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The first time Serizawa saw Reigen’s apartment, he didn't see much of anything at first because they were impatient and started kissing before they were even in the door. They did manage to shimmy out of their shoes at the genkan, knocking knees with each other and huffing laughs into one another’s mouths, but most of Serizawa’s attention was thereafter occupied by Reigen’s face and his hands and his agonizingly thin waist under the stiff fabric of his dress shirt. It was, in other words, a successful first date. It was not the first time they’d kissed, nor the first time they’d flirted with one another, but all of that nonsense had developed so naturally from their friendship that they’d forgotten to ever just take each other out for a nice dinner. So it was the first date, but really it was far from the beginning of anything.

Serizawa could taste wine in Reigen’s mouth and even a lingering impression of the meat they’d eaten, which should have been kind of gross but Serizawa was quickly learning that he did not care at all how gross kissing and sex both were as long as it was good kissing and good sex. He’d forgive it a lot of weird tastes and smells, especially if it was with Reigen.

They kiss-stumbled their way down the hall, Serizawa letting Reigen do the leading since Reigen had a better idea of where the bed was. It became a game of sorts, and both of them were very competitive, hands and lips immediately targeting well-known weaknesses. Before Reigen could deflect it, Serizawa landed a Critical Hit by nipping at his earlobe, and Reigen made a goofy noise somewhere between a laugh and a shiver that meant it was Super Effective. Serizawa was doing well. He barely registered the waxy leaf of a houseplant whacking the side of his head, and then they were making their way into the main room.

It was here that Serizawa was immediately KO'ed, not by anything sexy but rather by tripping over something and falling ass backwards. He gave a quavering noise that Reigen mistook for a moan, but then the truth quickly became apparent because Serizawa still had both fists tangled in Reigen's shirt and so accidentally dragged him to the floor with him. They landed in a heap with Reigen in Serizawa's lap and Serizawa… covered in dirt for some reason.

"Why is there dirt?" he asked, lifting a smarting hand to find it pressed black with soil. He fumbled around and found that the culprit had been smushed between his back and the wall: a full garbage bag that had ripped open in their fall and now was bleeding dirt onto the carpet. "Arataka-san, why do you have a bag of dirt in your room?"

Reigen raised his head with the blank look of someone dazed by the fall. Or by the earlobe biting. One or the other. "The elementary school down the street takes donations of used soil," he said, like this was a normal response. "They'll show you how to reinvigorate it and everything."

In Serizawa's opinion this raised more questions than it answered, but at that moment he also finally got a real look at Reigen's apartment. There were plants absolutely everywhere.

Two of the corners were occupied by large leafy tree things; a pot of pink flowers were cozied up next to his desktop computer on the desk; and the door to the balcony was bordered by a phalanx of little ceramic pots with various stages of green sprouting out of them, stealing whatever sunlight they could from the glass face of the sliding door. There were even more plants just visible out on the balcony as amorphous shadows in the evening light, looking about ready to spill over the railing, like water over the rim of a full glass. A yellow plastic watering can was on the floor near where Serizawa had fallen.

It seemed Reigen had a green thumb. Serizawa had always noticed that he took emaculate care of the plants at the office, but he’d suspected that was just another facet of Reigen’s sneaky professionalism, upkeeping the facade. He had no idea it was actually a hobby.

That green thumb was currently hooked in Serizawa’s belt loop, as Reigen blinked down at the mess on the floor.

"Fuck, there's dirt everywhere," he said, coming to his senses.

All Serizawa could do was laugh. "Yeah. There sure is."

Much of their previous energy was now diverted to cleaning up.

Five minutes or so later, Reigen was emptying a dustpan of floor dirt into his kitchen trash while Serizawa reinforced the ripped soil bag with a few more layers of trashbag, tying it all off in a big black knot. Next came some vacuuming to finish off the rug, Reigen wrestling his vacuum out of his hall closet and nearly braining himself on the sofa tripping over its cords. Serizawa offered some assistance afterwards by levitating the cords out of the way with psychic energy, allowing Reigen an easy maneuvering space. Then, at last, the vacuum was clicked off and they were left in a ringing silence that begged for more explanation.

“You like plants,” Serizawa pressed, unable to resist a small, lopsided smile. He was charmed. It made a tingly warmth wiggle in his chest, just below his throat.

“Maybe,” said Reigen, a little breathlessly, as he shoved the vacuum back in its overstuffed closet. A pair of yellow rubber gloves fell out on his shoulder. “I haven’t decided yet.”

Serizawa levitated the gloves back into their proper place and helped hold back all the cleaning supplies trying to avalanche their owner. With a grunted noise of thanks, Reigen at last bested the vacuum and managed to close the closet door again.

“Your plants all seem to be doing pretty well for a gardener who still hasn’t decided whether he likes gardening,” Serizawa said.

“Maybe,” Reigen said again. He gave a big huff of a sigh, catching his breath, then went to squint down at his floor and make sure he’d gotten all the dirt out. Their teamwork had paid off. It was probably cleaner than it had been before they stumbled in. Serizawa came to stand beside him, splaying a hand at the small of Reigen’s back where his dress shirt had been untucked in the cleaning and rose a bit to reveal some sweaty skin. Reigen sighed again through his nose, and leaned against Serizawa’s side, thunking his head into Serizawa’s shoulder.

“Do you think you’ve discovered my secret, is that it?” Reigen asked.

“Hmmmm,” said Serizawa. “Generally speaking, I don’t think you’re as good at hiding secrets as you think you are.”

Reigen laughed. “Well. This one isn’t exciting. I just grow plants. A client paid in vegetable seeds once and I just sort of… taught myself how to garden. Because what else would I do with it, you know?”

It seemed to Serizawa that most people would just forget about the seeds or throw them out, but Reigen was not most people. Reigen was a jack of all trades.

Didn’t that saying usually end with “and a master of none”?

Maybe Serizawa wouldn’t mention that thought. Instead, the hand at Reigen’s back trailed to his hip and held him close, knuckle brushing absently at the ridge just above Reigen’s belt.

Reigen groaned into Serizawa’s sleeve, more in the frustration of ruined horniness than in renewed horniness.

“Want to watch a movie?” Serizawa asked.

“Yes,” said Reigen. “Something stupid so if, you know, we just maybe feel like jerking each other off we won’t miss anything.”

Thankfully Reigen had an extensive collection of stupid movies.

He knelt under his desk for a CD case of old DVDs, mostly cheesy monster movies and poorly aged sci fi, which he rattled off for Serizawa’s choosing. Serizawa was mostly looking at his ass and so gave opinions that were vague and unimportant.

When Reigen finally emerged (with his copy of Negative Happy Penguin Chainsaw), he tapped the little pot of flowers that sat on top of the desk by the computer. 

“These guys… They look great but I’m worried they’ll die fast. I can never get flowers to last as long as I want them to,” he said, with the sort of forced flippancy that seemed to say This is stupid, but...

It was odd that he brought up the plants again after so quickly dismissing them. Maybe he actually really wanted to talk about them? But he ducked his head after, like he was embarrassed, and then crossed to the sofa with a big grin that expertly hid his tells.

Oh Arataka. Don’t you know you can be human around me?

They hunkered down together, falling into the dip at the center of Reigen’s little sofa, and watched about half of the movie before they were making out again. Reigen climbed clumsily into Serizawa’s lap, and then they did indeed finish what they’d started. In other words, it was a successful end to a successful first date.

 

~

 

The next day at the office, Serizawa paid more attention to the windowsill plants. They were all in such good shape. It was clear Reigen not only liked gardening but had become fairly good at it.

Before Serizawa could pry, Shigeo visited, and that always grabbed all of Reigen’s attention, loathe as Reigen would be to admit it.

Reigen sat at his desk while Shigeo stood before him, not sitting despite Reigen’s repeated offer. He was wearing his middle school uniform, but his hair was getting longer and a bit untamed so that this year’s look had a rather distinct feel. You could somehow tell, just in his attitude, that he was a kid ready to go on to high school. Reigen asked all about his entrance exams, before Shigeo deftly turned the conversation toward a weekend job Reigen wanted from him. They weaved in and out of business and friendliness like this, a strange dance they’d developed.

Serizawa, for his part, was on to high school work himself, and had his biology textbook open on his desk. They were studying cells, and he found himself glancing between the square little cubicles on his page and the sunlight on the edge of the real leaves of those window plants, so crisp and green. Photosynthesis. Something something. Shigeo and Reigen’s conversation was their own.

“I’m organizing for the club fair so I won’t be as available next week,” Shigeo said. “I’m the captain, after all. I also want to do some research...” What he couldn’t supply in his own muscles he could still offer in the form of hard work and resources.

“Do you want a water cooler?” asked Reigen suddenly.

“A water cooler?”

“Yeah, I just happen to have one, if you want it.”

Shigeo considered this, his face open to his expressions in a way it hadn’t been at all when Serizawa first met him. “That could be nice for club events,” he said. “The gym has drinking fountains but…”

“Great! Just say the word and I’ll bring it wherever you want. I’ve been looking to get rid of that thing for ages.”

“Thank you, shishou.”

That would always be Shigeo’s name for Reigen, for some reason.

It had occurred to Serizawa more than once in his observations that Reigen had helped raise Shigeo. In a way that nurtured and strengthened him, something Suzuki-shacho never could have offered Serizawa. Of course, that would have been absurd to want from Suzuki in the first place at Serizawa’s age, even if perhaps a part of Serizawa had wanted it. Serizawa had emerged too old to be taken care of, that was the whole point.

Shigeo, however, had said once that he met Reigen when he was 11. Just a sapling. So much could have gone wrong… And yet, somehow, most of it hadn’t. When things did get out of control, Reigen was right there to somehow, in that magical way that only he could, coax it right again. He’d tended to Shigeo in just the right way that this middle schooler was already a gentle and happy young man.

It hadn’t all been Reigen’s doing. Most of the work of growing had undoubtedly been Shigeo’s, the same as Serizawa had had to attend to his own work to actually get anything done. But Reigen provided the pot and the soil and trimmed the leaves.

And now Shigeo had grown enough that he didn’t need him any more.

Serizawa had never asked Reigen how he felt about that, but he had some guesses. A mixture of pain, the sting of not quite belonging any more, with an immense and silent pride.

Maybe Reigen just had a knack in general for growing things, work he did transiently and alone. Maybe that’s what Spirits and Such was, at the end of the day. Growing little things and then letting them go.

Shigeo was already inching toward the door, something he did without guilt or pretense anymore. He was simply ready to leave and he knew he didn’t have to ask anymore if he was allowed to. He was his own person in a way that Serizawa sometimes felt was advanced even for him. Shigeo had not only grown into a young adult, but a very remarkable one.

Reigen got the hint, and flapped a hand.

“Well, you probably have books to read and girls to flirt with or whatever it is you’re doing these days,” he said grandly. “I won’t keep you.”

I won’t keep you. It was a dismissive nothing phrase, but at the same time, to Serizawa’s ear, it encapsulated everything.

Shigeo gave the barest smile--he was getting so much better at those--and nodded. “I’ll call you about the weekend job.”

Reigen did not do the calling any more.

“Yeah, yeah, get lost,” said Reigen, and Shigeo’s smile grew with fondness. He offered part of the smile to Serizawa with a turn of his head and then he was out the door.

Was he getting taller? Or maybe he just stood up straighter nowadays.

Reigen leaned back in his chair so it squeaked, knee up against his desk, balancing his pencil between his fingers. Back when Serizawa first started working here, he’d been surprised that Reigen even had a stock of pencils. They were useless for office work but, blessedly, perfect for middle school homework.

Now Serizawa was wiser. He knew why the pencils had first arrived and also why they’d stayed.

“What’s that look mean?” Reigen asked him suspiciously, frowning at him.

“What look?”

“The look on your face.”

“Is it fond? I’m feeling fond.”

Reigen scoffed, a sort of snort through his nose, and dropped his legs so his seat popped upright again in one well-practiced motion. He got back to his laptop, but the tips of his ears went a little pink.

“Back to work, deputy,” he said.

“Yes, sir,” said Serizawa, not hiding his affection at all.

 

~

 

The plants came up again a few weeks later, when Serizawa entered Reigen’s apartment with a spare key so easily offered him and found Reigen out on the balcony tending to his vegetable garden. Reigen explained that’s what it was, but with some of the plants it was easy enough to tell. Plump orange tomatoes were hanging from green stalks in a big pot shaped like a chicken. Something hefty and oblong was nestled in the dirt of another pot, tangled in vines. A cucumber. Reigen named these off, as well as everything else. It seemed Serizawa had caught him in a good enough mood that he could finally gush without catching himself and shutting it off. Serizawa loved it.

“Strawberries,” Reigen said, with particular pride, pointing to a tiny carton of a plant with little white flowers. “That’s a new one I’m trying this year.”

Mostly it was herbs, and when asked about them he said he’d often use them in his cooking, his casualness not at all covering up that he was bragging.

He was in a t-shirt and sweatpants, the pants rolled up to his knees to create a lumpy sort of pseudo-shorts, and he had a baseball cap on to keep the sun out of his eyes. The balcony was angled so that the sun always seemed to be pointed directly at him, but this was good for the plants he said. He just had to water them a lot.

He squatted down and tested the pH levels of the soil in some pots with a meter that looked like a Tamagotchi with a stick through it. He owned gardening gloves, and was wearing one, but his dominant hand, the right, had wiggled free at some point and was both bare and covered in dirt at the knuckles. Maybe Reigen secretly liked getting some dirt on his hands. Or maybe Serizawa was just stuck on the details because that’s what happens when you find yourself falling in love with someone.

“Have you ever noticed you can make things grow with your psychic powers?” Reigen asked, patting down the soil in the last pot he tested as if to apologize for prodding it. “At least I assume you can. Mob can do it.”

“I hadn’t tried,” Serizawa admitted. Using his powers for anything on purpose was still a fairly new habit, introduced in Claw.

“It’s good for houseplants, but it’s funny. It makes the vegetables taste awful.” As if to illustrate his point, Reigen reached for the tomato plant with his bare right hand and delicately plucked one between thumb and forefinger. Without standing up, he held it up to Serizawa, grinning. Serizawa accepted it.

There was a little bit of dirt on it, or dust, or some other grit. He brushed it off with his thumb. Then he popped it in his mouth and chewed. The skin was nicely resistant, and the first bite exploded a sweet slime into his mouth. It was so much better than the tomatoes at the store. That was what surprised him the most. He thought he could taste the underlying dirt too, some earthy quality that remained without a proper clean, but he was convinced this only made it taste even better.

“I think flowers look better grown the old fashioned way too,” Reigen said. “That’s funny, right? I guess you can’t take shortcuts with this kind of thing, even with psychic powers.”

“You’ve said for a long time that psychic powers won’t get you everything.”

Reigen gave a sneaky sort of laugh. “Yeah well… A lot of that was to cover up that I don’t have them,” he admitted.

“You weren’t wrong, though.”

“That’s what’s so funny about it.”

Next he plucked a leaf off a deep green plant and handed that up to Serizawa as well. “Eat this,” he said. Serizawa did. It was tangy, the taste squeezing out of the leaf as it was crushed between his teeth. It was a weird experience. He’d never been so conscious that the leaves he ate were leaves .

“That’s the mint,” Reigen said. “It’s good, right?”

It was.

Reigen finally stood, letting the pH meter dangle and swing between his hands, tapping the stick part against his bare palm.

“I never thought I could grow anything like this,” he admitted. “I usually take the shortcut on just about everything.”

“I wouldn’t say that’s true,” Serizawa said, a little automatically but he did believe it. “On the important things,” he amended.

Reigen laughed, clearly not buying it, and took off his baseball cap, letting sweaty spikes of hair fall across his forehead in disarray. He perched the hat on Serizawa’s head playfully and then led the way back inside.

Looking at all those plants for one last moment, thriving and so lovingly attended to, Serizawa thought distantly of Shigeo. And of himself.

No, on the important things Reigen definitely didn’t take shortcuts. He was in it for the long haul on those.

He followed Reigen inside with a dopey smile that Reigen poked fun at immediately, sliding the door closed behind them.

“What are you grinning at?” Reigen demanded, but it was the sort of question that didn’t need an answer.

They were just being together. It was simple as that.

 

~

 

It occured to Serizawa to buy Reigen flowers.

He didn’t know much about flowers, particularly not about which flowers might impress an actually seasoned gardener, but he had an idea of who might.

Minegishi’s phone number was still in Serizawa’s phone, as were the rest of the contacts he’d made at Claw. The phone was still the sleek, professional one that Suzuki-shacho had supplied him on his first day. Now it had thankfully absorbed contacts of more personal value--Reigen, his friends from school, his tutor, his counselor, even Tome. But Serizawa had never been able to bring himself to delete the other ones, even if he never used them. He’d never exactly been friends with his colleagues taking over the world.

But the thing was, he’d never been not friends with them either. It was some strange in between.

To their credit, Minegishi had always been a more ambiguous in between than the others, which made their number more approachable as Serizawa finally selected it for an impromptu text.

 

Are you still working at that flower shop? Mind if I drop by? - Serizawa Katsuya

 

He had no idea if the number would still work, but it was always worth a shot.

To his surprise, he got an answer almost immediately.

 

Sure.

 

So simple, so borderline dismissive, but that was oddly comforting. It was a sign nothing had really changed between them.

He asked Minegishi for the address and they again acquiesced in a timely if perfunctory manner. This had always been Minegishi’s brand of kindness, not just for Serizawa but for everyone. If anything, Serizawa kind of suspected they had a soft spot for him.

The flower shop was surprisingly small and humble, with a little greenhouse round the back. This was where Serizawa found Minegishi, their apron clean but their hands dirty, tending some leafy shrubs with a watering house in the humidity. It seemed that Minegishi, like many of them after Claw, was attempting a life that didn’t rely so completely on psychic powers.

They would always share this connection, Serizawa and his former coworkers. They were not friends, but they were all starting over in their own ways, all undergoing the same evolution of mundanity.

He smiled awkwardly and waved. Minegishi nodded at him and returned to the plants.

Serizawa waited patiently. After watering all of the bushes, Minegishi attached a sort of head onto the end of the hose that let the water out in a more widespread, misting way, which they now used for the smaller, more delicate flowers. They covered a lot of ground easily with this method, their shoes shuffling through the accumulated moisture on the stone tile floor. Looking down, Serizawa realized Minegishi’s shoes were just as dirty as their hands.

Then, finally, Minegishi brought the hose over to its valve on the wall and twisted it off, the water slowing to nothing but the barest drip and then shutting off completely.

Minegishi brushed their hands together, the wet and the dirt making a sort of mud in the lines of their palms that they didn’t put all that much effort into cleaning. It seemed dirty hands were less important than a clean apron.

“How can I help you, Serizawa-san?” they asked.

It seemed weird to just jump straight into business, but Serizawa knew Minegishi wasn’t the type to want questions like So how are you doing after that whole taking over the world thing ? He cleared his throat into his fist.

“Um… I was wondering if I could ask for flower advice.”

Minegishi stared at him blankly, then the barest twinkle went through their sharp, cold eyes. It wasn’t a warm smile, but it was a smile nonetheless. The mouth wasn’t involved hardly at all.

“Sure,” they said. “Thanks for coming to me first.”

They then started quizzing Serizawa as they led him down the rows of the greenhouse, pointing out various flowering plants and their strengths and weaknesses from a gardening standpoint, were they tricky or hardy, were they perennial or fleeting. But mostly Minegishi wanted to know the personality of who Serizawa was buying for. They so quickly knew they weren’t for Serizawa.

“You don’t believe I’d be gardening myself?” Serizawa asked, surprised by how easily the teasing tone came to him. It was an effect of working with Reigen, perhaps.

“You’re not the outdoors type,” said Minegishi wryly.

Serizawa wasn’t sure which parts of Reigen’s personality would be most useful for determining a flower companion, so he just listed all the parts that came to mind, which were a lot of them. Reigen was diligent and hardworking, but also efficient. He knew how to work well instead of hard, when the opportunity arose. He was smart with his time. He enjoyed a challenge but not too much of a challenge. He liked pink and yellow. He would probably gift all his vegetables to neighbors, partly to brag but also partly because of that strange impulse of his to take care of the people around him. Sometimes it wasn’t even kindness so much as it was just his nature. A habit. The prize of the garden, the cucumber, would surely go to Shigeo, who probably wouldn’t care for it but would appreciate the gesture. He’d in turn gift it to his mother, who would be inadvertently fooled once again into thinking Reigen was a normal and kind-hearted boss, and everything would be as it should be.

At some point Minegishi stopped and just gave him a long look.

“Sounds like an interesting guy,” they said, noncommittally.

“Yeah…” Serizawa’s face and ears felt hot, but he couldn’t tell whether it was a blush or just the time spent in the greenhouse. “He keeps my life exciting.”

Finally Minegishi stopped at a row of daffodils and picked up one of the plants, in its square plastic temporary pot. “Get him these,” they said.

“Daffodils?” That was so much less exotic than Serizawa was picturing.

“They’re simple and unique,” said Minegishi. “People like them because they look like they’ve got a funny nose.” Serizawa hadn’t expected such a whimsical sales pitch from Minegishi, but they continued like it was nothing. “They’re low maintenance and they brighten up a yard or balcony. It’s like having some sunshine fall on your floor and it just stays there without you having to fuss about it much. He sounds like the kinda guy who could use some of that energy. Easy happiness dropping into his life on accident. I think that’s what this guy would like.”

That did sound kind of perfect.

They hefted the plant into Serizawa’s hands, the yellow flowers obscuring his face a little. The plant was solid and heavy but the plastic carrier felt fragile and Serizawa worried about dropping the whole thing.

“Sounds like a good friend,” Minegishi said, and there was Serizawa’s opening for a deeper conversation, offered guardedly but not without kindness. In honor of their shared pasts.

“I’m in love,” he said, feeling kind of stupid to say it out loud, but it also made his chest feel wider, hollower, like it had infinite space for his heart to rest comfortably inside.

Minegishi looked at him inscrutably for a long moment, their brow balanced and the lack of eyebrows not helping at all to reveal their mood.

“I’m happy for you,” they said at last, and gave a real mouth smile, a small one. It looked awkward on their face, like it didn’t really belong there. But it was trying.

“Thanks,” said Serizawa, smiling too.

They still weren’t really friends but they knew where they stood all the same.

 

~

 

Minegishi, partly in affection and partly in full customer service mode, helped Serizawa buy a longer lasting pot and even helped him repot the daffodils (for a nominal fee). The pot was a big ceramic thing, white with a blue rim and gentle cloud designs. Serizawa was reminded vaguely of his own umbrella, and wondered if Minegishi was up to more schemes than they let on.

Since he had a key to Reigen’s place, Serizawa simply invited himself over with a text and started on his way, lugging his plant, half with psychic powers to reduce the weight. The responding text was much warmer than Minegishi’s, but just as punctual:

 

good i was just gonna call u. i need help putting in a trellis for green beans. 

 

What perfect circumstances.

When Serizawa nudged open the door, Reigen was already out on the balcony, this time with a real sun hat. He didn’t look up until Serizawa was at the sliding door, and then when he did his eyes immediately fell to the daffodils.

“Oh,” said Reigen.

“They’re for you,” said Serizawa.

Reigen just sort of looked at them, from where he was bent over some wood and chicken wire contraption, and then got creakingly to his feet.

“They’re heavy,” Serizawa warned.

“Put them over here then,” said Reigen. He stepped inside around Serizawa and pointed to a nice sunny corner at the end of his line of ceramics on the floor. Serizawa, rather than throw out his back, gently levitated the pot over and nestled it into the spot perfectly, turning it a little this way and that way until the flowers and pot designs were displayed nicely.

Reigen stood staring down at them.

“Sorry to give you more work…” Serizawa said, getting nervous all of the sudden at Reigen’s reticence. “But I thought you might like them.”

“Yeah…” Reigen said. He looked up with a smile, but it was one of his forced ones. Serizawa frowned a little. “Aw, don’t look like that,” Reigen said, more genuinely. “Of course I love them. They’re delightful.”

“But you don’t want them?”

“It’s not that…” Reigen pinched the brim of his sunhat and idly turned it back and forth on his head. “It’s just… the timing I guess. I accidentally killed those pink flowers yesterday.”

Ah. Serizawa hadn’t even noticed. The only other flowers, the ones Reigen had kept on his desk, were gone.

“Flowers are my favorite--obviously, they’re everyone’s favorite--but I can never get them to… you know… stay around,” Reigen said. He was rambling, a little flustered in a way that probably went deeper than just flowers, but Serizawa wasn’t sure what he was really trying to get at. “I don’t know,” he finished. “I’d love to have flowers I could keep.”

Serizawa’s frown eased into a smile. “Then keep them,” he said. “Minegishi-san said these ones are easy.”

“Even for a flower killer?” Reigen muttered.

“You’re not a killer. You have a whole garden.” You ridiculous man. But Serizawa was starting to understand.

Talking about it wouldn’t help until Reigen was ready to, so Serizawa simply led the way back out onto the balcony and asked what the hell this trellis thing was.

It was essentially a wooden arc with wire hangings that the green bean plant would be able to climb. Reigen was going to try hanging it up against the wall with removable poster hangers. (Of course his landlord wouldn’t like it if he used actual nails.) He explained all this in a distracted way, taking off his gloves and setting them on the balcony, then pacing to the other side and then back again to pick up the gloves and flop them onto the floor… He was agitated. Not mad, but it was clear there was something bubbling up in him that was trying to find the right words.

Finally, he said, “Who am I kidding?”

They were both standing over the chicken wire handywork, Reigen with his arms crossed. Serizawa was right up next to him in the limited space.

“Sorry?” Serizawa asked, and he reached over to tilt up Reigen’s sun hat so he could see his face better. Reigen avoided his eyes, looking embarrassed and kind of petulant about it.

“This whole gardening thing. It’s not really my style, right?”

“I think it’s plenty your style.”

“That’s not what I mean…” Reigen sighed. Serizawa understood the frustration wasn’t directed toward him just toward… Everything. Life, maybe. Reigen shook his head, giving a rueful little laugh. “I’m not really fit to take care of things,” he confessed. “I always feel like I can’t possibly be doing a good job. You know?”

Serizawa did know.

“You do a wonderful job caring for things,” he said. He knew perhaps better than most people what this feeling was. The feeling of how inevitable your failures must be just because you’ve failed so many times before. But Reigen was so far ahead of him in collecting things that were not failures. Serizawa wished he could express how easy it was to see that. “Look at all this you’ve done here, it’s amazing.” He took Reigen’s shoulders in his hands. “Look at me .”

Reigen laughed again. “Now you’re getting weird.” But there was a thread of something very tight and very vulnerable inside him that made his whole expression wobble for just a moment. Serizawa wrapped his arms around him and Reigen had no protests about pressing his face into the side of Serizawa’s neck and breathing deeply.

You do so much good, Arataka. You care so much, and I love you for it.

Serizawa kissed a piece of hair falling over Reigen’s temple, softly.

“I love you,” he said. It was the first time he’d said it to him.

There was a long pause, and then Serizawa felt the wet brush of Reigen’s lips against his skin, where Reigen’s face was still buried in his neck.

“I love you too,” Reigen said, a little muffled.

That was all it had to be. So easily, as if nothing momentous had happened. They held each other for a moment and then got to work on the trellis before it got dark.

It was all so easy. Serizawa felt he’d been given a tremendous gift, and did not intend to ever leave it behind.

Oh no, he would be staying for as long as Reigen would have him.