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i saw you in a dream (then it came to an end…i wonder if you'll come visit me again)

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hanta woke up when his phone sang. he groaned and blinked his sleepy eyes and blindly felt around his bed for the annoying device that tugged him from his slumber. 

 

he smiled softly as he read through the text that eijirou sent him, reminding him to be ready for the day ahead. hanta remembered the day that the redhead had planned. 

 

eijirou always wanted to try new things and wanted to make his friends happy and relaxed, and thus a day off became a trip to the city’s aquarium. hanta hadn’t been to the aquarium in years, hadn’t since he was at least maybe twelve. he was twenty two now, and owned half of a tattoo/piercing parlor. katsuki, one of eijirou’s boyfriends, owned the other half since he was best at tattoos. hanta stuck with piercing, but would occasionally help katsuki with a tattoo if he got the chance. 

 

they've owned the parlor for more than two years now, and already it’s a success. 

 

hanta tugged on a plain black hoodie of his head and sat up, wriggling out of his basketball shorts. he decided that he wouldn’t need to take a shower today, since he took one yesterday. plus, this was his day off. no sweaty parlor chair with barely any air conditioning. just relaxing and having fun with his friends. 

 

hanta had trouble with that—relaxing and allowing himself to enjoy things. if he wasn’t working or doing something that required at least the smallest amount of productivity, he felt lazy and like he wasn’t really amounting to anything. if he felt that way, he was right back to where he started—average. hanta had been seen as average for almost all his life. he was a middle child, so naturally he was neglected and ignored, but it continued into school. he never excelled greatly at anything, just did enough to pass. he’s never won any awards—unless he counted the numerous participation awards he’d been “gifted” over the years—and simply floated through life in the middle of everything. 

 

that was until he met katsuki and the rest of the crew. with katsuki came eijirou, and with eijirou came denki and mina, which came kyouka and hitoshi. with them, hanta felt more than average. there was never a dull moment or a time that hanta thought he was average or boring. with them, he felt significant. 

 

he was in the middle of brushing his teeth when his phone vibrated in his pocket again. he fished it out of his pocket and answered the facetime call from denki with a sudsy grin. 

 

when the call finally connected, denki was seen with katsuki and eijirou. “sup dude! ya ready yet?” hanta spat out the toothpaste and wipes his mouth clean and nodded. “just about, denks.” denki cheered and hanta heard a muffled voice, before having the screen cut to eijirou. denki’s heard whining since his phone was stolen, but eijirou flashed him his toothy smile and the blonde calmed down. “hey, man! are you excited to see some fish?” 

 

hanta nodded and checked out his teeth in the mirror. he frowned a bit when he remembered what a girl he used to be friends with said about them. hanta creased his eyebrows as he inspected them more. she had said that they were big and made his smile look weird. it sounded insignificant, but when one of his largest insecurities was pointed out, he couldn’t help but feel worse about himself. he sighed. 

 

“hey, dude.” eijirou called, but hanta was too busy examining his mouth. “hanta?” 

 

that seemed to snap the ravenette out of his trance, and he looked back to his phone. eijirou, denki, and even katsuki were now in view. “dude, are you looking at your teeth again?” denki asked, even though he knew the answer. hanta pursed his lips and exited his bathroom. “your smile is fine, man. so are your teeth.” hanta sighed again but nodded. “i know. i’m sorry guys.” 

 

“don’t fuckin’ apologize. if you’re insecure about something, you’re insecure. no big deal. but don’t apologize for it. it’s not something you can control.” katsuki cussed, but hanta felt better. he took a few deep breaths and nodded again. 

 

this was his day off. day offs meant no sweaty parlor chairs, no piercings, no worrying, no insecurities. 

 

“gimme a smile, bro,” denki retrieved his phone from eijirou and ushered a smile out of his best friend. hanta raised a brow at him and slipped a beanie over his mullet and exhaled a final time as he came closer to his apartment door. “come on, hantaaaa” 

 

“lemme see those teefers!” hanta laughed aloud at that, and felt better already. denki cheered victoriously at his expression. “alright, denks. do you think i can just meet you guys there? i wanna grab an iced coffee on the way there.” after eijirou said yes, hanta bid his goodbyes. “i’ll see you three in ten-fifteen minutes. bye guys.” 

 

“bye-bye, dude! love ya!” eijirou called as two blondes waved. hanta hung up and put his phone in his pocket. 

 

when he got out from the complex, he was hit with the smell of cherry blossoms and various foods from the food stations scattered around the streets. he shoved his hands into his faded onyx skinny jeans’ pockets, he yawned as he weaves through the crowds of people, looking forward to coffee. 

 

hanta nearly hummed as he imagined the flavor of iced coffee on his tongue. it always seemed to make him feel better. he thought of it as a comfort beverage. 

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when he arrived to the cafe, he was greeted by the smell of chai tea and crushed coffee beans. if he smacked his lips enough, he could taste the bitterness. 

 

a brunette was there waiting for him behind the counter. “hello, hanta! glad you decided to come back!” hanta was rather close to her. ochako was her name, and she was possibly one of the nicest people he’s ever met—besides eijirou, obviously. not only was she kind, she was incredibly strong. she was working minimum wage for maximum hours to help support her family. hanta respected her for that. 

 

“hello, ochako, i’m glad that i came here too. i’m happy to see you.” ochako smiled with her natural rosy cheeks and nodded. “no kyouka today?” she seemed almost disappointed. hanta raised a brow and smirked knowingly. he had shown kyouka the cafe about a week ago since her favorite one had been closed down. it was also an excuse to get closer to her, since besides group gatherings, they rarely ever interacted. ochako had taken an immediate liking to her. 

 

“nope, no kyouka today. maybe next time, hm?” the woman blushed and sputtered as he hastily agreed with him. after she collected herself, she tapped her painted nails on the countertop. he recognized it to be the work of her best friend, yuuga. he was a fashionable blonde with a keen eye for detail and bling. hanta respected him just as much as he did with ochako. he didn’t know much of the violet eyed man, but he knew he came from a rough place. 

 

“what would you like today?” 

 

it was a quick order and it didn't take long for him to get it. hanta paid and waved to his friend before walking out, humming as he enjoyed the chai tea. he was originally planning on getting an iced coffee, but an iced chai latte grabbed his interest the most. tapioca pearls were also added and gave a nice contrast of feeling on his teeth and tongue. 

 

on his way to the aquarium, hanta passed the beach. the water was rough and fast, despite the day being calm. the sea looked as if it was trying to get onto land, desperately crawling onto the sand, only to be tugged back into its original place by gravity. it was almost—angry. 

 

hanta shook his head and faced the front, and away from the water. water couldn’t be angry. it’s water

 

when he finally arrived at the aquarium, he spotted katsuki, denki, hitoshi outside. denki spotted him first, and waved obnoxiously, gaining everyone’s attention which quickly switched to hanta. “hanta! dude! what took you so long? it’s been like twenty minutes!” katsuki rolled his eyes and scoffed at the other blonde. “he said that it would take up around that time, dunce face.” 

 

denki stuck his tongue out and wriggled his eyebrows. “but you still love me.” katsuki stared at his boyfriend for a few seconds before turning the slightest of reds. he stomped off into the aquarium ahead of them, most likely to complain about it to eijirou. “nice to see you, hanta. eijirou was worried you wouldn’t show.” hanta shrugged and offered a lopsided grin. “i know how much he’s been looking forward to his day. i wouldn’t do that to him, or you guys.” hanta sipped from his chai tea again. hitoshi lightly nudged him with his elbow. 

 

“or to yourself .” hanta pursed his lips and nodded again. “not again, hanta. we missed you a lot that time. i don’t want you to do that to yourself again. i love you too much— we love you too much. okay?” hanta smiled softly and hooked his elbow with the purple haired man beside him. “okay.” hitoshi gifted him a smile, one that only few got to see. 

 

“you’re here!” mina cheered when they passed through the large glass doors. the place smelt like a mix of poorly made, overpriced food, sweat, and a bit like muddy water. hanta’s nose twitched. 

 

he hugged mina tightly when she wrapped her arms around him. “yeah, i’m here. i’m excited to see some fish too.” that gained eijirou’s attention, and he smiled the brightest hanta’s seen yet and waved them over to the front booth. “we need to get bracelets before we can get anywhere, i’ll pay.” 

 

it was a wave of objections, but eijirou had already given his card to the person running the booth. “regular, premium, or vip?” hanta was hoping eijirou would say regular or at the most premium, but the redhead chose the most expensive option. 

 

everyone grumbled something about the over-expensive purple bracelets clasped around their wrists as eijirou led them to the first hallway. 

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by the time they had gotten through half of the aquarium, the group was hungry and just about everyone’s feet hurt. of course eijirou’s didn’t hurt since his crocs cushioned him well. katsuki—and admittedly everyone else, but mostly the red eyed blonde—made fun of him for them constantly, but stopped when his heel began to ache from walking so much. “bet ya wish you’d worn the throuple crocs i got us, huh?” eijirou teased, and both denki and katsuki groaned. 

 

they moved to the food area, which was bustling with hungry people and little kids harassing each other. hanta grimaced when one tugged on another’s hair. 

 

“my feet need to be amputated, i swear. toshi, you know what to do.” mina laid on a bench and covered her eyes in a dramatic pose that made hitoshi chuckle. “if i’m forced to keep my feet, so are you. now move, hanta doesn’t have a spot yet.” 

 

mina whined but obliged, sitting upright so hitoshi and hanta could have a seat. hanta took off his beanie and ruffled his hair. he was tired and hungry. he was happy he wasn’t overstimulated yet, but he knew it wouldn’t be long. eijirou returned to the table with katsuki behind him, who was holding the most stuff. “this shit was expensive as hell, so you better eat it all.” he grunted out, passing out the small baskets of fries and other small snacky foods. 

 

“still got the mullet, huh?” katsuki observed. hanta wanted to mention that he should know since they worked together, but remembered the amount of space he’d been given during work hours for the past month and a half. “mhm. i like it. less hair to keep up with and it makes me feel good.” 

 

“i like to think it makes you look sexy. like a teenage boy that hasn’t had a sip of water or seen sunlight in two and a half years.” denki spouted, and hanta threw a fry at him. “denks, you gotta learn how to filter what you say, man.” 

 

denki just blinked in confusion, unsure of why everyone was staring at him. 

 

after eating, eijirou gathered everyone and pumped them up for the rest of the aquarium, even the special features of the purple bracelets.  eijirou led them a quarter of the way down towards the special features hall when hanta realized he had forgotten his beanie. “shit. i forgot my hat, i’ll be back.” 

 

“do you want me to come with you?” hitoshi asked, but hanta shook his head and shooed his friends away. “i’ll be fine. i’ll catch up. go on, whatever i miss, i’ll make up for it on the way there.” they seemed hesitant to leave, but eventually did. hanta took his time walking, enjoying the views. fish swam along with him, almost like they were following him. hanta dragged his fingertip along the tanks, tittering to himself when a pufferfish did it’s best to follow his finger. 

 

hanta stopped when a two people looked at him with judging eyes, and he shoved his hands into his pockets and frowned. he walked faster now, keeping his eyes on his feet until he made it to his table. he swiped his beanie and pocketed it and raced back down the hallway, ignoring the pufferfish that seemed desperate for his attention. he slowed down when he was halfway down the vip hallway, and exhaled slowly. he kept his head down but no longer looked at his boots. 

 

hanta passed a well illuminated tank that grabbed his attention, but didn’t want to get carried away like he had with the pufferfish. he knew that his days off were for him to do so, but he didn’t want to be embarrassed again. that wasn’t what days off were for. hanta released another deep breath and kept walking. 

 

suddenly his heart raced and his hair stuck upward. his skin crawled and he felt it. he was being watched. were the two people back? were they going to laugh at him instead of just glaring at him? his mouth went dry as his heart raced with numerous possibilities. his eyes darted around until he turned to the direction he came from. he stilled. 

 

there was a man. no, a fish? a man-fish? 

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hanta still felt uneasy but his legs walked toward the thing anyway. it had its hands pressing on the glass, as well as the upper parts of his torso. and it was looking at him. 

 

hanta noticed a sign above them both and to the right of him that said it was a merman. it had a poorly drawn ariel next to it, as if it would convince people that this ‘merman’ was real. he looked real though. he had gills on his neck and webbed fingers and a long, scaled fish tail with other fins that seemed to be so light that they moved with the movement of the water. other than that—and a few other things—he appeared almost human. 

 

his smile grew when he noticed that hanta was looking at him, and moved his hand closer to the ravenette. hanta stared at him. the merman looked confused for a moment, and flicked his eyes to his hand, then to hanta, then back to his hand, and repeated a few times. he was instructing hanta to touch the glass. hanta breathed in a long breath and held it before shakily removing his hand from his pocket to the tank. he hesitated for a moment but eventually built enough courage to listen to the merman. 

 

the glass where the merman’s hand was was warm. hanta could feel it. the thing smiled big, showing off his sharp teeth and he pressed his other hand on the glass. hanta put his remaining hand on the other side of it. the merman must have thought it was some kind of game, and he removed it just to put his hand somewhere else. hanta followed him and pressed his hand on it again. 

 

the thing’s tail swished and he pressed harder onto the glass. this repeated again and again, until hanta was actually running just to keep up with him. everytime he would place his hand on the glass, hanta would do the same, and he’d move. hanta noted that he was a fast swimmer. hanta actually found himself beginning to smile. it was fun, and admittedly, it looked ridiculous. even so, he chased after the merman, putting his hands all over the tank glass and grinning. 

 

they moved all the way down the hallway and hanta was ready to turn with the merman at a corner, but he ran into a firm chest. 

 

“hanta! where were you? we looked everywhere for you!” mina claimed, grabbing the ravenette by the shoulders. hanta just smiled breathlessly and tried to catch his breath. “you guys won’t believe it! th-there was this — this thing! this man-fish person thing and — and he put his glass on the tank and was swimming while i ran and it was like a game and—“

 

“woah, calm down, buddy. you’re gonna run out of air. merman did you say?” hanta nodded to eijirou and panted. “yeah. he was so cool and i want—“ 

 

hanta looked over to the tank, hoping to introduce his friends to the game he and the merman had played together, but the merman was gone. hanta pants slowed and he frowned. “you want to what?” hitoshi asked. 

 

hanta wet his lips and breathed slow to catch his breath. “nevermind, toshi, i forgot. let’s just — let’s go through the rest of the aquarium.” the others seemed content with that, and began walking away. hanta did the same but looked back to the merman tank with a worried face. 

 

his concerned expression faded when he saw the merman unbury the top part of his body from the sand. hanta’s eyes widened in awe as he watched the scaly tail change from a beige to its previous color. hanta noted that he could camouflage and swallowed the pooling spit in his mouth. his heart still raced from running with the merman. 

 

he pawed at the tank again, as if to invite hanta to play their game one last time. he wasn’t smiling anymore, just looked sad. hanta creased his brows and turned forward again so as to not get separated from his friends again. 

 

“so you actually saw it?” denki asked, and nudged his shoulder with hanta’s. “saw what?”

 

“the merman! the people said that it was really shy and kind of sick so it doesn’t like people looking at it. it’s new so it’s still probably not used to being looked at all the time.” 

 

hanta pursed his mouth and nodded. “yeah, i saw him. he was really pretty.” 

 

“really?” denki asked. hanta nodded and sighed. he felt kind of bad for leaving the merman. maybe on another day off he could come back. 

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“you guys ready to go?” eijirou asked and mina, denki, and kyouka nodded as they exited the gift shop. the three of them carried multiple bags. “hanta, dude, c'mere and look at what i bought.” hanta slowed and let kyouka catch up with him. she held out a guitar pick with a fish carved into it. hanta breathed out a “wow,” and gazed at it with awe. “that’s really cool, kyouka. are you gonna use it tonight for your show?” his friend nodded with a small smile. “it’s really pretty.”

 

she clicked her tongue and dug into one of her bags before pulling out a shell necklace. hanta could already take a guess as to who was going to receive it. “do you think ochako would like it?” her cheeks dusted a subtle scarlet. the necklace was by all means beautiful. the base of it was pearls and small clam shells, and the centerpiece was a peachy pink snail shell that hung lower than the rest of it. hanta bobbed his head. “of course she would. you should give it to her.” kyouka gulped and shrugged as she put the necklace back into the bag. 

 

“maybe. i dunno.” hanta patted her on the shoulder. “she’d love it, kyouka. honest.”

 

“who needs a ride home?” eijirou asked, and hanta nodded. mina waved her hand and hopped next to denki who cheered about getting to sit next to her. “toshi and i came together, so we’ll be fine. see you all soon, kay?” she nodded before walking through the large aquarium doors. hitoshi did the same to them as well, but patted hanta on the back before grabbing his hand. “text me if anything happens, right?” he whispered, and hanta squeezed his hand. “right.” hitoshi looked hesitant but let go of hanta’s hand to follow after kyouka. 

 

“you guys are nothing but parasites.” katsuki complained as he unlocked the car. eijirou sat passenger, and denki, mina, and hanta piled in the back. “your favorite parasites.” mina emphasized, and received a glare from the blonde in the rear view mirror. “i’m assuming i’m dropping you off first, pinky?” katsuki flicked on the blinker. 

 

mina gasped and clutched her dyed pink curls in offense. “now that you say so,” she dramatically huffed and turned her nose at him before breaking her act when denki impersonated her with more snootiness. 

 

hanta wanted to join them, but was stuck thinking about the merman. he looked so sad to see him go. 

 

“dude? you doing alright?” denki asked, and hanta now felt everyone’s eyes on him. he didn’t need to look to know katsuki was glancing from the road to him and back to the road. 

 

“yeah, just tired. really tired.” hanta yawned a bit. 

“you had fun though, right?” eijirou inquired from the passenger seat. 

 

the ravenette nodded and smiled. “i did. thank you for coming up with this idea, ei.” the redhead flashed a big smile at him. “of course, man! i thought we could all use it.” 

 

the car came to a stop a few minutes later, and katsuki turned to shoo mina out. “alright pinky, out.” mina offered him an innocent smile and the middle finger, but hopped out to meet her girlfriend, tooru, outside. 

 

“you coming in tomorrow?” katsuki asked, and hanta knew it was aimed at him. “yeah, why wouldn’t i?” 

 

katsuki met the ravenette’s eyes in the mirror and cocked an eyebrow. “you’re shaking. you’ve been shaking ever since you insisted on leaving alone to get your hat.” 

 

“are you okay? did something happen?” eijirou asked frantically. always so dependent on other people’s happiness. 

 

hanta swallowed thickly. “yeah, i’m fine. nothing happened.” 

 

“hey, dude, if you need to talk, we’re here. okay? we’ve always been here.” hanta didn’t need the reminder. a month and a half ago was proof enough. 

 

“yeah, i know. don’t worry, guys. i’m fine. really.” hanta insisted, and felt a wave of tiredness wash over him. 

 

“are you sure? you know that we—“ 

 

“ei.” katsuki cut his boyfriend off and took his right hand from the wheel and grabbed eijirou’s hand. eijirou frowned and glanced back to hanta before sitting back down and facing the front. he didn’t say anything, but he squeezed katsuki’s hand hard. 

 

it wasn’t long until they pulled in front of the apartment complex, and hanta thanked them for the ride. “thank you again for the fun day, ei. i really appreciated it.” before he could turn around, katsuki grabbed his wrist. “you sure you can come in tomorrow?” 

 

“kats, i’m okay. i’ve been fine for a while now.” katsuki’s grip tightened the slightest bit upon hearing that before he let go altogether. “fine. but don’t mess up any piercings tomorrow. i don’t want to deal with anyone bitching at me because of your mistakes.” hanta waved him off and bid him and his boyfriends goodbye. 

 

“call me tonight!” denki yelled out the window while katsuki pulled away, and hanta laughed when he heard him scream about getting arrested for denki’s ‘stupidity’. 

 

hanta walked up the multiple flights of stairs, silently wishing for maintenance people to get here sooner so the elevator could be fixed. when he made it to his room, he collapsed on the bed with a soft thud. his eyes drooped immediately and he gave in to his exhaustion. 

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his palms were scraped from the cement and his dragging lower half stung from it, but he continued. he had to follow the warmth. follow home. 

 

the merman had already decided that he was going to be leaving the aquarium, but now he had a different reason. he was going back home. not home home , he knew, but this had the same warmth. same feeling

 

it wasn’t too hard breaking out, all he had to do was make the employees that he was already gone. with the tank open, he could hop out and camouflage the rest of the way there. it was nighttime, and the clouds seemed grey. no one was going to be out anyway. 

 

he thought back to the ravenette he found at the aquarium. he appeared exhausted. that didn’t bother him, he could feel the warmth radiating off of him. it was the same as home. he was beautiful too. 

 

the tips of his usually royal blue pointed ears flick and turn a deep purple at the thought of the human’s face. he had looked so pretty when he was having fun with him. shouto hummed as he continued crawling away from the aquarium and farther from the sea. 

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hanta stretched on his bed and yawned a bit. he didn’t know what time it was, and couldn’t take much of a guess since it was raining outside. he turned to his phone, and clicked it on before jolting up at the amount of missed calls from denki and even eijirou. 

 

his eyes widened and he tried to call them back, but his phone shut off as a result of not being charged. he was left to stare at his pained reflection. 

 

was denki going to be mad at him? hanta shuffled off the bed and fell onto the floor. his lungs felt tight and like they weren’t allowing themselves to work properly. denki wasn’t the type, hanta knew, but what if he was? what if he was just troubling them all over again? 

 

hanta’s hand shook as he gripped at his sweatshirt, attempting to ground himself. hanta didn’t want to be alone again. he couldn’t lose something else. not denki, not any of them. hanta swiped away tears and struggled to stand. maybe he could make this better. he could fix it by going to their house. it wouldn’t be too different from what he used to do, so it would be fine. 

 

hanta had a hard time slipping his shoes on, and had an even harder time trying to tie them. he gave up when his eyes couldn’t even focus on them, too blurred with tears and fear. 

 

hanta rushed out from his apartment and raced down the stairs, almost tripping over his laces multiple times. when he did make it out of the complex, he was soaked with rain instantly. he shivered but turned right. hanta’s stomach twisted and he nearly gagged. he was too nervous. he couldn’t handle losing denki. denki had been his best friend for too long. 

 

hanta sniffled when he made another right turn. it was going to take a while since katsuki, eijirou, and denki lived on the other side of the city, but hanta still pushed. he was stupid for falling asleep. stupid for being exhausted. 

 

there was the guilt again—the type hanta got whenever he took a break from being constantly productive. things always seemed to happen when he finally relaxed. hanta clutched tighter onto the wet sleeves of his hoodie. 

 

he was about to make a left turn before he heard a squeal. it wasn’t much of a squeal, but hanta didn’t know how else to describe it. he turned around, expecting a cat or maybe even a rat. it wouldn’t be the first time he’d come across either before. 

 

hanta gasped at what he saw. it was the merman. 

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he stepped back when the creature crawled closer with his smile back. hanta gulped and tried moving away until he was backed into a building. there was nowhere to go. the thing continued to crawl closer, and it was making some sort of trilling noise. hanta blinked away more tears. this is what he got for missing denki’s calls. he was going to get murdered by a merman. 

 

his legs felt weak and his knees gave out. he fell to the ground hard and winced at the twinge of pain he got when a rock poked into his side. he tried pressing as close to the building as he could, but the merman advanced closer. 

 

the merman was smiling until he noticed hanta’s demeanor. he sat in front of the ravenette when he did, and frowned. he reached a muddy hand toward hanta, but the human flinched while breathing fast. the rain continued to pour. 

 

hanta watched with fearful eyes as the merman placed his hand on his shoulder. he stiffened and his breathing became erratic. the palm was just as warm as he remembered, just as warm as it was on the tank. hanta didn’t mean to, but he relaxed. his was no longer stiff. he was exhausted again. he was still crying, but he had calmed down the slightest bit. 

 

the merman moved his hand up from the shoulder and dragged it along his neck, and to the side of hanta’s face. the merman’s eyes followed the movement of the human’s adam’s apple while he swallowed. “wh-what do you want from me?” hanta finally asked. 

 

the thing said nothing. hanta internally cursed himself. how stupid. it was already impossible for a merman to be real, but even more so for him to be able to communicate. the merman inspected hanta’s neck. he looked concentrated. after concluding something to himself, he moved his eyes elsewhere. hanta sat still the entire time, scared. 

 

the merman squished hanta’s chest before feeling his own. the merman made a purring sound and smiled again. he grabbed hanta’s quivering hand and made him feel his own chest before making him feel the merman’s chest. hanta tried to pull away, but the merman was strong. 

 

hanta was confused, before recalling when the thing was looking closely at his neck. he was probably looking for gills, in an attempt to find similarities between them. 

 

the similarity that he found was that both their chests were squishy. 

 

hanta stopped trying to pull away, and the merman purred again. before hanta could say or do anything, the merman crawled closer and pressed his ear on hanta’s chest. 

 

hanta wanted to stiffen again, but his body wouldn’t let him. he was too tired. he took the time to look closer at the merman. his red and white hair was tangled but still looked soft. his tail was curled around them both, as if to make a circle of ‘safety’. hanta recalled watching an animal documentary. a lot of animals did this to others that they’re close with while making a deeper bond with them. 

 

“ah”

 

hanta blinked fast and looked down at the merman. he was looking up at him with a smile. “what?” hanta said. 

 

“ah” the merman repeated. 

 

hanta clenched his jaw and stopped himself. it was weird, he knew , but he couldn’t help but get that feeling similar to when a kitten first meowed. this merman ah’d

 

hanta then remembered why he was out here and the sick feeling in his stomach returned. he wriggled upward and panted. “look, i’m sorry, merman thing, or whatever you are, but i need to go. you should go back to the aquarium, it's your home.” 

 

hanta almost turned around and made a break for it when he heard it again. this time was different. 

 

“home.” 

 

hanta twisted on his heel fast and fell on his knees in front of the thing. “what?” 

 

the merman grinned at him and put his hand on hanta’s chest again and squeezed. “home.” 

 

hanta’s brain nearly exploded. how was the merman speaking? and communicating?

 

hanta shook his head and grabbed the merman’s warm wrist and removed his hand from his left pec. “your home is over there, with all the fish.” hanta pointed in the direction of the aquarium. 

 

“ah”

 

he was ah’d again. hanta stood and grabbed his hair. the merman followed his every move. there was no way to go to denki’s house with this thing following. he’d just have to apologize tomorrow. “i have to go. please just go back to the aquarium.” 

 

hanta then walked away. it was quiet for a moment—if you could ignore the pitter patter of the rain—before he heard shuffling, dragging . hanta didn’t need to look behind him to know what’s going on. he furrowed his eyebrows and frowned. “go home , merman.” 

 

it was like this for at least two blocks. the merman was persistent, hanta would give him that. hanta was about to scold the thing again before he heard a scraping noise and then a whine. the shuffling behind him stopped, and hanta sighed in relief before he heard another whine. 

 

“home,” 

 

hanta wanted to tear his hair out. he couldn’t deal with this. he already had too much going on. he twisted around and gasped. the merman was poking a piece of glass that stuck from his tail. he whined and poked at it again. he bit his tongue and made the decision. 

 

Chapter Text

hanta crouched in front of the merman and examined the glass before concluding that it wouldn’t be safe to take it out here on the street. he could call the aquarium or even the police, but that would mean being seen as a suspect for it all . he didn’t want to be accused of stealing a merman. 

 

hanta held his breath and nudged his hands under the merman before hoisting him up into his arms, like how someone would carry their lover after their wedding bells rang. the merman trilled again and wrapped his arms around hanta’s neck tightly, nearly suffocating him. “too tight.” he wheezed out, but the merman didn’t loosen his hold, just nosed behind hanta’s ear and continued nuzzling into him.

 

hanta’s arms ached more and more with each backstreet they took. it wasn’t like the merman was heavy, he wasn’t, but hanta was exhausted. he’s worried too much today. 

 

hanta groaned when he saw his apartment. that meant stairs

 

the merman finally detached himself from hanta’s neck and looked ahead. he wriggled his tail in what hanta guessed was excitement. “don’t get too excited. after i help you, you’re going back to the aquarium.” the merman didn’t care, probably because he couldn’t understand. 

 

it wasn’t hard to sneak the merman in since the apartment was completely silent. what was hard was getting the merman up the stairs. the merman wouldn’t stop nosing on hanta’s jaw and underneath his ear. additionally, the thing’s tail was slippery with rain and hanta needed to readjust and hoist him up repeatedly. 

 

when hanta finally brought them both up to his floor, hanta felt like dying. his legs ached and his arms burned. 

 

the merman looked happy to be there though, and was grinning as he took in his new surroundings. “home.” 

 

hanta set him on the couch and nodded. “this is my home.” 

 

hanta got out the first aid kit and a warm washcloth. he sighed and looked at the merman. he looked excited as usual, but even more now that he was with hanta. “bite this. it’s going to hurt.” hanta pressed the cloth to the merman’s lips. the merman blinked confusedly but took it into his mouth. hanta nodded to himself before looking back down to the glass that stuck from the thing’s tail. 

 

hanta crouched down and examined it to try to find the best place to pull from. after concluding that just taking it out from the base, hanta gripped it. “bite down, merman.” 

 

he pulled, and let out an ‘oof’ when the merman’s tail hit his chest. it knocked the air out of his lungs but he still stayed put. the merman whined again and chomped on the cloth. hanta was taking the last of the glass when he felt a hand in his hair. 

 

he glimpsed up and found the merman looking down at him with teary eyes and wet cheeks. hanta frowned in sympathy and turned back to the wound. the dark blue blood stained the bandages hanta put over it. 

 

hanta sighed in relief and yawned after. he was exhausted. “okay. you should be feeling better soon. it’s disinfected now.” hanta knew that the thing probably didn’t understand him, but still felt the need to tell him what was going on. the merman seemed okay listening to him anyway, despite not understanding. hanta found it nice. 

 

“alright, merman. you’re going in my bathtub until the morning. when i wake up, you’re going back to the aquarium.” 

 

hanta hoisted the merman into his arms again and walked to the bathroom that was connected to his bedroom. as he passed his bed, he felt instant relief. after this he could sleep

 

after placing the merman on his sink, he plugged the bathtub drain before turning to the thing on his sink. “warm or cold, merman?” 

 

the thing blinked at him before looking through the bathroom door and to the bed. “ah” 

 

“warm it is.” hanta sighed. he stood upright after and nodded to the merman. “it’ll be full soon. i gotta get changed.” 

 

hanta sat on his bed and peeled his sopping hoodie from his chest and threw it over to his hamper. he shivered when his damp skin met contact with the cool air of his apartment. he tugged off his skinny jeans and shrugged when he noticed his boxer briefs were dry. 

 

he stretched and scratched his head before glancing to the bathroom. the merman was staring at him. hanta blushed slightly and stood. when he entered the bathroom, he turned off the water. “ah” 

 

“what is it now, merman?” 

 

“ah”

 

hanta rubbed his face hard. “i’m sorry, but i don’t know what that means.” hanta picked the merman up from the sink and turned to the tub. 

 

the merman held on tight though, and curled his tail around hanta again. “dude, you gotta let go. i’m tired and i have work in the morning.” hanta felt another hit of exhaustion at the remembrance of work. he had completely forgotten. 

 

the merman didn’t let hanta put him in the water. he hugged tight and shoved his face into hanta’s bare neck. hanta sighed and slumped. “fine. no tub.” 

 

hanta closed the bathroom door and didn’t bother unplugging the drain. he’d deal with it later. he put the merman on his bed and got in soon after. after settling under the covers, he clicked off the lamp. it wasn’t completely dark though, since apparently the merman’s smaller fins could emit a dim glow. it was pretty, hanta would admit. he yawned and snuggled into his pillow. 

 

he then felt a hand on his chest. “merman.” hanta warned. the hand squeezed. “ah”

 

“yes, ah . now sleep.” 

 

hanta heard a squeal-like trill. great, he had accidentally communicated. 

 

“ah”

 

hanta felt the webbed hand move to his shoulder before it trailed to his back. hanta yelped when he was tugged closer to the merman. “let me go.” he struggled, but huffed in the merman’s grasp. the merman hummed and rested his face back into hanta’s neck. his tail also wrapped loosely around them as well. 

 

hanta felt—safe. 

 

warm

 

that same kind of warmth that you’d expect to get when you’re at your best, or your most relaxed or safest. 

 

hanta hadn’t meant to, but he snuggled in. he felt the warm, soft breaths of the merman feather against his neck, and it was oddly comforting. he closed his eyes. “goodnight, merman.” 

Chapter Text

hanta yawned and smacked his lips. he tried stretching too, but was stopped partway. hanta snapped his eyes open and frowned in remembrance. the merman smiled widely when he saw that hanta was awake and pulled him closer. “merman, you need to let go. i gotta take a shower so i can get ready for—“ hanta gasped. 

 

“oh no. oh no ohnoohno please don’t be late,” hanta managed to reach for his fully charged phone and checked the time. his stomach dropped. he was two hours late. by now, katsuki would have called, texted, done everything just to tell them how fucked they were at work now. “ please , merman, i need to find a way to drop you off so i can get to work.” the merman’s smile dropped the slightest bit before he loosened his hold. hanta let out a breath of relief and sat up. 

 

he was in the middle of texting katsuki that he would be there in half an hour max when the merman came up behind him and looked over his shoulder. hanta wanted to scream. 

 

he had just woken up and he already felt like he was going to die if he didn’t get sleep. the merman laid his head on hanta’s shoulder and pet his hair, softly purring. hanta hated to say it, but it was another thing that he found himself enjoying despite wanting to feel the opposite. 

 

hanta’s muscles relaxed and he sighed. katsuki probably wouldn’t be on his phone anyway. he’d just need to explain when he got there. 

 

but he couldn’t move . he could , but he felt so relaxed with the merman petting him like this. the merman seemed to notice and moved hanta’s hair off his left shoulder. the merman purred louder at the sight of the human’s exposed neck. he nosed it and rubbed into hanta’s nape in an act to get closer. hanta felt like jello. it was odd, just how relaxed this merman could make him. 

 

he felt the hot breaths of the merman on his skin, and he finally leaned back into the merman. the merman’s hands were on him in an instant. 

 

hanta wanted to get up. push away the merman and tell him how weird and wrong this was. but he was finally relaxed. finally felt like he could do nothing and not feel bad about it. 

 

hanta then heard knocking on the door. he was taken from his trance and he jumped out of the merman’s arms. when he looked at the creature, he was trying to pull him back, but couldn’t reach from the bed. it was like when a toddler had a toy taken away. the merman was desperately trying to get hanta back. 

 

hanta heard the knocking again and panicked. “shit. okay. merman, i need you to get under the covers.” the thing didn’t understand so hanta groaned before helping him under the blankets. the merman trilled at how close they were again and wriggled his tail. hanta pressed it down on the bed. “none of that. if whoever that is sees that, they’ll know who you are and think that i stole you.” 

 

the knocking became frequent. hanta pulled at his hair as he thought of an idea to hide the merman’s ears, arms, and gills. he gasped when he saw a lone sweatshirt sitting on his bedside table. he cursed and pointed to the merman. “stay here. i’m serious. and stay quiet.” 

 

with the sweatshirt in his hand, he closed his bedroom door before running over to the front door. he didn’t bother looking through the peephole since he already took too much time to answer. 

 

“you’re okay! you got me worried, dude!” hanta’s tense shoulders slumped at the sight of denki. “i’m so sorry i didn’t call last night.” hanta pulled denki into his apartment and hugged him. denki chuckled and nodded. “it’s okay, we thought that you’d be tired.” 

 

“we?” 

 

“yeah, ei, kats, and i. probably the others too.” hanta’s eyes widened at the mention of katsuki. “shit, denks. he’s gonna kill me. i’m late and i haven’t even showered yet and i—“ 

 

denki squeezed his best friend's shoulders. “hey, it’s okay. kats rescheduled any appointments that he couldn’t do.” 

 

hanta rubbed his face hard and groaned. “is he mad?” the blonde shook his head. “he knew that you probably wouldn’t be able to come in since we left the aquarium yesterday. he doesn’t particularly like piercing people, but he’s doing any that he can when he’s not busy with tattoos.” 

 

hanta sighed and nodded. “i gotta make it up to him. maybe i’ll get him a card or something.” 

 

denki snorted. “and what, make it say ‘sorry i didn’t show up to work even though you understand and are happy to take over for a day’? dude, hanta, it’s fine.” 

 

“i do have to pee though.” denki added, and hanta snorted before remembering the merman. “can you wait for like two seconds? i gotta tidy my room up a bit before you pass through it.” denki raised a brow and shrugged. “you know i don’t care about how messy your room is, right?” hanta nodded and asked him to wait again. 

 

when he made it to his bedroom, he closed the door after him. the merman was there, sitting there almost obediently. “ah” 

 

hanta pressed a finger to his lips and shushed him. “you gotta be quiet, okay? just for a bit.” the merman made grabby hands at him and hanta sighed. the merman still didn’t understand. hanta took the sweatshirt he’d been holding and put it over the merman’s head. 

 

“ah” 

 

“shh, merman.” hanta softly hushed, and pulled one of the merman’s arms through the sleeve. he did the same with the other and nodded to himself. any distinctive features of a merman were covered and denki wouldn’t be able to recognize his face since hanta was the only one to see him. 

 

“okay, now you have to stay still and be quiet. please .” 

Chapter Text

hanta crawled off the bed and opened the bedroom door. denki noticed and hopped over before stopping in the doorway. “so this is why you needed to ‘tidy up’.” denki wiggled his eyebrows at hanta. hanta simply bit his cheeks. 

 

“the bathroom’s open, denks.” denki winked and hummed. 

 

when denki closed the bathroom door, hanta released a breath he didn’t know he was holding. the merman looked confused. he glanced to the bathroom door to hanta and back to the door and repeated as if he was trying to make sense of things. 

 

you and me both, merman , hanta thought. he stared at the ceiling while laying on the bed. the merman reached a hand over to him and squeezed his left pec. “ah” 

 

hanta slid his attention to the merman. he had no way of getting him back to the aquarium, unless he carried him back. but that would mean having to do it during the nighttime which meant an additional day having to deal with the touch obsessed merman. 

 

hanta took the merman’s hand from his chest and set it back on his lap. the merman furrowed his eyebrows and looked even more confused. “ah”

 

hanta deflated on the bed at the noise. it was nearly desperate. before the creature could try to squish hanta’s left pec again—hanta knew he wanted to since the merman was not so subtly inching his hand closer—the door opened revealing denki. 

 

“thanks dude.” 

 

hanta waved him off and nodded. 

 

“so,” the blonde trailed off. hanta prepared himself. “what’s your name, man?” the merman sat confused and stayed quiet as he thought to himself. not even hanta knew his name. there was a possibility that he didn’t even have one. the ravenette sat up. “doesn’t matter. denks, i’m sorry, but i gotta get things done around the house.” 

 

denki smirked and shrugged. “sure thing, bud.”

 

hanta’s best friend stopped at the bedroom doorway. “i did have a question though, hanta. i know you said that you’d be busy, but do you think that you and i could hang out later?” hanta slumped and stood from the bed and frowned at his best friend. “i’m sorry, denks, but—“ 

 

“hanta, please, i know that you’re busy —“ denki made a move to grab hanta’s hand but hesitated. hanta sighed. “—but please.” denki finally cradled hanta’s palm. it was comforting, but only for a split second. 

 

hanta was yanked back into the bed and he heard a loud hiss. hanta didn’t understand what was happening, just that he was being coiled around. the merman’s tail wrapped around tightly and he bared his fangs at denki who was pressed on the wall with fearful eyes. the hood of the sweatshirt fell off and revealed the merman’s pointed ears that were pulled back in offense. 

 

“hanta? wha — what is that?” hanta wanted to reply but the merman glared and hissed at denki again. hanta struggled against the merman’s tail. this was stronger than last night. more desperate— jealous

Chapter Text

the merman turned to him and immediately checked his hand. his ears were no longer turned back and he wasn’t baring his sharp teeth. “denki, please understand.” hanta turned his head to denki who was now on the floor. 

 

“understand what? i don’t — i-i don’t even know what that is! why is it in your apartment ?” hanta swallowed thickly and frowned. “it’s the merman.” 

 

denki flicked his eyes to the merman that was closely examining hanta’s hand. “from the aquarium? but how—“ 

 

“he got out .” hanta squeezed his eyes shut and grit his teeth. “i don’t know how, but when i went for a walk last night he found me and followed me home.” 

 

denki relaxed slightly and stayed quiet until he pointed to the creature. “what’s that?” hanta turned to the bandage that was on the merman’s tail. “i helped it.” 

 

“you helped it?” the ravenette nodded and blew out a slow breath. “when he was following me, he cut himself on glass. so i helped him.” 

 

“so you carried it home? why — why would you do that? it’s already suspicious enough that—“ 

 

“i know , denks.” denki stared at hanta for a long while. hanta stared right back before breaking eye contact. “i know. but i’m taking him back tonight. i can't do it during the day since during the night is already a risk. i don’t want people to think i stole him.” 

 

denki remained silent. 

 

the merman brought hanta’s hand up to his face and smiled as he finished inspecting it. “it likes you.” 

 

hanta faced denki and bobbed his head. “yeah.” hanta’s throat felt dry. this situation was bad enough as it was, but now that denki knew, it was almost too much. hanta never knew how difficult it would have been to explain what happened.

 

“it’s — he’s liked you since the aquarium. do you think he’s going to want to go back?” hanta knew that denki was only trying to wrap his head around it, but these questions were tiring. hanta rubbed the place between his eyes. “i hope so.” 

 

the apartment was quiet—excluding the merman’s purrs of content—for a long time. after sighing, denki decided that he needed to leave. he slowly stood, careful not to make the merman upset again. he was already very watchful of him. “i should go.” 

 

hanta’s chest squeezed. he felt horrible. it wasn’t like he meant to keep it from denki, or have this happen at all. but this was something he couldn’t bring anyone into. hanta couldn’t do that to them again. 

 

“i would hug you, but—“ denki was cut off by a low hiss from the merman. denki’s lips downturned. “just know that i love you, hanta. and if you need any help, ei, kats, and i are always here. the others are too. we’re one call away.” 

 

hanta smiled softly at the blonde. “i love you, denks.” denki grinned too. “i love you too, dude.” 

 

denki left the apartment with a soft click of the front door, leaving hanta and the merman by themselves. 

Chapter Text

“shouto.” 

 

hanta snapped his head towards the merman. “what? what did you say?” the merman blinked and brought hanta closer. “shouto.” 

 

“shouto?” hanta raised a brow. he was confused. 

 

the merman touched his chest and squeezed. “shouto.” he then touched hanta’s chest and squished too. “home.” 

 

hanta thought about it before it clicked. “your name — that's your name? shouto?” the merman smiled at hanta’s excitement and became excited too. “ah” 

 

“shouto. home.” shouto pointed to himself then to hanta. 

 

hanta chuckled a bit. “hanta.” he pressed his left palm on his chest and squeezed before doing it to shouto’s. “shouto.” 

 

“hanta?” shouto tilted his head before purring loudly. “hanta. hantahantahantahantahanta— “ shouto was cut off by hanta putting a finger over his lips. “that’s right. hanta. that’s my name.” 

 

shouto kissed hanta’s finger and didn’t look like he was paying much attention. hanta supposed that he was proud of himself for communicating well. hanta was pretty excited too. now he had a name. 

 

not that it mattered, since he was going to be taking him home tonight. hanta sighed and took his finger away from shouto’s puckered lips. shouto whined. 

 

“i have things to do, shouto. i’ll be back soon. can i trust you to stay here while i take a bath?” hanta carefully slipped through the scaly tail and regained his balance on the floor. shouto’s happy expression died when he realized that hanta would be leaving him. “ah” 

 

“i’ll be one room away.” hanta paused before petting shouto’s dualhair. “hanta.” 

 

hanta stopped in the bathroom doorway and looked at the merman. he was pouting. “hanta like yellow?” 

 

yellow? hanta shrugged. “i suppose i do. it’s pretty.” shouto’s pout deepened. “leave shouto for yellow?” hanta clicked his tongue. “yes? i don’t understand, shouto.” 

 

hanta could tell that shouto wanted to say more, but hanta walked into the bathroom before he could. things to do , hanta repeated in his head. he huffed at the water in the bathtub from the night before. he sucked in a breath before plunging his hand into it. it was cold. eventually he felt the drain plug and he pulled it out and set it on the sink counter. he waited for it to drain before refilling it with lukewarm water and bubbles. 

 

he’d always enjoyed having a nice, warm bubblebath before having to get to his responsibilities. the only problem was that it was one of the things that made him feel guilty. having a warm, relaxing bath meant that those said responsibilities weren’t being done and that he was potentially wasting time. 

 

the ravenette stripped the single piece of clothing he had on and stepped into the water, letting out a sigh of content afterward. he floated in the sweet smelling water and closed his eyes. 

 

an image of shouto behind the glass popped into his head. hanta creased his eyebrows. shouto tapped on the glass, but nothing happened. his tail was no longer it’s vibrant shades of blues, it was fading grey. it was losing color. shouto banged on the tank harder. he’d looked so afraid. he coughed up something dark and it stained the surrounding tank water. his tail was completely grey, and so was most of his human skin. the tip of his tail had began disintegrating away. shouto clawed at the tank before the glass fell over and he was suddenly in the sea. 

 

the waves were large and unrelenting as shouto tried to swim up. his tail was already halfway gone. 

 

hanta jolted up and gasped in a large breath. he coughed and sat up completely. he hadn’t realized that he’d fallen asleep. he panted and thought back to the dream. he didn’t like it. shouto was just a merman, but something about his dream made hanta feel for him. being forced to stay behind glass must be horrible. 

Chapter Text

there was a light scraping on the door before it opened wide. hanta turned to shouto who smiled on the floor at the sight of the human. “hanta!” 

 

hanta watched as shouto dragged himself across the bathroom floor until he was right beside the tub. “i thought i said to stay in the bedroom?” hanta exhaled. shouto didn’t answer and nosed behind hanta’s ear. “hanta.” shouto whispered. 

 

hanta allowed shouto to hold him. he didn’t have the energy to tell the merman no again. he decided to go along with it. that was until shouto’s shoulders started shaking. the ravenette realized that shouto was crying. 

 

“shouto? why are you crying?” hanta pulled shouto away from his neck. shouto had tears rolling off his cheeks and his eyes were pain filled. “hanta like yellow .” 

 

shouto wiped at his face and hiccuped. “shouto, i still don’t know what you mean, can you please try to explain?” shouto breathed hard and nodded slow. “hanta like yellow. not—“ he cried louder. “not shouto. leave shouto for yellow.” hanta was confused. yellow was a color. 

 

hanta wanted to slap himself when he realized it. yellow. denki . hanta laughed and shook his head. “shouto, denki is my best friend. he already has two boyfriends and what we have is strictly platonic.” 

 

shouto hiccuped. “d-denki?” 

 

“yes. not yellow. denki.” 

 

denki .” shouto gritted out before sniffling. “hanta. shouto love hanta.” hanta pursed his lips. he had known that shouto had taken a liking to him, but he wasn’t expecting a confession. especially only after two days. hanta supposed it wasn’t too odd. he had the same problem of falling in love too quickly. hanta often found himself having to make himself fall out of it for multiple people because of it. 

 

shouto wiped at his eyes and nose. “shouto with hanta? water.” hanta didn’t get to respond before shouto pulled himself into the tub. there was a loud splash and hanta let out an ‘oof’ when shouto landed on him. shouto laid on top of him and smiled. hanta blushed. 

 

“shouto, there’s no room .” hanta wheezed out while being crushed. shouto huffed and retracted the slightest bit before gasping happily. hanta felt his thighs being separated and then shouto nuzzling in between them. their chests were pressed together and hanta panted. this entire situation was odd. 

 

“shouto, off.” shouto pouted but purred after and nuzzled into hanta’s neck and kissed. “room now. shouto stay.” hanta sighed softly and did his best to sit up. shouto made a whining noise at him but hanta continued. when the ravenette was sitting upward comfortably, he tried reaching for his towel that was on the sink. shouto watched intently, probably confused about something again. “hanta.” 

 

hanta let out a frustrated breath when he nearly got his towel but barely missed. “what is it, shouto?” 

 

“what doing?” shouto tilted his head. 

 

“trying to get my towel so i don’t flash you when i get out.” shouto shuffled closer. the water sloshed. “flash?” 

 

hanta looked away from his towel that he was still struggling to get and nodded at shouto. “yeah. i’d rather not show you my dignity.” shouto nibbled on his lip and hanta went back to trying to reach for his towel. “what dignity? shouto have it?” 

 

hanta groaned and sat back in the water. “not that i’ve seen, not that i’ve been looking, obviously.” hanta bit his tongue and felt his cheeks unintentionally go hot. 

 

it was silent for a moment. shouto was fiddling with hanta’s calves and hanta would flex them to humor the merman. as more minutes past, the bubbles disappeared more and more and hanta was almost left completely exposed. 

 

“fuck it.” 

 

hanta stood and stepped out of the tub, grabbing his orange towel and wrapping it around his waist. shouto gasped from behind him and splashed the water. hanta closed the door behind him and chuckled at shouto’s surprise. hanta shrugged afterward. it wasn’t like shouto could tell anyone. who would he tell, the fish? 

 

hanta snorted at his own thoughts and slipped on boxer briefs and a pair of basketball shorts. he didn’t bother putting a top on before heading over to the bathroom and opening the door.

Chapter Text

shouto was trying to slip out of the tub. “hanta!” hanta gently grinned and grabbed another towel. shouto squealed when hanta picked him up out of the water and wrapped him in a towel. a portion of his tail hung out from the bottom of the towel, but neither of the two cared. hanta set shouto on the bed and shouto clapped his webbed hands. 

 

“that dignity?” shouto asked, a wide smile and a bit of purple dusted over his face. hanta pulled a shirt over his head and nodded. “shouto have dignity too!” shouto bounced on the mattress. 

 

this piqued hanta’s interest. it wasn’t like he cared about seeing shouto’s ‘dignity’, but he supposed it was a mystery as to where it was. “shouto show? hanta look?” shouto patted the spot on the bed next to him excitedly and waited until hanta did as asked. “dude, people don’t usually show others their stuff. i don’t think we should—“

 

shouto pointed down at his lap with a proud smile. hanta stared and raised a confused brow. “shouto, i don’t mean to hurt your pride, but those are scales.” 

 

shouto scrunched his nose up and giggled again and shook his head. “nuh-uh! hanta!” shouto reached for hanta’s hand and squeezed it. “not scales. dignity .” hanta didn’t know what he was looking for. all he saw was scales. he flicked his eyes to shouto’s concentrated face before looking back at his lap. maybe there wasn’t anything, and all merpeople had were scales. 

 

shouto squeezed his hand for a last time before poking around on his blue scales with both index fingers. shouto jolted a bit at one spot and held his breath before pressing down a bit. scales came from atop each other and the tail split open. 

 

hanta smacked a hand over his eyes and gasped. “shouto, for the love of—“ 

 

“hanta need see! shouto has dignity! see, see? we’re same!” shouto clawed at hanta’s hands and tried to pry his palms away from his red face. “shouto, that is literally your — your thing ! i don’t wanna see it!” shouto stopped pulling at his wrists and sat back. 

 

there was a long silence. hanta slowly took his hands away from his eyes, ready to shield himself again if need be. he didn’t see shouto’s tail splitting open at the top though, he just found the merman sitting quietly. this was the most quiet he’d been since hanta had met him. 

 

hanta exhaled out a breath of relief and stood. “are you hungry?” shouto was still quiet. hanta frowned but walked to his kitchen. he clenched his jaw at the sight of all his dishes. he hadn’t even realized that they’d been piling up over the month and a half. 

 

he ignored them anyway and swung the fridge door open. luckily hitoshi dropped off weekly groceries. hanta didn’t even ask for it when he started. hitoshi just started and it became a habit that every sunday, he’d drop off groceries and anything hanta needed. hanta wanted to pay him for it, but hitoshi refused and told him that seeing him doing better was good enough. hanta smiled at the thought of hitoshi. they hadn’t been the closest before, but denki had invited just hitoshi and hanta for a day out and they’d gotten closer. since then, hitoshi had been in his emergency contacts. 

 

he clicked his tongue and remembered why he was in the kitchen and brought out a bag of bagels. “can mermen even eat bagels?” hanta whispered to himself and slumped. he hoped they could, since bringing back a dead or dying merman wouldn’t be too good for him. 

 

he smeared cream cheese over one side and hesitated before doing the same to the other side. he’d give shouto the smaller half just in case he actually wound up sick. with a final glimpse at the stacked dishes on the counter and sink, he popped the larger half of the bagel in his  mouth and made his way back to shouto. 

 

shouto was in the same position as he was the last time hanta had seen him. maybe he realized that showing random people your ‘dignity’ wasn’t acceptable in most societies. “hey dude, i got you a bagel since you haven’t eaten in a while.” hanta offered the bagel, but shouto just blinked at it before trailing his eyes to hanta. “they’re good with cream cheese. unless you’re lactose intolerant. then i can just get you a new one or—“ 

 

“hanta think shouto gross?” hanta stopped talking and frowned. “dude, what? of course not—“ 

 

“hanta no like looking dignity. screamed and covered eyes. shouto that gross to hanta?” shouto pouted and had another wave of tears in his eyes. hanta wanted to lay on the floor and die. there wasn’t much he could say to help shouto in this particular area of conflict. 

 

“you’re not — you’re not gross, shouto. it’s just not socially acceptable to whip your — your thing out.” hanta stammered, and crouched in front of shouto who still had teary eyes. “but hanta whipped his thing out!” shouto cried, and added a small hiss when emphasizing ‘thing’. hanta dropped his head and nodded after. he chuckled a bit. “i suppose yes, i did. but there was no other way to get out of the tub without getting water everywhere.” 

 

shouto’s eyebrows came together and he blinked away his frustrated tears. “hanta hypocrite.” 

 

“have a bagel, shouto.” hanta held the bagel up to the merman’s mouth. shouto still pouted with crossed arms. his scaly tail was thumping on the side of the mattress. “come on, dude. you gotta eat.” shouto just glared harder. “ahhh.” hanta tried, and brought the bagel closer to shouto’s mouth. 

 

“ahhhhh” shouto finally opened his mouth, and hanta sighed in relief when he took a bite of the bagel. “thank fuck.” 

 

shouto chewed slowly, and his glare lessened with each bite. “is it good?” hanta asked. out of curiosity. not that he cared whether or not this merman enjoyed a bagel or not. he couldn’t care less. 

 

shouto made an ah noise again and went for another bite. hanta kneeled there in front of the merman holding the bagel to his lips until he was finished. shouto seemed to enjoy a new bite more than the last, and his tail was swaying with happiness. 

 

“shouto never get bagel back at tank. feed shouto yucky stuff.” hanta creased his brows and stayed silent, waiting for shouto to continue. he did. “people there think shouto is something that need be poke at.” hanta frowned and opened his mouth to ask more questions, but shouto bared his wrist and hanta’s eyes widened. 

 

why hadn’t he noticed before? how?

 

all over the inside of shouto’s elbow were little pin pricks. they scattered here and there, and both sides were ridden with scars and irritated skin. hanta’s heart raced in his chest. he felt the bagel begging to come back up. 

 

how could they do this to shouto? merpeople were new, but why did they have to tamper with such delicate skin? 

 

“shouto,” hanta trailed off, and hesitantly reached for the merman’s arm. shouto easily allowed him to take it. the ravenette was gentle when examining the scars, eyes trained on the pale, blotchy skin. 

 

hanta felt his stomach drop as a thought came to mind. his heart thumped faster and louder, and he swallowed hard. shouto couldn’t go back. hanta couldn’t possibly return him to the aquarium; not with all the experimentation going on. not when shouto could get hurt. 

 

“shouto,” hanta repeated again, and gulped before having his eyes meet shouto’s with a determined glint. “you can’t go back there. it’s not safe.” hanta knew that any other option—especially the one he was trying not to think about—wasn’t very safe either, but he was never returning shouto back there. hanta stood up and carefully released the merman’s scarred arm. shouto watched him as he sat next to him on the mattress again. 

 

hanta stared at his hands and glared at them. shouto needed to go back home. hanta didn’t know how to take care of a merman—let alone a borderline illegal one—and hanta has too many issues to deal with on his own. he can’t add shouto to his plate. 

 

shouto sat silently next to the human, patient as ever. his eyes swept over hanta and he felt a warmth settle in the pit of his stomach. hanta was just so pretty to him. 

 

beside him, hanta seemed to have come to a conclusion. he clenched his fists and jaw and turned his face to the other. “you can't go home either. they’ll just catch you again.” hanta had a solemn expression and shouto’s face changed from confusion to excitement as he began to realize what this conversation meant. 

 

“you have to stay.” shouto nearly leapt up in joy as hanta breathed out the last sentence. “hanta!” shouto cried out, and launched onto the human. they toppled over with shouto leaning over the ravenette with blue dusting his cheeks, and a large, fanged smile beaming down at hanta. 

 

hanta was relieved that he didn’t have to worry too much about the safety for merman now that he offered to take responsibility for him, but he had no idea what to do. maybe he could use his original idea from before. shouto seemed to do just fine when he snuck into the bathtub with hanta, so maybe hanta could keep him there. 

 

“you said that what they fed you there was yucky. do you know what it was?” shouto didn’t answer, just blinked as he continued to gaze happily at hanta’s face. “can you describe it?” 

 

“gooey.” hanta pursed his lips and sighed. that didn’t give him much to go off of, but from what he knew, shouto really liked bagels. maybe he could keep him alive off of them. that shouldn’t be too hard, all he’d have to do is go grocery shopping. 

 

of course that meant the burden of shouto’s appearance. hanta thought for a little while before looking around for his phone. when he found it, he immediately clicked on denki’s name. 

 

shouto watched from over his shoulder and gasped in bewilderment as hanta tapped on the screen. the phone sang for a few seconds, before a head full of yellow filled his screen. “denks, i need a favor.”

Chapter Text

denki was over there in a few minutes, didn’t ask many questions, and went along with it. hanta figured that he was still in shock therefore didn’t have any inquiries buzzing through his brain yet. maybe after this ‘mission’ hanta had given him. 

 

“dude, it’s fine. you can just explain on the way back.” hanta breathed out a soft sigh and glanced at shouto. explaining wasn’t the issue. hanta was worried about shouto lashing out again. all he did was hiss, but hanta’s gotten to see shouto’s fangs. they could tear flesh easily. hanta knew. 

 

“hanta?” shouto pouted, and wriggled closer to the ravenette. hanta smiled the slightest bit and tried to reassure the merman. “i’ll be back quick, shouto. i just gotta go grocery shopping for you.” shouto’s eyes glazed as he realized what that meant. “hanta leave?” hanta winced when the merman’s eyes became more and more damp. 

 

“i’m sorry shouto, i have to. i’ll be back soon, ‘kay?” hanta put a hand on shouto’s slumped shoulder and pursed his lips when shouto’s hand tried chasing him after he pulled away. hanta had a pit in his stomach again and he sighed. he turned to denki and nodded. “be careful, denks. not too close. just keep an eye on him.” the blonde bobbed his head with a small smile. “sure thing, dude.” 

 

then hanta left. 

Chapter Text

hanta was shaking by the time he got to the store. now that he thought about it, it wasn’t logical at all for him to go out and leave denki to watch the merman. hanta clenched his fists so tight his painted nails dug deep crescents into his palms. 

 

though it was the early afternoon, the store was packed and nearly suffocating. hanta’s skin crawled. he decided to get home as fast as he could. not that it wasn’t his plan beforehand, but now he was more determined. the lights were bright overhead and the ravenette’s temples throbbed. his scuffed converse shimmied over the tiled floor of the grocery store and weaved through the numerous people that didn’t bother moving even after noticing him. 

 

he pursed his lips and felt the grip of his fists loosening at the sight of the snack isle. snacks were cheap and there were all kinds of things, perfect for figuring out what shouto likes and doesn’t like. 

 

he snagged a bag of plain bagels and a case of fruit snacks. he’d enjoy them whenever he ate them, so he hoped that shouto would be the same. 

 

heading over to the sweets section, he picked up a package of pecan shortbread cookies. he was reaching for a bottle of juice when he heard his named called. he immediately flinched and swung around, relaxing and unclenching his fists completely at the sight of purple curly hair. 

 

“didn’t know i’d run into you,” hitoshi chuckled, and grabbed a case of juice boxes. hanta nodded and nibbled on his lip. “i got bored of the food i had at my place so i decided to get new ones.” 

 

hitoshi’s relaxed smile dropped a little. hanta felt his fingers twitching. “bored? you didn’t like the things i got?” hanta wanted to melt into the floor. it was so hard to lie to hitoshi. and even harder to come up with a believable excuse. “n-no! it was fine. i guess i should’ve worded it better.” hanta didn’t elaborate any further and hoped that hitoshi would leave it alone. 

 

of course, not all wishes came true, and his dismissal only seemed to heighten hitoshi’s concern. “hanta, buddy, you gotta tell me if you don’t like the things i got. that way i know what not to get for the next time.” 

 

hanta lips twitched downward. there was no way that he could continue letting hitoshi bring him weekly groceries with shouto around. 

 

shouto. 

 

hanta huffed out a small breath and turned to a cup of applesauce. “i’m sorry, ‘toshi, but i have to go—“ 

 

“do you not want me to drop off your groceries anymore?” hanta’s shoulders slumped and everything burned. slowly, he turned his attention back to the purple haired man. hitoshi had an unreadable expression. one that hanta knew all too well. 

 

“it’s not that i don’t want you to it’s just—“ 

 

“you just don’t need me to.” hitoshi finished for him. hanta’s eyes avoided hitoshi’s as he hesitantly nodded. but he was lying. he needed hitoshi. needed the stability. needed the support.

 

“that’s okay, hanta. i understand. and i’m so proud of you for getting to the point where you can go shopping on your own.” hitoshi gave him a bright smile but it made hanta feel grim. 

 

hanta didn’t like that hitoshi was so happy for him. he wanted hitoshi to keep dropping off groceries. he wanted to keep needing him. it was the least he could do for what he put him through a month and a half ago. 

 

“i’ll let you get back to your apartment now. it was good seeing you.” hitoshi nodded to him and hanta sped away. 

 

the lights seemed brighter than before and there seemed to be more people. his arms were full of different foods and beverages, and he tried to make his way through. 

 

checking out was painstakingly slow and even more so when the lights were the brightest in the isle he was in.  

 

he couldn’t wait to get home. get in bed. rest. 

 

and maybe even let shouto hold him. 

Chapter Text

it was a surprising but refreshing sight when hanta walked into his bedroom after dropping the numerous bags on his kitchen floor. 

 

shouto and denki were on the bed, sitting close together from across each other. denki was instructing shouto how to make spit bubbles. their enjoyment was obvious from their frequent giggles and sniffles. 

 

shouto huffed when his spit bubble popped but quickly composed himself at the sight of his human. “hanta!” the merman scrambled to the edge of the bed, where hanta met him with a drowsy smile. denki grinned up at hanta and wiped at his mouth. his hair was put up in a loose ponytail, leaving his side pieces and bangs. he wore a plain long sleeved shirt, which was white. he paired it with black sweatpants. 

 

“hey dude! did ya get everything you need?” hanta nodded and yawned a bit. his head hurt a little bit less now, and he felt better now with a certain merman latched onto his side. 

 

“i ran into toshi.” he tried to masque his sadness at the mention of the purple haired man. denki readjusted on his knees and sat upright. “what happened, hanta?” 

 

“i accidentally told him to not drop groceries off anymore.” denki pursed his lips. hanta continued. “it wasn’t accidental, but it was. or — i don’t know. i’m jumbled up. i meant to tell him because it wouldn’t be good if shouto was found out by anyone but us,” shouto squished his face into hanta’s ribs at his mention. “but honestly, i’m scared. even going out today for that short time was too much. i had a headache and it was too loud and crowded and—“ 

 

denki placed a gentle palm on his back and nodded to him. “it’s okay hanta. you said that you were jumbled up. take your time. no need to work yourself up even more, bud.” hanta relaxed and released a large breath.

 

“i’m scared.” hanta squeezed his shaky hands. “i don’t know if i can handle not having him around as often. i depend on him so much and i know that it’s not a good thing but —“ hanta sighed and rubbed at his face. shouto leaned deeper into him. he was warm. 

 

“i don’t know if i can handle going out again.” 

 

when the ravenette turned to look at his best friend, he appeared lost in thought. 

 

“i would offer to do it, but we know how that goes.” it was true, any time denki offered to go grocery shopping for hanta, he lost track of his goal and got a bunch of unneeded things. eijirou was good too, but the few times hanta did allow him to shop for him was a chore in itself. he always bought too much and it wound up going bad because hanta couldn’t eat that much. 

 

“how about i talk to him? i know that you’re tired and that you need rest. i’ll try to come up with something.” 

 

a warmth settled in hanta’s stomach and he nodded gratefully. “thank you so much, denks. i love you, man.” denki offered him a smile and hugged him tight, without worrying about shouto. hanta noticed this and made a mental note to figure out what happened while he was away. 

 

“i better go. eijirou might get all worried since i’ve been in and out lately.” hanta bashfully nodded while feeling guilty. “it’s no big deal dude. i’ll do anything to help.” denki turned to the merman who sat patiently. “see you later, seadude. maybe i’ll be able to fishsit you again.” 

 

Chapter Text

hanta collapsed on his bed without another word. the apartment was momentarily silent. “toshi?” shouto asked, probably confused on who denki and hanta were previously talking about. hanta nodded and breathed out a long sigh. his arms were resting over his eyes. he could feel the merman scoot closer. “toshi is a close friend. he’s the one with purple hair.” hanta explained. he didn’t expect shouto to remember or even know who he was talking about, but shouto asked and hanta felt that he deserved an explanation. 

 

“hanta sad? hurting?” hanta lifted a hand off his face and stared at the merman. he had a pout and was staring back at the ravenette with soft eyes. “i’m not hurting, no. i’m very tired though.” shouto trilled at that and slithered across the bed to the headboard. “hanta sleep with shouto. shouto make feel better.” 

 

hanta didn’t bother declining, just shimmied to where shouto was. shouto held onto him tight and pressed their bodies together. “you really do like suffocating me, huh?” hanta wheezed out when shouto pressed hard into him. the human was shocked they didn’t merge together from how hard shouto pushed. “hanta warm.” shouto simply said. 

 

hanta was nearly lulled to sleep. curiosity won against the battle of sleep though, and hanta glanced up at shouto. the merman was already gazing back. a purr came from his chest when he and hanta locked eyes. “you like denki now, right?” hanta inquired. shouto gave a thoughtful smile. “denki told shouto that denki had lovers. no need for shouto to hate denki now. denki is not threat.” 

 

hanta quirked a brow. “threat? threat to what? denki couldn’t hurt anyone. not on purpose, that is.” shouto’s ears dusted purple. “not physical threat. romantic threat. denki may take hanta from shouto.” it was hanta’s turn to blush. “oh.” was all he said, and he yawned quietly after. 

 

“so do merpeople fall in love fast or?” hanta was humoring his tired state. he’d been wanting to ask anyhow, but now he was too tired to care about being embarrassed for asking. “merpeople find deep connection in others fast. special gift given by moon. merpeople see beauty in everything. shouto saw beauty in hanta.” hanta smiled softly and rested his head on shouto’s chest. “by the moon?” 

 

“moon is goddess. controls tides and fish and wonders. she is life to merpeople. nothing without her. gives gifts to creatures of seas for happiness. her own lover is kept away. is sea. cant have her sea so she gives. makes both happy, even when apart.” shouto explained, chest vibrating in hanta’s ears pleasantly. “i see. so the sea and the moon are lovers. but they’re kept separated, so the moon gifts her lover with the tides and creatures.” shouto hummed. 

 

“is sad. that’s why merpeople appease both. what both happy even if they not together. that’s why merpeople love fast. love delights goddesses.” 

 

“goddesses?” hanta asked, eyes wide with wonder. shouto beamed. “goddesses. two women.” hanta nodded. unlike shouto, he wasn’t under the influence of a gift by goddesses. he just fell fast. and hard . for him, it was easy to fall in love. without the excuse of goddesses, he just looked silly most of the time. 

 

with shouto, he didn’t feel silly. he felt warm and thoughtful and happy

 

it was unfortunate how he couldn’t use the excuse now that he began seeing the perks of having shouto around. 

Chapter Text

“so after you deemed denki not a ‘threat’, what happened?” hanta asked, voice quiet and more of a drone, infused with exhaustion. shouto settled deeper into the blankets. “denki wanted earn trust. denki give trust by giving fun. learned spit bubbles after.” 

 

humming, hanta raised his eyebrows with closed eyes. he felt himself drifting off, the surrounding warmth, soothing purrs of shouto’s chest, and shouto’s careful fingers playing with his hair began to wear down on him. “humans fall in love fast? have goddesses?” the near silence was cut by the merman’s curiosity. hanta couldn’t find it in himself to be angry about it. 

 

his lids were still over his eyes, but he answered. “humans are kind of weird. we have a lot of beliefs and religions, so we don’t really have a definite answer. some believe in one, some believe in another, others like the thought of polytheism. none can really do anything to cause humans to fall in love fast like merpeople, i suppose.” shouto made a noise in understanding. 

 

“hanta believe in goddesses?” hanta peeked open an eye and shrugged. “i’m not convinced, but i’m not unconvinced . it’s the matter of proof or rather if i would really see something happening with it.” shouto pressed his face into hanta’s neck. “shouto’s goddesses would love you.” shouto murmured, breath hot on hanta’s nape. he slung an arm around the merman, earning a surprised but happy yelp. 

 

“i’ll dream about it.” hanta sighed, and hesitantly rested his face in shouto’s neck too. the merman hugged him tight. “love hanta.”

 

“goodnight, shouto.” 

 

———

 

well rested couldn’t begin to describe how hanta felt. his eyes didn’t sting when he awoke, and he didn’t have any crust around the lids either. there was no soreness to be felt, and overall, he just felt great. 

 

“awake,” shouto cheered. “have surprise for you!” hanta rubbed at his face and hummed. “what is it?” 

 

“friends!” shouto cheered, and hanta then noticed the three other figures in the room. he yelped and tried to tackle shouto under the sheets, but shouto fought it. “see? see? hanta’s friends visit! so nice to bring food too,” shouto shoved a piece of sushi onto the outside of hanta’s cheek. the ravenette was too busy having a staring match with katsuki, who had an unreadable expression. hanta couldn’t bear it and moved to the next set of eyes. eijirou had a silent, concerned expression. denki hid behind him, offering a sheepish smile. 

 

hanta’s well-restedness seeped from his body and soaked through the floor. 

 

he cleared his throat. “hi guys.” 

 

katsuki took in a breath and turned to eijirou. eijirou parted his pursed lips and looked to hanta. “hanta,” he began. 

 

“what—what is that?” 

 

“and why is it in your bed? sleeping with you? and knows your goddamn name?” katsuki grit out. shouto thumped his tail happily when munching on some ginger. he spat it out seconds later, muttering something like “bad. bad stuff. poison.” 

 

“this is shouto.” hanta gestured, gaining the said merman’s attention. he sniffled and began fidgeting with his hair again. “denki told us that.” eijirou softly said. hanta’s eyes narrowed for a split second on denki. “he’s from the aquarium. i promise i didn’t take him out, he just—he sort of just fell into my lap. he was hurt so i helped him.” hanta felt his chest deflating with how long it’s been since he’s taken in a proper breath. 

 

“so why is he still here?” the blonde asked, arms crossed. eijirou reached for his hand and squeezed. “he can’t go back, kats. what they do — they’re horrible. they just hurt and test and just—“ hanta gripped at his hair. shouto frowned and shoved his face into hanta’s shoulder when he couldn’t play with the man’s hair anymore. “look at his arms. or anywhere. look at him.” hanta insisted, taking shouto’s wrist into his hand and carefully bringing it closer to his friends. all of their eyes widened. 

 

shouto whined and tried to take his arm back, but hanta tightened his hand. he had tears in his eyes. “hanta, buddy,” eijirou breathed. hanta knew what was coming. 

 

“this can’t be another impulse thing. we can’t do this again. this isn’t a pet, or an animal. this is a near human. he’s sentient. he can speak . he talks to you. he understands what you say. he can probably understand what we are saying.” hanta’s grip loosened and shouto immediately latched onto him, cooing and petting. 

 

“we know you want to help. we know he’s hurting, but so are you . you can’t be everyone’s and everything’s savior. you need to help yourself before you make a decision like this.” hanta found himself clinging onto shouto too. “i don’t want to leave him.” the word ‘again’ floated through his mind, and it confused him. 

 

“kats,” eijirou turned to his other boyfriend. katsuki stood from the place he was sitting and walked to the bed. shouto watched him intently. his eyes were alert but he refused to leave hanta until knowing for sure that there wasn’t a threat. “hanta.” 

 

“you’ve done this one too many times.” katsuki murmured, eyes on his own hands. his voice was so mellow, so quiet. hanta felt the ache again, the guilt of worrying his friends for the umpteenth time. “we almost lost you last time.” 

 

shouto tightened his tail around hanta. “lost hanta?” katsuki finally moved his gaze away from his scarred palms. “almost.” he answered the merman. 

 

“hanta?” hanta ignored the merman and simply leaned closer into him. “i need this, kats. i need to feel like i mean something. like i can take care of something. i need to know—“ hanta choked on a sob and pawed at shouto’s bare chest. “i need to know that it’s not my fault. that i’m not the problem.” eijirou and denki joined them on the bed. “hanta,” eijirou croaked. 

 

“everytime it ends. every time it leaves. every time i’m left alone . i’m always the problem. it’s always because of me. he dies because of me .” hanta rushed out, words spilling out like vomit, so fast he can’t even comprehend what it means. what anything means. his brain is jello. 

 

“who?” denki asked, leaning to hanta’s level. 

 

“me.”