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Crocodile Tears

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Reigen was no psychic but he had absolutely developed a sixth sense for whenever Tome was Up To Something. Maybe it was because she looked altogether too innocent, which was easy to tell because her usual threshold for innocence was generally not so innocent at all. Today she came into the office too early with a too polite greeting and went to sit at her makeshift “desk” at the coffee table between the sofas, and then she was quiet.

Reigen eyed her with suspicion.

Serizawa, characteristically, caught on to nothing.

“Good afternoon, Kurata-san,” he said, looking up from his history homework. “I hope you had a good day at school.”

“It was very good, thank you, Serizawa-san.”

No rambling, no complaining? No beeline straight for the snacks in their cupboard? Reigen opened his mouth to just straight up ask what she wanted, but she beat him to it. She might not have the best poker face, but her timing was perfect. A room-reader. With enough practice she could con with the best of them.

“By the way, Reigen, everybody at school is talking about the zoo haunting.”

“Zoo haunting?” Serizawa took the bait.

Reigen only frowned. “Oh they are, huh?”

“I heard the renovations this year made the Seasoning City Zoo much less of a dump than it used to be,” she continued, with all the dignity of a well-rehearsed script. “But something about it made the spirits in the area restless… That’s the theory anyway. A ton of people are reporting supernatural activity. There’s forums online and everything. It’s turned into a cool scary thing to go to the zoo in the evening when the sun starts to go down before it closes.”

Bullshit. But more importantly: what was the motive of this bullshit?

“I read about that as well,” said Serizawa.

Wait, what?

Reigen’s surprise must have shown on his face (dammit) because Serizawa substantiated his comment with an explanation. “I sometimes look at supernatural forums to see if we can get any tips for work,” he said humbly.

So did Reigen and he hadn’t seen anything… But then again, Serizawa was more internet savvy than him, having lived on it for a good few years. Maybe he simply had deeper access into these niche hobby boards.

“Huh,” said Reigen noncommittally, but he was listening now. He still didn’t trust Tome’s motives at all, but even if she was after a flashy exorcism for her own purposes or to get clout with her friends… well, as long as it also benefited Spirits and Such, Reigen didn’t really have a problem with it.

“I’m just saying, it would be a great high profile case if you were looking to get some attention with the younger crowd,” Tome said. She held up her hands as if in surrender but Reigen knew she knew she was far from losing this one.

Her argument was agonizingly sound, too. Their client base tended to veer more towards the over 40 crowd. Spirits and Such could use some hip appeal.

“I would hate to just leave it if it might be endangering people,” said Serizawa. Right. Also that.

"Hmm…" said Reigen.

“I have a friend who works the ticket booth and can get our entry cost refunded if we get rid of the ghost,” Tome said.

Well why didn’t you say that in the first place?

Reigen slapped his palms on his desk and sat upright with great finality and circumstance. “Alright. You’ve twisted my arm,” he said. “We’ll go this weekend.”

“Friday would be better,” said Tome. “It’s less crowded. And you’ll need me, remember, because my friend works the tickets.”

That last bit was clearly another strategic maneuver, but Reigen absolutely didn’t want to spend money so he waved it off and let her have it. “Done,” he said. “Any conflicts, Serizawa?”

“None for me,” he said. “Will we be going in the late afternoon so it starts to get dark like the test of courage game?”

“Definitely,” Tome and Reigen both said at the same time, with equal authority. They eyed each other cagily.

Serizawa just smiled with enough benevolence for the three of them.

“I’ll write it in my planner now,” he said, and he did.

 

~

 

Friday was a lovely afternoon, just chilly enough to need a coat but sunny and endlessly blue overhead. Reigen and Serizawa both wore trenchcoats over their suits, and Tome had a dark blue college hoodie over her high school uniform. When asked, she said it wasn’t a college she was particularly interested in, she just stole the hoodie from her older brother because it was comfy. That was Tome for you.

They took the train into the heart of Seasoning City. Reigen and Serizawa both wore backpacks, Reigen so he could lug around his laptop rather than leaving it at the office and Serizawa for… why was he wearing a backpack?

“I thought I’d bring snacks,” Serizawa said. “And moist towelettes, things like that. Ah and a flashlight.”

“We probably won’t need a flashlight,” said Reigen.

“I know but sometimes people get stuck in the zoo after closing.” Serizawa recited this urban legend with the utter solemnity of fact.

His penchant for over-preparing for things was still strong, it seemed. Did his mother have something to do with it?

Tome had her backpack too from school, so really they were all prepared for just about anything.

 

 

When they arrived, the lines outside the entrance kiosk were rather short, just like Tome said they would be. It was a wide, spacious entrance with a concrete arch overhead engraved with “Seasoning City Zoo” and the interlocking heads of various animals. There was a big copper statue of a lion on a grassy island between the flow of the crowd, and Serizawa insisted on stopping to take a picture of it on his phone, much like a middle aged mother.

“Get me in it too!” said Tome, and she posed with two victory signs and an enormous grin.

“And me,” said Reigen, not to be outshined, although really it was more like he was finding himself getting swept up in the fun of their outing. Despite appearances, he was very susceptible to such things. The Spirits and Such onsen trip was really the last time he’d had a trip anywhere and that hadn’t been much fun at all.

Serizawa took multiple pictures of them posing, both trying to outdo each other. In fact he was the one who finally said they should probably go get tickets. Reigen and Tome silently agreed it was a draw.

There was a spotty teen manning the ticket kiosk, looking generally bored. His face was round with baby fat but he had the body of a full grown man in that tragically disproportionate way that only teenagers can achieve.

“We’ll have the ghost-hunting special please,” said Tome with an exaggerated wink.

The teen blinked slowly at her.

“Uh… Adult tickets are 700 yen…”

“Right right, we know,” Reigen said, pulling out his wallet. He was getting impatient to actually get into the zoo now. He hoped they still had golden lion tamarins… “Just remember our deal later, pal.”

The teen, again, slowly blinked but processed their tickets obediently.

As they entered the zoo, Tome’s suggestion of Friday rather than the weekend seemed very on point--there were other people, sure, but they were scattered enough in the wide open venues that it was almost cozy today. Their path entering the zoo branched around a large fountain shaped like otters, the basin littered with coins. All three of them were too stingy to make any wishes themselves. Instead they took the route that curved toward the bear enclosure, following Tome’s lead. The enclosure was fronted with plexiglass and inside was an expanse of muddy grass, artfully decorated with boulders and fake trees and some ropes for further enrichment. Two sun bears were flopped lazily on opposite ends.

“I want a picture of you too, Serizawa-san!” said Tome eagerly, already with her phone out. She waved Serizawa out in front of her and had him bend over slightly to appear just right over one of the snoozing lumps. He tried a victory sign of his own and smiled queasily.

“Do you like bears, Serizawa?” Reigen asked him, thoroughly amused. He could picture Serizawa a bit like a teddy bear himself. It was kind of nice to see the guy unwind, even if he still had some residual awkwardness in his posture and movements sometimes, just from that thrumming everyday anxiety of his. But he had grown a lot since Reigen first met him. If anything, he was the rock that kept Reigen himself steady these days.

“Their ears really are like plushie ears,” Serizawa said as he straightened again.

“They’re cute,” Tome agreed.

“One could kill you, you know,” said Reigen, who did not disagree that they were cute but always preferred an upper hand.

“So could a housecat if it was determined enough,” said Tome, whose life purpose was to never let Reigen gain ground.

“Why are we dying suddenly?” asked Serizawa.

They continued down the path.

The skinny trees and carefully manicured bushes that lined the pathways were looking a little barren as the weather got progressively colder, but it really was much nicer around here than the last time Reigen had been to the Seasoning City Zoo. When had that been? Man… He must have still been in college. The open layout of the paths was familiar, but a lot of the attractions had been completely overhauled, more spacious and involved enclosures for the animals and also at least twice as many food and souvenir carts peppered around the walkways. The last time Reigen had been here, those bears were one of the only reliable animals you could see. That and the elephants, if only because it’s hard to hide an elephant.

Serizawa kept pace at Reigen’s side, in that way that had become so normal for the two of them. It was hard to imagine not having Serizawa casually beside him, when really it hadn’t been that long at all since he’d joined Spirits and Such. Tome led the way ahead of them, ignoring a lot of the attractions that her mentors tried to stop for.

“We gotta hit up the children’s zoo before it closes,” Tome said. “That’s where you can pet some animals.”

“Aren’t you a little old for the children’s zoo?” Reigen asked, and Tome made a face at him.

“Does the spirit hang out around there?” Serizawa asked at about the same time.

“Yes,” said Tome primly, and continued barrelling down the path, a girl on a mission.

Reigen glanced at Serizawa, who met his Look with a knowing smile and a shrug. He reached back, fingering around in the side pocket of his backpack meant for water bottles, and pulled out a packet of fruit gummies. He tore it open and offered one to Reigen. A red one. Reigen’s favorite. Serizawa had learned well.

Reigen cupped his hand in response, and Serizawa dutifully poured out more in his palm.

 

~

 

The entrance to the children’s zoo was marked by a big sign of a cartoon tanuki in one of the zoo’s signature green visors beckoning the crowd inside. It was just another section of the zoo, but with more cartoons everywhere and lamer animals, in Reigen’s opinion. Parents loved having a special place for their fresher spawn, even if it was fairly slapped together--Reigen could see the money-making scheme underneath the design perfectly.

“What does this ghost even look like anyway?” Reigen asked, as they descended some stairs into the bowels of the kiddie park, shaded by the skeletons of bare trees in colorful pots.

Tome glanced at a sign with another tanuki on it gently reminding parents not to leave their strollers unattended in the paths.

“... A tanuki,” she said.

“How original,” said Reigen dryly.

“Do you think it might be a real magical tanuki?” Serizawa asked.

“Do those exist?” asked Reigen, genuinely curious.

Serizawa shrugged. “I’m the esper so I should probably know but I never got out much even before I was a shut-in,” he admitted.

“Fair enough.”

They entered a little plaza surrounded by a series of small open-air pens housing everyday animals in plain, dust-floored spaces. A billy goat and a llama were unlikely, hay-chewing roommates in one, and another had, wouldn’t you know it, a trio of tanuki shuffling around. While Tome and Serizawa tried to get the llama to spit, Reigen stopped at the railing in front of the tanuki, squinting down at the fat little guys.

“None of you are youkai, are you?” he asked.

It was hard to imagine them getting up to dangerous mischief, looking at their fluffy cheeks and big brown eyes. One had what looked like a pellet of poop stuck in the tail of its fur. Very nonthreatening.

“That one looks like you, Reigen,” said Tome pointing to another pen across the way.

She was pointing at a capybara.

“Oi,” said Reigen.

“Oh yeah… He has your hair,” said Serizawa.

Oi ,” said Reigen.

The tanuki sleepily went about their business.

 

~

 

“Here it is,” Tome said. “This is the best part of the whole zoo.”

Nestled deep in the heart of the children’s zoo was a hexagonal building with a pointed roof like a wizard’s hat, the same signature green as the zoo visors and other merchandise. Tome was shooing her adults through the doors eagerly.

“The petting spot,” she said.

More like it was an educational pavilion for kids. The room was small, and everything seemed knee-height in that way that exhibits for small children always do. Trees were painted on the walls, and smaller animals, like snakes and mice and tarantulas, were housed in little shoebox sized tanks inlaid in the walls.

That wasn’t very exciting, but in the middle of the room was the main attraction: a pen enclosed in a low bench where people were sitting and interacting with a series of rabbits, guinea pigs, and other rodents running freely amidst straw and little faux log shelters.

“It smells like rabbit poop,” said Reigen, but he was right beside Tome as they both made a beeline for the nearest open bench space to sit and pet the animals. Tome befriended a particularly fat guinea pig by offering it a baby carrot. Reigen kept trying to pet things but they ran away from him.

Serizawa stood a little ways behind them, taking pictures of them on his phone with a small smile on his face. 

He liked taking pictures. Now that he was actually out experiencing life, he found himself so sentimental about it, wanting to prolong every moment. And yet, there always seemed to be even more moments ready to experience afterwards, endlessly. It was quietly amazing.

Reigen was getting frustrated, and finally swung his legs over the bench and walked right into the guinea pig enclosure, bent double to try and get the attention of a big rabbit. He waved a comically large fan of lettuce at it and made a noise with his tongue against his teeth. Some of the other parents were starting to murmur, and Tome was determinedly pretending she did not know him.

Serizawa could only smile wider, quickly thumbing his phone’s camera to video instead and holding it up over his face, hiding his own warm expression as he trailed after Reigen’s antics through the viewfinder. Reigen was handsome in this coat. It trimmed his waist well. Of course, that effect was rather belied by the sputtering expression he was making. Sometimes when he got really mad like this his nostrils flapped. In his mind, Serizawa called these “his gills.” He would never say this out loud, but it was secretly one of his favorite things about Reigen. It had been nice to slowly realize that Reigen was not a demigod but rather a ridiculous excuse for a man. A ridiculous excuse for a man that seemed to genuinely like having Serizawa around. That was perhaps the most precious thing Reigen had given him. Serizawa was collecting a lot of favorite things about Reigen.

He almost jumped out of his skin when a zoo volunteer appeared at his side.

“Do you want to hold him?” she asked. Serizawa flushed, stammering as if to cover up a secret, before she offered him something in her gloved hands.

When Reigen and Tome looked back at him, they found Serizawa cupping a tiny hedgehog in both hands, grinning shyly as the zookeeper used him as a prop to talk about hedgehog care to a growing crowd of children.

 

 

~

 

“I forgot, the ghost actually appears at the Savannah exhibit, not here,” said Tome. “My bad.”

Ok, now that was just suspicious.

“A tanuki in the Savannah?” Reigen scoffed.

“Mostly the spirit gets into trashcans,” she said.

Then why had they spent half an hour in the children’s zoo?

He wheeled on Serizawa. “Have you sensed anything?”

Serizawa just smiled and shrugged under his backpack straps. He was passing out wet wipes to everyone after the petting zoo, so they could better eat some of the rice crackers he’d packed without guinea pig germs. Tome insisted guinea pigs didn’t have germs but Serizawa, perhaps again channeling his mother, said they’d been outdoors and holding public hand railings anyway.

“Maybe an underrepresented tanuki trick is that they can hide well from espers,” Serizawa suggested.

Either that, or this whole wild goose chase is a load of bullshit. Reigen didn’t say this out loud, but his face definitely did.

“I didn’t think you were the type to give up so easily, Reigen,” Tome said, scrubbing her wet wipe at the webbing between her fingers.

“It’s not about giving up, it’s about mistrusting information,” he said.

“So you and Serizawa-san know so much about teenagers’ legends now, huh?” Tome gave him an incredulous look. “You two don’t even know what actors are popular now. No offense, Serizawa-san.”

“None taken,” said Serizawa. He shook the box of rice crackers in her direction. She accepted one.

Reigen wasn’t gonna rise to the bait. “Teenagers aren’t any more in the know when it comes to the truth behind urban legends than adults.”

“Why not?” Tome asked. “Teenagers are the ones going out to places they shouldn’t, getting online, believing in scary things still… We know this city’s supernatural scene better than anyone. Adults just like to pretend we still don’t understand the world. And that’s exactly why they’re too boring to care about ghosts anyway.”

That was a solid point. Serizawa cronched rice crackers and looked back at Reigen, like watching a tennis match.

“Whatever,” Reigen relented. “The Savannah it is.”

They left the children’s zoo and started their long trek across the park to where the big African animals roamed around. The light was getting thinner and lower, and Reigen’s back was starting to twinge from carrying his backpack around. Along the way, they all dutifully stopped at every trashcan to peek inside, at Reigen’s insistence. No tanuki, magical or otherwise.

They could tell they were getting closer to the Savannah by the types of merchandise appearing in nearby stalls, the animal toys changing from bears and wolves and cats to things like elephants, hippos, and cheetahs. Tome loitered in front of a stall selling large plushie crocodiles hanging from the hut’s ceiling like fish cuts, their mouths open at a perfect angle, full of little felt teeth. She seemed to decide against it, and jogged a little to catch up to her adults.

It was like they turned a corner and suddenly there were elephants. The enclosures here were huge, bordered by fake rocks meant to be reminiscent of giant termite mounds.

“We gotta see the lions,” Tome announced, speedwalking right past the elephants, but Reigen refused to give the giraffes the same treatment.

Hold it,” he said. “There’s a baby giraffe.”

Tome was instantly convinced to stop. The three of them perched at the railing and watched a small, gangly juvenile giraffe nose at the dry grass of her huge enclosure, her mom hovering alongside her. Reigen and Tome both watched with rapt attention, letting loose some gooey “aws” that neither of them would admit to later.

Giraffes were such strange creatures. It was funny to see a young one growing into the same strangeness as the adult.

Reigen didn’t notice Serizawa stepping away to take a picture of Reigen and Tome there, as if wanting to document some similarity between the unorthodox animals and the two unorthodox humans watching them, leaning on the railing together companionably. 

“I always liked giraffes best as a kid,” Reigen said, watching as the child giraffe wobbled after her mom with twig-legged awkwardness.

“Lame,” said Tome.

His look of easy peace immediately soured in her direction. “Lame?” he repeated.

“Herbivores aren’t as cool as the carnivores, when it comes to favorite animals,” she said. “I bet your favorite dinosaur wasn’t even a T-Rex.”

His favorite was brontosauruses, which weren’t that much different than giraffes in retrospect.

“I bet it was a brontosaurus which isn’t even real,” said Tome. Damn, read like a book. But also--

“Since when are they not real?”

“Since ever, duh,” said Tome. “For awhile scientists thought the whole thing was a mistake on their part, just connecting the bones all wrong, but now there’s some who think it’s a new thing called an Apatosaurus. But of course, dinosaur scientists are always arguing about the details.”

Huh. Tome was actually pretty smart, when it came down to it. She seemed to like the sciences, if only for their proximity to pseudoscience.

 

 

“You gonna become a paleontologist or something?” he asked her, letting the argument slide coolly.

She snorted. “I don’t know what I’ll become. Probably something boring.”

“Not necessarily,” he said. “You’ve got more talents than you realize.”

“You really think so?”

“Sure. I’m good at reading people’s character.”

“Like hell you are.”

“Language. And shut up, I am good at it. Reading you I’d say: you can do plenty of cool things, you just have to give yourself enough credit.

He could feel Tome watching him. Finally he turned to meet her gaze, and was surprised to find an oddly pained expression on her face. She looked away quickly, back at the giraffes.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I lied.”

“Huh?” said Reigen.

Serizawa came back over to them now, leaning against the railing on Reigen’s other side, his phone still in his hands as he scrolled through the pictures he’d taken today. Pictures of the animals, but honestly mostly of these people he cared about.

“I lied,” Tome repeated. “There’s no tanuki or whatever. No ghost. I made it up.”

“You what?” Reigen squawked. Serizawa was watching Tome now too, his shaggy eyebrows slightly furrowed.

“I said I was sorry!” Tome snapped defensively. “I lied about knowing that guy at the tickets too, but I was gonna just pay you back from my own money. It’s not like it’s a lot.” She threw out that last part as a knowing barb at Reigen’s cheapness.

“Why are we even here then?” Reigen demanded. “You wasted our whole afternoon.”

He kind of hated that he’d said that when Tome’s face went very still and she determinedly frowned ahead at the giraffes. She wasn’t going to cry. But something in that expression said she would’ve cried if she was still a kid.

She wasn’t a kid, huh?

Reigen checked himself with a sigh, glancing briefly at Serizawa, who only looked concerned. Of course Serizawa wouldn’t care about being tricked. At least not as much as he cared about Tome’s feelings. Serizawa was a better person than Reigen was.

“... What’s going on?” Reigen asked finally, more gently.

Tome propped an elbow on the railing and perched her chin in her hand, going extra casual to hide the fact that she was upset at all. It was one of Reigen’s own moves, so of course he recognized it instantly. He knew she would answer in her own time, so he didn’t ask again, the three of them simply watching as the giraffes ducked behind some fake rocks at the far end of the enclosure. And then they were just looking at bare grass, lots and lots of it.

“Today’s my birthday,” Tome said.

Reigen looked at her, eyebrows raised.

“Happy birthday, Kurata-san!” said Serizawa, but his expression was sad. “Sixteen?”

“Yeah,” said Tome. She let her foot swing at the concrete path below them, her shoe making a low scuffing noise. “It’s… really dumb, ok? Every year for my birthday, my parents take me to the zoo. Just not this year. My parents, like… It’s not a big deal. But they divorced last year. So now I just live with my mom. It’s really not dramatic, I’m not, like, agonizing or something. But it would be weird to come do the same tradition after that, and we all know it, so nobody’s offered and I haven’t asked. I’m probably too old for it now anyway.”

The leg swinging stopped.

“But you still wanted to,” Reigen finished for her.

“Yup,” said Tome. “So I got you guys to take me instead.”

They both watched her very carefully.

“... I don’t think you’re my new parents or something like that,” she said bluntly.

Both men deflated in relief.

“I don’t know, I just… I didn’t want to only go with my mom and not my dad. It would just suck and be awkward. She’d just feel guilty the whole time. And I really like my new high school friends but I still don’t feel like I know them very well, you know? At least not well enough to take them here. Especially since I like dumb stuff like the guinea pigs still.”

“I didn’t think the guinea pigs were dumb,” said Serizawa automatically.

“They’re a little dumb,” Tome told him.

“And if your friends are good friends they wouldn’t care,” said Reigen, also automatically.

“I know that. I’m not dumb,” said Tome. “It’s just… I don’t know. I just didn’t want to. I was embarrassed. I don’t even know, ok? It wouldn’t have been the same.”

It’s not the same now either. Nobody would say that but it hung in the air without them having to.

The two men went silent, giving Tome her space and both a little chagrined for underestimating her.

“I like being at Spirits and Such,” she said. “It’s fun. So I just thought…” She shrugged. “Honestly, I didn’t think it over much at all. I just did it. I lied. Because I wanted to.”

“Fair enough,” said Reigen slowly. He was honestly touched that Tome enjoyed their company so much. What on earth do you even say to something like that? “Uh… You’re alright too. You’re--?”

“If you start saying weird mushy stuff I’m just gonna leave,” she said, but she was smiling now.

“Ohthankgod,” he said.

“I think Reigen and I can foot the bill for the tickets just fine,” said Serizawa, suggesting it in that way he always did when he suspected Reigen might forget to broach the moral option.

Geez, Serizawa, give me some credit. Of course Reigen wasn’t gonna make Tome pay.

“Company expenses,” Reigen said.

Tome pushed back from the railing, pulling her cellphone out of her hoodie and checking it for the time, her face alight with her usual energy again.

“I just wanted to see my favorite things--the guinea pigs and the lions--but we might have time to hit your favorites too,” she said. “Since you’re in on the secret now, it’s only fair.”

Monkeys,” Reigen said immediately.

“Oh, I’ll like whatever,” said Serizawa, who was also looking at his phone again, smiling down at a particularly good photo of Reigen and Tome posing with the lion statue at the entrance.

“You’re too easygoing, Serizawa-san,” Tome chastised. The three of them were already making their way down the path again, sliding into this new understanding of each other casually and without fanfare.

“Not really,” said Serizawa. “I’ve just had a lot of fun today.”

They all had, truth be told.

They were sure to visit Tome’s lions, and then circled back out of the Savannah. As they passed that hut Tome had been eyeing with the plushie crocodiles again, Reigen stopped and pulled out his wallet.

“What color do you want?” he asked Tome blandly, and her grin nearly split open her face.

“Purple!” she crowed.

He bought the larger size, and she lugged it around for the rest of the evening, hugged in both her arms.

 

~

 

It was already dark out on their train ride home, the windows just squares of black with sparks of color from the streetlights and windows streaking past. When he was a really little kid, Reigen used to think riding trains at this time of night was like how it would feel to ride through space, like a spaceship going through hyper speed. All those little stars, turned into lines of light.

Tome was conked out, her head thrown back against the window and her mouth hanging open in her sleep. Even with her mouth open so wide, her snores were actually quiet, dainty almost. Her new birthday crocodile acted as a convenient pillow.

Reigen and Serizawa sat in companionable silence with their backpacks in their laps.

But Reigen had been coming to a realization, turning it slowly in his brain to look at all the sides of it, and now he shot Serizawa a squint-eyed look of suspicion.

“There’s something I don’t understand, Serizawa… If Tome was lying about this ghost thing all along, then how did you read about it online?”

Serizawa’s mouth did a funny pinch like he was trying not to laugh.

“You lied,” Reigen said, halfway between scandalized and impressed. “You liar. You covered her ass and I completely bought it.”

The corners of Serizawa’s mouth finally broke free of his restraint. “I could tell she was lying. So I helped along a little.” He smiled so benignly it was hard to be miffed even after being duped. He wasn’t even sorry, the bastard. “Tome’s a pretty straightforward person, don’t you think? She only lies when she really wants something. So I wanted to see what she wanted so badly.”

“So you were in cahoots all along,” Reigen said flatly.

Serizawa held up his hands, but his face was more amused than self-deprecating or apologetic. He’d grown much too much. Full bastard, really.

“I didn’t know the thing about her birthday at all,” he said. “But once it seemed like she wanted us to go to the zoo with her… well, that sounded kind of fun. I hadn’t been to the zoo in a long time.”

That was true. Serizawa wouldn’t have, would he?

“I can forgive you this time,” Reigen said, crossing his arms over his backpack and resting his chin there with enough casualness to rekindle his dignity.

“I’m on thin ice, I know,” Serizawa said.

It was nice spending time with them outside of the office. It reminded Reigen of his lunches and dinners with Mob.

What if he’d taken Mob to the zoo one day, just for fun? His treat? That would’ve been weird probably. Anyway, the window for that was long gone so it didn’t matter.

Serizawa bumped shoulders with him. It was a comfort, a solid warmth. The way Serizawa’s presence always was.

“You can be pretty devious when you want to be, Serizawa,” said Reigen.

“I’ll take that as a compliment.”

It was.