Right. Okay. Today is not a good day for Genos.
The thing is, there a lot of villains roaming around D-city. A lot of them are middle-aged, a lot of them wear underpants. Not many of them only wear the underpants, but there’s probably more than one. And a few of them no doubt steal things, including clothes and shoes. The point is, this sort of situation is pretty run of the mill. Should be run of the mill. Normally Genos would be able to deal with things in under an hour. Rough the bad guys up a bit, haul them back to HA, go about the rest of his day in peace. Easy.
Today is the day that Genos runs into the only guy in the city who is a combination of a) middle-aged, b) half-naked, and c) stealing clothes while they’re still on the victims.
“What,” he says, because, really, what. They’re in the residential district. It would be a nice place, if there weren’t underdressed citizens fleeing to their homes to get away from Genos’s opponent for the day. The villain’s not even really all that scary. He’s just some unremarkable, if slightly hefty, guy, standing in the middle of the street, screaming about the evils of the fashion industry and prancing around in a pair of white cotton briefs.
A shrieking man runs past Genos wearing nothing but a sock over his privates. Genos releases a very long sigh.
“Alright,” he says. He tries to put some heart into it. Really, he does. He’d prepared a little speech on the way here and everything, because a crazy man running loose in a neighbourhood full of terrified naked people is both distasteful and alarming. But Genos is only human (loosely). He’s a normal hero, with normal ideas on villainy, and not even he can keep up his righteous fury while bearing witness to a man swallow a shoe.
“I was not expecting this,” he admits, eyeing the unfortunate footwear as it disappears down the bastard’s throat. “I don’t know what I was expecting, exactly, but it definitely wasn’t this. I got a call saying there was some asshole sexually harassing innocent bystanders, and they said something about clothes being involved, but I honestly did not think that today would be the day I watched a man eat a sneaker.”
The man burps. Genos realises abruptly that there are naked people, but there are no clothes on the ground, so that shoe was not the first. No wonder everyone is running away. The villain turns to bellow in his general direction. “I am Pant-Man. I was put on this world to revolt against the capitalist influence that clothes companies have upon the innocent people of the world, who are chained to ideas of fashion and—”
“Shut up,” says Genos. “I’m not listening to this, I’m not prepared to see any sense in your behaviour. What the hell is wrong with you? You still have a shoelace sticking out of your mouth. That’s disgusting. I don’t even have an organic stomach, and I can feel it turning. What reason could you possibly have for ingesting a shoe that’s already been used?”
Pant-Man blinks. “I want us to free ourselves—”
“Shut up, I said I don’t want to hear it. I don’t want to be here. I’m going to shoot you, and then I’m going home. Stay still.”
Pant-Man roars at him. It’s not very intimidating. Partly because this whole thing is so absurd, but mostly because Genos has a handgun pointed right between Pant-Man’s eyes. It’s an actual handgun. His hand is a gun. It’s full of rubber bullets, although Genos is really kind of wants to just torch everything and be done with it. “You’ll never take me alive!”
“You don't need to be alive.”
Genos never really did believe in warning shots, but Pant-Man is deceptively fast for a lower Wolf-level threat. The first bullet goes over his head as he lunges forward, arms outstretched and uneven teeth bared. A hand grabs Genos’s shirt and yanks.
Swearing, Genos slaps the guy away, thrusters in his left arm balancing him for a windmill kick. Foot meets cheekbone with an organic-sounding whack, and Pant-Man goes stumbling back onto the side of the road as Genos rights himself and fires up a machine gun. His shirt is still intact, thank god. He really doesn’t want to have to beat a man up while naked.
Pant-Man, slightly charred, hops backwards down the sidewalk. He’s cackling. Genos’s gaze darts to the red thing he’s got in his hand. It’s a shoe.
He glances down. It’s his shoe.
God damn it.
“Give that back.” That spark he should have been feeling earlier fizzles back to life, although it’s still closer to righteous indignation than righteous fury. “I can’t go around with only one shoe.”
“I’ll eat them both, then,” says Pant-Man smugly.
“What the fuck, you’d better not, these are Converse.”
Someone behind him snorts. “Tell me about it. He ate my second-favourite hoodie.”
Genos spins around like a meerkat. Turns out not everyone had the good sense to evacuate, because there’s a seemingly unconcerned bald man leaning against a shop window and watching them fight. He’s in his early thirties, probably, face cheerfully blank even as Genos looks him up and down.
He is, it turns out, completely naked. Genos swears he feels something glitch.
“Uh,” he says slowly. The stranger doesn’t even look like he’s aware that he’s nude. “What are you doing?”
“Not much, just hanging out.”
Genos coughs. “I can see that. Where are your clothes?”
Bald-o tilts his head. The look in his eyes says he’s not terribly worried, but the left eye, specifically, seems to be saying that Genos is the weird one, and the right one just looks like it’s having a good time. “I told you, he ate them.”
Genos stares. For a very long time, because he’s standing in the street with one shoe on, fighting a half-naked man who’s threatening to eat his other shoe, and now there’s an actual naked man standing behind him with one raised eyebrow like he can’t even tell Genos is on his way to short-circuiting. “Oh.”
“Are you alright?” says the man. He’s not bald everywhere, Genos notes absently.
“I. Yes.” He keeps his gaze very lowered. Out of respect, of course. “Absolutely perfect.”
The bald man gestures somewhere behind them. “He’s getting away, you know.”
Genos tears his eyes away. Pant-Man has run off whooping in triumph, Genos’s poor shoe held aloft like a torch at the Olympics. “Oh? Right. I’ll, uh. Go beat him off— up. Beat him up. For you.”
“You need a hand?”
“…no, thanks.” He feels a bit like his brain feed has been detached, like he’s had too many big surprises for one day. Somewhat stiffly, Genos turns on his heel and jogs down the road to find his target. Might be a good idea to talk to Doctor Kuseno about this. Experiencing total and complete surrealism can’t be good for his combat ability.
Pant-Man has retreated to the children’s playground, which is thankfully devoid of any children. The swing set wobbles precariously because the guy’s using it like a monkey bar. He looks like an idiot. Less of a real villain and more a drunk salaryman, and Genos allows himself a second for another sigh.
He stops just short of the structure and, quite easily, rips it out of the ground and tips it over.
Pant-Man goes down with an angry yelp, which turns into a horrified yelp when the metal top of the swing set falls right onto his sternum. He's trapped. Now there's nothing to do but call the local authorities and have them take Pant-Man to jail, or community service, or whatever it is that they do with villains nowadays. What an anti-climax. Genos almost feels sorry for him.
Almost. He’d be a bit nicer if this had been any other day, probably, but now he’s just angry and still slightly in shock. His sneaker’s bounced off somewhere. He really wants to go home.
“Help,” Pant-Man says. Wheezes, really. His ribs are, after all, only organic.
“No,” says Genos a little maliciously. “This is what you get for large-scale sexual harassment. You’re going to jail. Where’s my shoe?”
Pant-Man tries to throw a bit of sand at him. Vindictively, Genos steps on the swing set, and relishes the strangled noise he gets as it digs further into Pant-Man’s chest. He’s feeling better already. “I still have guns, you know. Don’t push your luck.”
Footsteps echo against the squishy material of the playground’s flooring. Flamethrower ready, Genos whips around, cursing himself for not paying attention to his sensors where there could very well be another criminal lurking around the corner.
It’s not a criminal. It’s just the bald guy from earlier. He’s still naked, god help him.
Any relief Genos was feeling wilts instantly. “Can I help you?”
The man shrugs. “No, I just came to watch.” Pant-Man makes a horrible squelchy noise, and the bald man winces in sympathy. “Hey, uh, can he breathe?”
“You don’t believe in mercy, do you?”
“That’s ridiculous. I could have shot him, but I didn’t.”
“I don’t think this is a much better way to die.”
He should not care for the opinion of a crazy naked man, even if this one is younger and marginally better looking than the other crazy almost-naked man. Significantly better looking, actually. Genos could cut himself on those V-lines, and he’s made of metal. “You’re concerned?”
The stranger blinks, and then puts his hands up as if in surrender. “Not really, it’s just that I can literally hear his ribs cracking and it’s kind of freaking me out. What are you gonna do with him?”
“There’s a standard questioning procedure. I don’t know if he’s part of some syndicate, but the Association will ask him some deep, penetrating questions. Really pump him for answers, make sure he holds nothing back,” Genos says. Maintaining eye contact, he’s finding, is probably the second hardest thing he’s ever experienced. “And then prison, where he can think about his actions long and hard.”
The other guy wrinkles his nose. It looks ridiculous, and Genos wonders for a second if it’s normal to find a grown man endearing. “I dunno if he’s gonna make it to prison, if you’re gonna keep stepping on him.”
“You are concerned,” Genos says in disbelief. “Even after all of his crimes, you’ve still found it in yourself to extend some kindness to him?”
“Well, no, I just came to see if there was any chance of getting my clothes back—”
“Very well. I will take this criminal to the infirmary as soon as I get him back to the Hero’s Association. I’ll make sure he’s safe, for your sake,” says Genos. He means it, too.
“That’s not really…eh, sure.” The man looks like he wants to put his hands in his pockets, but can’t for obvious reasons. He settles for folding his arms and idly kicking a pebble. “Thanks for beating him, I guess. I would have done it, but, y’know,” he finally gestures to himself. “Naked.”
Kind and brave. Genos studies the stranger’s face very intently. The man squirms under the scrutiny. “You should leave this sort of thing to the heroes. I really wouldn’t suggest you try to fight a criminal on your own.”
The man shrugs, and grins. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. Oh, hey, your shoe’s over there. I’ll get it for you.”
Genos lets him go. The stranger skips off to poke around inside a bush. Exactly how he’s found Genos’s sneaker all the way over there is a slight mystery, but Genos doesn’t get much of a chance to think about it for very long, because the man pretty quickly makes a little nose of triumph and bends over to get it.
A long look confirms that, yes, he is still completely naked.
Genos bows, leaves the shoe, and goes home.
“You look extra pissy today,” says Sonic cheerfully. He’s rummaging through one of the cabinets, and the sound of crinkling plastic alerts Genos to the fact that the idiot’s gotten into the chips again. “What’s on your mind, sugarplum?”
“How do you keep getting into my apartment?” Genos demands from the living room. He’s sitting cross-legged in front of the coffee table instead of on the couch, because the patch of light coming from the balcony makes it difficult to see the screen of his laptop. “Why are you always here? Don’t you have a house of your own?”
He’s starting to think Sonic might actually be homeless, because his natural habitat appears to be in Genos’s kitchen, eating all of Genos’s food. Completely unsurprisingly, Sonic emerges from behind the little island bearing a sandwich and a packet of Lays. “Come on, you don’t need all this space. And you like my company, admit it.”
“I don’t, and I don’t appreciate you going through my fridge like you own the place.”
“It’s not like you ever eat any of this stuff. You always order take-out.”
“Could you at least use a plate?” Genos says, exasperated. Sonic pointedly sprawls himself on the floor regardless, and Genos grumbles something profane under his breath.
Sonic rolls into the sun patch. Unfortunately, he doesn’t choke trying to eat his food while lying on his back. “Honestly, you could stand to be a little nicer to me after you cut my hair off. You never even apologized for that.”
“That happened a year ago, and your hair is still short,” Genos points out. “Either it grows back at glacial speeds, or you like the style.”
“I’ve gotten laid so much since you cut it.”
Genos snorts. He’s looking at a Wikipedia article he doesn’t really remember opening, but he’s learnt enough about the indigenous chupacabra of Mexico for one day. He closes the tab. “Seriously, do you have a job? Is there a reason you have all this time to bother me?” It’s a genuine question, at that. He has no idea what Sonic does for a living, beyond the whole vague ‘villain’ thing, but as far as Genos is aware he never actually seems to do any villainy. Not that the Hero Association is aware of, anyway, and yet Sonic has a new designer outfit every time Genos sees him.
Sonic grins at him, but doesn’t answer. Genos leans against the couch. As annoying as Sonic is, it’s not worth the effort of chasing him out for the hundredth time, so Genos leaves him to melt all over the carpet and eat his sandwich in peace. It’s a lazy kind of day, anyway. There haven’t been any incidents in half a week, not since the whole sorry affair with that crazed underpant-enthusiast. He hadn’t really checked after that, come to think of it. As far as he knows, Pant-Man is rotting in a puri prison cell somewhere. He should probably follow that up.
“Maybe you should get laid, actually,” Sonic says, as though he doesn’t suggest this at least once a week. Genos sighs and opens another tab for the news. “Might loosen you up a little. Can you even have sex? Do you have a donger?”
“Yes, asshole. I’ll show you if you’re a good boy.”
“No thank you,” says Genos flatly. “There’s a reason they call you the fastest man in the world, and I doubt it has anything to do with your running.”
“Shut up, you goddamned Roomba.” Sonic tosses an elderly piece of lettuce at him. It goes sailing over his head and onto the carpet somewhere, but Genos makes no move to pick it up. “Why am I even friends with you?”
“You’re not. You showed up one day to challenge me to a fight and now you won’t leave me alone.”
“Oh yeah. Remind me to finish that fight someday.” Sonic stares mournfully at the last bite of his sandwich, but eats it nonetheless. “Listen, seriously, do you need me to hook you up with someone? Because I know some people. Not as attractive as me, obviously, but then again let’s face it nobody is as attractive as me—”
“Saitama,” says Genos thoughtfully.
“Wh—is that a dude or a chick?”
Genos doesn’t bother answering. A picture of the bald man he’d rescued stares back at him from the webpage, wrapped in what looks like a banner that he’d ripped from a shop front somewhere. Predictably, Sonic comes closer and drapes himself all over Genos’s side so he can see what he’s looking at. Genos only scorches him a little bit.
“What’s a Pant-Man?”
“A villain I apprehended in D-City,” Genos says absently as he reads. “He wasn’t very interesting, I’m surprised they even covered it.”
“He stripped people and then…ate their clothes? What does that mean?”
“It means he ate their clothes.”
Genos grimaces. “No. I watched him do it.”
Sonic actually uses his backbone for a second so he can turn to stare at Genos. “Explain.”
“I really, truly wish I could.”
“Gross.” Flopping back to press his cheek into Genos’s shoulder, Sonic makes a dismissive noise and bats Genos’s hand out of the way so he can scroll down to see the rest of the article. He’s being clingy because he knows it’s annoying. There’s no way leaning on a metal arm can be comfortable. “I really want my hoodie back, says 25 year-old Saitama, a victim found at the scene of the crime. Is that seriously all he has to say? I want my hoodie back?”
“He didn’t seem very concerned when I met him, either,” Genos muses. The newspaper must not have been happy about having such an apathetic informant, but Saitama had probably been the only witness left in the area who wasn’t being crushed by a swing set and could still talk. “I can’t tell if he’s stupid, brave or simply doesn’t care.”
“What, did you stop for a chat in the middle of fighting a bad guy?”
“He refused to evacuate. He was just loitering in the streets to watch.”
Sonis rolls his eyes. “Oh, one of your gross fans.”
“Evidently not. He didn’t talk about me at all,” Genos says, jabbing Ctrl+F to find his name. “Not once. It’s as though he didn’t even care that I was right in front of him.”
Sonic points at the screen. “No, he mentioned you right here, see?”
Genos stares hard at the sentence just above Sonic’s finger. “Yeah, then that robot dude showed up.’”
“Well maybe it’s not very flattering when you put it like that.”
“’That robot dude’,” Genos repeats tonelessly, leaning back against the couch. “I have a name. He could have called me Demon Cyborg, or Genos. He could have just called me ‘a blond hero’ or something. Instead he picks the most—most—”
“—unflattering description he could have thought of. Why? I saved his life. He could show some interest. I’m not even a robot, I’m obviously a cyborg.”
“Man, are my chips salty? No? Must be you, then.” Straightening up and away from Genos uncomfortable metal frame, Sonic twists around so he can raise an eyebrow in disbelief. “Since when do you care what people say about you?”
“You do.” Oh, no. That grin’s starting to happen, curling the edges of Sonic’s mouth up slowly like butter melting over hot toast. Genos hates it, because it never means well for him, or for anyone who isn’t Sonic. His shoulders stiffen in pre-emptive irritation. “Oh, honey. You’re bothered by this, aren’t you? Someone isn’t falling head-over-heels for you the moment you shot your load into some bad guy, and it’s really getting to you.”
Genos elbows him in the face. Tries to, anyway, but Sonic blocks it easily with one hand. “Shut up. I have every right to be offended.”
“But this is new,” Sonic crows in delight. “You’re not the one playing hard to get this time. What’s so special about this guy that he’s got your panties in a twist?”
Genos pauses. He’s not really sure that there is anything special about this Saitama. The only really remarkable thing about him had been how incredibly blasé he’d been about the whole situation. And what he looked like naked, but that’s hardly relevant. Genos has seen pretty people before. Genos is a pretty person, if the media is to be believed, and a well-endowed man isn’t usually reason for concern. The only other noteworthy thing he can remember is…“He might have been a monk.”
The sound of tapping against the keyboard stops abruptly. Sonic is, Genos realises, bent over the laptop, halfway through searching for every Saitama on Facebook. He’s got the cursor hovering over a picture of some elderly lady, although Genos somewhat doubts that’s the Saitama they’re looking for. “A what now?”
"He was very concerned for Pant-Man's well-being after I apprehended him."
"Well, you do tend to go a little overboard, not that I'm complaining."
“I didn’t even shoot him!” Genos protests loudly. “Not very much, anyway. I’d only subdued Pant-Man, but he— Saitama still expressed some worry over his well-being. I thought at the time how odd that was, but looking back on it, I can’t help but feel impressed that he’d be so...humanitarian. Even when he had no reason to be.”
Sonic flaps a hand dismissively. “This guy doesn’t look like much of a saint. He doesn’t look like much of anything. He’s an egg with eyes.”
“You didn’t see him naked,” Genos mutters.
A beat. “Well, now I kind of want to. Do they have any photos of that?”
“It’s perplexing,” says Genos. His eyebrows are knitted, this time in confusion rather than displeasure. “I’ve never seen a civilian act like that before. I can only assume he's a man of God. And the shaved head, that's a monk thing, right?”
A man of God. Unusual, in this day and age; more people seem to believe in religion, as monster sightings increase and people start to despair, but not many people devote themselves to it completely. Not many people face life with the sort of calmness and self-possession that would allow a man to stand naked and unafraid in front of his enemies. Saitama has clearly made peace with himself. With the idea that he might die someday. With the idea that he is as transient and temporary as everything else in the universe.
“What a remarkable man,” Genos says, mostly to himself.
Sonic puts his feet on Genos’s lap and laughs. “Genos and Saitama, sitting in a tree, F-U-C-K-I-N—”
Genos sighs and, very delicately, punts Sonic out the balcony door.
As it turns out, they do end up in a tree not three days later, although it’s a lot less fun than Sonic made it sound.
Genos can’t decide if it’s because the tree is moving, or because it’s trying to eat them. “Your luck really isn’t the best.”
Saitama shrugs. He’s clinging to the trunk with one arm, dodging swipes from a nasty-looking branch that seems intent on goring him through the stomach. Incredibly, he doesn’t really seem to care. “You should see what it’s like at home. A huge praying mantis broke through my ceiling the other day. I think it tried to strike up a conversation.”
Genos peers at him incredulously, and is almost swatted right off the trunk. He manages to snap the oncoming branch in half before it can do any harm. “I’m going to assume that was a joke, because it’s kind of upsetting.”
Saitama offers him a lopsided grin. The tree monster roars and continues on its way through the streets of Y-city, stomping holes through concrete and terrifying some unfortunate squirrels. Otherwise, they’re alone. The Association is getting better at evacuating people before anyone dies, herding them off to one of the impenetrable shelters dotted around the city.
Except for Saitama, who’s once again managed, spectacularly, to be in exactly the wrong place at the wrong time.
“Statistically, I suppose it’s not unusual for a person to be involved in more than one monster attack in their lifetime,” Genos says, experimentally pulling a strip of bark off the monster’s side. That only succeeds in making it angry, and they both cling tighter as it tries to shake them off. “I’m a little bit surprised that it’s happened to you so often, though. Do you seek them out or something?”
Saitama ducks from a flying twig. “It’s like you said, I just have really shit luck. Must come from living in Z-city. That’s what I get for picking based on rent instead of safety.”
“We’re not even in Z-city.”
“A guy’s gotta do his shopping somewhere,” Saitama sticks his hand into his pants pocket to show Genos a flyer. “Look, there’s a sale in Y-mart. Half-off ground meat!”
Genos isn’t terribly convinced. “Does this amuse you? I know the adrenaline rush can be appealing, but you really must find a less dangerous hobby.”
“That’s a little hypocritical, don’t you think?”
“I am a professional hero,” Genos says, realizing that he must sound immensely offended by the way Saitama’s mouth twitches upward. “I’m made for battle. I’m not doing this as a hobby.”
“But you have to admit you’re enjoying yourself,” Saitama offers mildly. The tree monster has found its way to the business district, which is mostly steel and skyscrapers. “I mean, riding around in an angry tree sure beats a nine-to-five, right?”
“I’m not riding around in it! I’m looking for a weakness so I can take it down without inflicting any collateral damage, by which I mean you.”
“Oh.” Saitama looks oddly slightly surprised by that, as though he hadn’t even considered that his safety might be an issue. “Why didn’t you just say so? I can get off, if that makes things easier.”
The monster chooses that moment to stop walking and start shaking its head in a violent attempt to dislodge them. Genos almost feels his brain rattling around in his headspace, which means it must be awful for Saitama. They need to get to stable ground so Genos can think.
Recalibrating his eyes to adjust for all the movement, Genos shimmies along the branch he’s on until he’s right above Saitama. “I’m going to get you off of this tree,” he calls out, preparing to leap. “Just stay still and don’t be afraid.”
Not that Saitama looked very afraid in the first place. Still, Genos makes the jump, scooping Saitama up on the way and rolling once they land to reduce the shock. He’s locked his arms and legs in a sort of cage to stop the body under him from being crushed by his metal weight. Saitama clings to him like a koala. They go rolling across the sidewalk and into a fire hydrant, and the tree monster makes a deep, inquisitive noise at the sudden disappearance of its prey.
Saitama sits up on his chest. He's light, and is no worse for wear when Genos scans him. “That was fun, let’s do it again!”
“I’m not a carnival ride, you ridiculous person,” Genos says, exasperated. Saitama grins, and goes rolling onto his back when Genos moves to sit up as well. “Get behind me. There’s nothing flammable in the immediate area, so it should be safe for me to use my incinerators.”
Eyebrows raised, Saitama lets Genos help him to his feet. “Incinerators? Like, flamethrowers?”
“They’re built into my palms.” Genos doesn’t usually need to explain this, but it’s nice to see Saitama’s genuine curiosity. “Step back. This will get hot.”
Monster trees, as it so happens, burn just as easily as regular trees, although they scream a lot louder so the whole process is altogether more unpleasant. Still, the thing eventually stops flailing and collapses into a pile of ash and charcoal, vital signs slowing until Genos’s information feed gradually informs him that it won’t be getting up again. The silence is almost jarring in its contrast. Genos does another cursory scan for other threats before he turns around.
And blinks. Saitama’s got a huge, ridiculous grin on his face, teeth a blinding white crescent against skin covered in dirt and leaves. “Dude. That was cool.”
“What on earth is wrong with you?’
That startles a laugh out of Saitama. “What? Have you ever seen yourself? You’re kind of a badass.”
“You could have died.” Genos feels a bit like a mother scolding her reckless and perpetually sticky young son, but doesn’t fight the urge to put his hands on his hips. “Do you have no concept of self-preservation? If you see a monster, run away. Don’t just let it pick you up and let it do what it wants.”
Saitama scratches his cheek. He’s still smiling, as though he finds Genos’s concern funny, damn him. “Nobody got eaten, so I’d say things went pretty well.”
“That’s not the point. This is the second time you’ve done this, it’s like you want to get eaten.”
“Second time?” Saitama squints at him. “Have we met somewhere before?”
Genos stares at him. Really stares, because he can’t always tell when someone’s joking with him, so he could use the visual cues. “Yes. I’m Genos. Demon Cyborg. I saved your life a week ago.”
“Did you?” He doesn’t seem to be joking at all. Genos stands there in the middle of an empty street, a pile of tree monster gently sizzling behind him, and wonders how a blond 300 kilogram cyborg just slips someone’s mind. “Was this from the lizard people?”
“It was Pant-Man, the one who—exactly how many times have you been attacked?”
Saitama ignores him. “Wait, no, I remember you! I thought you looked familiar but I wasn’t sure.”
“How many cyborg heroes do you think there are?”
“I dunno, but right now you’re my favourite one,” Saitama says. He sticks his hands in the pockets of his shorts and offers another crooked grin, posture languid and cheerful. “Thanks for saving me, that was way cooler than the lizard people.”
It takes a lot of self-control for Genos not to stamp his foot. “You’re missing the point entirely. You need to take your safety more seriously. I don’t know if you’re unfortunate or masochistic, but these constant monster attacks are something you should really be worried about.”
“I’m still alive, aren’t I?”
“You won’t be for long, if you keep up that attitude. Have you ever considered running away when you’re told to? Familiarizing yourself with the shelters? Taking self-defense classes?”
Saitama laughs. Actually laughs at him, quiet and full-bodied, shoulders shaking with the movement, and Genos almost takes a step back. His eyes are bright and scrunched up at the corners, and Genos realises that Saitama is much, much better looking than he remembers. Sharper, somehow, and more focused on what’s going on outside his head. “Don’t need it. Keeping me safe is what you’re here for, right, Genos?”
“Ye—no,” Genos sputters, making Saitama laugh harder, this time from behind his hand. It’s not possible for someone to be so infuriating and charming and strange all at once. “Who are you?”
Saitama steps forward and flicks him on playfully the forehead. “Me? I’m Saitama. Just a guy who’s trying to have fun.”
Genos isn’t a stalker. He’s just—he’s not, okay?
Okay. Just getting that on the table.
This is all Sonic’s fault, anyway. Everything wrong in Genos’s life that doesn’t have to do with the mad cyborg or a monster generally tends to be Sonic’s fault. The bastard eats him out of house and home, and Genos had returned after an S-class meeting to find nothing in his fridge but a bagel and a tomato on its way to becoming ketchup. No Sonic, of course. No offer to replace the food, either, and even though most of Genos is powered by his core, he still has an organic brain and that brain needs to eat food that isn’t decomposing.
A part of him wonders if that tomato would have mutated into a monster if he’d left it there for long enough. Too late now, though. It’s in the trash where it and Sonic belong, and Genos has a bag of actually edible food looped around one wrist.It’s a nice day. The shopping district is teeming with life and Genos is resolutely playing games on his phone so nobody will bother him, but the sun glints off his screen and makes him finally look up.
He still needs to squint. Turns out there’s more sunlight, this time glinting off someone’s bald head.
Which is why, at this moment, Genos admittedly looks a little like a stalker.
The point is, he hadn’t meant to run into Saitama. It sort of just happened. Is still happening, really, because he’s right there. By himself, peering through the window of a restaurant to look at the menu on display, totally oblivious to Genos standing across the street like an idiot with his iPhone in one hand and plastic bag in the other. He’s wearing a hoodie that just says tits. Somehow, looking at it is almost more ridiculous than looking at him naked.
Even so, Genos finds himself drawn inexplicably closer, Candy Crush music chiming at him uselessly until he shoves his stupid phone in his pocket. The gaggle of girls ogling at him breaks up somewhat. They’re sensible enough not to try to follow him into the restaurant, not when he’s almost sprinting between traffic to get there. Saitama’s just being seated by a chatty waitress with a nice smile and a bob cut. His back’s turned to the entrance so he can’t see Genos come in.
He’s halfway across the restaurant before he realises what he’s doing, and even then he keeps going. There isn’t much of a plan. He’s going to do something. Exactly what is unclear at the moment, but he’s going to do it anyway. Going to go right up to Saitama and plop himself onto the seat opposite, going to clear his throat to make the man look up from the menu so he can look at Genos.
…or something. It’s understandably going to be a little weird when a popular S-class hero shows up at your diner and invites himself into your personal space, which is probably why Saitama sort of freezes when Genos slides himself into view. “Oh, it’s you.”
“Yes, it’s me,” Genos says. And then, “let me buy you something.”
Not that he particularly wants to, but the way Saitama brightens up makes it hard to think about changing his mind. “Well, if you insist. Do you know that I still have your shoe? Not with me now, though.”
“I didn’t come here to ask for my shoe. Well, it would be nice to get it back at some point, but that’s not what I’m here for, specifically.” He’s not here for any reason specifically. He’d just seen Saitama and wandered after him on instinct. “I was shopping.”
“Told you Y-mart had some great deals,” Saitama waves a finger like he’s imparting wisdom to a favourite grandchild. “Weird how often we keep bumping into each other. This is, what, the second time?”
“Third,” Genos corrects automatically. “Have you taken my advice to heart?”
“Please don’t play with monsters, Saitama.”
Saitama snorts. He’s fiddling with the little condiment rack by the side of the table, pressing down on a ketchup packet and watching it squish out of shape. “Look at you, being all worried.”
“I’m surprised that you’re not.” Genos frowns. Not quite upset, but perplexed, the way he always is when the solution to a puzzle isn’t to blow it up to fuck and he has to really think. “I don’t understand you at all. You’re not a hero, are you?”
“Are you a monk?’
“A monk? Why would I be a monk?”
“Well, you were unusually kind to Pant-Man, and you seem to have achieved some form of Zen, and there is the shaved head which I believe is typical of —”
The ketchup packet bounces off his forehead before he can finish his sentence, and Genos blinks. Saitama’s mouth is doing a complicated thing somewhere between a scowl and a laugh. “Why do people always have to bring up my hair?”
The ketchup packet sits vaguely threateningly on the table as though it was responsible for its own air propulsion, and Genos thinks very hard about how long it’s been since he’s had to suffer this form of indignity. A long time, probably. Few people would have dared flinging condiments at a sentient weapon of mass destruction even before he became a famous superhero. Aside from Sonic, maybe, although at least Sonic hadn’t forgotten his name within two weeks of meeting him.
He suppresses a smile. “Lack of hair, really," he says, and ducks out of the way just in time to avoid the salt shaker.
The waitress from earlier shows up to rescue him and take their orders. She does a double take when she registers that the Demon Cyborg is sitting right in front of her. Genos, being rather more used to this kind of treatment than what Saitama is giving him, schools his face into something less ridiculous for her sake.
Saitama clears his throat to get her attention. He’s got the menu in front of him and a somewhat impish grin on his face as he orders far too much food for one person. The waitress doesn’t even notice, still a little dreamy-eyed as she writes it all down (plus a caramel coffee thing for Genos) and scuttles off to the kitchens from whence she came. “Your treat, right, Genos?”
Right, he did say that, didn’t he. “I still don’t see why you make no attempt at escaping danger.”
“You’re really worried about this, huh.”
“I just want to understand.”
Saitama shrugs. It’s a nonchalant gesture, and his expression is slack when he rests his chin in his palm. “I don’t know what to tell you. There’s no secret to me, I promise.” He’s got his head a little tilted. He’s regarding Genos quietly, like he’s appraising him based on criteria that Genos can’t see, and the corner of his mouth eventually curves into half a smile. “Tell me about your superhero stuff.”
Genos pauses. “You want to hear about me?”
“Sure,” Saitama leans forward and grins properly. “We’ve got time.”
He’s right, at that. There are no monsters, no emergencies. The only person likely to interrupt them is the waitress, and with the amount of food Saitama ordered, she won’t be here for a while.
Genos nods, takes a deep breath, and starts telling him about the time he took on a killer robot called G4. The waitress eventually comes back with the food and Saitama complains for ten minutes about Genos stealing the only long french fry, and they end up leaving the waitress an incredibly large tip for letting them stay in the restaurant for so long.
She’d drawn a heart in the foam of his coffee. Genos doesn’t really notice.
“Sounds like that was a date.”
“It was not a date,” Genos says, wondering in the back of his mind what Sonic would look like if he stopped talking shit for more than five minutes at a time. Not that he can really perfect the mental image, since Sonic’s face in buried in Genos’s clothes cupboard and is thus unavailable for study. “I just ran into him is all.”
“And bought him food and talked about feelings,” Sonic says over his shoulder. “That sounds a lot like a date, muffin.”
“Don't call me a muffin. Nobody talked about feelings. He asked about my life and I told him, that’s it.”
“And I’m a hedgehog. Listen, are you aware that modern apartments have these thing called heating systems? Do you know how they work?”
“I’m not affected by temperature change,” Genos says flatly, even though they’ve been through this before. Sonic just likes to complain. Besides, he could get cold looking in the fridge. “Maybe you should try not parading around half-naked all the time.”
“I wore a crop top once,” Sonic huffs at him. His snippiness is somewhat muffled, and Genos looks up from his phone just in time to see Sonic pulling one of Genos’s sweatshirts over his head. “I didn’t know you owned anything with sleeves!”
“I didn’t say you could wear that,” Genos snaps half-heartedly. It’s a good thing that hoodie’s too small for him, even though it hangs off of Sonic like a poncho. Now that Sonic’s got his hands on it, Genos will likely never see it again. “Fold the rest of my things if you’ve upset them.”
Sonic ignores him, electing instead to flop bonelessly onto Genos’s sheets and take up more space than he realistically needs. He stretches, and then squirms forward to flop bonelessly over Genos instead. “God, you’re like a toaster. I should move in.”
“Please don’t,” Genos says, rearranging himself so that he can still see his phone even with Sonic doing his slug impression. “I see you too often as it is. It is absolutely necessary for you to drape yourself all over my torso? You’re not a Victorian heroine, and I’m not a couch.”
“Nope, too late, I live on your stomach now.” The bedsprings creak a little as Sonic shifts, and Genos lets him do as he pleases because Sonic is, as it turns out, surprisingly difficult to dislodge once he’s gotten comfortable. Genos could use the distraction, anyway. Cream walls and smooth black marble floors do little to calm the swirling vortex of warmth and exasperation that comes from a man like Saitama.
Might need to get that checked out soon, actually. Genos doesn’t have anything close to an organic stomach, and whatever’s replacing it shouldn’t be flopping around like this.
Sonic makes a snuffling noise against Genos’s shirt. “When do I get to meet your boyfriend?”
“Never. And he’s not my boyfriend.”
He can almost hear Sonic’s eyebrow rise. Probably right into his hairline, considering how long the silence stretches. “I’ve seen you three times in as many weeks, and all you ever talk about anymore is this Saitama.”
Genos lifts his head, aghast. “I talk about other things!”
“Like…you not stealing my clothes,” Genos says lamely. “And…stuff.”
“You’re full of shit.” Smug bastard. “You hum Taylor Swift when you think I can’t hear you and you smile whenever you mention him.”
“You’re smiling right now!”
Genos hits him. Lightly, because he hasn’t seriously wanted to damage Sonic in over a year, but just hard enough to produce a soft ‘oof’ in reply. “Well, so what if I talk about him? He’s bizarre. He shows no concern for his safety and allows himself to get caught in the path of monsters even though he really shouldn’t.”
“Sounds like you.”
“I don’t,” Genos starts, and then stops. Wonders how to phrase the idea that there are far more valuable things that Genos on the line, in the grand scheme of things. “My parts can be replaced.”
“Not all of them,” Sonic counters. It’s weird when he’s impassive instead of snarky.
“None of his can,” Genos says. He’s feeling a bit uncomfortable, although he can’t quite put a finger on why. “I just… I don’t understand how someone like him could put so little significance on his life.”
Sonic smiles at him, but it isn’t very mirthful. “Well, I guess now you know how the rest of us feel.”
You’d think Genos would have an advantage, fighting a merman on land, but it seems the legends have been slightly backwards all this time.
A blow catches him in the chest and sends him flying into the side of a building. It takes a second to dig his way out of the rubble so he can peer over his knees; the area’s been evacuated save for a couple C-class on patrol for errant civilians, and the news teams had fled the moment it became evident that the mermen had long-range harpoons. He’s not in the best tactical position. He can’t use too much firepower for fear of hurting the C-class, but none of them are close enough to be of any assistance in the actual battle. He’s effectively on his own.
Well, no. Amai Mask had been around at some point, but he’d turned around and left the moment he’d realized that the alleged mermen were really just giant fish on legs. Genos isn’t even sure how they’re operating the harpoons. They don’t have any opposable thumbs.
A harpoon very nearly takes his leg off. For water-dwellers, these bastards are surprisingly nimble on asphalt (although Genos supposes he shouldn’t be surprised considering how weirdly muscular their legs are). They’re altogether too slimy to be affected by his weaker flamethrowers, but another sweep of their surroundings confirms that it’s not safe to bring out the big guns yet. And the harpoons are lethal, too. He’s already lost his left arm. The way things are going, he might end up losing the other one before noon.
Another frantic scan. He needs to be able to up his firepower fast. There’s still one human life form in the vicinity, moving rapidly in…this direction?
Genos curses. Hopes to god he’ll be getting back-up soon, preferably from someone like Watchdog Man or Metal Bat. He’d even take that annoying small green woman, at this point. Or Amai Mask, just in case there’s an opportunity to ‘accidentally’ punch him for leaving him alone in the first place.
One of the larger mermen burbles something unintelligible at him and tries to slap him with a fin, and Genos incinerates it. There’s no end to these ridiculous creatures, and this is proving to be a lot more than Tiger-level.
Whatever’s speeding towards him rounds the corner, and Genos registers that it seems to be chasing one of the fishmen. Good. Maybe they can get this wrapped up quickly, before Genos gets too damaged to return to the doctor and has to call Sonic again to give him a ride which is honestly a nightmare because Sonic’s intense road rage and inability to follow speed limits would give Genos hypertension if he still had an organic body to suffer in –
An errant merman flies past him and into a billboard with an unattractive splat. Genos and the crowd of fishmen turn.
Time actually seems to slow down for a minute. “Saitama?”
The man in question turns to look at him in surprise. He’s fully clothed and strangely unharmed, and Genos wonders if his cheekbones have always been quite that sharp. “Genos?”
“Yes,” Genos says, right before a harpoon spears him through the chest.
His first thought before he blacks out is, I need to stop letting my guard down like that.
His second thought is something along the lines of, you know what, I think I prefer him without the clothes after all.
When Genos comes back online, he’s got the weirdest craving for sardines.
His scanners inform him that there are no monsters in the area. Back plates groaning a little as he moves, he twists his neck to look at something other than the sky, half-expecting another overgrown fish mutant to spear him with another weapon.
All he can find are monster bits. Bones, scales and guts litter the streets, and there might be a shiny eyeball lodged in the red part of a traffic light. The smell is…interesting. A bit like sushi that’s been left out for a week or six, and Genos wordlessly turns the sensitivity of his olfactory system down a few notches.
He vaguely registers something poking at his arm. What’s left of his arm, anyway. His damage indicator tells him, in a voice that sounds suspiciously like Dr Kuseno’s, that he’s got about 47% less arm than he’s used to. Which is not too bad, considering his track record, actually.
A shiny sphere appears in his fear of vision. “You still alive?”
Genos blinks. Tries to rise, but his motors go fuck you half way through and give up, and he sort of just flops over uselessly. “Yes. I think.”
Saitama pats him on the cheek. A bit of it crumbles and falls off. “That’s good. You look pretty dinged up, you know.”
Genos knows. The doctor doesn’t usually let him near any mirrors until after repairs are complete, but he knows.
Saitama sits back on his haunches, glancing around the battlefield and wrinkling his nose at the remains of the merman clan. “Those were some pretty weird monsters. Shame they’re all mush, though, I bet there was good eating on those things.”
“That’s disgusting,” Genos says, before he realises something important. “Wait, who took care of the threat?”
“Some hero,” Saitama says breezily, picking a fish scale from under his nails. “I dunno. I wasn’t really paying attention.”
“Some hero? What did they look like? Was it one of the S-class? Are you injured? What happened while I was offline, did the fishmen prove to be any trouble or—”
Saitama bends over and kisses him, just to shut him up. “You know, you’re cute and all, but you talk way too much.”
“Oh,” says Genos. “Oh.”
Saitama smiles. It’s a good smile, all things considered, broken and covered in fish guts as Genos is, lying immobile in the middle of a ruined street with a harpoon sticking out of his chest and Saitama gently picking rubble out of Genos’s hair. “Your sneaker’s still at my place. I put it next to my cactus, since it looked lonely by itself on the shoe rack.”
It doesn’t have feelings, Genos wants to say. It’s a shoe.
“Thank you,” he says instead. “Please kiss me again.”
Saitama tastes a bit like fish, which is unfortunate, but to be expected given the situation. He feels nice, at the very least. Warm and solid and in need of a Chapstick. Genos would wrap both arms around his neck if he still had both arms, but he doesn’t, so he makes do with just one, pulling his mysterious companion close and suddenly very, very glad that Amai Mask left him alone after all. It’s nice. His arm hurts and the doctor’s going to lecture him and Genos will have to suffer through more of Sonic’s truly terrible driving, but this is nice.
“Let’s get you to a hospital or something,” Saitama says, pulling away finally and chewing his lip. Oh no, he’s attractive. “Is there someone I can call?”
“There’s a phone in my left pocket,” Genos says, letting Saitama retrieve it even though he’s perfectly capable of reaching it on his own. “There’s no passcode.”
“Whose number should I be dialing?”
Saitama snorts. “I’d give it to you, but I don’t actually have a phone.”
Genos looks genuinely rueful. He knows this, because whatever expression he has on makes Saitama pat his cheek again, more synthetic skin flaking off and into the cavity where his cheekbone used to be. “Stop with the puppy eyes. I’ve just never had anyone to call before. I’ll think about getting one now, okay? Anyway, I still have to give back your sneaker, so I’ll need to contact you somehow, eventually.”
A satisfactory answer, but only barely. Lifting his head, Genos stares up at Saitama’s easygoing face, and realises that the butterflies in his stomach aren't something the doctor can fix. “When will I see you again, then? In the meantime?”
“Well, you know where to find me," Saitama grins. His teeth are white and slightly crooked, and Genos kind of wants to kiss him again, and Saitama's smile is so nice that Genos decides he'll have to send Pant-Man a fruit basket or something for accidentally introducing them. "I’m always right where the monsters are.”