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The Final Curtain

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It was an ordinary Monday morning, with Reigen arriving to work at 8:50am, ready to begin his ordinary day working at his less-than-ordinary job at Spirits and Such.

Just as ordinarily, Serizawa arrived just 10 minute later, offering a ‘good morning, Reigen-san’ with a kind smile and offering to make tea before sitting at his own desk, the two of them ready to receive any walk ins that they would have for the day. They had no commitments on the Monday, their bookings beginning on Tuesday.

It was ordinary. It was going to remain ordinary.

At least, it was ordinary until Serizawa, who had been looking at his hands under his desk for 5 minutes, stood up and approached Reigen’s desk. Reigen knew this look. It was the, I have something very important to say so please take me seriously kind of expression that required his full attention. Reigen closed his laptop and offered Serizawa a small inquisitive smile. Finally, Serizawa took a deep breath, and began.

’Maybe this timing isn’t great, but it’s a Monday, and I’d thought I’d wait for the first day of the new week to say anything. Reigen-san, I -’ but a phone call beats Serizawa to the punch, and Reigen mouths a sorry, hold on.  

“Hello, Spirits and Such Consultation Office! Reigen Arataka speaking. How can I help you today?” 

While Reigen went through the motions of the ordinary yes, mm-hm, your mouse is throwing up chocolate?, Ah, there’s certainly a chance that that’s a spirit, we have the afternoon free?, Ah, how about Wednesday?, Tuesday is looking rather busy, unfortunately., Perfect, thank you, see you Wednesday, Serizawa returned to his seat and sighed. Maybe not today. He can wait another week. The circumstances had to be perfect to pull it all off.

Reigen hung up and turned back to Serizawa. ‘What were you saying? Sounded important.’

Serizawa gave Reigen a smile that perhaps came across a little sadder than intended. ‘Nothing at all, actually. I was just, err, going to say we’re running out of green tea.’

Reigen stopped to consider this. ‘So you waited until the Monday to say anything because it’s the first day of the new week?’

Serizawa flushed slightly while Reigen smirked, but they were interrupted by a walk-in. A young woman in her early 20s, dressed up in what could only be described as one of the most garish outfits the two men had ever seen. Theatre nerd, Reigen thinks. 

‘Excuse me - is this Spirits and Such…?’

‘Yes! Good morning, welcome to Spirits and Such Consultation Office! How can we help you?’

‘Oh, yes, good morning. I’m sorry I didn’t make an appointment - is it okay for me to walk in like this?’

‘Of course,’ Reigen replies, ‘over 60% of our customer contact is via walk-ins. Not a problem at all.’ ( Truth fabrication: strike one, Serizawa thinks. He begins preparing tea for the young woman.)

‘So,’ Reigen begins, leading the woman to the sofas while Serizawa brings tea, ‘how can we help you today?’

‘Okay. There’s a theatre - Nisebito Theatre?

Nisebito, huh. I recognise the name. That’s the rundown theatre that was on the news a few years back in... Mustard City.’

‘Yes, you’re right!’ The woman beams. There’s a pause before Reigen replies.

‘Mustard City is about an hour’s train from here. May I be so curious as to enquire why you have chosen our services, rather than something more local?’

The woman flushes a little, before shyly replying. ‘Well, I actually saw your press conference.’ (Serizawa muffles a laugh, sitting back at his desk) ‘And the way you made everything float? At the end? Was really cool, so I knew you’d be the real deal.’

Reigen sighs, reminding himself that he owes Mob his life, and continues.

‘Ah, of course. Silly of me to ask,’ and then, quite desperate to change the topic, ‘so, Nisebito Theatre? I’ve heard rumours, but…’

The woman nods, and describes. 

Nisebito used to be a really popular theatre. I’d go all the time as a kid, and there was one actor who would be in basically every performance there - Uehara Daisuke-san?’ Reigen nods, despite not knowing who she was referring to. The woman continues.

‘He basically made me want to be an actress when I grew up, though I guess I can’t really say that to people anymore... Anyway, um. We started hearing things about Uehara-san. That he’d overstep his mark as an actor, changing dialogue on stage, trying to force the plot to go in directions that weren’t intended. Like he was trying to be actor, writer, director all at once with no regard for everyone he had to work with! Seriously, who changes the script like that while on stage? That’s crazy!’

‘At the time, I think everyone just thought he was trying to make it big. Like he was convinced he was the best of the best. But, his reputation preceded him after a while, and no one wanted to work with him at all. It was his rotten attitude that destroyed his career, I guess.’ She takes a deep breath, realising she’s been working through a lot of information in a short amount of time, and continues. ‘He killed himself 7 years ago on the main stage in that theatre. And they kept trying to put on performances there, but…’

Serizawa has moved over from his desk to sit next to Reigen on the sofa, intrigued by the story. The woman waits until he has settled before she continues her story, clearing trying to create a dramatic atmosphere. She looks down at her lap, before continuing. 

‘They say everyone who has stepped onto that stage since has had some kind of an accident on it. And not like, a paper-cut, but proper injuries. People died on that stage. They decided to close down the whole theatre after that, and it’s been closed for years since.’ 

She looks up, looking Reigen and Serizawa in the eyes, before settling on Reigen.

‘I’m convinced it’s haunted by Uehara-san. My theatre group says there’s no way that’s true. But I’m convinced. I think, if we get the spirit of Uehara-san out of the theatre, then we could… we could get the theatre back. Fix it up. And we could use it again to perform for Mustard City.’ She sighs, looking distraught.

‘I’m not going to sit here and tell you my life story, but theatre is important to me. We’re losing public places all the time, and I think we could really use your help. If you could just see if it’s haunted or not… we could start using it again. I can’t pay you that much, but I could offer you performance tickets to any future shows we might hold there. So…’

She jumps slightly, as Reigen shoots up off the sofa, rolling through a hundred different hand gestures in a split second, before pointing his thumb at his face. Serizawa rolls his eyes fondly.

‘I, Reigen Arataka, will gladly take this case! Myself and my deputy director, Serizawa, will gladly do an inspection of the property for you!’

The girl almost squeals with excitement, tears forming in her eyes. ‘You’re very kind, Reigen-san,’, the girl says, bowing, ‘and I thank you! I have the address of the theatre here - when do you think you’ll be able to inspect it by?’

‘You’re in luck, actually’, Reigen replies. ‘We’ve had a cancellation of an inspection that was meant to take place this afternoon (truth fabrication: strike two, Serizawa thinks), so we’ll be able to fit that later today. Perhaps 2pm?’ It's enough time for them to be done by 4pm for Serizawa’s night classes.

The woman is overjoyed. ‘That’s fantastic news! I’ll let the rest of the group know. You have no idea how grateful I am for this. I have the address here…’

Serizawa leads the woman to the desk and takes down the address and the details of the case, while Reigen sends a quick text to Tome; ‘hey, I know ur at school atm but got a case @2. Office will b closed after so go str8 home 4 today. R’.

He gets an unexpectedly quick reply (typical of Tome to sneak her phone into class) of ‘awwwww but i have research 2 show u guysss :( anything i can do to help?’ Reigen pauses, considers just replying ‘no’, but then reconsiders the nature of the case. He sends back a quick ‘call ambulance to nisebito theatre, mustard city if i don't text u by @3. better safe than sorry, study well, R’. It’s not going to come to anything like that, but it’ll help Tome feel important. Serizawa has had words with Reigen about being a little less dismissive of their younger “employee”. 

‘Thank you again for your help, Reigen-san, Serizawa-san.’ The girl bows and leaves the office, a lot perkier than she was upon entering.

Reigen sat back down at his desk, back to his laptop, but Serizawa just stares at the door looking a little worried. Reigen takes the bait.

‘What’s up?’

‘Major injuries and deaths. If there’s a spirit, that’s a malicious one. This might be really dangerous, Reigen-san.’ 

‘Look. It’s old as hell, I’m sure stuff just falls from the ceiling and… kills the actors, or whatever.’ Serizawa just stares at Reigen, electing to fail to process what the hell Reigen just said. ‘It’s probably just the Macbeth curse thing that gets all these theatre kids wound up. It’ll be an in and out job.’

‘...Macbeth curse.’

‘You know, you put on a play and then everyone dies because the Scottish don’t like witches or something?’

Serizawa could inquire regarding Reigen’s weird knowledge of Shakespeare and theatre accidents, but knowing Reigen it would turn into a long story that Serizawa was not ready to put up with this early in the morning. He could also comment on how that’s not how the Macbeth curse works, but that would be revealing some of the weird stuff he used to look up during his 15 years of isolation, which wasn’t fun for anyone.

The two set off toward Mustard City at around 12:30pm, to make sure they arrived with plenty of leeway for 2pm.

Chapter Text

‘Jesus. This is a shithole.’

While on the train, Serizawa looked up pictures on his smartphone of the theatre. Attention hadn’t been big on the theatre since it closed down 6 years ago. (‘They let actors perform there for a YEAR after this guy offs himself? That’s a lot of bodies, let’s hope they did most of their performances NOT on the main stage, right, Serizawa?’ Serizawa does not appreciate Reigen’s humorous tone at the prospect of bodies.)

The latest article written about the theatre was from a year ago. Serizawa lifts his phone so that it covers the real thing, across the street in front of him and Reigen, and then puts the phone back down. Reigen was right. It was a shithole. Not only that, it was a bigger shithole than it had been a year ago, judging from the photo.

It was a European-style theatre, judging from the use of brick and the three arches poking out the front, held up by pillars. Clearly a place where only the best actors would’ve performed. And a rich audience. He thinks of their client, the young woman with the garish dress, and pegs her as the type who wears charity-shop clothes despite having enough money to buy anything she wanted. He casts the comment aside - that was a Reigen kind of thought to have. Were they spending too much time together?

Nisebito Theatre was clearly meant to look beautiful and grand, and it would’ve done 7 years ago, but the now-peeling paint took on a slight yellow tinge rather than the white pearl it would’ve once been. The doors were perhaps the only thing about the theatre that remained in good condition - two sets of doors, a left entrance and a right entrance - and it was clear that they were regularly attended to, with plenty of locks, to stop people coming in. And coming out, Serizawa thinks, and he hopes that Reigen is right about there being no spirit, and this was just ‘theatre nerds being dramatic’.

‘Shall we?’ Reigen offers, and the two cross the street toward Nisebito Theatre.

The theatre itself was rather secluded from the main streets of the town - there were abandoned shops all around it, for sale signs on windows that themselves had begun to decay. Not even a convenience store in sight. No people. A section of town gone rotten. He thinks about how, 7 years ago, when this actor died, he was holed up in his room. He brushes the thought from his mind.

‘What are you thinking about?’, Reigen asks. Reigen’s special ability honestly seemed to be reading people’s faces and body language and knowing what to say when they needed it. He was suddenly very thankful that he wasn’t at this theatre alone.

‘I’m just… concerned. That’s all. People have clearly been trying to keep this place closed up. I don’t know if we should go in.’

Reigen accepts the answer at face value. ‘I dunno. I see the doors are relatively good condition compared to the rest of this place, but I’m thinking maybe local kids keep breaking the doors down? Which is why they need to be replaced?’

Serizawa ponders the real reason why Reigen is reluctant to believe there might actually be a spirit here. He thinks that maybe Reigen is doing it for Serizawa’s sake, to keep him calm, like Serizawa is a child that needs to be kept calm. Again, he brushes the intrusive thought from his mind.

He uses his powers to remove the locks from one of the two doors, and swings it open, and Reigen notices Serizawa’s body language become stiff, stepping in front of Reigen slightly. Hostility.

‘Real deal, then,’ Reigen says, adjusting his own mannerisms accordingly.

‘There’s something here, definitely. It hasn’t noticed us.’

Reigen nods, and stays an appropriate amount of paces behind Serizawa, as they’ve practiced. An in and out job. An ordinary day. It will be fine.

Serizawa enters the theatre, and suddenly, the door he’s entered through slams shut, separating the two. Reigen yelps as the door nearly breaks his nose.

‘Oh shit - Christ, okay,’ Reigen says. Serizawa turns around, trying his powers on the door to let Reigen in. It doesn’t budge. Shit. Okay. ‘Right, um,’ continues Reigen, and Serizawa can hear him banging on the door, then footsteps, and banging on the other side where the other doors were. Then the footsteps are back to first door. ‘Cool. These aren’t going to budge, Serizawa. I’ll stay here while you deal with whatever the hell is in there, yeah?’

Serizawa feels nothing but unease. He’s not meant to be here, he thinks.

‘This is a powerful spirit. I think it knows what we came here to do to it.’

‘Okay. Right. You just… stay safe. Do your best and I’ll try to get this door open in the meantime.’

‘You stay safe too, Reigen-san. I will be back soon.’

Serizawa turns, and proceeds toward the main stage, keeping on his guard.

---

If the outside was a shithole, this was a graveyard… that was also a shithole. Serizawa was unable to locate the exact location of the spirit, examining the terrain. It was a large room, as expected, but the chairs had all began to rot. The fabric was faded, the sea-blue now a pale imitation of what it once was, and holes were scattered all over the seats. Clearly moths are safe from this spirit, Serizawa thinks. Again, a very Reigen observation to make.

Rust covered the metallic parts of each seat. A thick layer of dust was settled all over the floor. Nothing else to see here. Serizawa pointed his attention toward the stage itself, which was… pristine.

The floor was polished, golden, and the curtains themselves a royal scarlet with golden fringes. A beautiful flower pattern of a slightly darker scarlet covered the curtains. Two beautiful pillars, one on the left, a matching one on the right, and Serizawa understands this is how the pillars on the outside are meant to look like. A beautiful pearl-white, as he had guessed. There is a small door at the back of the stage, clearly meant for the actors to enter into view from backstage.

A beautiful stage, kept pristine for no reason at all. This was the work of the spirit that resided here, Serizawa understood. Uehara-san. Maintaining the stage that was once his to perform on, for an audience of dust-mites and moths.

Still unable to identify any kind of solid presence, Serizawa continued forward toward the stage. If there was any place he could go to make this spirit come out, it would be the main stage. I wish Reigen-san was here, he thinks.

He slowly climbs the stairs on the left hand side of the stage, into the centre. In the spotlight. He looks out into the crowd, corpses of well-used chairs, and thinks about his life as a character in a theatre. He thinks about a show about his life. What kind of a monologue might he give?

My story would certainly be a tragedy, he thinks.

And then, he takes a breath, and talks to nobody at all.

‘My name is Serizawa Katsuya. I am 30 years old. I am an esper. I locked myself away in my room at 12 years old because I endangered everyone around me. I stayed in my room for 15 years, before the President - Suzuki -  came to… rescue me. 3 years later, I left that life behind, and started to work for Reigen-san.’ He paused, then continued. ‘And I am too scared to tell Reigen-san how I feel. About him. Because I am grateful for the life I have with him right now. So I put it off, all the time. That is the story of my life. Thank you.’

And then, he bows to nobody at all, and laughs sadly to himself.

Nobody would come see a show about my life, he also thinks. It would be too sad.

He moves to carry on his examination of the premises, but pauses.

He hears clapping coming from behind the stage door. He turns, his aura flares. The spirit is here. He raises his hand to the stage door, grateful that it hasn’t taken much to coax the spirit out, and -

His mouth runs dry. This spirit is clever, to pull such a cruel trick.

The figure of Suzuki Touichirou stands, and he claps his hands condescendingly.

’Hello, Serizawa. I think it’s time for us to have a long overdue discussion.’

Chapter Text

’...Preside-,’ Serizawa catches himself, ‘...Suzuki.’

He knows that this isn’t Suzuki. This is the spirit picking up on his fears and using them against him. This is some kind of a spirit using Suzuki’s likeness. And yet, a bigger part of him is terrified, because he has never properly addressed the way his years with the president have left him scarred. Sure, in rare moments of honesty he has opened up to Reigen and Shigeo about certain aspects of his time together with Suzuki. But it hasn’t been enough. He cannot talk about this, even to himself.

He cannot use his powers against Suzuki. He has to protect him. He is the President’s bodyguard. His trusted friend? Stop this, he thinks.

Serizawa hasn’t noticed his body language becoming more closed off. How his hands have begun to rub against each other. Suzuki does.

’I see that you abandoned the umbrella I gave you. What a shame.’ Serizawa cannot help but feel guilty. The umbrella that kept him safe. He snaps out of the thought - it didn’t help you he was just USING you he didn’t want to help you - and Suzuki continues. ‘Do you remember that morning when you thought you lost it, and you refused to leave your bed? But it was with you the whole time? It meant so much to you. But you’ve discarded it, just like me.’

That’s something he's never discussed aloud to anyone before. Wait.

He’s so wrapped up in the horrible, guilty emotions he’s feeling that he doesn’t notice how close Suzuki has gotten to him. All of a sudden, there’s a thunk, and a horrible, sharp ringing pain by his right ear. He realises he's on the floor. And then, dull throbbing. Serizawa feels just above his ear, looks at his fingers. Blood. He notices a little prop gavel in Suzuki’s left hand. He drops it to the floor. Wait.

’Look at you. Lying on the floor like a dog. New suit, new haircut, but still the same man who once rotted away in that room.’ Suzuki steps back, allowing Serizawa to stand. Serizawa still doesn’t want to use his powers against Suzuki. He just wills, begs himself to open his mouth and say something. I’m so sorry I abandoned you, Suzuki, is the awful first thing that rises to the forefront of his mind. Ultimately, he says nothing.

Suzuki places a hand on his shoulder and Serizawa cannot push away the thought that rises to his mind - this is where you belong, by his side. Suzuki gently pushes Serizawa to face where the audience once sat. Wait.

‘Had you just been strong,’ he starts, ‘this whole world could have been ours. We would have gained the respect that we both deserved. But instead, you were swayed by the words of a little boy. Because that’s all you are, Serizawa. You’re a child.’

I’m a child. The malice in Suzuki’s voice rings through him. I never had the chance to grow up.

That’s not true, a small, more honest voice speaks up. Think about your life now. Tome, Shigeo and the other children enjoy your guidance. And then Suzuki grabs Serizawa by the hair, and he is jerked back, only barely able to protect the back of his head when it smacks the stage floor. He feels a kick to the ribs and hears a horrible crack, and rolls onto his side, curling in on himself. He hears Suzuki laugh horribly, hurting him to his core.

’Presentation is important for men like me,’ a kick in the stomach and Serizawa feels bile rising up his throat, he cannot breathe, ‘but for you? That suit is wearing you. You’re good for nothing but following orders. You’ll never be your own person.’

Serizawa tries to get up, to get away from Suzuki, but he just ends up doubled over, drooling spit on the floor, willing for bile. He thinks he’s going to retch. He’s going to die here, in this theatre. His life a show for an audience of none. Every single word from Suzuki is his worst nightmare. Come to life. Wait.

A punch socks Serizawa on his right jaw and he feels like he’s going to cry from the pain. ‘Is it meant to be metaphorical, Serizawa? New hair, new suit, no umbrella - is it all a metaphor for the fact that you’ve gotten rid of me?’ A kick in the shin has Serizawa on his knees, and then a blow to the chest and jaw has him pushed back, limbs spread, staring at the ceiling. The window on the ceiling is doubled, then tripled. Serizawa notices the glass is broken. The chandelier is beautiful with the glass refracting the light.

The spirit seats itself on Serizawa’s chest, giving him no chance to escape, and almost affectionately wraps its hands around Serizawa’s throat. But there is no affection in Suzuki’s eyes, or his voice.

‘It’s time to end this tragedy, Katsuya.’


As the fingers around his throat tightened, the voice by his ear sneered and continued, ‘This is all you were ever good for. Just something to be used. Be proud knowing that even now I still have application for you. This,’ it sneers, ‘is my victory.’ Wait.

I’m so happy Reigen isn’t here to see this, Serizawa thinks. And then another, smaller thought, almost a whisper: What would Reigen do?

What would Reigen do.

Reigen would consider the facts and act accordingly.

Serizawa, in this crucial moment where he might die on this stage, considers Suzuki - no. The spirit wearing Suzuki’s likeness.

The spirit still has enough grip on this world to do things like keep a stage pristine. It hit him with a prop gavel - it can use physical objects. Wait. The spirit has great access to the minds of those within its domain, and is able to use their worst fears for the theatrical. Wait. Does it want to make a dramatic scene, in which the spirit is the victor? In which the spirit comes out on top and receives the recognition it deserves? Wait. (The hands on his neck tighten.) He needs to one up the spirit, he needs to show the spirit that he’s not scared, he needs to prove - above all - to himself, that he’s the hero of his own story. He doesn’t need to be saved - he will save himself. He has always saved himself.


He’s figured it out, he thinks. He needs to one up the spirit. He needs to act. Now.

Chapter Text

Despite the overwhelming pressure on his throat, Serizawa manages to compose himself just enough to look the spirit in the eyes and slowly curl his mouth into a parody of a grin. All teeth, and empty eyes.

It’s disturbing, and it has the effect he was hoping for. He feels the spirit stop applying so much pressure - and then Serizawa start to laugh quietly, eyes wide, looking on the verge of hysteria, staring up at this spirit assuming the shape of a man he once really would have died for.

This is clearly not what the spirit was expecting, at all. Because it loosens its grip, just enough, for Serizawa to spit out the words he wishes he had the courage to say to the real Suzuki Touichirou.

‘You can’t break me.’

The spirit is silent, only offering an interested stare in reply. Wanting to see where this might go.

If it’s a performance you’re after, I’ll give you a performance.

Serizawa tries again. His whole body aches, but the dull throbbing in his head has lessened just enough for him to put his full force into the words he wants to say.

‘You can’t, President. Not anymore, not when I’m like this. I now have people I actually want to protect, not because I feel an obligation to do so, but because I know they actually care about me. The way I am right now is the happiest I’ve ever been.’

The spirit stares on, and Serizawa carries on riding his wave of strength.

‘You took me out of that room, and I will never not be grateful because of that. I know now that it wasn’t your intention, but you really did help me get back on my feet and take charge of my own life - that’s something I can never repay. I’ve experienced what it’s like to actually be loved and wanted as a person, and because of that, I can no longer live as your shadow, your tool. I’m so much stronger than I was. So, go ahead,’ Serizawa spits, ‘hurt me as much as you want, but I won’t give up. I’ll fight you as much as I need to. You don’t scare me anymore. I’m not going to die now, not when there’s people who are counting on me… and perhaps that time will come, when I’ll really need to put my life on the line. But I’ll definitely not allow myself to die by your hands.’

Serizawa has never heard himself speak with so much conviction. He feels deep, warm courage, like honey pooling in his chest, and for a split moment he is nothing but proud of himself. For a split moment, he truly does believe the words that he’s just said, and he is able to ride that strength to keep staring at the spirit with as much venom as possible.

There’s a pause, before the spirit removes its hands from Serizawa's neck and stands up, but maintains its position over Serizawa, looking him in the eye with a deep curiosity. Still riding the wave of his own conviction, Serizawa gives the final blow, his smirk almost manic at this point.

‘I win, President. Binding doesn’t work on me.’

Serizawa realises a bit too late that’s he’s just gone overboard and revealed that he knows the spirits game.

Regardless, the spirit steps away, no longer towering over Serizawa, and Serizawa takes the opportunity to manoeuvre his body into a position that is less vulnerable - but he forgets how much trauma his body has just been through and can only manage to kneel, his chest slightly hunched over.

The only thing audible is his own ragged breathing. The spirit has moved away from Serizawa, regarding him with something akin to both curiosity and a scheming eye from in front of the pillar stage left. Serizawa realises his own position just in front of the other pillar. Two characters, perfectly positioned on a stage.

It finally speaks, and just from hearing Suzuki’s voice, Serizawa finds his courage beginning to crumble once more.

‘You must feel incredibly proud of yourself for that speech. I see you’ve figured out how this works. Very clever. Very good theatre.’

A pause. Another smirk finds itself on Suzuki’s face.

‘However, there’s room for improvement. Interesting slip of the tongue back there when you called me President. Twice.’ Serizawa’s blood runs cold and Suzuki’s smile curdles. Rotten milk. ‘I think that made the whole thing a little less convincing. But it’s like I said - new hair, new suit, still the same scared man.’

Serizawa knows that he could will up his powers right now and finish the job. He also knows that he’s still unable to will himself to do so. He also knows that he wants to hear what else the spirit has to say. He also knows that he wants Suzuki’s approval.

His body continues to pulse where’s it’s been battered, and his ribs sting, and it makes him not want to do anything at all. He knows his body is trying to cope with the injuries, but he wishes he could just get up and move. Do something, instead of sitting hunched over on a stage in a rotting theatre.

‘I suppose there’s no point in continuing if you’re just going to one up my performance,’ Suzuki continues. ‘This is no longer an interesting plot at all. But… then again.’

Serizawa finally fixes his hunched position and looks up at the spirit. The concern must register in Serizawa’s expression, because the spirit smiles condescendingly.

‘You brought up something that we could use to make things a little more exciting for our audience. “I now have people I actually want to protect,” was the way you phrased it. Maybe there’s a chance I can still fix the show.’

Serizawa tries not to think too hard about what the spirit is saying.

‘I hear the man you now work for is the same man who also Kageyama Shigeo under his wing. Reigen Arataka, wasn’t it?’ Ka-ge-ya-ma-shi-ge-o. Re-i-ge-n-a-ra-ta-ka. Their names come out of Suzuki’s mouth sluggishly with a bit too much tar, like he’s speaking them for the first time. Serizawa reminds himself that this is likely to be the case.

Suzuki chuckles softly, seemingly to no one but himself, tilting his head slightly as if remembering a fond memory. ‘I would have killed that man so very easily, had you not chosen to betray me at that moment. You really should’ve seen him before you swooped in like a hero. I backed him into a corner while he begged me to let him live, saying he’d do anything I asked of him. A coward, just like you, Serizawa. The perfect match.’

Serizawa freezes. He has never asked Reigen what happened between himself and Suzuki, before Serizawa threw himself into the fray to protect the younger man. The spirit being able to recall this information could only mean that the spirit is accessing these memories from someone else. His stomach sinks. Reigen.

‘Serizawa? You good in there?’ He hears Reigen’s concerned voice, far away, clearly just by the entrance to the theatre, nowhere near the main stage. He’s too horrified to reply, or do anything. Reigen can’t be here. He can’t. No.

The spirit offers Serizawa a final glance, puts his fingers to his lips, and vanishes, leaving Serizawa alone on the stage.

Chapter Text

‘...Serizawa?’

We started hearing things about Uehara-san. That he’d overstep his mark as an actor, changing dialogue on stage, trying to force the plot to go in directions that weren’t intended.

They say everyone who has stepped onto that stage since has had some kind of an accident on it. And not like, a papercut, but proper injuries. People died on that stage.

He thinks back to what he told Reigen before they entered the theatre - that people have clearly been trying to keep this place closed up. A theatre that was closed down 6 years ago, and yet people, to this day, continually attend to the doors. Why did they think they could handle something like this? They never should’ve come here.

It’s too late to think about what they should and shouldn’t have done, though.

The large set of doors leading to the auditorium open, and Reigen cautiously enters. Serizawa is sure Reigen’s already aware that something is wrong - if the two are separated, and Reigen calls out to Serizawa, he will get a response almost straight away.

Reigen’s eyes are immediately drawn to the stage. He then looks around the rest of the room. Serizawa can almost see the cogs in his head whirring - dusty room, clean stage, Serizawa sitting on the stage facing one side, no response = danger still present.

Reigen remains rooted where he is, by the doors of the auditorium. ‘...Oi, Serizawa. What are you looking at?’

Serizawa becomes acutely aware of the heaviness surrounding him, like he’s drowning underneath the pressure of an ocean, like he can be moulded and shaped. Of course. This was the spirit’s game all along. Get the esper defenceless enough to overpower him. Of course.

They never should’ve come here.

Serizawa feels his head being pushed, slowly, precisely angled, to look over at Reigen standing behind all the seats. He tries to fight the control that this freakishly powerful spirit has draped over him - tries to shout whatever you do, do not get on the stage, get the HELL away from the stage - but all that comes out is, ‘Nothing, Reigen-san. I’ve exorcised the spirit, but it gave me a fight, as you can see.’ Serizawa feels disgusting, as if his tongue and jaw are being prodded and pulled at by a malicious force to create sounds akin to words.

Reigen blinks once, twice, and then slowly, cautiously makes his way toward the stage, but stops a reasonable distance away, around 2 rows from the front. He leans against one of the chairs and looks at Serizawa. He’s got his calculating face on, again.

‘...Those are some nasty injuries you have there, though. Blood and all. I’m surprised at how calm you are.’

Serizawa finds himself in awe of just how observant Reigen can be. He can see that Serizawa is not himself. He can see that he needs to stay away from the stage.

Reigen doesn’t need to put on an act like I do, thinks Serizawa. Reigen has always been the hero of his own story.

Serizawa feels his body being puppeteered again. His voice begins to force its way out of his throat. ‘I was catching my breath for a while, so I think I’m more or less okay.’ His left arm is moved up behind his head, in a mimicry of a bashful gesture, and Serizawa really feels that on his ribs. ‘I may need some help getting off this stage, though. The spirit hurt one of my legs a little and I’d appreciate the support.’ Shit shit shit shit shit.

‘Ah, right. Bit strange that I could literally only just get the outer door open if you got rid of the spirit a while ago, but hey, whatever.’ Reigen closes his eyes, shrugs, hands in his pockets, and then resumes eye contact with Serizawa. Serizawa feels his facial expression contort - it falls a little flat. He realises Reigen is testing the spirit, to see what it might do if Reigen pisses it off. Please don’t gamble on my health like this, Reigen-san.

‘The hold that a spirit can have on a place can last a long time, even if it is exorcised,’ each word coaxed out of Serizawa.

He can see that the spirit is also testing Reigen. Reigen knows what the spirit just said is bullshit. Reigen knows that’s not Serizawa in control of himself, and the spirit knows that Reigen knows. Both feigning ignorance to see who would break first.

The spirit continues to mould Serizawa as it sees fit. The left arm that was placed behind his head now moves to the ribs on the left-hand side of his body, and his hand squeezes. Serizawa’s head is filled with pain, pain, only pain. It must register in his face and in the voice that comes out of him next, still looking Reigen in the eyes  - ‘If you don’t come and help me, I will just have to… remove myself from this stage.’ - because Reigen’s expression quickly turns to one of panic, and he jolts a hand forward.

‘Shit, okay, stop. Stop moving. Just… give me a second.’

Serizawa’s left hand stops applying pressure to his sensitive ribs.

Reigen is processing, still calculating, but the panic is now clear in his eyes. Reigen moves to pull his left jacket sleeve up, and checks his watch. Mutters something under his breath. He looks back at Serizawa, opens his mouth to say something, and then seems to change his mind. Looks around the room for something, and seemingly finds nothing.

Serizawa was confused, and he just hoped the spirit was, too. Was Reigen stalling?

Finally, some kind of an emotion flickers on Reigen’s face. He closes his eyes and moves to take off his suit jacket, placing it on the nearest chair to him in the front row, and walks with a strange mix of confidence and resignation toward the stairs on the left hand side of the stage. The air of a man on his way to the guillotine, or a sheep, willing to accept slaughter. He keeps his eyes on Serizawa’s, and Serizawa’s are made to track his.

Reigen takes a deep breath at the top of the stairs. He’s clearly scared. And finally, he steps onto the stage itself, standing in front of the left hand pillar, Serizawa in front of the right. Serizawa’s body does not move. Instead, his lips contort into a parody of a smile. Serizawa himself feels like he’s going to simultaneously scream with frustration and be sick, because the spirit’s gotten exactly what it wanted.

Reigen is still standing strong, looking down at Serizawa at the other side of the stage. Serizawa thinks of Suzuki standing over him, disgust in his eyes, only minutes ago. But Reigen’s eyes are filled with hope, and a small smile paints his lips, as if to say; It’s going to be okay. I’m here. You’re here. We’ve got this.

Serizawa lets himself believe that for a small moment. And then the wave of pressure over his body is gone, and he slumps down. The moment is gone and it’s time to panic. He shoots his head up, tries to tell Reigen to get off the stage -

Before he can even get a word out, he sees Suzuki standing behind Reigen, wrapping his left arm under Reigen’s and over the front of his torso, hand gripping and pulling his right shoulder toward Suzuki’s chest, Suzuki’s right arm is, he is-

And Reigen is standing, his eyes wide, staring at nothing but an unknown horizon. He shakily moves his head down, his glance coming toward the right side of his abdomen, and he sees blood, and the unmistakable glare of metal. His hands shakily rise, with no real intention.

There’s a beat. Serizawa sits on the right hand side of the stage. President Suzuki stands on the left, right hand firmly gripping the handle of a blade which he has thrust into Reigen Arataka.

---

Sometimes, though he’d never tell anyone, Serizawa would fantasise about some potential case gone wrong. Reigen would be selfless and reckless and end up hurt, and Serizawa would go haywire. He’d find whoever hurt Reigen and make them suffer, and he’d tend to him, making sure he’d be okay. There’d be a romantic element, sure: Reigen would realise just how much he means to Serizawa. He’d promise Serizawa to never endanger himself again, to be Serizawa’s. Forever yours. It was a fantasy in which he’d get to play the hero and show Reigen just how useful he could be.

But here, when it was all so real, when the person who’d done harm to Reigen was the President… Serizawa could do nothing at all. He just stared. And stared. And wished he could disappear.

That brave Serizawa would just remain a fantasy.

Reigen releases a breath he didn’t know he was holding. A shaky shudder. President Suzuki’s right hand, that gripped Reigen’s shoulder to keep him pressed upright, moves to violently cup Reigen’s chin, forcing his stare to the floor where Serizawa sat.

‘Reigen Arataka’, President Suzuki begins, his tone as chilling and cold and bored as always, ‘back at the tower, you said you’d do anything I asked of you. I informed my subordinate here of that fact. I think I’ve finally found something I’d like you to do for me.’

Serizawa would go haywire. He’d find whoever hurt Reigen and make them suffer, and he’d tend to him, making sure he’d be okay.

Reigen spits venom. ‘You son of a bit-’ President Suzuki pulls Reigen’s back closer to his chest, digging the knife deeper in turn, causing Reigen to cut himself off with a horrified, pained squeak.

‘As your senior, Arataka, I’d appreciate a proper demonstration of manners.’ Suzuki pauses, for nothing. ‘I’ll have to admit that you’ve done a very good job manipulating Serizawa into your service. Perhaps in another life, a quick witted man like you really could’ve been my ally.’

The room falls into silence, broken only by Reigen’s ragged, shocked breathing, and Serizawa’s own heart pounding in his ears. He can’t move. He can’t move. It’s happening all too fast. He can’t do anything but sit and watch the President kill Reigen.

‘I’d like you to look Serizawa in the eyes as you bleed out. Look him in the eyes knowing that he’s going to fail to protect you. Pathetic, isn’t it - he’s too scared of what I can do to him to even lift a finger to save you.’ Reigen is shuddering at this point, trying to retain a firm grip on consciousness, relying on the support of the President. Trying not to let the horrific shock he’s in show.

Suzuki finally begins to address Serizawa. ‘Back when you betrayed me, I was going to scar you and kill this man. But this... is far better. Back then, this man was nobody to you. Now, he is someone you… actually want to protect. Because you know he actually cares about you. Those were your words, Serizawa.’ A pause. ‘Think of this as a lesson as to why you shouldn’t rely on others for strength. This is your true punishment, Serizawa. This is what happens when you betray me.’

The President develops a horrible smirk that stretches his skin like rubber.

‘...And just like that, I still win.’

Chapter Text

He has a mop of blonde hair, a grey suit that’s a bit too large for his frame, and he’s sweaty, panting heavily, as if he’s just run a marathon rather than a few flights of stairs. He could easily be discounted as just an ordinary salaryman, if it weren’t for the gun. Serizawa understands right away that this is the treasured man from Shigeo’s memories.

Serizawa stands, clutching his umbrella, looking at the man in concern as he draws closer toward him. They make eye contact, and Serizawa can register the pure determination in this man’s eyes. He feels as if he’s being analysed and it puts him slightly on edge, but the man speaks before Serizawa can.

‘A middle-schooler. Bowl-cut. Has he passed you?’

The gun remains at the man’s side, and Serizawa is glad that he doesn’t have to explain that he’s no threat. He clears his throat, but the man once again speaks before Serizawa has a chance to.

‘Actually, there’s no other way up - of course he has.’ The man seems to be talking to himself, more than to Serizawa. ‘If you’ve lost to him, then he’ll be up ahead, right? You need to leave. It’ll be dangerous if Mob gets serious.’

At this, Serizawa is baffled. ‘You- You won’t be able to do anything with that gun! You might actually get hurt! Please, turn ba-’

But the man is already quickly passing Serizawa, paying no real attention to his words. Serizawa feels something like rage building up in him. If this man who is dear to Shigeo is injured…

‘P-please! You won’t be able to win against the President, so-’

‘The President, huh,’ says the man, turning back to Serizawa, a few steps above where Serizawa stands. ‘Claw’s boss, you mean.’ Serizawa nods frantically in reply, feverishly clutching his umbrella.

They stand in silence again, until the sounds of destruction rage above them. ‘I appreciate your warning,’ says the man, clearly eager to run ahead, gun gripped between both hands, ‘but that boy you fought with is my responsibility. What happens to me doesn’t matter - I need to make sure he’s okay.’

Serizawa attempts to choke out another reply, but the man is gone.

---

The silence on the stage rings painfully. Serizawa struggles to place himself. He finds it difficult to remember how they got into this situation.

He remembers the first time he met Reigen, and the determination in his eyes as he ran to his death. How little concerned he was for his own health. If he could help someone he cared about, even if it were just a little, he’d throw his life on the line.

‘...You’re wrong.’

Finally, the silence is broken. Serizawa is brought back into the room, and sees Reigen. Serizawa tries not to focus on how the lower half of his body is coated in red. He wishes they’d never come here.

The President is silent, simply watching the back of Reigen’s head.

’... Serizawa... is the strongest person I know. He’s always’ - a sharp wince and a shuddering breath - ‘trying to… improve himself. He’s trying to move on from the past. Every single day. I want to be better-’ a wince - ‘when I’m with him. He is a kind man… he is loved for that. He’s greater than you’ll ever be, and you’ - Reigen pauses, and turns his head slightly in an attempt to face the President. It is clear that he is paler than he was earlier - ‘can’t… control him… anymore.’

Reigen clearly struggles to do so, but he turns his head back to Serizawa and gives a small smile. Serizawa realises that Reigen was speaking not to the President, but to Serizawa. To keep him in a strong mindset.

‘What happens to me doesn’t matter - I need to make sure he’s okay.’

Serizawa understands now - Reigen is trying to protect Serizawa in his own way, despite the overwhelming pain he’s in, and Serizawa can’t help but be filled with admiration and love for the younger man. Reigen may be the most selfless person he’s met, and it is that gratefulness he feels toward Reigen that finally causes him to snap out of the state of shock he’s in.

He is more scared of losing Reigen than he’ll ever be of the President, he realises.

No, not the President. Not Suzuki. Just a spirit, doing an awful imitation of a man.

Finally, the spirit speaks up. ’How very romantic. Even with a blade through you, you still have the strength for a sweet little monologue. This is turning out to be the best play I’ve had here yet - such a shame that’s it’s a tragedy.’ The spirit twists the blade slightly.

Reigen’s scream of absolute agony resounds through the theatre, and Suzuki chuckles. Serizawa feels like he’s going to be sick, but he braces himself and begins to think how he can get rid of this spirit without having to carry Reigen’s corpse out of the building. He considers the pillar, stage left, that the spirit has itself and Reigen under, and carefully, carefully, begins to exert his powers on the upper half of the pillar. It begins to crack like an egg.

‘This is far more entertaining than I thought it would be. Shall we plan out the ending? Address the characters?’ The spirit is getting ahead of itself and having far too much fun, coming out of character as Suzuki entirely. It has a grin that’s entirely non-human at this point, gangrenous, splitting like a gash across its face. It’s focused entirely on giving a speech while keeping Reigen propped up - Reigen, at this point, has no energy to stand by himself, even if he had the choice. Serizawa sees the opportunity, continuing his own act of sitting shocked on the floor while actually working on getting the pillar to crack further.

‘Our damsel in distress over here, one Reigen Arataka, has wanted to be someone his whole life, always trying, but will never get there, because he’s just ordinary. He’ll never be someone, no, not at all.’ A manic laugh. ‘He’s convinced he’ll live an ordinary life, never being special to anyone, but then ONE day’ - the spirit is practically shouting in excitement - ‘a few kids come into his care, and he realises he can be someone for THEM! How beautiful! And then one day - our other actor over here, one Serizawa Katsuya, is able to, with a little help, free himself from me, the villain, and starts working for Reigen over here. We’ll put a few tropes in there - a slow burn little office romance, for one - and the two start to realise that, WAIT, maybe there’s something MORE!’

(Suzuki pauses to hitch Reigen up, noticing he’s begun to fall despite the support, and whispers a little bit overdone really, if you ask me into Reigen’s ear.)

He continues, not noticing the way the pillar is slowly beginning to tip on his direction, the way that beads of sweat have begun to fall on Serizawa’s face from the effort he’s exerting, both in balancing the heaviness of the pillar and in trying to act defenceless on the floor. ‘The kicker to this particular story is the ending - Serizawa’s former boss kills Reigen, and Serizawa does NOTHING! It’s pathetic for the characters, sure, but it makes fantastic theatre!’

The spirit laughs, and stops, when it sees Serizawa stand up and look it in the eyes.

There is death in those eyes, it understands.

‘Maybe that’s the ending that got pitched to you,’ Serizawa finally speaks up, ‘but we’ve decided to go for something a little happier.’

Reigen manages a smirk. Smooth.

Serizawa uses his powers to release Reigen out of the spirit’s grip with great intensity, pulling him forward out of the shadow of the pillar while maintaining his upright position. The pillar slams down - the spirit jumps backward out of the way. The stage - the beautiful, pristine stage that is the spirit’s domain - has been decimated on the left hand side by the force of the pillar, creating a barrier between the two parties.

’You clever little bastard.’ The spirit loses Suzuki’s form, becoming a shadowy, humanoid figure, coated in layers of blinking, bloodshot eyes that ooze tar. It points a sharp finger toward Reigen, building up some kind of energy as the eyes on it’s body go wide and circle in a frenzy - ‘I’ll kill him, and I’ll kill you, and-’

It was never able to finish that sentence as Serizawa quickly exorcised it, nothing but anger in his eyes. The expression is enough to distract Reigen from the pain he is in as he realises, not for the first time, just how powerful Serizawa is. He is glad he has never had those eyes of malice directed at him.

With the great exertion of his powers draining his energy, Serizawa is left panting, and he realises he is too tired to carry Reigen out of the building as he had intended.

The blade luckily remains embedded in Reigen’s side. He slowly stumbles forward and Serizawa rushes to catch him in his arms, careful not to prod at the blade. He falls down to his knees with Reigen, settling Reigen’s head on his nap, and Serizawa begins to work on keeping the wound as closed up around the blade as possible using his powers. He wonders how the spirit could’ve become this powerful - to be able to conjure itself a physical shape and interact with the world around it.

Who the hell would leave a real blade in a box of props on this stage, anyhow?

He thinks about researching Uehara Daisuke for himself - to truly understand how this man could have become such a powerful and menacing spirit.

Then again, he does not want to give even a sliver of his time to something that hurt Reigen like this.

Reigen is pale, but luckily stabilised with Serizawa’s help. He opens his eyes, mutters something about it being way too damn bright, and scrunches them closed. And it’s crazy, but Serizawa is running on the adrenaline of his big moment against the spirit, so he gently places his hands on Reigen’s head and softly, delicately, runs his hands through his hair. If Reigen asks later (which Reigen will, because he’s going to get out of here and recover, damn it), Serizawa will just say he imagined the whole thing. It’s fine.

Reigen just smiles softly, and it’s clear he wants to say something. Serizawa stops moving his hands, but keeps them on Reigen’s hair, expecting a hey, bro, can you stop massaging my scalp, please?. Instead, Reigen says, ‘Not like I could ever really afford it… but I’m never going to the theatre again.’

Reigen laughs at his own comment, but stops and looks regretful when he looks into Serizawa’s eyes. He slowly lifts his right arm up, brushing his palm against Serizawa’s left cheek above him, wiping away with his thumb tears that Serizawa didn’t even know were falling.

Despite the tears, Serizawa manages to croak out, ‘We’re going to have to come back here to watch the plays they’ll be putting on, though’, which makes Reigen laugh at the absurdity of what was meant to be a funny comment coming from the mouth of a man who was a complete state at the moment. The laughter seems to tug at his wound, though, so he’s quick to stop.

There’s a moment in which Reigen has no idea how to reply. ‘Christ… I forgot about that.’ A pause. ‘Seems like... I might be needing a tetanus jab, huh.’


Despite it all, Serizawa laughs through the tears. Reigen lays there, head in Serizawa’s lap, as Serizawa makes sure to keep pressure on his injury with his powers. They remained in those positions until they both could hear the wail of the ambulance in the distance. Serizawa looks confused but grateful, and Reigen thinks, in his last little slip of consciousness, Thanks, Tome.

Chapter Text

With a bundle of red roses in his hands, Serizawa walks through the halls of the hospital, a slight spring in his step. It was a beautiful day - a bright sky, only a few clouds - and the commute to Mustard City went smoothly.

Everything was going to be okay, Serizawa finally allows himself to think, and love blooms like spring in his heart. Because this week, his boyfriend was going to be discharged.

He reaches door 2-93, and knocks gently, before sliding it open.

The room is pristine, clean, not a single machine in sight. A mirror faces the bed in the middle of the room, and lying within, back propped up against the wall and staring out the window, is his Arataka.

He turns to regard Serizawa at the door, who is patiently waiting permission to enter, and his face melts into a smile. ‘Katsuya. Hi.’ It is almost shy.

Serizawa walks in, flowers held between him in both hands, and bends to plant a small kiss on Reigen’s lips. He sets the flowers in the vase on the tabletop next to Reigen and gives his another kiss. Reigen’s intention is to keep the kiss chaste, but Serizawa cups Reigen’s cheek with his right hand, deepening it, slyly moving his left down toward Reigen’s lower back. Reigen breathily laughs, breaking the contact of their lips, ‘yeah, hold your horses, we’re in a hospital.’

Serizawa blushes, but gives a coy smile. ‘What, I’m not allowed to show you how happy I am to see you?’

They’re both smiling fondly at each other, before Serizawa kisses Reigen lightly on the forehead and sits down in the chair next to Reigen. He didn’t even notice it was there before.

‘How are you feeling?’

‘Amazing, actually. Turns out the injury wasn’t as bad as it looked. I can’t believe I get to leave on Friday,’ Reigen responds quickly. He has his hands, one on top of the other, on his lap as he speaks.

Serizawa is again filled with nothing but delight, and moves to place his hands on top of Reigen’s. ‘The kids are so excited to see you out. Even Ritsu’s been asking me every day how you’re doing,’ he says gently.

Reigen looks surprised, but is quick to cover it with a bashful expression. ‘Even Ritsu, huh… I find that hard to believe,’ and he turns to face Serizawa, with an emotion he can’t read in Reigen’s eyes, ‘but the kids can come later. Maybe…’ he starts, and is now gently tracing Serizawa’s forearms with his hands, gently, tantalisingly, ‘if I told you that nurses weren’t due to check up on me for a good, long 30 minutes…’ and his face is now very close to Serizawa’s, ‘what would you do?’

Serizawa can’t hold it in any longer - he grabs Reigen’s wrists and kisses him on the lips, fully, and Reigen moans. It’s intense, and he feels like he needs more, more, moving down to kiss Reigen’s jaw and withdrawing his hands from Reigen’s wrists to run one hand through Reigen’s hair, the other down his lower back again.

‘Red roses.’ Reigen comments quietly, as Serizawa moves from placing light kisses against Reigen’s jaw, down to his chest. He tries to remove Reigen’s hospital gown, but somehow finds it too difficult in the heat of the moment and instead traces Reigen’s body over it.

‘Perhaps blue would’ve been better,’ Reigen continues. Serizawa pauses. His hand on Reigen’s lower back is too warm. ‘Or black.’ Reigen holds Serizawa’s wrist when he tries to pull his hand away from Reigen’s back. Serizawa looks up at Reigen and sees that he’s now looking out of the window, with no regard for the situation at all.

Serizawa stays quiet. The room is suddenly a lot darker than it once was.

‘Tell me, Katsuya,’ Reigen says, still looking out of the window, ‘how would you feel about me being dead right now? What if I’m in a body bag already?’

The roses have rotted.

‘Would you care? No, because you’d be here, thinking about your more carnal desires.’

Reigen finally lets go of Serizawa’s wrist, and he looks down at the palm that was at Reigen’s back. It is covered with blood. There’s blood on the hand that was on Reigen’s hair, too.

In fact, there’s blood everywhere, oozing from the walls, the bed, the floor.

He looks back at Reigen, whose face is now gaunt and pale. His hospital gown is also soaked in blood. He reaches around himself, picking at the wound in his back with his fingers, and then reaches both hands to Katsuya, palms open, an offering. His blood runs down his arms.

‘Look at me, Katsuya,’ Reigen gently says, and he’s smiling. ‘Look at how much I’ll keep suffering for you. Look at how prettily I can bleed for you.’

The blood begins to ooze from Reigen’s mouth, his ears, his forehead, and something in Serizawa snaps. He’s had enough of Reigen hurting him like this. His mind is filled with static.

He looms over Reigen, who still has his hands outstretched, and pushes him down by his shoulders. ‘If you’re so desperate to die,’ Serizawa starts, wrapping his fingers tightly around Reigen’s neck, ‘then let me make it quick for you.’

The moment seems to last forever, Serizawa putting as much force as possible into squeezing. He feels, before he hears, a crack beneath his fingers.

And then Reigen’s right hand, shuddering, is again by Serizawa’s cheek. But this time, no tears fall from Serizawa’s face.

‘Now,’ Reigen sneers, ‘you even look like him.’

Serizawa’s head shoots up toward the mirror, and Suzuki stares back.

Serizawa shoots out of bed, his skin caked in sweat. He takes a few heavy breaths before the mortifying realisation sets in that everything in the room is flying. Crap.

He’s thankful that there’s no one else in the room to see this, and that there’s not much in the room to begin with. The little table next to his bed is rotated 45 degrees in the air, along with a chair, and the bed itself. Of course. He was hospitalised, too.

He steadies his nerves. Breathes in for a count of 5. Holds for 2. Breathes out for 7. Repeats this a few times, while describing to himself where he is in relation to his surroundings. You’re lying on your bed, you have a blanket covering the lower half of your body, your head is on a pillow, it’s comfortably warm. You’re fine.

And he’s grounded. Everything is returned to where it should be.

He slowly lifts himself up so his back is reclined against the head of the bed, and catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror. He sees a small bandage wrapped around his forehead, but other than that, there are just bruises on his arms. He pulls up the blanket to see if he has any similar ones on his legs - ah, I’m wearing a hospital gown, of course - but a pain in his chest stops that from happening. He remembers the crack he heard when the spirit kicked him in the ribs and recoils from the memory.

Luckily, he’s distracted when the nurse walks in.

She gives him a quick glare before she starts speaking, which Serizawa is slightly taken aback by. She now seems more interested in staring at her clipboard. ‘Good morning, Serizawa-san. How are you feeling today?’

It takes him a little longer to process the question than necessary, but he responds nevertheless. ‘Oh, I’m…’ he actually hasn’t even been focusing on his body, and realises he actually feels alright, if not just a little pain around where he was injured in his ribs. ‘I feel more or less okay, thank you. Um, actually, what day is it today? Are we in Mustard City?’

She regards him with a quick glance, and seems to tick a few things off on her clipboard.

‘It’s Tuesday, 12:50pm exactly. You were admitted yesterday afternoon with a few injuries into Mustard City General Hospital. Do you want me to run over the general report?’

‘I, uh,’ Serizawa starts, then composes himself. ‘I think I’d rather not hear that information, if that’s okay.’ I’d rather keep my thoughts away from what happened goes unsaid.

The nurse doesn’t ask any questions, simply nods. ‘That’s understandable. The only thing I’ll have to mention now is regarding your rib cage. You’ve got a fracture, but luckily the break wasn’t deep enough to do any damage to your organs. Don’t do any heavy sports and stay off your side body when you sleep and you should be good to go.’

Serizawa nods. He thinks about the homework he’ll have to catch up on from missing class yesterday.

‘We’ll do a final check up in the next hour, and then we’ll be able to discharge you. You’re lucky,’ she adds, ‘most people aren’t discharged so quickly. Is there a family member or other contact you’d like to meet you?’

Reigen.

‘Hold on,’ Serizawa starts, his mouth running dry, ‘yesterday, I was with another man when the ambulance came. Reigen Arataka. Is he okay?’

His heart rate picks up and he feels the world sinking around him. Reigen.

The nurse continues to stare at her clipboard, though her demeanour changes slightly. ‘I’m afraid I can’t divulge any information regarding other patients at this time.’

Serizawa presses on. He feels frustration building in him, and wills his powers to not flare up, not now. ‘This is important,’ Serizawa starts, ‘he’s my-‘

‘Your?’ The nurse interrupts. She’s suddenly on the offensive, looking Serizawa in the eyes. He’s taken aback.

‘...My boss,’ Serizawa says slowly, ‘and I just want to know if he’s alright.’

The nurse’s resolve doesn’t falter. ‘I’m sorry, but I cannot tell you anything.’ She’s quick to change the subject. ‘The doctor will be here to do your final checkup soon, and then you will be discharged. Good day.'

‘Wait,’ Serizawa tries, but the nurse leaves quickly, and he is once again left alone.

He has his final checkup, and redresses into yesterday’s clothes. They’ve been washed. He gives himself one more look over in the mirror before he leaves. He finally realises that given the circumstances, the nurse may believe that he’s the one who hurt Reigen.

He’s descending the stairs, thinking of what to do next, and thinking of Reigen. He thinks of him being alone in the hospital, being barred from seeing anyone. He wonders if Reigen is conscious, and tries not to think of how crushingly lonely he might be.

(‘Tell me, Katsuya,’ Reigen says, still looking out of the window, ‘how would you feel about me being dead right now? What if I’m in a body bag already?’)

‘SERIZAWA!’

He’s luckily brought back to the present when, upon leaving the hospital, he’s tackled by Tome and swamped into a hug. She’s looking a little worse for wear, blubbering against his stomach, and the wet of her snot feels disgusting against his newly washed shirt.

Finally, she looks up at him, and her sobbing comes out like hiccups. He catches something about oh my God, what happened to your HEAD. Serizawa realises he has been frozen still since Tome ran into him, and he slowly puts his hands down on her shoulders. He realises he should be calming her down.

‘Kurata-san, how..? What-’

Finally, Tome lets go of Serizawa, stepping back enough to wipe her eyes. ‘I - yesterday, Reigen was like, don’t come into the office because we’ll be gone, and I know you guys had some conversation about me because you were acting super weird with each other for a while, but, he told me-’ her breath hitches into another quick sob, ‘-told me to call an ambulance if he didn’t text, and I thought it was a joke so I kept texting him like haha you still need an ambulance but he never replied, so-’

The words fly out of her mouth at unbelievable speeds, but Serizawa catches the important information. He remembers Reigen checking his watch yesterday before he walked onto the stage, and the missing pieces click into place.

‘So you called them,’ Serizawa says. ‘Kurata-san. Thank you.’

And she’s sobbing again, so Serizawa draws her in for another hug, his shirt be damned. Something doesn’t make sense, though.

‘But, Kurata-san, how did you know which hospital we'd...?’

At that, Dimple manifests himself, floating just above Tome, right in Serizawa’s face. There’s his answer. ‘Yo. You got yourself into some serious shit, huh?’

Serizawa is silent. Tome pulls away from the hug again, seemingly satisfied. There’s a question he wants to ask, and Dimple is able to snuff it out with a sigh.

‘I couldn’t have helped, even if I knew, big guy. That Uehara was a crazy strong freak. Any spirit who has their wits about them knows not to touch that theatre, but…’ He considers finishing the sentence by making a comment about Reigen and Serizawa both being the biggest idiots for not doing actual research on the theatre, but decides against it, given the look of pure regret etched upon Serizawa’s face. ‘...yeah. That spirit would’ve sent me hell-knows-where if I got near that building. Reigen’s just lucky to have an esper as powerful as you around, I guess.’

There’s a moment of silence between the three of them, Tome wiping her face every so often, and Serizawa realises something else important too.

‘...Please don’t tell me you’ve told Kageyama-senpai about this,’ Serizawa deadpans. He does not want to think about the destruction that might come around as a result.

Luckily, Dimple and Tome were decidedly not stupid, as they immediately reply with variations of do we look stupid to you. But then Dimple then makes a face that could be described as guilty, to Serizawa’s horror. ‘Well, actually, Shigeo... asked me to check on Reigen, as he wasn’t answering his phone. Which is why I went to the office in the first place, to check on you two idiots.’

Serizawa is suddenly hit with the memory of Reigen removing his suit jacket before approaching the stage. His phone would’ve been in there.

‘Of course, the office was closed, so I went to go find Tome and saw how she was freaking out and trying to get in touch with the both of you. I, err, maybe freaked out a little myself and told Tome to tell Shigeo that, uh…’ Dimple pauses, ‘you’ve gone on a break... to the hot springs… for a while?’

Tome finally stops snivelling and is chuckling slightly. ‘Shigeo didn’t even question it,’ she giggles, ‘He was just like,’ and she puts on a pretty good impression of Shigeo’s voice - ‘‘good for Shishou, give him and Serizawa-san my congratulations,’ and then we talked about whatever.’

Serizawa is trying not to blush red out of embarrassment, and he doesn’t quieten down the other part of him that thinks, in another world, maybe Reigen and I are a couple and we’re at a ryokan instead of this horrible situation. He just appreciates Tome and Dimple for trying to lighten the atmosphere a little bit. And he also sees that they’ve been avoiding the elephant in the room.

‘... Dimple,’ Serizawa almost stops speaking at this point, but pushes on, ‘have you been to see Reigen-san?’

He doesn’t miss the way Tome flinches and looks away, or how Dimple’s own expression turns slightly sour.

‘Yeah. I’ve been to see him, Serizawa.’

And Serizawa tries to keep in control, preparing for what’s coming next. Breathes in for a count of 5. Holds for 2. Breathes out for 7.

‘He’s okay, big guy. They’re just isolating him for a while. Intensive Care and all.’

Intensive Care.

‘And I’m taking you to see him, screw the rules,’ says Dimple, not making eye contact with Serizawa. ‘You were the first one he asked after when he woke up from surgery, delirious and all.’

Surgery.

Just focus on the present. Think positively. Deep breaths. And...

‘Dimple. Thank you.’ Serizawa gives Dimple an authentic smile. Dimple flushes and looks away again. ‘Jeez, big guy, don’t look at me like that. I can’t handle all that emotion.’

Serizawa knows that’s Dimple’s way of saying you’re welcome.

‘We’ll wait till it gets dark, it’ll be a lot easier. I’ll guide you to his room then,’ Dimple continues.

‘And me?’ Tome asks.

‘Listen, kid,' Dimple sighs, turning toward Tome, ‘we’ve been over this. You can see him when he’s not in intensive. It’s just gonna be harder to get the two of you in without tripping any alarms.’ Tome wants to fight her case, but decides against it when she sees Serizawa’s face, anxious. ‘Okay, fine. I’ll wait, I just…'

Serizawa turns to Tome. ‘Kurata-san, I know you’re worried, but…’ He tries to figure out how Reigen would phrase it. ‘You’re in school. You’ve got other things to worry about. Let the adults take care of Reigen-san, okay? You should get back to Seasoning before it gets dark out.’

She snivels again, but seems to understand. ‘Okay. Okay,’ she says, sorting herself out. ‘I'll drop it, on one condition - don’t send me home yet. Let me stay here with you two for a little while more.’

Serizawa smiles. Dimple floats down next to her in response. ‘Sure, Kurata-san.’

Serizawa looks around and thinks of how they can pass the time, but he really doesn’t want to stray far from Reigen. For the first time that day, his body feels very weak, as if he’s about to collapse. ‘Before we figure out how to pass the time, I, uh, really need to get off my feet.’ He slowly moves towards the benches. He needs to sit down.

‘By the way, uh,’ Tome says, following Serizawa with Dimple, ‘I put some signs up on the door of spirits and such. That you’re both off being badasses and you’re having to cancel appointments. I didn’t know what else to do. I thought the hot spring story wouldn't be appropriate.’

Serizawa rubs her head. ‘Thanks, Kurata-san. You did good.’

Tome runs ahead to a vending machine near the benches, grabbing some green tea for herself and Serizawa to enjoy. The three of them sit on the benches outside the hospital, and wait.

Chapter Text

The three ended up simply sitting and talking, willing the hours away until the sun began to set. There were a few ideas thrown around, such as going to the arcade, but it was clear these were just ideas and nothing that the rest of Spirits & Such actually had any willingness to do. Thankfully, the long period of rest gave Serizawa the strength back that he needed.

Eventually, Serizawa and Dimple saw Tome off at the station around 6pm (only after promising to her more than once that they would keep her updated on the situation). After Serizawa stops off at a convenience store to buy himself a few onigiri which he gets down quickly, Serizawa and Dimple set off back toward the hospital, walking in amicable silence.

Serizawa thinks of the nightmare he had woken up from in the morning. The way he could imagine himself doing the unthinkable. He thinks of Suzuki, and Reigen’s scream, and the Nurse who kept her interactions as icy as possible. Dimple would look over at Serizawa nervously, every so often, as if he had something he wanted to say but was electing against it. Serizawa noticed these glimpses, but just assumed that whenever Dimple was ready, he’d simply come out with it.

Eventually, Dimple gains the courage. ‘Okay, so do you want to tell me what actually happened yesterday?’

Serizawa’s pace slows down. They’re taking a shortcut through a public park that connects Mustard City General Hospital to the station, surrounded by trees that bloom green. The faint sounds of a stream and children playing can be heard in the distance. They’re in a rather secluded path, ensuring them privacy. Serizawa eventually stops walking, and Dimple turns to face him. Serizawa notices that Dimple blends into the trees, making him slightly hard to see.

‘What are you saying?’ Serizawa’s tone is chilly. He doesn’t want to acknowledge what Dimple is trying to insinuate. Dimple’s thinking what the nurse thought too, then.

‘No, you’ve misunderstood the question,’ Dimple sighs. ‘No accusations. What I meant was, you’re a tough guy, and I hate to admit it, but Reigen does actually have a brain in that head of his. So… ?’

Serizawa suddenly realises that he does not want to talk about the specifics. About what the spirit did in the body it was replicating. Not just to Dimple, but maybe to anyone. Maybe not ever.

‘The spirit just knew what it was doing, Dimple. That’s all. It got the better of us.’

Dimple knows well enough to drop the subject after that, and the two carry on toward the hospital. Dimple is quick to bring up another topic of conversation.

‘If you don’t want to talk about it, fine, whatever. I should mention that no, you’re not being suspected for attempted murder, so get that out of your mind.’

Serizawa turns to Dimple, shock in his eyes. Wait, how-?

Dimple grins, cocky. ‘You’re not exactly hard to read, Serizawa. You’re the first person Reigen asked after when he woke up, which I’m sure he wouldn’t be doing if you got into a row and stabbed him. I’m offended you’d think that I’d think you’d do anything to Reigen, by the way. Was I not telling you earlier that I’d heard of Uehara? Nasty spirit, that bastard,’ Dimple repeats.

Serizawa mumbles an apology, keeping his gaze on the floor.

‘Anyway, the police in this town are well aware of Uehara, too. Who do you think was keeping the locks on the doors of that theatre in place, big guy?’ Dimple continues. ‘You and Reigen should try and get some cash out of the police as a reward for getting rid of Uehara, you know. Scratch that, let Reigen do the talking. He has a knack for getting money out of folks, I guess.’

Serizawa understands that Dimple is trying to lighten the atmosphere a little, but he can’t bring his mind away from things past. Reigen’s comforting smile as he stepped onto the stage, fully aware of the danger he’d placed himself in. The malicious smile of the spirit that held Suzuki’s form. Reigen, stabbed. The scream.

(‘Look at me, Katsuya,’ Reigen gently says, and he’s smiling. ‘Look at how much I’ll keep suffering for you. Look at how prettily I can bleed for you.’)

Before Serizawa knows it, they’ve reached the end of the park, and he and Dimple are once again outside the hospital, facing it side by side. ‘Here we are,’ Dimple says. ‘Follow me and stay as quiet as you can.’

Dimple begins to float toward the hospital, but stops shortly after, turning back to Serizawa, concern etched on his face.

‘... Look, Serizawa. Whatever the two of you talk about in that room isn’t my business, but… just, don’t be too hard on him, okay? He’s not exactly in the best state to argue back. He’s very rough right now.’

Ah. Dimple really is attentive.

‘You’re being awfully caring about Reigen-san today, Dimple.’

‘Yeah, just don’t tell him that. I have an image to uphold.’ Dimple turns back toward the hospital and resumes leading the way.

---

‘Here we are,’ says Dimple, finally. They managed to evade security and staff, which arguably would’ve been easy to do even without a spirit guide, and found themselves outside door 3-15 in the Intensive Care Unit. (Serizawa is glad that the room isn’t 2-93. He considers if such a room even exists in this hospital.) There’s a window facing into the room, and Serizawa peeks through.

The room is very different to the one he dreamt about, which was mostly empty. This room is filled with equipment and monitors of different kinds, all surrounding a bed, the head of which is against the wall, horizontal to the door. Various wires, including a few attached to various bags of liquid, surround the bed, intertwining and meeting in the centre. There’s a dip in the centre of the bed, and it is impossible to see whoever’s lying there from outside the room. But it’s Reigen in there. That’s as much as he understands.

Even from outside the room, Serizawa can hear the beeps of the heart monitor singing the steady tune of life. He can also see a chair next to the hospital bed, on the side furthest from the door. His suit jacket has been placed there, and something in Serizawa is calmed in knowing that the jacket was recovered.

Dimple nervously looks over at Serizawa, and sighs. ‘I’ll go in and say hi, make sure he’s still breathing and all that,’ Dimple says, but is quickly regretful when he sees Serizawa’s expression twist at the words. ‘Shit. Sorry, big guy,’ Dimple mumbles, and moves to pass through the door, but lingers. He turns around, and is unable to look Serizawa in the eyes. ‘...He’s gonna be okay. It looks worse than it is, trust me.’ Serizawa wants to stay upset at the spirit for his earlier comment, but he appreciates that this is one of those moments where Dimple is actually trying to be serious, to try and calm Serizawa.

Dimple floats through the door, and perches himself on the bed.

‘Oi, Reigen. Reigen. Wake up. I know you’re just pretending to be asleep, jackass,’ Dimple says, but there’s a note of concern in his voice that takes the edge off his words.

There’s a soft chuckle from the body in between the bundle of wires. ‘Yeah, well’, comes Reigen’s voice, hard to hear from where Serizawa stood outside the room, only a whisper of his usual charisma present, ‘Maybe I just don’t want to be harassed anymore today, fart cloud.’ Again, the words are more affectionate than anything. ‘What’s up, Dimple?’

‘I’m the only company you’ll be getting until you’re out of here, smartass, so make do,’ Dimple starts, but he slowly floats toward the door. ‘...At least, that’s how it should be, but maybe I snuck in a certain someone for you. Don’t pretend that I never do anything for you - you owe me big time, fraud.’

Serizawa understands that this is his cue to open the door, and he does so, smoothly sliding it and stepping in. He’s concentrated on the floor as if it’s the most fascinating thing he’s seen that week, and he realises that he’s really not ready to see Reigen like this. But he looks up anyway, and is taken aback at Reigen, lying in the bed, looking up at Serizawa like he’s just promised Reigen the world. Reigen is covered with a blanket, hiding most of his hospital gown. Serizawa’s eyes track the wires that emerge from under the blanket. He sees that one of the bags filled with liquid is a blood bag. It really is him, Serizawa thinks, blinking. All those wires really were leading to him.

‘...Hey, Serizawa’, Reigen whispers, his voice sweet. ‘I’m happy to see you.’

There’s a pause where Serizawa and Reigen are just staring at each other. Dimple coughs.

‘...I’ll leave you to it,’ Dimple says, beginning to float away, but he pauses to look Serizawa in the eyes. Serizawa recalls Dimple’s request from earlier. Finally, Dimple floats out of the door, and the two men are left alone.

---

There’s an awkward moment where it seems that neither of them wants to speak first. Serizawa concentrates on the steady beeping, indicative of Reigen’s heart. He’s sat on the chair next to Reigen’s bed, staring at anything at all but Reigen’s face. Finally, the silence is broken.

‘How are you?’ asks Reigen, softly. Like he’s dealing with something delicate.

‘I’ve been discharged,’ Serizawa quickly responds. He feels his forehead, doesn’t bother with his ribs. He then adds, ‘they didn’t want me to see you.’

Reigen snorts. ‘Yeah, they don’t want me to see anyone, not for a few days, at least.’

A few days. There’s another pause. Serizawa breaks the silence this time.

‘When do they-’ he stops, tries again. ‘...what… did you undergo?’

Reigen sighs, and looks toward the window that faces the outside world. It’s clear he doesn’t want to be having this conversation, as much as Serizawa really doesn’t want to hear the details.  ‘...I lost a lot of blood, which explains the bag,’ he gestures toward it with his head, ‘but-’ he pauses, sighs again, quieter, ‘the… stab wound… I actually got lucky there, somehow. They've stitched me up. Missed everything vital, apparently.’ He looks back toward Serizawa, who now has his eyes on Reigen’s face, and shrugs. ‘I guess I’m lucky. Cat with nine-lives. Really thought I’d be a goner with how far it went, huh?’, Reigen chuckles softly.

Serizawa doesn’t laugh.

Reigen stops.

Silence again, like the two are afraid of the atmosphere - like it’s sharp enough to slice them apart.

Serizawa feels an awful, disgusting feeling rising in him like boiling tar, sticking to the bottom of his lungs and burning his eyes. His teeth clench. He hasn’t felt like this for a long, long time.

He’ll apologise to Dimple later.

‘...Did you want it to hit something vital?’ Serizawa says, calmly, still looking at Reigen. His reply is silence, but he registers the shock in Reigen’s face. ‘Is that what you were going for, when you walked onto that stage?’

Reigen shifts uncomfortably, looking at Serizawa like a rabbit in the eyes of a fox. He finally comes out with, ‘what?’

‘Was the question that hard to understand?’, Serizawa spits. He’s reaching the end of his patience. Boiling tar in the bottom of his lungs, burning his eyes. He feels powerful with the anger that rushes through him. ‘I’ll try again: did you have a death wish when you walked onto that stage?’

The response he gets is unexpected - a huff. ‘What the hell, Serizawa?’ Reigen replies, a venom in his voice, too. ‘I went onto that stage to HELP you. Are you kidding me?’

Serizawa doesn’t buy it. ‘I could’ve taken care of it.’

Reigen’s laugh is scathing. ‘Right, sure. So I was meant to watch you on that stage like a fucking puppet, crushing your ribs with your own hands, and just assume you had the situation under control?’

Serizawa doesn’t have a reply. He just looks away, anger still etched into his face, an urge to fight still remaining in him.

Reigen takes the chance to continue. ‘I’m not going to sit there,’ he begins, ‘and just let someone important to me get hurt. I had to do something.’ His voice is wobbling slightly. Part of Serizawa keens when it hears Reigen refer to him as someone important to him. The other part of him wants to carry on this important conversation.

‘You could’ve done something that didn’t involve walking onto the stage, is my point,’ Serizawa responds, quickly, voice still filled with venom. ‘Sometimes, I look at you, and I look at the way you throw yourself into danger like that,‘ he wills himself to not start crying, ‘and I think, do you just want to die? Is that it?’ The tears start falling, but he doesn’t cover his face. ‘Are the people you care about just not dear enough to you? Do our feelings not matter to you? Do I not matter to you ?’

Reigen is looking furiously at his lap. The beeping from the heart rate monitor has increased. He then buries his face in his hands. ‘You don’t understand,’ he spits out between clenched teeth.

‘You’re right - I DON’T understand!’ Serizawa shouts, standing up from the chair and knocking it over in the process, the jacket also falling. He doesn’t give a single damn if anybody in the hospital can hear the commotion at this point. He grips at his forehead with his fingers, his face in his palms, and takes a shuddering breath. He feels wetness on his cheeks. ‘You could’ve DIED, SO easily! And then what would I do?’ He shudders with a quick sob, before continuing ‘... What would I do? Did you ever consider that?’

They were both hiding their faces. The only noise that could be heard was the pounding of the heart rate monitor.

Finally, after a moment that feels like forever, Reigen lowers his hands and picks at the blanket.

‘All I wanted to do was protect you, Serizawa,’ Reigen says, quietly. The beeping begins to slow slightly. ‘I’m sorry that I hurt you instead.’

‘You’re not protecting me by dying,’ is Serizawa's response, finally revealing his face, red and puffy from his anger and tears. He doesn’t move to pick up the chair. He doesn’t move to do anything. He softens his tone. ‘You can protect me by protecting yourself. By staying alive.’ By not leaving me.

They both have many things left unsaid, neither one knowing how to fix the situation. How do you stitch together a wound that’s already begun to fester?

‘...I’m sorry that I hurt you,’ Reigen picks up from what he said previously, and he’s looking at Serizawa now, intently. ‘...Can you just, pick up the chair, and sit down in it again, please?’

Serizawa does as he’s asked. Reigen looks away from Serizawa down toward his blanket and sighs, deeply. ‘I didn’t want to have a conversation like this. Not here. Not like this,’ Reigen says, a hint of calm returning to his voice, but he dons a small smile and looks back toward Serizawa, ‘but given that emotions are already high, I might as well say all I want to say.’

‘Go ahead,’ Serizawa tries to keep the venom out of his voice. He doesn’t want to be calm, not right now.

Reigen either doesn’t hear Serizawa’s tone, or has elected to ignore it. He takes in a deep breath, and finally says, ‘The spirit. What he - it was saying. It wasn’t wrong.’

Serizawa just blinks.

‘Hah. That’s not very specific. It talked about a lot,’ Reigen replies to himself, and sniffles. ‘I meant, about you and I. Do you… understand what I’m trying to say?’

Serizawa is still.

‘I like you. Hah. I love you.’ He laughs, but the laughter just brings out a sob, and he lifts a hand to his chest, refusing to look Serizawa in the eyes. ‘I think of being the first person to say good morning to you. I think of being the last person you say good night to. I think of the way you better yourself, and the way you’re just this incredible, great person, and I think of how lucky I am to have you in my life. How honest you are with me. I think about what you do when you’re not with me, and what you think about when you’re not with me.’ Finally, he looks Serizawa in the eyes. The words so far have flown out of him, like water, but now he’s concentrating on what to say next, and the smile is gone from his face.

‘...And I think about how I can’t be that person for you, Serizawa. I can't be the first person to say good morning to you, or the last to say good night. Because you deserve better. I was thinking, earlier, about Suzuki. You were so scared on that stage, Serizawa - I’ve never seen you like that. And I think now, he and I… are always going to be connected in some way to you, right?’ He laughs softly, but it hides pain. ‘I thought I’d tell you about these… stupid emotions during a calm, normal, ordinary day, and we could just talk about them, and you’d agree with me - that you and I could never try - but I’d be okay with that. Because then I could move on.’ He’s softly laughing again. As if anything he just said was something to laugh at. ‘Do you understand now, Serizawa? I don’t want to die. I don’t. I just want you to live.’

Serizawa has no idea what expression he has on his face, but something in him ignites horribly at a confession that at any other time would've brought him glee.

‘... Don’t. ’ He slowly stands up. His head is filled with static. It’s like all his self-awareness is gone. ‘Don’t feed me that bullshit.’

Reigen just stares, wide eyed.

(‘Look at me, Katsuya,’ Reigen gently says, and he’s smiling. ‘Look at how much I’ll keep suffering for you. Look at how prettily I can bleed for you.’)

‘Dimple told me not to be harsh to you, earlier,’ Serizawa continues, ‘but I’m… I’m so angry , Reigen-san. I just want you to be better. I want you to not lie to me. And if you can’t do that… if you won’t do that...’

(He’s had enough of Reigen hurting him like this. His mind is filled with static.)

Reigen seems to be panicking slightly, and slowly lifts his right arm up in an attempt to make some kind of contact with Serizawa, to calm him down. ‘Wait, Serizawa, what? I don’t understand, what-’

(He looms over Reigen, who still has his hands outstretched, and pushes him down by his shoulders.)

He grabs Reigen’s wrist before Reigen can make contact with Serizawa himself. He doesn’t register the hiss of pain from Reigen, or the increase in frequency of the beeping.

(‘If you’re so desperate to die,’)

‘Tell me. Tell me right now that you want to keep living. Tell me, or I’ll… I’ll-’

(‘then let me make it quick for you.’)

‘I want to live.’

Serizawa blinks. Everything in the room is floating ever so slightly higher than it should be, apart from himself, Reigen, and the hospital bed. His right hand is tight around Reigen’s wrist, but Reigen does not struggle.

In fact, Reigen is regarding Serizawa with nothing but overwhelming concern.

He shoots a look toward the mirror. It is not Suzuki that stands with a grip on Reigen, looming over him. It is just Serizawa.

He’s the only one hurting Reigen.

‘...I’m sorry.’ He says. The world spins. ‘I’m sorry, Reigen-san... I’m sorry.’ He lets go of Reigen’s arm and the items in the room float back slowly, with control. ‘I’m sorry. I have to go.’ He quickly turns and slides open the door to the hospital halls, ignoring the protesting cry of wait, Serizawa, don’t go, and slides the door behind him with a slam.

He takes a few shuddering breaths. You’ve done this to yourself. Look at what you’ve done.

Dimple regards Serizawa with neutrality, pretending as if he didn't hear everything that just happened. As if half the patients in the hospital wouldn't have heard.

‘Let’s go,’ Serizawa says, voice heavy. He feels like collapsing.

Dimple silently leads him out of the hospital.

Chapter Text

The walk back through the park is filled with a silence that is decidedly not amicable. The shouts of children having fun in the centre of the park can’t be heard anymore. They’ve all gone home, back to where their loved ones are waiting to dote on them. Serizawa wants to go home too, to the safety of his own apartment, where he’d be able to really assess just how badly he screwed everything up.

Sure, his apartment is his home, but he knows his home is Spirits & Such. He has his friends at school, but the kids and Reigen? They’re his family, he realised a while ago. That no matter what happened, they’d be the people waiting for him with open arms.

He prepares himself for that to change, though, now that’s he’s done the unforgivable.

The street-lamps line the path through the park, casting an orange glow on the greenery surrounding him. The soft sound of the stream, and Serizawa’s own footsteps, are the only things he can hear. He keeps his gaze steady in front of him, but casts a small glance to Dimple. Dimple hasn’t looked at Serizawa once since they left the hospital. He doesn’t blame him.

Eventually, Dimple stops floating forward, but Serizawa’s pace doesn’t falter.

‘I’m going back to talk to Reigen, and then I’m going to check on the brothers. Get in touch with Tome,’ and then Serizawa hears nothing else. He just continues walking forward, content to be left with the company of himself.

He makes it to the station in good time, and is happy to see there’s no disruptions on the line that heads toward Seasoning City. It’s a little chillier than it was earlier, so he gently places his hands in his pockets, and feels his phone. Tome. Apart from what he assumes is a mother and her son on the bench next to him, he stands alone on the platform, and begins typing a quick text.

Kurata-san, Reigen-san is fin-

He backspaces.

Kurata-san, Reigen-san is awake and sends his regards. Please do not worry. -S

Presses send, and doesn’t think about it anymore.

He checks his watch. 8pm. He could be back in Seasoning just after 9pm, make a stop at the office, put it in good order, try and send a few apology emails to clients. He begins typing out a few emails on his phone to his teachers to apologise for his absence, and to request information on any homework that he has to catch up on.

The woman on the bench has the child’s head in her lap, and she fondly strokes his hair. Above him, moths fly repeatedly into fluorescent lights, despite the pain it must bring them.

He wonders if he should start looking for a new job.

The train arrives and the three sit in the same carriage, the woman and child sitting opposite Serizawa. He examines the boy. Around 6 years old, short spiky black hair, and wearing a little bright yellow jacket. He had a similar jacket, at that age.

They make eye contact, but the boy quickly shifts his gaze to the bandage on Serizawa’s head. May the world treat you with nothing but love and kindness, he wishes.

He arrives back to Seasoning at the predicted time, and makes his way toward the office. The streets are lively, for a Tuesday night - couples together in the streets, enjoying the city nightlife. He thinks how on the Saturday that had only just passed, he and Reigen were out, too. How quickly things can change.

His phone buzzes in his pocket a few times, the telltale signs of a phone call. He decides he’s better off not answering.

Eventually, he makes it to the office. He climbs the stairs, takes a deep breath, and puts his key in the lock. Turns. Or, tries to do so.

The door is already unlocked, and the light is on inside, filtering through the hinges.

Gently, Serizawa places his right hand on the handle, and prepares himself to deal with any intruder there may be. ‘If there’s anyone in here,’ he says, slowly opening the door, ‘I’m armed, and I will be calling th-’

He stops talking, because the intruders are Shigeo and Ritsu, sitting together on the sofas. He blinks. And then sees Dimple floating next to them too. Shit .

The brothers stand up, quickly, and he catches how Shigeo’s gaze is quick to attach itself to the bandage on his forehead. Serizawa sees that he’s in homewear, as is Ritsu. Dimple must’ve gotten them to the office with urgency.

‘Serizawa-san’, Shigeo says, his face and voice etched with concern, ‘is it true? About shishou?’

Serizawa is still paused at the door, his hand on the handle. He looks at Ritsu, who he assumes is here more for Shigeo’s sake than Reigen's, but he doesn’t miss the concern in Ritsu’s eyes, too, or the stiff way he holds his body, ready to take a blow.

Serizawa thought the plan was to not have Shigeo find out. He lets go of the handle, and looks at Dimple.

‘Dimple.’ There’s nothing more Serizawa can say.

‘I wasn’t going to tell him,’ Dimple starts, looking at Serizawa with intensity, and Serizawa’s heart drops into his stomach. How much has he told the brothers?   ‘But dunno. Maybe I realised it was necessary.’ For you to get a grip, is left unspoken.

Serizawa sighs and enters the room fully, closing the door into the office behind him. He regards both Shigeo and Ritsu. ‘We had an accident in Mustard City, and Reigen-san just needs to be checked up on for a little while. He’s in a hospital over there.’

Shigeo’s expression drops, and he’s now facing the floor. Serizawa’s glad that Shigeo’s got the self-control now to not blow up the whole office. Ritsu places a hand on Shigeo’s shoulder. ‘See?’, the younger brother begins, his tone gentle, ‘there’s nothing to worry about.’

Serizawa remembers something else. ‘Kurata-san didn’t want you to worry. She was just doing what she was told, so please don’t hold it against her.’

‘I understand,’ Shigeo replies, and then he’s looking at Serizawa again. ‘How is he doing?’

Ah. Dimple didn’t go over everything. He’s left that to me.

Serizawa pauses for a short moment, before putting as much conviction as possible into his voice. He realises he’s very tired, of all of this. ‘I just came back from seeing him. He’s fine and talking, but he just needs a little more time to recover before you can see him, too. Please don’t worry, Kageyama-senpai.’ He doesn’t miss the look that Dimple gives him.

Shigeo does seem calmed by this, but not entirely. ‘And what about you, Serizawa-san?’

He recalls Reigen asking him the same question in the hospital, and the way he brushed it off. The real concern in Reigen’s voice. His own hand, no one else’s, gripping Reigen’s wrist, his wince-

He softly traces the bandage on his forehead. His phone is vibrating in his pocket again.

‘My head is fine, it’s worse than it looks,’ he smiles, softly, ‘and my ribs ache a little.’ He seems to have added more worry to Shigeo’s mind by saying this, though, so he quickly throws something onto the end of that sentence. ‘It was Reigen-san who saved me from being in worse trouble.’

It’s strange - he wanted that sentence to be a white lie, but as the words leave his throat he understands he’s speaking the exact truth, in a way.

Shigeo’s eyes brim with a beautiful emotion. ‘Shishou really is amazing,’ he says.

Yes, he is, Serizawa thinks.

With Dimple’s help, the children are eventually herded from the office. He’s glad that he’s being left alone. He really just wants to sleep.

He’s using Reigen’s laptop to send out a few business related emails. It’s strange, to sit in Reigen’s chair, at his desk, like this.

He considers his anger at the hospital. What he was saying was founded, he feels. Reigen throws himself into dangerous situations selflessly, yet selfishly. But even after hearing the words from Reigen that he’s only heard in his deepest dreams, in the parts of his imagination that flutter with hope, he was still angry. He hurt Reigen. Why was he still angry?

Why was he angry?

Maybe, it’s because Serizawa saw Reigen trying to escape responsibility for his actions. He wants Serizawa to live, so he’ll sacrifice himself, just like that. Bleeding prettily.

Or, maybe, it was because those words hit a little too close to home. Maybe because he knows that he would do the same for Reigen. It could easily be him in that hospital, right now, and Reigen would be here, at his desk, where he belongs. He would sacrifice himself for Reigen just like that, too. It was the concept, and execution, of Reigen doing the same for him - living for the sake of someone else - that was heart-wrenching, and more than he felt like he deserved.

Serizawa wasn’t that important. Reigen was an idiot to think otherwise. Somebody as important as Reigen, sacrificing himself for Serizawa? That angered him. He should be the one to protect Reigen.

But then again, if Serizawa was the one in the hospital, that would break Reigen’s heart. Reigen would be just as angry, beating himself up. He knows Reigen’s horrible coping mechanisms. He’s picked him up from enough bars, apologised to enough people. The situation could easily be reversed, with Serizawa telling Reigen I don’t want to die, I just want you to live, and that...

He feels selfish. A fool. Embarrassed. He thinks about Reigen, alone in the hospital, and he wants to throw up.

He looks down at his hands - they are very real, and decidedly not coated in Reigen’s blood.

The emails are sent, and he checks his watch. 10:40pm. Time to catch the train.

He locks up the office, but before he leaves, he finally checks his phone.

The two missed calls are from Reigen.

Right.

Reigen still wants to talk, which is good. But Serizawa’s too tired - he doesn’t have the capacity to deal with the emotions that would come out of a call with Reigen.

He promises himself to deal with it tomorrow, and heads back to his apartment.

Serizawa has a dream that night in which Reigen dies, alone, at the hospital.

He runs to the bathroom and retches into the toilet.

His phone illuminates the room, glowing with the numbers 2:15am, and he sends a quick text.

Sorry I missed your calls. I’m sorry I ran. S

He gets a text back, almost immediately.

I ran too. Im sorry. Y r u awake? R

Serizawa feels relief flood through him. He’s quick to text back.

I should be the one asking you that. S

Was thinking of u. R, is the response.

As soon as he wakes at 7:30am, Wednesday, Serizawa sends a text.

Good morning, S

Then, he begins his day - brushes his teeth, carefully washes his face, shaves. The bandage is unsightly on his head, but ‘would b a gr8 visual 4 clients, v authentic, R ’, as Reigen had texted the previous night, so he leaves it as it is. He dresses, and settles with some breakfast in front of the television. A few clouds here and there, but overall a warm, sunny day, apparently.

His phone buzzes and he’s quick to pick it up.

:) R

His heart is gripped by the ecstasy of hope. If he ignores the facts - if he just willed away for a little while that Reigen’s in hospital, that he hurt Reigen, how he left Reigen’s confession unanswered, Suzuki Touichirou - if he could just do that, then perhaps Serizawa could fool himself into thinking that everything was alright.

I’m going to the office now to deal with the hamster, S

oh the hamster HAHAHA R

Another text comes soon after.

Pls tell me if its actually a spirit. Chocolate vomit spirit/curse etc would b a gr8 story, R

Serizawa nearly bumps into an elderly couple on the street and apologises. They mutter something about young people being obsessed with their phones nowadays, not watching where they’re walking, and the crumbling of society.

Have you been checked up on yet today? S

Yh It’s looking good :) they need me 2 get more sleep tho R

Serizawa reaches the office, and reluctantly puts away his phone to unlock and open up for the day. He waters Reigen’s plants and begins to prepare the electric water heater for clients.

He gazes at Reigen’s empty chair and sighs. The silence in the office is deafening. Reigen dies, alone, at the hospital , his mind is screaming. He sits at his desk and sends a reply to Reigen’s earlier text.

You really should be sleeping more, S

Talking 2 u is more fun, take responsibility, R

He smirks at his phone.

:) Client is coming soon so I have to go. Please rest. Need you better, S

Knock them out mr deputy director R

The door gently opens and Serizawa puts his phone away. Time to put on another act.

‘Good morning, welcome to Spirits and Such Consultation Office! My name is Serizawa Katsuya and I will be dealing with your requests today. You must be Tanaka-san? And this must be Haruki? Let’s take a look.’

The hamster was just eating chocolate, S

Massive surprise haha. How did it not die R

Advised client on keeping it away from snacks, S

Did u put on an ‘exorcism’? R

Yes, S

Good job :) R

Dimple manifests himself in the afternoon while Serizawa is tacking a sign on the door regarding shortened office hours until further notice, despite Tome’s long text consisting of nothing but complaints about the matter. He has school to attend in the evenings, after all.

‘Yo,’ says Dimple. ‘How did you hold up today?’

Serizawa eyes Dimple cautiously, and continues adjusting the sign. So they’re talking. This is good.

‘Fine, actually, thank you for asking,’ Serizawa replies, and steps back, satisfied that the sign will stay put. He turns to Dimple. ‘I, uh, wanted to apologise for the way I acted. Yesterday.’

Dimple is silent, and Serizawa understands this as his cue to carry on. He doesn’t pretend that Dimple didn’t hear the fight.

‘I ignored what you said and lashed out anyway. But that was a conversation that was a long time coming. It was hard to keep calm. Sorry you had to hear it.’

Dimple seems to be satisfied with this. ‘Look, big guy, whatever you and Reigen talk about is your business, and don’t take this as me sticking my nose into things, but... given the way you stormed out after your boss spilled his little heart out, I think it’s good you’re going to work,’ and then Dimple eyes Serizawa’s phone, ‘and still talking to the guy.’

So Dimple’s up to date with the whole texting situation, then. He elects not to comment on the rest of what Dimple’s said. ‘How is he?’

‘Didn’t he already tell you earlier?’

Serizawa doesn’t like the implication that Dimple is reading their texts, however. He wonders for a moment if Reigen is showing them to Dimple deliberately, and if the two of them are laughing at him behind his back, but he wills the thought away.  ‘Was he telling the truth?’

Dimple smirks. ‘As if he wouldn’t tell you the truth after your lover’s spat. Yeah, he’s really fine. You just have to let him sleep.’

Serizawa is comforted. He also realises just how little he trusts Reigen when it comes to the younger man being honest with his condition and feelings. That’s something they’ll need to talk about, too, when Reigen gets discharged.

‘Thanks, Dimple.’

‘What for, big guy?’

‘For stopping by.’

Dimple doesn’t say anything, but Serizawa doesn’t miss the way Dimple’s expression softens.

‘I’m gonna hang with the Kageyamas,’ Shigeo says, and then pauses for a beat. ‘Also, again, not my business, but I spoke to Reigen about what actually happened. On Monday.’ Ah.

And then Dimple is floating away, but before he leaves entirely, he throws in, ‘Don’t exorcise me for this, but you gotta talk to someone about Suzuki. Not just for your sake, but because it breaks Reigen’s heart.’

And Dimple is gone. Serizawa just stares at the wall where Dimple left, and stops himself from texting Reigen. The man needs to rest, after all.

On Thursday morning, he texts Reigen some small talk, but doesn’t receive any response. He pushes away the negative thoughts regarding Reigen’s condition, and is luckily distracted by a phone call from Shigeo, telling Serizawa he would start regularly showing up at the office again with Teru to lend a helping hand. It was testament to Serizawa’s emotional growth that he was able to talk Shigeo out of the idea, not by telling him that Serizawa was perfectly capable on his own, but by explaining that you shouldn’t feel guilty for what’s happened, this was not any fault of yours, and you should really focus on school or you’ll upset Reigen-san when he’s discharged and finds out.

It’s the afternoon again when he next hears from Reigen, but it’s a phone call rather than a text. Serizawa’s blood runs cold. He doesn’t know if he’s ready to hear Reigen’s voice again, or actually talk about what happened. They’d been avoiding everything important in their messages.

He picks up the phone after letting it ring for 2 beats, and swallows back his fear.

‘Serizawa?’ comes Reigen’s voice, and it’s filled with joy, as if he’d just finished laughing.

‘...Reigen-san.’ Serizawa softly smiles to himself in the empty office. Maybe this wouldn’t be so scary after all. Just pretend everything is ordinary. Reigen is happy.

‘Sorry, I know we’ve kinda just been texting and all rather than calling, but this was too good to not talk about. That girl who came to us with this job, she hasn’t stopped by the office, has she?’

Serizawa blinks. ‘Uh, no.’

‘Alright, I thought so,’ Reigen continues, ‘anyway, you have to check the local news in Mustard City. Just like online or whatever, while we’re talking.’

Serizawa puts his phone on loudspeaker and uses Reigen’s laptop to access the local news, and then he’s laughing, too, because there’s a headline that reads Nisebito Theatre Ghost Finally Vanquished by Psychic Reigen Arataka in Dramatic Fight.

Serizawa chuckles. ‘That’s amazing, Reigen-san’, he says, and adds, ‘congratulations on 'vanquishing' the ghost all by yourself.’

‘Hey. You forget that I’m the Reigen Arataka, rising star of the 21st Century,’ Reigen replies. ‘And isn’t it better not to have the media attention while you’re re-entering society? The article’s kinda nonsense, by the way, you can close that tab now.’

Serizawa makes no move to do so.

‘Point is,’ Reigen continues, ‘I think our client saw this article because she got in touch with me. The cash we’re getting is gonna be enough to cover our medical bills and extra! ‘Can’t pay much’ , my ass,’ Reigen says.

‘That’s good to hear, Reigen-san,’ Serizawa replies, and he finds he doesn’t care much about the money at all. There are more pressing things at hand, and Serizawa finds the courage - ‘Can we-’

Before he can finish the sentence, Reigen continues. ‘AND she and her group are gonna write a play, and call it Master Reigen. As per my recommendation. And she’s giving us unlimited tickets.’

Serizawa is dumbfounded. ‘ Master Reigen,’ he says, as deadpan as possible.

‘Yep,’ Reigen replies, deadpan as well, but then he’s laughing, and Serizawa is laughing too. ‘My life story, that kinda thing. This was a long time coming for me, you know? Did I ever tell you about the biography I tried getting Mob to write for me once?’

Serizawa hasn’t been told, actually.

‘I’ll tell you about it when I see you next. It’ll be next week, I think, but they’re not letting me see anyone until I’m discharged. I’m still lucky, though, like I said.’

And there’s the acknowledgement of the altercation the two had the day before yesterday. Serizawa seizes the opportunity.

‘Can we talk about that? What was said the other day?’ Serizawa says quickly, before Reigen can interrupt him again. His heart is beating quickly in his throat.

He can almost hear how still Reigen is being.

‘Okay,’ Reigen says, calculated, the humour in his voice from earlier gone. ‘Firstly, I know you worry about stuff like this, so I’ll say it outright. You lost yourself a little at the end there. I was… concerned, but I wasn’t scared. I trust you enough to know you’d never hurt me, not really.’ There’s a soft sigh before Reigen continues, with an attempt at jest in his voice. ‘Not gonna say you didn’t do a number on my wrist though. Nurse kinda freaked out a little when she saw the bruise, but I got out of it by saying I did it to myself in my sleep. Feel like she had no choice but to accept that as fact, seeing as no-one’s been in this room but me, her and the doctor.’

Serizawa is silent, and Reigen continues. ‘And I was thinking about what you said. That I could’ve done something that didn’t involve walking onto the stage. I don’t think that’s true, and that’s why I did it - it was the only way I had a chance of getting us both out of there alive. I apologise for the way you’re hurting, but I’m not apologising for walking onto that stage. There’s a lot that I’ve done in my life that I can apologise for, but saving you isn’t one of them. I’m sorry if that’s not what you wanted to hear.’

Serizawa contemplates Reigen’s words, and wishes they were talking face to face. Finally, he replies. ‘It’s a dangerous job, and sometimes accidents do happen.’ He carries on, wills his courage not to break. ‘I’m sorry that I hurt you. I think I was so angry because I’d do the same for you. Walk onto the stage, I mean.’

There’s a beat, before Reigen replies, voice weaker than before. ‘We’re a right pair, huh,’ he starts. ‘Why don’t we just… talk more? About stuff like this?’

‘Maybe because we never have,’ Serizawa replies.

‘Doesn’t mean we never can.’

Serizawa feels a weight lift off his chest. But that’s not everything. Reigen’s confession, and Suzuki, they need to talk about that, too. Not just for your sake, but because it breaks Reigen’s heart, Dimple’s voice echoes in his head.

‘I want to talk about what yo-’

And he hears Dimple’s voice, distinct in the background, Nurse is coming, say bye to your boyfriend.

Knock it off,’ he hears Reigen say, mouth away from the phone, and then his voice is back to normal volume again. ‘I gotta go, nurse is coming, but I’ll talk to you later. Please, uhh, water my plants?’

Reigen hangs up.

After the call ends, Serizawa scrolls through the article.

Uehara Daisuke, who died 7 years ago in an accident during the production of a Japanese adaptation of Richard III.

Reigen Arataka (28), remembered by many as the psychic who cleared his name after being accused of fraud.

Accompanied by a mystery man believed to be Serizawa Katsuya (30), linked to terrorist organisation Claw.

Isn’t the employment of this man bringing danger to society?

Reigen’s still lying to him, and Serizawa didn’t trust Reigen enough to not close the article. Serizawa sighs.

They really needed to talk in person.

Reigen texts Serizawa goodnight on Thursday evening, and Serizawa replies in turn.

On Friday morning, Serizawa opens the office and startles at the sight of Shou, who is sitting on Reigen’s desk, tossing a baseball in the air and catching it. He drops his keys, and hastily picks them up again, before twisting his hands together in front of him. He sees Shou squint at this, before his attention is on tossing the ball again.

‘Yo,’ Shou says, ‘you’ve got time to hang.’

‘...Shou-kun,’ Serizawa begins, unclasping his hands, ‘It’s office hours.’

Shou blinks. ‘Yeah, I checked your schedule, you’ve got no bookings till later. Just close up for now.’

Right.

Serizawa closes up and turns the sign outside the office to closed, following after Shou to the nearby park.

‘You’ve done good for yourself,’ Shou says, tossing the ball. Serizawa catches it.

‘...Thank you?’ Serizawa replies. He thinks back to what the spirit said to him at the theatre, before Reigen entered. ‘But I think all I’ve done is cleaned up a little.’ He throws the ball back with a little less skill.

Shou catches it, regardless. ‘I don’t mean the way you look.’ He contemplates Serizawa. ‘I mean, the way you handle yourself. Confidence suits you better than dad’s dumb umbrella.’ He throws the ball back to Serizawa, who fails to catch it. It lands next to his feet. He bends to pick it up, and regards Shou.

‘You know,’ Shou continues, hands in his pockets, ‘I used to always think, out of the 5 of you my idiot dad surrounded himself with, you were the softest. That you’d figure out how stupid the whole thing was and turn against him.’

Serizawa throws the ball back, but stays silent, allowing Shou to continue. Shou catches the ball with his left hand, and settles it against his side. ‘But you were too swept up in it all, huh. When my dad was pummelling me at the tower and you didn’t step in, I thought I knew at that moment you’d defend him to the end. There was no point in hoping you’d see sense.’ Serizawa can’t keep the guilt from his expression, and he looks down at the floor.

‘I’m sorry, Shou. I really am.’

Shou smiles. ‘It’s nice to hear you say that.’ He continues. ‘But then you swept in, saving a guy who you hadn’t even talked to at that point. I saw it happen, even in the state I was in.’ He grins, but it’s clearly to hide pain, and he throws the ball back to Serizawa. ‘I remember thinking, thank God , but also, why couldn’t you have done that for me ? You know?’

Serizawa catches the ball properly this time, and looks Shou in the eyes. ‘It was a split-second decision. I still can’t believe I did it, either.’ He looks away, twisting the ball in his hands. ‘I can’t even take responsibility for my actions that day. I think you’re wrong about me. I’m still the same person, deep down.’

‘Nah, you’re not.’ Shou replies. ‘Do you go to work every day?’

Serizawa blinks. ‘Yes.’

‘And you’re going to school now, too?’

Serizawa drops his hands to his sides, unsure where this is going. ‘Yes…?’

‘And, you have people in your life who care about you. People who aren’t like my dad.’

Serizawa squints.

‘Look. You’re nothing like you used to be. You’re in charge of your own life and you’re doing what you want. Toss me the ball.’

Serizawa does so. ‘Why are you telling me all of this?’

Shou catches. ‘Maybe I just wanted to see more of what happened to Dad’s Serizawa. Also,’ he tosses the ball back, ‘Ritsu told me about what happened to you and that Reigen. Maybe I snuck myself in to see him. Who knows.’ He smiles, all teeth, and Serizawa feels like curling in on himself. ‘And yeah, I got the story of what happened out of Reigen, so you can’t run away from this.’

That’s why Reigen was so absent on Thursday , Serizawa realises. It wasn’t just because of the talk with the client.

Serizawa wills himself to be strong.

He contemplates the ball in his hands. ‘I don’t know how I’m meant to feel about him.’ He finally says, and realises he’s never talked about this to anyone, not really. ‘While working with Reigen-san, I always had this horrible feeling. I couldn’t help but think that if I saw the President, I’d drop everything and fall right back into his service again. And I think I did, on Monday. I sat there and did nothing.’ He tosses the ball back, and Shou contemplates.

‘You have a lot on your plate, huh,’ Shou says. ‘Reigen told me the spirit conjured stuff up by memories, or something like that.’ He throws the ball back, and Serizawa catches it.

‘My dad’s still an idiot, but he’s not how he used to be,’ Shou continues, and adds thank Ritsu’s big bro for that as an afterthought.

Serizawa blinks. ‘You’ve been to see him?’ Throws the ball back.

Shou smiles, catches the ball. ‘Yeah. And honestly, I think you should go see him too. It’s top secret stuff, but I can get you in.’

Serizawa’s insides recoil at the thought. ‘I don’t know if I’m ready for that.’

Shou throws the ball back to Serizawa. ‘Only when you’re ready, no one’s gonna force ya. But for real - and just judging from what Reigen’s told me - the dad that’s haunting you and my dad now aren’t the same.’

Serizawa considers how painful it must’ve been for Reigen to repeat to Shou the words of a man who had a blade through him. The words of a spirit that mocked them both.

‘He’s really looking out for you, you know, that Reigen,’ Shou says.

‘I know,’ Serizawa smiles, throwing the ball back. ‘I don’t deserve him.’

Shou jumps to catch the ball - Serizawa’s aimed a little high - but he manages it, and smiles. ‘Yeah, you do, Serizawa. He’s a good guy. So are you.’

Shou throws the ball to Serizawa, but his mind seems to be elsewhere now. He’s put his hands in his pockets.

‘Hey. Do you see my dad when you look at me?’

Shou is looking down at the ground now, his face darkened.

‘I just. I don’t want people to look at me, and see my dad,’ he continues, voice tarred. He doesn’t hear the telltale sound of Serizawa catching the ball, so he looks up, and sees that Serizawa has caught the ball with his powers, suspending it in the air.

‘You’re you, Shou-kun. No-one more, no-one less.’ Serizawa smiles. ‘And I think you’ve got a lot on your plate, too.’

Shou smiles, his eyebrows upturned. ‘That Reigen’s really rubbing off on you, huh.’

On Friday evening, Reigen texts Serizawa.

U ever heard of someone getting stabbed + leaving hospital in a week?? R

Are you being serious? Are they discharging you that early? S

They sure r. lets say I have a guarding angel watching over me R

That’s amazing, Reigen-san. It hasn’t been the same without you here. S

U’ll get sick of me soon I promise R

Another text comes quickly after.

Haha but yh Monday. Back 2 making ends meet :) R

I’ll come collect you. S

No need, dimples got it sorted. Too long 4 u 2 travel anyway R

‘Yeah, don’t bother,’ comes a voice suddenly, causing Serizawa to nearly jump out of his chair. His classmates look at him, and he sheepishly scratches the back of his head and apologises. He’s glad he took his bandage off just after work, satisfied with the wound having healed enough.

Serizawa opens the notes app on his smartphone, Dimple looking over his shoulder. Why not?, he types.

‘I was thinking it might be nice to throw him a little celebration party on Monday, you know, a happy-avoiding-death-yet-again kinda thing,’ Dimple says. ‘You and the kids could get that set up while I guide him back to Seasoning.’

Serizawa erases what he’s written and types again. You really are very caring, Dimple.

‘Next time one of you idiots gets into trouble I might not be so nice,’ Dimple replies, but there’s no venom in his voice. ‘You don’t have class on Monday, right?’

Serizawa types again. I have lots of homework but I’ll do it all on Sunday.

‘Sounds good, big guy,’ Dimple says. ‘Then I’m off. Make sure Reigen doesn’t find out.’

Serizawa switches back to his messaging application, and send a final text to Reigen.

Sorry class is pretty intense so I have to go. But that’s fine, I’ll see you on Monday, S

‘As secretary of this office, I demand you treat Reigen-san’s desk with respect!’

Serizawa hears Tome’s voice through the door of the office, which he definitely locked on Friday, and actually isn’t surprised at all.

Both Kageyama brothers, Teru, Shou, and Tome - they’re all lounging around inside in their casual clothes, making themselves at home. Teru and Shigeo are laying on the sofas, reading magazines, while Shou sits at Reigen’s desk, feet on the table, Tome lecturing him. Ritsu is leaning against the wall, facing Shou, smirking. All five stop what they’re doing as Serizawa enters the room, though.

‘Serizawa-san, good morning’, Shigeo speaks up, sitting up from his reclined position with a smile on his face.

‘Good morning, Kageyama-senpai,’ Serizawa replies, the same friendliness. He regards the rest of the children. ‘To what do I owe the pleasure of a break-in?’, he says, humour rich in his voice.

‘Reigen-san said we could come here any time,’ Teru pipes up, ‘so we took him up on the offer, I guess.’

‘With what set of keys?’, Serizawa prods, though he knows the answer.

‘These powers really are useful at turning locks,’ Ritsu says, looking down at his hands and appearing smug. But then his expression changes when he looks up and sees Shigeo’s concerned face. ‘I, uh - sorry, that came out weirdly. I don’t pick locks with my powers. Except today. That sounded like I do it all the time. I don’t know why I said that.’

(‘Stop trying to look cool,’ Shou comments, laughing at Ritsu who gives him a glare and a blush.)

‘Anyway, like I said, I checked your schedule,’ Shou says, finally removing his feet from Reigen’s desk to Tome’s pleasure, ‘and saw how booked out you are today. A few extra hands wouldn’t hurt.’ Shou and Serizawa smile at each other, a silent acknowledgement of their time together the day before.

‘You could’ve just asked me for their schedule,’ Tome says, more to herself than anybody else, frowning.

Serizawa chuckles and bows, lightly. ‘Thank you all for coming. Reigen-san and I greatly appreciate it.’

‘Dimple told Ritsu and I that Shishou’s being discharged on Monday,’ Shigeo says, standing up now. They’re all looking intently at Serizawa now, knowing Serizawa to be the only one who can really confirm that information.

Serizawa blinks nervously under the spotlight of the demanding eyes around him. ‘I, uh,’ Serizawa begins, and then coughs. ‘That’s what I’m aware of.’ He feels the room relax around him, and then remembers something. ‘Dimple will be escorting him back to Seasoning - we were wondering if perhaps... you’d all come to say hi like this in the evening?’

Teru is standing next to Shigeo now, a hand resting easily on his shoulder. ‘Thought you’d never ask, Serizawa-san,’ he says, smiling, ‘but invite or not, we’d come on Monday regardless.’

Everyone is in agreement. Ritsu doesn’t say anything, but Serizawa picks up on his smile.

‘Thank you,’ Serizawa says, ‘I’m not sure what time he’ll be discharged, but I will let you all know as soon as possible. For now, just assume the evening.’

Shigeo’s face is suddenly overcome with gratitude. ‘Thank you, Serizawa-san.’

Suddenly, Tome coughs. ‘Okay, now that the important information is out of the way,’ she begins, a finger up in the air, ‘we have other important things, too. First of all, our first client arrives in…’ she checks her watch. ‘5 minutes, apparently.’

Suddenly, everyone in the room is making themselves more presentable. ‘And then another in 30 minutes,’ Tome continues. ‘Serizawa-san, what should we do?’

Serizawa smiles, removing his bag and walking forward to place it next to his desk. All eyes are on him.

‘Then let’s get ready for this client and prepare some tea.’

On Sunday, Serizawa does his schoolwork, and thinks about the little boy on the train from Tuesday night, and the future he has yet to live, held in his tiny hands. Serizawa might be older, and he’ll never get back the 15 years of his youth that he spent in isolation, but he realises that he has so much more of his life to live. So much more hope to live through, to balance out the agony of the past.

‘Do we really have to crouch like this in the dark?’

‘It wouldn’t be a surprise with the lights on, Kurata-san.’

‘I meant the crouching.’

They all realise at the same time that perhaps crouching isn’t necessary, but nobody makes a move to stand. There was a strange kind of solidarity in knowing they all looked ridiculous.

‘Who’s touching my foot?’

‘Whoops. Thought that was your hand.’

‘…!’

‘Shh, I think I hear them.’

The streets are more or less quiet, for 5pm on a Monday, so the conversations in the street just next to the office are audible. There’s a recognisable murmur of two deep voices.

‘...not to let them know, dumbass.’ Dimple is saying.

‘It’s better for me to be resting at home given the circumstances .’ Reigen’s voice is quiet, approaching the outside of the office.

‘Like I said, the wound won’t reopen if you just chill the hell out,’ Dimple replies.

Serizawa ponders this exchange.

Reigen’s voice is closer, now. ‘I could just pick up my spare suit tomorrow. Arrive to work super early, or something.’

‘Don’t cop out, you’re here already,’ Dimple replies. They’re ascending the stairs, a little slower than usual, it seems. ‘Besides, don’t you want to see the mess Serizawa made while you were away?’

Reigen grumbles. ‘He wouldn’t make a mess.’

‘See for yourself.’

Slowly, the door opens, and the light in the corridor illuminates Reigen’s outfit. It seems Reigen’s trousers were deemed ruined, as he’s wearing grey sweatpants. His usual shirt, which would obviously not be repaired, has been replaced with a thin black t-shirt that’s far too large for him. He’s wearing his usual suit jacket, though - the only item of clothing of Reigen’s that survived the theatre. It’s clear that he’s lost a bit of weight at the hospital, making his already thin frame smaller.

The lights turn on, and the party poppers go off, and everyone is shouting a welcome to Reigen.

Reigen shrieks, his hands shoot up into beat-down mode, and then he’s immediately hunched over with a wince. ‘Jesus. Okay. Wow. Hold on,’ he says, in pain.

Suddenly, the celebratory mood is over before it could even begin. ‘I told you all party poppers were a bad idea,’ Teru mumbles.

‘Shishou, are you alright?’ Shigeo begins, concern covering his face. Reigen quickly sorts himself out, calming his expression and slowly returning to good posture, and regards everyone in the room. Serizawa doesn’t miss the way Reigen’s eyes settle for a little longer than necessary on both himself and Shou, who just smiles back, hand up in a wave.

‘Wow,’ Reigen says, smiling with a bit of confusion, ‘you’re all here.’

‘Welcome to your congrats, you’re still breathing welcoming party!’ Dimple shouts in celebration, arms stretched out wide. ‘I say party, everyone just wanted to welcome you back. Anyway, how many times is it now that you’ve nearly become worm food?’

Reigen give Serizawa a quick, nervous glance, before returning to glare at Dimple. ‘Knock it off, fart,’ he says, quickly, and then nervously addresses everyone in the room. ‘I’m, uh… happy you’re all here. Thanks. Thank you,’ he says, smiling, keeping a grip on his emotions, choosing his words carefully.

If Reigen were to start crying, Serizawa thinks, then I would, too, and it would be awkward for everyone.

There’s a beat, before Tome says, ‘we’ve got cake, too!’

There’s a few more exchanges before they’re all somehow squeezed onto the sofas, slices of cake in hand. Reigen sits opposite Serizawa, diagonally. Occasionally, Serizawa would look over at Reigen, and find him already staring, but he’d be quick to avert his gaze.

It’s 7pm when everyone finally takes their leave. Serizawa stays behind, while Reigen discusses something with Shigeo, Dimple floating nearby. The two hug, before Shigeo leaves, but not before Shigeo turns to Serizawa.

‘Thank you, Serizawa-san,’ Shigeo says, and bows slightly. Serizawa doesn’t need to think too deeply about the meaning of that thank you, and bows slightly in return. ‘See you again soon, Kageyama-senpai,’ he replies.

Dimple follows Shigeo out the door, but turns and gives the two men a thumbs up as he goes.

Serizawa and Reigen found themselves alone again, for the first time in 6 days.

Reigen’s the first to make a move. He sighs, moving toward his desk while taking off his jacket slowly and draping it over the back of his chair. ‘It’s good to be back,’ he says, not making eye contact with Serizawa.

‘It’s good to have you back, Reigen-san,’ Serizawa replies in kind. He moves toward his own desk now, sitting in his seat at the same time as Reigen sits in his.

Reigen’s on his laptop now, eyes scanning through something. ‘Thanks for updating the schedule. Seems we’ve got a busy week starting from tomorrow, right, Serizawa?’

And at that moment, Serizawa can read Reigen’s intentions as clear as day - to pretend that the past week didn’t happen. Their argument at the hospital, their phone calls, text messages, Reigen’s confession - he knows that Reigen wants to will them all away to maintain a status quo. Serizawa refuses to let that happen.

‘Yes, we do,’ he says, staring at the papers on his desk, a few pieces of homework he didn’t finish on Sunday, ‘but before that, I heard you and Dimple talking outside the office earlier.’ He doesn’t look up to see how Reigen responds. He just considers how much prying he’ll have to do to get the answer out of Reigen. The horrible feeling in him that he hasn’t felt since Tuesday is boiling up again -

‘Right. Well,’ Reigen says, laughing nervously, ‘Okay. Dimple actually pulled some strings there. Uh. I wasn’t due to come out for another 2 weeks.’ Serizawa is brought back to reality, and whips his head up to stare at Reigen. At Serizawa’s horrified stare, he quickly carries on, beads of sweat on his forehead - ‘Yeah. Basically. I’m still a little tender, but I’m fine. As in, Dimple knew that I’d be fine after one week only. And he possessed that doctor without letting me know, I had no say in this, so blame him , okay?’

Serizawa blinks. That was... easy.

‘Sorry, that all kinda just came out, huh?’ Reigen says, his hands twitching nervously. ‘I just… want to be honest with you about stuff.’ No more making you worry, is left unsaid.

Perhaps Serizawa got his assumption wrong, about Reigen wanting to maintain the status quo.

‘So, Dimple couldn’t have had the doctor allow you to have visitors?’

Reigen seems to be struck by this. ‘That’s, uh... actually a good point.’ He seems to ponder the thought for a little while, before shrugging.

Serizawa finds he can’t make eye contact with Reigen anymore, choosing instead to lay his focus on the homework he has neatly organised on the desk. They’re both very silent, each choosing to pretend to focus on other things - Serizawa on his homework, and Reigen his laptop.

Serizawa breaks the silence first. ‘The Saturday that just passed - do you remember how many bookings we tried to fit in?’

Reigen chuckles. ‘How could I forget?’

‘I managed to see them all through,’ Serizawa continues, smiling. ‘The kids came around to help, and the clients were all very impressed.’

He says this with the intention of winning some kind of praise from Reigen, to lighten the atmosphere, but when he hears no immediate response he looks toward Reigen, and sees something akin to devastation on his face.

‘Guess you all really don’t need me anymore, huh,’ Reigen says, voice quiet, and the expression on his face is agonising to look at.

‘No.’ Serizawa replies quickly, but realises the meaning might be misconstrued. ‘No, as in, you’re wrong. Of course we need you. I need you.’

They’re silent again. Reigen’s expression turns unreadable. Serizawa returns his gaze to his desk.

‘I’m sorry about what I said at the hospital,’ Reigen says.

‘What exactly?’

Reigen takes a deep breath. ‘About my feelings. Toward you.’

What?

Serizawa keeps his eyes focused on his desk. Wills himself not to do anything, to say anything.

‘It was wildly inappropriate,’ Reigen continues, voice wobbling slightly. ‘I’m your boss, for crying out loud. I’m sorry. We can just… pretend it never happened.’

Serizawa is quick to reply. ‘I’m not going to do that.’

Reigen hasn’t moved. Serizawa sees the opportunity.

‘Reigen-san, I-’

‘Do you want to see Suzuki?’

Reigen seems to have developed a knack for interrupting Serizawa at the most annoying of times. Serizawa can’t bring himself to be annoyed, though - he’s just taken aback.

‘What?’

‘You heard me,’ Reigen replies, voice tinged with annoyance. ‘If you’re not going to drop what I said at the hospital, then I won’t drop this, either.’

Serizawa blinks, then slowly replies, ‘I don’t think me seeing Suzuki is a good idea at the moment.’

‘Well, I do. I mean it. Find him, and actually talk to him. Shou told me he knows where he is. I’ll come with you.’ Reigen’s voice seems to falter slightly when he says the last sentence, but he carries on. ‘I don’t know what you and that spirit talked about before I was let in, and when you’re ready to talk about it, I’m going to be here. All I know is that he scares you a lot, even now, and if you don’t deal with it, then you’re the only one who’s going to be hurt in the end. I don’t want to see you suffering like this. It’s my responsibility as your employer to make sure that you’re in top shape.’

Serizawa’s face hardens, and Reigen realises his employer comment hasn’t gone down well.

‘I didn’t mean it like that. God, I probably sounded like him there, didn’t I?’

Another bout of silence. Serizawa uses the opportunity to continue the conversation he started with Shou, days before.

‘Reigen-san,’ Serizawa starts, eyes heavy and focused on his desk, ‘I let you down. I feel like it’s a complete accident - a lucky accident - that you’re still here. That we can… be , like this. You were really close to death, and I just sat there. I was going to let you die because I was scared. How can you even look at me knowing I was just sitting there while he - it - did that to you? I was pathetic.’ He spits out the final sentence.

‘Look at me, Serizawa.’

Serizawa finally looks up. Reigen has worry etched into his face, but he’s also serious, ready to dish out words he believes in.

‘What the hell are you talking about? I’m alive, and I’m okay, because you saved me. It wasn’t some lucky accident that I’m still walking and talking.’

Serizawa huffs, a bitterness creeping into his voice. ‘I could only do anything when the spirit stopped looking like Suzuki. If the spirit didn’t drop the act, I think you would’ve died there. How can you just pretend like that’s okay? How can you… trust me?’

Reigen is quick to respond. ‘So the pillar just fell over by itself? You didn’t use your powers to knock it over while, may I add, the spirit still looked like Suzuki? You need to give yourself more credit, Serizawa. I trust you with my life.’ He gives Serizawa a soft smile. ‘You always find a way to save me.’ There’s something unspoken there: you’re saving me just by being here.

The atmosphere in the room has lightened. They’re gazing at each other, affectionately, and finally, the timing is right.

‘I hated the ending,’ Serizawa says, the words leaving his mouth before he can really process them.

Reigen blinks at him. ‘What?’

‘The play about our lives. That the spirit pitched.’

Reigen catches on, but slinks back into his seat, a little nervous. ‘Oh. I mean, yeah, but what-?’

‘So I want to pitch another one.’

Serizawa stands from his desk and approaches Reigen’s. Reigen eyes him with suspicion, but doesn’t move, his hands remaining relaxed on top of his desk. Serizawa stops in the middle of the room and looks around, just absorbing everything about the office that makes it theirs.

‘It’s an ordinary day,’ Serizawa starts, ‘and that’s what makes it perfect. The sky is blue, and it’s not too warm, but not too cold. And we’re not busy, but we’re not bored, either. And you’d be working at your desk, and I’d come over, and say I have something important to tell you.’

He turns to face Reigen, and slowly walks over, and places his hands on Reigen’s desk. Reigen hasn’t moved, but his eyes are filled with unfiltered hope.

‘...Then what happens?’, Reigen replies, in a small voice.

‘I say that maybe… the way I feel for you is more than I should, feel. As your employee. As your friend. And that I’ve felt this way for a long time now, and never did anything, because... I always thought that you and I… would be promised a tomorrow, so we could wait.’

Reigen is silent, but his eyes are beginning to water. He keeps his conviction, and keeps eye contact with Serizawa.

‘And then you’d say the same,’ Serizawa says, ‘and we’d both realise that we’re broken , but we’re learning, and we have each other, and that guarantees that… no matter what happens, no matter the stupid fights or problems we could have... we’re going to be okay.’ He looks away. ‘That’s what I wanted to pitch.’

He then suddenly regains a self-awareness about the situation, and blushes about how cheesy he’s being - and moves to take his hands from Reigen’s desk, but Reigen stands, quickly, and covers Serizawa’s hands with his own.

They’re both blushing at the intimacy of the gesture, but Reigen perseveres, keeping his palms on the backs of Serizawa’s hands.

‘What happens next,’ Reigen asks, still quiet, ‘...that- that can’t be the end.’

Serizawa removes his hands from underneath Reigen’s, and steps around his desk toward him, so they’re face to face. He puts his right palm on Reigen’s cheek, tilting his head up to look Serizawa in the eyes. Reigen’s a blushing mess, his eyes opened wide and darting from pupil to pupil, and Serizawa has no idea how he’s got such control over the situation. His body runs hot at the knowledge of him being the one who’s turned Reigen into such a state.

‘I’d like to think we kiss,’ he says, and screams internally at the audacity of his words.

Reigen is loving it, though, which maintains Serizawa’s confidence. ‘Who initiates it,’ he asks, barely a question, and he’s running a tremoring hand under Serizawa’s jacket, toward his upper back, and it’s that intimacy that has Serizawa move in to kiss Reigen.

Whenever Serizawa imagined this moment, he imagined passion - all the things the two of them had never said to each other, resulting in fire and teeth and lust, two people desperate to know all that the other is, culminating in Reigen spread, wanting , beneath him-

But reality is softer. Reality is sweet, and warm, like honey, and their lips move awkwardly because they’re two inexperienced adults, thrown into a world that had tried its very best to keep them lonely.

They break the kiss for air, and Serizawa finds himself trying to hold back laughter at Reigen’s starstruck face.

‘...When did you get so smooth?’, Reigen asks, breathless.

Serizawa laughs. ‘Maybe I’m too used to your usual theatrics,’ he replies, and then Reigen is kissing him again, and it’s real . He finds the courage to put his left hand lightly, gently, on Reigen’s right hip, not even enough to put any pressure because he’s conscious of the wound that’s healing - but it’s a ghost of a promise of things to come, now that they were here, and talking, and moving forward.

Reigen breaks the kiss prematurely, and looks up at Serizawa, coyly, seemingly recharged in confidence. ‘What happens next, Katsuya-kun? ’, he teases, and Serizawa has to look away.

He is flushed , because Reigen saying his first name to him like this was greater than anything he’s ever fantasised about.

He tries to maintain face, and dish one back. ‘Whatever you want, A-Arataka-’

And Reigen bursts into tears. The shock of it has Serizawa put his hands in the air next to him and lean back, blinking rapidly in confusion. Reigen is quick to look away, wiping his hands desperately over his cheeks. Serizawa isn’t sure what to say.

‘I - sorry - should I...?’

‘No. No, I’m sorry,’ Reigen says, laughing away the tears, ‘Sorry, I just. No-one but my mum has called me by my first name for a long, long time. It… was really nice.’

And then their palms are touching, fingers gently slotting in-between each other, and they’re looking at each other like they're the only two left in the world.

They're both ordinary, yet unordinary people, filled to the brim with regrets and sorrows and traumas that they carry with themselves like scars. Both weighed down by the sheer gravity of their own insecurities. There were conversations that they still had not had, things they both needed to address. The problems of the past still needed time before they could bloom to become the future’s blessings.

And yet, in the office on an ordinary Monday, a week after the night that devastated them both, they were together, hand in hand, despite everything.

That’s all that mattered.

Chapter Text

‘...You have a scar here.’

The piercing cries of the cicadas outside in the summer heat are dampened only by the closed windows and the low drone of the aircon pumping cold air into the room. They’re in Serizawa’s apartment, legs tangled up in the sheets, air thick in the aftermath of passion. Serizawa is slotted behind Reigen’s back, and he has his right arm wrapped over Reigen’s waist, covering the other man’s. Their rights hands are slotted together in front of Reigen’s chest, Serizawa’s on top of Reigen’s.

‘Hm?’ Reigen says, breathlessly, blissfully.

Serizawa starts peppering kisses at the nape of Reigen’s neck, moving down slowly, just in the way that he knows makes Reigen shudder.

‘It was left by something powerful,’ Serizawa interrupts himself to plant more kisses on Reigen’s upper back, ‘and it’s beneath the skin,’ he unhooks his hand from Reigen’s, and traces the index and middle finger of his right hand from Reigen’s right shoulder blade, down to just above his left lower back, ‘but I can see it.’

Serizawa gently begins kissing the line of energy that remained from Sakurai’s Jugan sword, while Reigen softly shifts his body, creating more space between the two, allowing Serizawa easier access to the view of his whole back. He hums contently, enjoying the feeling of his lover being so open with his expressions of intimacy.

‘... Sakurai’s sword. Guy with glasses, from-‘ he shudders as Serizawa plants his lips on a sensitive area of skin, ‘-the 7th Division. I was protecting Mob.’

Serizawa pauses his kisses, and draws his face back, once more running his fingers down the line of the scar, invisible to the naked eye of those not not born with extrasensory perception.

His eyes then flicker a little lower to just below the back of Reigen’s lower right rib cage, where a more tangible scar lay. The entry point of the blade that entered Reigen’s back, that was twisted inside him, 2 months prior.

He gently runs his fingers over the scar tissue, and Reigen moves his right hand behind his back, gently placing his hand over Serizawa’s.

‘Katsuya?’ Reigen whispers. Serizawa had gotten into the habit of feeling the scar in their quiet moments of intimacy, the physical reminder of the night that they nearly lost each other, whenever there was something pressing on his mind.

Serizawa says nothing, so Reigen shifts himself around, turning to face Serizawa. He puts his left palm gently on Serizawa’s cheek, who closes his eyes gently in response and puts his own hand lightly on Reigen’s.

‘I think I want to see Suzuki,’ Serizawa says, quietly, opening his eyes.

Reigen hums, but Serizawa doesn’t miss the way his body locks up a little at the mention of Suzuki’s name.

‘Okay,’ Reigen responds, thumb brushing Serizawa’s cheek. ‘Then I’m coming with you.’ It’s a factual statement, Serizawa understands. Non-negotiable.

Serizawa looks deeply into Reigen’s eyes. ‘I only want to see him if you’re ready to face him too, Arataka.’ It’s a question, more than anything.

A few months ago, Serizawa wouldn’t have asked, and Reigen wouldn’t have said anything. But they were changed people now, growing and learning from each other, understanding and considering each other’s feelings.

Serizawa’s own recovery from the altercation with the spirit was difficult and ongoing, but that’s not to say Reigen didn’t walk away with his own mental battles. There had been many nights in the early stages of their physical relationship in which Reigen shot up out of nightmares, holding his body close to himself and refusing to let Serizawa touch him until he calmed down enough to remember where he was. He’s described nightmares with content hard to repeat, and one time, he lets Serizawa know of what happened when Shou went to see him at the hospital - Reigen remembers panicking, gripping the sheets, looking at Shou and registering only his hair and his eyes, and thinking no, please - before Dimple calmed him down. He remembers the flicker of hurt in the boys eyes that was gone before he knew it, and the sensitivity and perceptiveness he demonstrated in his interrogation of Reigen.

But the early days of recovery had passed, and life was slowly beginning to calm.

Reigen gulps, and seems to search for something in Serizawa’s pupils. ‘I’m ready if you are. Are you sure you can do this now?’

Serizawa nods gently. ‘If I’m with you.’

Reigen smiles, gently. The cicadas continue their song. ‘I’m the luckiest man in the world,’ he whispers, looking deeply into Serizawa’s eyes, shifting their bodies closer together.

‘I love you,’ Serizawa replies.

They share a kiss, gentle, filled with the promise of many more to come.

It takes a phone call to Shou, and then a call received from a withheld number, and then another, and then they’re in the office 2 days later on a Sunday, waiting to be picked up by a government vehicle.

‘It’s weird to be in the office on a Sunday,’ says Reigen, absentmindedly, watering his plants. They’re both in their usual office wear. The only thing unordinary is that Serizawa has sprayed a large amount of cologne on himself, which Reigen chose not to comment on.

Serizawa is sitting at his desk, legs spread slightly, his right elbow on the table supporting his hand that he has under his chin. He’s looking sideways at the wall, bouncing his right leg slightly, and his left hand lays gently on his left thigh. It's strange body language for him, and Reigen finishes watering and turns to face him.

He opens his mouth to speak, but seems to think better of it for a moment. Then he sets the watering can down at his desk, and puts his hands in his pockets. ‘...Are you okay?’ Reigen asks, cautiously.

‘Why wouldn’t I be okay,’ Serizawa states more than asks, not removing his gaze from the wall. The bouncing of his leg grows a little more rapid.

‘Because you look like you’re either about to fight or fuck that wall.’

Serizawa doesn’t move, but he finally makes eye contact with Reigen, sighs, and changes his position, putting his legs together and his hands on the table. Something more Serizawa-like. ‘Sorry,’ he says. ‘I’m nervous.’

Reigen doesn’t say anything for a beat, but then walks over and stands in front of Serizawa’s desk, casting a shadow over him. He still has his hands in his pockets. ‘Care to join me on the sofas?’, he asks, smiling. Serizawa returns the smile, and the two move to sit on the black sofas in the corner of the room, opposite each other. Reigen crosses one leg over the other and folds his arms over his chest, and Serizawa feels like a client.

‘So,’ Reigen says, ‘what kind of nervous are we talking about.’

Serizawa closes his eyes with a sigh, and rubs at his face a little. He hunches forward slightly, and removes his hands from his face, placing them together on his lap. ‘I feel like I have to be the best person I can be when I see him,’ Serizawa says, finally. ‘I keep thinking, maybe I should’ve had my hair cut a little, or worn a different tie, or… I don’t know.’

‘Right,’ Reigen replies, deadpan. He leaves a beat before continuing, ‘is that why you’re wearing cologne?’

Serizawa blushes slightly. Reigen exhales a hum.

‘Look,’ Reigen says, uncrossing his legs, ‘I’m going to be blunt: are you going for the sake of impressing him, or is it for your own closure?’

Serizawa looks up at Reigen cautiously, like a kicked puppy, and finds Reigen’s expression steely. Reigen sighs, and looks away. ‘Because if it’s the former, you’re not ready to see him, Katsuya.’

Serizawa picks at his material of his trousers. ‘I don’t know. Both? Maybe?’, he says, quietly. ‘It’s stupid. He told me the last time I saw him that he never saw us as equals. But I looked up to him for so long, Arataka. I was just a tool for him to use, and he manipulated me for many years, but part of me just wants that approval.’

Reigen’s leaning back into the sofa now, his arms now uncrossed and re-crossed behind his head.

‘...But that’s just one part of me,’ Serizawa continues. ‘The bigger part of me wants to go to speak my mind, and give myself closure. It’s just hard to explain.’

Reigen looks up at the ceiling, letting a beat pass, before returning his gaze to Serizawa. ‘It’s natural to want to seek the approval of someone you looked up to, no matter how long ago it was,’ Reigen says, consultation mode active, ‘and those feelings will fade, but only if you say everything you want to say. It doesn’t have to be to him, it could be to me, or anybody else. You just have to be content with yourself. Moving forward is hard work, but this is brave. I’m proud of you.’ He offers a smile, but Serizawa doesn’t return it, looking away and squinting slightly.

‘I know I don’t have to see him, but I think it would only feel right if I did. I know it’ll be weird for you to see him, though. You don’t have to come with me,’ Serizawa says, melancholy in his voice. He’s considering Reigen’s trauma, in the midst of a conversation that’s been entirely about Serizawa so far.

‘I want to,’ Reigen says, quickly. Maybe too quickly. ‘I think it would be good for me, too, even if I’m just sitting and observing. Anyway, your mind’s been cleared a little now, right? You just have to put on a brave face and remember why you’re there.’ Reigen’s tone is soft, and he’s crossed his legs again. Serizawa is overcome with so much love for the younger man at that moment, and just enjoys gazing at him.

‘Besides,’ Reigen says, playfully, ‘You never have to be worried about the way you look. You’ve always been handsome.’

Serizawa smirks, leaning forward a little more.

‘And I like the cologne, by the way. You should wear that more often,’ Reigen continues, and then smirks, standing up, ‘but maybe not around the office, or I won’t be able to keep my hands off you.’

Serizawa huffs a laugh. ‘You can’t keep your hands off me anyway,’ he replies, teasingly, catching Reigen’s hands before he can walk away, pulling the younger man closer and over himself. Reigen finds himself in Serizawa’s lap, straddling him, and laughs, softly.

‘Look who’s talking,’ Reigen replies, and he’s cupping Serizawa’s face and bringing him in for a kiss, but they’re interrupted by the buzzing of Serizawa’s phone. Their faces are still close when Reigen whispers, ‘maybe you should get that.’

Serizawa doesn’t break eye contact with Reigen as he digs into his pocket and puts his smartphone to his ear, his left hand on Reigen’s waist. Reigen makes no effort to move, either, apart from moving his hands to Serizawa’s shoulders.

‘Hello?’ Serizawa says, and a voice from the speaker replies vehicle is outside your requested building, before the call is cut.

They’re still looking at each other in close proximity, but there’s a worry in Reigen’s eyes. ‘You’re sure you’re ready,’ he asks.

Serizawa nods, searching for something in Reigen’s gaze. Reigen breaks the eye contact, removing himself from Serizawa’s lap and standing. He extends his hand to help the older man up.

‘Then let’s go see Suzuki,’ he says, smiling.

Serizawa smiles too, and grasps Reigen’s outstretched hand.

The windows in the vehicle are dimmed almost pitch black, not allowing the two men any kind of a view to the outside world. There are 4 of them, Reigen, Serizawa, the driver, and a nameless man with gelled and combed-back black hair, sunglasses and a radio receiver.

‘So, how’d you go about getting a government job dealing with espers, anyway?’ Reigen asks, 5 minutes into the journey.

‘That’s classified. No more questions,’ the man replies.

‘But I’m a bit of a big name when it comes to espers, you see,’ Reigen replies, hands flailing in their usual way, ‘I’ve dealt with a few. Might be a good opportunity for us to get each other’s details, Mr. …?’

The man sighs audibly, and reaches into his briefcase. Suddenly, Reigen has a gun pointed at his face, and the man regards Serizawa, who is frozen in place out of shock.

‘Tell your friend if he asks me anymore questions, I’ll shoot him in the mouth,’ the man says.

They spend the rest of the journey in silence, Serizawa gripping Reigen’s hand tightly while looking straight ahead, eyes wide, and Reigen pretending he can see through the darkened car windows.

It takes around 40 minutes for the car to reach its destination.

‘Exit the vehicle, please,’ the man states, and both Reigen and Serizawa are quick to follow his command. The man exits the vehicle too, and the faceless driver speeds off. ‘Follow me,’ the man says, and Serizawa and Reigen are quick to do so. Reigen doesn’t comment when Serizawa walks a little in front of Reigen, creating a barrier between the two parties.

The man uses a keycard on a door outside of the steely, concrete building they’ve stopped outside, and it slides open, allowing the trio access. The inside of the building is relatively cold compared to the blazing Summer heat outside, allowing Reigen and Serizawa to feel more comfortable in their full suit getups. They’re in some kind of a corridor, with lockers lining the left hand side, and several heavy-set doors on the right.

‘I’ll need your mobile phones and any other communicative devices,’ the man says, again, tone suggesting he’d rather be anywhere other than where he is. He’s quick to receive Reigen’s flip phone and Serizawa’s smartphone, which he locks up in a locker next to the entrance. ‘Continue following me, please,’ he says. They do so, remaining deadly quiet.

They reach a lift at the end of the corridor, which takes them up to the top floor of the building. The journey up is also awkwardly silent, and Reigen considers saying something, but then looks at the suitcase the man from the government is holding and reconsiders. Serizawa also recognises Reigen’s urge to say something via Reigen tapping his left foot on the floor of the lift softly, and gives him a serious glance that says keep quiet. Reigen exchanges will do through his eye contact.

Finally, they reach the top floor, and walk a little further down this new corridor, before stopping at a door labelled 3154. Reigen wants to make a jab at how there definitely were not 3153 other doors before they reached this one, but keeps his thoughts to himself. The man keys them in again, and opens the door. ‘Wait in those chairs for my colleague,’ he says, looking into the room. They walk in, and the man doesn’t follow them in, closing the door. Reigen and Serizawa hear the lock mechanism activate, and then footsteps, retracing the path they just came from.

As soon as they couldn’t hear footsteps anymore, the two men let out breaths they didn’t know they were holding.

‘Holy shit,’ Reigen says first, collapsing into one of the 5 chairs in the room, lined up against the wall.

This new room that they found themselves locked into had two doors - one which they entered from, and another, that was far more heavy set than anything they’d seen so far. Engraved on the door were the words For Containment Of Powerful Entities.

Serizawa regarded those words. Through that door, Suzuki was probably waiting for them. He suddenly felt his heart race, and his mouth run dry. Was Arataka right?, he thinks to himself. Am I not ready?

He turns to face Reigen, who is darting his gaze around the floor. ‘Are you okay?’, Serizawa asks, sitting down next to Reigen.

Reigen gulps. ‘Yeah, that was just,’ he says, taking a deep breath, ‘I’ve never had a gun in my face like that.’

‘I’m sorry that happened.’ Serizawa says, finding Reigen’s hand and slotting their fingers together. ‘Maybe this was a bad idea.’

‘No,’ Reigen replies quickly, gently squeezing Serizawa’s hand, ‘I just need to learn that maybe there’s times that I shouldn’t run my mouth.’

Their conversation is interrupted by the sound of footsteps, the pinging of an accepted key card, and the door they’d just came from opening. A man with a closely shaved head smoking a cigarette enters, a hand in one pocket and a folder in the other, and leans against the wall opposite to Serizawa and Reigen, regarding them both. His gaze lingers on Serizawa, seemingly more interested in the older man, and Serizawa suddenly realises where he recognises this guy from.

‘You’re-’ he begins, wide eyes, but Joseph interrupts him.

‘Joseph, the man you blasted out of the building while defending Suzuki Touichirou, yes,’ he says, taking a draw from his cigarette and blowing it out into the room. He then stubs it beneath his feet, content to leave it on the floor. ‘Serizawa Katsuya,’ he says, opening up the folder with both hands in front of him, scanning through some information. ‘The last time I saw you in person,’ Joseph continues, eyes kept on the information within the folder, ‘you were with Suzuki Shou, observing the capture of Suzuki Touichirou.’

Serizawa isn’t sure if he should be replying to this, so he keeps quiet. Joseph continues. ‘I see now that you’re working under Reigen Arataka,’ Joseph looks up quickly to make quick eye contact with Reigen, and then gazes a little too long at the hands of the two men which are still joined, before returning his gaze to his information, ‘in an attempt to… return to society, as has been put here.’ He laughs to himself. ‘You certainly look the part,’ Joseph says, looking at Serizawa, and there’s an unspoken continuation of that sentence: do you fill the role, though?

‘...Where did you get this information from?’, Serizawa says cautiously but with his own brand of fire, though he’s sure he knows the answer already.

‘We keep an eye on former Claw members. That’s the price for your freedom,’ Joseph says, without a beat. Reigen separates his hand from Serizawa’s, his gaze regarding Joseph with ice.

‘I suppose what I’m interested in is why you’re here to talk to Suzuki. I see that just over 2 months ago you had an incident at Nisebito Theatre which-’

‘Right, I’m bored of this,’ Reigen says suddenly, standing, hands in his pockets. If there’s any place to be assertive, Arataka, it’s not here, Serizawa thinks to himself, and grips his own knees. Reigen begins to saunter toward Joseph, right into his personal space. ‘I don’t think that’s any of your business, do you ?’, Reigen spits.

Joseph’s composure doesn’t falter, however. He reaches into his pocket and takes out another cigarette, lighting it against his lips despite the close proximity of Reigen’s face to Joseph’s. Reigen can feel the heat of the flame against his skin, but doesn’t back up.

‘Technically, it is my business,’ Joseph replies, cooly, and blows smoke into Reigen’s face. Reigen backs up at this, finally, but is still too close to Joseph for Serizawa’s comfort. ‘It’s especially my business when Suzuki Touichirou expressly wanted to meet the two of you as soon as possible,’ Joseph continues.

That’s news for both Reigen and Serizawa. Something in Serizawa flutters with an unidentified emotion, between flattery and fear. Reigen remains still, a mountain.

‘...But I suppose I don’t have to press.’ Joseph says, finally. He takes another drag from his cigarette. ‘We have a lot of information on you, too,’ he continues, eye contact locked with Reigen. ‘Enough to ruin your life entirely, if we wished to, so I’d recommend you back off.’ Reigen understands a credible threat when he sees one, and reluctantly returns to his seat, but his gaze remains solid as steel on Joseph.

‘Good,’ Joseph says, walking toward the more heavy set door with the engravings in it. ‘I’ll let you both in,’ and then he’s facing Serizawa, ‘but if your powers go out of control, you’re leaving that room. Not question about it.’

Serizawa nods. Reigen does nothing. Joseph keys them in and the door slides open, automatically and slowly. ‘I’ll be waiting for you out here when you’re done and will escort you from the building.’ He leans on the wall next to the door, and takes another puff. Serizawa stands and looks down at Reigen, who gently smiles back at him before standing himself. Joseph watches this exchange. Serizawa bows slightly to Joseph before he enters into the next room, Reigen close behind him. Reigen offers no such show of respect.

Suddenly, Joseph has a grip on Reigen’s shoulder before he can enter the room, too. Reigen doesn’t move to face him, just keeps his gaze solid on Serizawa’s back, who hasn’t noticed and continues in front of him.

‘Is this your method now? You find vulnerable espers and seduce them?’, Joseph says, voice quiet enough to stop Serizawa hearing.

‘Fuck off,’ Reigen replies, jerking his shoulder to get Joseph’s hand off him, and follows Serizawa into the next room. He can feel Joseph’s gaze on his back as the door closes behind him.

The room is a lot brighter and smaller than the one they were just in, and is split in half by a heavy-set glass pane. There are two chairs waiting on the side of the room that Reigen and Serizawa are in, metal and white in appearance. Clinical. The chairs face the glass pane, and are preceded by a desk, that is also blindingly white. They takes their seats, silently, Reigen clasping his hands together on top of the desk and Serizawa keeping his in his lap. They stare at the empty chair and desk in front of them, a mirror image of the set-up of their part of the room. The glass is almost invisible. Serizawa feels, if he were to reach forward, he wouldn’t make contact with a barrier - he’d just be able to touch the chair. It’s like they’re in a booth. It feels far too intimate, for a visit with a dangerous prisoner.

Serizawa thinks about Shou going through this same process to see his father, and the bravery of the boy. And then: I’m really doing this. I’m seeing the President again. He wants to flatten down his hair, but he remembers Reigen’s words from earlier. He looks over at Reigen, and finds Reigen fixating his gaze at the wall on the side of the room that Suzuki will inhabit, his eyes venomous. Something’s upset him, and it’s probably what Joseph had just said to Reigen behind Serizawa, of which he only heard Reigen’s quick, vicious reply.

He turns to Reigen, and begins to ask, ‘What did Joseph just sa-’, but he’s interrupted by the sound of a buzzer and a door on the opposite side of the room opening. Reigen leans back in his chair, crossing his arms over his chest, his bad mood seemingly vanishing. Serizawa gulps, and the two stare as Suzuki Touichirou enters the room.

He’s wearing completely red clothing - a long sleeved shirt with the patch ‘SUZUKI, Touichirou’ over the right-hand side of his chest, and similar trousers, like a prison uniform. His hands are confined together in front of him with what could only be described as solidified smoke. He sits in the chair at the desk opposite the duo, and regards them both, before staring at Serizawa with his cold, dead eyes.

‘I was not surprised to receive a request for visitation,’ Suzuki begins, ‘but I didn’t think it would take this long, Serizawa.’

Serizawa is frozen under Suzuki’s gaze. He looks down. He’s taken back to the theatre, sitting on the stage while Suzuki was holding up Reig-

Katsuya’, Reigen says, quietly. Serizawa turns to Reigen, and sees the worry etched in his face. ‘He’s trying to rile you up.’ He’s no longer leaning back in his chair, and his pose is parallel to Serizawa's - his hands in his lap. It snaps Serizawa back to reality. He breathes. Remember what Arataka said earlier.

‘Suzuki,’ Serizawa begins, his gaze still on the desk, ‘I’m sorry that-’, he reconsiders his words, ‘...Suzuki, it’s taken a while because I needed to think of what I wanted to say.’

When he looks up, he sees that Suzuki’s gaze is fixated on Reigen, and Reigen’s on Suzuki.

‘...Interesting.’ Suzuki says, still looking at Reigen. Serizawa isn’t sure what Suzuki is referring to, but then Suzuki’s dead stare is on him, again. ‘A lack of honourifics, too. Very interesting. You’ve gotten yourself into a curious situation, Serizawa.’

Serizawa sighs. Just power through it, he thinks. He’s trying to rile you up.

‘Suzuki, I wanted to say that… I will always be grateful to you for removing me from my room. You gave me a place to be, and even though you were just using me, I was happy to use my powers to serve you. But it wasn’t right. And I’m gratefu-’

‘This is a rather one-sided conversation,’ Suzuki chips in, smiling. ‘You were a valuable asset to me as well, Serizawa.’

‘...And I’m grateful to you,’ Serizawa continues, ‘because if you hadn’t taken me from that room, I would not be living the full life that I live now. I work with other espers to help people now, with these powers. I can control them without any crutch.’ He looks down at his hands, and smiles. ‘There are so many things I care about now, and it began with your help, that day. So, thank you. These are the only feelings of gratitude I will ever hold toward you.’

He stands, and lightly bows. Keeps his head down. Awaits a response.

‘I wonder how long it took you to prepare such a speech,’ Suzuki asks, his voice calm. Serizawa feels an anger boiling in him, but before he can do anything reckless, Suzuki continues. ‘It’s pleasing that you’ve managed to find peace with yourself, and form what you say are real connections with people. This is far more than I ever expected of you.’

Serizawa looks up now, confusion spread across his face. Suzuki is regarding him with an unreadable expression. ‘...Thank you?’ He says. He didn’t expect this at all. He looks at Reigen, but Reigen isn’t facing him. He’s looking at Suzuki instead, a stoney look in his eyes.

Suzuki then smiles, still looking at Serizawa. ‘...But I thought I warned you that people would try to manipulate you.’

Serizawa remains standing, his hands curled into fists by his sides. Reigen still hasn’t moved. Suzuki then turns his gaze to Reigen, and they’re locked, once again, in eye contact.

‘When I heard from Shou that you hired Serizawa, I was very interested, indeed. You have no shame in who you... employ, it seems.’ Reigen does not respond. Serizawa doesn’t know where this conversation is going. He stays standing.

Suzuki’s gaze is back on Serizawa. ‘It must be nice for you to have a boss that’s younger than you, Serizawa,’ Suzuki says. He’s smiling. He’s got the upper hand here, somehow, and Serizawa still has no idea what the end goal is here. He decides he has to say something in response.

‘...I am not being manipulated. I’m in control of my own life,’ Serizawa says, but recoils when Suzuki begins to laugh through his nose, deep in his gut. ‘Are you so sure about that,’ Suzuki dryly responds. He’s looking at Reigen again. Serizawa wants Reigen to move, to say something, to do anything - but he remains still, a statue in the face of a bulldozer.

‘Tell me,’ Suzuki begins, leaning into the glass, his eyes still as cold and dead as the day they were when he dragged Serizawa from the darkness of his room, ‘how do you pay him, Arataka?’

Reigen finally moves. He takes his hands from his lap, and uses them to grip the edge of the table. ‘Don’t,’ Reigen says, his jaw locked. His whole demeanour is like nothing Serizawa’s ever seen from the younger man. He’d expect laughter, a dry response, for him to brush off the conversation, something, anything, but Reigen’s letting himself be backed into a corner. Whatever Suzuki is leading to, Reigen’s figured it out, and it’s gotten under his skin like nothing Serizawa’s ever seen.

Serizawa finally understands that out of the two of them, Reigen really wasn’t ready for this. How could he be? He’d only ever spoken to Suzuki once. Serizawa had had 3 years of knowing the President, of knowing the ways he could manipulate and affect people.

‘But that must be what Serizawa calls you,’ Suzuki continues. ‘Once he leaves you,’ humour filling his voice, a small chuckle, ‘will you spread your legs for the next esper you find, too?’

And then Reigen quickly stands, and smashes his right fist into the glass.

The pane is strong enough that the glass doesn’t break, but it leaves a small crack at the point of impact within the glass, rather than on the outside. Reigen’s whole body is stiff, his fist remains in place, and he’s taking heavy ragged breaths, staring into Suzuki’s eyes. Suzuki remains smiling.

They’ve lost control of the situation, very quickly.

Serizawa stumbles back, in shock from seeing Reigen like this. ‘...Arataka,’ Serizawa says, quietly, and then Reigen’s whips his head around to look at Serizawa. His eyes are wild, unfocused, a rabbit caught in headlights. His expression then contorts into one of misery and regret. ‘Katsuya,’ he says, his face twisting with sadness. There’s a sense of urgency in his voice, like he’s running out of time. ‘I’m sorry. I’ve been lying to you from the very beginning. I’m not-’

‘This man has no psychic powers,’ Suzuki interrupts. ‘He’s just silver tongued enough to have fooled his army of esper children… and then you, it seems. I gave my warning to you with good intentions, and I’m sorry that I had to be the one to break this news to you. Perhaps it is time you reconsider your next steps in life.’

There’s a beat.

Serizawa begins to laugh.

It just flows out of him, little hiccups of laughter, not too loud but not too quiet. The mania of the whole situation - Reigen punching the glass, Suzuki thinking that he’s got one over on Serizawa, the triumphant look in Suzuki’s eyes when Suzuki truly, really, didn’t know anything - it’s bubbling through Serizawa, channeling out of him through laughter. It’s disconcerting enough that even Suzuki seems to have surprise in his eyes. Reigen finally removes his fist from the glass, and his current and former boss look at him like Serizawa’s lost his head completely.

What?’, Serizawa says, between hiccups of laughter. ‘Is that what you were building up to?’

Silence is his response.

‘I know. I’ve known for a long time.’

‘...What?’, Reigen finally says, quietly. He’s holding the fist he used to punch the glass with in his other hand, his eyes wide. ‘...You knew?’

‘...This is a turn of events,’ Suzuki says, finally taken aback by something. ‘You’re aware, and yet you carry on working for him?’

Serizawa laughter keeps bubbling out of him in short spurts. ‘Sure, Arataka doesn’t have any powers like you and I,’ he says, ‘but he still helps people. He’s empathetic, and he has nothing but kindness in his heart. He’s a good person, and when he hired me, he did so with the actual intent of helping me. That’s why I stay. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be than by his side, Suzuki. Do you understand?’

He feels his body getting lighter and lighter with every sentence, and Reigen’s own body posture relaxes, too. When it comes to talking about the man he loves, he realises, he doesn’t need to think about what to say. The words come to him as naturally as breathing.

Suzuki sighs, and closes his eyes. ‘Then I must apologise, too.’

Reigen and Serizawa both look at Suzuki with wide, uneasy eyes.

‘I see that you have changed, not just in the way you present yourself,’ he continues, opening his eyes to look at Serizawa. ‘I really thought you were being manipulated by this man, from the moment I heard about your new state of employment. I was aggressive with the purpose of revealing this man’s ill intent. But I see now that I was wrong.’

In the silence he receives as a response, Suzuki continues.

‘You must cherish the connections you have in life. I wish I had done more to cherish mine,’ he says, looking down at his bound hands. ‘It was your disciple who taught me that,’ he says, to Reigen. Reigen sighs, and returns to his seat. Serizawa returns, and does the same, but gently takes the hand that Reigen used to impact the mirror. It becomes immersed in the glow of Serizawa’s aura.

‘What are you doing?’, Reigen asks, quietly. He won’t look Serizawa in the eyes.

‘Checking if you’ve broken anything,’ Serizawa replies.

‘You can do that?’

‘I can sense if something is out of place. You’re fine.’ Serizawa gently releases his aura from Reigen’s hand.

Suzuki contemplates this exchange in front of him, silently. He sighs again, and closes his eyes.

‘I’m happy for you, Serizawa. And I am glad that you and my son are doing well.’

‘Thank you,’ Serizawa replies, quietly.

‘And thank you for looking after my son in his times of need, Reigen.’

‘Sure,’ says Reigen, looking firmly at the table in front of him.

And then the door is opened, followed by a very pissed off looking Joseph, smoking another cigarette.

What,’ begins Joseph, striding in with his eyes switching from the glass to Serizawa, ‘did I say about powers going out of control?’

‘You’re looking at the wrong person,’ Suzuki says, with a smirk.

Joseph takes a moment to contemplate those words, before his gaze settles on Reigen and the very bright red knuckles the man is sporting, and he sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose. ‘Seriously, why does the glass get broken every time you get a visitor.’

They have the same government agent accompanying them for the ride back to the office. Just to keep it safe, they’re deathly quiet the whole journey back. Serizawa slowly reaches over, softly touching the fingers of Reigen’s hand with his own. Reigen’s not looking at him - he’s pretending he can see out of the blacked out windows again - but he opens up his palm a little.

Serizawa softly begins to slot his fingers in between Reigen’s. Reigen reciprocates. Serizawa gives a soft squeeze.

They sit in silence.

They’re dropped off at the office, and they re-enter. It’s now 5pm. Reigen makes his way toward the massage room to grab the first-aid kit and get at the painkillers inside it.

He swallows two with some water, and returns to the main part of the office. Serizawa is sitting on the sofas, and Reigen joins him. They’re sitting opposite each other, again.

‘You knew,’ he says, quietly.

‘I’ve known for a very long time,’ Serizawa replies.

Reigen’s face scrunches up. ‘I told you before I wanted to be honest with you. We were meant to be honest after everything that happened. I don’t… understand why you’re not angry.’

Serizawa sighs, and looks up at the ceiling, searching for something that neither of them could see. ‘I always figured you would tell me when you were ready.’

There’s a moment of silence.

‘Since when?’, Reigen says. ‘Since when have you known?’

‘Perhaps a few weeks after I met you,’ Serizawa replies quickly, and Reigen groans, hiding his face in his hands.

‘So you seriously just let me talk about Spiritual Power Levels with that Roshuuto creep?’ Reigen says, voice high and muffled.

Serizawa laughs, slightly, and replies, ‘you seemed like you were having fun.’

Another beat.

‘I thought if I told you, you’d leave,’ Reigen says, uncovering his face.

‘I’m not going to leave.’

Then Serizawa stands, and offers his hand to Reigen. Reigen takes it, cautiously, and the two embrace, arms wrapped around each other’s bodies, Reigen’s face pressed against Serizawa’s shoulder.

‘I really am lucky to have you,’ Reigen says, quietly.

‘I do love you,’ Serizawa replies, just as quietly.

They hold their embrace for a while, until Reigen’s phone begins to vibrate in his pocket. He pulls away unwillingly, rubbing away the stray tears that he didn’t even realise were falling, and picks up the phone, turning away from Serizawa.

‘Hello? Yes, speaking. Ah, of course, yes! It’s so lovely to hear from you. Oh, I see. I’m glad that it’s going well. Ah, next weekend?’

While Reigen talks, Serizawa wraps his arms around Reigen’s waist, settling his head into the nook between Reigen’s neck and left shoulder. He doesn’t care that he has to hunch over to do so.

‘Right. Mhmm. Yes, that’s brilliant. Okay, I think we might need, umm…’ Reigen pauses for a moment to count in his head. ‘7 tickets. Yep, 7. Alright, great. Yeah, just put them under Reigen A. Hmm. Alright, I can’t wait to see the show. Take care! Bye.’

He hangs up, and laughs, putting his phone back in his pocket. He leans his head against Serizawa's and puts his hands on top of the other mans. ‘We’re seeing Master Reigen next weekend,’ he giggles. Serizawa snorts through his nose.

‘Took them long enough,’ Serizawa replies. ‘Do you think you’re ready to deal with going back to that theatre, though?’, he adds, dryly.

Reigen pauses to contemplate, and then turns, so he’s facing Serizawa again. ‘Honestly? I think if you’re there, I’ll be alright.’

Serizawa wraps his arms around Reigen, again, which Reigen reciprocates. ‘Then I’ll be alright, too.’

‘Aren’t you brave,’ Reigen swoons, and Serizawa chuckles. They share another kiss, breaking it only to laugh softly. They were okay, and they were always going to be.

Somewhere, a curtain closes.