard.
He leaves the kid, unaware of just what he had done. His interference in just this place, at just this time, ensures the creation of the Hero’s Association, something that he has even less interest in this time around. So after patting the kid on the head and telling him to be careful not to go out of his way to piss off monsters in the future, he just goes his way, as he usually does.
He doesn’t even think to leave his name.
There’s a strange kid at the door, and he looks too much like Genos. He has the same stiff posture, and intent gaze - though his eyes are hazel, and his hair looks dyed, rather than the stiff, artificial gold that the cyborg had. “I’m here on behalf of ZPD,” the teenager - definitely a teenager - says. “Chief Yagura has been looking for someone to keep a close eye on your activities, and I volunteered.”
“Look, kid...” He’s interrupted.
“It seems that for the past three years, the chief has been trying to find someone to take this position, but the only ones qualified refused on principle,” the teenager continues, barreling right over Saitama’s attempt to speak. Every word seems to come out just a little faster than the last. “I am, of course, underqualified, but knowing your reputation, I was excited at the prospect of the posting. You do a lot of important things for City Z, and I would be honored if you allowed me to accompany you on your day to day outings, which the ZPD still has difficulty tracking, in spite of the many updates to the city’s infrastructure.”
“Uh, Genos...” Saitama barely manages to insert the words when the teenager pause for breath, but he isn’t heeded in the least.
“Due to ZPD’s inability to track your activity, they have been intending to assign someone to observe you from up close, but as I said, none of the persons qualified were willing to accept the posting. Likely, due to safety concerns. But if by closely observing you, I can provide a great service to the city, I am willing to accept the risks. I greatly look forward to working with you, Saitama-sama,”
Thinking that might be the end, Saitama tries again, “Please don’t say that...”
“and I hope, in time, you can become accustomed to this intrusion into your life. It is a necessity. One that should have been addressed long ago. Unfortunately, I am the only one who was willing to take on this task. I apologize in advance for the intrusion, Saitama-sama,”
“No, it’s fine...”
“because we were left with little choice, as your methods of reporting leave something to be desired. This will be one of my duties. I will report incidents that you don’t think to, and expound upon the incidents wherein your reports are inadequate. ZPD requires thorough records, and up until now, that need has been circumvented by necessity. I hope we can get along well.”
Saitama waits this time, to make sure Genos 2.0 is actually finished speaking. Once he’s certain that the human teenager is finished, he lifts his head from where he had leaned against the doorframe and snaps, “Don’t be an idiot! No one has time to listen to something like that! Summarize it! Twenty words or less!”
Genos - and he’s 90% certain that this is, indeed, a younger, human Genos, in spite of the inhuman speed of his speech - blinks at him in consternation. “I’m here to observe you on the behalf of the ZPD. Please take care of me.”
Saitama can admit that he missed Genos. His Genos. That doesn’t mean he wanted Genos 2.0 to move in with him, even when he provides rent money with a look that says butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. Emergency funds aside, he could certainly use the cash. Since everyone wasn’t chased out of this area, the rent is higher than it would have been, and he really doesn’t want to dip into the emergency stash.
Genos doesn’t comment on the fact that Saitama already knows his name. For his part, he hadn’t exactly been surprised by that. As the previous commissioner's nephew, Genos knows a few things that aren’t common knowledge. The only reason it wasn’t classified was because it’s Saitama and Genos is starting to understand what that means.
The uncommon knowledge he is privy to is this: Saitama had somehow traveled back in time. No one knew how, or why, or from when. It’s obvious that Saitama himself doesn’t consider it important, or else it was something he took care of while everyone else was left scratching their collective asses. His immediate recognition of Genos only goes to prove it, as far as Genos is concerned.
He wonders if Saitama will ever think to say anything about it to him. What was Genos like, in the time that wasn’t? Was he different at all? As Saitama adjusted his routine to accommodate him, Genos realizes that the other man had known him quite well, with the exception of a few oddities.
Saitama knows how he prefers to have his towels folded, but doesn’t know that he detests leeks. He clears out a shelf for Genos to put his notebooks, but never uses the air conditioner, not even when it exceeded 35 degrees Celsius. He doesn’t use the heater, either, just has a tag hanging over the vent that says “Save Money”. He takes utmost care around Genos when he’s paying attention, but when he isn’t... Well. Genos nearly loses limbs when Saitama isn’t.
It only takes witnessing a couple fights - and taking part in the evacuation procedures, because he isn’t capable of handling much more than that - to realize that all the stories about Saitama are understated. It quickly becomes clear that the man has no concept of power outside of himself. It could have been Threat Level Wolf, or Threat Level Dragon, it doesn’t make any difference. Genos wonders if Threat Level God would register as different to Saitama.
“Is this power something that can be taught?” he asks, once the cleanup crew arrives and Saitama starts to meander away as he always does.
“I don’t know,” Saitama replies. “I used to think, if I can do it, anyone can. But now I wonder, because then, I thought it was the training that brought me so far.”
“But it wasn’t training?” Genos extrapolates. “If it wasn’t training, then what was it?”
Saitama just shakes his head, pensive. When he speaks, he rambles uncharacteristically. “There were a couple guys I fought that I had to get a little serious with. One was a kinda nasty guy, but I sorta saw where he was coming from. The other, he could have been me, except, he did it all wrong, and after a point, stopped getting stronger. In the end, he was just a shell that I had to break, and he went back to normal and ran away when I let him. That guy wasn’t a bad guy. He was just angry, and sad, and I think he just wanted a good fight too.”
Genos is mildly annoyed that he doesn’t have a notebook at hand for this. Saitama always has such interesting things to say. Sometimes, it takes a little parsing, but the man’s philosophy is enlightening. “Saitama-san.” He had dropped the “sama” only after much protesting, and he still doesn’t want to seem like he has anything but the utmost respect for Saitama. “Would you teach me?”
Saitama comes to a abrupt halt. “Eh?!”