Chapter 1: The meeting
World class heroes are famous for their strength, their cunning, their amazing gifts and powers. One might expect them them to also be as extraordinary when it comes to social interactions, to be above spreading petty rumours or talking behind each others' backs.
Such, however, is not the case.
In fact, those more familiar with the inner workings of the Hero Association could probably go on all day about all the near constant rumours, the insults shouted high and low and the silly arguments more suited for a school yard than the state of the art HA headquarter building of City A. But perhaps such is life; many heroes find eventually that they stand alone, never truly on even footing with other people, be it normal mortals or even with other heroes. Perhaps this breeds a certain level of aloofness, a difficulty with feeling familiar and comfortable around others.
Well, perhaps this is sometimes the case. But at other times, the cause might be something as simple as good old boredom sprinkled with not a small amount of exasperation.
Fact: It was hopelessly clear to almost everyone that the bratty S-rank Demon Cyborg and weirdo B-rank Caped Baldy had a thing for each other. They were always seen together, if the rumours were true they even lived together, went out for dinner together, took baths together, went to festivals together. It was visible plain as day in the way they'd look at each other - lingering looks, little smiles, fidgeting whenever near the other. Painfully obvious.
The only people who were not aware of their shared crush were, it seemed, Demon Cyborg and Caped Baldy.
This was amusing at first, but the longer it went on without anything happening, the more annoyed some of the fellow heroes that had the misfortune of having to share a table with the duo during HA meetings got. It was awkward, the way those two acted around each other. Dragged everyone down around them into a pit of awkward looks and flustered faces, for crying out loud, they couldn't even have a normal dull-as-hell meeting any more without everyone shifting in their seats and giving each other "can you believe this?" looks.
It got to the point that one day, during a large meeting involving not only S-ranks but also heroes from all the other ranks, even down to the top of the C-ranks, two particular esper sisters found themselves whispering angrily and not-too-subtly about it from their spot opposite and a few seats down from the troublesome duo.
It was true that Fubuki and Tatsumaki often did not get along well, or at the very least it might appear that way to outsiders. And it was true, they did argue quite a bit, but that's how it had always been between them. They were sisters, they knew each other inside and out. They had found a sort of balance in their relationship and despite the occasional bickering and name-calling, they did get along, sometimes.
Especially if they had a shared goal.
"It's absolutely ridiculous. It's so obvious it's painful. Why don't they do anything about it?" hissed Fubuki, jutting her chin in the direction of the blond cyborg pulling out a chair for Saitama to sit on, giving a quick little smile when that earned him a low "thanks man".
"Beats me" sighed Tatsumaki. She shifted in her own seat, legs dangling. "They're both so dense, those two. I think someone would have to spell it out before them before they realized how they feel about each other."
"Spell it out?" Fubuki said with a dangerous grin. "Watch this, sis."
Esper powers in actions can be bright and flashy and dangerous-looking, often aided by a dramatic flair in the people wielding them. But they can also be subtly, carefully exercised by those skilled enough, as suggestive and gentle as a summer breeze.
With everyone finally seated, the tired-looking suit had begun talking about HA economy and quotas and public images. Many heroes already sported expressions that were bored, tired or both. The two intended victims looked the same as usual; one of them with a bland face perfectly devoid of emotion, the other frowning as if he'd just swallowed a cactus. Time to change that.
Softly, Fubuki exercised her mysterious powers for the noblest of causes. Something akin to a breeze suddenly wafted through the stuffy room, ruffling shirts and, more importantly, a certain perfectly groomed head of blond bangs.
Summer breeze indeed.
Demon Cyborg blinked as his hair suddenly stood awkwardly in all directions. The bald man next to him smirked for a moment before matter-of-factly bringing out a hand to flatten it down again. Without much success, unfortunately. Which may or may not be the result of a certain esper making sure it kept standing up again to give a perfect impression of wonderfully messy bedhead. Or sex hair. Whichever you prefer.
Fubuki smirked to herself again as the bald one muttered something about persistent drafts, receiving no response from his companion who was currently too busy sitting rock-still, expression unreadable as strong fingers wove through his hair.
It took a few moments and a pointed glare from the suit before Saitama let go of Genos' head and they turned their attention back to his numerous charts. Genos hair looked better at least, though still not nearly as smooth as it usually was.
"My turn" whispered Tatsumaki, cracking her knuckles.
It seemed another breeze suddenly went through the room, only this one was far more localized. In fact, the only thing that was affected seemed to be Caped Baldy's shirt. He had leaned back in his chair, arms crossed behind his neck, eyes almost completely closed as he zoned out. Probably the reason he didn't even seem to notice when the hem of his shirt seemed to travel upwards, exposing a small but oh so delicious amount of tantalizing soft-looking stomach.
What had happened may have been lost on Saitama, but it was most certainly not lost on Genos. Blazing eyes turned not-so-discreetly to the exposed skin. He visibly swallowed and if the esper duo was not mistaken, there was a soft but insistent sound coming from his metal body now, a low murmur like the straining fans of a computer.
"Score" came the harshly whispered words from Tatsumaki. "That's how you do it."
Fubuki wasn't ready to admit defeat just yet, though. Surely she couldn't let her older sister win so easily.
"Yeah? That's nothing!"
Genos had turned his head away with what looked like great regret, blinking as he attempted to focus on the man talking at the end of the table. Given how his body was still producing that fan-like sound though, it wasn't hard to guess where his thoughts were. Unfortunately for him, that was just the inspiration Fubuki needed.
The next time Genos turned to look at his teacher, he stopped himself from squeaking at the last second, bringing a hand to his mouth and earning a handful of annoyed stares from the heroes around him. The fan sound grew into a clearly audible screech upon seeing the edges of Saitama's shorts, which had somehow climbed dangerously high when he had shifted his pose in his chair. Why?! It shouldn't even affect him like this, for crying out loud he'd seen the man naked multiple times! It was just, the way the fabric hugged his shape, the way it showed so much yet left the best to the imagination...
With a shake of his head, Genos turned his head back to the suit once more. At this point, even Saitama had realized his distress, putting his arms back in his lap and leaning forward.
"Hey man, you okay?" he asked in a far too high volume, earning them yet another angry glare from the man trying to give his talk. "What's up? Oh."
So close to his room mate – he just wanted to make sure he was okay, he was acting so fidgety – it quickly became quite obvious what was "up".
Saitama stared. "Um."
Genos had closed his eyes when his teacher leaned so close to him, not trusting himself if he kept looking at him at this rate, but at his surprised tone he opened them again and followed his gaze, down to... himself and his... crotch.
It seemed that Caped Baldy was not the only one affected by the breeze. Because frankly there was nothing else that could explain the... questionable... shape in his pants. It wasn't even physically possible, for crying out loud! With a squeak – no chance of stopping it this time - he hurriedly pushed his chair further in under the table in a valiant effort to hide himself, apologizing to Saitama all the while, speaking so fast that his words blurred together to everyone around them, impossible to make out what he was trying to say. Perhaps just as well, because the other nearby heroes were all rather wishing they were somewhere else right now. Preferably somewhere far away from Caped Baldy and Demon Cyborg and their awkwardness.
"You're cruel!" gasped Fubuki to her sister, but she couldn't quite keep the mirth out of her voice.
"Hey! I told you, they need it spelled out or they'll never get it. We're just helping them, is all!"
They quieted down for a while as the lecture continued. Didn't take long for their interest to start drifting again, though. There was, after all, a sight in the room far more amusing than the graph demonstrating HA donations over the last 6 months. It was quite amusing to see them both appearing to sport their normal bland/scowling expressions but between flushed cheeks and screeching fans they couldn't quite manage it any more.
"So do you think they get it yet?" Fubuki whispered with a sigh. It was quite obvious who she meant.
"Nope" replied Tatsumaki, studying how the other two seemed to have gone back to more or less normal by now, though Demon Cyborg was still sending the occasional worried glance towards his crotch, as if to make sure it wasn't leading a life of its own down there.
"How much more do you think it would take before they realized it?"
"I don't know. Do you want to find out?"
Chapter 2: Getting warmer
Aaah, thank you so much for all the kudos and comments! I've not replied to anyone because I'm that lovely combination of lazy and forgetful, but please rest assured I do read every one of them and smile and feel happy that you took the time out of your day to write them <333
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
For reasons unknown, Demon Cyborg hadn't taken up on the HA's most generous offer to live in one of the excellent apartments they offered to all higher ranking heroes. No, for some strange reason, he and Caped Baldy lived in the mostly deserted City Z, a place home not only to a lot of shady types in general but also its fair share of monsters – in other words, a place normal respectable citizens generally stayed far away from. Then again, Fubuki was well aware that Saitama was a proud cheapskate and rent must have been dirt cheap out there. If there was one at all. All things considered, it was probably a wonder they even had access to electricity and running water.
The downside to their money-saving living situation meant that they were not seen among said said respectable citizens all that often though, not unless they were out shopping for groceries. Which, fortunately, they were more often than average citizens, as it seemed both of them (but especially Caped Baldy) had some sort of odd fixation with sales and coupon-hunting, if Fubuki's sources were correct. The esper wasn't quite sure why – surely Demon Cyborg's S-class salary should be able to more than keep them afloat.
Then again, there were a lot of things that were difficult to understand about those two.
It was so very lucky for those two lost causes that two world famous esper sisters were helping them with their little... situation. All for the greater good, of course.
It took some time before said sisters got the chance to see them out after that fateful but entertaining HA meeting, but as luck would have it, one lovely day found the duo walking close together, probably on their way home after one of their grocery trips if the numerous shopping bags they were carrying were anything to go by. Fubuki was technically busy but a woman had to prioritize. She ushered the two henchmen behind her to go on without her, hurriedly fishing her phone out of her pocket to make a very important call.
"What do you want?" the tone was annoyed, Tatsumaki had better things to do, no time to deal with her little sister's stupid little grou-
"Big Sis! I see them!"
"Where?! What are they doing?"
"Walking home. Here, gimme a sec, I'll put you on facetime."
Demon Cyborg might have noticed the phone pointed at him if he had not been busy listening to Saitama's lecture on the fine art of picking out the best cabbage. Saitama likely would not have seen it either way. Both were completely engulfed in their private little discussion.
Nor did Saitama see the a respectable-sized rock in his path as it shifted almost invisibly to lay in just the right spot to trip him. He certainly felt it though, going down with a loud "umph!" as he fell face first onto the street before him. A loud "sensei!" echoed through the empty street yet Genos seemed frozen in his spot, staring at the sight before him, shopping bags gripped so tight they threatened to tear at any second.
As luck would have it, Caped Baldy managed to fall just the way a certain esper sister had intended. Face in the asphalt, arms out and ass high and probably quite inviting-looking, if the steam visibly rising from the cyborg's shoulder vents was anything to go by. He just stood there, staring, mouth slightly agape, lost in his own little world. A world that appeared to include - or more likely, revolve around - a particular man.
"Oh god" Tatsumaki cackled, peering at the view offered by the phone. "That was great."
"It wasn't too much?" Fubuki snickered, hand before her mouth to keep herself from laughing.
"Hell no. Look at the robot, he loves it!" Tatsumaki replied, indicating to Genos dumbfounded state. Shaking his head a little as if to clear his mind, he finally reached forward to offer Saitama a hand - was it shaking, just a little? - as he clambered to stand up. Despite wearing nothing more than a ratty hoodie and a pair of worn jeans, he looked unhurt, though the asphalt road sported a few new dents. Absent-mindedly he patted his clothes to get rid of the dust and gravel, assuring his worried companion that he was indeed quite fine.
"Weird though. I thought I knew this road like the back of my hand. Let's get home and get that dinner started, alright Genos?"
Fubuki followed them from a safe distance, every intention of making the most of this rare offered opportunity.
Nothing like hot pot! The wonderful aroma had spread throughout the small apartment as it cooked, making both of them feel even more hungry. Saitama was especially pleased with the wonderfully fresh cabbage he had managed to swipe at a fraction of the normal price. They'd eat like kings tonight!
While dinner was getting ready, Genos had tidied up around their home, setting the table and getting everything ready for another nice and calm evening. He'd even lit a candle that Saitama had found on sale. Saitama had bough it on a whim, better use it, right? That's all there was to it, a bit of companionable, completely platonic atmosphere. A quick flick of his palm was all it took to light the candle and he gingerly placed it on the low table to make sure that the wax wouldn't drop onto the freshly cleaned surface.
Unbeknownst to either of them, a certain B-ranked hero was sitting on an abandoned balcony not far from their apartment, eyes fixated on what they were doing. It was a pleasant summer afternoon, the sun had just set and as Caped Baldy had started to turn on the lamps inside their apartment it offered a decent well-lit view into their room. Good thing the curtains weren't pulled close!
By this point, Fubuki had been joined by her sister. Tatsumaki was sitting on the balcony railing, seeing how she was only barely tall enough to see over it if she was standing. At first they had tried hide and be sneaky to make sure the others wouldn't see them, but they had quickly realized there was little need for any of that – the others had no idea they were there at all. Perhaps they were so used to no one being around this deserted neighbourhood that they didn't bother to really look. Or perhaps they were too busy keeping track of each other to have time for anyone else. The sisters hoped it was the second. And if it wasn't... well, soon it was going to be.
The two watched with barely concealed amusement as their victims sat down to eat, Saitama relaxed and slightly hunched over to get as close to the food as possible, the cyborg stiff as a board in proper seiza. After thanking for the meal, they dug in with good appetite with little time for small talk.
"We should have brought something to eat, too" Tatsumaki lamented, lazily using her powers to throw a pebble down from where she sat, listening to it clinking as it hit various objects on its way down to the broken asphalt ground. Fubuki huffed – she was indeed getting hungry watching the others eat too, but she didn't want to admit it. "Next time we'll just invite ourselves over" she suggested to her older sister, getting a "hmpfh" in return.
They waited until the other two seemed to be close to done with their dinner before taking action. Finally, it was time to act.
It was subtle, this time. Or at least, it started that way.
The heater was off, as well it should be this time of year, but that was nothing that couldn't be easily remedied. It had been Tatsumaki's idea and she was quick to take credit for its brilliance in its simplicity it as the temperature gradually increased in the small apartment.
The change wasn't immediate, but it was unmistakeable when it started to happen. It began with Caped Baldy getting a bit fidgety, wiping his forehead and waving his hand in front of his face.
"Weird" he muttered to his companion. "It feels a bit warmer than usual, don't you think? Maybe the hot pot was spicier than I realized."
"How strange" Genos muttered in response, giving the candle a suspicious glance. Surely it would not cause such an increase in heat? He hadn't really paid it much attention himself, his body adjusted his temperature automatically, but now that he checked the temperature readings and statistics on his HUD, his cooling fans had indeed increased their RPM as well to adjust to the changing temperature. "Perhaps the weather is getting warmer?"
"I dunno" Saitama replied, fanning himself further. It was evening and getting dark, it should get cooler, not warmer, right?
Desperate times call for desperate measures. Not really thinking much of it, the older man swiftly pulled his sweatshirt over his head, hoping to ease his body from the rapidly rising heat. It might indeed have helped, if not for the cyborg sitting opposite of the low table. The view presented of him – a perfectly sculpted chest belonging to a very, very special man, flustered and damp with sweat – did not help the temperature of the apartment one bit as he found his fans suddenly working overtime to deal with his own personal little internal heatwave. They couldn't keep up and with a low puff, the vents on his shoulders and upper arms opened for a moment to release excess heat in the form of steam, which rose lazily to the ceiling. A strange heat indeed.
"Dude" Saitama said, a slight note of annoyance in his voice. "You're making it even warmer in here!"
"I am sorry, Sensei" Genos countered, but the steam didn't lessen. Nor did his eyes leave their target. "I am so sorry" he said again, clearly not paying attention to anything but the sight before him - including what he himself was saying.
"Whatever" Saitama said, with what might or might not have been a slight edge of amusement in his voice. He stood up and went to the bathroom. After a brief moment, during which Genos could hear water running, he returned, sporting a damp towel around his head. "Much better!" he said with a pleased grunt as he sat down again.
They finished the last of the meal, Genos' fans working overtime all the while, and cleared the table. To the frustration of the two spectators outside.
"It's not enough!" Fubuki hissed angrily. "Your plan was stupid."
"Excuse me?!" the older sister countered. "Let's see you do better, then!"
"I will! I'll just-"
"Shut up! They're doing something!"
Inside the apartment, the two unknowing hopeful lovebirds had finished clearing the meal and, unfortunately, Saitama had already gone to check on the heater. Upon realizing that it had somehow magically been set to the highest possible setting, he had given his room mate a suspicious glance.
"Did you do this, Genos?"
"Of course not, Sensei! I would never! I am well aware of the importance of saving money on superfluous luxuries like proper room temperature when both of u-"
"It's fine dude! Don't worry about it. Maybe one of those crow mutants got in again. Besides."
"...You look plenty hot already..."
The owners of the straining ears outside braced themselves. Finally, their work had paid off, them moment was here... Even Genos was just staring in silence, expression unreadable. Waiting.
"I mean, with your palm fire things. One could say you've got..."
"Firearms! Get it?!"
It was unclear if Genos got it or not. But he was used to dealing with his teacher... and his own brand of humour. "I see" he said carefully, flexing his fingers before going back to the tiny kitchen to start on the dishes.
"Oh, come on!" Saitama shouted after him. "That was a good one!" There was no response.
Outside, two sisters came dangerously close to screaming out some well-chosen obscenities.
"Idiots" Tatsumaki muttered, earning herself a tired nod from the other. "Well, this was a failure."
"Let me try, next time" the younger one replied, crossing her arms, something dangerous coming into her eyes. "It looks like we're going to have to spell it out for them."
I don't think Genos was that sorry.
Next time: spelling it out!
Chapter 3: Little signs
Thank you once more for the kudos and comments!
Ennarcia - I see your request and I couldn't fit the crows in this chapter but they'll be featured in the next :U
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Why would a monster be made of ice? Wasn't that very... impractical? Sure, it might take a while, but it would eventually melt even under the normal summer sun, wouldn't it? Unfortunately apparently not without causing a lot of havoc beforehand, though. Which is why closest-available-S-rank Demon Cyborg had been called in to deal with it. Saitama had tagged along with him upon realizing there was a promised sale not far from the monster's path - provided it wasn't stomped to the ground before then. There were already several obliterated buildings around them, the roads helplessly upturned, gravel, pipes and dust everywhere. At least there had been no human causalities.
"Looking good, Genos" Saitama offered, hands crossed behind his head, leaning against what remained of a wall. His expression was bored, but it shifted now and then to study his companion and when it did, something like interest was visible in it. "Keep it up!"
"Yes! Sensei!" Genos barked, increasing the output from his palms ever so slightly. He was wearing what Saitama called his "fancy fightin' arms" - it was perhaps just as well that his teacher was not aware that the real name of those arms was actually his 'Anti-Saitama tactical arms' as Kuseno had eloquently dubbed them.
Said fancy fightin' arms had recently been under the maintenance of their creator and they shone brilliantly in the summer sun, quickly evaporating the cascading water drops that occasionally fell onto him from the monster. Genos looked really hot today.
...Because, you know, it was warm and his arms were glowing.
The monster writhed and cried loudly in anger and desperation but Demon Cyborg was relentless. He had it cornered and kept up a steady stream of fire aimed straight at it, therefore succeeding both in keeping it trapped and gradually melting it. At first the monster had looked like a mighty mammoth made entirely of ice - it would have been a beautiful sight if not for its vicious attacking of the city, really - but as it melted, it gradually began to take on new forms. It shrunk first to a musk ox, then a reindeer of ice. Currently, it mostly resembled a rabid hare. One the size of a small bus and with long protruding fangs, but still.
"This is taking forever" Saitama sighed.
"I'm sorry, Sensei!"
"Nah, it's fine. I just wish there was a way to pass the time while it's melting..."
Genos said nothing to that, thinking to himself to see if he could come up with anything but drawing a blank. He didn't want to bore Saitama-sensei, surely there would be something he could...
"Woah! That's so cool, Genos!"
He looked at his teacher, which revealed nothing, then followed his gaze to... his own hands.
Genos had immaculate control over his incinerators - to the degree it was possible to control fire, that is. He could aim with utmost precision, control the exact amount of fire he would release at any given time, even the temperature to some degree depending on the output of his core. What he could not control, however, was the shape. Fire took its own shape, you couldn't bend it to your will to look like something else, that's not how it worked... so how was this possible..?
"I had no idea you could do that!" Saitama sounded impressed, a rare sight.
"Me... me neither" came the reply. More importantly, HOW exactly was he doing it?
Because the flames coming from his palms were now transforming into unmistakeable hearts, still going towards the monster (it looked like some sort of buggy-sized gopher, now), still burning and melting the hissing mysterious being... and yes, again, definitely shaped like hearts.
"What in the world?" Genos mused, mostly to himself. Desperately he looked back to his teacher, perhaps hoping for some kind of words of wisdom to aid him, but all that happened when he saw those bright eyes, smiling mouth and - oh, were his cheeks just a little flushed? - was that his traitorous core increased the power output and the hearts grew even larger and brighter.
Damn it all.
He'd have to call Kuseno about this, no doubt about it. This had to be some kind of... malfunction. A very specific and very weird malfunction.
Even a few spectators appeared to have noticed - there were a dozen or so people who had dared to come within viewing distance now that the mighty ice mammoth was down to what looked like a not-so-mighty lemming, even if it was pony-sized.
Unsurprisingly, they were also noticing the fire hearts. They were kind of hard to miss, after all. There were pointed fingers and quite a few curious-sounding exclamations being thrown around.
Once again Genos let his gaze wander to his companion, not even aware he was staring as he drank the view of his companion's flustered expression. It was surely just the heat of the bright summer sun, but still, it was a very pleasing sight, and it always warmed his core to see his teacher looking so-
"Genos! In public?!"
So quickly he might have given himself whiplash had he still been fully organic, he turned his gaze back to his own fiery attack - gasping in shock.
Hearts were bad enough. Hearts were... innocent. The shape his fire had suddenly - somehow - taken on without him even noticing was most decidedly not.
"I mean I know you're still technically a teenager and hormones are brutal at your age-"
With a squeak he couldn't even attempt to hold back, Genos ceased all power output to his incinerators. The flames ended abruptly. "Please ah, finish him off, Sensei!"
"Oh, okay" said sensei offered, giving Genos an odd look (calculating? Curious? Amused? It was impossible to say. Maybe it was a mix of all of them).
There wasn't much of the monster left to even get rid off in the first place, it looked mostly like an angry snowball by now - if a snowball can look angry - so a quick and efficient punch was all it took. Genos looked on in poorly concealed embarrassment, thin wisps of steam rising steadily from his shoulders and gaze kept low, like a naughty child caught red-handed.
He didn't even turn to look at the small crowd of spectators and their whispers and snickers and curious questions. Just prayed quietly to any deity willing to listen that he wouldn't find new photos and videos of himself on the forums tomorrow. Well aware chances were high that he would, though.
If Genos had indeed looked up, maybe he would have spotted two sisters snickering at the outskirts of the group, far too pleased with themselves.
Who had thought that the normally so dull S-rank meetings could be interesting? And all it took was, ahem, a little "project" to stay busy.
About half the S-ranks, if that, were present. As usual, anyone who had managed to find an excuse to not show up had done so. The rest sat with barely concealed boredom - Metal Bat appeared to already be dozing off while Pig God was onto his fifth hamburger.
Tatsumaki idly dangled her feet (why did these damn chairs have to be so tall?!) and curled a lock of her hair around a finger. To outside eyes she might have appeared calm, even bored, but inside she was ready to strike at the first offered chance. It was just a shame that her sister wasn't here, it would have been a good chance to discuss their next step. Ah well. She'd call her after the meeting, depending on how things worked out here.
Demon Cyborg sat idly flexing his fingers, staring into his palms as if they held some great truth to the secrets of the universe. Or perhaps more likely, still trying to figure out just how he had managed to shoot fire in the form of hearts and... other things...
Next to him was, of course, Caped Baldy. It had led to many questions and annoyed comments at first when he tagged along to these supposed S-rank-only meetings, but Genos would have none of it and in the end, his sheer stubbornness won out. At this point, it was more or less unofficially accepted that if Demon Cyborg was going to be present during a meeting, Caped Baldy would more often than not be too.
The suit was back for another lecture and once again he was droning on about something most of them couldn't even begin to pretend to be interested in hearing about.
"How about soup tonight?" Saitama whispered, scratching his stomach.
Perhaps recalling past events with a certain degree of dread, Genos immediately turned his head away at the sight, shooting a quick glance between his own legs as if to make sure all was as it should be and then fishing out a worn notebook from who knew where on his person, bending his head down and starting to take notes.
"That sounds great, Sensei."
"We still have that leek and tomatoes... some noodles too, I think..."
"How about some meat?" Genos suggested, sounding hopeful, letting the pencil stop for a moment to look up with bright eyes (the damned puppy eyes, Saitama called those).
Saitama shot him a pointed glance. "Meat is expensive, though. We're still a week from payday."
"If Sensei wishes me to, I would happily pa-"
"Fine! I'll buy some meat for us. I'll find a sale somewhere. Don't worry about it."
That was the end of that, or so they thought.
Genos continued taking his notes, trying to focus on the dull man and his long-winded speech. It was difficult, though. The man's voice was hopelessly monotone as was the subject matter - something about... public image? Oh god... this wasn't about him and his most recent stunt, was it?
Usually, he didn't care what others thought about him. He didn't even care all that much about his hero rank, other than fulfilling the goal Saitama-sensei had given him. It was just... things had been a bit weird recently. He couldn't quite explain it. Maybe he had been under too much stress? That seemed odd too though, if anything life had otherwise been... pleasant... lately. Maybe there was something wrong with his sensors, making him jittery? He should make that call to Kuseno. Yeah, it was probably just his sensors that needed to be recalibrated. He snuck a quick glance to the bald man beside him. Sensei was leaning back in his chair, yawning wide. See? All was well, perfectly normal, Sensei was relaxed, no reason to get worked up. They'd finish the meeting in peace and then go find some discount meat and go home and make dinner and watch TV and go to bed.
He took a deep breath, still keeping his gaze to his notebook. Yes, that was it. Stay calm, focus on the lecture. Don't focus on Saitama, not even a quick glance at his face. His dozing face, mouth slightly open and a thin string of drool making its way down his chin. Definitely don't look at that.
So preoccupied with his not-staring was Genos that it took some time to realize that he had stopped taking notes all together.
Despite that, his hand seemed to keep moving, as if going on auto-pilot. One might have assumed it was a high-tech cyborg function, allowing his hand to keep working on its own. A dedicated esper was however closer to the truth in this case.
It was a quite fun thing to do, actually. While moving the metal hand required very little power compared to, say, crashing down a meteorite on top of a particularly ugly dinosaur, it did require quite a bit of stealth. She didn't want him to realize it wasn't his own doing, it had to be done with finesse... no way her little sister could have done something like this. A damned shame she wasn't here to see it.
Some time passed and Caped Baldy awoke from his little nap with a start. Scratching his eyes, he turned to look at his companion who quickly ducked to look back at his notes, as if suddenly remembering that he was supposed to be writing.
Something horrified came into Genos' expression as he stared down at the paper, cooling fans once more working overtime and thin wisps of steam already beginning to rise to the ceiling.
The whole page was filled with hearts. Big hearts, tiny hearts, hearts with arrows through them. And every spot that wasn't filled with a heart contained what looked like... an egg... with a familiar face on it.
He didn't even remember drawing these... things... it was if his hand had moved on its own... like an outside force, a higher power of some sort. What could have led to something like this, surely there was no way-
"Aw, those are cute! What's that thing?"
Saitama gave him a playful shove before settling his hand on a metal shoulder, pointing to one of the smiling little eggs.
At the physical touch, Genos' fans sped up even more, the steam now beginning to resemble small clouds around him. He blinked, tongue-tied, managing nothing more than a meek "ah".
Which earned him a gentle shoulder squeeze before Saitama leaned forward to see better. "It kind of looks like me, haha!"
It kind of did, indeed. Genos couldn't find it in himself to do more than nod.
That's as far as any of them got before a loud and annoyed cough brought their attention back to the man in the suit. He looked pretty pissed and one might be able to guess why. At this point, every single hero in the room ignored him, instead giving the bald man and the smoke machine next to him their undivided attention.
"Do I need to put you two at opposite ends of the table?" he asked angrily, receiving two identical quick headshakes in return.
Genos put his notebook away, putting both hands palms-down on the table and resolutely stared ahead, back straight. It was unclear whether he was actually listening to the lecture or, perhaps more likely, trying (and failing) at calming his racing fans. The steam was still rising from his shoulders in little puffs.
The puffs were shaped like hearts.
Saitama wasn't even pretending to listen any more. Instead, he sat with his face resting in his hand, elbow on the table, just staring at the hearts that rose steadily to the ceiling, his expression unreadable.
The rest of the room was no better. Every single hero had their attention on the cyborg, some of them looking amused, some exasperated. Even Metal Bat had awoken from his slumber to stare in a sort of confused wonder.
When the meeting finally ended, Demon Cyborg more or less ran out of the room, barely giving Caped Baldy the chance to keep up.
It was a very annoyed sister who called her partner in crime a few minutes later.
"We need to take this to the next level. It's time to fry that toaster once and for all."
Next time: how to fry a toaster
It had been a long morning.
What's worse than annoying neighbours? Annoying neighbours that were actually mutant crow monsters. They were not much larger than regular crows and generally harmless but they were very good at getting into trouble; stealing whatever they could get their talons at, leaving grubby prints all over the windows minutes after Genos had cleaned them and shouting rude insults at the only two people living in that part of City Z.
Saitama and Genos were at this point used to their antics. True, it had taken a great deal of restraint for Genos at first to not aim his incinerators at them when they would shout "pretty boy" and "bolt brain" around him, but Saitama had calmly told him (multiple times, occasionally coupled with a firm arm grab) to just ignore them. Things had gotten more heated when he himself found himself referred to as "baldy" by them, but even that had passed, eventually.
Oddly enough, the crows' most recent nicknames seemed... different from the rest.
The last time Genos had gone to hang up laundry to dry on the balcony, he'd been met with wolf whistles and various slurs and suggestions that he was not quite sure how he'd earned in the first place. Or where in this deserted part of the city they might even have picked them up... or from whom. Suffice to say they were not words that should be repeated in polite company - most of them were decidedly sexual, for whatever reason. That was a new one, usually they just insulted him for being a cyborg or for his looks. It didn't end there, though.
"Tell him!" the crows shouted. "Tell hiiim!"
Tell who what?! Which is what exactly Genos had screamed at them when he got tired of their never ending taunts. He hadn't even gotten a proper reply though, because all that had happened after that was that they'd yelled "baldy" and "metal jackass" and thrown pebbles at him.
Stupid crow monsters.
It had been a somewhat frazzled-looking Demon Cyborg who'd come back in from finishing hanging up the laundry; he could only hope that the crows wouldn't tear it all down after his hard work (it had happened before).
Saitama had noticed his sour mood (and the generous amount of gravel in his blond bangs) and suggested they visit the mall to cheer him up, which the other had readily agreed to. He needed a new shirt after ripping yet another one last week, and he was sure they'd find a good sale for Saitama-sensei, too. Seeing him happy always made him feel happy, too...
Which is how a few hours later, they could be seen walking through one of City A's larger malls, shoulder to shoulder and talking animatedly with each other. They'd just re-united after splitting up for a bit, Saitama catching a clearance sale for canned veggies while Genos had managed to sneak into a designer boutique and get a t-shirt he'd been eyeing for a while. It was probably in Sensei's best interest that he didn't see the price tag on that one.
The mall music played pleasantly in the background, some love ballad or another. Both were happy with today's purchases and it left them in high spirits.
It was nearing lunch time and they decided to settle on a light snack here in the mall and to make proper lunch once they were back home. Mall food was always so expensive, but they knew a tea place in the far corner that was too good to pass up.
Both of them relaxed considerably as they sat down, warm cups in hands. It was turning out to be a very nice day, despite the run-in with their annoying little neighbours that morning.
Genos drank carefully from his cup, eyeing Saitama while he did. The man sat relaxed and leaned back, a faint smile on his face as he hummed along to the music playing in the background, a popular pop song about declaring your true love.
Genos enjoyed these peaceful outings, he really did. It was something he never thought he'd experience again, not after the accident over four years ago. He was so grateful for having Sensei in his life, he had helped him so much, he truly had, no doubt about it. His guidance had proven essential on countless occasions, not just during monster encounters but during normal everyday life as well. Sensei was always there for him, a steady rock even during his darkest moments. He knew that his teacher had his own dark days, too, and he hoped to one day be able to be there for him in the same way.
He truly was impressive, his Sensei, in every part of the word. It wasn't just his indomitable spirit, his humility, his belief in the good of all people... he was also tenacious and once he had decided on something, he stuck to it, forever true to his word. His training routine was an excellent example - he had worked so hard, and it had been difficult, but he had continued on with it relentlessly and that had paid off.
Truly, it had paid off! Genos had seen his Sensei without clothes enough times to be absolutely certain of that. Saitama-sensei's body was lean and fit, with defined muscles yet not so bulky that it hindered his speed or agility in or outside of battle. It was a shame that he never got the chance to investigate that body in a more, ah, hands-on approach. To feel those muscles for himself. Purely for research, of course, just to make sure his assessments were correct, to verify whether that stomach was as soft as it looked, to feel the strength of those thick thighs as he ran his hands down them and lowered his head...
He looked up, blinking, suddenly back in the present.
"They say you can read your future or see messages or whatever in tea leaves. What do you think about that, science guy?"
Genos scoffed lightly. "That sounds like superstition and classic pareidolia, Sensei."
"The human tendency to interpret meaningful or familiar patterns in random data where no such patterns exist."
"We tend to see messages even where there aren't any."
They both went quiet again for a bit, finishing off the last of their tea. The music had switched to a surprisingly raunchy song for a stroll-at-noon in a respectable A-city mall.
"I think my message is a duck! See?" Saitama leaned forward to show his cup. If you looked very, very carefully, you could maybe possibly make out what looked like a lopsided beak on an elongated blob.
"Maybe it's telling us we should go to the park and feed the ducks, yeah? It's been a while."
"The koi monster ate all the ducks, remember Sensei?"
"Oh, yeah. That's a shame. I guess we could go and feed the koi instead. Hey, what do your tea leaves say?"
Expecting to see some equally mundane imaginary animal or object at the bottom of his cup, Genos dutifully drank the last of his tea and looked down.
Before his mind even finished registering what he was seeing, his cooling fans were already spinning into frantic overdrive, trying desperately to calm his pulsing core. What... what was this..?
"You okay? It's not a picture of the koi monster is it? Because that'd be a freaky coincidence!"
It was not the koi monster. It was not an animal at all, which unfortunately didn't make things better in this case.
Genos swallowed deeply, mouth suddenly dry, too occupied with his own thoughts to even notice the steam that was rising steadily to the ceiling.
Pareidolia is a well-documented phenomena. The human brain is wired to see messages, patterns and human faces. Even something like two circles and a line is enough for us to recognize it as eyes and a mouth. Genos knew this, knew it was an illusion that could be broken if you were aware of the concept.
So how in the world did the remains of his tea leaves, perfectly normal tea leaves, very much untouched remains randomly swirling in the bottom of the cup, spell out - in perfect handwriting, mind you - 'succ his dicc'?
"Hey, what do yours show?" Saitama looked mildly concerned, perhaps not surprising given the other's shocked expression and audibly racing core. Even other people passing them by were shooting glances towards the steam collecting in the ceiling above, soon strengthening to become its own little indoor ecosystem.
"Genos! Hey, dude? You're looking really hot!"
"What?" Genos replied weakly, looking up. Perhaps no other words would have gotten his attention right then. His very traitorous mind had unfortunately, courtesy of some cursed tea leaves, been going down a mental path which it admittedly had gone down before. Mere minutes ago, in fact. Not that he'd ever, ever admit that out loud. So how did these leaves...
"You look hot as hell!"
Genos stared at him.
"No, man, seriously. Are you overheating?"
The staring continued.
"Let me get us some more tea!" With a huff and a worried glance shot in the direction of his virtually glowing companion, Saitama fetched them each a new cup, hoping it would help him calm down from... whatever he was doing.
He kept his gaze at the other (and his never-ending supply of steam), drinking his second round of excellent, award-winning Alpha Mall tea with a concerned look at the other.
Not nearly as concerned as the look Genos was giving his tea, though.
He couldn't help himself, downing the steaming liquid as quickly as he could, thanking his cyborg body and its ability to easily withstand near boiling temperatures (even if it was in fact struggling to not overheat right now, courtesy of his own sinful thoughts). He just needed to verify that the first cup was a very weird fluke, that it was his mind supplying that... suggestion - for some reason - this second cup would prove that, once he saw the tea leaves they would be randomly scattered. No doubt about it. Maybe vaguely shaped like a duck. At most.
With glowing eyes, he peered into the cup as soon as he'd drank the last of his drink, feeling both hopeful and terrified. Not paying any attention to the passionate music blaring through the mall speakers about buying flowers for the special one in your heart, or indeed anything else going on around him.
"Genos?" Saitama asked once more, holding his own cup, still half full, in a far too calm manner for the blond's liking. Genos paid him no mind though, he was far too busy overheating.
Inside his cup, in as unmistakeably perfect writing as the cup before it, it read 'you know you wanna'.
Neither of them had ever seen Demon Cyborg get up so fast to leave a place, not even while in battle. If the smoke - not just steam any more, honest to god black smoke - was any indication, they had indeed done quite a good job at 'frying that toaster'.
"You're crazy!" Fubuki had hissed, scandalized at her sister's crudeness of her little "suggestion" to the cyborg.
"Oh come on! They didn't even notice you changing all the music! For idiots as dense as these two, you need to put it plainly before them!"
"Too bad the roomba chickened out."
"Next time, let me handle it from the start. I have an idea..."
For the record, the raunchy song at the mall was Closer by Nine Inch Nails.
There's also a drawing that could be said to go with this chapter, which was drawn before this was all written down. Enjoy: http://rayadraws.tumblr.com/post/157434387321/more-late-night-ramblings-with-kazhiru-xd-hc-that
Next time: ft. purple cat umbrella.
"Do you know what this is all about?"
"What, all the dating adverts boss Fubuki has us working on?"
"No idea, man. I mean, Valentines day is months and months ahead. And why are we plastering the posters all over City Z, on top of that? Isn't that basically a ghost town?"
"Beats me. She has her reasons, I guess. I'm sure she knows something we don't."
"I suppose so."
It was a rainy day. A very rainy day, and windy on top of that. Everything was dripping wet, large puddles forming in the cracks and on the uneven ground. Even the mutant crows had fled the premises to huddle together in one of the abandoned apartments. The only ones careless enough to be outside in these parts of City Z today appeared to be Caped Baldy and Demon Cyborg.
Not that they were too worried about the rain - even super powers aside - they had an umbrella. Or rather, Saitama did. He'd gotten it on a clearance sale not long ago and he'd been eager to try it out as soon as he got the opportunity. And who wouldn't want to use their brand new umbrella, if it was huge and purple and covered in tiny cartoon cats? With purple cat ears on top, to boot?
It was even large enough to cover Genos by his side, an added bonus. His disciple had assured him that rainwater didn't bother him, but it just felt wrong to walk around all dry and watch his companion get soaked to the bone - er, metal. And besides, even if it didn't bother him personally, it still meant he'd drag a lot of water indoors with him once they got back home, and extra laundry on top of that.
So, shared cat umbrella it was.
For a completely new umbrella, it was surprisingly... non-functional, though. Or perhaps selectively functional was a more suitable term - not that that one made any more sense.
"What a day to wear white" Saitama muttered to himself. And indeed, his soaked t-shirt clung to him, revealing just about... everything. Every muscle was unfairly well defined under the dripping garment. Somehow an unsettling amount of water had found its way to his person, despite the protection of the umbrella. His face was still fairly dry, as was his lower legs. Quite strange.
"Do you think I can get my money back?" Saitama asked Genos in an exasperated tone, giving the umbrella a suspicious glare.
It took a little bit of time for Genos to reply. He seemed somewhat... occupied, though his eyes were squarely on Saitama, never leaving his body (his chest, specifically).
"I don't know, Sensei."
"Eh, whatever. I guess we'll dry up once we get home. At least we'll look stylish under this umbrella until then, right? Even if all this water is making me feel kind of chilly..."
He twirled the umbrella around in his hand, making the (surprisingly few) raindrops that it had managed to catch cascade down around them with a cheerful pitter-patter.
Genos looked little better - his shirt might have been black rather than white, but it stuck to him just the same as it did his mentor, wet and clingy. It did a very good job at defining his bodyshape, actually - how broad his chest and shoulders were and how slim his waist was, further accentuated by his tight jeans and tall boots. All in all, it was definitely not a bad sig-
"Sensei, if you're feeling cold, please allow me to heat you."
"Hm?" Saitama was pulled from his own thoughts and blinked at the other. He looked hopeful, had he asked him something? Was this about that upcoming sale on canned sardines again?
He stood rock still as the other approached, suddenly looking a lot less confident than he usually did, though there was an... interesting glint in his eyes. The rainwater must have reflected the glow of them, or something.
Slowly, as if he was approaching a feeal animal, Genos lifted his hands, palms out and fingers spread wide, to about chest height. He took a step closer and Saitama could hear the low whirr as his core increased its output, could see the faint glow between his finger joints. Ah, so that's what he had in mind.
Without a word, he watched the other bring his arms closer to his sensei's body, stopping about a hand's width away from making actual physical contact. It was close enough that he could still feel the heat from those metal palms; a blessing in the cold rain. He sighed in contentment as the heat slowly spread through his body, almost forgetting about the rain, all courtesy of the incinerators set at their lowest setting - enough to warm him without burning.
Forgetting the rain was one thing. The one standing face to face to him was another matter entirely. Trusty helpful Genos, always there in his times of need, whether it was splitting up to make the most of a sale, decrypting the high-brow lingo of the fancy HA letters he was sometimes sent or... well, like now, helping him feel better. He did that, a lot, no matter the circumstances, no matter his own mood. and Saitama really appreciated that.
He gave the blond a fond smile and a thumb up to show his appreciation, watching the other give a small smile back in return.
The rain was truly all but forgotten now - though they were still pretty wet, the heat between them - literal and metaphorical - kept their focus solely on each other. Had one seen them from some distance away, they would have noticed the steam rising from under the purple cat umbrella.
"You're quite handy, Genos!" Saitama said after a moment of silence, gesturing to his glowing palms.
"Thank you, Sensei" Genos said quietly, the pun flying above his head. His voice sounded different than usual. It sounded kind of... husky.
Saitama met his eyes. They were so unique, so... Genos. Dark and mysterious like he was, but also at times bright and, mote rarely, cheerful, even playful, hinting at the young man residing somewhere inside that soul. He'd never met anyone with eyes like Genos', whether they belonged to a cyborg or someone who was... fleshy.
Really, just how deep were those eyes? Did they always glow like this and he just never noticed it until now..?
Without even realizing he was doing it, Saitama took half a step closer to the other. They were so close to each other now. Really, any closer now and they'd touch the other simply from being so near each other.
"Hey, Genos?" Saitama asked, in a low voice, an odd feeling in his stomach.
"Let's go home and fry some fish sticks."
Out of nowhere, a breeze fluttered through the street, cold and unforgiving. Saitama huddled down in its wake, suddenly cold and wet and completely back in the normal world again.
"Ugh, such awful weather huh?" he muttered.
With a shake to his head, Genos seemed to be back in the regular world, too. He lowered his hands (when had they moved to be so dangerously close to Saitama-sensei's waist?) and turned off his incinerators.
Just as they turned, they heard what sounded suspiciously like a shrill "oh damn it all" echoing through the streets. Yet another term picked up by the crows..? Though they hadn't seen any of them since the rain began. They weren't allowed much time to ponder it - suddenly another breeze hit them, only this time it was less of a breeze and more like a whirlwind suddenly blasting straight at them.
Genos crashed into Saitama, who, courtesy of just standing there, relaxed and without a care in the world, did nothing to soften his fall. Both of them lost their balance and were all but carried by the strong wind into one of countless abandoned alleys in City Z.
"Ooff" Saitama said eloquently a moment later as he tried to disentangle himself from his companion to survey his surroundings. A typical alleyway indeed, rather dark and gloomy. The only spot of colour was the bright pink poster of some sort on one of the walls - surprisingly recent-looking, compared to the rest of the garbage strewn about - well, that and the red graffiti on the wall, spelling out "open your eyes dipshits". Teenage hoodlums and their antics.
With a groan, Genos opened his eyes. His body had not yet fully recalibrated his balance after the sudden and forceful relocation. They were mostly standing up, Saitama with his back pressed against the wall and Genos leaning against him, one hand against the wall for support and the other firmly pressed against Sensei's... crotch.
With a strangled gasp, he ripped his hand away, holding it firmly against his chest with his other hand as if trying to hide it after it had performed such an evil misdeed.
"Please accept my humblest apologies, Sensei!" he all but shouted, unable to meet the other's gaze.
"What for?" Saitama asked him, sounding surprisingly... not-angry. In fact, he sounded completely normal, almost bored. "It was just the wind, dude. Weird wind, though."
"A lot of stuff has been a bit weird lately, hasn't it?" Saitama furrowed his brow, contemplating.
"Like, some weird stuff you can't really explain."
Genos thought back to the tea leaves with a shudder. "Yes."
With a shrug, Saitama collected his umbrella off the ground - sadly it was pretty sorry-looking now after their little airborne trip - doing his best to hold it over both their heads as they continued on their way back home. The fish sticks were waiting for them.
"Ah, there you are, my boy! It's nice to hear from you. Are things well?"
"Yes. We are in good health. May I ask why the sudden call? Not that I mind... it's just not something I would normally expect from you so out of the blue."
"Well, to be frank, I reviewed your recent logs and I admit I am slightly concerned for you - while I have not received any distress signals from your body recently, I can tell that you have been close to overheating on several recent occasions, in particular an incident from a couple of weeks ago stands out, though it's not the only one. Your core's output has been unusually uneven over the course of the last month or so and your testosterone production has likewise been off the charts. Is there a problem I should know about?"
"...nothing I can explain..."
"Spit it out Genos, you know you can talk to me. Don't worry, I won't be mad."
"Well, doctor... Saitama-sensei has a hunch. I would not normally consider such a ridiculous notion, but it comes from directly from him and I know his wisdom is great; furthermore I cannot dispute that I too have noticed some worrisome signs that I have not found a satisfactory explanation for... I cannot in good conscience reject his theory at this time."
"And what is your teacher telling you?"
"He thinks we're under a curse."
They're on to you, sisters! Or maybe not.
Next time: tactically ripped outfits
Chapter 6: Good thing it's Summer
Not a very long chapter... but we're close to the finale now! >:o
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Another day, another monster. This particular one had been shaped like some kind of over-sized lion with a goat's head on its back and a snake for a tail. Genos had called it a... what was it? Chimera or something? Whatever it was, it seemed a rather counter productive design, seeing as the three heads spent a fair amount of time going after each other rather than the heroes. Still, it was big, it was destructive, it had to be dealt with.
The monster had begun its reign of destruction at the outskirts of City Z, so it was only natural that Genos had been called in to deal with it, being the closest hero assumed strong enough to deal with such a threat. At least in the Hero Association's opinion, not including Caped Baldy in their calculations.
Which didn't mean that he hadn't tagged along, though. There wasn't really anything better to do and besides, they were low on cabbage. Might as well make the trip afterwards to the super market and see if they could get some more for the night's dinner - you could never have too much cabbage, after all.
They had spent some time staring at the monster as it chased its own heads around with roars and bleats and hisses, bricks and asphalt flying around them as it ran into buildings, knocking down lamp posts and tearing into the roads. Such unnecessary destruction. What was even the point? Who designed these things?!
Genos had used his incinerators at the monster though that didn't work out quite as hoped when the Chimera simply hunkered down until the end of the attack before opening the lion's mouth and unleashing a bright flame of its own. So much for that, then. Apparently this strange monster was fire type too.
They attempted to circle the Chimera, though the triple heads allowed it to constantly survey their positions and move around accordingly, always keeping at least one vicious head snarling at each the heroes. Large claws clattered against the ground as it swatted after them, the serpent fangs of the tail glistening in the sun alongside huffs of smoke from the lion's nostrils. Dust and dirt rose around them as they stalked it, making it even harder to even see the damn thing.
"Enough of this" Saitama eventually sighed, growing tired of this game of cat and mouse (where the cat was, interestingly enough, the mouse for once). No point in dragging it out any more - he wasn't worried about the Chimera itself, but he would have liked to avoid the sharp claws. Both of them tore up their clothes often enough already and he really liked this shirt.
Apparently, it couldn't be helped, because when the dust settled after a well-aimed punch and the lion-goat-snake went down in a fiery explosion of guts and blood and fur, they both finally noticed just how torn their clothes were after the fight. Both heroes sported cuts and tears all over - though fortunately they seemed concentrated to their clothing specifically. Despite the numerous tears in the fabrics, they hadn't received any cuts to their skin or armour. Always something.
Saitama turned around with a frown, pulling at his shirt to inspect the damage done. He hadn't worn his hero suit today; this was supposed to be a quick little affair so it had seemed unnecessary. Granted he did own several copies of the OPPAI-line of shirts (never waste a good sale) but still, it did bother him a little bit to see this shirt torn up - it was such a comfortable one.
Right across his chest, right across the described OPPAIs in fact, there was a large rectangular gash. It was placed with almost surgical precision to offer a tentalizing view of his well-muscled chest as the fabric flapped in the breeze.
"Hey, Genos?" he said, turning to his hero companion and room mate and closest person in the world in general.
"Look, it's an oppai window!"
He snorted at his own ridiculous look. If he had to tear a shirt to reveal his chest, at least it had been an oddly fitting shirt to wear. Oppais indeed.
Genos did notice the oppai window. Noticed it very much, in fact. He looked at his teacher with wide eyes, swallowing dryly. To think such a tiny gap could have such a large impact...
"I'll have to go home and get changed, I guess, before we can go to any store" Saitama sighed before twisting the flap in his fingers again.
"I see." Genos repeated, not currently in a state of mind to come up with new eloquent sentences. He only nodded, still giving the other a very much appreciative look. Might have noticed the thin wisps of steam rising from his shoulders, but that was such a common occurrence these days that he barely paid it any attention any more, it seemed to simply have become a near constant part of him whether he liked it or not. Truly, like his teacher he was more and more convinced that something very strange was going on.
Well, it was time to get going. They had cabbage to buy.
An oppai window was tempting, but evidently it was not tempting enough (as two particular exasperated sisters had realized). Time to step up the game.
Saitama barely paid attention to most monsters he fought; usually they were simply too weak and uninteresting to bother. He did have a vague memory of some sort of weird cat-thing (always felt a bit wrong to attack anything resembling a feline, but this one had been quite nasty, hadn't it?) that had recently torn one of his favourite old ratty sweatshirts, which is why he was now looking down at today's outfit with a concerned look. Could this too be...
"I don't get it. It's like they just don't make clothes to last like they used to. Though I guess we have been a lot of monster fighting recently..."
He didn't get a reply from the other. He was too busy staring. Saitama continued. "It's like something straight out of one of my old mangas from my teenage years. Except neither of us are busty teenage girls, heh."
He wasn't that far off from the truth, really. Both heroes sported what could only be described as tactical fabric ripping, revealing quite a bit more thigh and chest than either of them were used to sporting in public. In all fairness, it was not a bad sight. It wasn't nearly as dusty today as during the last fight, in fact the sun shone with a vengeance and the breeze felt quite nice on the bared skin, already a little damp from the sweat, and the glistening metal glinted in the rays.
"It's weird, though" Saitama continued, giving the other a concerned and maybe slightly flustered look. "I mean, that it tore up your pants that much when I only remember it slashing at your arms. I never really noticed how... uh, ni- um... long your legs are before?"
Genos stared down at himself, at the exposed grey metal and matte black synthetic skin. What was once a pair of designer brand tight jeans had been turned into something more resembling a pair of torn short shorts. Very short short shorts. Shorts that were short even for underwear, truth be told.
"Your fans would die if they saw you like this!" Saitama continued, earning him a twitching black eye in response. "But yeah, it's weird. This only strengthens my theory, to be honest..."
"...that... theory, Sensei?"
"Yep, that one. This is definitely part of the curse. Whoever put this on us must want us to lose money!"
"Yeah, it all makes sense. I just wonder who, and why. I don't think a monster could do something like this. Could it be one of the haters, do you think? Or maybe some dirtbag at the HA? Has it out for us?"
"I am not sure, Saitama-sensei, but rest assured I will get to the bottom of this. I will find out who is behind all of this!"
As they turned to walk back home, Saitama had to do a double take. He was pretty sure that his eyes were playing tricks on him, because somehow, the tears on Genos' back seemed to spell - in eeringly perfect writing - 'do me'.
"No, my boy, I have not uncovered any reliable information on, well, curses. I know that you... that you consider his wisdom great. But I think you might be on the wrong track this time. Yes, yes, alright, I understand. Take it easy, Genos, I trust your judgment. I will continue to look."
"Ah, no, unfortunately not. Have you found any leads, Sensei?"
"Not really. But I figured out who we should talk to!"
Genos perked up. Finally, some good news. He'd been through a lot of stress in the last four years, but lately it had been... extreme. And it had turned out to be frustratingly difficult to find out even the slightesr clue for what they should do next. "Who?"
"Well, I figured if anyone knows anything about curses and spirits and that kind of stuff, it'd be Fubuki and that little green-haired girl, right? Isn't that sort of... a little bit... the type of stuff they deal with?"
Saitama was clearly very pleased with this deduction. He sat up a bit straighter, the expression in his eyes sharp and bright. It was a rare look and Genos always treasured when he managed to catch a glimpse of it.
"That big all-ranks-included meeting is coming up pretty soon, right Genos?"
"Yes. Tomorrow at noon, Sensei."
"Oh, that soon? Well, that's perfect, then. Tomorrow we'll corner 'em after the meeting an ask them everything they know. We'll find a way to put an end to this curse!"
Chapter 7: Solution
Well, here we are, the final chapter! Maybe the wise thing as an author would have been to drag this out a bit more since I just updated it the other day, but thanks to the ever fantastic OPM discord chat I have a new project to tackle so I wanted to finish this one as quick as possible. Enjoy!!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
They would never admit it out loud - to each other or to anyone else - but Tatsumaki and Fubuki were just a little bit nervous.
It had started as a regular meeting. Well, that was not exactly the truth. It had started as a mostly regular meeting, one of those very large ones involving almost all heroes that cared to show up, and it had started with two half-excited and half-annoyed esper sisters planning yet another atta- er, chance to help, two certain heroes. Things had unfortunately not gone quite as planned. On one hand, it did seem that their hard work in the last weeks had given some sort of result - the two were more awkward around each other than ever before, even without any help from their self-proclaimed matchmakers. There were many exchanged glances, flushed cheeks and steaming vents, even just from sitting next to each other now. It seemed they didn't even dare touch the other any more without risking... whatever they thought were going to happen if they did.
For all that, though, there was something different in the air. And it was directed straight at said sisters. Both Caped Baldy and Demon Cyborg would send them occasional calculating glances (literally glowing glares, in Genos' case) throughout the entire meeting and it was quite unnerving. Were they on to them?! Surely not, but it definitely looked like it...
During a bathroom break, they could see the duo trying to make their way through the throng of heroes to approach them. Without further ado, both sisters fled into the bathroom to recoup.
"What do we do?" Fubuki hissed angrily, gripping the sink tightly.
"Deny everything, obviously!" came the equally frustrated response. "They have no evidence! Just keep your trap shut!"
Glares and a nod (and a muttered "eff you") were exchanged. At the end of the break they walked, as nonchalantly as they could manage, back to the meeting room to take their spots again.
They didn't dare try anything on the boys at that point - not that they needed to. Saitama in particular was still glancing around suspiciously at nothing, as if he was looking for something he couldn't see. There truly was no denying it, then. But how in the world had they figured it all out?! Granted, the sisters had occasionally been unable to avoid talking or, well, even shouting at them to voice their exasperation... but they were both so thick-headed, they still hadn't even realized how they felt about each other even with all their little suggestions, how could they have realized who was behind their little scheme?! Could the dumb robot scan their outputs or something..? But if so, why hadn't he said anything about it until now?
The meeting couldn't be over fast enough. They were too nervous to even pretend to listen to what was being said and waiting impatiently for the clock to hit 16:00. Finally - freedom!
Hoping to flee without too much notice, hidden among other heroes - preferably big and bulky ones, excellent for hiding petite espers - Fubuki's and Tatsumaki's escape was unfortunately cut short when they found their passage blocked by a certain combat cyborg, crossed arms glowing as if he was ready for a fight. Which frankly he might well have been. The bald one came up behind them, looking less aggressive than his companion, though there was a serious glint to his eyes that they were not used to seeing.
"Come with us!" Saitama ushered in a loud whisper, still glancing around himself, eyes shifting from side to side, still searching for something invisible.
Sensing their defeat (and potential doom) the two sisters followed with slumped shoulders. Tatsumaki considered the merits of throwing Genos aside (or better yet, into the baldy) but deep inside she felt that it was hopeless. If not dealt with now, they would only go for her again the next time. And besides, who knew what stupid stuff her little sister would spout if she wasn't there to stop her. Better grab this bull by the horns and get it over with, as much as it pained her. She was certain she could get out of it physically unharmed, but she did not look forward to the shouting match she was certain was coming up.
They found a small side room, barely more than a broom closet, though it did sport a small table and a few chairs. Fubuki sat down elegantly, smoothing her dress and putting on her best mask of innocence and indifference. Tatsumaki preferred to sit comfortably in the air, held up by her own powers. It might have been a bad idea to remind the others of them right then, but she had no desire to sit and look up at them as they chewed them out.
Genos remained standing near the door like a guard dog, arms still glowing, but Saitama sat down on the remaining chair, clasping his hands together in his lap. "So" he began, clearing his throat, eyes focused on the espers.
Both sisters could feel their hearts pounding. The blond idiot seemed far too aware of that fact, too, they could see his eyes sparkling and was that the hints of a smirk on his stupid pretty boy-face? Stupid cyborgs with their stupid scanners.
"I don't even know where to start" Saitama continued, scratching the back of his neck. "What's going on here?"
"What are you talking about?" Tatsumaki replied quickly, voice an octave higher than usual. Not because she was nervous. She totally wasn't nervous. Not even one little bit.
"You should know" Genos all but growled, scowling deeply. "...Shouldn't you?" he added after a moment's hesitation, suddenly sounding less certain.
"Know what, sweetie?" Fubuki tried. Perhaps this whole thing could be salvaged, still... Granted Demon Cyborg had never seemed to respond to her - or anyone's - flirtations before, it was well known he only had eyes for the bald one, but still, maybe if they could lower his guard a bit...
...Her thoughts were interrupted as Saitama continued.
"Things have been, um, a bit weird lately. We've tried to look into every possible reason for this... And finally, we found it!"
"Oh" the sisters replied together, exchanging glances. This was it. Time to die.
"I think... well, we think, really, that someone might have put a curse on us. Can you help us?"
Tatsumaki and Fubuki stared, which seemed to encourage Saitama to ramble on, perhaps mistaking their shocked surprise for interest.
"I mean... I don't know anything about curses. But something is definitely going on. Someone wants us to lose money by destroying our clothes and Genos has needed so many fan replacements lately... And um, other things have happened too. A curse makes perfect sense to me. Someone has it out for us, maybe a monster did it or something? Anyway, we figured out of all people, you would be the most qualified to deal with it. I'm sure you guys can like... see auras or whatever, right?"
"What's an aura got to do with curses?" Tatsumaki muttered.
"I don't know!" came the exasperated reply. "But seriously, can you help us?"
The sisters sent each other a long glance. Apparently, the gig was not up just yet. What a perfect opportunity.
"Well" Fubuki began, quickly finding herself and voice all business once more. "Curses can be dealt with, but it's not going to be easy. First of all, are you absolutely certain that this is a curse you are dealing with?"
Genos and Saitama sent each other a long glance, followed by a shared slow nod. Damn, even the robot was convinced? That was a good sign and a damn lucky one too.
"Well" Fubuki said again, back to normal B-rank leader confidence, all other feelings hidden under a well-practiced mask. This she could work with. "There are many different type of curses, you know. You're going to have to give us a bit more to work with. Ripped clothes, you say...? What else?"
"There have been... suggestive... messages" Genos muttered with a barely concealed shudder, recalling both the hearts and the very unnerving tea leaves.
"My umbrella got destroyed!" Saitama added, recalling the unfortunate money loss.
"And weird shouts in the wind..."
Silence followed the last comment. Tatsumaki and Fubuki made a dramatic show of thinking over their words, as if deep in thought. "That's it?" the older sister asked.
"Well, that's what I noticed, anyway" Saitama replied, earning him a low sigh from both sisters. That's all they had noticed out of everything they'd done? Dumbasses.
"Okay. Okay, so that's something to work with, anyway" Fubuki assured them, voice dripping honey. She leaned forward, index finger to her chin and blinking slowly as if deep in thought. "You realize what type of curse this is, don't you, Tatsumaki?"
The male heroes stared at them, hanging on to every word, trusting their judgement. Finally, they would have a solution for their little... situation.
"Indeed. Now, as I said, there are many different types of curses and each can only be broken by a particular method, tailored to that exact type. Otherwise it won't work. It's not going to easy, you know? Are you ready to hear the truth?"
"Yes" the duo breathed together, hanging on to her every word.
"You're going to have to trust us on this" Tatsumaki chimed in, earning her a nod from the enthralled duo.
"Okay. So. The curse you're describing is caused by an exceedingly powerful being, a very beautiful and cunning and lovely being, and it is a curse that can only be broken by one thing..." Fubuki purred.
"And what's that?!" Genos all but shouted, getting impatient with how Blizzard of Hell was dragging this out. Why couldn't the damn esper just spill it out, why did it always have to be so melodramatic?!
After a long glare - how dare he shout at a lady - Fubuki continued with a deep sigh in her regular tone of voice. "The only way to break this type of curse is with a kiss."
Complete silence from the heroes. You could hear the foot steps of someone walking on the floor level above them. Could hear Genos' fans spinning, the rustle of their clothes as they shifted their postures.
"What?" Genos finally said after several long seconds.
"We have to... kiss?" Saitama followed in a tone of disbelief.
"Yes" Fubuki said with a pleased grin, clasping her hands together. She had this one in the bag, she knew it. Their dumb stares told her as much.
"We both have to kiss... you?" Saitama's voice was full of disbelief.
"Each other, idiots!" Fubuki almost lost her composure completely. Almost. She managed to reel herself in at the last second, though she could feel her heart pounding. These thickheaded, idiot-
"Hum" Saitama said now, sending his companion a calculating glance, one eyebrow raised. Both sisters could clearly see how flustered he was getting by now. Any more and there'd be sweat running down his forehead. In rivers. "And you think that would fix things..?"
"It absolutely would" Fubuki assured him, leaning forward to put a hand on his shoulder. "I know this is difficult to take in, but this is very serious business. If you don't deal with this soon, the curse will only continue to grow stronger and make it even more difficult to get rid of. Curses are no laughing matter!"
"I guess... if it would help..." Genos swallowed. This made no sense to him. But in a world of monsters and other mysterious beings, there was a lot of things that didn't make much sense. "You are certain this would break the curse?"
"Well, if you want to be sure, you could just suck his dick, tin can" Tatsumaki suddenly chimed in, elegantly lowering herself to the floor to look up at them.
"Excuse you?!" Saitama exclaimed. Definitely sweating rivers now.
"Hey!" Tatsumaki pointed a finger at him, glaring daggers. "I'm just trying to help! The more mouth you use, the stronger the curse relief! All espers know this, you can ask anyone!"
"Truly?" Genos asked. He couldn't flush red but if the steam was any indication (and it was) he was as worked up as his room mate by now, if not more so. "I mean, if it would break the curse..." he shot Saitama a look that was rather... hopeful.
"I know it's a lot to take in" Fubuki assured them, tone full of pity. "But really, you can trust us on this! After all, we're experts on curses, right?"
She then stood, smoothed her dress out again and together with her older sister they made it for the door. Genos didn't have it in him to try to stop them, he just stared. At Saitama. Who stared back. You could have heard a pin drop to the floor.
"We'll leave you to it, then! Let us know how it, um, goes, alright?"
Two shallow nods. Neither of them could find it in themselves to do more than that. They were still staring at each other.
"Good luck!" both sisters said in unison as they closed the door behind them. Quite handy with these little rooms spread out here and there in the Hero Association building, really. Perfect if you needed a little bit of privacy.
They didn't follow Caped Baldy and Demon Cyborg after that. They figured it wasn't needed. They weren't even seen in public for the next couple of weeks anyway, so it's not like they'd had the chance to really do anything even if they wanted to. In fact, things were oddly quiet from the two heroes. They didn't even visit two big sales in one of their favourite supermarkets (that the esper girls happened to be in the nearby cafeteria that offered an excellent view right when the sales took place was just a big coincidence, of course).
For a while, they almost began to worry that the two had fled the city or something in their attempts to rid themselves of the "curse". But no, after inquiring about their hero records, it was shown they still lived on the same address. They were just... very quiet. Or perhaps very busy. Maybe both.
It wasn't until almost a month after their little talk that the sisters finally caught the duo again, walking down the street.
Hand in hand.
"Hello boys!" Fubuki called sweetly, giving them a bright innocent smile as they stopped to regard her. Their fingers remained intertwined as they stopped. "How is the curse coming along?"
"Oh, that thing" Saitama said, looking calmer than either of them had seen him in a long time. "Oh yeah, we took care of that."
"Did you!" the esper said encouragingly. "Do tell! Did the kiss help?"
"Um. Well, I'm not sure which part of it did the trick, to be honest, or which time..."
"We... wanted to make absolutely sure" Genos added helpfully, shooting the other a quick glance. His fans were spinning again, yet he looked more at ease than they had seen him in a long, long time. Far less pent up frustration these days, perhaps.
"Yeah... yeah, we did. Gotta get rid of it for sure, you know? So we um, followed all your suggestions. As well as a few more we thought up, just in case it might help. You said more mouth means more curse relief, so..."
"Indeed" Tatsumaki assured them with a nod. "You did the right thing."
"So yeah, that took care of that, I guess" Saitama continued, rubbing his neck with his free hand. "And we um..."
"Got together in the process?" Fubuki suggested.
"That's good to hear. Congratulations, boys!"
"Yeah, I mean, who saw that one happening, right?" Saitama laughed. The sisters chose not to comment on that.
On one hand, not everyone is a fan of public affection. Some heroes might roll their or squirm in their seats whenever Caped Baldy and Demon Cyborg would sidle unnecessary close, holding hands, giggling together and exchanging quick pecks during every damn meeting. Not to mention running to the bathroom during the breaks, returning with flushed cheeks and messy hair respectively. If anyone dared ask about it, the only response they would typically get was something about "avoiding curses, just in case". Whatever. When all was said and done, it was at least far less annoying to deal with than their previous state - the extremely obvious flusters and exchanged looks and the fidgeting and the... steam... That had been a pain in the butt for everyone in the vicinity.
This was tons better, really.
The sisters could pat themselves on the back for this one. Finally, it was mission accomplished - and all it took was a simple little curse.
WELL, there you have it. Thank you SO much for all the kudos and comments, many of which have had me snickering out loud while reading them. This was a lot of fun to write. I also especially want to thank Kazhiru again, without whom this definitely would never exist. You rock girl!