Mob almost forgets to do as he promised to himself. To thank everyone.
It feels different, once he is out of Mogami's mind world and back in his own body again, facing the people he didn't know he was missing for six months. Breaking their usual dynamic seems daunting and weird, so with most of them, he doesn't.
He does hug Ritsu when he gets home. It's a bad idea. They don't really hug much, only very rarely when bad things happen. Hugging his brother seemingly without cause just makes him worry. Mob learns from that and doesn't hug his parents.
He says a few words to the Body Improvement Club. He suspects that they don't really get what he is talking about, but they smile and nod. Then they say thank you back and he doesn't really get it and he smiles and nods.
With Reigen, it just feels like the moment has passed. He should have thanked him on their way to the hospital, but his Master hurt his head and back and seemed somewhat grouchy about it, so Mob decided not to bother him. Then they didn't see each other for some time while Reigen recovered from his concussion. When they met up again, it was business as usual.
That is fine.
Nobody is hung up on anything, so Mob shouldn't be either.
It's not like the last six months were actually real in the first place.
Mob is not a morning person, not by a long shot, but he doesn't need an alarm to wake up anymore. He will sit up, drowsy and numb, and stay there in silence for a moment.
Then his mother will call for him to get up and he jumps a little, every morning. One, two, three hard breaths. He's not alone. The tightness in his chest doesn't quite feel like gratitude, but he decides that it must be.
Get up, brush teeth, shower, get dressed, eat, bend a spoon.
(They bend a little differently now; not just the head anymore but the entire thing, as if the steel frightfully curls away from his fingers before he can even fully close them around it. Ritsu fixes it for him and looks uneasy.)
Walking to school is quiet, now that Dimple helps out at Reigen's office. Sometimes he still follows Mob around in the mornings, chatting inanely at him. Even though Mob mostly tunes out the actual words, he is ‒ grateful ‒ for the lack of silence.
Classes are still frightening. He gets called on by well-meaning teachers trying to push him, to include him, and he never knows the answer.
(Pencils start bending and breaking under his hands now. Ritsu isn't there to fix them.)
He's picked up some habits. Or rather, his old habits got a little more extreme. He's never been good with paying attention in class, paying attention to other students around him, paying attention in general. But spacing out feels more deliberate now, more like running and hiding.
He flinches sometimes, when he answers wrong and he almost feels his face sting with a slap that never happened.
His chest feels cold and tight sometimes, when someone says something to him, or looks at him, or passes by his desk.
‒ there is something.
Something sticky and itchy clinging to his palms.
He scratches it and it doesn't go away.
His muscles tremble with the effort of lifting the club's smallest dumbbell. That's not new.
The clenching in his chest is. The scratching in his throat is.
The way it starts to feel like warm, pulsing flesh instead of metal underneath his fingers, the memory of closing his hands around another's neck and squeezing, and watching, something inside him changing, him not caring ‒
‒ that part is relatively new.
He tries to fix the broken and bent dumbbells by himself. It's not perfect, there is a crackling tension he unwittingly pushed upon the objects and he can't get rid of it entirely.
He apologizes to the other club members and they forgive him.
Still. Mob decides to focus more on running than weightlifting for a while.
"Is something bothering you? You know I'm always here to listen."
Ritsu is standing next to the sofa, a glass of water in his hand, watching Mob with an open look on his face ‒ ever so slightly concerned, but not enough to make him anxious about it, his body language relaxed, tone casual, a bit of distance between them so as not to crowd him.
It's a harsh tumble back into old habits that makes Mob's neck prickle, like a pulled muscle. They've played this exact game too often, masks in place on both faces, empty words to hide genuine emotion behind. They should be done with this, after everything, should have both learned their lessons. But here he is, spacing out on the sofa and hurting his little brother. Again.
Walking the well-trodden path of "I'm fine" would be easy and cruel.
Telling his brother what is bothering him would require an amount of introspection first that Mob doesn't think he can pull off within the maximum amount of time one is allowed to think about an answer in this conversation.
So he can't confide in him, exactly, but he can at least stick to the truth. "I don't know how to answer that."
It's not really clear to him if that was a good choice. Ritsu breaks out of his Overly Supportive Brother act at least, so that's something, but now there's a small frown on his face and Mob can't interpret that.
For a little while, Ritsu stands there and watches. Then he walks around the coffee table, sits down next to Mob and exchanges the glass in his hand for the remote. "Is watching a movie okay?"
The frown is still there, but so is Ritsu himself. That's different.
Mob doesn't really watch the movie, just sits there and periodically glances over at his brother when he needs a quick reminder that he is, in fact, not alone.
(Weekends are the hardest. Nobody yells for him to wake up and the silence stretches on for too long as he sits on his futon, staring at the wall and racking his brain for a single reason to get up and get dressed. He does, in the end, because nobody is hung up on this and he shouldn't be either.)
Master Reigen takes one look at him as he enters the office and even though he was just walking to the window to close the blinds, he immediately changes direction, a flourish of exaggerated movements as he pretends to have been heading towards the exit right from the start. Dimple is floating overhead and looks after him with a raised eyebrow.
"Oh, hey Mob," Reigen greets him with an odd note of surprise in his voice. He puts a hand to his brow, dramatically shaking his head and pulling a face of sudden realization. "I had a feeling I forgot about something! I'm actually closing early today, so you can head right back home. Guess you came out here for nothing, what a shame."
He rushes past him, his hand softly patting Mob's shoulder and then suddenly swiveling him around on the spot so he's facing the door again. Grabbing his coat and scarf and then yanking the door open, Reigen turns and looks at him expectantly.
Mob stands frozen in the middle of the office, confused and a little dizzy from following his Master's erratic motions. His eyes have been unusually tired lately.
"Master, didn't you say you needed more clients after taking so much time off?"
"Of course I did, and of course I was entirely correct about that at the time," Reigen says, rolling his eyes and pushing Mob through the door so he can close it behind them. "But! We got some good business these last few days ‒" Dimple makes an incredulous little 'tch!' sound at that ‒ "and I'm feeling a bit worn today, this weather is giving me a headache, so we can close early this one time." He drops the keys back into his pocket and turns towards Mob once more, taking the time to shoot up a quick glare at Dimple.
Mob doesn't know what that's about, but it's a pretty normal kind of interaction for those two so he doesn't ask.
Reigen unnecessarily adjusts the green scarf around Mob's neck, tugging on the ends a little and picking off a few specks of dust with his fingertips. "I have to remember to take a break every once in a while, you know? Especially after that whole concussion thing. No point pushing myself when I'm only at half capacity."
"But business hasn't been that good lately," Mob says, still quite unsure about what's happening.
Dimple zips through the air and ends up between Reigen and Mob, right up in the latter's face. "Stop asking questions and just recognize an opportunity, Shigeo," he says, voice lowered conspiratorially. "No work for you today! You get to laze around, play video games ‒ maybe take a nap? The possibilities are endless!"
Mob's fingers reach up to his eyes all by themselves, very lightly touching the skin underneath that has become rather dark lately. He didn't think anyone would notice that.
It's just a little hard to go back to sleep after waking up to silence and an odd sense of everything being unreal in the middle of the night. Mostly he just sits there for some time ‒ he has no idea how long exactly ‒ or he gets up to wash his itching hands.
He looks past Dimple and up at Reigen. "I'm sorry you have a headache."
Reigen bends down a little so they're at eye level. "Oi," he says softly. "Don't trouble yourself with that. We all need to make sure we take care of ourselves. So I'm going home and getting some sleep. Actually, I should take a few days to recuperate. I'll call you when I need you again."
They walk to the bus stop together, which they never do unless they went out to eat beforehand. Now Reigen even waits with him for the bus and only turns back around, Dimple following along by his shoulder, once Mob sits safely inside.
Reigen walks back towards the office instead of his apartment.
Mob only realizes that once he gets off at his stop and stares at the sky for ‒
‒ an unidentified amount of time.
Ritsu looks up at him from the entrance to the kitchen, that little frown back on his face. Mob walks past him to quickly wash his hands in the sink. "The office closed early today," he offers a mumbled explanation for why he's home already. Instead of being surprised or asking more questions, Ritsu just nods.
"You can get some sleep then," he says. "Do you have any homework left for tomorrow? I could take a look at it for you."
"Oh," Mob makes, walking up to his room with Ritsu trailing along behind him. "That's alright. I'll do it later."
His brother stands in the doorway. Mob pauses in the middle of his room, setting down his bag and then absently rubbing a hand across his forehead. He quickly stops. It's better to avoid the feeling of skin under his palms.
This feels wrong, it's not how he decided to do things from now on. He is making everyone uncomfortable again, even though what he really wanted was to make sure he would appreciate everything good he has. It seemed such an important thing at the time. His mind shouldn't have that much trouble staying focused on it, right?
He has always had trouble with paying attention to the right things.
"Ritsu," he begins, so quietly that his brother has to lean forward a little. "Thank you. I'm grateful."
That's the right thing to say, isn't it, theoretically? That's what he wanted to tell everyone when he got back. But Ritsu's face is slowly drifting back to the empty and calming expression that he's used for years to deliberately put Mob at ease. The expression that has its roots in fear more so than anything else.
Mob clenches and unclenches his hands by his side, makes sure to keep them open enough so his fingers don't have to touch his own skin. He just washed them, he can't go and do it again already, it'd look weird.
"I mean," he starts again, an almost desperate attempt to explain himself better, to make the words seem less empty, less like the ones they've used for so long to build walls between them. "People don't have to be nice, I guess. So. It's good to have so many who are. I'm lucky."
He imagined that this would feel better to say, but he was in a different situation back then. Now it's just dragging something inside him to the surface that he doesn't want there, thoughts and images that belong to six months that only passed in his own head and that he should be done with.
When he looks up, his brother's hands are balled up into shaking fists, a dark glint in his eyes.
"Who was mean to you? What did they say?" he asks.
"Um. I don't remember everything. He talked a lot," Mob says, a little surprised at the turn this is taking. "That's not what I was trying to say."
"Yes, thank you, I'm grateful for you too. Who was it?"
"I don't think you'd know him."
"Please tell me anyway."
Mob is confused. It seems Ritsu is the one having trouble with paying attention to the right things this time. "I didn't mean to talk about him," he clarifies. "I just meant to say thank you."
The way Ritsu's shoulders slump a little and the dangerous fire in his eyes is being replaced by a silent but resigned plea is another weird detail of this conversation that Mob doesn't want to try and analyze. "Alright," Ritsu mumbles. "Thank you as well. Really."
Mob's next exhale is almost loud enough to count as a sigh. Everyone he says this to seems to miss his point entirely. Why else would they say thank you back, that doesn't make sense. Especially not for Ritsu.
There is a pause.
"Did you ‒ want to eat something?" Ritsu then asks.
Mob shakes his head. "No, thank you. I'll try to take a nap now."
"Okay!" His brother's answering nod is unusually eager. "I'll leave some leftovers for you. Please get some rest."
He closes the door behind him almost soundlessly and Mob can tell by the muffled sounds of his footsteps down the stairs that he's already trying to be as quiet as possible.
His head swims a little. He doesn't really want it to be quiet. That's the problem isn't it, the silence when he wakes up that makes it impossible to tell which world he is stuck in right now.
Before Mob lets himself drop down on his futon, fully dressed, he turns on the radio. Mixed with the very faint noises of Ritsu busying himself in the kitchen, it's a nice little setting to fall asleep to.
He sleeps through the rest of the day and the following night. When he wakes up by himself again in the morning, his finished homework is stacked neatly on the desk.
Somehow, he feels even more tired than before.
His hands are itching again.
Ok I decided to split this chapter in two because it got a little longer than I had planned, so now you guys can have the first part already! Sorry it's a bit short now.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The whole shadow leader thing is still kind of uncomfortable, but other than Onigawara hardly anyone at Salt Middle really bothers him with it. Mob is pretty sure most delinquents at his own school simply don't know about this sort-of-misunderstanding-but-actually-not-really, since they weren't there to see him fight.
So Mob actually kind of forgot about his awkward title, until he hears a ridiculously awed whisper of "White T Poison!" as he walks along the streets of the neighboring district. He keeps his eyes on the sky, both out of habit and to purposely avoid checking if people are looking at him or not. Neither being ignored nor receiving too much attention is doing pleasant things to his stomach lately, which is a little scary because at least the former never bothered him before.
He didn't think this through, he realizes, when he comes to a stop by the gates to Black Vinegar Middle School and feels his insides squeeze up at the sight of the building; whole and unharmed as if it was never smashed to pieces by a boy who'd failed to change.
Mob is not sure if it's coincidence or if someone actually ran to alert their own shadow leader to his presence, but it only takes a few minutes for Hanazawa to find him.
"Kageyama," he greets him from a few steps away, walking up to him with a little wave before stuffing his hands in his pockets. "What a surprise. How did you end up here?"
Mob tears his eyes away from the building. "I walked. The bus was gone already."
The smile on Teru's face is almost familiar now, even though the owner himself occasionally appears as if he still has to get used to it himself. "Ah, I see," he says with a nod, though Mob doesn't really know what kind of relevant insight he could have possibly taken from that information. "It's been a while. How are you?"
Only then does it strike Mob how odd this is. They haven't seen each other at all since infiltrating Claw together, which was really only a temporary alliance based on situational necessity.
That whole shadow leader thing is coming back to him again and he feels a bead of sweat running down his temple. Will Hanazawa have to throw him out of his school? Surely being a delinquent gang leader goes hand in hand with a certain territorial behaviour?
Mob isn't sure if the other even still is his school's shadow leader after deciding to change, but he takes a small step back anyway so he's definitely standing in front of the gate and not even an inch beyond it. Then he glances up quickly to meet Teru's eyes.
There is probably no point at all in trying to read the expression on his face. It's still the same smile. It doesn't seem aggressive at least. Even though Mob didn't really think he would attack him, he's still a little relieved.
Though he seems to be expecting something.
An answer to his question, probably.
Mob forgot the question.
"Uh," he says.
And after a second of thought, leaves it at that.
There is a short silence and Teru's smile does not waver even for a moment. He nods again. "Okay. I'm going home right now. You can walk with me, if you like?"
The way he steps around him, making sure to keep a little distance between them but also upholding his open expression, is very reminiscent of the way Ritsu treats him when he doesn't want to stress him out. But while it makes Mob downright nauseous by now to see his brother acting that way around him, it's a lot less distressing coming from Hanazawa.
Probably because they don't know each other that well. This is likely just a sign of some general awkwardness instead of a desperate coping mechanism.
He wouldn't hold it against him if it was, Mob thinks. He glances once again at the school he doesn't remember destroying and then tries very hard not to end up staring at the top of Hanazawa's head. Is that still a wig or did his hair grow back by now? Mob doesn't want to ask, even though he kind of really wants to.
Before he can get lost in his own head and forget the question again, he quickly shakes himself and nods, turning to trail along behind Teru who makes a little inviting hand motion and takes the lead.
They stop again just around the corner where Teru parked his bicycle and Mob watches thoughtfully as he undoes the chains. "Are you very fast?" he asks. "I might take a while to catch up then."
Teru startles and looks at him over his shoulder, a purple helmet with bright green stars now tucked away under his arm. "I'm not making you run along," he protests with an almost offended tone. "I'll push it, don't worry."
More sweat quickly collects on Mob's forehead. "I don't want to be a bother. Also, I've been training. I can run pretty far now without passing out."
"Don't worry," Teru repeats a little more insistently and starts to push the bike along the path. "It's not far anyways, we can both walk."
Mob hunches his shoulders a little, staring at the ground as he follows. "Sorry for the trouble," he mumbles. A small sigh is his only answer, then they both start walking in silence.
For a moment, the silence is scary, simply because Mob has sort of gotten used to being set off by a lack of noises and voices around him. But when the pure instinct of being scared fizzles out after a few steps, he realizes that it's different.
The path is an unfamiliar one, one that he never walked before in that other world. Or in this one, actually. Mob is walking on the right and Teru on the left, the green bike between them. Its wheels are squeaking ever so slightly, the metal basket in front rattles loudly with every little bump in the road. A fluffy keychain with a little stuffed monkey at the end dangles from the right handle and Mob watches as it swings along from side to side.
The sound of another's footsteps consistently next to him is more grounding than he would have thought, and Teru's uniform is different enough from Salt Middle School's that catching sight of it out of the corner of his eye doesn't bother Mob at all. Unlike when students from his own school pass by him on his usual way. He may not flinch anymore every time that happens, but he can't quite keep himself from looking after them, watching them ‒ steeling himself for something bad to happen.
So this... this is good. Different. He thinks maybe this is what it should have been like, coming back after not even really being gone at all, and just proceeding as before. It's selfish, maybe, because surely Hanazawa has other things to do, but Mob feels himself inadvertently slowing down. The other's apartment really isn't that far anymore, if Mob remembers correctly, and the thought of this small, unexpected bubble of peacefulness dissolving already makes him a bit fretful.
Teru adjusts his own speed without comment.
It's impossible to tell how much time has passed, for Mob at least. When they get to a street going slightly uphill, they slow down even more. Halfway up the hill, Teru takes a small, audible breath as he apparently decides to finally break the silence.
"I'm not troubled." Mob cannot even begin to understand what this almost reluctant, careful tone of voice even means. "But you seem to be."
Teru is very deliberately not looking at him, one hand nearly unnoticeably fidgeting with the bike's handlebar as he looks ahead at nothing. Mob stares at the other's fingers that are picking at the screw of the bike's bell. He kind of wants to pretend that he doesn't even know himself why he came to Black Vinegar of all places, but he isn't cunning enough to fool himself like that.
"I forgive you, you know," he says. "For that one time. When we met."
The finger he's been watching twitches. A small clinging sound from the nail hitting the bell marks their sudden grind to a halt right on top of the hill. The little monkey dances hectically at the end of the keychain.
It's a very simple leap that Mob's mind made there. From choking it jumped straight to Hanazawa, which is probably doing the other boy a grave injustice. He realizes now, as they stand frozen just a few steps away from their goal, that he maybe ended up being unwittingly cruel again.
"In case you cared," he tries to backpedal a little. "It's not that I think you should worry about that. You said you aren't troubled. I'm glad."
The hand flexes around the handlebar for a moment, right before suddenly going slack. When Mob lifts his head, Teru is looking at him with that smile again, though something about his eyes is different now. They don't quite manage to meet his.
"I missed the moment, didn't I?" Teru says quietly. "To apologize for that."
Mob would understand Hanazawa looking maybe a bit sheepish about that whole thing, which was sort of his fault after all, even if Mob was the one who caused it to escalate. But he did not expect the topic to upset him as much as it apparently does. When Teru lifts his eyes again to look straight at him, his smile is replaced by something serious and maybe a little hurt.
"I am sorry. I ‒ didn't really know how to say that earlier, or rather, when."
There is nervous apprehension swirling in Mob's stomach now, the sort that appears when he knows he's reading something wrong, or said the wrong thing, or ignored the sort of unspoken agreement not to talk about something that other people seem to understand instinctively and that always goes right over his head by several miles. He also thinks of how he never said thank you to Master Reigen. "You miss moments too?" he asks, strangely relieved to find he's not the only one.
A sort of helpless chuckle and a shrug is his answer. "I do now, apparently."
"I didn't want you to apologize," Mob adds quickly. Then takes a second to pick his own words apart and starts again. "I mean. I'm not upset that you did. But you didn't have to."
Another chuckle follows, maybe a bit more sincere this time. "I know what you meant, it's alright." Teru clamps both his hands around the handle of the bike and shifts his weight to the side, fingertips poking the monkey keychain as if by themselves, making it swing lazily again. He seems somewhat undecided, the way his eyes wander over the pavement for a moment before settling back on Mob. "I have some leftover yakisoba," he says, pointing over his shoulder towards his apartment just at the next corner. "If you want any. We could watch the game or something?"
Mob blinks. "A ‒ game show?"
Teru's smile deepens. "Right, yes. I'm sure there's one on somewhere."
"I don't really like game shows." It takes a second, during which Teru's expression twitches with something that might be as close to desperation as it is to genuine amusement, for Mob to realize what he sounds like. "But. We can still watch one. And yakisoba sounds nice."
The breath tumbling out of Teru's mouth is almost a laugh, but not really.
The apprehension in Mob's stomach doesn't quite manage to go away and that's alright. It's a constant companion during any kind of interaction that he isn't used to yet. In a way, that's even somewhat comforting right now, because none of that has changed between before and after. The way Teru occasionally looks at him with his carefully reassuring smile while they climb the stairs to his apartment in silence remains the same as well.
At least by now, Mob is significantly more confident in his theory that it's just born from awkwardness and not fear.
I didn't expect this at all, but Teru is actually really easy to write for me? I mean, unless you all think he's way OOC, in which case please tell me^^
(That applies to all the characters! Especially Mob, I find him hard to write so please let me know if you think there's something I can improve on!)
Alright, I decided to stick to short chapters for this one now, since the "plot" is moving rather slowly and I don't want it to get boring if I post it in larger chunks. So yeah, here we go with the next lil snippet^^
The first thing Mob does when he enters the apartment is to wash his hands.
Teru puts away his school supplies, changes out of his uniform and starts to heat up their food. By the time he comes around to gently knock against the frame of the open bathroom door, Mob is still holding his hands under the ice cold stream of water.
It stings a little. It's pretty cold outside already and he couldn't bring himself to put on gloves.
Teru reaches across the sink, very slowly, and turns off the faucet. It seems he's waiting for something, or trying to figure something out ‒ it puts them at a bit of an impasse, Mob staring numbly at his oddly blueish fingertips dripping with water and Teru staring at him.
The pling of the microwave pulls them both out of it. Mob jumps a little and Teru shakes himself out of whatever thought process he was lost in. Even though there is a towel hanging right next to the sink, he grabs a fresh one from the cupboard and hands it to Mob.
It looks much newer and softer than the other one.
When Mob cautiously steps out of the bathroom, Teru has already prepared two plates for them and pushed his small table further into the middle of the room. They'll be able to see the TV that way, which is currently showing an ‒ event, of some kind. Sports. Even though he's training his muscles now, Mob still can't really bring himself to be interested in that sort of thing.
"We can watch whatever you like," Teru says, holding out the remote to him as if to prove that he means it.
"Ah, that's alright." Mob shakes his head and sits down next to him. "I don't really care."
The chopsticks don't bend under his hands when he picks them up. Something about all this has lulled that part inside of him to rest for a while.
They eat without talking, the sound of the TV turned down to a whisper and neither of them pays much attention to the screen. Teru wears a yellow, knitted sweater with a pattern of little strawberries all over it that Mob feels his eyes straying to again and again. It's very bright.
Things are quiet here, in a good way, and different enough to pull his mind away from circling around the same couple of thoughts and memories again and again. So of course it's only now, as the warm, trembling pressure inside him actually subsides just a tiny bit, that he realizes it had been there in the first place.
He should have noticed that before. He knows what that pressure means, how dangerous it is, and usually he is somewhat aware of it so he can at least try to consciously keep it down. It went unnoticed this time.
The heavy surge of guilt and worry that washes over him at the realization doesn't, so that one he can quickly push into a corner to never look at again ‒ unless it forces him to.
"Sorry for the bland food, by the way," Teru says suddenly, eyes slowly traveling from the screen over to Mob while he talks. "I was in a bit of a hurry yesterday, so it didn't turn out that well."
"Oh." Mob looks down at his half empty plate, a little startled since he hasn't actually been paying attention to the taste of the food at all. He slowly chews the next bite and then nods. "It is kind of bland."
Teru hums thoughtfully, gesturing at him with his chopsticks. "You have to come by another time and let me try again. I can make some pretty decent ramen."
"I don't want to impose," Mob murmurs around another mouthful of soba. "I sprang this on you today as well. Sorry."
"You know," Teru says with his head cocked to the side and another amused expression on his face, "I'm pretty sure I was the one who invited you along today." He sets the chopsticks down across his empty plate and glances off to the side for a moment. "To be quite honest, however," he starts again, nearly imperceptibly squaring his shoulders, "I'm having trouble figuring out why you came to see me in the first place. There seems to be more on your mind than simply ‒ granting me forgiveness."
The way he leans back in his chair, arms folded across his chest and fingers burying into the sleeves of his thick sweater is maybe meant to appear casual. Mob can't read him well enough to tell if he really is.
"Even though," Teru hurries to add before Mob can even begin to think about an answer, "I am certainly grateful for that." His smile suddenly falters and he sits up again a tiny bit, a small crease forming between his eyebrows. "That is, uh ‒ you did come to see me, right? I just sort of assumed... but now it occurred to me you might have been there for a different reason altogether?"
Mob swallows the last bite of his food and sets his own ‒ unbroken ‒ chopsticks down as well.
A topic such as the one on his mind right now should probably be broached with care and quite a bit of tact. That much he is aware of, at least.
"You're the only one I know who is experienced in choking people."
Knowing about tact and being able to employ tact are two very different things.
Still, he could have done worse, because Teru doesn't seem half as uneasy as Mob usually tends to make people. He just sort of ‒ blinks. Slowly. Four times. Then he shifts on his chair, every motion deliberate and careful, and crosses his legs.
When he speaks, his voice hasn't gained a single edge. "Well. I... suppose that is one of my qualifications now, yes." His throat works quietly for a few seconds as he searches for words and he finally lets out a small, resigned sigh. "What an achievement. So, why do you need someone with that kind of experience?"
Mob's hands are feeling too warm again, too sticky. He rests them on his knees under the table, palms turned up so they don't have to touch anything. "I'd like to know how not to mind it so much."
Something closes off on Teru's face with a snap. His posture doesn't change one bit but it suddenly seems more tense, more alert, like Ritsu clenching his fists with cold darkness in his eyes. Except that Teru's eyes remain soft. "To not mind what so much, specifically?" he asks with a low voice, similar to the way Mob has heard Reigen talk to a wild dog they found wounded on the street once.
Mob doesn't know why he is suddenly a wild dog in this scenario, isn't sure about what Teru means or about what Teru thinks he means. "The choking."
A slow, even breath makes Teru's chest heave visibly. "Could you clarify, please," he says. "What ‒ I mean." His head drops forward, face hidden for a moment as he appears to think hard on what to say.
Mob understands the need to do that, so he holds still and waits.
"What I did," Teru begins again slowly, lifting his head back up. "Does it still ‒ cause you distress?"
There is sweat running down Mob's neck, he can feel a single bead roll down and get soaked up into his collar.
"Um. Yes, sometimes. But I'm not talking about that."
Is it too early to go wash his hands again? They're so warm and clammy, it makes it harder to parse through this conversation than it probably should be.
"You choked me," he tries to clarify, wondering about the odd hurt he thinks he catches in Teru's eyes. "And it doesn't bother you. I would like to know how you did that?"
Now, now he has finally managed to offend, it seems. As always, it happened with words that he really didn't expect to be that offensive. Teru drops his hands to his thighs and grips tightly at his jeans, shakes his head with a wide-eyed look. "Where did you get the idea that I'm not bothered by that?"
"You said you weren't troubled." There is a dull, throbbing headache developing just behind Mob's temples. "On our way here."
The way Teru shakes his head grows a whole lot more decisive. "I'm fairly certain I said that in a completely different context!"
"Oh. Was it not an assessment of your general state of mind, then?"
There is a short moment that has them both just staring at each other, one questioning and the other incredulous, before Teru suddenly grabs the remote from the table and turns off the TV with a little more fervor than strictly necessary. Mob didn't even notice that it was still on.
"I'm sorry, but you will have to explain a bit more in depth here," Teru says, snappy words that are spoken in a kind voice, so Mob doesn't know which sentiment is the real one. "I'm still not sure what you're even asking. Can you not tell me what happened?"
Right. He kind of skipped that step, didn't he?
"Sorry. I didn't think that would be necessary."
The collar of Mob's uniform has cold and wet patches all over it now and he can feel a few strands of his hair clinging to his forehead. This steadily rising uncomfortable heat in his body doesn't help at all with that issue he has with his hands. His fingers keep twitching on their own accord, his eyes wandering in the direction of the bathroom before he makes them snap back to Teru's face.
It isn't working. The right words are already too elusive for him under normal circumstances, but all this heat, the prickling feeling in his hands, the wave of pressure once again building up inside him, it makes figuring out how to even start an absolute impossibility.
Mob stands up abruptly, a small "excuse me" tumbling from his lips, and the next thing he knows is that he's standing at the bathroom sink, cold water running down his hands again, washing away just a bit of that dry, hot, cracked feeling that sticks to them and won't let go. Breathing is painful for a moment, the large mouthfuls of air he swallows too much for his constricting lungs. Everything in him goes slack, he barely even notices that his knees suddenly shake under his weight, that he tilts forward until his forehead touches the cool surface of the mirror in front of him.
A warm, steady pressure on his shoulder pulls him back a tiny bit, a second one right above his elbow holds him up just enough to keep him from falling. Mob has to blink many times before he manages to look past his own blurry, overlain reflection in the mirror and notice the glowing yellow of Teru's sweater right behind him.
The other boy makes a small, soft hum, his voice barely more than that as it follows. "Well, this is worrying."
Mob's answering hum is noncommittal. He wants to shrug, but that could appear as if he's trying to push off Teru's hand on his shoulder, so he stops himself. That hand is part of what's keeping him on his feet, as he is well aware of by now. The Body Improvement Club has very effectively taught him how to recognize the feeling of passing out in advance.
How embarrassing. He isn't even running.
This doesn't make much sense right now. While he has been feeling pretty queasy these last few days and skimped on sleep and food a little, it shouldn't be an issue anymore after the many hours of sleep he got the day before and the meal he just had. But he feels lightheaded, beside himself in a literal sense. He has to keep blinking so the world doesn't swim entirely out of focus.
At least he can hardly feel his hands anymore.
It's like they're very far away, not even part of his body anymore.
"I ‒ have the distinct feeling you're not doing this on purpose right now?"
Actually, nothing feels like part of his body anymore.
Something pokes at him, just a little tendril of a warm, bustling aura that gently nudges his own and makes him pay attention again. The bright, swirling yellow of Hanazawa's power immediately pulls back when he opens his eyes.
Except he doesn't, technically, open his eyes, because his body is currently slumped down in Hanazawa's arms below him, Mob himself just a small white wisp of energy floating above.
Mob is fine.
He is very light and empty right now, a nice change from how he has been feeling lately. There is no sizzling pressure growing inside him anymore and he has no hands that could itch. A perfect solution to everything. Why didn't he think of this before?
The fight to uphold a calm expression is obvious on Teru's face. He looks up at Mob with wide eyes, the corners of his mouth twitching ever so slightly in indecision.
"Kageyama?" he asks carefully, shifting Mob's body around until he can hold it up with his arms slung around its back, black hair splayed out over his shoulder. Mob looks at the way the body's legs are dangling lifelessly to the floor and absently wonders if it always looks this insignificant. "Are you going to come back down?"
After a moment of thought, Mob does float down a little so they are now at eye level.
Teru's chuckle sounds just a tiny bit panicked. "Thank you, but that's, that's not exactly what I meant." With a pointed glance, he very lightly jostles the body draped over him to call attention to it, but its feet slip away on the smooth tiles and he quickly catches it with his powers before it can fall to the floor.
Mob moves to the side to keep his distance from the body now floating a few inches above the ground, encased in a yellow, swirling aura. Teru's eyes follow him searchingly, then zip back and forth between Mob and his body with a sort of thoughtful, intense confusion.
It seems that he is trying extremely hard to figure something out, only what exactly Mob cannot say. Or, maybe more accurately, he doesn't really care enough to think about that at the moment. Things are incredibly far away now, but unlike with his recurring morning spells of unreality, it's not scary anymore.
There is a vague, wondering question in his mind as to what he's supposed to do now. Everything that he has made himself do lately so things can be nice and normal ‒ going to school, going to work, getting up in the morning ‒ all of that sort of falls away now. He can't really do those things the way he is now, can he? The realization comes with a strong sense of relief that he knows he should probably feel a bit guilty for.
Instead, he just turns to the window and looks at the empty sky.
When he starts absently drifting towards it, he is held back by yet another small tug of Teru's powers. It doesn't feel like they could actually hold him back if he decided to keep going ‒ they really just function as a soft reminder that there are still other things in the world he should maybe care about.
"Look," Teru says carefully. Out of some lingering sense of courtesy, Mob does attempt to listen for a bit. "I have to admit I'm not sure how this works, so maybe you shouldn't go too far away. This is not an Ethereal Body technique, is it? You would have retained control over your original body otherwise, I believe."
Mob's attention is starting to wander again. Teru seems to be talking more to himself, still trying to figure things out, and it's not like Mob can actually give any helpful insights here. He doesn't even entirely understand what the problem is supposed to be.
Teru appears to notice his declining interest however and his aura flares up again, tugging at him with a bit more insistence. "No, please listen. We don't know how long you can stay outside of your body like this without any, hm... side effects. It's your decision of course, but even if you don't want to come back right now, you should at least stay close."
Mob supposes that's alright. He hadn't exactly planned on doing anything after all. Whether he's floating in the air not doing anything outside or inside doesn't matter to him at all.
There isn't really much he can do to communicate his agreement, but it seems to be enough that he doesn't try to move to the window again and instead hovers slightly above his body. Teru nods with a relieved smile, then gestures to the living room.
"I'll put you down on the bed for now, if that's alright," he says, levitating Mob's body through the door and into the next room.
A hint of confusion prods at Mob's mind for a second, before he understands that Teru is referring to the body, not to Mob himself. He finds that a little odd, because when he looks at that body, its limbs now being thoughtfully arranged into a comfortable position on Teru's bed, it doesn't trigger any sense of belonging within him. And even though he knows this is different, the sight of his body moving on its own like that doesn't feel as foreign to him as it probably should.
Teru slowly spins on his heels in the middle of the room, glancing up at Mob with a smile and a small bead of sweat clinging to his temple. One hand propped on his hip, his forefinger taps out a nervous rhythm against his sweater. He breathes out through his nose, slowly and quietly, the little furrow right between his brows suggests that he's still busy thinking.
With a nod to himself, he then strengthens his smile again. "Would you wait a moment while I make a phone call?" His hand flows through the air, gesturing around the room. "Feel free to make yourself at home."
The words only register with Mob quite a few seconds later, when Teru has already stepped out into the hallway. His voice sounds muffled through the only partially opened door, but there is a slight apologetic quality to it that Mob can pick up on even without hearing the exact words. It sounds like he's canceling plans. Mob should feel bad about that.
His gaze drifts lazily up the walls, along the empty ceiling, and if he actually still had eyes right now, he would likely be wondering why he can't focus them properly, why everything remains sort of blurry like he's looking through thick, wavy glass. As it is, he doesn't bother with trying to correct that, just ends up staring at the corner where the ceiling meets the walls. There is a small dark spot there. It could be a fly or a spider. He can't quite tell if it's really moving around a tiny bit or if that's just his wonky vision.
He doesn't pay much attention to the faint sound of pacing footsteps behind the door, only really notices they were there the moment they stop and the door creeks open. "Sorry about that," Teru says. "Just some organizational stuff. I was going to make some hot chocolate, would you like a cup?"
Something about that question doesn't make much sense, Mob feels. He can't quite put a finger on it, but since he also can't communicate right now, he at least isn't obligated to think the question over and give an actual answer.
Teru still waits for a bit, not really looking like he actually expects an answer, but just taking a moment to give him the opportunity to answer if he so wishes. When Mob isn't forthcoming and just continues floating in the air above the bed, Teru taps the doorframe he's leaning against with his palm and pushes himself off of it. "I'll just make enough for two. You can always leave it if you don't want any."
Mob is already looking at the tiny stain on the wall again, fully prepared to wait here in silence while his host does what he does. But Teru goes to the kitchen, leaves both the doors between them wide open and keeps speaking to him. "I like mine relatively bitter, but I can add some more sugar if you prefer that. I know most people do."
Pots clank lightly, the fridge opens and closes again. "You wouldn't believe the offended looks I've gotten for serving unsweetened hot chocolate! This one time, my guest was so shocked that she had a coughing fit and ended up with chocolate dribbling from her nose."
Mob feels like he wants to get lost in his own head, but the continued noises and Teru's carefree babbling from the kitchen keep pulling him back out of it. Instead of letting himself be swallowed up by the empty, numb feeling of not quite being himself, he ends up slowly floating closer to the oddly comforting sounds. He passes right through the walls and barely even notices it.
Teru just throws a quick look over his shoulder when he enters the kitchen and smiles at him ‒ like everything is normal.
That, more than anything else, is slowly making Mob aware again that this is very much not normal. He pushes it away, opts for watching Teru measure two cups of milk and heating them up in a small pot on the stove instead. He diligently stirs the milk with a wooden spoon in one hand, reaches for a small container on the shelf above him with the other and shows it to Mob.
"It's my favorite brand," he explains and Mob floats down to his level so he can inspect the writing on the container. He doesn't recognize the name on the package at all, but it looks sort of fancy with it's golden lettering. "The same my father used to make for me. Mum didn't want me to have too many sweets, so it was always a bit of a secret between Dad and me. Though we were probably fooling ourselves in thinking she didn't notice." He holds a crooked finger over his upper lip. "The chocolate mustaches usually gave us away."
With a small chuckle, he flips a strand of hair out of his face, the movement petering out with a bit of awkwardness that makes it obvious he's still not used to how short it's gotten. "Well," he continues, measuring two large spoonfuls of dark chocolate chips into the milk and then pulling another box down from the shelf, "as a compromise dad never added sugar, so it wouldn't be too unhealthy. But as I said, it's an acquired taste for most people. So, how much would you like?"
He still wears that same look as he now turns to Mob again, the one that says he would like it if he answered, but also wouldn't be put out if he doesn't.
There is something about all this, about the way he holds out the sugar box towards him, his other hand busy mixing the melting chocolate into the milk. The almost liberating emptiness inside Mob is inexplicably nudged to the side by a sudden regret over not being able to answer.
So when Teru mimes putting a spoonful of sugar in one of the cups and offers "One? Two?" in an attempt to simplify the onesided conversation, Mob suddenly finds himself trying. Finds himself growing more aware of this strange energy he is currently made out of, how it sort of has a form and how he's been moving it around this entire time without paying all that much attention to it.
He is not sure how well he does when he attempts to shake his head ‒ he can't feel himself move after all, he just sees little flames of white energy flickering in and out of his blurry field of vision.
Teru lets out a sudden, shaky breath and puts the box down with a loud clank. "Okay! Alright!" He sounds maybe a little too enthusiastic ‒ or relieved ‒ considering the subject matter of their conversation. "Oh, but if you want, we can have some of these." The wooden spoon is encased in a yellow aura and continues stirring as Teru searches through one of the bottom drawers. He pops up again with a small bag of marshmallows. "I realize it kind of negates the whole no-sugar-thing... but, well, this is how I like to drink it."
Mob doesn't protest.
While Teru pours the hot chocolate into their mugs and drops in one marshmallow each, that oddly distracting feeling of regret quietly grows inside Mob. Just barely managing that tiny, tiny bit of communication could have maybe felt like an achievement ‒ only it doesn't. Probably shouldn't, because things like that should be easy, even for him.
He's too far away to even reliably say Yes or No to the simplest of questions.
That suddenly doesn't seem like a good thing anymore.
With the two steaming cups set aside on the counter, Teru cleans out the pot and spoon, puts all the boxes and bags and containers back where they belong, unnecessarily wipes off the surface of the stove. They leave the kitchen not even two minutes later, the tiny room looking as spotless as it did when they entered. The cups are filled to the brim and Teru makes small, careful steps, closes the doors behind him with his elbow and actually manages not to spill a single drop.
The cup he keeps for himself by the table is blue and has little colorful fish on it. The one he puts down on the bedside table, next to where Mob's head is resting on the pillow, is a pale pink.
Mob can almost feel himself flickering. He moves to hover above his body again, but that very same sense of detachment that felt so peaceful only a few minutes ago now makes him waver as he looks at the body below him. The white energy he is made out of suddenly feels more formless, little parts of it fizzle into the air around him.
Across the room, Teru is picking up their empty plates left on the table, but they clank against each other loudly as he notices Mob losing shape. When he starts talking again, his voice has a little edge to it, just a small nervous note, something that sounds as if he's trying hard to contain it. If Mob listened to the words he's saying, he could very likely find out why.
He stares at the cup instead. It looks all round and smooth, the sort of cup that his mother would declare part of the good china and never let him use. The steam rising from it curls up into the air, right through Mob, and it hits him suddenly that he should be able to smell it.
Little white specks of light tumble through his vision. Hanazawa's voice is changing again, a little louder, a little more serious, the plates are dropped back on the table and he's hectically moving closer. Mob should listen for a bit, make sure he's alright.
But the sight of his own hands resting lifelessly on the plaid duvet, fingers curled in ever so slightly ‒ it's trying to fill up that emptiness within him, trying to make him feel something about this. It's picking at the outside of his little comfortable shell, nudges him with faint ideas of regret, of longing, of disgust ‒
What replaces the nothing in the end is just an ache.
Sounds are coming from Teru's general direction, more movement, while more and more white flames dance up around Mob and fly away.
Mob lets the ache drag him down, slowly. He sees the faint glow of his current form flicker and fade, but it doesn't bother him now. Looking at the body below bothers him. The duvet it's touching looks soft, the pillow underneath its head fluffy, and Mob cannot feel it.
He spares the cup another glance, from much closer now. He didn't notice before, but the marshmallow that's slowly melting into the chocolate is shaped like a tiny kitten.
He sits up.
He lifts the cup close to his face with both hands and takes a deep breath. It smells really good.
It's very quiet for a while. Then the mattress tilts underneath him when a weight is added by his side. Only reluctantly does Mob look up from the little marshmallow kitten floating in his pink cup. His vision is still a bit blurry, but he recognizes Teru sitting next to him now, not too close, but not really keeping his distance anymore either. He looks so, so relieved.
"Thank you for the drink," Mob says.
This is the fucking fluffiest thing I ever wrote, what the fuck. Just Teru talking about hot chocolate for a whole chapter. There is a marshmallow kitten for fuck's sake, I'm losing my dark and angsty self here^^
In all seriousness, I hope this wasn't too much of a letdown in case you guys were expecting something more dramatic after the sort of cliffhanger last chapter.
The cocoa is still a little bit too hot to drink, but Mob is perfectly content just basking in the smell and taking tiny sips in between carefully blowing on the surface. Even though the cup feels like it's burning his hands, he keeps his fingers clamped tightly around the smooth ceramic and refuses to set it down.
Teru's cup remains on the table, next to the two empty plates. They look as if they were haphazardly dropped there, which doesn't really go with what Mob has seen of Teru so far; how he is so very diligent about cleaning everything up and having things in their rightful place.
A little reluctantly, Mob glances to the side, blinking through the warm steam that's clouding his face.
Teru is already looking at him. He sits turned towards him, his left leg propped up on the bed and the right one dangling off of it. They have been sitting like this in silence for a while now, Mob realizes.
Not that he has a problem with that. He finds it rather comfortable now, actually. But it does slowly dawn on him that Teru is usually the type that would have started a conversation by now.
Mob is not sure what he should say. He never really is, but in this instance he feels particularly lost. The way Teru is keeping his eyes carefully trained on him makes him think that he maybe wants an explanation of some sort ‒ then again, his expression doesn't appear expectant. More exhausted.
Mob wonders how that happened.
There is a small fluff of hair right above Teru's temple that seems a bit more ruffled than the rest, as if he was pulling at it and then forgot to push it back into place. Mob stares.
The cup really is getting a bit too hot to hold in his hands and Mob leans forward with a very small sigh to put it back on the bedside table. He feels the mattress dip further as Teru shifts around next to him, as if Mob breaking his own odd stupor pulled him out of his as well.
"So," Teru starts, and clears his throat a little when his voice comes out somewhat scratchy. "Do you like the chocolate?"
Mob folds his warm, dry hands in his lap and ignores the tiny hitch of breath in his throat when a faint prickling sensation is settling into his fingertips again. "It's very bitter," he says.
Teru smiles and moves to get up. "I'll add some sugar." He stops moving though, a sort of minuscule jolt going through him the moment he tries to push himself off the bed with his flat hand. He is holding a phone in that hand. Mob didn't notice.
Neither did Teru, it seems, because he looks a bit startled for a moment, before glancing away and clearing his throat again. "Um, here," he says, holding out the phone. It's Mob's phone. "I was going to call your master. I don't have his number, so I took this from your bag, sorry."
"Oh." Mob is confused, thinking back to the minutes he just spent as his ethereal self and trying to piece together a timeline in his head. "You made a call from the hallway."
And now Teru looks confused. "Hm? I did, yes. Just to cancel some plans I had for today."
"You had plans with Master Reigen?"
Teru's shoulders sag a bit and his hand, which was still holding out Mob's phone towards him, drops back on top of the duvet. "No, I didn't." The little breath that comes out through his nose sounds like a tiny, somewhat baffled laugh. "That was a different call, with my own phone. I only took yours when you were returning to your body."
"Ah. I didn't notice that," Mob says.
The tired and amused expression on Teru's face slowly shifts until only the tired part remains. "As I said before, I'm not sure how these things work, so I didn't know you were simply returning. It looked more like... dissolving." His other hand wanders up to that exact same fluff of hair that Mob already stared at, scratching his head there and ruffling it even more. "I wasn't sure what to do."
There is something heavy in the back of Mob's throat. Of course things must come back one way or another, but the prickling feeling in his hands is spreading further and further, a sheen of sweat is forming on his neck again and the smell of hot chocolate is starting to struggle with its task of making everything feel cozy and comfortable. Even though he returned here, Mob really thought he would be given a bit more time to just breathe.
But now he's not empty anymore. That's enough for him to look back on his short respite from everything and begin feeling that it wasn't really as nice as he thought it was in the first place. Thinking back to what actually happened, what it would have been like for someone else to watch it, he suddenly feels a dark, heavy weight of shame drop straight into his stomach.
His hands clench painfully around each other. He hunches forward, not daring to even look in the direction of the soft pink cup that makes him feel better when he shouldn't. "I'm sorry for interrupting your plans," he says. "I will go now."
He barely even moves to get up when Teru's hand already lands on his shoulder and holds him back. "You don't have to!"
He is trying so hard to sound casual, just as he was doing this whole time that Mob was forcing his own weird problems onto him. The realization about how rude and selfish he has been twists Mob's insides around with a vengeance, but he doesn't want to shake off Teru's hand in order to get up. Because surely there is a limit to how much rudeness even Hanazawa will tolerate.
"It's no trouble, I mean it," Teru assures him, leaning forward a little and trying to look him in the eyes. Mob keeps them cast down to the floor. "Those weren't any important plans in the first place and I wouldn't have canceled them if I didn't think this was more important." His other hand is still lying on the bed next to his knee. Mob thinks he sees it tightening around his phone ever so slightly.
"I don't mind helping you out. I want to." His voice is so soft by now, Mob could barely hear it if they weren't sat so close to each other. "I'm on your side, after all. Remember?"
Oh, Mob thinks.
And "Oh," he says, finally looking up and meeting Teru's eyes. "You are my friend?"
A whole series of micro expressions flits over Hanazawa's face, way too fast and subtle for Mob to pick up on all of them. He thinks he sees surprise, disappointment for a short moment, then a bit of hope the next. One of the fingers still softly curled around his shoulder twitches nervously.
"Well." He sounds a lot more self-assured than his face just made Mob think, so maybe he was wrong about all that. "I, for one, consider you a friend, yes. Whether or not you consider me one would be up to you, obviously."
Mob nods thoughtfully. "Okay."
It's probably easier to talk to a friend than just an ally. He still isn't comfortable with how he is being such an inconvenience in the first place, but ‒ it's a different dynamic, maybe? He's not that used to having friends, though the way he understands it, it seems part of their function to listen to you sometimes. A bit like Master Reigen, maybe, except they're not necessarily supposed to teach you things.
It's silent again, but even though Mob has his eyes focused on empty space while he thinks on what to say, he hopes that the way he turns around more towards Hanazawa makes it clear that he is now preparing to speak. It often gets lost when he tries to give signals like that. Most conversations just move a tiny bit too fast for his liking, a tiny bit too much out of his control.
Teru is pretty good at making him think he has some control. He is very patient. While Mob is thinking, Teru reaches around him and puts his phone on the bedside table, next to the cup that Mob still isn't looking at and that has no steam rising up from it anymore.
Mob opens his hands. Turns them with the palms towards the ceiling and holds them up just a tiny bit over his thighs so they are only touching air. "I choked someone," he says. "He wasn't real, but I thought he was. Now my hands itch a lot." When he focuses his eyes back on Teru, the other's face is carefully blank. "Do you know how to stop them from doing that?"
Teru slowly moves his hand away that was still resting on Mob's shoulder. But right before letting go, he pats him very lightly and awkwardly and that somehow manages to not make it feel like a rejection.
Mob thinks that he looks like he is taking this all a little bit too seriously. It makes more sweat collect on the back of his neck. He very, very belatedly thinks that he maybe should have done this over the phone, make it a bit less personal.
He also realizes he doesn't have Hanazawa's number.
Teru takes a deep, audible breath and lets it out again with a long sigh. "I admit, this is going in a very different direction than I expected," he says. He still sounds gentle, but there is also something about his tone that makes Mob think of how they went to save Ritsu from Claw. How Teru was talking about plans and what Mob supposes were strategies.
A little bit of tension immediately bleeds out of him at the thought. This is good. Hanazawa is good with strategy.
Teru sits up now, plants both feet on the ground and thoughtfully rubs the palms of his hands along his thighs, fingers splayed out far and back straight.
"I take it you would rather not go into the details of how that happened? Considering ‒" he waves one hand through the air between them and in the direction of the bathroom, where Mob slipped out of his body, "‒ recent events being the result of me asking for those?"
Mob makes sure not to look to the bathroom, it'll probably just make him want to wash his hands again. It doesn't feel as if he'll let go of his body again quite that easily, but for now it might be best to avoid situations too similar to the one that lead to him doing that in the first place. His hands stay floating ever so slightly above his knees.
"Is it important?" he asks. "I don't care for the details. I just want to know how to stop this. You must know."
The breath that Teru takes is slow and hissing between his teeth. His eyes wander around the room for a bit, finger tapping along on his legs, until he focuses his gaze back on Mob.
Or, more specifically, on his neck.
It is slowly starting to worry Mob that the relaxed smile is long gone. Even if it wasn't always entirely real, it still felt good to see it. It meant that things were at least somewhat alright. Now there is an unhappy little crease between Teru's light brows and his lips are white and thin from being pressed on each other.
"That's the thing, I'm afraid," he says with the serious face and the serious voice. "I didn't have that particular problem. The way things happened, it was..." His voice tapers off to a helpless little silence, his right hand waving vague figures into the air.
He needs two short breaths before figuring out how to keep going. "There were so many things I had to think about afterwards. The whole ‒ choking ‒ thing... it was sort of the least prominent thought on my mind then?" He has barely finished speaking when he suddenly drops his head into his hands. "That's horrible. I'm so sorry."
"It sounds a bit horrible," Mob agrees. "That's alright, I already forgave you."
A chuckle shakes Teru's shoulders, but it doesn't sound right. His fingers are gripping lightly at strands of hair, messing it up even more, and he stays hunched over with his elbows propped on his knees and his face hidden away.
Sweat rolls down Mob's neck and the side of his face. He doesn't think it's actually that warm in the apartment, but the heat still swells up uncomfortably inside him.
This really is all going in an unexpected direction. Mob thought that Hanazawa of all people would not have any complex feelings about all this. He meant to just go to someone who would give him a straight answer, who already knew how to deal with things and wasn't too invested in how Mob, personally, was doing.
That was his thought process. But he hadn't been aware yet that they were actually friends. Now it's so much more complicated. This is all making Hanazawa uncomfortable and now, that matters. Mob shouldn't be making him uncomfortable. He shouldn't be making anyone uncomfortable really, though he does all the time and he can't help it. But there are some people that he should try extra hard not to upset. Like his family, or his master, or his fellow club members.
Or his friend.
Friends are supposed to listen, maybe, at least a bit, but surely that doesn't mean Mob is allowed to just show up at their school, unannounced, and proceed to bother them with his strange problems that are his and his alone.
Has he ruined this already?
While he is still desperately trying to figure this all out, Teru lets go of his own hair with one hand and makes a little wavy gesture in his direction. "Ah, excuse me, how embarrassing," he says, his face still hidden and his voice just a bit too high-pitched. "Don't mind me, just sorting myself out real quick. You can keep talking, if you want."
That doesn't help at all with keeping the heat and pressure inside him at bay. What is he supposed to talk about? He isn't even sure if Hanazawa is alright or not. It doesn't seem like it, but then again, he said he was sorting himself out and surely he knows best whether or not it's necessary to worry about him.
Mob should really leave. He is making things worse.
The hand waving next to him continues. "I'm alright, I'm alright!" He sounds very similar to how he did when talking to Mob's ethereal form about hot chocolate and marshmallows. Is he still trying to put Mob at ease now or is it more for his own sake? Mob's head is starting to hurt.
With a few mending flicks to his ruffled hair, Teru sits up again, his smile firmly in place. It shouldn't be possible to smile that warmly and still look completely exhausted, Mob thinks.
Maybe he is not the only one whose head is hurting from all this?
The thought is sudden, unexpected, and hits him with a force that makes his chest constrict painfully for a second. He is so used to being the only one who struggles with simple social situations, but something about Teru hunching forward like he just did, about his voice breaking just a bit ‒
And when he says That's horrible does he really mean I'm horrible?
The guilt and shame still weighing down on Mob's shoulders will not leave any time soon, but with a start they are at least momentarily forgotten, pushed aside by a sudden, intense empathy for his friend.
Mob only hesitates for a few more seconds. When he gets up, Teru's hand shoots forward again, a worried "Kageyama?" on his lips, but Mob steps out of the way. For a moment, it seems as if Teru intends to come after him, but as soon as he realizes that Mob is not actually walking to the door but rather over to the table, he slowly sits back again and just watches in confusion.
The blue cup with the small fish on it is hardly even lukewarm anymore. Mob holds it in his hands, stares at the leftovers of white marshmallow foam floating on the skin that formed on top of the cooling cocoa.
Cold chocolate is not comforting. That's just upsetting, Mob thinks, one itchy fingertip picking at the lightly elevated layer of paint of a fish.
He tilts his head to the side, glancing up to the ceiling in thought. He could microwave it, he supposes, but that would probably be a little rude to do in somebody else's apartment, without asking first anyway. Also it would maybe take away from the gesture a bit, but he isn't too sure about that one.
Behind him, Hanazawa is shifting around nervously.
Pyrokinesis is basically just heating up air until it becomes fire, right? Mob has never tried it, but as long as he stops before it actually becomes a flame, it should be fine.
He has barely even finished the thought when he feels warmth filling his hands. Almost hastily he pushes it over to the cup and the liquid inside ‒ too much heat near his hands makes them itch more, he doesn't need that. The feeling is already making him nervous again, already adding to the pressure inside him.
But the moment he stops and a soft spiral of steam curls up from the cup, it immediately lets up again.
He keeps focused on the cup while walking back to the bed, to make sure he doesn't spill anything. It's only when he sits down in his previous spot again and offers the hot chocolate to Teru that he looks up and meets the other's eyes.
He is taken aback a little by how quickly his idea worked. Teru hasn't even had any of the drink yet, hasn't even touched the cup yet, but he already seems much less upset. He's just looking at him with a sort of calm, content adoration shining in his eyes.
Hanazawa must really, really like hot chocolate.
When he takes the cup from Mob, it seems very much on purpose how their hands do not brush even a little bit against each other. The smile tugging at the corners of his mouth is smaller than before, but it looks more real somehow.
"Thank you," he says quietly into his drink, carefully blowing and taking a few sips. "You needn't have worried, you know. I really am alright."
"I'm not worried," Mob says. He isn't sure if that's the truth, but it must be the right thing to say here. "You were nice to me. I wanted to be nice too."
His own phrasing pokes at something in him and he sits up straighter. "I'm grateful," he starts again, trying hard to give his voice the sort of serious tone that he's heard Teru use as well, "because people are nice even when they don't have to be. Thank you."
Teru blinks at him and lowers the cup a little. "I suppose." He peers over at Mob inquisitively, then quickly averts his eyes with a shrug. "Well. I'm glad you have people to be grateful for. I do as well, I believe. We are quite lucky."
In the momentary silence that follows, Mob has just enough time to feel unreasonably relieved.
He is not sure why, but somehow, Hanazawa understood when nobody else did.
... Um, yeah, I struggled with this one so sorry it turned out worse than the others. It's really more of an interlude, but the next chapter should finally wrap everything up. It's at least halfway finished already and I'm doing NaNoWriMo right now anyways, so it should be done pretty soon!
Also HALP I CANNOT STOP WITH THE HOT CHOCOLATE, IT'S FOREVER INGRAINED INTO THE PLOT NOW!
"So," Teru starts suddenly.
Mob flinches and makes sure to listen carefully ‒ it's the same tone a teacher uses on him when they're trying to explain the same thing to him for the third time and are very much running out of patience.
"I am done making this about me. Your hands itch, you say. Is that all the time or just in certain situations?"
Teru's eyes are once again focused directly on him, with a piercing intent this time that would be sort of scary if they hadn't just established their friendship. But even so, it's like all the weight that Mob felt had just been lifted from him immediately crushes back down.
Too bad Mob can't just answer "I don't know" and wait for the teacher to ask someone else. "Um, all the time, I think?" He is too aware of the heat in the room again. "But. It gets worse. In certain situations."
"What kind of situations?"
Mob can just about mumble a shaky "Um" before Teru sighs loudly, scratches that one persistent fluff of hair by his temple and then holds up a hand in a calming gesture.
"Sorry, I don't mean to sound so harsh," he says in a kinder voice again. "It's just, I would really like to sort this out and I feel that I've been continuously interrupting this conversation with my own issues, when it's actually you who is asking for help here. So." He sets the cup down on the floor and turns his full attention on Mob. "Even if you don't want to talk about what happened, you can at least tell me the details of that problem I'm supposed to help you solve, right?"
"You shouldn't put the cup there," Mob says. "Cups don't go on the floor."
"You are entirely correct, of course." Teru picks the offending piece of ceramic back up and leans over to put it next to Mob's on the bedside table. "Now." The quick motion brought him a lot closer again, though he is still careful not to touch Mob. "In what kind of situations does this get worse?"
Mob swallows harshly and looks away, heat persistently crawling up his neck. Which actually gives him an idea of what to say. "Heat. And touching things. Skin is the worst. Or, just ‒ when things are bad."
"Like they were back then?" Teru points to the door to the bathroom again. Mob makes sure not to look in that direction at all and just nods once. "And that's why you wash your hands so much? To make them feel colder?"
"Hm." Mob only washed his hands twice while he was here. Apparently he was weird enough about that to make Teru immediately realize it's a whole thing now. "Less sticky too."
Teru nods, slowly at first, then faster a few more times as he stands up. He takes just two or three steps back and forth, not quite enough to count as pacing, before he stops again and faces Mob. One hand is on his hip, the other switches between gesturing vaguely and lightly tugging at his own hair as he talks. "Alright. What little insight I have on this topic, I can of course share with you, though I'd like to clarify that I am by no means an expert. Despite my previous experience with choking people."
Mob scoots forward to the edge of the bed, listening intently and nodding along. Any advice is preferable to none at this point.
Even though the usual confidence has returned to Teru's voice, there is still a short moment in which he seems undecided. Mob almost misses how he chews on his lower lip for a second, but he does unmistakably catch the way he practically studies him like a puzzle to be solved.
"I would like to try something," he says, softly and carefully, as if his voice alone could scare Mob right out of his body again. It seems very deliberate how he doesn't move from his spot at all now, just stands there with his arms crossed over his chest as if he requires Mob's permission to keep going from here. "If you're up for it. But it might become very upsetting long before it becomes helpful. If it does at all."
"Okay," Mob agrees.
Teru cocks his head to the other side and smiles, exasperated and lopsided. "You didn't even let me explain yet."
"Oh, sorry. You can still explain if you want, I don't mind."
With a chuckle, Teru just drops his head and rubs his eyes with two fingers, then smiles back up at him. "Just wait here, please." And he leaves for the kitchen once again.
Mob looks after him even though he is long gone from his field of view. He thinks he can hear the fridge opening and closing again, then the sound of crinkling plastic. The thought of Teru's idea not helping and just being upsetting should maybe make him a bit nervous, he thinks, but in a way he is just glad that he has an idea at all. Even if it doesn't work in the end, at least they can try to do something.
It turns out that the plastic he heard must have been from a bag of ice cubes, because Teru carries a small bowl filled with said cubes back into the living room not a minute later. He sets it aside on the table, grabs one ice cube and folds both his hands around it. With his foot, he pulls up one of the chairs and pushes it over to the bed so that when he sits down, the two of them are sat directly across from each other.
Water drops from in between his folded hands. "You're dripping on the carpet," Mob helpfully informs him, even though Teru's eyes are focused intently on his own hands and he must have noticed too, so he suspects it's not actually all that helpful. "Do you need a towel?"
"No no, that's alright," Teru assures him with a short shake of his head, still without making eye contact. "A bit of water is not going to ruin the carpet." He moves the ice around between his fingers. It almost looks like fidgeting, but Mob is certain that there is actually a very good, very smart strategy behind all this.
"This is probably stupid and dangerous," Teru says. "But here is what I'm thinking. If you want to be able to use your hands normally again, you need to force yourself to get used to the things that set off that itching. Confront your fears, right?"
There is a little swirling feeling in his stomach at that. Mob suddenly, almost painfully realizes he's been watching Teru's face a little too intently, something that often makes people nervous. So he, too, quickly drops his gaze to his hands instead and fixates the tiny trails of clear, cold water running down over his knuckles.
"I read that that's actually a very common practice in therapy. Desensitizing yourself by controlled exposure to your triggers."
"That sounds good," Mob says, nodding. "There's many big words."
Teru glances up at him and then back down so quickly that Mob isn't entirely sure it really happened. "Please do not think I actually know what I'm doing. It's just something I read."
Mob's first instinct is to protest, to assure Teru that he believes in his smart sounding idea. But he closes his mouth around the words before they can leave, tries to remember instead if he has ever witnessed Teru being humble. He's pretty sure he hasn't.
"I was thinking ‒" Teru starts up again. But for some reason, he suddenly stumbles over his words in an uncharacteristic fashion. He lowers his head even more over his folded hands. Mob's entire field of view is blond, spiky hair now and he wonders why the tips of the ears poking out of it suddenly look a little more flushed than before. "Ah, well, I was thinking I could hold your hands, basically."
He finally opens his own hands again, wipes them dry on his jeans and holds them up between them. "I cooled them down so it's just one thing at first, just the feeling of skin without the heat. And after we hold them for a while, they'll slowly warm up again. I think that would make it easier to get used to it."
As if from far away, Mob notices the collar of his uniform clinging to his wet skin again, the hair at his temples getting stringy and soaked as well. A loud rushing sound in his ears drowns out many of the other tiny noises he should be hearing. The longer he stares at Teru's hands laid out before his eyes, the more everything else drops away and the more his eyes get hung up on every little detail.
He is painstakingly tracing one especially deep crease and all the smaller lines branching off of it with his eyes. "Wouldn't it make more sense for me to hold your neck, then?"
Teru actually flinches a bit at the question. "It probably would," he admits, hesitating just a little bit. "But, forgive me, I think it's best to start small. I don't know how you will react to this and if your powers end up getting involved ‒ well, we both already know that I wouldn't be able to do anything about that."
"Oh. Right." Even Mob notices that his tone of voice is more flat than usual, but he doesn't have the energy to do much about that. "That's a little risky." The thought of the task that Teru just put ahead of him is immobilizing. His own hands are just heavy, scratchy, lifeless lumps by his side. He flexes his fingers as a test and barely feels anything at all.
Teru leans forward, maybe he tries to make Mob look up at him, but Mob doesn't so he can't say for sure. "It's the only idea I have for now. I promise I'll let go the second you ask me to. And we don't have to do this at all, if you really don't want to."
"I don't want to injure you," Mob explains. "If I lose control of my powers ‒"
"You did that when we met, didn't you," Teru interrupts him. "Under much more stressful circumstances." Mob isn't too sure about that one. "And I still didn't get hurt. I'm not saying we should be careless ‒ I quite like my apartment, after all, and, uh... this sweater. But last time I was trying to kill you and you retaliated by simply humiliating me a bit. So I don't believe you would injure me now, when we're not even having a fight."
His hands lower by another inch, fingers curling inwards just a tiny bit.
"Look, I don't mean to pressure you." He sounds almost worried now. Mob doesn't want to look at his hands anymore either, it's no better than the face, so he quickly closes his eyes. His own hands are on his knees, still turned upwards, and just like the imprint of a bright light sticking to the inside of his closed eyelids, he can still see the contours of Hanazawa's hands hovering in the air not two inches from his own.
"This is all up to you. If you would rather just, just talk, or sit and watch a movie, or ‒"
Mob grabs Teru's hands.
His eyes remain closed, the rushing sounds in his ears swell and they either tune out Teru's voice, or the other has stopped talking entirely. Mob cannot tell.
The icy hands in his own barely even feel like hands at first, it's just like cold water. For a few breathless, calm seconds, it's cold and clean and nothing else.
But it's not nothing, it changes too quickly. Teru moves, so little that it should have been unnoticeable. Except the way he adjusts his grip and slowly closes his hands all around Mob's is like fingernails on a chalkboard.
The back of Mob's throat feels hot and scratchy, he's not entirely sure if he's still breathing properly. There is Teru's voice, he realizes absently, growing clearer for a second and then shrinking back to a dull droning noise that he could maybe manage to pick words out of if he bothered to listen.
The ridges of Teru's freezing fingertips are sharp edges that chafe along Mob's skin. The thumb that's now tracing calmly along his knuckles, the same motion again and again in a desperate attempt to be soothing, makes his stomach revolt with every circle it draws.
Mob leans forward, his body acting on its own accord, and bits and pieces of Teru's hushed mumbled nonsense are managing to make themselves heard over the blood rushing through his ears.
"You're alright," he whispers near his ear, and "Just breathe, it's fine, I'm here," he hums with the voice that sounds like a smile, only Mob can hear it waver now and the hands that gently hold onto his are trembling ever so slightly.
His head feels light, as if he's spinning in place, but the rest of him is heavy. The crushing weight in his stomach pulls him down and Mob thinks he might be moving, somehow, but he can't tell where and how, which direction is up or down. His fingers are trying to clench into fists, stiff and shaking, but locked in place by two cold hands circling around them like a prison.
Mob feels the muscles in his forearms twitch and cramp, the persistent tremble travels all the way up to his shoulder with a soft pain.
"Do you want me to let go?" Teru asks, but his fingers close tighter around their prey at the same time, making it clear they don't actually want to. "You need to tell me if it's too much."
There might be a flaw in that plan, Mob thinks, breathing heavily, lips wide open and his dry tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth, his voice lost someplace he can't reach. He thinks of chopsticks and pencils and dumbbells bending under his palms, thinks how easily he could break Teru's fingers, bend them away and stop all this.
He almost hears the echoing sound of snapping bone when he thinks of how Mogami broke Minori's fingers.
With one more harsh twitch of the muscles in his arms, he forces his hands to go slack. The soft feeling of his powers leaking out of them is like pins and needles and he holds it back, tries to pull it in again as best he can and concentrates instead on the dry, cracked, itching feeling of his own skin against another's.
He cannot use his powers against Hanazawa, not again, not this time. He has changed now, he must have.
And he can't use his own two hands to hurt him either, can't change himself in the wrong way like that again. Teru's fingers wander over his, adjust their grip once more and end up pressed into Mob's now open palms. They're getting warmer, too. Mob chokes on air and wants to scream.
"Hey, did I ever tell you about our chemistry teacher?" Teru says all of a sudden.
Mob is pretty sure by now that his forehead is leaning on Teru's shoulder, but he can't bring himself to concentrate on his own body enough in order to make sure.
"She is sort of a legend at my school because of her crazy experiments."
Everything is getting warmer, body heat piling up in the small space between them and making Mob's eyes burn. He tries to forget about his hands, tries to go back to when they were lifeless, numb weights by his side, but he can feel Hanazawa's fingers pressing into his skin like vises.
Can almost feel his own fingers pressing down too, but on a fluttering, erratic pulse that grows weaker and weaker.
Teru leans further into him, rests his chin on Mob's shoulder, right at the curve where it connects to his neck. "One time," he continues, impossibly softly, his fingers once again drawing circles into Mob's flesh, "she wanted to prove to us that real gold can't be dissolved by most acids. But the school obviously doesn't provide a supply of actual gold to do experiments with."
Mob wonders absently why he can feel Teru's aura, reaching out in small, swirling tendrils all around them and pulling at things, a sense like a stable anchor clinging to his powers where they usually feel more like wily but strong gusts of wind.
"What she did have handy, however, was her wedding ring. So, with a big speech about absolute trust in science and one's own mind, she took it off and dropped it into the beaker of acid."
This must be an important story, if Teru is telling it right now. Mob is shaking, shoulders trembling, he thinks he keeps tilting forward more and more, but he tries very hard to keep listening.
"And the ring dissolved."
Their clasped hands are now trapped between both of their bodies, fingers intertwined and wrists bent at uncomfortable angles.
"It was incredible, you could practically feel every single student in that classroom holding their breath in either horror, pity, or the strained attempt not to laugh out loud."
Mob can feel knuckles pressed firmly into his chest, but he can't tell if they're Teru's or his own. He can follow every one of Teru's breaths, feels his ribcage expand and shrink back with each one. Without even any conscious thought on his part, Mob's own breathing tries to adapt, to fit itself into the small space between them, breathing in when Teru breathes out.
The spinning, swirling feeling in his head grows a little less distracting.
"And our teacher, she just stared at the beaker for a moment and then said, completely deadpan: 'Well, I guess my husband took the piss out of me there.'" Teru's little giggle at the memory vibrates through both of them, tickles Mob's neck as the gush of air moves strands of his hair around. "Then she left for the hallway and we could hear her yelling at her husband over the phone for buying wedding rings made out of fake gold for the next fifteen minutes."
Mob feels lighter.
He's not sure if that's a good thing at first, or if it's a sign that he's leaving his body again. But then he just spends a few moments breathing, concentrates on the warmth surrounding him that is suddenly not so bad anymore. There is a faint, steady heartbeat pulsing through his body from where his chest is pressed against Teru's, and he can't tell whose heartbeat it is at all. He just knows it grows calmer, slower, with every breath either of them takes.
He slowly opens his eyes. For a moment, everything is blurred and patterned with bright little stars because he had them shut so tightly. As soon as his vision clears again, he is greeted by the warm yellow of Teru's sweater. There is a tiny pink stitching of a strawberry right underneath Mob's nose, and with every second he studies it, he becomes strangely more and more relaxed.
His mouth is still too dry, he has to swallow a few times before even attempting to find his voice again. "Did your teacher make up with her husband?" he asks, the sound barely more than a deep breath.
Teru chuckles and nods against Mob's neck. "Hm-hm, he got her a new ring. She used it for the acid presentation again ‒ and it melted, again. Now she gets a new fake wedding ring every school year and melts it in front of her new class. It's a tradition."
They stay like this in silence for a while. Mob can't tell how much time passes until Teru leans back, only a little, and lets a thin layer of air separate them again. "Are you alright?" Mob can feel him crane his neck to try and look at him, but he's too comfortable with his face nestled into Teru's shoulder and staring at his strawberry sweater to try and meet his eyes. "Do you want to go back down, or ‒?"
"Down?" Mob asks confused. The way Teru just hums in agreement instead of explaining what he means forces him to lift his head and look around after all.
At first, he wonders why the ceiling appears so much lower than he remembers. It's only when a book, presumably lifted from Teru's shelf, lazily floats past his line of sight that he notices his own blue aura enveloping both him and Teru, making them hover in the air above the bed ‒ along with a dozen small objects from Teru's room. Mob watches their pink and blue cups gently spin around themselves, sees his own bag and phone bounce off the walls and keep tumbling through the air in a different direction, followed by a whole bunch of school supplies that were spread out on Teru's desk ‒ as well as the desk itself and all the chairs.
When he looks up, he also realizes that a subtle shield of Teru's powers is keeping the two of them from rising further up and bumping into the ceiling, and that quite a few yellow specks are scattered around the room to nudge the blue encased objects away from them.
Mob's face grows hot with embarrassment. "Ah! Sorry!" He quickly has everything float back to its rightful place again, only with Teru and himself he opts to setting them both down on their feet in the middle of the room. That's faster than making them sit back in their previous positions on the bed and chair, and he really shouldn't continue rudely forcing his host to float in the air for much longer than absolutely necessary.
"No worries," Teru says. Now that Mob is not invading his personal space quite that drastically anymore, he can see that even Teru has a bit of sweat clinging to his forehead now. Just a little bit.
He's smiling his nice smile though.
It wavers only a tiny bit as his eyes quickly glance down between them and then back up. "Are you alright?" he asks again. "Is it ‒ better now?"
He actually pauses to wait for an answer now, looking at him with nervous expectation.
Mob looks down as well and startles. Their hands are still wrapped tightly around each other. He didn't even notice anymore.
"I think so," he mumbles, disbelief evident even in his monotone; even to himself. He lifts their hands slightly, squinting his eyes curiously at the way their fingers are all intertwined now and genuinely wonders how and when that happened.
Their hands are very warm now.
It only bothers him because they're starting to get a bit sweaty.
"Um," he starts. "How long do we have to keep holding them like this?"
Teru jumps a little. "Oh. Well, I suppose this is enough, actually." His grip loosens, they both pull away and let their hands drop back to their sides respectively. Teru takes a small step back as well, which makes Mob realize that they were actually still standing unusually close to each other.
Mob looks at his own hands. Wiggles the fingers a little, flexes them a bit. It's not that he can see anything different about them. It's just all rather normal again, just a pair of hands. That in itself is fascinating enough for him to stare at them in wonder for a few seconds.
Teru stuffs his own hands into his pockets and leans back into a relaxed stance. "So, that went a lot better than I thought it would," he says. "The walls are still standing, at least!" He winks at Mob, then chuckles quietly into the silence that follows. "Ah, sorry, just a joke."
"Yes, I got that," Mob quickly assures him, trying to lift some of the awkwardness.
It doesn't work, of course, and he honestly doesn't even know what he was thinking with that.
"Thank you," he decides to say then. "I think that helped."
"Hm," Teru makes. He watches him with his head cocked to the side, biting his lower lip again for a second. "Maybe. Honestly, I don't believe that was a permanent solution, exactly? I don't ‒ I mean, I have no right to tell you how to handle this, of course. But maybe... maybe you should consider talking to someone about this, at some point. At least a little bit."
"I already talked to you a little bit," Mob reminds him, and Teru sighs his amused sigh.
"Yes, well, maybe just a little bit more than that."
"Ah." Mob nods knowingly as he realizes. "Details."
With a snap of his fingers Teru points straight at him, repeating "Details" with a proud smile. An expression which immediately melts away from his face when he lowers his hand again. His eyes seem very tired once more, but Mob thinks it's not quite as bad as it was before. Maybe.
Mob looks down and fidgets with the hem of his uniform jacket. "I can try," he says. He glances around the room for a moment, eyes flitting over the furniture and all the small objects that were flying around them through the air not five minutes ago. "Since I already told you a bit," he starts again reluctantly, "might I come talk to you again sometime?"
"Of course." Teru's answer is so fast, it almost sounds like he stumbles over his words. "You can come by any time, and not just for talking about this either. Here," he grabs Mob's phone from the bedside table and flips it open, "let me give you my number."
He has to awkwardly turn the phone back around for Mob to type in his PIN, but then they quickly exchange numbers. Mob saves it under "Hanazawa," but when he leaves the apartment to finally go home, he nervously mumbles "Goodbye, Teruki" over his shoulder.
Teru's smile grows wide and happy, his eyes so soft that Mob has to hastily look away. "See you later, Shigeo," he says, as the door closes behind Mob.
They talk on the phone two days later.
Mob doesn't tell him any new details.
He doesn't tell him that the tips of his fingers are tingling again sometimes, that the images of wrapping his hands around another's throat are even clearer in his head now sometimes, but that he can make them less scary by thinking about the feeling of Teru's cold hands in his.
But they do decide to go to the movies together.
(It's a weekend, and weekends are the hardest. Nobody yells for him to wake up. Mob sits and waits and the silence stretches along. He stares at the wall, but that doesn't help him find a single reason for getting up and getting dressed and doing things.
He does in the end, because his phone is ringing and his friend gets worried if he doesn't answer.)
YES this is the last chapter! My working title for this one was FUCKIN FINALLY, because, yeah, that was the entire idea at first, "Oneshot, short and sweet, Mob has itchy-hand-problem and Teru tries to help by holding hands :D" But then I turned it into a 17k multi-chapter fic, as you do.
I feel like I should clarify that, seriously, Teru is not a therapist, he doesn't know what he's doing. These are just two kids trying to deal with a psychological problem WAY out of their comfort zone as best they can. They were lucky it worked out okay, but obviously Mob is not magically cured now. Takes a lot more work than that.
But thank you so much to everyone for reading and commenting and giving kudos! I'm still blown away by all the amazing feedback, you all continuously made my day!
And HEY, I still need inspiration for the Nanowrimo writing challenge, so if anyone wants to hit me up with writing prompts on my tumblr, that'd be awesome!