save my life by the sea (cause i’m repulsive)
hawks (takami keigo) x reader
word count: 9148
Your healing isn’t linear, just like your life. Your lover is gone and the pro-hero years are growing on you. You decide to retire and through all this chaos, Keigo meets you and reaches out a hand near the seaside.
warnings: grief, death, mentions of abuse, mentions of food, dissociation, hurt\comfort, slight manga spoilers (?)
a/n: it’s been three months and it’s finally done. it’s both cute and sad but i hope you all enjoy.
“I don’t want your love unless you know I am repulsive, and love me even as you know it.” — Georges Bataille
August 29th is the root of your hatred. It’s a day that has recently become cursed, but for you and only you. You hate the sound of trains passing by whenever you use the subway station, the laughter of the other pro-heroes during the glitz-filled galas, and the bare-expressed praise that you get. It started becoming less and less, sometime ago.
But it isn’t the same with your fans. You’re always kind to them, even when you feel like you want to bury yourself under the ground.
So when you announce your retirement on a nationwide channel in front of the Heroes Public Safety Commission building, everything turns into an uproar. The news channels are coming out like hungry dogs to grab any last piece of an interview that they can have with you. Your fans are spreading hashtags around every single social media site you know (#GetWellSoon, #MyFavoriteHero, #We’llMissYou) and you try to reply back to any private messages that you get—which so happens to be thousands upon thousands. At least you were appreciated during the time that you served; you think that’s good enough.
Your hands are streaked with dry sweat as you stand in the front office of the building that was once your entire life. Diane wished you a sudden goodbye—nothing more than a smile and “Thank you for doing your duty.” You don’t really mind it because you’ve known that she’s a woman with a schedule. She’s done good for you some days. Edgeshot, who happened to be the one of the few heroes you got along with, gives you a hug and tells you some healing mantra that you remind yourself to hold close to your heart.
“Thanks, Kamihara,” you say with a smile that needs to reach your eyes. “You’ve always been the best with words.”
Kamihara chuckles, a rare sound that sounds like gentle wind chimes. “I do what I can for the people I care about. Please stay safe out there.”
“I promise I will. You do the same.” Once the secretary hands you the last of your documents, you start to walk off before turning around at the door. “Oh, can you tell Mirko that I’ll call her when I have the chance? She’s been pestering me about it since I mentioned my retirement and maybe she’ll listen to calm-headed you.”
Kamihara’s eyes roll but he sighs, “I’ll make sure to tell her. I’d rather not be near that hyper woman, if I’m being honest.”
The laugh that leaves you makes him smile under his mask and then you’re gone, out the doors and into a life that you aren’t sure you know how to lead.
There isn’t any instruction to be given and your hero costume is locked away into a suitcase, ready to be left in the dust. A collection of memories that stood for pride and saving but had a downfall that bruised your ego. Now it has to fade away like all memories do.
It could be the same as memories from the grave, you think to yourself. A grimace finds your lips and it’s tight. The setting sun does nothing to warm you up.
Your eyes find the time as you stare at your homescreen. 7:40. Tuesday, August 2. Ever since the death, time has passed. It’s been a year. A year without the physical contact you always wished to seek, without the bright smile that met you in the morning and in dreams, and the celebratory breakfast food that was found on your table after another year being a hero. Now no one is here to praise you and there isn’t any reason for celebratory food. You’re on a train (although you hate them, with so much rage) travelling to a coastal town that was said to be the best—four to five stars in each review. There was talk of a lighthouse nearby too.
The sea isn’t your type of scene, but it’s far away. Far from the city. Far from where death meets the dead. It’s good enough, you tell yourself.
“Now arriving at Scaleside Station. Please grab all belongings before getting off the train.”
Hearing the announcement on the intercom, you grab your luggage—a duffel bag—and stand up when the train comes to a stop. The hiss of the door swinging open echoes throughout the bus and passengers start to file out, bags hitting arms and shoulders. A little girl’s suitcase gets jammed against your calf and you bite your tongue. You have half the mind to let your bitterness get to you.
A middle-aged woman, presumably the child’s mother, turns around with an apologetic smile. “Oh, I’m sorry! Kira, what did I tell you about keeping your suitcase in front of you?” Her hands rest on the girl’s shoulders and her face is stern while looking at her daughter, yet her voice is soft.
She reminds you of your mom, in a small way.
Kira turns to look at you, pulling her suitcase in front of her. “Sorry.”
You shake your head. “It’s okay. The train is a bit cramped because we’re all trying to get out.” You wave your hand and a small bubble appears, making her face light up. “Here, to cheer you up.”
The line starts to move and the girl turns around from the pull of her mother’s hand, pointing at you. Her voice can be heard from even outside the train. “Mommy, that person did cool magic! They’re one of those heroes…”
As you step off of the train and walk in the opposite direction, you smile with that same bitterness in your chest. Someone that I used to be. Over the years the “hero” deal wasn’t that appealing, it became harder and exhausting, risk after risk after risk but the same goal stayed in your mind: the people first, yourself later. There wasn’t a way to be taught selflessness but you knew that there were heroes who put it in their image. To look better. To rise up the ranks besides the advantage of how powerful the quirk was. Your only duty was, “Appeal and protect.”
Wind rustles your hair and faint hints of salt hit your nose. You look towards the distant view of the ocean, clutch your duffle bag tighter. It’s beautiful. The somehow quiet bustle of the citizens around you, the moon glinting off of the dark water, the coolness you feel. It’s here for you to take; to use. But this isn’t something to experience by yourself.
You repeat Kamihara’s mantra inside your head. Your chest rustles with a trying deep breath. This coolness isn’t nice anymore. The moments pass fast, and don’t come back. You shouldn’t be here. You shouldn’t be alone. So dangerous. So selfish.
Your phone buzzes in your pocket and you take it out. “Hello?”
“Did you make it safely, love? You better not be in danger or I will travel there on my own two legs—”
“Yes, Mirko. I made it just fine. There’s no reason for you to hop three whole towns to see me.”
She snorts. “Haha, what a comedian you are. But seriously, please be okay and check in with me, yeah? I’d love to see pictures too!”
The (tiny) smile on your face is genuine this time. “Yeah. I have to go find a place to get settled, it’s already night. Thanks for calling.”
“No big deal. Find a stable place and eat lots of food. Goodnight!” She makes a kiss noise into the speaker.
“Goodnight,” you tell her, then hang up. Hearing her voice quells your worries a smidge, but the rattling is still there. Your eyes are stuck on the ocean but dart to the large, stone tower near it.
That must be the lighthouse. Maybe the staff do tours of the town? The idea crosses your mind and with the decision made, you walk towards the inn a few blocks away. Stay at the inn for tonight and go to the lighthouse tomorrow. Ask for a tour. At least try to act normal. This trip is happening for a reason. For forgetting mistakes. Grieving.
Act normal, right. Your lip quivers for a second.
You need sleep.
The bed in your inn room is soft as you sit yourself up. Your right shoulder aches slightly but other than that, you feel… okay. Well rested, sure, but it’s okay. Lucent sunlight spills through the crack of the curtains and spreads against the wall, the blue paint brightening. For twelve dollars a night, the room isn’t bad. Small and balanced. A ship honks in the distance and you stand up—there’s your signal to start the day.
After changing into shorts and a tee, you make your way out of the inn, ready to explore the city. Your phone and wallet are in your pocket (so there aren’t any worries about currency or emergencies). The salty air hits your nose again along with the scent of cooked food, something buttery and warm. Your stomach grumbles. Getting some food wouldn’t hurt.
You notice a diner in the distance and make your way towards it, the sign plastered across the top saying, Ocean Sound. You walk inside and follow a greeter to a vacant table—a bell rings to announce your arrival—and soft music plays from the jukebox. Someone must have requested a jazzy tune, a melody of trumpets coming from the speaker. It’s fairly quiet inside the diner, only a few patrons and two families sitting at nearby tables.
Someone comes to take your order a few minutes after you sit down, a middle-aged brunet. “I’m Haku, and I’ll be your server this morning. What can I get you?” he says, voice chipper. You give him a quick smile.
“I’ll have toast and scrambled eggs, please. Along with a glass of orange juice.” you tell him, closing the menu.
Haku writes the order down and takes the menu, “Alright, I’ll get that for you. Let me know if you need anything else.” He then walks off.
You get your orange juice quickly and put your attention towards that, using the drink as a distraction. It tastes fresh on your tongue, delicious. It’s been a while since you’ve last visited a diner; especially for breakfast. Whenever there was a free day or not too much happening during patrol, you and Mirko snuck off to grab lunch (some days Kamihara was dragged along too, despite his half-hearted protests). Those times were fun, full of inside jokes and playful boasting about who fought more villains, and the warmth of hot broth and noodles.
It’s funny how simple it is when a part of you still exists. The memory makes you homesick. You continue to sip your juice until the glass is empty. Haku returns with your meal, a plate of toast and eggs in his hand and places it onto the table.
“Hope you enjoy it,” he says.
You nod to him, then grab your fork and start eating as soon as he’s gone. The toast is tasty with the bites of egg, but it doesn’t stop the tightness in your chest. You can’t help remembering the lunches with your friends during hero work—gone—and the mornings that you woke to hugs and the sweetest breakfast you could ever ask for. It was all good and nice and free. Here it’s different.
You barely remember finishing all your food before standing up and walking out, desperate for the sun on your face because it suddenly got too cold. The staff greet you as you leave, Haku’s sweet smile gracing your eyes, and there’s a chance you didn’t reply. It’s okay, but it’s not.
At least you left a tip.
Walking along the beach is calmer than you thought it would be. Your nerves are still frazzled from the onslaught of memories with warm breakfast food and enticing company, but that’s all gone now. Get your mind on something else, you think to yourself.
There’s seagulls cawing above you as they fly around the beach. Some families also decided to make their stay here, not many chairs spread wide across the sand. You get a few greetings from the beach goers and give them a wave—small kindness never hurt anyone. Without realizing, you’ve already approached the lighthouse, a young man in the distance hauling a bag on his shoulder while coming outside of it.
You glance over the area to see if there’s a sign of some sort that offers the tours and there’s nothing to be found. Your brows furrow, a simple misunderstanding. I guess the tours aren’t held here?...
“Hey there! Do you need something?” a man’s voice calls out, directed towards you.
You turn your head towards him and it’s the same guy that was holding the bag, the item long left against the door. He’s approaching you and as he gets closer, you can see the red and white striped tee he’s wearing and there’s a shine from the sunlight in his blond hair. The strands actually seem to get brighter, a yellow that doesn’t match the sand. He’s fairly attractive, too, until you notice what’s trailing behind him—
Large, red wings. You identify it as a mutant quirk (thanks to all your training under the Hero’s Commission and knowing Mirko).
The blond arches a brow, waiting for an answer. The shape is sort of odd, all jagged.
You snap out of your trance. “Oh— I was strolling by and wondered….” Your voice trails off because you feel embarrassed suddenly. The answer is obvious, without there being a sign.
“Do you do tours here, for the town? Or is this only a sight-seeing spot? I recently dropped by yesterday and need some directory.” You offer what you hope to be a friendly expression, and thankfully from his calm reaction, it seems to work.
“Well,” he starts, rolling one of his shoulders back, “I don’t tour the town, but we have one for the lighthouse. It's a pretty interesting history, I’ll say.” The sun glares over half of his face and you catch a small spark in one of his eyes, golden. “I can take you on one, if you’d like?”
His grin is cheeky as he looks at you. You’re transfixed from the gold that’s still in his eyes—nearly matches the sun—but then get back on track.
“What’s the cost?” you ask him, taking out your wallet. Thankfully you had a couple of ten and twenty dollar bills, along with a fifty inside. But the price shouldn’t be that much, you guess.
He shrugs, pondering the thought and looking off somewhere. For a moment you wonder if he genuinely forgot. Then his reply makes you doubt the confusion you thought up.
“It’ll be a solid twenty dollars, more or less. That’s if you want the whole deal though, like the tour and a few overnight stays included. I tend to ramble on and on about Scaleside’s history but the customers seem to like it.” His voice goes quiet. “In the reviews, at least…”
Twenty dollars? That seems like an expensive price to you. The tour is only for the lighthouse and that’s not… exactly a lot to look at. If you went back to the inn, the keeper could probably tell you where Scaleside’s tour services are. Or maybe you could just find a map; surely they had those in the train station.
You go to decline his offer with a shake of your head and then pause, second guessing your decision. It seems like this man genuinely wants to help out and it couldn’t hurt to listen to some (boring) rambling about town history. Who knows, it could be better than the written classes in the Commission building. And discovery was what you wanted—though only as a distraction, your mind echoes—so that’s what you’ll take.
“Sure, I’ll take the tour. But I have a room at one of the inns here, so the overnight stay unfortunately will not be an option.”
His expression is unreadable for a second but he nods, “Okay, that’s cool. I’ll try to make it as fun as possible for you.”
You hand him a ten dollar bill and half-smile. “Thanks.”
The waves push against the sand and touch your feet, covering your toes in seafoam. It’s pretty how the water’s color is so vivid, how it recedes to its original home. Similar to how you’re always pulled back by your fear.
You shake your head. Least important thing right now.
The man starts walking and nods his head for you to follow him. You stroll by his side, glancing at the blueish ocean. Another round of seagull caws sound overhead and a ship pulls into a harbor in the distance. The sunlight is warm on your skin.
“My name’s Keigo, by the way. Takami Keigo,” he says.
You tell him your name and he compliments it, one of his hands behind his neck. Hesitation finds him and you stare until he lets up.
“So, what brings you to this town? The summer is good for vacation, but are you here with family or anything?”
You pause, trying to numb out the knot in your stomach. “No, I just felt like coming by myself. It’s for a project.”
Keigo hums, feigning slight interest. His feathers twitch and the movement startles you. He notices—that makes you embarrassed.
You’ve seen a damn mutant quirk before. It’s nothing to be wimpy about.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to scare ya. Sometimes my feathers do that when they sense something. It’s part of my instincts.”
“It’s fine, I don’t know why I got scared. I’ve worked with some mutant quirks before.” The words leave your mouth before you can stop them. It feels like something you shouldn’t have said; which it is.
“Yeah, some of them are common. But not exactly likable in society…” His voice trails off, questioning.
“Are you… a hero?”
Hero. You feel the knot get tighter inside your stomach and walk a little ahead of him. Your mouth is pulled up too tightly when you look back.
“Was. But it doesn’t matter much now.” You change the subject quickly. “Where do we start for the tour?”
Nodding his head like he just remembered something, Keigo exclaims, “Oh!” and meets your side. Now his pace is faster than yours as he makes his way to the lighthouse. He hauls the bag over one of his shoulders and opens the door with his free hand. He lets you step inside first, setting the bag down in a nearby room after he follows you.
The inside of the lighthouse is smaller than you thought it would be. It looks fairly clean, little specks of dust filtering through the air, and pieces of furniture are scattered around: a desk on the far left side and two comfy chairs near the door. There’s a… homey sense to it, and it makes you miss more again.
Keigo bounds up the staircase, a smile on his face when he looks down at you. His head peeks over the railing. “Welcome to the magic of Scaleside with tourmaster Takami Keigo! I will be giving all of your services today.”
You raise a brow at his enthusiasm and follow him up the stairs. Tourmaster Takami Keigo.
It has a cute ring to it.
An hour passes once the tour is over (not that you meant to be counting). You’re both standing outside the lighthouse, your hand tracing the pattern on the door for one final look. It’s a spiral; seagreen and scaly. It has a resemblance close to a sea monster, which you find cool. You also could have forgotten that Keigo was still there if his wings weren’t twitching every minute.
You turn around to glance at him.
“So,” he starts, moving some strands of his hair out of his face, “did you like the tour?”
You sense some state of anxiety in his voice. It makes you give him a small smile, to ease him up.
“Yeah, I did. Your storytelling about the drawings and history captivated me. You did good,” you tell him, looking at your phone when it buzzes.
The screen lights up with three texts from Mirko and one missed call from your mother. A jittery feeling enters your stomach, but you put your phone away and force your attention back to Keigo. His hand is held out towards you.
“Here’s a souvenir thing— I have to give it to every tourist once we’re done. It’s not much, a little necklace with a shell on it. The serpent symbol is on there.” The shell glints from the sun as the jewelry lays in the palm of his hand.
You notice that his hands look calloused, white lines and hard scars lining his fingers. You wonder and then you stop. Maybe he was a hero too, in some time. But it’s none of your business. Your fingers brushing his for a second, you take the necklace from his hand.
“Thanks,” You turn your head back towards the town. The streets are full with bike riders and there’s a distant smell of cooked food. “I have to get back to town, but have a nice day.”
Keigo stretches his arms and nods. The unreadable expression is back. With a hint of a grin. “Hope you enjoy your stay here. It was nice seeing you,” he says. He turns around, but then looks back again. “I’m sure the necklace will look nice, too.”
He walks off and leaves you standing there, clutching the jewelry in your hand. You stare at the serpent symbol—the same color as the fresh sea water—and feel a pull from it. Emotional, tingling in your hands.
Your eyes close and you take a deep breath. The tingling is gone, but you hesitate to wound it around your neck. You don’t.
Shut it down, Diane likes to say.
The conversation with your mother isn’t anything valuable. She only calls to check in with you, to make sure you made it to the town safely. She’s kind like that.
She was there to comfort you during the funeral. While the two of you watched as they lowered the coffin into the dirt, an end of someone’s story. It hurt more because you were a part of it—majorly, in fact.
She offers the spare room in her house for a temporary (or maybe permanent) stay. “Anytime you need it,” she told you. “It’s always there, untouched.”
That fact makes your heart sing for some reason.
But you’re not ready to go back. You decide to give yourself at least that much freedom, because after everything that transpired back in the city—the place that held remnants of childhood to present—it’s painful to return to. You were crumbling when you were leaving, so why would you now want to turn into a semblance of nothing?
Or with all reason, it wouldn’t actually be nothing. You would turn into a semblance of weeping and ruined shame. Disappointment. It would shape into a hollow glass cage that keeps you in, and keeps you locked. Because you’re useless. Both on that day and even now.
Standing in the line of the cafe, you stare at the necklace in your hand. The serpent symbol stares back. You haven’t felt anything else since the day Keigo gave it to you. For now it lays in your hand like a heavy rock, unused and a piece of junk. Despite that, nothing in you can throw it away.
“Order 34!” the cashier calls out, voice breaking through the silence.
You jerk your head up at hearing your order being called and make your way to the counter, grabbing your drink and leaving swiftly. “Have a nice night,” you mumble, but you’re positive that the cashier didn’t hear you.
The roads aren’t as busy this time around, besides the few shopkeepers about to close up and some people wandering around. Without meaning to, you start walking towards the beach and plant your drink down in the sand, standing in front of the ocean. The necklace weighs down your pocket suddenly—it feels like it’s drooping.
You ignore it, along with the sharp pain in the back of your neck. Your hand is risen up towards the water, calling it, directing it to go in your grip. The waves whisper back to you, mutter their words deep in your ears, and while your eyes are closed, you can feel that sharp pain getting more prominent and vivid.
Your scratchy voice yelled that day. The explosions and metal cracked in your ears and shut down the screams that were calling back to you that day. The way you conjured up the water was wrong and you became out of reach for the mission. For the target. The victim. Your love of your li—
A sound close to a horn sounds in the distance, making you gasp. Your eyes snap open and the water falls back into its original position like nothing, joining the other waves. Your arm sweeps back down to your side like it was burned; a phantom pain.
Never again. Your chest fills with a hum and it’s uncomfortable and disheartening. I need to go back to sleep.
The watchtower light of the lighthouse is on and you’re making your way towards it instead. Curiosity kills the cat, but the cat’s been dead a long time ago.
Keigo is sitting in a chair when you crack the door open, eyebrows furrowed at a book he was trying to understand. His head moves up at the sound and he closes the book, a small smile on his face.
“Oh hey,” he greets you, “I wasn’t expecting any late night visitors but I’m not gonna push you away.” He stands up from the chair, leaving the book on the cushion, and walks towards the kitchen. “You want some tea?”
You raise a brow at him before letting yourself in and closing the door. “I didn’t take you as the type to drink tea, Keigo.”
“There’s a lot you don’t know about me. But the tea is mainly for guests and whatever, it’s an okay drink to me personally.”
“That makes a lot more sense.”
Seeing you stand near the doorway, he nods his head towards one of the chairs as he grabs a cup. “You can go ahead and sit,” he offers. The tea kettle whistles loud and obnoxious, bouncing off of the walls.
You sit down and nearly sink all the way into it, comfort placing its hold against your back. The cushion is soft like feathers; you wonder where in the world he bought this from. It can be a good decorating idea for your home, if you ever return to the city.
The thought makes your brain pause, unexpectedly. If.
There’s a faint heat near you and you then realize that Keigo is standing in front of you, holding the cup out. The tea bag dangles on the side reading Green Tea and Hibiscus. A light, flowery scent hits your nose. It’s calming.
You take the cup from him and straighten yourself up in the chair. “Thanks,” you say quietly. “Smells good.”
He nods, sitting in the chair on the opposite side. “It was the only blend I had, so hopefully you’ll like it.” His eyes travel to the clock above the door and back towards you. He seems nervously curious.
“So uh, what did you wanna see me for?” The question feels out of place—awkward—but somehow necessary.
Should you tell him? Where do you start? You’re not even sure if you remember the memories the same because they could have changed over the years—your brain could have played with the facts. So it could somehow be worse.
You clear your throat. Blow on the tea.
“Do you… believe in heroes?”
The ceramic suddenly feels hotter in your hands, the sting biting at your palms. The word heroes tastes like acid coming out of your mouth and you regret asking the question. It doesn’t make you feel any better. It feels like a confession that you’re pressured to tell.
He stares at you for a few seconds, and then crosses his arms. He’s taking in your question. Contemplating. “I guess I do. When I was a little boy, I was a big fan of Endeavor and had all of his merch and plush toys.” The chuckle that leaves him is a bit choked up. You notice it without trying to.
His feathers ruffle. “What about you?” he asks.
I hate the one I am, you want to tell him but don’t. You take a sip of your tea (the flavor is sweet) and pick at the edge of the cup with your fingernail. Your shoulders shrug uselessly.
“I mean, they’re good. The job isn’t easy both before and after the training but at least you can keep people safe.” You feel a pierce in your gut; it hurts. “But yet… it isn’t everyone.”
No reply comes from him and you make yourself sip the tea again. You’re revealing too much. Reel it back in. Stop.
Keigo’s face gives away a hint of concern when he speaks, “It seems like a sore subject for you. I’m not gonna push it, but I was going to head up to check the light and I don’t want to leave you alone.”
The careful tinge in his voice creates some flutter in your chest, and you don’t want it (supposedly enough). Placing the cup onto the table, you shake your head.
“I’ll be fine. I have to head back to the inn anyway because you probably still have work to do. Thanks for the tea, though.” You start walking to the door but his words make you stop.
“Can you stay? Just— just for a few extra minutes. Having company is rare around here and the view is pretty cool.” His smile this time is like the others, humorous, except it doesn’t reach his eyes. Another detail you don’t mean to notice.
A few beats of hesitation find you until you turn around, waving your hand towards the stairs. “Alright, lead the way, Tourmaster.”
As he walks past you to go up the stairs, the necklace weighs down in your pocket once again. Your fingers grip it tight, unintentional. This wouldn’t be bad, right?
It takes a few minutes for the two of you to get up there and he immediately sits on the edge of the watchtower, the light straying away from his back. You’re confused as he pats the spot next to him. He’s inviting you to sit?
“Weren’t you supposed to be checking the light?” you ask, glancing back at it. It’s huge— a giant, white ball shining a beam towards the ocean.
Keigo shakes his head, “I sort of had to make an excuse to get you up here, cause I thought fresh air would be nicer. Plus, the light should be fine for the next few hours. But…” His words trail off. He shifts in his spot, nervous. “I want you to feel like you can talk to me, you know?”
Those words aren’t what you expected; your inhale is sharp. What you want to understand is why—what his reason is for trying to talk to you, for offering this, for saying that. You don’t get it. It’s too generous and it leads to something you’d classify as overthinking.
Hesitating, your steps are slow while you walk towards him, sitting down soon after. Then the story starts to come out.
“It was a simple accident. There was a dangerous villain who had an explosion quirk that could detonate ten bombs at once, and they were so small that I barely saw them. The Commision sent me out that day because it was raining heavily and I was supposed to be used for flood control.”
Piece by piece it starts to come back, sounds and sensations and images. There’s a lump in your throat and it itches but you swallow, collect your thoughts to keep going.
“While the other heroes were dealing with the main threat, I watched the other sections so nearby civilians could escape. And then… I recognized someone. Running from the building with their phone in their hand.” Your hands tremble and the waves make you feel dizzy.
Keigo says nothing, keeping his stare on the water. His feathers just barely brush your shoulder. You jolt.
“Who was it?” he whispers, a second later.
“It was my boyfriend. He was probably trying to call me, even though I was right there. So I made a mistake by trying to reach for him with as much water as I could use. Once the explosions went off and I saw the debris falling towards him, I realized there was no way my quirk was going to get there in time. So all I got to do was scream and watch as he…” you stop yourself because the memory becomes auditory instead of verbal.
It isn’t a retelling anymore, since now you hear your scream rattle your skull and the explosions tremble in your core and the debris crushing so many people—
Your fingers are pinching your leg and you can’t feel it. You’re not here you’re not here you’re not here is the one mantra ringing in your head.
“I killed him,” you say. “And I hate myself for it.”
You dare to turn your head towards Keigo. One of his feathers releases your fingers from your leg.
He looks at you like he’s also taking the grief, as if he's taking a piece of it to become closer to you. Maybe he is.
The waves crash near the sand below after your admission, the lighthouse light now shut off and dark. Neither of you notice. Besides the ocean speaking in pushes and pulls, it’s quiet. Anguish takes over, covers you and the area in cold.
You now realize that it can be lonely here. God, very lonely. Up in the open and the sky.
“… I’m so sorry,” he tells you. That’s all you think he has, before, “If you want…” You can see the blackened, large shapes of his wings move as he fixes them against his back. “You can stay here. I mean— let this be your home. Fresh start, and all that.”
“I don’t know what it’s like to lose someone, but I do know what it’s like to not succeed. That feeling of… disappointment you have because you wanted to be good.”
His head dips down and his words are hushed. “So good for other people.”
The way that you feel like you can see his pain without seeing it makes your chest tighten. His words don’t elaborate on anything, but it’s all in his posture, how his voice carries his words, what he looks like at this moment. Worn out, sympathetic, reflecting.
Healing is what your mind says. Here comes the mantra again.
In this very second, Keigo is the only company you have. Physically, while he’s sitting next to you as you both let your legs dangle over the edge, and emotionally, because you’re telling him details that you didn’t share with Mirko or Kamihara. You only gave them the surface level stuff; tip of the icy cavern that digs deep.
Everything that’s frozen and growing inside that cavern, you gave to him—a stranger (or maybe, acquaintance) from the coastal side who did nothing to judge you. He only talked about how he could relate to the emotion and listened. Listened in aching silence.
Now you think that you can feel the water’s spray against your legs from sitting here for so long. It’s past midnight and the moon’s lighted and sad; large. The moon can swallow you and your company whole, make the pain go away for a moment.
You look at Keigo, and see that his head is upright again, his eyes focused on the big shape in the sky. They flick to you suddenly and stay there; a question. Or perhaps he’s taking more of your pain.
There’s something mournful in his beauty (it’s the first word that comes to mind) and strangely, it leaves you in awe. What did he lose, if not someone else like a lover? Where are his scars that are different but in an unusual way, connect with your own like a puzzle piece?
His eyes are dark in this lighting, no tints of gold or sunrise. The color is brown, almost black, like a candle gone out after burning too long. The markings under his eyes stand out from the moonlight; sharp, alluring.
He is staring at you, intent, and you know you’re staring back. You decide to take some of his pain, too, and try to meld it with your own. It isn’t a better option but it feels safer—for you.
The lighthouse can be good. Keigo’s company can be good.
You sit there for the rest of the night and don’t move. He doesn’t either.
After that, a month passes. You’re doing better, taking advantage of all the sightseeing. You even took up a pottery class (your mother reminds you to show her every piece you’ve made). Mirko and Kamihara have no worries with you because of your occasional updates on phone calls that last till almost midnight. You miss them, a lot. It feels weird to be off of patrol or any job for this long, really.
But again, these processes take time. Some good advice Kamihara told you before you left. You make sure to take the message in every single time.
You and Keigo were on and off with conversations, mainly because of your own personal activities, but it was nice to hang out with him when it was possible. His company is warming you up (to your surprise) and there’s no fight against it. During your walks on the beach, you’d catch him running around, doing errands, greeting the children that passed him by. To you, it’s endearing.
Today isn’t one of those days. It’s cloudy, thick fog rolling over the ocean and making it look haunted. If you sit there for a while, you can probably see souls wandering between the waves and the ghostly shapes of abandoned ships. The seagulls caw above you, circling around each other, and it’s their second call of the day.
You walk towards the lighthouse after picking up some lunch, two sandwiches in both of your hands. You would’ve usually gone to the bench near the flower shop to eat alone, but a little part of you wanted to have company today. You spent enough time scrolling through Twitter to see the aftermath of the retirement.
All in all, everyone was doing okay.
Reaching the lighthouse, you knock on the door and wait for a few seconds. There’s no sound of him coming down. It strikes your nerves; it makes you feel strange.
You let another minute pass before going to open the door yourself, the wood creaking quietly. The noise echoes through the small space. No lights are on and everything looks to be untouched, as if no one has left the lighthouse all day.
Your brows furrow together and you place the sandwiches on the table, heading up the staircase to the door on your right. You remember him mentioning that it was his bedroom, when you took the tour. The door is shut—nothing can be heard from the other side.
Now the quietness really worries you.
“Keigo?…” you call out, giving three small taps on the door with your knuckles.
Nothing. Against your better judgement, you think that he didn’t hear you. You try again.
“Hey, it’s me. Are you okay there?”
Suddenly, there’s a click of the lock and the door opens, Keigo’s face meeting you with a sheepish (fake) smile. His wings twitch and his hand holds the back of his neck. “Oh, hey. Didn’t hear you come in.”
You nod slowly and stare at him. He’s standoffish, drained almost. His wings keep twitching and his eyes are heavier than usual; as if they’re carrying unspoken weight. What was going on?
“Yeah,” you say, nodding towards the stairs. “I brought lunch but if it’s a bad time, I can go.”
“Oh, I appreciate it but I’ll save my piece for later. I have to do some work in town today, so I don’t want to keep you waiting. Anything you need from me?”
“Are you okay?” The question slips off of your tongue, forgoing any sense of subtlety that you planned to have.
Keigo’s expression shifts—for a split second. His eyes give something away and you barely catch it, before he’s nodding his head and shrugging the question off.
“Why wouldn’t I be? I mean, this job is pretty demanding, even for a guy like me.” He laughs, but it’s not a sound that relaxes you. It leaves an illusion of strain in it—he’s holding himself back. You have all these telltale signs and have no idea what to do with them.
“Right, but you just… look tired and your wings keep twitching. It’s none of my business if something did happen. I only asked because you said the same thing to me.” You feel a slight hint of embarrassment while you speak. The offer feels like you’re trying to pry.
He takes in what you said, making a decision to himself, before his posture curves and he turns around, going back inside of his room. You follow him and one of his feathers closes the door, his body laid down on his bed. Against what you originally expected, his room isn’t cluttered. Of course, being that it’s a small room, it shouldn’t be, but you find that it doesn’t fit him well.
You’re so focused on staring around his room that you don’t realize he’s talking to you.
“It’s nothing to worry about. I got some memories about my parents. Thought of something during our conversation and whatever.”
You feel put off from the tone of his voice, how short his sentences are. Evasive. He didn’t give much to go off of and you wonder—was it you bringing up how you didn’t feel good enough? The guilt you felt after watching your lover die?
The two of you brought up sensitive topics that night (all of them being focused on you). But it isn’t your fault, because he asked and offered to listen to you. In the end it felt better that he did, because it gave you some clarity. Now it’s time that you return the favor.
“Do you mind… telling me about it?” you ask quietly.
Creaks sound from the bed as Keigo moves over to one side, keeping his face away from your sight. You take it as another silent invitation and walk over to the bed, sitting down next to him. Your back rests against the headboard.
Raindrops start to hit the window, tap tap tap, and you watch them. They help fill the space of no words between you two.
“I’ve told you before,” he starts, “that I did want to be a hero. Seeing them on the television with their flashy suits and cool moves made me excited. It made me… happy. I saw Endeavor on that screen and then I knew what purpose I wanted to have, to be useful to others like he was.”
A warm tinge creeps into your chest. Imagining his younger self smiling bright while watching heroes fight against villains, believing in them to win. Would he have believed in me, too?
Two beats of silence pass. He goes on, “Although my parents didn’t think the same, especially my father. I was a burden to him, something he could punch and scream at to get his frustration out, because he did something evil and wasn’t free from his consequences. Of course…” His voice hardens. “That was somehow my fault. He got arrested by Endeavor later.”
“… What happened after he did? Did your mother help you?”
“It was more of me helping her because she didn’t want to be charged with harboring fugitives and needed money to survive. I wanted to do things the right way but…”
He cuts himself off—feeling the need to put the memory away. Before you can ask, you notice him start to curl in on himself, his wings wrapped tight around his body in a cocoon. None of his body is visible from the wall of feathers but you don’t say anything about it.
You try to get as close to him as you can instead.
The size of the bed isn’t much of a help for the both of you, with the blanket starting to slip off of you as you slide yourself down to lay next to him. It feels cramped for two adults. But it’s the place you have together, your quiet privacy.
“She asked me, ‘What do you even have those wings for?’ and I felt sick. I didn’t mean to disappoint her and be worthless. Not helping her when she needed it most.” His voice gets brittle, as if it’s forcing itself not to give out.
Your mouth is pulling down into a frown—you can feel it—and you nudge one of his wings lightly, fingertips trailing over the appendage. He shivers and sighs, nothing else.
You mumble, “Your mother was wrong.”
Pure silence. You don’t know what he’s thinking—if he’s coming up with a defense, if you’ve gone too far with what you’ve said. The time you’ve spent here is only a little over a month. Who are you to judge someone’s parents?
But you know that’s not it.
Then, his body tilts back towards yours and his wings are unfurling, moving him to rest on his side. You lean back to give him room (as much as you were able to) and freeze when his head falls onto your chest. The top of his head sits on the space between your collarbone and shoulder blade, his breath grazing your neck.
“Why should I believe that?…” he whispers. The corner of his mouth moves against the base of your shoulder. He’s warm.
In any other situation, you’d feel like this is too close but nothing in you, right now, wants to move away. You don’t remember the last time you were intimate like this, but it isn’t bad.
Your eyes flick down to him. “Because it’s the truth.”
“How important does this truth seem to be?”
“That depends. The person who made it, how important are they to you?”
The reply doesn’t come fast. He stalls himself, swallowing with a little noise. He meets his eyes with yours.
“They’re… really important to me,” he answers back.
Selfishly, you think his words sound close to a confession but you never get to find out once his eyes close.
Keigo’s words stay in the back of your mind for the next two weeks. No matter what you do in an attempt to busy yourself—think of something else—it falls short. Because of this, you have been avoiding the lighthouse.
You know that your absence let him know that he affected you; supposedly in a negative way. Maybe he thinks it’s his fault. Maybe he doesn’t want to talk to you anymore. Maybe he’s starting to think you’re difficult and hates you—
A sharp exhale leaves your lips and you stop turning the clay in your hands. Your eyes drag over the disassembled shape, wavy and half undone, and it makes you feel slightly frustrated. Deciding that your focus is shot, you stand up from your chair and wrap the clay piece in plastic wrap. You put it away in a cupboard.
He thinks you’re a valuable person to him. Yes, that afternoon he seemed hesitant to admit it, but he said it with a stare that’ll never leave you. A stare that was vulnerable yet bone-chillingly honest, and one that now leaves you conflicted.
If he asked, what would you tell him? How would you start the conversation if you wanted to beat down the tension first?
You imagine it in your head. You’d both be sitting on the beach, a fire in the middle crackling with heat, and he smiled at you.
“Hey, so… that day we talked in my room, you knew what I meant, right?”
“Yeah. And it wasn’t weird.”
“Okay. But can you tell me… what I am to you, then?”
The daydream stops short. You don’t need the rest of it to be spelled out for you, because the words pause behind your teeth. As if you were actually in the daydream. Your hand holds the necklace he gave you, serpent green staring in your soul, and the answer breaks out from the barrier.
“You’re someone I like…” you mumble out, to no one.
This is the scariest curse you can put on yourself since August. And you seem to know this fact.
Fate seems to be tired of you dancing around on this day. You’re leaving the market after getting some groceries when you run into Keigo. His stare is surprised, wide eyes and parted lips. You remember feeling his breath, on your neck.
You feel your cheeks burn from such a bizarre thought and you turn around, hurrying out of the store. I can’t tell him I can’t tell him I can’t tell him—
He calls out your name and the bags nearly drop from your hands, your body then being pulled back by your arm. You stumble, blink in shock as a biker rides past you. You have half a mind to turn around.
You do regardless.
Of course no one else is standing there but him. “Jesus— be careful! You were in such a hurry to get away from me that you almost got hurt.”
You nod to him, distracted, “Okay, well thanks for helping me. I have to go now.”
His grip on your forearm softens, but doesn’t leave. He stares at you, unwavering and… desperate?
“Can we talk? Please? I can’t handle the feeling of you avoiding me.” he tells you, brows drawn together.
Resisting isn’t an option anymore. Whenever this happens, he always comes to you. You hate that you like that fact, find it adorable because your boyfriend did the same thing. When in doubt, you were always the first option.
But Keigo isn’t like him, he’s a different person. You’re scared that you like him; that you’re at a point where your heart is open and waiting. It struggles with the locked chain of I like you but it’s better for you to get it out now. Right?
He hasn’t lied to you and you haven’t lied to him. It’s wrong to start in the beginning.
There’s a pause and then you sigh. “Yeah,” you say to him. “Let’s talk.”
It all circles back to the lighthouse. You find yourself sitting on the edge again, Keigo next to you, and the ocean watching you guys like an audience. You fidget, your fingers curling on your thighs and then flattening out, and your eyes forced away from him.
The time is ticking and this feels like a gamble. An explosive one.
Keigo rolls his dice first. “Listen, I’m sorry for… making you feel uncomfortable when I said that you’re important to me. As soon as I said it, I realized that it sounded forward and probably had some implications that you don’t need to hear right now. You’re still grieving over your boyfriend and I…” He runs his hand through his hair, blond strands covering right back over his forehead. “It was insensitive of me to spring that on you.”
Your tongue feels numb in your mouth because Damn it, he’s wrong. The whole point of this trip was to get over your boyfriend’s death and it was working, but it couldn’t have worked without Keigo there for company. A companion, you could say.
You think your response over, what sounds right and what doesn’t. Unknowingly, your fingertips are sinking into your thighs from pressure. He doesn’t rush you and you can see him staring from the corner of your eye.
You roll your dice next. “No, Keigo. It didn’t make me feel weird, but I just… Why? I’m a coward who ran from my own mistake once things started getting tough. I threw away my job because I couldn’t keep my feelings in order.” Your voice becomes wobbly and here’s where the tears come down, cold on your cheeks.
“And how… How would I keep you safe, huh? I failed to save one person that I loved and the same thing could just happen with you, history can just repeat itself. It doesn’t matter how I feel because I’m broken and you don’t need that. You don’t fucking need that…”
Your move causes an explosion and Keigo does something unexpected. His hands cradle both sides of your face and turn your gaze towards him, steel-filled saffron glinting in the light. “Not true. You’re not broken, not like my parents. Don’t say that about yourself.”
You simply look at him, shocked, and a strangled noise leaves your throat. You can feel his hold on your face tightening. He’s trying not to tremble in front of you.
“If I’m not broken,” you say, weakly, “then who’s going to believe in me? Who believes that I can get up again?”
“I will. I’ll believe in you because I love you and I’m not ashamed to admit that— not anymore. Even in your weakest moments, I want you here and you can think the opposite all you want but it’s true. You don’t have to feel like you have to keep me safe because I trust you…” His words lower to the softest volume you’ve ever heard him speak. Your stomach flutters.
You lean your head into his touch without meaning to. His cheeks tint with red. “Okay…” you mutter, accepting it.
It feels comfortable, sitting here and letting yourself rest against him. You don’t mind the quiet this time around; it’s necessary. Everything is out in the open and there’s nothing else for you to say.
Kamihara’s mantra reads through your mind again. You feel like you did heal after taking this trip, going through the process. Even with the help that Keigo’s given you.
Eventually, you’ll have to return back to the city (maybe he’ll come with you). But this is enough for now.
Logic brain: you need to set up the world a little bit before you get to the story.
Fun brain: it's already set; use your imagination.
I use my imagination a lot, so I don't mind at all being dumped into a world and left to figure things out on my own
like when I play open world games and get sidetracked because something interesting catches my eye and I just become an explorer. I may get a little lost and confused but later I figure it out on my own and it's satisfying
of course some people don't enjoy this experience and prefer to have a little guidance or exposition explaining the world a bit and how things work
makes complete sense especially for fantasy where the world is often new/different but I'm finding it tedious these days
all this to say, uh... do what works for you
doodling inverse functions in my cosmic horror class
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can't believe that my boy Khalan will be 1 year old next week. it doesn't even feel like it's been that long since I first drew him, honestly.
haha, I started writing up something REALLY sappy about how much he means to me, but I deleted it 'cuz I figure I should probably save the sentimental crap for some celebratory birthday art instead lol (even though I don't have any concrete ideas for a drawing as of yet).
fingers crossed that I'll be able to get something done by next week!!! my boy deserves it!!!
We’re the same. Split right down the center.
paper crown by liam gallagher may just be my favorite song what the fuck
“As God creates, so man can create. Given a certain intensity of will, and the shapes created by the mind become subjective. Hallucinations, they are called, although to their creator they are real as any visible object is to any one else. Given a more intense and intelligent concentration of this will, and the form becomes concrete, visible, objective; the man has learned the secret of secrets; he is a MAGICIAN.” ― Helena P Blavasky