Garou had already loved winter.
He wasn’t one for aesthetics, if he was being honest. He never really stopped his life and “looked at the scenery”, nor did he ever “take a break”, “slow down”, words he’d heard hundreds of times but never took to heart. If he had some kind of theme or aura encompassing him, it was probably rough, calloused; spiky and rusty, like a nail.
Winter was the same way, almost, if you took apart its mask of beauty. Winter was deadly, undoubtedly so, he had experienced it first hand when he was prone to hypothermia and frostbite that nearly took his feet. It was as beautiful as much as it could kill.
When he laid against Metal Bat’s brick fence, nearly dead, snow pressing against his skin which was as white as paper, when he was close to death (as much as he wouldn’t admit it), he felt himself realizing he wouldn’t have really minded dying there, alone and cold. Maybe it was his pain talking, or exhaustion, he didn’t know, but those feelings were undeniable.
Weeks had passed. Weeks, weeks, weeks of treatment to restore feeling into his legs (which were now forever sensitive to cold), and weeks of Metal Bat and his younger sister, basking in their presence which he found to be more softer and more warm than any blanket or heater, kind enough to let him stay, nurture him like some kind of fallen bird, fallen hawk, fallen angel—
More like demon, Garou thinks.
It’s still winter. Middle of December, and snow falls as heavy as it had those many weeks ago. Garou wears tons of socks on his feet, and he’s gotten rid of his old black long sleeve and grey workout sweats. (Not that he had them. Gyoro-Gyoro replaced them within the first week of his captivity. Garou hated him for that, and various other things.) Now he sports regular clothing; an actually warm coat, red scarf and some pants and shoes that had actual style.
However, that doesn’t stop Garou from sparring.
It’s childish, really, when you think about it, maybe even a little immature, the way he and Badd are fighting right now. Somehow there’s a playful tone to their movements, yet a seriousness, a seriousness that says, “Why don’t you try a little harder? Why don’t you go all out?”
They don’t mean to hurt each other; Badd’s helped him, after all, countless of times and still continues to do so, however, that feels entirely disconnected to their fight, to their little spot in the woods where it’s so deadly silent you could almost hear the snow falling.
Garou still loved winter, even after what had happened. He thinks this takes the cake, though.
Yes, it does. It takes the cake whole heartedly. Badd is in front of him, panting, coat shedded (literally) to the side, along with his own scarf. He remains in his red long sleeve and weird looking pants, his bat in his left hand and he’s slightly hunched over, breath appearing white in the air; he wipes at the blood spilling from his nose, and Garou watches as a droplet falls to the ground, caught into the snow. Badd looks furious, yet cold and calculated at the same time.
This, Garou thinks, as he moves forward, Is as intimate as we’ve ever gotten.
And it’s true— more true than fact, science, but they stand alone, no one to bother them or tell them there’s a limit to what they’re doing, the fight is a mirage, it looks bloody and horrid and aggressive, but they’re just feeling each other out this way, mapping out their lives on the snow. And Badd sees Garou’s life clearly, as much as Garou sees his; there are images in their fight, flickers of the past, their experience in life is shown in the way they move, in the way they throw a punch or land a blow.
In the end, it’s just sparring, though, with a bit of extra on the side. And, in the end, despite all the warnings, all the hints, despite all the blood that pedaled into the snow, despite their flashes revealing their lives, Garou has forgotten one simple, undeniable truth that was revealed countless of times by this sparring.
Heroes are human.
When they spar again, it’s more light. It has some laughter; pained yet amused chuckles, more nosebleeds and busted lips rather than sore ribs and thighs. Garou narrowly dodges a swing of Badd’s bat, rolling along the snow to glance up. His movements are fast, when he kicks Badd’s feet out from underneath him, and he laughs when the other goes tumbling to the ground like he did mere moments ago.
Badd curses loudly, bat spilling from his hand and rolling over by a tree’s trunk. Easily, Garou pins him down. He grins, a slow thing, a thing he hadn’t done in very much a while, “I win,” he breathes out, chest rising and falling a little too rapidly.
He seems to notice the primal sort of look Garou gets in his eyes, because Badd grins back, “This ain’t the time for a kiss, Garou.”
He blinks, his hold on the other wavering slightly, but he reinforces it steadily, “How’d you kno—“
”Dumbass, we’ve been fighting like this for a while now,” Badd says, then grabs his wrist, removing it from his chest— he sits up and Garou moves back, giving him room to do so, “I know everythin’ about ya at this point.”
”You’re not mad?” Garou questions, raising a brow and leaning back on his feet. His knees are buried into the snow.
“No,” Badd says, then wraps a hand around the back of his neck, pulls him, draws him in and then their foreheads clash together, making Garou hiss, “I want it to. Just not right now.”
”If not now, then when?” Garou breathes out, his own golden eyes dropping down the to male’s lips— red with blood, but plump— and then to his eyes, dark and chocolate, which look so very tempting, “I hate waiting.”
”I know,” Badd grins, a snicker leaving him as he tangles his fingers into the older’s hair, “But I wanna wait.”
”For what?” Garou asks, “It’s just a kiss,” he reinforces, arching a silver eyebrow.
”No, it ain’t,” Badd scoffs, “I jus’ want it to be special, that’s all, you know?”
Garou grins, “Hero Metal Bat wants a date or something, huh? Kiss under the moonlight?” he suggests, wrapping his long fingers around the other’s wrist, “Have a candle lit?”
He doesn’t expect Badd to shrug. “Why not?” He suggests, and then Garou realizes how warm Badd is— but he only realizes it until Badd stands up and his front is left with cold— “Jus’ ‘cause I’m a hero don’t mean I’m not human. Maybe I wanna do human things like go on dates,” he flicks Garou’s forehead with a smirk, “Dumbass.”
Garou blinks and stares, slightly baffled as the hero grabs his bat and jacket, puts the jacket on and slings his weapon over his shoulder, and despite being in his hero outfit he looks more like a person in that moment than any time, with snow falling onto him, onto his pretty long lashes and hair, and a blood trail dripping from his nose, but it’s old and the bleeding has stopped.
”C’mon,” Badd says, stretching out a hand that Garou takes. Badd smiles and it’s more blinding than anything he’s ever seen.
”Let’s go home.”
They don’t make it home.
They almost do, though, but it’s not enough, because a curb of the sidewalk isn’t home. Home doesn’t look like it was stepped on by a giant; home doesn’t have raging fires, copious amounts of blood, home doesn’t have Metal Bat— no, Badd in his arms bleeding, it doesn’t have a Badd who is dead in his arms, so horribly limp and pale and not breathing, and home doesn’t make him cry, it doesn’t make him cup the face of a corpse.
Because that’s all Badd is now; the memories, flashes of life, the bright smiles and bloody noses and rough yet gentle fingers are gone, they’ve disappeared. Yet Garou still feels like he’s holding them in his hands, so he, very gently, and as very special as it can get— the moon is out, like Badd wanted, yes it is, and there aren’t any candles but the fires are enough to get close, so Garou kisses him, he pours every unsaid word he’d meant to say into that kiss.
When he kisses Badd it’s a bitter feeling that resonates within him, like he’d just finished a quest. Badd’s lips are plump and soft, ignoring the traces of metal tastes of course, and Garou holds his face and he feels his own tears slip down his cheeks— he hadn’t cried for a while— but his tears slip down silently and, unlike the torture Garou endured with Gyoro-Gyoro, this doesn’t even come close; he muffled the upcoming sobs and instead screams into the abyss of fire and special kisses.
He doesn’t know how long he remains there, but night passes so agonizingly fast; he wishes it didn’t, he wished morning didn’t come, because when morning comes, Badd is cold and his lips are dead, when morning comes help comes and they try to take the body away from him— when they do he shouts and riots, causes a scene as the male is pulled away from his clutches— when morning comes, Badd is dead.
When they get to the end of the funeral, a part of Garou is buried alongside Badd.
It’s not the empathetic side of him, it’s not kindness, it’s not hatred; just unspoken words. What gets buried is the piece of him that should have been destroyed by Gyoro-Gyoro, but it wasn’t (all because of Badd and Zenko and that stupid cat), it finally gets cast into the grave, into the fire.
He doesn’t know how to feel about that. He takes Zenko and leaves, who weeps and sobs over her dead brother, her main source of comfort and guidance within the world and Garou can’t help but cry too; he holds Zenko in his arms, a little tight, a little firm as he grits his teeth and cries again, and he glares daggers into Badd’s gravestone, a silent promise that he’ll take care of the hero’s little sister.
They leave after saying their private goodbyes. The actual funeral contained almost all S-Class heroes; the whole time Garou wishes they’d just leave, fuck off, go away and never come back because these people have never known the real Badd— all they’ve seen is Metal Bat, S-Class hero Rank 17, all they see is a title, all they see is a hothead with a bat who takes care of his little sister.
He knows that part isn’t true, but can’t help but direct his hatred somewhere. When they look at him he doesn’t tell them anything; he stares at the gravestone the whole time, his hand resting on Zenko’s shoulder, who grips the last bouquet of flowers Badd had ever gotten her, her small hands curled into little fists as she cries the whole time. Rain soon comes, and everyone leaves, but they stay, clothes all black.
They keep Badd’s bat; it doesn’t pain Garou to look at it for some reason, and it doesn’t pain Zenko either. They share it, usually leaving it by the front door. Sometimes Garou sees her with it while watching TV on the couch; she wears one of Badd’s jackets, a jacket too big for her, but she curls up with it anyways, the bat resting in her arms like a baby.
Sometimes when she’s bored she takes the bat, waves it around outside like a sword, and if Garou tries hard enough he can see Badd himself waving the damn thing around. At one point she carried it around with her everywhere, even insisting that she take it to school— it took a lot of convincing to get her to leave it at home— she still does it, keeps the bat close by her.
Sometimes things get... hard. No one is keen on hiring the Hero Hunter for a job, and there have been arguments, deadly and painful ones. Garou knows he can’t ever replace Badd, not to Zenko— who could ever?— and there were struggles, venomous words and pain, so much pain that it was suffocating.
Garou... does not feel that pain anymore.
He attends Zenko’s highschool graduation of course; watches her grow up, learning things himself as he goes, and he watches her become an adult, chased by boys (who she lets down, because it seems that men aren’t really Zenko’s area), and he watches her take a liking to Badd’s bat and martial arts.
Garou teachers her like Bang had taught him. At first, just enough to defend herself, until she insists she wants to be a hero; Garou tries his hardest convincing her not to, unadmittedly scared of losing her like he lost the hero. It’s another circus, but eventually he realizes he can’t keep her safe forever.
She does become a hero, of course, but not without going to college and getting a degree in order to be a veterinarian; Garou thinks maybe it’s got something to do with Tama, who had died a few years back. He’s not too sure, though.
She doesn’t replace the same spark Badd has. But she comes close enough. She follows her brother’s footsteps, those red and black colors and when it’s her first day as a hero and she goes on patrol Garou cries like a little bitch, but he can’t help it. She’s near a splitting image of him.
He returns to Badd’s grave that very same day; some S-Class heroes (many who are retired) still leave flowers, and Garou has long since gotten over his hatred towards them. He comes without anything in his hand; crouches down by the grave, fingers running through the grass as his eyes drag to the unflattering grey gravestone that belongs to Badd.
He spills everything. About Zenko, Tama, he throws in a lot that he’s there, talking for hours, sitting on the grass and smiling and he can’t help but feel a warmth pressing into his shoulder. He likes to think it’s a Badd there, leaning against him.
He talks, tears up a few times before deciding he’s cried enough that day, and instead he stands, places a kiss on the top of the gravestone and then takes a rose from one of the bouquets, placing in where he had laid his kiss.
Garou leaves there at sundown, and he thinks he can feel Badd’s lips pressing on his own forehead, too.