Hiro fidgeted. Lunch was rarely ever fun. While large groups of students gathered to talk and eat on campus or left to have food out in Death City, he was usually abandoned awkwardly sitting in some place off to the side, so he could have his meal out of the way. Hiro preferred not to bother people. After all, most only noticed him when they wanted favors done. He used to be so proud of that though. If you needed something, Hiro was your man! How pathetic, he thought to himself now. People only like me when I'm running errands for them.
After his brief stint with Excalibur, the weapon who could work with 'any' meister, he'd gotten a taste of what it was like to be admired and powerful, though no one liked him at the end. Hiro supposed the power may have gone to his head a bit...
That was all over now, and he was back to his normal status as doormat. It sucked. Hiro finished the last of his lunch and delicately cleaned his face with a napkin. After depositing the waste in the refuse bin, he slumped his way to afternoon class, business as usual.
“I'm so sorry!” Hiro exclaimed, frantically picking up books and scrambling to his feet.
“It's no worry, Hiro,” Maka patted his shoulder. “Hey,” she said, looking concerned. “Are you alright?”
Hiro bit his lip and sighed. Maka was always nice to everyone. Okay, so maybe she wasn't always nice to Soul, but he deserved all the Maka chops in the world, the lucky jerk. Considering how he acted most of the time, it was a miracle she still wanted to work with him.
“I'm okay,” he mumbled. “I just wasn't looking where I was going.”
“You off to Stein's room?” Maka brushed off his shoulders and smiled at him comfortingly.
“Yeah.” Hiro couldn't help but return a smile. Maybe he did have a real friend, after all. Maka took his hand and tugged him down the hall.
“Let's get going then!”
And off they went. Hiro vaguely noted a blur of colors as they raced down the hall, blue, yellow, purple, white.
“Good afternoon, class,” Stein addressed the students, seated in tall rows around his desk. “Today we will be dissecting--”
The groans were audible. Stein chuckled.
“Relax, I'm just kidding. We already did three dissections this week. That's alright for now. Today, I want you to pair off for some wavelength study. If you have a meister and weapon pair already, use your normal partner. If you're unaffiliated, find someone to work with.”
There were mumbles, but the mood was considerably lighter after knowing the class wouldn't be chasing its lunches with formaldehyde fumes. Hiro sighed. Partner studies were the bane of his existence. No one wanted to work with him, mostly because no one even noticed him. He might be a bump on a log for all they cared. He was knocked out of his thoughts as students bustled across the aisles to get situated, preparing for the lesson to begin. Hiro looked helplessly at the teacher, hoping to make eye contact. Maybe Stein would excuse him if he couldn't get a partner.
“Do you have anyone?” some student said to another. Hiro looked down at his books, face getting hot with embarrassment as he thought about being the only unpaired student in the room.
“Hey,” someone said, and poked him solidly in the arm.
“Hm?” Hiro looked up, confused. A boy with blue hair carefully re-positioned half-rimmed glasses on his nose and blinked.
“Did you hear me? Are you paired up?” the kid asked him.
“Erm, no,” Hiro replied, confused. “No one ever partners up with me.”
“Are you meister or weapon?”
“I'm a meister,” Hiro said timidly. He couldn't put too much hope in. The guy was probably another meister anyway.
“Oh good, then we're okay to partner, right?”
Hiro met the boy's eyes, trying to discern if he was being serious. When he didn't break out into laughter and walk away, Hiro nodded shyly and extended his hand.
“I'm Hiro, n-nice to meetcha.”
The weapon took Hiro's hand. “Seiji, Sei for short. This should be fun.” A glint of something flickered across Sei's gaze when he smiled, seeming to let his eyes flicker down to Hiro's shirt for a brief moment before holding eye contact again. Hiro had the fleeting thought that Sei's smile looked as though he were enjoying some private joke, but the blonde couldn't identify what it was. Hiro simply returned the smile timidly and faced forward, awaiting Professor Stein's instruction.
So this is what it's like to be a partner. Hm. Hiro kept on smiling.
“Today's study will be wavelength resonance using the 'Common Thought' process,” Stein's voice cut through the student chatter and brought all eyes front and center. “If you're unfamiliar with the process, it's when a meister and weapon pair focus on the same thought at the same time. This is found to help focus soul wavelength and increase resonance. Come up with something as specific as you can. The more detail, the better it will work.”
There were murmurs all around.
Does that really work?
I heard Stein is off his rocker.
How can he be off it if he never gets up from his chair?
A thought? … common?
Is he for real? Weird.
It's probably some crackpot theory.
How very odd.
I bet he has no idea what he's talking about.
What if it works? Wouldn't that be kind of cool?
Shhh he's looking at us.
We're in trouble now...
Did you see that new weapon girl today?
I wonder if Black Star uses hair gel...
“QUIET!” Stein was shaking. Out of the corner of his eye, Hiro could see students, visibly paled, slowly lowering the hands that covered their gossiping mouths.
“I expect you all to conduct yourselves in a manner that at least somewhat suggests you want to pass your courses in this academy! It's not a very far-off theory. I myself came up with it.
Do you know why I am teaching this class?” Ox raised his hand. “-- That's a rhetorical question, Ox.”
Stein brushed off his lab coat several times and composed himself. “Do you know why, despite the fact that everyone thinks I'm crazy, I was asked to teach at this school? I have an incredibly flexible wavelength, possibly the most flexible one alive today, with perhaps one exception. I'm considered somewhat of an expert in the field, so you'll do well to try this exercise. Now, get with your partners, and write down your thought. Draw a picture or diagram as well if you are capable.”
There was an audible sigh of relief from the students, and chatter struck up again. Hiro turned to face Sei.
“What do you think we should use, Hiro?” Sei mused. He began listing thoughts of various things, from a black cat he passed every day on his way home to his favorite meal, but Hiro was barely listening. His mind wandered.
A partner, for the first time. It's amazing. I can't even believe that someone would want me. I wasn't the last choice either!
“Whatcha got there?” Sei poked him.
Hiro looked down and blushed. He'd been drawing a rosebush from the courtyard, a place he often went to sit and think. He covered his notebook.
“I-It's nothing... really, nothing!” he exclaimed, as Sei pried the thing from Hiro's hands, a devilish grin on his face.
There was silence between the two of them. Hiro felt stupid. He shouldn't be doing stupid drawings in class anyway. People were bound to make fun of him.
“Hiro, this is...”
“I know, it's weird.,” Hiro fussed around, shuffling his papers, preparing to get up and ask if he could leave class early, anything to escape this embarrassment.
“What I mean is,” Sei continued, “... it's beautiful, Hiro.” Sei touched the paper lightly. “Isn't this one of the rosebushes from the courtyard?”
Hiro blushed and covered his face with one hand. Through his finger, he muttered a small “Thank you.”
“Your instructions,” Stein boomed from the desk at the center of the room – The class went momentarily silent – “are to work out your common thoughts, and go find a place to practice charging up a special move.”
The noise again returned to a dull hum and then proceeded to rise to a loud, collective murmur.
“Are we ready then?” Sei brought Hiro out of his embarrassed daze.
Hiro quirked an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”
Sei tapped the paper. “We have our common thought.” He smiled, probably knowing this embarrassed the blonde next to him. “Why not go out and practice together now?”
“I s-suppose...” Hiro steeled himself, squaring his shoulder and taking a breath. “Yes, let's do that.”
The two packed their books up and quietly filed out, between pairs of their fellow students arguing over what their common idea would be.
Outside, the sun was shining, birds were trilling in the trees, and the sun was ominous as ever, mocking them with its evil smile.
They found a quiet place on a stone wall to sit together and practice.
“Okay, so how exactly does this work?” Sei furrowed his brow. Thankfully, Hiro had some ideas about the process.
“I believe the idea is to focus very hard on the same thought, to imagine it as if it were there, or rather, as though we were there, rather than just thinking 'of' the thought. I remember reading about Stein's theory in a book somewhere. According to him, it puts our soul wavelengths in a sort of rhythm, which allows us to coordinate them... or something like that,” he trailed off, feeling less confident about his knowledge, worried if the other boy thought he was just babbling.
Sei was nodding thoughtfully. “Alright,” he said. “Let's get started.”
Hiro yawned and stretched, not quite ready to wake up, but the sun shining through his windows wouldn't get out of his eyes, and he had urgent bathroom needs. Grumbling internally, he threw some pants on and dragged his body out of bed.
Sei was sitting in the kitchen with his computer, meticulously typing away at something. “Morning, sleepy,” he said cheerfully. Hiro grunted, nodded, and trudged off to do his business.
After washing his face and taking a solid look in the mirror, he squinted, taking stock of his appearance. Not much had changed since he and Sei had moved into an apartment in death city. Hiro kept his hair the same, still wore the same style clothes, always had on his leather choker. However, he supposed, they were rather casual with one another, more so than he'd expected to be with another person. As this morning and many others, he frequently walked around the house in the morning without a shirt on, something he never thought he'd do in front of others, despite his preference for loose, open shirts in school.
But, he thought, Sei was different. In certain ways, Hiro was more comfortable around him than he'd been around anyone else, and in others, the blue-haired scientist made him more nervous than he thought any person ever could. Chuckling to himself at the disparity, Hiro was once again reminded of the first time they partnered as meister and weapon.
“Do you feel it?”
Hiro nodded. There was definitely something, some sort of hum on a spirit level, connecting them. He closes his eyes, imagining a petal gracefully falling from the rosebush, being carried by the wind and tossed around, warm red against the sunlight, before softly falling onto the stone bench. The soul resonance grew stronger.
A surge of power flowed between them, back and forth as it grew stronger. Hiro nodded to Sei, who transformed into a dull grey scythe. It wasn't nearly as impressive as Hiro would have expected, what with his vibrant appearance in human form.
“Special move: Demon Slasher!” Hiro called out, as the resonance built up to a dangerous level of power. Sei's form changed in Hiro's hand, the size and shape of the scythe becoming wildly different. A sleek silver accented by darkened swirls, the special move form of Sei's was something to behold. The blade's designs seemed more to be cracks that spilled light, rather than etched on designs. He vibrated in Hiro's hands with sheer power.
Knowing they couldn't hold the pose for long and had no target to fight, Hiro called out, “Release!”
Sei burst in his hands, shattering into a million glowing metal shards that flew all around Hiro. Panicked, thinking he'd hurt the weapon, Hiro tried frantically to remember first aid instructions. However, to his relief and surprise, the flecks of metal fell like snow onto the ground of the courtyard, but as they fell, Sei's body formed beneath, in a rested position.
Sei was smiling. “You look like you've seen a ghost,” he smirked.
“I've never seen anyone do that... what... what was that?”
Grinning, Sei explained, “It's not something I think many weapons can do, I suppose. I can split apart and reform. I can do it from weapon-to-weapon or weapon-to-human form as well. I noticed you seemed bored with my scythe form, but I can be other things as well. There are few weapons with more than one true form, other than moves, you know.”
Thinking of Tsubaki, the only one he knew of, Hiro nodded. He wondered if Sei was as powerful as Tsubaki since he had this capability. Tsubaki may look unassuming, but he'd once been told by a serious-faced Maka that there was a reason Tsubaki was Black Star's weapon, other than the fact she was a rare person who could deal with his outbursts. Like Black Star, Tsubaki was powerful beyond the norm, and her power was best made use of someone like him.
“That's pretty amazing,” Hiro said, and he meant it. He felt his strength waning from their resonance practice.
Sighing, exhausted, Hiro flopped down onto the stone. He snuck a glance at Sei, who was writing notes in a small book that Hiro guessed he stored – yep – in the front pocket of his lab coat.
They enjoyed the sun in a comfortable silence for a while. Hiro was nudged awake by Sei lightly pushing the toe of his shoe against his leg.
“Wake up, sleepyhead,” the boy said. “You dozed off, but we probably need to go back in.”
Hiro mumbled something about being tired and shut his eyes again, only to be pulled to his feet with surprising strength.
Sei laughed at him, brushing off Hiro's shirt and carefully straightening his loosened tie.
Tugging on the metal ring of his choker, Sei murmured, “This is nice. Do you have any others?”
A creeping blush rose to the blonde's face. “No... I've always worn this one.”
“I think we can fix that,” Sei grinned.
Hiro still wasn't quite sure what Sei had meant or why he cared about what was basically a fancy necklace, but whatever. He rubbed his eyes sleepily and splashed his face again with some water, toweled off, and slunk back out to the kitchen for some food.
He must have been quieter than he realized because Sei didn't seem to notice him returning.
Casually, he looked over Sei's shoulder and was shocked by what he saw: dozens of pictures of people... tied up, restrained, and posed in various ways. Some used rope, while others used a type of leather strap or harness. A few even seemed to be suspended in some way. It was then Hiro noticed many of them were wearing chokers quite similar to his own.
Oh my –
Is that why he thought I wear this? Hiro thought to himself, a hand instinctively drawing up to his neck. He wanted to be shocked, outraged by the images, but instead, he felt a slight tingling in his stomach and a red flush in his cheeks. The sexual nature of the images was embarrassing but also quite... arousing. As he stole another glance, Hiro noted that many of the images were of males. His face grew even warmer. Does that mean Sei is into guys? Clearing his throat, he nearly dashed to the fridge to pull out a container of orange juice.
He tried to pretend he hadn't seen anything, but Sei was wise to him. The boy was clearly embarrassed, but there was a flicker of some other emotion that crossed his face as he stood and approached Hei.
“Hiro, you're all red,” he laughed. “Did you like what you saw?”
Hiro choked on his drink but didn't turn around.
“I don't know what you mean, Sei.” He tried his best to be calm but failed pretty miserably.
“You and I both know that's a total lie,” the other boy laughed.
Hiro looked down at his drink, blushing. “Really, Sei, what was that stuff?” he asked in a small voice.
“Truly, you don't know about bondage?”
Hiro wanted to crawl into the floor and hide for all eternity. “I d-don't think so...” He looked down at the counter. “But,” he nearly whispered, “m-maybe you could teach me?”
Hiro expected Sei to laugh, but no such thing occurred. After a short pause, Hiro turned slightly to look at Sei, who was biting his lip, eyeing him in a curious way. It was a moment later when Hiro actually looked at the other boy and noticed a slight... disturbance in the otherwise pristine front of his trousers. Feeling himself flush even more, Hei realized that the idea of what he asked must have been appealing... Perhaps very so, he thought.
“Sei--?” Hiro's voice broke on a high note. Without warning, Sei grabbed one of Hiro's arms, spinning him around, and pushed him up against the counter. He grabbed the front of his choker teasingly but with some force.
“All this time, you wore this cute little collar... and I thought perhaps you were already someone's pet. Now, I find out not only are you un... affiliated... but that you're also completely innocent to my particular brand of,” he paused to smile,” … interests.”
Hiro could do nothing but nod imperceptibly.
“Well then,” the boy grinned, “Since you asked so sweetly, you can be my pet if you like... I promise to treat you very, very well and teach you everything I know,” he said, ever-so-slightly pressing forward against Hiro, who was able now to feel the bulge in the other boy's pants, his own body responding similarly.
“Yes what, Hiro?” Sei's voice was firm and deep.
Instinctively, Hiro knew the answer. “Yes, p-please.”