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Prompt-a-palooza

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Reigen didn’t know when the office became a meeting ground for a gaggle of teenage girls but it had. Ever since Tome had decided to ensconce herself as a permanent fixture at Spirits and Such, her friends had decreed it the place to hang out. This unfortunately meant that Reigen knew far more than he ever wanted to about teenage girl drama.

“Is she still going out with him?” Maki asked.

“Yes, her taste is so awful,” the dark-haired girl commented.

Tome, her mouthful of snacks chimed in, “Seriously, find someone who likes your hobbies. She could do better.” The talk went on and on, shifting from one topic to another at the drop of a hat.

Reigen glanced at the clock. “I have a client in a half hour,” he announced.

That was the girls’ cue to pack up and leave. They continued chattering as they gathered their school things. Honestly, Reigen was envious of them, sharing that joy in each other’s company at such a young age. It had taken Reigen until his late twenties to find real companionship.

As they filed out, one of the girls lingered. With wavy brown hair, she was one of the prettiest of Tome’s friends despite being a bug eater. “Can I tell you something, Reigen-san?” the girl asked.

Why not, he still had twenty minutes to clear out the garbage from the girls’ snacks. “Sure,” Reigen said, collecting the trash.

“Tome’s birthday is coming up,” the girl said, “and we’re trying to figure out what to do for her.”

“What about karaoke?” Reigen suggested.

“We knew she likes it but—” the girl started fidgeting.

The front door opened, had the client arrived early? Reigen straightened his tie. “Welcome to Spirits—” It was Serizawa, back from his solo job. That meant Reigen didn’t have to put on his customer service face yet. “How did that cemetery exorcism go?”

“The spirit was small and easy to handle,” Serizawa said. “Hello, Sakura-chan,” he greeted the girl.

That was her name. Reigen had a hard time keeping up with their names, he mostly referred to them by their hobbies: Bug-eater, Manga Girl, Comedian…Tome.

The girl bowed her head. “Serizawa-san,” she said, eager to explain further. “Tome’s birthday is on Thursday—”

“That’s nice,” Serizawa said. He moved over to the tea area and straightened it out. Presentation was part of the Spirts and Such difference. “What are her plans?”

“We don’t know yet,” Sakura admitted. She twirled some of her hair around her finger, a calculated move of cuteness. “I wanted to ask Reigen-san’s advice.”

Reigen racked his brain for pop culture references, what would a high school girl even want? Tome wasn’t necessarily a normal teenage girl anyway. “I don’t know,” Reigen said, “maybe throw her a party at her favorite place?”

Sakura’s eyes shone with appreciation. “Really? You’ll let us throw a party here?” she asked.

Reigen blinked. “That’s not—”

“Thank you, Reigen-san!” Sakura bounced with glee. “This will be amazing.”

Serizawa looked pleased at the girl’s enthusiasm. “We’ll make the arrangements,” Serizawa said, “you make sure she gets here Thursday.”

With a few more effusive declarations, Sakura left with a bounce in her step.

Reigen rubbed his temples. “Why are you doing this to me?”

“As Deputy Director of Spirits and Such I can make certain decisions for the business,” Serizawa said. Reigen kept his face neutral having those particular words thrown back at him. “And I’ve always wanted to throw a surprise party.”

They had been together less than a week and Serizawa already knew how to manipulate him. This did not bode well. “Fine,” Reigen said. “But nothing too elaborate.”

Serizawa smiled, kissing Reigen on the cheek. “Of course not.”

“Nothing too elaborate” devolved into balloons, alien-shaped treats and soft-drinks of all sorts. Word had spread among Tome’s friends and they kept adding things, smuggling them over to Spirits and Such over the course of the next few days. Spirits and Such started to feel more like a party supply store than a spiritual consultation service.

Keeping everything from Tome was not easy. Not only was she clever, but Serizawa kept forgetting the key component of “surprise.” Reigen couldn’t count the number of times either he or Dimple would have to distract Tome or kick Serizawa in the shins to get him to stop blurting things out.

Finally, Thursday arrived. Reigen closed the office early so that he and Serizawa could decorate. The ESPer switched between using his powers and his hands to hang banners, and set out the treats. The entire time, he had a massive grin on his face.

Reigen wondered if Serizawa was going to get more out of the party than Tome. A half hour before the appointed time, teenagers flooded into the office. “I thought there were going to be like five of you,” Reigen grumbled under his breath.

“Stop grumping,” Serizawa admonished him, with a quick shoulder hug. “We all need to find a place to hide.”

That wasn’t happening. The teens all scrambled to hide behind the limited furniture while Reigen elected to stay by his desk. “What?” he looked at Serizawa. “Wouldn’t it be weirder if I wasn’t at my desk?”

“I don’t think that’s in the spirit of the thing,” Serizawa told him.

The rattle of the doorknob stopped any further arguments. Serizawa snapped his fingers and the lights turned out. A hush settled over the office.

“Why is it so dark in here?” Tome asked as she walked in.

Dimple flipped on the light and everyone jumped out of their hiding spaces.

“SURPRISE!”

The look on Tome’s face was priceless. Serizawa took a photo on his cellphone, wanting to keep this for all time. The teenager almost cried she was so happy. Sakura, Manga Girl and Comedian all hugged their friend, celebrating her being part of their lives.

The party was a raging success. So many happy kids and one very, very happy Tome. Reigen’s computer was open, playing music as the teens danced and snacked.

“Was this all you wanted?” Reigen teased, munching on an alien cupcake.

Serizawa nodded. “Better than I imagined. More work than I’d think I want to do again.”

Reigen laughed and allowed himself to enjoy the party, taking Serizawa’s words at face value. Which is why, months later as his office was again filled with children and cake smashed in his face, Reigen never suspected he would be the recipient of a party of his own.

Chapter Text

He should be happy for Serizawa. The ESPer was getting out there and doing what he set out to do: rejoin society. Serizawa was going to school, making friends, taking care of his own household, and now he was going on a date.

“She just approached me after class,” Serizawa said with a shy smile, “and asked if I wanted to do something sometime and I said yes.”

“Congratulations,” Reigen said. The word sounded more sincere than it felt. He continued cleaning up the massage room. The end of the day was drawing near and Reigen wanted to get out as quickly as possible. “When are you going?”

“This weekend,” Serizawa said, “I have no idea what to do. I was wondering if you had any suggestions.”

Suggestions? Reigen tried to recall his sparse dating history. His own efforts at wooing the fairer sex hadn’t been all that successful. “I haven’t exactly been active on the dating market myself,” Reigen said.

“You still have more experience than me,” Serizawa insisted, his figure filling the doorframe. “I’d really appreciate the help.”

Towels folded, supplies put away, incense smell aired out, the room was ready to be abandoned. Reigen shut the door, pushing his way past Serizawa. “I guess,” he started, “it depends on the purpose of the date.” He rolled down his sleeves, cuffing his buttons back into a professional state. “Movies are popular but it’s difficult to talk if you want to get to know someone. Museums can be a little stiff, not everyone likes dancing or karaoke. Those all provide more opportunities to talk than sitting through a movie though.”

“Okay.” Serizawa moved back to his desk and was actually taking notes. The ESPer was physically writing down his boss’s words of wisdom. Reigen’s throat felt dry.

“Lunch and a walk in the park would be pretty lowkey,” Reigen suggested. “I’ve taken a few girls out on the boats on the lake before. They usually liked that.” Even if they didn’t end up staying.

With a final flourish of the pen, Serizawa stood. “That might be the plan, thank you Reigen.”

Reigen spouted some nonsense he wouldn’t remember later and they finished packing up. With a heart surrounded by cotton and a stomach lined with lead, Reigen made his way back to his own lonely apartment. God, how pathetic was he to be jealous of a former hikikomori. What a piece of work he was.

Reigen threw his jacket on the couch and flopped onto it with a dramatic sigh. It was his own damn fault he couldn’t get a date. A partner doesn’t just magically fall into your lap, you have to put yourself out there.

That was Reigen’s failure and Serizawa’s success. Serizawa was a good man who had suffered enough. Reigen wasn’t going to ruin this chance at happiness for him. He’d be a good boss and a good friend, just like he always had.

The next few days at work were pretty normal. Other than Serizawa’s higher energy level, nothing had changed. Serizawa still talked to Reigen about everything and nothing, still did business, they still did everything together. So why did it feel like the world was tipping out from underneath him?

That Saturday, when Serizawa was out on his date, Reigen did everything he could to distract himself. He cleaned the apartment top to bottom, did laundry, shopped for groceries, even called his mother. That evening as he sat, eating his small homemade meal he wondered what Serizawa was doing.

He had said that it was to be an afternoon date. Did Serizawa and this girl find a way to stretch out the time? Decide to get dinner as well? Was Serizawa walking her to her door, the two of them staring at each other with expectations—

The phone rang. “Hello?”

“That idiot running the Psychic Sun Union treasury is pissing me off.” It was Shinra. Reigen had never been more relieved to hear that voice.

“Is he still sticking you for dues?” Reigen asked.

“Yes!”

Reigen listened to his friend vent, happy to deal with someone else’s feelings on Saturday night.

Monday morning Reigen expected a full report on the date. What he got was: “It was nice. Hiyoko and I are going out to eat after the next study group.”

“That’s great,” Reigen said. Nothing else followed. No elaboration on Serizawa’s story. “I know you might not want to kiss and tell,” he threw up a little in his mouth just saying that, “but you should work on your storytelling.”

“Sorry.” Serizawa didn’t look sorry at all. “How was your Saturday?”

“Got some work done around the house and then Shinra called,” Reigen said.

Serizawa propped his chin against his fist, leaning against his desk. “What about?”

Reigen started talking and wouldn’t stop. It didn’t help that Serizawa kept prodding him on, spurring him onto other tangents. It wasn’t until later that Reigen thought it a little odd.

Why wouldn’t Serizawa want to talk about his date? Was he worried about hurting Reigen’s feelings because he was single? The blonde grimaced at the thought. He did not need Serizawa’s sympathy for his own lack of sociability. He just didn’t.

Weeks passed with news about dates and get-togethers and “Hiyoko said this” and “Hiyoko said that.” There was maybe a little more bounce in Serizawa’s step but otherwise he didn’t seem much different. He still went out for drinks occasionally with Reigen and they joked and teased. Spending time with Serizawa was a bright point in Reigen’s day; the world seemed duller when they were apart.

God, maybe Reigen was just lonely in general. There was a lull at work and he opened up his computer to a mixer website. Millennials were having a hell of a time dating in Japan anyway, it wasn’t all Reigen’s fault.

The front door opened and he quickly minimized the tab. “Welcome to Spirits and Such—”

“Hiyoko!” Serizawa stood up and greeted the newcomer. A woman in her mid-thirties with long straight black hair and a slight gap in her teeth, Serizawa’s new girlfriend was not what Reigen expected. “Reigen this is Hiyoko; Hiyoko this is Reigen.”

Her handshake was warm and pleasant, like the bland face it came from. “I’ve heard a lot about you,” Reigen said.

Hiyoko beamed, the little gap seemed wider. “I bet I’ve heard more about you.” Reigen wasn’t sure if that was a jab or not.

“I asked her to lunch since it seemed like a slow day,” Serizawa explained.

It was a slow day, there would be no reason to refuse. “Go right ahead.” Reigen would just eat alone. It’s not like he hadn’t done it before or never would again.

“We’ll be back,” Serizawa promised and went out the door.

Reigen pulled up the tab again. This was sad, he needed to do something. He consumed lunch quickly, wiping the mess from his face with a small napkin.

Serizawa wasn’t back yet. Bored, Reigen stood up and wondered around. How the hell did Serizawa’s desk get to be such a pit? A stiff breeze and the whole pile of books would topple over. Reigen straightened them, his eye catching on a hunk of paper used as a bookmark.

It looked like the start of a list. The word “jealousy” was crossed out right at the top. There were other words but they were hidden within the confines of the book. Part of him wanted to snoop and another part, the stronger part, said he wouldn’t find anything interesting. It was just homework.

Reigen let it go.

Serizawa arrived twenty minutes later apologizing profusely about line waits and lunch. Reigen waved it off. “It happens, you lose track of time when you’re with someone you love.”

The comment did not roll off of Serizawa’s back like Reigen thought it would. “How do you know if you’re in love?” Serizawa asked.

“I don’t know,” Reigen answered. He went to make himself some tea. “It’s never happened to me.”

The ESPer looked slightly panicked at the comment. “But you’ve dated, right?” Serizawa asked.

“That doesn’t have anything to do with being in love,” Reigen said. “Just because you’re with someone, that doesn’t mean that the feelings are automatically there.” The number of dates that Reigen went on because the lady asked…he couldn’t even count. “A lot of people date to figure out if this is what they want. For some it is and some it isn’t.”

“Reigen?” Serizawa asked, joining Reigen at the tea cart.

The tea had finished steeping. “Yeah?”

“Aren’t you supposed to like the person you’re dating?” Serizawa asked.

Reigen blew on the cup and took a sip of tea. “In theory. Why?”

Serizawa bit his lower lip. “Do you like Hiyoko?”

Reigen shrugged. “She seems nice.”

“Nice?” Serizawa raised an eyebrow. “That’s it?”

“I met her once for a few minutes,” Reigen said, he resented that he was being pressed on this, “and you never really talk about her. So that’s what I’m going with. Nice.”

“Reigen—”

“Serizawa,” Reigen countered. “What does it matter? Why do you care what I think about her?”

“Because it’s important,” Serizawa started the kettle brewing again.

Reigen laughed, this was absurd. “Why is it important? She’s not my girlfriend.”

The kettle screamed. Serizawa poured himself some hot water. “I guess not,” Serizawa muttered. He stood there, looming over his brewing tea.

Silences between them had never been uncomfortable before now.

Reigen finally broke the ice. “She’s nice.”

Serizawa snorted. “Yeah, she is.” He took a few sips of his tea. This silence was better, until Serizawa spoke again: “What would you do if I told you she wasn’t my girlfriend either?”

Reigen’s heart stopped. “I would ask you why the hell you’d lead on a girl like that?” It didn’t sound like Serizawa at all.

“She got divorced recently,” Serizawa said. “Hiyoko wants to get back in the dating scene and I had never done it before—”

Reigen filled in some of the gaps. “You were helping each other out,” he said. He wondered how far that help extended. He hated the flash of heat he could feel on his cheeks at the thought.

Serizawa nodded, trying to seem sage. “I think we’re getting to the point where we might see other people.”

“At least you recognize it,” Reigen said, his stomach twisting. That damn bento was not agreeing with him. “That’s better than most couples.”

“I’ll talk to her about it this weekend,” Serizawa said. “I think she’s been eyeing someone else in class.”

Reigen scoffed, that sounded all too familiar. That’s how a tragic number of his office romances fell apart. “You win some, you lose some.”

Maybe Reigen didn’t need to go to that mixer website right now. He took a long sip of tea, his eyes flicking across Serizawa’s handsome face. Maybe what Reigen needed to do was put himself out there more.

Chapter Text

Wounds heal with time, Mob knew this. He had witnessed this every time he scraped his knee or scratched his hands. He didn’t understand the process of cellular turnover or how platelets staunched the flow of blood but he knew that the body could heal itself.

Mental wounds were different, less visible, but still there. Evident in reactions to stress or in how one lived everyday life.

Mob still wasn’t sure about spiritual wounds. Even with the evil spirits he had exorcised, he had never experienced the pain of being possessed himself, at least not fully. Dimple’s temporary takeovers weren’t the same thing. Dimple he trusted.

But Dimple couldn’t answer his questions. The night he returned from the Asagiri mansion, Mob experienced the worst nightmares he had ever had. He didn’t remember what they were even about anymore, but the impression still remained. That was how all his memories were of Mogami’s world. No details, just the emotions and the intent.

Was it this way for everyone?

“Mob.” He felt a tap against his head. Mob blinked and looked up.

Reigen glanced down at his student. “You up for this?” Reigen asked. “If you’re not I can call Serizawa.”

“No.” Mob shook his head. “I’ll take care of this.” He could feel the spirit coiled around the house’s entrance. It took only a quick flex of power for it to disappear. “I was distracted.”

Reigen rolled his shoulders back. “It happens to the best of us.” He looked back over his shoulder. “I’ll take care of the client,” Reigen said. “Do you want some takoyaki after this?”

Mob’s stomach rumbled. “I would like that.”

Ten minutes later they were out the door, one exorcism richer. They walked side by side as they always did, master and student. “All right,” Reigen said, “spill.”

“Spill what?” Mob asked.

“Why you’re so mopey,” Reigen said. “Stress causes indigestion. No point in buying you takoyaki if you can’t enjoy it.”

Mob’s lips twitched a little. “Shishou,” he asked, “what do you remember about the train?”

Reigen didn’t need clarification about which one, it had been less than a month since their trip to the hot spring. “Not much,” he admitted. “I know that I was there and that I don’t want to go back.”

Mob nodded, it sounded familiar. “That’s how I feel about Mogami’s world,” he said. “I don’t remember individual events just a vague sense of unease and sadness. Sometimes there’s an anger I don’t understand but the worst, it’s—” he didn’t know how to describe it. It was an inexplicable pressure around the memories. It was so frustrating, being unable to identify it.

Reigen cut through Mob’s inability to speak. “It’s the sense of time,” he chimed in. “The weight of it, knowing that you were there and you couldn’t get out. I know that you for guys I was asleep for a few hours but for me--” Reigen trailed off. “I was alone for a month.”

His master did understand. He had felt it too. Mob’s eyes grew hot and wet. “It’s like I was there forever. It wasn’t just the time he kept me there, it was like he stole my whole history from me.”

Reigen looked concerned. “It was bad for me, but not like that,” he said. “It was just the month, an entire month of loneliness and hunger.” He saw that Mob was paying attention and continued. “The hunger was what got to me,” he admitted. “That constant fear I was going to starve at any minute.”

“I had lost everyone and everything,” Mob said. “I think Mogami wanted me to feel the same despair he felt, he wanted me to be like him.” He would never be like Mogami, he knew that. He knew that was why he escaped.

“I don’t think the train was that conscious,” Reigen said. “I think it just wanted me to die.”

In other circumstances, Mob might have thought his Shishou was exaggerating, but he didn’t think that was the case now. Mogami had wanted a sympathetic companion, the spirit world Reigen had been to was just a trap, set long ago and abandoned. They would never return to those prisons; Mob was determined about that.

They stopped in front of the takoyaki stall, a simple mom-and-pop operation. Reigen gave his pupil an expectant look. “What do you want Mob?”

Mob wanted to know what actually happened to him. He wanted the aching to stop but some things were beyond even his abilities. “Can we talk some more?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Reigen said, voice gentle. “After you pick a flavor.”

This was his Shishou’s strength, the ability to listen and to guide. That was what Mob needed right now and maybe, just maybe, by making Reigen talk, Mob could help him in return.

Chapter Text

He had been looking for a shirt at Reigen’s request. Serizawa hadn’t meant to snoop but that’s what happened. It was just hanging there in the far back encased in plastic, a foreign visitor in a sea of men’s dress shirts, pants and t-shirts.

Serizawa pushed the other clothes aside in the tiny wardrobe to get a better look. Red jacket, brown and yellow plaid skirt, it was definitely a schoolgirl uniform. Why would Reigen—

A red flush dusted Serizawa’s cheeks at the image. Reigen’s legs peeking out from underneath the skirt, the waist nipped in by the jacket, the little blue bow tie—

If he asked would Reigen model it for him? Would Reigen twirl in the little skirt, maybe hike it up inch by inch? Serizawa bit his lower lip. Did he have the courage to ask for such a thing? Would Reigen agree?

Would Reigen—come out of the bathroom wearing nothing but boxers and a bored expression? The blonde took one look at the schoolgirl uniform in Serizawa’s hand and let out an exasperated sigh. He snagged the bagged outfit with one hand and grasped his cell phone with the other.

A quick flip and Reigen was speaking. “Mobbu? Non-emergency, did you ever return that uniform you borrowed to the girls’ school?” A pause. “Yeah, I forgot too. You have a minute to take them by this week?” Reigen tossed the uniform on the couch, free hand on his hip.

“I’ll take mine to the office and you can pick them up whenever,” Reigen said. “I’ve got the client’s number still so she can meet you at the gate.” He listened for a few moments, a small smile on his face. Mob didn’t come by the office nearly often enough anymore and both Reigen and Serizawa missed the boy. “Thanks, Mobbu and good luck on that chemistry test.”

Serizawa could almost hear Mob groaning on the other side of the phone. Reigen hung up and blinked at Serizawa. “What?”

“This was for a job?” Serizawa asked, pointing at the uniform.

“Yeah.” Reigen pushed passed him and grasped a dress shirt, slipping it on. “Haunting at a girl’s school. Ghost was a real pervert.” Brown eyes sized up Serizawa. “You almost look disappointed.”

Serizawa laughed nervously, scratching at the back of his head. “Maybe a little.”

Reigen finished buttoning up the shirt. “Babe, I don’t mind playing dress up for you, but not with something I borrowed from kids.” He leaned forward and pecked Serizawa on the cheek. “Get dressed, we got a train to catch.”

Serizawa felt a little foolish, but only a little. It wasn’t a straight up no. Reigen just wouldn’t fool around in that particular outfit. That didn’t rule out others. Serizawa licked his lips. He knew what he was shopping for online that night.

Chapter Text

His limbs were heavy, his head in a fog and Serizawa had never been so damn happy. It was his 32nd birthday and he was surrounded by friends. They had taken over an entire corner of the little restaurant down the street from the office. The teens sat on one side and Serizawa’s classmates on the other. Everyone was chatting, telling jokes and stories while stuffing their faces. They were all having a fantastic time, none more than Serizawa.

Birthdays at Claw had always been lonely affairs. The most that Serizawa could hope for was a single slice of cake delivered to his room. In contrast, this celebration had plates of consumed food, empty glasses and a decimated birthday cake as silent testaments to how his life had changed.

And it was all thanks to the people flanking him, Shigeo Kageyama and Reigen Arataka. Shigeo, god what a good kid, was just a treat to know. Serizawa grasped his mostly empty glass. “A toast to Shigeo-senpai!” he called out, “it is a privilege to know you and watch you grow up.”

The teenage boy grew pink. “Thank you, Serizawa.”

Serizawa then slung an arm around the man at his side, Reigen Arataka, his boss, his friend, and his favorite person. “And a toast to this guy,” Serizawa said, shaking Reigen, “this guy is the most beautiful man in the world.”

Reigen just shook his head. “Nah, you—”

Serizawa wouldn’t hear it. He pressed his cheek right up against Reigen’s. The other man’s skin was soft. “So beautiful.”

Reigen coughed and attempted to pry the glass out of Serizawa’s hand. “That’s enough now—”

“Kampai!” Everyone at the table scrambled to clink their glasses together. Reigen failed to liberate Serizawa’s glass, allowing Serizawa to down the rest of the contents.

Now he was lightheaded and a little lovesick. Reigen was right there, hair golden in the dim restaurant, a shining example of beauty amongst the mundane. “You are the prettiest man I’ve ever met” Serizawa blurted out.

The waitress came by, bland customer service face on. “Does anyone need anything else?” she asked.

“Water,” Reigen requested, tugging at the arm tightening around him. “Lots of water.”

When the waitress was gone, Serizawa let go of Reigen, just content to gaze at him with one elbow propped against the table, head cradled in his palm. “It makes me sad that you don’t know how special you are,” Serizawa said. The number of nights he had seen Reigen walk by himself to the train station made his heart ache.

Reigen groaned. “It’s your birthday, please don’t get maudlin.”

If Serizawa had been paying attention, he would have noticed Tome taking out her phone and pointing it at them.

“I can see it and some of the clients do too. I get jealous when they flirt but that’s not your fault,” Serizawa said. Reigen was a performer, that was part of his charm. Clients responded and took more expensive courses if you were nice to them. Reigen was putting food on his table, on Serizawa’s table. “You’re providing customer service; I know you’re not interested in them but it makes me sad.”

Reigen flushed red, shoving a tempura sweet potato in his mouth to avoid eye contact. “I can always tone it down—”

“No.” Now Serizawa frowned, pushing himself fully upright. “You are Reigen Arataka, Greatest Psychic of the 21st Century!” He pointed an accusatory finger. “You help people, you make them feel safe!” Serizawa shoved that finger right into Reigen’s chest. “I just want some of that attention for myself!”

“Tell him, Serizawa!” Tome catcalled.

“Tome,” Mob hissed from behind the taller ESPer. “Don’t encourage—”

Reigen took the finger poking into him, cradling the hand. “Okay, we should get you home—”

Serizawa gasped at the contact, grasping at Reigen’s fingers. “I know you’ve been hurt,” Serizawa said. “I have too, just in different ways. You need time to heal from what others have done. I can’t promise to never hurt you, I still hurt myself--”

Ritsu stood up. “We’ve had a lovely time, let’s go.” The others at the table all stood and booked it to the cashier, trying not to watch the ensuing train wreck.

Only Shigeo remained at the table. He sat, waiting for an opening.

“I guess what I’m trying to say—” Serizawa said.

“Is that you should go home now,” Shigeo chimed in. “Your tab has been paid, Shishou.”

“Thanks, Mob,” Reigen said. He grasped Serizawa’s arm and slung it over his shoulder. “I can take it from here.”

“I’m helping,” Shigeo insisted, taking Serizawa’s other arm.

Propped up between two of his favorite people, Serizawa’s chest swelled. “You are the best,” he muttered. They stumbled their way to the train, Serizawa mumbling all the while. Every once and a while he would lean more on Reigen, happy to feel the smaller man’s body against his. “You smell really nice,” he said.

“Thanks, Serizawa,” Reigen said.

“I know sometimes you think you’re going to be all alone, but you’re not,” Serizawa said, words pouring from his mouth. “You’ve got me, you’ve got Shigeo, you’ve got Dimple.”

“Dimple who couldn’t even make it tonight,” Reigen groused.

Shigeo defended the spirit. “He had something to do.”

“He’s a ghost,” Reigen said. “What could he possibly—”

“Reigen,” Serizawa said, “I love you.”

Reigen swallowed, his Adam’s apple bobbing. He tried to blow it off. “God, you are so drunk.”

“I think he means a lot of people care about you,” Shigeo said, trying to maintain peace.

“That’s not—” Serizawa shook himself loose from his two companions. He cupped Reigen’s face. “I love you. I mean it. I know you can’t—"

Reigen’s face was unreadable, his eyes a little wet. His words were patient and kind: “We’ll revisit this conversation when you’re sober.”

“Okay.” Serizawa leaned in for a kiss, only to find a palm against his face.

“Sober,” Reigen insisted.

Serizawa nodded. He said he could wait, he would wait. Serizawa didn’t remember much about the trip home. It wasn’t until the next morning, when he woke up to a pounding headache and a cool cloth on his forehead that he realized what he’d done.

Serizawa tried to bolt up. “Oh no, I—”

“Shush.” A firm hand pushed him back down. It was Reigen, in the same clothes from the night before. “How do you feel?”

There was an unidentifiable film in Serizawa’s mouth, his head ached and his eyes were gummy. He blinked in response.

“That good, huh?” Reigen said. “I’ll get you something.” The man disappeared out of Serizawa’s line of vision, but he could hear Reigen puttering around his kitchen. About ten minutes later, Serizawa found a bowl of miso and a cup of tea within his reach.

He was embarrassed at his weakness and his performance the night before. “Thank you,” Serizawa said, sipping at the miso. The warmth spread through his stomach, his chest, his face.

Reigen’s expression was a soft one, something Serizawa hadn’t seen before. “Did you mean what you said last night?”

Serizawa had let cowardice rule his life before. He wouldn’t do it again. “Yes,” he said, “all of it.”

“Even the part where you said my ass was the finest you had ever seen?” Reigen teased.

The blood drained from Serizawa’s face. “Did I say that?”

“Yeah,” Reigen replied. “And some other stuff too.” He leaned forward, pressing his lips to Serizawa’s forehead. “I think I love you too.”

Serizawa couldn’t stop grinning, despite the pounding in his head and heart. This was the best birthday he had ever had.