Saitama let out a deep breath, stretching his back out as the dust settled around him. He had just killed a giant, a Demon level threat according to the Hero Association but to him it was debatable. Unfortunately, it hadn’t of been a hard fight, the monster going down in one hit as per usual. Though, Saitama enjoyed the fresh air. It was nice out and he and Genos had been doing nothing the whole day, the giant being their only source of entertainment.
Saitama turned at the sound, a young lady coming into view. She ran to an overturned building, shaking her head franticly, her hands thrown to her face. She appeared to be in her early to mid-20s. Her dark hair was short, akin to a pixie cut. There were odd tattoos running down her left arm and right leg, the rest of her skin obscured by a blue gown. She turned around sharply, purple eyes instantly training on Saitama, a frown set upon her face.
“You did this,” She accused, marching up to him, a finger pointed in his direction.
“Oi, that’s not fair. The giant did that,” He sighed, resting his hands behind his head.
“Well, you should have killed it faster,” She hissed.
“You’ll pay for this,”
Saitama shrugged, already walking away by the time she finished her sentence. However, suddenly, he froze, legs locking into place. He was turned around stiffly, the woman grinning like a madman. Her tattoos were glowing purple, one of her hands in the air, turning in sync with Saitama’s movements.
“You’re not getting away that easily,” She said smugly. “I curse you.”
“Whaaat? Why?” He asked in exasperation.
“You know why, idiot!”
“I didn’t break your building. The giant did.”
“I must admit that I am taking much of my frustration out on you. But I feel like hexing someone so it doesn’t matter.” She paused, drawing her other hand upward. Her eyes narrowed, fixating on a spot in the center of Saitama’s forehead. “I curse you to listen.”
“To listen until you understand,” She finished.
“Understand? Understand what?”
“Perhaps this will help you more than it will hinder you,”
She smiled again albeit softer before disappearing into a puff of smoke. A vicious shiver ran down Saitama’s spine and he felt sick for a moment, vomit threatening to introduce itself to the ground. He bent over, huffing as he squeezed his eyes shut, sweat forming at his brow. But then he was fine, as if someone had thrown a bucket of water over him, washing away everything he had felt.
He straightened out, frowning as he rolled his shoulders. Well, that was weird.
“There he is.”
Saitama narrowed his eyes, turning around slowly when he heard footsteps running towards him. He found Genos waving at him, a smile touching his disciple’s face. The cyborg looked entirely intact, no scratch nor missing limb anywhere to be found. Though, that was mostly Saitama’s doing, telling the teen to stay back as he dealt with the monster. Seeing Genos hurt due to his recklessness never sat well in his stomach.
“He looks just fine. He’s always so amazing.”
“One punch again,” Genos said once he reached him. “You are incredible, Sensei.”
“He’s so strong.”
Saitama blinked at him, furrowing his brows in the process. “Uh…”
It was as if there was an echo, a layered whisper preceding Genos’ spoken words. It sounded just like him, the same timbre, the same octave yet it also didn’t. It felt far off, foreign and familiar, drifting into quiet at the back of Saitama’s skull.
“Is he alright?
Can’t be harmed.
There’s nothing wrong.
I don’t understand.
Nothing can be wrong with him.”
That was too much. Too many echoes. They bounced around his head, overlapping each other, increasing in volume as they fell over one another. Saitama squeezed his eyes shut. “I’m good. Just a…headache.”
“A headache? You don’t normally get those.”
“Something is wrong.
What can possibly—
It’s the inside. His inside. Something’s wrong inside. How? What—”
“Stop that,” Saitama covered Genos’ face with his hands.
“Stop what?” The cyborg asked, voice muffled.
He dropped his hands, mouth opening and closing as he tried to explain. He sighed, “Let’s just go home.”
Genos frowned at him but ultimately followed after him as he walked.
Saitama absently tapped his finger on the table, narrowing his eyes at a random spot on the wall. He hadn’t of expected that weird woman to actually curse him. People often said empty threats but a curse? He did nothing to deserve any of this. The witch’s apartment was destroyed by that giant not him. And yet for some reason, Saitama had to be dealt its punishment. This was the thanks he got for saving the city? A headache and all these little voices fluttering about in his head?
And the curse: listen until you understand. That just had to be the vaguest thing he had ever heard. Listen? Understand what?
“Onions don’t smell nice.”
Saitama’s glanced at his disciple. The cyborg was quietly humming to himself as he chopped vegetables for dinner, his trusty apron protecting his clothes. He wiggled his nose, frowning down at what were apparently stinky onions.
“Garlic smells better.”
This “listening” had to be telepathy. Unless Saitama was making up the quiet Genos-like whispers in his mind, it had to be some kind of ESP. Other than the initial shock of first “listening” to Genos’ thoughts, it wasn’t so bad. The cyborg’s mind had mellowed out on their walk home and they hadn’t of passed any other people on their way back. His headache wasn’t as intense as it had previously been and this mind reading drifted into a mild inconvenience.
Besides, Saitama didn’t mind the sound of Genos’ voice. It was actually rather nice. It wasn’t too deep nor was it too high. Despite the near constant monotone, it was rather peaceful and soothing. If the cyborg told him a bedtime story he would be out like a light. But there was also an air of mystery around the waves and vibrations of his voice, a depth Saitama could only describe as intriguing or captivating. Sometimes he’d want Genos to talk for hours. It didn’t matter about what, just as long as he kept talking.
Saitama sighed dreamily. He wondered if Genos always sounded this way or if he ended up with this voice because of Dr. Kuseno. Regardless, it wasn’t the worst thing to have stuck in his head. Though, assuming this wasn’t a Genos specific ability, he’d have other people’s voices in his head too. Like that green little squid’s or Sweet Mask’s.
He shivered at that.
He twitched violently, Genos’ voice ricocheting loudly in his head.
“She meant Bang not Puri Puri Prisoner. That’s why I didn’t get it.”
“Hey, uh, Genos?”
The sound of a knife against wood stopped. “Hmm?”
“Can you come here a sec?”
Genos dutifully paused what he was doing, leaving the kitchen to sit beside him. “Yes, Sensei?”
“You remember earlier? After the giant? Something did kind of happen.”
Did someone challenge him?
“Not anything you’re thinking,” He sighed, rubbing his temples.
The expression that crossed the cyborg’s face was near comical.
“A witch got pretty mad at me. She cursed me to ‘listen until I understand’. And now I can kinda hear your thoughts.”
“Oh,” Was all his disciple could say.
“Yeah,” Saitama sighed again, adding, “Onions do smell bad, by the way.”
The corner of Genos’ lips twitched upward. “Does it hurt?”
“Not really,” He scratched his hand. “I mean, it kinda did when it first happened and you were thinking all those things when you came up to me.”
“I apologize, Sensei.”
“It’s fine,” He waved the sentiment away. After a moment’s pause he asked, “Aren’t you bothered by any of this?”
“Why would I be?” Genos replied innocently.
“For invasion of privacy or something?”
The cyborg tilted his head at him. “Can you turn it off?”
He didn’t even know where to start if he could. Picture a wall or something? He narrowed his eyes at his disciple, visualizing a barrier between the two of them. Or, at least, something. He wasn’t exactly the imaginative type so he effectively just stared at Genos really, really hard.
From this close, he could see tiny flecks of brown in the cyborg’s otherwise golden irises. And he found it strange that that was something he never noticed until now.
“What is he doing?”
Saitama deflated. “I’m leaning towards a hard no.”
“Then, no. I’m not bothered by it. It’s not your fault if you can’t control it. Besides, I don’t have anything to hide from you, Sensei.”
Genos smiled and Saitama felt a warmth touch his heart. It was like a light fluttering, compelling him to smile back. He would always feel this way whenever the cyborg smiled. Perhaps it was because it happened so rarely. Regardless, it was always a gorgeous sight, one he wished appeared more often.
Genos shook his head. “I’m sure you will hear worse thoughts than my own for however long you’ll be telepathic.”
“Don’t remind me,” Saitama groaned. “She said listen until you understand. You got any idea what that means?”
“It probably refers to something specific to the witch.”
“Wish I knew what it was,” He sighed.
“We’ll figure it out together, Sensei,” Genos nodded in determination.
Saitama couldn’t help but smile again, ruffling the cyborg’s hair before he even realized he was doing it. It was smooth and soft and incredibly realistic, his fingers gliding effortlessly between each strand. Genos flinched but didn’t pull away, leaning into the touch with a quiet sigh.
Finally, and reluctantly, Saitama lowered his hand and said, “Let’s eat.”
He really didn’t know why he decided to go with Genos. The cyborg had received a call from the Hero Association, requesting his presence for another S-Class meeting. Genos had stated he could go by himself but something made Saitama insist that he come with. If he wanted to get rid of this curse, he’d have to stop sitting around and listening to Genos’ amusing thoughts.
There were usually a number of people within the association building, numerous heroes and employees walking about. That never bother Saitama until now, their thoughts rushing into his mind with no mercy. They were loud, so loud, frantic, uncontrollable. It was like obnoxious music banging against his eardrums. He took in a deep breath, struggling to keep his posture tall and composed. He didn’t want to worry Genos but he knew the teen would notice eventually. You couldn’t hide a marble from him.
Saitama tried to control his breathing, bringing his heart rate down in the process. He just needed to focus. He was with Genos. They were going up to the top floor. There was an S-Class meeting.
That helped a little, the voices settling into a dull roar, one that he could handle. He had to get used to all the people and the voices. He couldn’t hide in his apartment forever and if he wanted to get rid of this curse he’d need to expose himself to things. What things? He didn’t know. But this was a mere step he had to climb if he wanted to at least coexist with his telepathy.
They reached the meeting room and after Genos nearly threatened a guard, Saitama was allowed in with him. Several of the other S-class heroes were already there and their voices added to the onslaught that was already hammering against his skull.
“Ugh, the bald one’s here again.”
They found their seats and Saitama braced himself for a long meeting.
“Are you ok?” Genos asked, turning to look at him curiously. Looks like he found the marble.
He nodded after a moment, squeezing his eyes shut briefly. “Yeah,”
“Genos looks marvelous as always,”
“No, it’s too much, isn’t it?”
“We can lea—”
Saitama’s hand shot out to keep Genos from standing up. “I’m good. I gotta get used to it eventually, right?”
The cyborg frowned but ultimately sat back down.
“I wonder if Saitama has that new fighting game yet.”
The answer to that was yes. He could never mistake King’s voice, the hero seated a few chairs down, fingers drumming against the table. He gave the B-class hero a nod before looking away. And Saitama took in a deep breath as the meeting began.
It was mostly boring. Officials were detailing how often buildings and the surround areas were destroyed as a result of an S-class hero defeating a monster. Apparently, S-class heroes caused the most property damage with dozens of people often making complaints to the association. Genos had instantly ignored what they were saying and Saitama wasn’t even trying to pay attention. Besides, he didn’t need to. This wasn’t even his meeting. He just came along for the free food.
“Should I make hotpot tonight?”
“You should,” Saitama whispered, leaning towards Genos.
The cyborg smiled briefly before returning his “attention” to the spokespeople.
“She’s like a little green demon.”
“What are they talking about?”
“Did I leave the TV on?”
Saitama cleared his throat before rolling his shoulders.
“He’s so bald I can see my fortune.”
“Who cares about a few broken buildings?”
“I need to get butter before I go home.”
“Zombieman better give me back my damn lawnmower.”
He scratched his nose absently, sweat forming at his brow.
“Ah! I really need to ask Genos where he gets his clothes.”
“Is there something on my face?”
“Fubuki almost ruined my dress. Asshole,”
He couldn’t hear the association officials anymore, the voices rising louder than a jet engine.
“He’s staring at me again.”
“It’s kinda cold in here.”
“I really need to shit.”
“I should really ask them about that.”
It felt like a thousand hammers at his skull, banging against his head until it caved in. Everything was annoying and obnoxious like music he couldn’t turn off. It was deafening, making him shudder, pain throbbing at his temples. His eyes started to hurt, everything becoming too bright, a supernova at his pupils. He couldn’t focus, couldn’t breathe, his heart a thundering mess.
He stood up abruptly, leaving the room before he melted beneath all the pressure, staggering into the hallway. He threw a hand to his head, flinching when more voices bubbled up from the other rooms, the other floors, the entire building. Each sound, each word, each syllable was like nails against a chalkboard, ear-piercing, excruciating.
The world was spinning, the ground distorted, warped like a liquid. He was dizzy, wobbly. He didn’t even know if he was still on his feet or not. It felt like there were dozens of hands around his head, scratching, tearing, trying to break into his mind and crush it.
“Is he ok?”
“What do they mean they can’t fix my window?”
“For fuck’s sake. I left for two seconds and someone’s taken my seat.”
“Sushi smells like utter shit.”
He flinched when he felt a hand at his shoulder, a real, physical one. He squinted, blinking away as much of the blur as he could to find Mumen staring at him in concern, brows knitted together. He was speaking, his lips moving but Saitama couldn’t hear anything. He took in a deep breath, focusing on his friend’s lips, forcing himself to listen.
“Hey, are you ok?” Real words. It was barely above all of the thoughts, Mumen’s voice drifting in and out of hearing. But it was there.
Saitama shook his head, cringing when his headache found him again. He sucked in several breaths, squeezing his eyes shut as the ceiling lights grew in intensity. Mumen was barely there, his mind distantly acknowledging him.
“I’ll never understand Sudoku.”
“Oh, she is very cute.”
“I wonder if he’s into redheads.”
“It’s like a dance.”
“My pants are falling down. Someone help.”
“Why did I agree to take her shift?
“Should I go get help?”
“What’s wrong? I-Is there anything I can do?”
“It’s too loud,” He breathed.
Suddenly, Mumen’s hand was replaced by another, much colder in comparison and less lifelike, metallic in texture. Another one rested against his other shoulder, both hands dragging down until they pulled Saitama’s arms away from his face, finally settling loosely around his wrists.
Saitama’s eyes snapped open. He knew that voice. He knew that sound. It became a normal part of his life, a constant. He woke up to it, ended his evening to it. He’d hear it at least a hundred times throughout his day and it would never get old, never be annoying. It was a wonderful sound, one he cherished dearly, even loved. It always filled his heart with utter joy and adoration and right now was no exception.
He looked up, golden irises meeting his. And there he was, Genos, worry plastered blatantly across his face. Oh, but it was a gorgeous face nonetheless, a masterpiece, a beautiful work of art.
“Genos…” Saitama whispered breathlessly.
He pressed his hands to the cyborg’s chest, the whirr of his core slowly rising above all of the voices. But this was a voice he wanted to hear, one he didn’t mind one bit. Saitama inhaled sharply, focusing, concentrating, absorbing all that was Genos into his consciousness. His blonde hair, the specks in his luminous eyes, his metal arms, the blue hoodie he was wearing which, come to think of it, may have been one of Saitama’s old ones.
“What am I supposed to do? Am I even doing anything? Can I do anything?”
Saitama nearly laughed hysterically when Genos’ thoughts flooded into his mind, the cyborg’s beautiful voice a masterful sonata compared to all the other intrusive sounds. He let his eyes fall closed, let Genos’ voice caress his mind, rise above all of the others.
“What can I do?”
In response, he pressed his forehead to the cyborg’s shoulder, breathing in deeply.
“I can’t do anything. I feel useless.”
Saitama shook his head frantically. “Gimme a…a second.”
He let out a shaky sigh of relief, all the other voices simmering down to a mild sizzle at the back of his mind. He opened his eyes, giving himself a moment before he pulled away, smiling at Genos. The lights were still a tad too bright and he still had a pounding headache but that was all a cakewalk compared to earlier.
“Are you alright, Sensei?” “Please say yes,”
“Yeah,” He sighed, “And thanks.”
“But I didn’t do anything,” The cyborg said flatly, a tiny frown between his brows.
“Oh, trust me. You did.”
“Perhaps you shouldn’t have come with me.” “I should have told him no.”
“Nah, I’d of had to go through this eventually. I can’t exactly hide out in our apartment forever, Genos.”
His companion remained silent but he heard all of the things he wanted to say anyway, something along the lines of Genos’ trademarked self-criticism.
Someone cleared their throat and Saitama peered over Genos’ shoulder to see Mumen still standing there, shifting on his feet awkwardly.
“Oh, hey. Sorry about that, Mumen.”
“I’m just glad you’re alright. When I saw you, you looked like your head was gonna explode.”
“Scared the shit out of me,”
“It felt like it,” He replied, scratching his shoulder. “I can…kinda read minds. Not forever, well, hopefully not forever but you know, temporarily.”
“Really? How’s that working out for you?” The hero asked, tilting his head in curiosity.
“You saw. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. I’m dealing,” He shrugged. “Besides, when you’ve got someone like Genos around, it’s a walk in the park.”
Both of his companions looked at him curiously, Mumen asking, “What do you mean?”
Saitama’s gaze flickered over to Genos before he said, “He’s, uh, a good support system.”
The cyborg’s lips almost twitched into a smile. “Mumen, do you want to get lunch with us?”
“What about your meeting? You kinda left right in the middle of it, dude.”
Genos shrugged just as Mumen said, “Sure! Sounds great. There’s this new barbeque place I’ve been meaning to try out.”
“Then, let’s go,” Saitama cheered, ready to put that painful event behind him.
There was something bothering Genos. Saitama could feel it, like a perpetual storm rolling in from the distance. Something colored his thoughts, a darkness, an unsteadiness. But he didn’t know what. Genos’ thoughts revealed nothing despite the rising torrent. On the surface he seemed fine, scribbling in his notebook as Saitama read his manga.
Though, Saitama came to notice that he only ever really heard surface thoughts, the things that first came to people’s minds. They were mundane things like the weather or the taste of one’s food or something they had just remember. It was rarely anything deep or substantial. Even with Genos, he could only ever hear his opinions on simple things like the smell of onions or when he was mentally berating himself for a mistake.
So, Saitama found it frustrating that he didn’t know what was exactly bothering the cyborg. It was as if there were layers to one’s thoughts. The deeper they were, the harder they were to hear. If that was the case, then why did the witch curse him to listen if he couldn’t listen to everything?
He wanted to know what was bothering Genos. He really did but asking him seemed like the wrong thing to do. This kind of darkness, this kind of eeriness was the type that had one brooding for quite some time. Perhaps that’s what it was, an issue that continually plagued the cyborg’s mind. It didn’t seem like anxiety or depression but something in between, an elusive franticness that Saitama couldn’t pin down.
And it was odd because Genos had been fine earlier. Something changed throughout dinner, that fogginess gradually clouding his mind as they ate. Nothing jumped out as to what triggered the mood but Saitama understood that sometimes things like this just happened. There was something off about the way the cyborg looked too, at least to Saitama.
There was a tension in his jaw, his brows drawn downward. He rarely looked like this when they were alone together. He was usually more relaxed and he smiled more. He more openly showed his emotions and Saitama loved that. But right now, this wasn’t good.
Genos’ attention was solely on his notebook, his hand moving across the paper with purpose. From what Saitama gathered, the cyborg was writing down recipes he had researched earlier but was oddly getting much of them wrong. He erased more often than not and he’d occasionally let out a breath of frustration. Despite everything, he never stopped writing.
Saitama sighed, putting his manga down in disinterest. He wished he could do something for the cyborg. With the amount of times Genos had been there for him, he wanted to return the favor. Saitama felt so inferior in comparison to the teen and he wanted to do whatever he could to help him through this slump. He cared dearly for the reckless idiot and just wanted him to be happy.
“She’d have been 12 today.”
“O-Or 13? 11?”
Genos swallowed thickly, pressing his lips together with the motion.
“How could I forget? I’m a horrible person.”
Saitama looked at the cyborg, the darkness morphing into sorrow. Genos had stopped writing, staring down at his notebook vacantly. His lips were parted slightly, his eyes having lost their wonderful luminosity. His pencil was held tightly in his fist, his notes forgotten.
“Is it even today?”
The cyborg’s head shot up, meeting Saitama’s knowing gaze. He tried to speak, mouth struggling to form words but nothing came out save for a choked sob. And then it all happened so quickly, the pencil snapping, Genos standing up, the balcony door sliding open, the cyborg gone.
Saitama frowned, staring after him as he decided whether to follow him or not. Of course he would but he’d leave the teen enough time to settle before coming after him. Saitama had wanted to know why Genos was so upset and now he did but for some reason he wished he didn’t. It felt like an invasion of privacy. Maybe if Saitama concentrated enough he’d eventually be able to hear everything the cyborg thought.
But did he want to?
He sighed, scratching his head before standing up. He peered outside to find Genos sitting against the glass door, legs drawn up to his chest, arms wrapped around his knees. He was looking down but he flinched when Saitama came through. The older hero sat down next to him, stretching his legs out towards the concrete, the chill of the night air making him shiver.
“What’s wrong?” He asked softly, fiddling with his hands in his lap.
Genos didn’t say anything for a long moment, his mind abnormally quiet. Finally, he said, “It’s my sister’s birthday today. Or, it would have been.”
“How old would she have been?”
“I don’t know,” The cyborg whispered, dropping his forehead to his knees. “I can’t remember. What does that say about me? I preach vengeance and justice for my family, doing everything in my power to get stronger and faster so I can kill the man who killed them. B-But I can’t even remember my sister’s age? Is today even her birthday? My father’s face is…is…I can’t remember it sometimes. Was I so caught up in revenge that I didn’t notice my family, the sole reason I did all of this, become a thing? A concept? Something so far away from myself? I know what they are but have I forgotten who they are—were?”
“Her favorite color was green.
She sounded like an angel when she sung.
She barely came up to my chest the last time we were together.”
Saitama sighed, turning to look at his companion. “It’s not a bad thing, Genos. It just means you’re moving on. Your family’s death probably used to always be on your mind, right? Remembering them like this just means you’re managing.”
“Am I going to completely forget them? It feels like I am. I don’t want to.”
“Do you still remember stuff like going somewhere fun with your parents or getting into an argument with your sister?”
The cyborg was silent, a brief nod being his only response.
“Then, you’re fine. When people die, it hurts and it can hurt for a while but eventually it’ll stop hurting. Sure you forget some things about them but that goes for everyone. Sometimes I don’t remember the way my mom used to laugh. If you can smile after thinking or talking about someone you loved that died, then you’re going to be ok. It might be a sad smile but a smile nonetheless.”
Genos looked up, eyes finding the stars, a sniffle touching the air.
“My father always made me feel safe. My mother always smelled like flowers.”
“So, no, you’re not a terrible person, Genos. Just be happy your parents and your sister existed and that you were able to exist with them. Sometimes bad things happen to good people and you just have to deal.”
There was a long silence after that, the crickets and birds a gentle melody. Fireflies fluttered and flashed over the balcony, the moon rising higher and higher in the sky. And Saitama didn’t feel a need to speak, leaving Genos to his thoughts and trying his damnedest not to intrude. A stray thought or two would hit him occasionally but that was it. Apparently, concentrating very hard on staying in his own mind was doing the trick. Though, it did feel like he was going to pop a blood vessel.
“Maybe something good came out of my family’s death.”
Saitama turned his head sharply, startled by the sudden break in silence. “What?”
“If they were still alive, I may never have met you. And…I’m glad I have.”
Saitama couldn’t fight the wide grin that spread across his face, his heart thrumming pleasantly in his chest. He reached out, pulling Genos so that the cyborg’s head rested at his shoulder. He pressed his lips to his hair and sighed. Genos smelled like sunflowers.
“I’m glad I met you too, Genos,” He whispered against him, nose buried in his curls.
The cyborg didn’t reply, shifting closer and leaning further into Saitama’s chest. One of his hands came to rest over the older hero’s thigh, absently rubbing a circle into it with his thumb. His core was perhaps whirring at a faster pace than it normally was but Saitama may have just been hearing things. Regardless, he was happy to note the lighter feel to Genos’ thoughts, more relaxed and gentle than before.
And it was nice to have the cyborg in his arms like this, an odd serenity falling over him. The tension left his muscles, a fuzziness touching his heart.
“This feels nice.”
And Saitama couldn’t argue with that.
After that, Saitama found that he was able to hear more than he previously could. It mostly related to Genos given that they were always together but when they were with the others like Fubuki or King, he’d hear their “deeper” thoughts too. Fubuki had this inferiority complex in relation to her sister that Saitama hadn’t of noticed until she visited the apartment a few days ago. King had terrible bouts of anxiety and his thoughts were often colored an alarming red, making Saitama flinch whenever he heard him in his head.
These deeper thoughts mostly related to things that regularly troubled someone or caught an individual’s attention. They were problems that wouldn’t resolve themselves easily like Fubuki’s power issue or Mumen’s uselessness. Perhaps these thoughts were harder to hear because people thought them so often, not even noticing them anymore. They become the individual.
Even with Genos, Saitama started hearing more about his desire to grow stronger and his dislike of himself. The latter being ridiculous because the cyborg was an incredible person.
But, Saitama sighed, understanding just what these kinds of thoughts were. Everyone had them. They were the building blocks to an individual, their personality, their morals. They were the things people couldn’t get rid of, the very basis of their mind. They weren’t their secrets. No, those were buried deep, hidden, reflecting the fact that they didn’t want to be known. These deeper thoughts, which Saitama had to find a name for, resulted in who a person was in public or in private.
Though, Saitama had to admit that hearing all of these newer voices was not pleasant. They overlapped themselves with a person’s regular thoughts and it made crowded places all the louder. It hasn’t made anything more difficult yet other than a headache and asking Genos to speak up sometimes but in the last few days Saitama hadn’t of exactly been social. Sure Mumen or the others would show up sometimes to hang out but he could handle their voices. He actually knew and liked them.
But he didn’t really go outside. That incident in the Hero Association deterred him from actively going places with a lot of people. None of this was helping him get rid of his curse but you couldn’t blame him for being wary about public spaces. Adorable St. Genos understood, going out and getting the groceries by himself one day.
“I shouldn’t ask. He shouldn’t go.”
Saitama glanced away from the TV, tilting his head at his companion who was currently washing the dishes.
“Well, maybe he should. It could be like exposure therapy? I guess? No, no, never mind. I don’t want to risk it.”
He sighed, getting up and entering the kitchen. He leaned against the counter, folding his arms to his chest before clearing his throat. The cyborg jumped, nearly sending a plate to an early grave. “Hey, uh, Geno? You got something to ask me?”
The teen met his gaze meekly. He bit his lip, wiping his hands on his apron before pulling two folded pieces of paper out of his pocket. He handed one to Saitama and he opened it, squinting at the tiny fancy letters scrawled across its middle. It was an invitation inviting him to a ball hosted by the Hero Association in A-City. It was dated for tomorrow.
Genos nodded, unfolding his own invitation. “A suit and tie event. Only the top members of each class were invited. For S-class, it is mandatory to attend.”
“Oh. Did you want me to go with you?”
The cyborg’s eyes widened before he looked away, absently kneading the paper between his fingers. “It’s just that it is highly recommended for members to go. Besides, I wouldn’t risk you around so many people. Not after what happened at the Hero Association.”
“But do you want to go together?”
“You wouldn’t like it. You’d get bored.”
“So, you don’t want me to go?”
Genos opened his mouth to speak but promptly closed it. He finally settled on, “I’m just worried that you’ll get overwhelmed again.”
“I can handle it. Besides, if things do get a little hairy I’ll just come find you. I can’t stay in the apartment for the rest of my life.”
“I understand, Sensei.”
There was a pause before either of them spoke. “So…did you want me to go with you?”
Genos didn’t reply, turning back around and finishing up the dishes. Saitama smiled fondly, going back to the living room and sitting back down.
It was a while before he heard a tiny “Yes” in the back of his head, making him smile again.
In all honesty, Saitama didn’t like parties. Whether it was a casual one or a formal one like this, he just didn’t like all of the people. He had no idea why he said he’d go with Genos. Oh, wait. He did. For some reason, it was virtually impossible for him to say no to the teen. He didn’t know whether he liked that or not.
Regardless, this party would serve as a test of sorts. He needed to control himself around other people and so far he was relatively fine around five or so people. But this, this was different. He hadn’t of expected so many people to be present for this ball or whatever the Association called it. He knew there were going to be at least 17 people because of S-Class but it appeared as if there were many civilians around as well. Some of them were news reporters and others were TV celebrities.
The entire room was crammed with people and Saitama could barely see the other end of it. The Association hosted the party on the 22nd floor of a high class hotel and the room was rather massive. Saitama could vaguely make out large windows on the other side of the room, doors wide open and letting cool air through. There may have been people standing out on the balconies.
Saitama was already feeling the effects of the amount of people, their thoughts finding him like mosquitoes to a lamp. He wanted to stay as focused as possible but the voices were getting progressively louder. He tried to stay in his own head like he had when Genos was upset but that ultimately resulted in a dull pain behind his eye.
When he and Genos entered, no one really noticed, everyone too engrossed in themselves or each other. Though, there were a few glances towards the Demon Cyborg but no outward displays of awe were found. Saitama didn’t mind it and he was 100% sure neither did Genos.
“Are you ok, Sensei?” The cyborg asked, turning to face him.
He wore a beautifully tailored dark blue suit. A white shirt was snug beneath his vest, accented by a tie just as blue as the night sky. The navy of his ensemble perfectly accentuated his eyes, his golden irises bright against the shade. His hair was slicked back and out of his face, framing it in just the right way. Genos looked incredibly handsome and Saitama found himself staring a lot more than he should have.
Similarly, Saitama wore a suit just as blue as Genos’. The only difference being that his tie was black. In a way, they sort of matched. He hadn’t of noticed until they were standing in their apartment together, waiting for a car to pick them up. Of course, Genos looked a thousand times better than him.
“So far so good,” He replied. “Do you have any special S-class stuff to do?”
Genos nodded, gesturing towards one end of the room. “They want us all together for something. Probably something ridiculous.”
“Well, go on. I’m a big boy. I’ll be fine. Maybe I’ll see if I can find Mumen or Fubuki.”
There was a moment of hesitation before the cyborg finally left, disappearing into the crowd of people. The further and further Genos went away, the louder and louder the voices became. Each step, each inch made them more apparent, Saitama’s eye twitching when they began to crescendo. He took in a deep breath before shuddering.
“Who the fuck just bumped me?”
“It’s way too hot in here.”
“Is the AC on?”
“Oh my god. She’s gorgeous.”
“Look at all of the S-Class heroes. They’re mesmerizing.”
Saitama frowned, deciding that alcohol would help him in his endeavors. He squeezed through the sea of people, thoughts and spoken words fading in and out as he walked by. He finally spotted the refreshments table, grinning when he saw all of the free food. Though, there appeared to be no beverages of the alcoholic persuasion so he made due with piling a plate full of hors d’oeuvres and weird looking cheeses.
There was a tap at his shoulder and he turned around, Mumen greeting him with a smile.
“I didn’t expect you to be here, Saitama. You don’t seem like the partying kind of guy.” The bicyclist’s voice was a little hard to hear, its volume barely carrying over everything else.
“I’m not,” He replied, mouth full of food. “Genos wanted me to go with him and I need to get use to all the people.”
“How’s that going?”
“I’m gonna ask her to dance with me. I’m gonna do it. Get fucking hype.”
“Is he into guys?”
“Tornado of Terror looks like a 7-year-old.”
“Who the hell is this dude?”
Saitama rolled his shoulders stiffly. “Not good but better than before.”
“Well, what helped you at the Hero Association?”
“Genos,” He replied instantly.
“Then, try thinking about him. Might be good to focus on someone you like.” There was a small smile on the hero’s face.
“I guess I can try.” Saitama blinked, furrowing his brows as he put his food down.
He started with the basics. Genos. 19. Cyborg. Roommate. Great Cook. He thought of his bright eyes and the way they’d glow when the lights were out, like tiny stars luminous against the evening sky. He thought of the sound his core made at night, the whir often lulling Saitama to sleep. There was also the way steam would pop out of his arms whenever he’d get nervous. It happened very rarely but it was always a sight to see.
He thought of the cyborg’s tiny smiles, the ones he made only for Saitama. And he’d make these smiles at the oddest times. Saitama would often look up from whatever he was doing to find Genos simply grinning at him. The way Genos would get flustered was also admittedly adorable, the cyborg reverting back to a ten-year-old.
Then, Saitama thought of his voice, its gentle yet powerful timbre, its calming vibration, the way it would say his name, beautifully and softly. One evening, he had been walking home, hearing Genos singing to himself through the balcony door. He had waited outside just to keep listening, closing his eyes as he swayed to each word. It had been a nice song; one Saitama had heard only once before.
“If he touches me again, I swear—”
Saitama’s lips parted in surprise.
“No, I’m moving over. I’m not dealing with this. He smells weird.”
Genos’ thoughts had carried themselves above all of the others, squashing them down into a bearable choir. The room felt lighter, the crowd more tolerable. Saitama took in a deep breath, a weight lifting from his chest. Genos’ voice was as soothing as it always was, settling around his shoulders like a soft blanket. The stress of the evening slowly drifted away from him, washing itself away with the cyborg’s exquisite voice.
“Maybe if I stand next to King,”
“So?” Mumen asked, noticing Saitama’s change in demeanor.
“It’s better,” He replied. “Like a lot better. How’d you know I should do that?”
“I didn’t. People like to think about things they like and you like Genos, right?”
“Yeah,” He replied with no hesitation.
“It’s so weird he hasn’t noticed it yet. Kinda cute, actually.”
Mumen made that little smile again as he took a sip of his drink. “So, I thought focusing on something you like might keep you busy.”
“You’re a pretty smart guy,” Saitama said, patting him on the shoulder.
“I try to be.”
The two wandered around the room for the rest of the night, going from one table of food to the other as they talked about random, mundane things. They met Fubuki on one occasion and she had somehow found alcohol in an otherwise non-alcoholic party. When they asked where she got it, she waved them off, inviting them to join her at her table. Saitama declined, stating that standing around hurt his head and Fubuki promised to find them again later.
As he and Mumen walked, people’s voices grew and shrunk in intensity, reflecting his movements across the room. He flinched painfully when someone excitedly yelled out to Mumen, begging the hero to sign her arm. Though, he quickly thought about Genos and the pain simmered away. Each time the voices would get too loud or too much, too raw or too strong, he thought of the cyborg, whether it was about his touch or his appearance, sighing when everything would gravitate away from him.
He consciously steered Mumen away from Sweet Mask who had an abundance of people crowding around him, begging to get a picture with him or talk to him. Saitama didn’t know whether Mumen had ever met the man but it was best to not be anywhere near him. He really didn’t want that guy in his head. 90% of his thoughts were probably about himself anyway.
“How on Earth did Bang…”
Saitama stopped, turning his head, eyes drawn to the other side of the room. He felt it instantly, Genos’ voice fading away until he couldn’t hear it anymore. He concentrated, trying to find him again but there was nothing, no trace of the cyborg. And his mind knew, knew that the safety was off. He was alone.
All of the other voices began to rise, crescendo, crash against his skull as the floodgates opened, thought after thought jumbling within him. He pressed his fingers to his temples, a light throbbing sensation hitting behind his eyes.
“Not good,” He whispered, shaking his head.
“Who the fuck just pushed me?”
“How is there no alcohol?”
“Why am I here? What’s this party for?”
“I don’t even know any of these people.”
“Ugh, she’s still talking.”
“I’m gonna fight him.”
Mumen’s hand touched his arm. “What’s wrong?”
“Loud,” He hissed.
“We have to get out of here.”
Then, he was being pulled, led somewhere. He let Mumen take him wherever he wanted. Anywhere was better than here. The voices were pulsing this time. In, out, in, out. It was starting to hurt his ears, his skull threatening to break. He sucked in three breaths of air, his blood rushing to his head.
Cool air touched his skin, a soft breeze tickling his nose. He opened his eyes to find that they were now on one of the balconies, the moon hanging high in the sky. The party ambiance was replaced by crickets and birds, both mixing oddly the closer one got to the window.
Saitama let out a deep sigh, moving over to the railing and leaning against it. He looked down, the streets and cars miniscule from all the way up here.
“Yeah, thanks,” He sighed again, rolling his shoulders.
The voices were still there, knocking and hitting and making noise but being out here was a lot better than being in there. There were no people on this balcony save for him and Mumen and there were a scarce few on the others. It was like another world out here, peaceful, calm, gentle. In there, it was vibrant, gregarious and energetic. Saitama belonged out here more than inside.
“I can’t hear Genos anymore,” He said quietly. “I don’t know why. It hurts.”
Mumen was silent for some time and when Saitama turned his head to look at him, the hero had opened his mouth to speak but promptly closed it. Curious, Saitama turned around fully, leaning his arms back against the railing.
“I should get him. He’ll make it better.”
The man in question pursed his lips before ultimately shaking his head. “It’s nothing.”
“Ah! This was where you boys went off to,” Fubuki said cheerily, sauntering onto the balcony, drink in hand.
“I’ll be right back.” Mumen smiled, escaping back inside.
Fubuki merely shrugged her shoulders, leaning one of her arms on the rail so that she could keep drinking. “Having fun?”
“I was,” He frowned.
The esper raised her brows. “Too many people?”
He nodded. “I was fine until Genos disappeared. I lost his thoughts.”
“Now’s as good a time as any.”
Fubuki stared at him for a moment, glancing away only once before she said, “You know, I promised myself I was never going to ask about this. Or, well, until I was 100% sure about it at least.”
“You and Genos.”
She phrased it as if that was that. Period. No explanation. No nothing. “…What about me and Genos?”
She rolled her eyes. “You know, are you two together?”
Saitama balked, blinking at her in astonishment. “No…we’re just friends.”
“Could have fooled me,” She mumbled into her glass.
“Why do you ask?”
“What do you mean: why do I ask? Everyone from here to Timbuktu can see there’s something in the way you act around each other. You bleed lovey-dovey gooeyness. Gives me a weird taste in my mouth sometimes,” She sighed.
“Well, do you at least wanna be together? Do you love him?”
Saitama opened his mouth but no words came out. He was ready to say no, scream it if he had to. But, he couldn’t. Something was stopping him. It sickened him to even want to say no, an odd feeling bubbling in his chest.
“Ugh, men and their feelings,” Fubuki scoffed, waving her hand. “For someone who can read everyone’s mind, you can barely even understand your own. Maybe you just needed someone to tell you what you couldn’t see.”
He looked down, kicking his foot absently.
“I never noticed how nice Mumen’s hair looked from behind.”
Saitama’s head snapped back up, looking to the doorway. Moments later, Genos and Mumen walked out, joining them on the balcony. The cyborg made a tiny smile when their eyes met and Saitama couldn’t help but mirror it, his heart buzzing pleasantly.
“Mumen, would you be a dear and accompany a lonely young lady this evening?” Fubuki said, a grin on her face.
“It would be my pleasure,” He said, taking her arm and leading her away.
Genos moved up to the railing, looking out towards the moon, a sigh falling from his lips. He looked gorgeous, the moon’s soft radiance casting an angelic glow over his face. The gentle breeze tousled his hair playfully, making him appear statuesque and ethereal, a magnificent piece of art not meant for mortal eyes.
The image made Saitama’s entire body buzz, an overwhelming fondness pressing at his temples. He felt lighter than air, all earthly problems and stresses appearing trivial at the moment. He did like Genos. No, no. He knew he was in love with him. Perhaps he had always known and he never noticed, never realized it, never even bothered to think about it until Fubuki said something.
He had fallen in love so slowly and languidly that he just never caught on. He wasn’t even surprised. Of course he’d be in love with Genos. It was so hard not to be. And it wasn’t a terrible feeling. He wondered when it had completely settled over him, when everything went from friendship to adoration to love. He couldn’t even remember what it felt like to not be in love with Genos.
Saitama smiled, shaking his head at himself. He was so dumb.
“Are you ok? Mumen said something was wrong with you.” Genos asked, tilting his head to look at him.
Saitama turned back around, back facing the party. “I’m good. Got a little overwhelmed for a bit but I’m good.”
“Mumen helped you?”
“Yeah, he took me outside,” He paused for a long moment before saying, “You helped too.”
Genos furrowed his brows. “That’s the second time you’ve said that when I did absolutely nothing.”
“I like your voice and I like hearing it. It’s familiar. You think you’re doing nothing but you’re doing just what I need you to. If I find your voice, I’ll be ok.”
“I feel like I’m going to explode.”
Genos absently rubbed his hands together. “Then, I am glad I’m helping, Sensei.”
Saitama chuckled, eyes finding the streets below. “What’d you get stuck doing? Sounded like you didn’t like it.”
The cyborg scoffed, tilting his head away. “They wanted all of the S-Class heroes in the same spot so that they could ask us ridiculous questions. The amount of people in the room meant we could barely fit where they wanted us and I was stuck way too close to Puri Puri Prisoner and he kept trying to talk to me. I moved next to King before I did anything I’d regret. Then, they wanted all of us in a group picture. So, we had to leave the room for that. It was stupid. Turns out this party was just a publicity stunt for S-class. They invited all the other classes for appearances only. Ugh.”
As Genos continued speaking, Saitama couldn’t help but think that loving him felt so normal, as if it had always been like this. It was impossible to think about a life without the cyborg, Saitama’s world orbiting comfortably around him.
“He’s so hand—No. You are not finishing that. Sensei might be listening and I do not have the emotional strength to deal with that right now.”
Saitama almost laughed, his heart fluttering pleasantly. Genos probably realized it before him, the cyborg being more in tune with his emotions than he was. Saitama just wanted to know when. Perhaps it was the same for Genos. Perhaps one day it had just happened and that was that.
He turned to look at the cyborg, Genos mirroring the action.
“I just love him so much.”
The smile that touched Saitama’s face was one-of-a-kind, an old relic from a time long past. Genos blinked at him for a moment, probably waiting for him to speak. However, moments later, his eyes widened, lips parting slightly as he realized Saitama had heard him. He quickly dropped his gaze, a light puff of steam radiating from his arms.
Saitama sighed, touching his hand to Genos’ wrist. A quiet moment passed, only birds and laughter flashing through the air. When the cyborg didn’t pull away, Saitama slid his hand up, layering it over Genos’ and slotting their fingers together.
“Genos,” He said softly.
The cyborg met his gaze shyly, uncertainty deep within those beautiful, beautiful eyes.
Genos opened his mouth to speak but suddenly, a crash and bang erupted from within the party, both of them turning their heads sharply at the sound. It appeared as if someone had fallen, sending one of the dinner tables with them. A crowd of people gathered around them, hundreds of thoughts swarming around that one person. It made Saitama twitch, the voices flickering in intensity.
“That was some funny shit.”
“Who the hell—Patricia!”
“That’s my girlfriend.”
“That’s B-Class for you.”
However, instead of focusing on any other thoughts, he turned back to his companion, the cyborg’s brows knitting together as he surveyed the party.
“Genos,” He said again.
And when the cyborg turned, Saitama kissed him, hand dropping to his waist. Genos froze momentarily, entire body tensing up. Though, it only lasted for a few seconds, the teen resting his fingers against Saitama’s arm. It was a slow, languid kiss, unhurried, leisurely, one that stretched out for some time. There were only brief pauses to catch one’s breath, the rest of the embrace unbroken.
It was easy moving against one another, no awkwardness, no hesitation. They were so used to each other, so comfortable and it was a really beautiful thing. It reflected how they fell in love, smoothly, gently, effortlessly. Like kissing each other was as simple as breathing.
Saitama felt an explosion in his head, a white light flashing. There was a high pitched whine, blocking out all other sound. He hissed and pulled away, squeezing his eyes shut and kneading them with the heels of his palms. It was as if everything stopped. The sudden silence was unnerving. He felt Genos slide his hands up to his shoulders but he couldn’t hear him, if he was even saying anything.
Then, the whine was back, travelling back and forth within his skull, getting louder and louder until there was a resounding pop.
Everything suddenly came back, the birds, Genos’ voice, music, laughter. But there was something missing, something off.
And then he realized what it was.
With wide eyes, he grabbed Genos’ face, hands just beneath his jawline. He leaned forward, furrowing his brows at the confused cyborg’s forehead.
“I can’t hear you anymore.”
“No, I mean I can’t hear your thoughts anymore. I can’t hear anyone’s.”
“Really?” Genos asked, blinking at him in surprise.
“Really,” Saitama repeated, grinning.
“Oh,” The cyborg replied, smiling in return. “That’s great, Sensei! Do you know why?”
“Yeah,” He said softly, tugging Genos closer and wrapping his arms around his waist.
Then, he kissed him.