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Metal Bat was cutting class one fine spring morning when found some guys on the football team harassing some ugly looking junior out behind the athletic field. Kid was real punky lookin', had thick white hair that stuck out in 2 directions like a grandpa who'd stuck his finger in a light socket or something. Dressed weird, too, had these shoes that looked like he should've been arrested or at least suspended for wearing them, they were so ugly. But, no matter. Badd had never liked those assholes on the football team who thought that football was cooler than baseball now and went around harassing people to prove it.

These fucks were about to seriously regret messing with someone on Badd's turf.

"Oi," Badd said loudly as he strode towards the five guys surrounding the white-haired kid. Two of them turned.

"Shit, it's Badd," he heard one of them say, and he resisted the urge to grin.

"What the hell do you think you're -" Badd began, but before he could finish the threat, the white-haired kid had decked the guy standing next to him with what looked like some fancy schmancy martial arts stuff.

Holy shit. Well, these guys had probably already figured out why Badd was mad at them, and there was no way Badd was going to let this chance pass by. Too bad he didn't have his bat. As the white-haired kid ducked under the arm of the second football player, Badd let out a whoop of delight and punched the one in front of him in the stomach. While he was doubled over coughing, Badd pushed him in front of his angry-looking friend and both of them fell over. The second guy scrambled to his feet and aimed a blow at Badd's chin, which he dodged, then another one at his ribs, which Badd caught easily and helped the guy fall over again. From the sound of it, the white-haired kid was doing okay. Badd risked a glance over and saw that he had taken down one football player and was working on the other. When the one Badd was fighting got back to his feet, Badd jerked a finger over his shoulder and grinned.

"Might wanna reconsider that, buddy," he said.

The guy turned pale. "Yamase! Let's get out of here!" he said. The guy fighting the kid glanced over, saw three of his buddies on the ground - two laid out cold by the kid, one nursing the injuries Badd had given him - and looked real scared. The two of them grabbed their one conscious friend by the wrists, hauled him upright, and ran away. And Badd let them go.

"Heh heh heh." It was the white-haired kid, laughing down in his throat real low. He didn't look like a victim or somebody's grandpa anymore. Close up, his face wasn't so bad, neither. And what an arm. Badd knelt by the two guys on the ground just to make sure they were still breathing.

"Look at them run," the white-haired guy said. Badd straightened up and saw the three football players disappear through the wire fence at the other end of the field.

"Nice job, buddy," said Badd. "Say, what's yer name?"

The guy frowned. "Garou, and I'm not your friend. I didn't even need your help."

"Sure you didn't," Badd said easily, because it was probably true. "I'm a pretty good distraction though, ain't I?"

"There's no better distraction than the biggest cock in the school showing up," Garou said, and it took several moments for Badd to wrap his head around the combined fact, compliment, and insult Garou had just thrown at him. Oh, great, a smart ass.

"You watch your mouth," Badd said, not putting much growl into his voice. He'd be salty too if five guys had just been picking on him.

"Or what," said Garou, crossing his arms, "You'll try and beat me up too?"

That sounded like a challenge, but Badd had a policy against beating up people he'd already rescued. A policy he had just invented for this particular guy, but whatever. "Nah," Badd said, raising a hand in farewell. "See you around, man." Better give Garou some time to simmer down. So with that, Badd was gone.

Garou always sat in the back of the class, no matter the subject. If he had to subject himself to daily - well, more like every-other-daily, given how often Garou cut class - lectures on topics he didn't care about, at least he could do it without being forced to sit next to some malformed imbecile who wouldn't recognise a good kick if Garou hit them in the face with it. Being at the back of the room also meant being next to the door, which meant easy escape.

It also meant being the first person to see that Metal Bat had just walked in. Yeah, Garou knew who Metal Bat was. It was kinda hard to not know about him. He was all over the school, not to mention the news. All the girls loved him, all the guys wanted to be him, and all the monsters were afraid of him. Garou might just puke if he heard one more person mention Metal Bat, the glorious fucking S-rank hero.

The guy himself... was not so bad. At first Garou had thought Metal Bat was a douchebag, but that had been before he'd actually met the guy. Now... well, Garou still disliked the guy, but less than he disliked everybody else.

Didn't mean he actually wanted to talk to him, though. And now here he was, walking towards Garou like he had something to say to him. Garou put on a derisive sneer and waited for Metal Bat to speak.

"Hey, man. What's up?" MB said, like he was talking to anyone else, and Garou folded his arms. Didn't Metal Bat know he was talking to some guy that the entire school hated? Probably he didn't come to school often enough to know it. But Garou knew. And he also knew that guys like Metal Bat should not talk to guys like him.

When Garou didn't reply, MB shrugged. "Suit yourself, pal," he said. "Hey, listen. Can I sit back here with you?"

"No," said Garou. What the hell was Metal Bat thinking? Just glancing around the room, Garou could see at least three open seats next to other people who probably liked Metal Bat a hell of a lot more than Garou did.

"Don't be a dick," Metal Bat said evenly, and planted his ass in the empty chair beside Garou.

"What the hell," Garou said, sticking out his leg to stop Metal Bat from pushing his chair in.

"I said, don't be a dick," Metal Bat said, glancing at the door to make sure the teacher wasn't about to walk in. "I asked nicely."

"Why don't you go sit with-" (others of your kind) "-your adoring fans?" Garou said through gritted teeth, trying to get sufficient leverage to scoot Metal Bat backwards.

"Well what if I wanna sit with a friend, not a fan?" Metal Bat said, and Garou almost laughed.

"I'm not your friend, Bat," Garou said.

"The name's Badd, and suit yourself. I ain't moving," Metal Bat replied. "Hup!"

In a quick, smooth motion, he lifted the front legs of his chair, set them down in front of Garou's leg, then grabbed the edges of the desk and scooted forward until he was successfully sitting at the desk like he actually planned to stay there.

"You cocky-ass bastard," Garou hissed, having nearly lost his balance when Badd pulled the chair legs away from him. Now he was officially pissed. At this point he figured MB was either playing stupid or he just straight-up was a total idiot. And an asshole to boot. Did he think Garou was greatful to him for the other day or something? Did he just expect Garou to fall at his feet in awe and gratitude like all the other pathetic saps in this school? Garou was about to lay into him, when -

"Listen, buddy. I dunno if you noticed this, but I ain't in school a lot. When I am, I sit in the back here where yer sitting because I ain't real fond of kids I don't even know kissing my ass and acting like they give a shit about me. So really, yer the one who should be moving yer ass, kohai. But I ain't saying nothing. Ya gonna take my advice now?" Badd said all this with a scowl and then raised one eyebrow. Garou opened his mouth to snap back a retort, but... nothing came. Okay so maybe Badd had a point, even if he was being a real prick about making it. Garou closed his mouth and opened it again to tell Badd so, when the door of the classroom opened again. This time it actually was the teacher, so the whole class had to stand and bow before the lesson could get started.

For some reason, Garou felt the stupid need to apologise to Badd. Like that was ever going to happen. Instead, he looked over at him and hissed, "Fine."

Badd gave Garou a thumbs up, and that was the end of that.

Badd made it three more days in school before some monster attacked A-city and he was called away to kill it. After that first class, Garou stopped being such a whiny pissbaby about having to sit next to him. Their interactions consisted mostly of Garou attempting to use nothing but his eyes to communicate varying levels of annoyance and Badd going about his business as usual. Garou was a funny guy. Badd might've disliked him if he hadn't known that he had no friends. But Badd thought of himself as a pretty damn nice guy, so he was making what he considered was a heroic (ha ha) effort to put up with Garou. Seeing him wasn't exactly the highlight of Badd's day, but it did give him something to laugh about later.

Not that he was thinking about that right now. Garou hadn't been in school that morning, and Badd was heading into town to fight a monster. He was closing in on it now, a big, slimy, tentacled thing. Giant octopus? Badd didn't give a shit. All he cared about was taking down the fucker who thought he could wreck Badd's city. Giving a fierce war-whoop, Badd charged towards the monster, dodging tentacles, and slugged it as hard as he could across its gelatinous body. Suddenly, he was grabbed around the ankle by slimy tentacle, but he struck out with his bat and made contact with the tentacle with a satisfying smack. Nimbly dodging tentacles striking at him from left and right, Badd landed multiple hits on the monster’s ugly, jellylike arms, and ugly, jellylike face.

“Hey, watch out!” he heard a familiar voice call.

Shit! What was Garou doing here? In the moment that Badd paused to make sure that Garou wasn’t getting eaten, the monster grabbed Badd’s baseball bat and yanked, hard. The bat flew out of Badd’s grip, and he lost his balance and fell to the ground, rolling to avoid getting impaled on another tentacle.

“Give that back, you son of a bitch!” Badd shouted as he scrambled to his feet and dodged another flailing limb. Now disarmed, he had to go on the defensive, ducking and occasionally lashing out with his fists. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught a few glimpses of Garou, fighting the monster’s other four feet. Where was Badd’s bat? If Garou could distract the creature, maybe Badd could recover it.

Just as Badd reached a safe distance away from the flailing tentacles, Garou made a mighty leap into the air, snatching the bat from where it was being held aloft. With a powerful swing, he slammed the bat into a tentacle as he landed, then drew back his arm and threw the bat directly towards Badd. He reached up to grab his bat, then let out a war whoop and ran back into the fray. Soon the two of them were fighting back-to-back, dazing and confusing the monster by dividing its attention. Meanwhile, the monster fought back by picking up debris from the buildings around it, throwing them straight at Badd and Garou.

“Badd,” Garou called, nimbly dodging a flying cinderblock and kicking the monster in the face, “Throw me onto its head!”

“What?”

“I said, throw me!”

Before Badd could protest, Garou sprang towards him. Acting instinctively, Badd grabbed Garou and boosted him forward, sending him catapulting through the air. Garou struck out with both feet and landed directly on top of the gelatinous blob that was the monster’s head. For a moment, it was stunned. Garou put his hand through one of its eyes and pulled out part of its brain with its fist. All at once, it shuddered, and every tentacle hit the pavement with a wet-sounding slap.

"Woo-hoo!" Badd yelled, as Garou did an acrobatic fucking pirouette away from the fallen monster and onto the sidewalk beside him. “That was awesome!"

Garou said nothing, but he had this quiet, shit-eating grin on his face like he knew exactly how awesome he was. "Hey man, you got skills," Badd said, since he was feeling generous.

"I took a few lessons from a guy who's ranked higher than you," Garou said casually, coming to stand at Badd's side, presumably to survey the fallen monster better. It took Badd a few moments to figure out who Garou could be talking about.

"You mean Silver Fang?" he said. Garou nodded. "Huh. Looks like it paid off. I didn't even know the old geezer was running a dojo," Badd said. For some reason, this fairly harmless comment, like all fairly harmless comments, made Garou look real pissed.

"Have some respect," Garou growled. Respect? What was he talking about? Badd thought the old fossil was great.

Oh. "Ya can't deny the guy looks like a relic, but he sure does know his shit," Badd conceded, and Garou's hackles immediately went down. Badd couldn't help thinking how cute it was that Garou was getting pissed on his sensei's behalf, especially when his sensei was probably Badd's match in a fair fight. Ah, shit. Had Badd seriously just thought that Garou was cute? Oh, crap. Feeling slightly flustered, Badd nearly missed Garou's rejoinder.

"He could totally kick your ass, and I could to," Garou said, grinning wolfishly.

Giving one of the tentacles of the fallen monster a swift kick, Badd said, "Nuh-uh, ya could not. Him, maybe. You, no way, sparky."

"That's what you think," Garou sneered. Badd rolled his eyes.

"I'm an S-ranked hero, so suck on that," he retorted. Instantly, Garou's whole demeanour changed. Whereas before he had been calm, if caustic as ever, he now flew into a fury. Eyes flashing with rage so electric it made his pointy hair seem to stand on end, he snarled, "Well fuck you too, Bat." For a moment Badd thought Garou was actually going to punch him.

"What'd I say?" Badd said, raising the hand that wasn't holding the bat in a defensive gesture.

"Everyone fucking knows you're a big fucking hero, okay? You don't have to rub it other people's faces, you fucking poser," Garou spat. Badd still had no idea what was going on, but he could tell that Garou was upset, really upset, not just angry. Internally, he sighed, trying to keep his cool. No beating up people you've already rescued, he reminded himself, even as his fingers clenched around the handle of his bat. Or people who've rescued you, sorta.

"Ya got some kind of beef against heroes?" Badd growled. "Ya know what? Don't answer that. Listen, if yer so fuckin' jealous of all of us heroes and our heroin' perks, why don't you just become one?"

Badd hadn’t thought that Garou could get any more pissed off than he already was, but he did. His eyes weren’t just electric, they were wild. Badd drew back, startled. There was a menacing weight rolling from Garou in waves, as if his whole being were radiating his feelings. "I will never be a fucking hero," Garou snarled, his voice hot with anger. He slammed his fist against the monster carcass, sending a spray of blood over them both. Before Badd could react, Garou had turned and was walking away.

"Grow the fuck up!" Badd yelled after him. Garou flipped him the bird, but didn't turn around. And then he was gone.

Badd came to school, but he didn't come to class. Garou figured it was because he didn't have anywhere to sit. He couldn't sit next to the normal kids because he never did that. And he couldn't sit next to Garou, because they were pissed at each other. That fucking coward.

Garou himself would never admit it, but he was a little disappointed. He had come to school for the express purpose of seeing what Badd would do when he saw him, and Badd wouldn’t even face him. That fucking coward, Garou thought again. Badd's parting words rang in his mind, and he clenched his fist.

Grow the fuck up!

What did Badd think he knew about anything anyway? He didn't know Garou's life. It was none of his fucking business to judge Garou. He didn't know who Garou was. Garou had tried to scare him off since day one, had tried to warn him that Garou wasn't the kind of person who would fall over himself to be friends with a guy just because he was a big fucking hero. It was Badd's fault for not listening, for trying to be nice to Garou. Nobody was just nice to Garou.

So why did Garou feel like this shit was somehow his fault?

Grow the fuck up!

Garou knew what to do. He would go find Badd. He would find him, and explain to him exactly how little he knew. Maybe it would wake him up and stop him from being such an oblivious fuckwad, Garou didn't care. What mattered was that after, Badd would stop being pissy, accept they could never be friends, and move on with his life. And Garou had been wanting to spill his anger on someone for a long time now. It was perfect. Yes, he would punish Badd for trying to be all friendly and shit like he was cool, like he knew anything. He knew nothing. Nothing.

Garou slammed his fist down on the desk.

"In the back, what are you doing?" the teacher snapped. Well, Garou didn't really give a fuck.

"I was just leaving," Garou sneered, standing up. He had no books or papers with him; in fact, he barely had a pencil, so it was no trouble at all for him to just turn and sweep straight out of the classroom, the teacher's protests ringing behind him.

Garou knew where Badd would be. He'd be on the roof. How did Garou know it? Because everyone knew Badd liked to hide out there. The door to the roof was unlocked, which meant that someone had already passed by here, so his instinct was confirmed. Badd. Garou could practically smell him. He grinned savagely, and slammed the door open.

Badd's back had been to the door, but he whirled around in surprise when Garou emerged onto the roof. That gave Garou an endless amount of satisfaction.

"You fucking coward," Garou said loudly, advancing towards him. "Hiding up on this roof like a pansy. Are you afraid I'm gonna eat you?" He grinned wider, showing all his teeth.

Badd slammed the end of his bat into the roof, and Garou nearly lost his balance as the ground shook. "I came up here to get away from your bullshit," Badd snapped. "So why don't you fuck off and leave me the hell alone?"

Garou narrowed his eyes and approached, more cautiously this time, circling Badd like a shark.

"Would your momma like it if she knew you were cutting class?" Garou said, and Badd scowled, his knuckles white on the handle of the bat. He looked like he was about to burst open with rage, and Garou mentally dared him to just let loose. Garou would have him on the ground so fast he wouldn't be able to say "mother fucker."

"Yer real lucky," Badd said quietly, "That I got a policy against beatin up little shits like you."

Huh? That was news to Garou. And a really stupid idea, too, from the sound of it. Before Garou could tell Badd exactly how misguided he was, Badd said, "Look, just tell me what the fuck you want and we can get this shit over with."

Fine, fine. Garou smirked. "I take offense at being told to grow up. You don't know my fucking life," he said, cocking his head aggressively. Maybe if he tried hard enough, he could get Badd to break that stupid rule of his, and then they could have a real fight. Garou would love an excuse to put a few holes in the roof of this dungeon. But much to his surprise, Badd just went off instead.

"You take offense? That's fucking rich," Metal Bat snorted. "I've been busting my ass over here to be nice to you, and you take offense cuz you were treating me like shit and I told you to cut it out. I don't even feel bad that I don't give a fuck." Garou opened his mouth, but Badd just steamrollered right over him. "And maybe you wanna be some edgy weirdo who doesn't need any friends, but ya know what, pal? Ya could at least try to be civil. The rest of us do it all the damn time and it ain't even that hard. So I'm gonna tell you again what I already told you before. Grow up."

Garou stared, his thoughts completely derailed. He blurted out the first thing that came into his mind. "You think I owe you something? Cuz I don't owe you shit."

"If we were friends, like I thought, then you wouldn't owe me shit, cuz friends don't keep credit. But we ain't friends, are we, Garou?" Badd said, and Garou could see the challenge - and the hurt – on his face.

"You shouldn't have told me to be a hero," Garou said in a low voice.

"Oh? Why's that?" Badd said.

"Because if you say shit like that, I have a right to get mad," Garou said. Badd thunked the end of his bat against the roof again, but this time the ground didn’t move.

"Yeah, I shouldda never tried ta make you a friendly offer ta join me so we could fight together without you throwin a little bitchfit about how you ain't in the Hero Association," Badd agreed sarcastically. "My bad."

Garou felt anger swelling up inside him again. "Like you actually think there's a chance in hell I could ever be like you," he said, hands clenching.

"I haven't got a damn fucking clue what yer complaining about," Badd said. Garou paused.

Could it be true? Was Badd really so removed from reality that he had made that offer to Garou in good faith? Was he actually just that dense? Well, Garou would just have to spell it out for him then. With a jolt, Garou remembered that was why he had come here in the first place. He just hadn't expected to feel this confused about it.

Fine.

"We both know I'll never get into the Hero Association because I'm not a fucking hero," Garou explained, watching Badd's face for a sign of comprehension getting through that thick skull. "Some people are born heroes and some people aren't, and I'm one of those that wasn't." Nothing. Garou continued. "Don't tell me you don't see it! You can say 'Garou be a hero' all you want, and it's never gonna change what I am. I'm not a nice fucking person. I'm a bastard and you know it, so if you try to be nice to me you're just wasting your time."

Badd rolled his eyes. He actually rolled his eyes. Garou felt a pang of hurt shoot through him, but he ignored it. Metal Bat's disdain meant nothing to him. Nothing anybody thought meant anything to him.

"Ya are a bastard," Badd said, "But it ain't somethin yer born with. Being an asshole or not is something you chose all for yourself."

"What do you know?" Garou snarled. He felt incoherent with fury. "All my fucking life people have been telling me I'm an asshole, and now you wanna come along and tell me it's my choice? Do you think I like being a monster? Fuck you!"

With that, he turned and stomped towards the exit.

"Garou! Wait!" Badd called. For a split second Garou paused, and immediately hated himself for it. In that split second, Badd physically interposed himself between Garou and the door.

"Go away," Garou said through tightly clenched teeth. When Badd didn't move, Garou lunged towards him and grabbed his forearm, intending to flip Badd over his hip and leave him in the dust behind him. But Badd hooked one foot around Garou's ankle and grabbed his other arm, effectively locking them together in a stalemate. The bat clattered to the ground.

"Garou, you're not a monster," Badd said. Both of their bodies were tense as Garou struggled to free himself from Badd's strong grip.

"You just agreed that I am a bastard," Garou growled. He let go of Badd's arm and grabbed the front of his shirt, knowing it would make him vulnerable, but too angry to care.

"No, I agreed you were acting like one," Badd said, like there was a difference. "Listen, people can say whatever they want about you, but that doesn't make 'em right."

"Oh what do you know," Garou said, wiggling his hip to try and force Badd to untangle their legs. Badd stood solid as a rock, and Garou refused to break eye contact, glaring directly into Badd's frustrated face.

"First off, I fight monsters every damn week, and you don't look like any of them to me," Badd said. "Second off, ain't you never heard that the first rule a bein shit talked is ya can't believe any of it yerself?"

"Where'd you get that one? Off a greeting card?" Garou said, roughly jerking on Badd's shirt. Badd's grip on his forearm was so strong his hand was starting to go numb. "Let me go, you big fuck."

"If I believed half the stuff people used to say about me, I'd be living in a trash can," Badd said. To Garou's surprise, he did let go, stepping away from Garou and standing tense and wary in front of the open doorway. Garou laughed.

"You, the great S-class hero, getting shit talked? What'd they say? They want to lick your boots and have your babies but you're just too cool for them?"

Badd twitched. For a moment, Garou thought Badd was about to hit him. Instead, he went off again. "Maybe you haven't heard about it from some asshole at our school yet, but I'm gay. I'm gay, okay? Do you know what that means? It means kids used to put my face in things like toilets and dog shit for fun. It means one time a guy broke my arm because I looked at him funny and he thought I was hitting on him. And that's just the shit they did, not the shit they said. Now they all kiss my ass and talk about how great I am, but do you think anyone would actually give a shit about me if I lost my ranking?” Badd slammed his fist into the wall beside him. “Get it through your thick skull that you’re not the only one with problems!”

They stood there staring at each other, both shocked by Badd’s outburst. Badd’s chest was heaving with emotion, his face a darkened thundercloud. The side of his hand was bleeding from how hard he had punched the wall. And Garou… Garou didn’t understand anything anymore.

Could it be true? It had to be true, one look at Badd’s face told him he wasn’t lying. Garou’s stomach clenched, and he swallowed, his throat dry. Badd was a hero. Heroes didn’t get picked on. Badd was saying he had been a monster like Garou, but now he wasn’t? As Garou stared, Badd shook his head.

“Yer never gonna get it,” he said. This time it was Badd who picked up his bat and walked away. And Garou was left feeling like he’d been punched in the gut, though Badd hadn’t touched him at all.

Badd came back to school the next day, and Garou was not there. He was not there the day after and the day after that, for two weeks. Of course, Badd himself didn’t go to school during that entire time, what with monster attacks and such. It was weird not to see Garou sitting next to him at the back of every class, but Badd was glad. He didn’t know what he would do if he saw that bastard again. Every time he thought about what had happened on the roof, he got a sick feeling in his stomach. Even if he had won that argument, Garou probably wouldn’t want to talk to him again, now that he knew…

Badd didn’t consider being gay to be shameful. He considered everyone else to be a bunch of assholes. Garou was just the asshole supreme, that was all.

And now, two weeks later, here was Garou walking into class. Immediately, Badd felt two emotions begin to roil in his gut: anger and apprehension. Garou saw him, and a flash of emotion crossed his face. Before Badd could react, Garou was walking towards him, then sitting down beside him. Badd stared openly, then scowled and turned away, steadfastly facing the front of the classroom as if there was nothing more interesting to him in the world than solving for x. And not talking to Garou. The white-haired blur in Badd’s peripheral vision made a little start as if to say something, then thought the better of it and gave up.

Good. Badd wasn’t interested in another argument. If Garou thought he could bait him into a conversation, he was wrong.

It was pretty annoying to be trailed from class to class by a slinky white-haired shadow, but Badd gritted his teeth and put up with it. Maybe next time he came to class, he’d just straight up gank some other kid’s seat. What a fuckin’ mess.

When the school day ended, Badd heaved a big sigh of relief and stepped out into the sunny schoolyard, feeling like he could just run forever. He didn’t have to pick up Zenko from school today because she was going straight to piano practice, so he could just go into town, cruise around, and look for something to beat up. That would make him feel better. Or maybe he could go get a milkshake, that would be nice.

As he was happily wondering whether he should get a chocolate milkshake or a strawberry one, he saw a flash of white out of the corner of his eye and stopped.

Garou was following him.

Oh, for fuck’s sake.

“What the hell you want?” Badd snapped, mood ruined and patience completely gone. He turned and saw Garou holding up his hands in an apologetic gesture.

“I want to talk,” Garou said, looking sorry for himself. Badd wasn’t getting suckered into the bullshit one more time.

“Piss off,” Badd said, starting to walk away from Garou. Of course, the damn brat only followed him. Silently fuming, Badd stomped down the quiet road, resisting the urge to start smashing flower boxes with his bat. Garou followed at a safe distance, probably figuring out his next insult. Badd considered picking up into a run, but didn’t want to give Garou the satisfaction.

Finally, Garou called out to him. “Badd, wait!”

Badd had no intention of waiting.

“Badd!”

Eat shit, Badd thought to himself.

“Fine!” Garou said, sounding pissed now. “I’m sorry!”

Badd stopped in his tracks. Garou was sorry? He didn’t sound sorry, he sounded annoyed. It was just – well, it wasn’t really in the character of a whiny pissbaby like Garou to apologise for anything. As Garou caught up to him, Badd shook his head and continued walking.

“What now?” he said.

“I said I’m sorry,” Garou said, this time managing a more repentant tone.

“Sorry for what?”

“For being a dick to you, okay? I assumed you were some hypocritical, self-righteous douchebag, but you’re not. You don’t need me to tell you what I did because you already laid it out for me yourself,” Garou said, frustrated. Damn straight, Badd had laid it out for him. But unfortunately for Garou, that was a one-time-only kind of service.

“Glad you learnt something,” Badd said shortly. They reached an intersection, and Badd didn’t want to be trapped on a street corner with Garou at the light, so he just jaywalked. Garou trotted after him, trying to keep up without actually getting close enough to Badd for them to make eye contact.

“Listen, I joined the Hero Association,” Garou said, and Badd nearly stopped in surprise again. Nearly.

“So whaddaya want from me, a recommendation letter?”

“Will you quit being pissed at me for a hot second and just listen? Please?” Garou whined. Badd figured he’d never get any peace until he did. He turned on his heel, startling Garou, folded his arms, and planted himself in the middle of the pavement.

“Fine,” he said, making eye contact with Garou for the first time.

Garou looked… non-confrontational. That was the only way to describe it. Badd knew a fighting stance when he saw one, and Garou wasn’t in one. His body language screamed defensiveness, uncertainty, and apprehension. In short, he didn’t look like a wild animal anymore. He looked like a shy puppy. It was almost cu–

Not going there. Badd scowled.

“Listen, I know I’ve been a real dick to you. But you’re a good guy, I get that now. So thanks for hearing me out. I just wanted to say…” Garou paused, and Badd wondered how long he’d spent rehearsing this speech. “I know I’m not a monster, but I still feel like one. And I don’t know how to not act like one. And you’re the only person who ever gave me the time of day. So I thought, even if we can’t be friends, maybe we can fight together again.” Garou looked tired. Pained. Badd suddenly felt sorry for him, and was pissed all over again.

But he sounded so genuine.

“And why can’t we be friends?” Badd said.

“Because I suck?” Garou replied honestly.

“That’s your reason?” Badd blurted out.

“Yeah?”

Badd didn’t know what to do. Normally he would have made Garou suffer a little, then accepted his apology. Why not? Maybe the really could be friends this time. It wouldn’t hurt to try, right? Garou was still a little bitch, but Badd wasn’t gonna leave a fellow loser in the dirt when they could be beating up monsters together instead. Badd’s temper was hot, but it burnt itself out pretty fast, and he didn’t hold grudges. It was just… how could it be this easy? Especially after Badd’s… admission?

“It has nothing to do with the gay thing?” Badd finally managed to say.

Garou sighed. “Okay listen,” he said, and Badd tensed. “I’m not gonna say that I don’t give a crap about that, because I do. But not for the reason you think!”

Badd seriously doubted that it wouldn’t be for the reason he thought.

Garou glanced around furtively, like he expected someone to suddenly pop out of the bushes and arrest him.

“Me too,” Garou whispered, looking down at the ground.

Uh, okay, Garou had been right. That really wasn’t the reason Badd had expected.

“Is that why you get beat up?” Badd said, wondering if he had missed some important gossip.

“No, nobody here knows. I get “beat up” because people are assholes,” Garou said, and frowned. “But obviously I win all my fights now anyway.”

So Garou was more like him than he had thought. Suddenly, a sort of weight felt like it was lifting from Badd’s shoulders.

“Yeah, okay,” Badd said. Garou looked up, confused.

“Okay what?”

“Okay, let’s fight together. You wanna go get a milkshake?”

“What?”

Badd sighed. So screw him for trying to be chill about this whole thing. “I was gonna get a milkshake, and I wanna know if you wanna come. So we can have a conversation about normal shit like normal people who don’t hate each other and are probably gonna fight monsters together soon. Does that sound good to you, dumbass?”

Garou was outright staring at him now. If Badd didn’t know better, he would’ve sworn that Garou was about to start tearing up. Man, this guy was so… dramatic. Oh well, too late to regret his offer now. If only Badd wasn’t so damn nice.

“Thank you,” Garou managed to get out, rubbing his eyes with his sleeve. For fuck’s sake, he really was tearing up. Guy was worse than Zenko.

“I didn’t say I was gonna buy it for you or nothing,” Badd said, pretending to be annoyed. He slung one arm around Garou’s shoulders and forced him to start walking with him. For several long moments, Garou said nothing, just blinked a lot and scowled. Badd’s expression was unreadable.

“Thanks,” Garou said, quietly, after a while.

“Uh-huh,” said Badd, and grinned.

(Bonus scene)

“What the fuck kind of name is ‘Badd’, anyway?” Garou later complained.

Badd scowled. “It’s a damn good one, that’s what it is. It means “dangerous” in English.”

“I didn’t know you spoke English,” Garou sneered. But Badd wasn’t at all offended by his rude tone.

“I don’t, but Zenko does,” he said proudly. Garou rolled his eyes, as he often did when Badd’s sister was mentioned.

“So what’s your real name then?” Garou said.

“What’s yours?” Badd said.

“Tell me yours and I’ll tell you mine? Typical,” Garou said. “I’ll only tell you if you swear you’ll never tell anyone else. And if you do, I’ll rip your spine out.”

“Yeah yeah,” Badd said easily. “What is it?”

Garou side-eyed him for a moment. “Hiro.”

“Yer name’s Hiro? What’s wrong with that?”

Flushing slightly, Garou said, “Hiroko.”

Badd burst out laughing. “What, were yer parents drunk when they signed the birth certificate?”

“That’s exactly what happened,” Garou said flatly. “Now shut up, fuckwad, and tell me your name already.”

Wiping the tears of laughter from his eyes, Badd said, “It’s Yusuke. Was it really worth it for you to know that?”

“Oh, shut up,” said Garou.

(bonus scene 2)

(Two months later)

Badd and Garou were sitting in a little booth, sharing a strawberry milkshake at Badd’s favourite American-style diner. This was the third or fourth time they had come here, but today was a special occasion: celebrating the start of summer vacation. As such, the diner was fairly crowded, other kids with a mind to eating something cold and sweet crowding the counter and the tables. Still, sitting across from Badd in their cosy little red-and-white booth, Garou could almost feel like they weren’t surrounded by mindless crowds of –

Well, normally Garou would finish that sentence with something insulting, but he was feeling pretty good today, so it wasn’t worth it. He plucked the cherry from the top of the milkshake and deposited it disdainfully on the clean white china saucer, and Badd raised his eyebrows, a mischievous smile playing around the corners of his mouth.

“What?” Garou said suspiciously, sticking his straw through the whipped cream on top of the milkshake. Badd mirrored his actions, still grinning that insufferable little grin.

“Yer in a good mood. It’s cute,” Badd said, holding the straw lightly between two fingers and taking a good-sized gulp of the milkshake.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” Garou said, rolling his eyes, but there was no real viciousness behind it, and Badd could tell.

“You ain’t gotta be embarrassed. Today is a good day. We got like a whole month to do whatever the hell we want, and I, for one, aim to make full use of it,” Badd said, as Garou took a tentative slurp of the milkshake. Delicious, as usual.

“Yeah, like what? Sitting around all day long?” Garou said, although truth be told, he was genuinely curious as to what Badd planned to do all summer. For a moment, a pang shot through him. What if Badd really did decide to do nothing all summer, and didn’t want to hang out with him anymore?

If any of Garou’s pessimistic reflections showed on his face, Badd didn’t so much as blink in curiosity.

“Maybe sometimes,” Badd admitted. “When ya get a nice breeze comin’ from the south and there’s some shade and ya got nowhere to be… that’s a nice feeling, ya know?”

“Sure,” Garou said, accidentally knocking his straw into Badd’s as he tried to redistribute the excessive whipped cream. “And you’ll get fatter every second, too.”

“Hey man, don’t worry. I’ll be keeping up my monster-fighting quota for sure,” Badd said, spinning the milkshake’s saucer a little bit. “We can go to the arcade too, if you wanna. Or go swimming in that pool over –” he waved his hand in a vaguely eastern direction. “Yaknow, a couple a blocks over there.”

We. Garou ducked his head, feeling embarrassingly pleased.

“So?” Badd said, and Garou realised he was waiting for an answer.

“Yeah, that sounds good,” he said vaguely, as Badd picked up the cherry sitting on the saucer and separated the bright red fruit from the stem with his teeth. Garou swallowed. A few moments later, Badd spat out the pit into his hand, and Garou blinked, realising that he had been staring.

“Yeah, and what else?” Badd said, depositing the cherry pit on the saucer. It took Garou a moment to remember what they had been talking about.

“Uh,” he said breathlessly. How was he supposed to tell a guy that watching him eat a maraschino cherry has made him want to reach across the table and kiss him senseless? Badd leaned forward and fastened his lips around the straw again, propping his jaw on one hand, and Garou realised with a jolt that maybe he was doing it on purpose.

“You little fuck,” Garou hissed, pushing the mostly-finished milkshake out of the way, much to Badd’s surprise. He reached across the table and grabbed a fistful of Badd’s shirt.

“You know damn well what I want to do this summer,” he snapped, nose-to-nose with Badd in spite of the small table between them.

“Oh yeah?” said Badd, dark eyelashes fluttering slightly at Garou’s own breath.

“Yeah. You,” Garou said, and pressed their lips together. Both of them were slightly sticky and tasted like strawberries. Garou could feel the smile on Badd’s face and found himself grinning like an idiot in response, even though they were still kissing. God, it was so fucking sappy and embarrassing, Garou should have been ashamed of himself.

But he wasn’t. Instead, he hopped up into the table, scooting forward until he was perched on the edge, with Badd standing to meet him. One of Badd’s hands went to his waist, and the other to his thick white hair. Garou, less of a gentleman, put one hand under Badd’s chin and the other on his strong hip. They kissed for several long moments, Badd’s tongue darting out to taste Garou’s lips, until they heard the distinctive click-clack of high heels on the linoleum floor. Quickly, Garou slid off the table onto the seat next to Badd, and both of them were sitting primly on the same side of the booth as the waitress walked by. When she had passed, Badd grinned a lightheaded grin and said, “You sure took your sweet time about doing that.”

“Oh, shut up,” Garou said. “Come on, let’s blow this joint.”