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Condition of Learned Helplessness

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Genos is 1.5% organic, by body mass. When Dr. Stench tells him that, not so long after the major surgeries are over, he asks what it means.

“Your brain is all that remains of your human body.” Dr. Stench ducks his head and scratches the side of his nose. “Of course, that means that there are certain biological… impulses that you will no longer feel as urgently, and certain acts that you will no longer be able to take part in.

“But if you want, I could possibly design a…. an apparatus,” Dr. Stench continues, looking stoically at the floor. If Genos still had blood vessels under his skin, he’d probably be bright red. “So that you might-”

“That’s fine! I don’t need it!” Genos yelps, waving his arms. He knocks a hand against Dr. Stench’s rolling tool cart by accident and it goes flying, spraying tools as it goes. Genos and Dr. Stench stare at the warped mass of metal protruding from the wall and the mess of equipment scattered all over the floor.

Dr. Stench clears his throat. “Yes. Well. I’ll go get my computer so we can dampen your strength while you adjust,” he says, slipping out of the sterile white recovery room.

Genos doesn’t slap his hands over his face in mortification, but only because he doesn’t want to damage the last bit of his old self that he has left.

&&&

For a long time, the ‘impulses’ and ‘acts’ aren’t an issue. If anything, it’s nice to wake up after a nightly recharge and not have to deal with a morning situation in his underwear.

It is unnerving though, that when Genos looks at even the most beautiful women, he only feels a vague awareness of their beauty. Who knew that his body was so instrumental in attraction?

&&&

And then, Saitama-sensei. The man walks into his life, unabashedly nude as he casually swats the mosquito creature that Genos had foolishly underestimated. His nudity makes no impression on Genos, the flaccid penis and dangling scrotum no more notable than that of a drawing in an anatomy text. But the man himself, well.

Equally unimpressive, save for his monstrous strength, durability, and agility. Genos pursues him, becomes his live-in disciple, and follows him into the Heroes Association, hoping to learn about and acquire that level of physical ability.

“You only want me for my body,” Saitama-sensei jokingly observes one day.

Genos opens his mouth to protest, but it’s true. Ironic, certainly, because Genos hasn’t been interested in bodies since before his own was mutilated beyond recovery, but true.

&&&

Later, but not much later than one might expect, Genos’ curiosity becomes tinged with a growing admiration. Fondness and affection follow after, in the quiet moments between world-ending disasters. The susurrations of Saitama-sensei’s daily life become a soothing background to his new daily routine of breakfast-workout-lunch-chores-shopping-dinner.

Dr. Stench wonders about Saitama-sensei, asks subtly probing questions, but Genos defends Saitama-sensei at every turn; his teacher is not the type to ever take advantage.

“You do his household chores,” Dr. Stench says.

Because Genos wants to. Because while it was originally out of a sense of duty, it’s now a source of pleasure. Because Sensei likes cooking but hates washing dishes and always smiles at a freshly laundered and ironed suit. Because Genos likes it when Sensei smiles.

But Genos says, “Saitama-sensei performs 38% of the household duties and does all of the grocery shopping. Considering I am imposing upon him, he has been quite generous.”

Dr. Stench is quiet for a few minutes as he wires the new shoulder joint into Genos’ torso.

Apropos of absolutely nothing that Genos is aware of, he says, “I know it’s been a while, but the offer is still open for a–an apparatus for, ah, for physical intimacy, that is to say, congress–”

“What! No-- what?” Genos yelps. “Dr. Stench–!”

Dr. Stench, red from hairline to collar, hides his face under the wide brim of his hair. “Well, just reminding you that the offer is still available. In the event that–if you should require, or feel that–”

“I got it! Thank you, Doctor! No thank you!”

&&&

Genos walks away from that upgrade still apparatus-less, but the offer, and the thoughts that accompany it, stick in his mind and filter their way into his imagination.

Sensei is not an unattractive man, per se. Physically, he rates in the top 0.01 percentile of unaugmented human fitness. And when he becomes serious about something and the perpetually bored expression gives way to interest, he is, dare Genos even consider it, attractive by modern standards.

Sensei’s skin is smooth and unmarked, barring a handful of faded marks chronicling the usual childhood mishaps. His broad hands are strong beyond Genos’ ability to measure, but Genos has not once seen him accidentally damage something with that monstrous strength, handling even the most fragile objects with effortless delicacy.

And like a dam that has been broken, all manner of inappropriate thoughts spring up.  What about Sensei’s strong fingers? What do the defined planes of Sensei’s chest feel like to lips? To a tongue? And what about Sensei’s soft lips? What could they do to an, an apparatus?

Genos, absurdly grateful he can’t blush, wants to know.

&&&

Genos dreams.

(Sensei was surprised to learn of it, but Genos’ brain is human, and human brains require sleep as surely as they require oxygen and nutrients, and sleeping means dreaming, ergo:

Genos dreams.)

He dreams of heat and skin and sweat and pleasure that builds and builds and builds without ever reaching a peak. He dreams things he hasn’t dreamed of since he was fifteen and awash in hormones.

“You make funny faces in your sleep,” Saitama-sensei says.

Genos’ heart does not stop in his chest because he doesn’t have a heart. His brain supplies a similar psychological effect though, his idle thoughts of lunch screeching to a halt.

“Do I say anything?” he asks.

Sensei’s gaze is uncharacteristically cool when he says, “No.”

Genos wants to know what that look means. He wants to know what everything means when it comes to Saitama-sensei. But this time he’s afraid to ask.

&&&

Completely out of the blue, Saitama-sensei says, “I’m glad you’re here, Genos.”

He’s smiling. Genos detects his facial mechanisms pulling into an answering smile entirely beyond Genos’ control. In the corner of his vision, a red warning flashes: conflicting subroutines. He stops trying to tamp down the smile and his field of vision narrows as his eyes crinkle at the corners.

“I’m glad too, Sensei.”

&&&

“So, like, what’s up with you two,” King asks over his breakfast. Saitama-sensei is out on his daily run, but has promised to bring back groceries.

Fubuki snorts into her mug of coffee. The two of them had stayed overnight after a video game marathon ran to four in the morning.

“They’re together, obviously,” Fubuki grunts into her mug.

“We’re not, actually,” Genos says. “Saitama-sensei is strictly heterosexual.”

King and Fubuki’s eyebrows go up. They glance at each other.

“Huh,” Fubuki says. “If that’s the case, I’m pretty sure I owe someone money.”

“Is there even anyone who bet against it?” King asks her.

Fubuki shrugs. “Probably. Maybe Sneck. He’s had it out for Saitama since day one.”

“So why do you do all his chores?” King asks. “Do disciples usually do housework for their masters?”

Somehow it always comes back to the chores.

“The Blizzard Group does all my chores for me,” Fubuki says. “It’s expected of them, because I’m their superior. But Genos here is S Class. If anything, a lowly B Class should be the one cleaning Genos’ toilet.”

Genos’ motors rev in irritation. “Saitama-sensei is stronger than every S Class hero that I’ve observed. It’s an honor and a pleasure to live here and learn from him.”

“Maybe I should get a disciple,” King says. “I hate cleaning. And they could get drinks and snacks for me so I don’t have to pause my games.”

Fubuki snorts. “You’re just lazy.”

“So is Saitama,” King whines.

“On the contrary, Sensei’s apartment was fairly well kept even before I arrived. I don’t do much that he didn’t do before.”

Fubuki smirks at King, who frowns. “And anyway, if you got a housewife disciple like Baldy did, they’d find out what a weak coward you are,” she says.

“I-I’m not his housewife,” Genos splutters before he can catch himself. “I’m his disciple.”

“Moe~,” King says.

“Wow, yeah, that is cute,” Fubuki agrees. “I thought you said you were straight.”

“I said that Sensei was heterosexual. I am at least bisexual, currently leaning toward homosexual.”

Fubuki grunts into her mug. “Gay or taken. Gay and taken. Stop making that stupid face, King.”

King’s usual resting expression has twisted into a strange contortion of pity. It makes Genos’ face sore just looking at it, and Genos doesn’t even have sensation receptors beyond his mouth.

“We should do something,” King says. “Even the most indifferent heart can be opened to love.”

Fubuki smacks King across the back of the head and snaps, “This isn’t one of your stupid dating sims! If Saitama is straight, then that’s the end of it.” She shoots Genos an empathetic look. “That’s rough, though. Sorry.”

Genos takes Fubuki’s mug, topping it up to occupy himself rather than meet her gaze. “It’s fine. I’ve grown used to it.”

When he eventually does look up, King and Fubuki are trading a long glance. Mercifully, they let the subject drop.

&&&

Genos has heard that talking about one’s feelings helps a person deal with them and move past them. He can’t refute the data that proves the theory, but perhaps he simply exists in a situation where stating and acknowledging them makes it worse. Or perhaps his experiences have simply made him prone to the more painful emotions.

Moments of happiness he has with Sensei are now tinted with bitterness or sadness or a clawing helplessness that lodges high in his throat. Not all moments at first, but more and more as time goes by. Eventually it comes to a point where he can’t quite recall the last time being with Sensei made him smile.

Some days, when the bitterness is especially sharp, Genos even dares to wish he’d never met Saitama and had just gone about his quest, dying a pointless death at the hands of some underestimated monster with a heart still encased in ice. Surely that would’ve been less agonizing than this.

&&&

“Hey, Genos,” Sensei says, closing his manga, “wanna play?”

Genos looks up from his notebook. He still keeps up with it, still fills the pages back to back, cover to cover, but it feels rote.

“Play?”

“Yeah. You’ve gotten a lot stronger since the first time. You might make me break a sweat!”

Spar. Sensei is inviting him to spar. Once the idea would’ve excited him, but now Genos just feels defeated before he’s even begun. Sensei is still the most powerful hero that Genos knows, shooting up through the ranks of the A Class heroes after Fubuki gave him the green light. Nothing Genos can do will make Sensei break a sweat. He’ll be lucky to even singe the hem of Sensei’s cape.

Genos closes his notebook. “No thank you, Sensei.”

Saitama-sensei sits at the table across from Genos. His eyes are sharp, alert. “Why not? You like that, right?”

Genos looks down at his notebook, avoiding Sensei’s stare. He wants to be angry, feels a burning spark of it smothered under more layers of emotions than Genos ever knew a person could feel at one time. “I think it’s time for me to leave.”

It’s a while before Sensei speaks. Genos can feel the weight of his stare like a meteor bearing down.

“Why?”

Genos doesn’t have lungs, but he can simulate a deep breath. “Saitama-sensei is a unique case, and I have long accepted that I will never reach your level of strength. The longer I stay here, the more risk there is that the mad cyborg will slaughter another innocent town. If I can’t learn to acquire Sensei’s strength, then I should be out there, hunting him down.”

It’s not ten words, but it sounds a lot better than I’m not happy here anymore.

“Did you get strong enough to beat him?”

“Maybe. I don’t know. I suppose I’ll find out.”

There’s a long spell of silence, during which Genos’s sensitive hearing detects Sensei opening and closing his mouth several times. At long last, he looks up from his notebook.

Sensei’s eyebrows are furrowed, his expression tensed into an unfamiliar emotion that Genos takes a few long moments to realize is frustration.

“…Sensei?”

“You talk in your sleep,” Saitama-sensei blurts. “And you cry sometimes, too. It’s super annoying.”

“I’m sor–”

“And you sigh and moan and shit, too, when you’re having a wet dream, which was super weird and uncomfortable to listen to.”

“I’m so–”

“I wanted to kick you out the first few times you did that, because it’s super weird that you do that when you don’t even have the junk to follow through.”

“Sensei–”

“But hey, he’s nineteen, I figured, and it’s probably the most normal nineteen year old thing you do, so I got over it and just started putting in earplugs when it sounded like you were having one of those dreams.”

“Sen–”

“But then you started moaning, Sensei, Sensei all the freaking time, and that was even weirder, except you never freaking did anything about it. You’d dream about having sex with me or whatever, and then in the morning it’s like it never happened, like you didn’t even realize you were dreaming about it.

“And then King and Fubuki were asking all these weird questions and shit, and King had that weird look on his face, the one he sometimes gets when he’s been playing too many of his weird dating sims, you know the look?

“And I’m not stupid, all right? I know that you– y’know, and that it bothers you that I don’t, y’know, and you’re moping around the house all miserable all the time, which is driving me crazy, by the way. It’s not my freaking fault that that you’re all droopy and sad, but you make me feel guilty as hell about it anyway, so thanks for that.

“And now you wanna leave. I mean, I get why, I probably would if I were in the same boat, but I’m so used to you being here all the time that I guess I started to take it for granted that you’d always be here. And now I feel like an idiot, because I should’ve said something earlier rather than just letting you stew and mope and shit. But I-”

“Sensei!” Genos interrupts. “I, I’m not sure what you’re trying to say. Please try saying it in ten words or less?”

“Stay,” Saitama says. “You want to be with me, and I wanna try it.”

“That was more than ten words,” Genos croaks, his artificial vocal chords grating unpleasantly. “You said you were heterosexual.”

“When I said the wet dreams were super weird and uncomfortable, I meant that it was weird and uncomfortable to my dick.” Saitama scrubs his hand over his reddening face. “Being mostly straight but a little gay, that’s a thing, right?”

“If you’re having a sexual crisis, there are resources-”

Saitama-sensei thumps his face down on the table, cracking it down the middle. “Jesus, shut up. I just wanna make you happy, okay? Like, all the time.”

Genos looks down at the shiny bald dome of Sensei’s head. Hope feels like barbed wire twined around his insides. “You do?”

Saitama-sensei lifts his head, propping his chin on the table. The awkward angle of his neck and jaw makes it look like he’s frowning. “Yeah. I do. Is that okay?”

Genos manages to smile, hopefully, a little uncertainly. “Yeah.”

&&&

Fubuki throws herself onto the floor between King and Saitama, lounging against the table and somehow managing to look elegant. Neither man looks away from the video game they’re playing, their thumbs clicking away at the controllers. Genos brings her a cup of tea.

“So apparently nobody bet against you guys being a couple, which means nobody actually gets any money.”

“If you need money, I can lend it to you at 15% interest,” Genos says.

“Damn loan shark,” she grunts. “You charge your boyfriend interest, or do you take it out in trade?”

“Saitama-sensei and I have yet to engage in sexual intimacy,” Genos says calmly over Saitama’s shout of embarrassed outrage. “I have an appointment to see Dr. Stench about acquiring an apparatus that will allow me to-”

He’s cut off as Saitama tackles him to the floor, both hands clapped over Genos’ mouth.

“Moe~,” King says, watching the two now that the game is paused. Saitama is scolding Genos, his hands still clapped over Genos’ mouth, but Genos’ eyes are crinkled at the corners and his hands are creeping higher on Saitama’s thighs where Saitama is straddling his chest.

Fubuki rolls her eyes. “Yeah yeah, and they all lived happily ever after. Gimme the controller.”