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throw me a line and bring me back home

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The train ride home is quiet. There aren’t nearly as many people riding the train as there was earlier. There’s plenty of room between the seats, and there’s even more space in the compartment itself. There’s a few office workers holding bags and clutching the railing above to keep steady, but other than that, the train is practically empty. 

Reigen mentions something about getting MobDonald’s, but Shigeo doesn’t comment on it. He doesn’t comment on anything really, even when Reigen teases him about being lost in thought about Tsubomi. 

Shigeo doesn’t see it, but Reigen and Dimple share a look with one another, and they have a silent conversation. 

Ambient noise fills the train car as Shigeo sits beside Reigen, Dimple floating next to his head. He stares down at his lap, more specifically his hands. He had...done more harm than good with these hands, he thinks. During those six months, no, those thirty minutes , Shigeo reminds himself.

He was only there for thirty minutes. 

Those six months only existed in his head, they had no effect on the outside world, so Shigeo should act accordingly. Right?

He clenches his hands into fists and the shock of feeling the skin of his palms beneath his fingertips shocks him so badly that he lets out a quiet startled gasp. Dimple looks at him with concern, but Reigen makes no movement. It seems like he hadn’t heard a thing. 

That’s okay, preferable in fact. Shigeo doesn’t want to cause a scene or make something that didn’t even happen a big deal. Besides, shishou had been through a lot during the fight with Mogami. He hit his head, and the last thing Shigeo wants to do is add to his very likely headache. 

“--Mob? Hellooo, anyone home?” 

Shigeo blinks, looking up from his hands to Reigen. Reigen must see how dazed he is, for he gives Shigeo a small, tired, smile. “I asked what you wanted from MobDonald’s.” He explains, and Shigeo hums in acknowledgment. “I am starving.” 

Does he feel hungry? 

Now that he thinks about it, he isn’t very hungry...but it’d be rude to refuse the offer. With that in mind, he thinks of something small he can stomach, and tells Reigen. 

The remainder of the train ride is silent. 

Shigeo doesn’t like the silence. 

The silence continues, even after they get off the train. 

They make a pitstop at MobDonald’s, and Shigeo waits patiently as Reigen orders the food. Shigeo waits outside, not wanting to deal with a crowd of people. He isn’t sure if he can handle a crowd right now. Dimple continues to shoot him concerned glances, but Shigeo misses quite a few of them so he doesn’t know how many times Dimple really looks at him. He doesn’t think much about it, choosing to instead stare down at his hand. 

He can’t stop thinking about his hand, closed around someone else’s throat. But it didn’t really happen, so maybe he should stop thinking about it. 

Reigen walks out with two bags in his hands, and Shigeo falls into step with him as they walk to Spirits & Such. He begins talking about some television show that he saw recently, and finally, the silence breaks. Shigeo finds himself listening to Reigen and Dimple go back and forth about the credibility of the show. The conversation slowly puts him at ease.

When they make it back to the office, Reigen passes Shigeo the bags so he can unlock the door. Shigeo holds them, the warmth from the hot food bringing him an odd comfort. 

Once the door is unlocked, Reigen walks in and Shigeo follows him, bags in hand still. Dimple floats in beside him as Reigen shuts the door and casually takes the bags from Shigeo. The two of them get settled in at their respective desks, and as Shigeo begins to munch on his fries, he slowly finds himself beginning to feel numb. 

He can’t help but wonder if this is a dream or not. He hopes it isn’t, but there’s a chance it could still be a dream. There’s still a chance that he could wake up alone in that house at any moment. He isn’t sure if he could handle it being a dream, because this is one of the best dreams he’s had in the past six months and--

It wasn’t six months, he reminds himself. 

It was thirty minutes. 

“Mob, you alright?” Reigen questions, and Shigeo looks up from his fries. He's looking at Shigeo with a quirked brow, burger in one hand, drink in the other. 

“Ah, yes.” He replies, nodding.

Reigen nods, albeit a bit slowly, but goes back to eating his burger rather loudly. Shigeo looks back down to his desk and misses the concerned glance Reigen throws his way. 

“Mob is acting weird.” Arataka states after his student leaves. Dimple looks at him, tearing his eyes away from the window he had been looking through to watch Mob’s retreating form. 

“Weird is an understatement.” Dimple scoffs, turning his attention to Reigen. With a mischievous smile he steals one of Reigen’s fries, swiping it right from his hand. 

“What the-- hey!” Arataka cries in irritation, nearly choking on the burger he had been eating as he looks at Dimple with disapproval. He then points a finger at Dimple, “That was mine!” 

Dimple shrugs his shoulders as he munches on the stolen fry, “What’s the saying? All is fair in the underworld?” He comments. 

Arataka narrows his eyes, “That’s not even close.” He replies. He then sighs, wiping the crumbs and the patches of ketchup from his face with a napkin. He puts his half eaten burger down, frowning. “I’m trying to be serious here, Dimple. Something is seriously off with Mob.” 

There’s an emotion that flickers in Dimple’s eyes but before Arataka can recognize it, it’s gone. Gone is the mischievous fry stealing Dimple, replaced by a more...somber version of the spirit. Arataka doesn’t like the feeling he gets from that look. 

“Dimple...what did you see when you went in there?” He questions, fearing the answer. 

Dimple looks hesitant, eyes drifting side to side as he thinks about his decision. He feels hesitant, and oh, that’s new. For as long as Dimple has been an evil spirit, he’s never hesitated, not once. Okay well...maybe once or twice, but still. The point is, he’s never hesitated when making a choice. But here he is, hesitating to answer Reigen’s question because he doesn’t want to breach Shigeo’s privacy. When has he ever cared about that before? 

He didn’t. At least, he didn’t care before he met Shigeo. 

He lets out a quiet sigh, and for a second, he lets himself reflect on how he’s gone soft for some brat. And once that second is up, he immediately gets rid of the thought. 

He then looks at Reigen, and decides that what he’s about to do is best for Shigeo. “I didn’t see a lot, but I saw enough to get the idea.” He begins to explain, “When I got there, the kid was surrounded by a bunch of middle schoolers and he looked like he had been put through the ringer. Mogami was spewing some shit about gaining a sympathizer, and from the way he made it sound...Shigeo was in that world for a lot longer than thirty minutes, and it seems like the bastard put him through hell.” 

Arataka feels like the wind got knocked out of him. The napkin he’s holding crinkles into a ball as he squeezes his hand into a tight fist. He hopes he misheard Dimple, but he’s not that old yet, and his hearing is just fine. “You--You’re joking, right?” He can’t help but stammer, nervously chuckling. He wills it to be false, wishes for it to be a joke, because if it isn’t, then Arataka has to go to bed tonight with the knowledge that he was the one who sent Mob into that situation. 

He’s the adult, so he has to take responsibility. 

He’s never hated himself more than in this moment. As usual, he had been so intent on getting that reward that he didn’t listen to Dimple when he said they should run. He didn’t stop Mob, in fact he encouraged him. He shouldn’t have done that. He sent Mob out into the frontlines while he sat back and waited for the war to end. 

He hadn’t done a damn thing to help his student. He had been so focused on using Mob for his powers that he let him get hurt. 

Some mentor he is. 

And the look Dimple gives him makes his self loathing crash over him in waves. Arataka opens his mouth to ask for more details, but he reconsiders and shuts it. He drops his gaze to his desk, speechless. He forces himself to say the words, “What else did--” 

“If you wanna know more, you’re gonna have to ask Shigeo yourself.” Dimple huffs quietly, interrupting him. “I’m not saying any more.” 

Arataka nods, figuring that’s probably for the best. He’s worried about Mob, but he won’t disrespect the kid’s privacy. He can only hope that Mob will talk to him about this at some point. Hopefully. 

But for now, it’s getting late, and he should probably close up for the night. “Dimple,” He says, looking at the spirit, “Watch over him tonight?” 

Dimple grins at him, but there’s no real joy behind it. It’s a lazy grin, one that screams how tired the spirit is. “Did ya really have to ask?” Comes the response before he waves Arataka goodbye and heads to the Kageyama house. 

Once Dimple leaves, Arataka takes one look at his desk, and his shoulders sag. He feels a faint headache, and the ache in his back is more prominent. He sighs in exhaustion as his eyes land on his half eaten burger. 

He’s lost his appetite.

Shigeo heads home, relishing the cold air that whips at his face. It isn’t overly late yet, but it is getting chilly. The sun is beginning to set, painting the sky a mix of soft oranges, pinks, and purples. Shigeo can’t tear his eyes away from the sight. Walking home is a lot more calming than he expects it to be. The sunset calms him, allowing him a short reprise from the thoughts swirling in his mind. 

He walks home, glancing around at the street before him. The streets are a bit more lively than they were earlier. More and more people are heading home from work, and the realization makes Shigeo wonder the exact time. He pulls out his phone, and blinks at the number staring back at him. Should he even bother with dinner? He doesn’t want to make anything but--

Oh, right. 

He doesn’t live alone. He has parents, and a little brother. 

It’s not his job to worry about what to make for dinner yet. 

A small frown lingers on his face as he approaches his house. He pauses for just a second, overcome with worry. What if he opens the door and finds that he really is living alone? What if he goes inside to a cold and empty house, and all of this was just a dream? 

That...that wouldn’t happen, right? 

Gulping quietly, Shigeo approaches the door and with a shaking hand, he goes for the doorknob. Before he can grab it though, the door swings open, and lo and behold, there are his parents. “Shigeo! Where have you been ?!” His mother exclaims, nearly sagging in relief. 

“We were so worried!” His father chimes in as his mother ushers him into the house. “You know we trust you, Shigeo, but you have to be more aware of when we call you!” His parents step aside so that he can slip his shoes off, asking him questions and telling him about dinner. Shigeo’s really only half listening, as much as he hates to admit it. As he slips his shoes off, his eyes land on a familiar pair of sneakers, and something in him cracks. 

The tears come to his eyes before he can stop them. Images flash in his mind of him sitting in that cold house, alone. So many meals spent by himself, so many days of curling up on the floor and crying. “Shige? What’s wrong?” His mother asks. 

It finally sets in. 

The tears spill over, and he cries. 

“Shigeo?!” His father questions, and he can hear the mix of concern and panic in his voice. He doesn’t even notice his hair begin to float as he leans forward and tugs his parents into a hug. Amidst all of their confusion, they hug him back, and Shigeo sobs

“…” He’s home, he’s really home. 

“What’s going on?” Shigeo hears his little brother ask, and a fresh set of tears fall. Ritsu stands in the hallway, looking incredibly confused, if but a bit concerned. 

“Ritsu!” Shigeo says, all but pulling his brother into the hug. He hears Ritsu’s yelp of surprise, and he can feel his parents' concerned stares. Never has he ever so freely expressed himself like this. It’s a bit scary, and Shigeo knows his powers are responding to how he’s feeling, but he can’t bring himself to care. 

He’s really home, and that’s all that matters to him.