A thin curl of steam wafted its way out Katsuya’s lips. His nose fidgeted from the biting cold. He huddled closer to himself, preserving his own heat as he watched his breath dissipate into the night sky. The stars were out tonight, and a gleaming half moon joined the ensemble. As he waited, the gentle crunch of snow approached closer to him. He turned to look who it was.
“Oh! Serizawa! You’re seriously early!”
Katsuya relaxed, Reigen had finally arrived. “T-that’s because I didn’t want to be late...”
“Huh? Hope you didn’t have to wait too long then. Since we’re both early let’s see if we’ll beat the crowd!”
Katsuya nodded, “okay.” His eyes watched as Reigen sauntered over by his side. They started walking together. Katsuya looked at the road ahead of them as he matched his pace with Reigen’s. Snowflakes drifted off the branches of tree, dancing softly onto the snow banks. There was an awkward silence between the two of them, only amplified by the muted sounds muffled by the snow.
“Is Shigeo and his friends coming?”
“Oh Mob? We might run into each other but… He should spend it with who he wants.”
Katsuya glanced down towards Reigen, intrigued. Whenever the topic of Shigeo‘s maturity was brought up, Reigen spoke with deep pride but a sense of loneliness always lingered. Katsuya tried to change the topic.
“Is it okay to be with me?”
“It’s fine, isn't it? I don’t see why not. You haven’t visited a shrine in a while, right Serizawa?”
That's not what Katsuya meant, but Reigen was clearly trying to avoid the topic so he decided not to press any further. “Not since I was a little boy. I used to go to a shrine every new year with my mother until I became 12. ”
“See! So it’ll be great! New but familiar experiences! And with none other than me, the greatest psychic in the 21st century!” Reigen goaded, Katsuya only nodded back to his antics.
Reigen glanced towards the right, “we’ve arrived. Be careful though, the stairs are super slippery!”
Katsuya took a step on the icy stone, then stared at the red beams of the torii. It was well taken care of, the red paint was even and a vibrant colour. Reigen then abruptly called out to him, breaking Katsuya out of his marvel, “you coming?” It was a simple question, but the way the warm lamps which lined the stairs flickered on Reigen's face made him seem, in a way, softer. Slowly, he made it up the stairs.
Once they made it up the stairs and continued walking, Katsuya couldn’t help but notice the amount of people there. His mouth went dry as he examined the faces of the visitors: couples, families, and friends. It was lively and laughter played through the air as raucous loud voices filled the vicinity. He took a deep inhale and drew it out. It was going to be okay.
“Let’s go get something warm,” Reigen offered, gently tugging on Katsuya's jacket, his hands then pointed towards a stall. There were two lines waiting for what seemed to be a refreshment. Steam rolled out from the stall, the lights painted the clouds orange.
Trees surrounded the shrine providing the sounds of nature, a faint bird drummed into a tree, a faint rustle set off by a rabbit. But, it was almost overwhelmed by the sounds of human life. Parents scolding their children and making sure they’re bundled tightly, the slight awkwardness of a new couple, the lively conversations of friends, and the gentle talks between elderly. It was almost overwhelming, overstimulating, but at the same time comforting. He turned his gaze towards Reigen. Albeit he had technically rejoined society three years ago, thanks to Touchirou. It always felt like he was in a bubble underneath his umbrella, fear of hurting others and as a result keeping normal people at a safe distance. This time though, he was a part of the crowd, and not alone. His sentimental thoughts were interrupted though as he slipped from an icy patch on the pathway. Just as he was about to fall he felt a steady grip on his arm, Reigen had helped him stay steady.
“Oh sorry about that! I wasn't really paying attention and I almost fell.”
“It's no problem. This pathway is just really icy. You can hold onto me if you want.”
Katsuya nodded, he pinched the sleeve of Reigen’s jacket and they made it to the stall. Suddenly, a group of kids ran by, Katsuya immediately pulled Reigen by the waist closer to him so he wouldn’t be stampeded. Katsuya didn't mean to, but he smelt a waft of Reigen's hair. Pink Himalayan salt and tea tree oil. Reigen angrily shouted after the children, “hey! Watch out for others!”
“Shut it, old man!” The rest of the kids laughed and continued running away.
“O-old man?! You little-“
“The line is getting shorter.” Katsuya released his arm against Reigen's waist and slightly tugged on his jacket. Reigen glanced up towards Katsuya, his eyes lingered, then finally he sighed, “Kids these days... I’m not even that old, right Serizawa?”
Katsuya nodded, the sensation of his arm around Reigen lingered in his thoughts, "if you're old, that means I'm ancient."
Reigen grumbled the rest of the time as they waited for the amazake, Katsuya only listened half heartedly. His mind was half focused only upon the interaction earlier and the taste of amazake. Eventually, they reached the front of the line, Katsuya smiled as he received it with both hands. The warmth of the drink flowed through his hands and tingled his body. They stopped for a moment to enjoy the amazake. Katsuya stared at the stars that winked in the sky as he then took his first sip.
"It's good!" He immediately exclaimed.
Reigen took a sip as well, "oh so it is," he chuckled, "normally I don't like amazake, but this year, it's quite nice." He then took another sip. Something immediately ached in Katsuya's chest for a brief moment because of Reigen's reaction. Within that half a second, the way Reigen's cheeks were flushed from the cold, his nose a tad bit red, the way the lights dimly illuminated the soft contours of his face, the way his smile seemed to curve so sweetly, Katsuya's thoughts froze.
"Hey Serizawa, what time is it?"
The request didn't register in his brain for two seconds, his eyes stuck on Reigen, then finally he frantically pulled out his phone and checked the time, "uh it's 11:50!"
"Oh! We're close to the new year! Let's go up to the shrine. What are you gonna pray for, Serizawa?"
"I'm not too sure yet."
"Hmmm... Then you better make up your mind soon! I'm praying for good success for the Spirits & Such consultation office!"
Katsuya smiled, "then I might pray for that too."
"Go ahead! That way it'll be double heard!"
Finally, they made their way to their destination, there was already a crowd forming in the platform before the shrine, all of them waiting to count down the seconds. The two men stood frigidly with the crowd, watching the clock that stood by the shrine. The crowd amongst them bustled and more people filled into the platform as time ticked by. Suddenly, the clock turned into a countdown, the crowd nervously jittered in excitement finally reaching its climax on the last ten seconds. The crowd, including Katsuya and Reigen, counted down and a large cheer erupted when it was midnight. The start of a new year. Sounds of fireworks clapped in the distance. Katsuya and Reigen excitedly looked at each other, "I look forward to the new year with you," they both harmoniously said. They stared at each other flusteredly then smiled.
"Has anyone ever told you you're strong and reliable?"
"I uh- what?!" Katsuya's eyes almost leapt out.
Reigen then wrapped his arms around Katsuya's neck, staring into each other's eyes, "you're also so big and dependable and smart and strong."
Katsuya eyed the people around them, luckily no one was watching. "You've said strong twice. Are you okay? What's wrong?"
Reigen guffawed, "don't worry! Don't worry! I'm probably just a little bit tipsy."
Tipsy? More like drunk. Reigen was practically pressed up against him. From what Katsuya could recall, they didn't drink anything except the amazake. Katsuya then gave himself a mental slap on the head, amazake did have some alcoholic content but considerably low. Reigen must have incredibly low tolerance if he got drunk from it. He looked down towards Reigen who seemed to be enjoying being against Katsuya's chest. Pink Himalayan salt and tea tree oil flirted with his nose. Katsuya could feel his cheeks heat up and his heart race. First things first though, he cleared his throat, "Reigen-san. Please remember where we are. We're at a shrine."
Reigen only whined, "but I'm cold and you're so warm."
"Would you like to leave then?"
Reigen shook his head, effectively rubbing his head against his chest, "I want to be with you."
This time Katsuya could feel even the tips of his ears heat up. He hid his red face behind his hand. Despite it though, curiosity killed the cat, and slowly ever so slowly as he built his courage up, his fingers made a small opening to peer at Reigen.
"Your heart is going so fast... Why's that?" Reigen was looking up towards Katsuya's face. His fingers then immediately shut his eyes. Katsuya didn't know why his heart was racing so fast, couldn't understand either. The last time he felt like this was a vague forgotten memory. "Hey..." This time Reigen's voice sounded serious, Katsuya finally uncovered his face to properly look at Reigen. The smaller man then brightly smiled, "You're cute too, Serizawa!" This was the last straw. Katsuya broke. His heart had flat lined a beat. Reigen then glanced towards the shrine, "oh look Serizawa! It's almost our turn, let's go!" He pulled Katsuya's sleeve, snapping Katsuya partly out of his stupor. Suddenly, something in his chest suddenly revived, and now it was fluttering to get out. Maybe he should pay attention to his love fortune this year.