Actions

Work Header

Points of Contact

Work Text:

Touch-starved.

It’s a term Serizawa’s never heard before until Reigen starts talking about it one morning, quoting some trashy magazine he’d read.

“Did you know, Serizawa,” he says, animated and lively around a mouthful of pastry and his coffee, “that some people are so touch-starved that they hire professional cuddlers?” His eyes widen, and he cocks his head to the side in wonder. “Now that’s a great business idea—catering to people who need to pay to get a hug.”

There’s something about the words that make Serizawa’s stomach twist, and he just gives a wan smile and nods. Then again, it occurs to him that it’s not as if he sees Reigen hugging anyone much; but he isn’t touch-starved, that much is certain. His handshakes and taps on the shoulder are easy and not orchestrated. It’s natural for him to touch people.

It’s not natural for Serizawa.

So he looks up touch-starved later, when he’s sure no one is around, and finds blogs, message boards, formal medical articles, and all kinds of other descriptions and explanations about it.

And he concludes he’s touch-starved, and might need to hire a professional cuddler. Which is actually a horrifying thought because he especially doesn’t like being touched by strangers.

He’s not quite sure how to remedy this type of starvation, though.

A few days later, even though he knows it’s probably a bad idea, he approaches Reigen one afternoon.

“I think I’d like to hire one of the professional cuddlers,” he says decisively.

Reigen nearly chokes on the last bite of his lunch, coughing as he stares at Serizawa as if he’s lost his mind.

“What?”

“I think I’m touch-starved,” Serizawa says seriously.

The way Reigen stares at him, as if he’s not sure whether Serizawa is being serious, is a little confusing. He thinks this is a reasonable quandary, especially now that he realizes this issue applies to him, and he’s willing to get past his discomfort with strangers if he can fix it. It’s just another problem on the long list of problems that contribute to being socially maladjusted; and Serizawa doesn’t want that. He wants to be normal.

“Um,” Reigen says, his eyes wide and response uncharacteristically inarticulate, “why?”

Serizawa shrugs. “I didn’t know it was so important until I read about it.”

“What, touch?” Reigen asks, swallowing hard and looking a little awkward.

“That’s what I read,” Serizawa replies, as if this answers everything.

“You can’t hire a stranger to…” Reigen blanches, “cuddle you.”

Serizawa’s head tilts to the side in surprise. “Why not? Is it that expensive?” He frowns a little, thinking. “Would someone who provides sexual services be better?”

“Serizawa,” Reigen groans in agony, “what are you talking about? Professional cuddlers and prostitutes? That doesn’t seem like you.”

Serizawa has half a mind to ask what does seem like him in Reigen’s estimation, but decides not to. Part of him actually doesn’t want to know, because he’s afraid the answer would be, you’re not made for those things. Not made for touch or pleasure or closeness—just for destruction and fear.

It’s not that Serizawa hasn’t thought this about himself before, but he doesn’t want it to be that way anymore.

He decides to ask anyway. “What does seem like me?”

Reigen raises an eyebrow. “Not paying for it.”

This answer is frustrating for reasons Serizawa can’t quite pin down, but he frowns mildly. “That’s not an option.”

Reigen looks at him for a moment, a thoughtful expression crossing his face as he studies Serizawa with the concentration of a scientist, assessing. Serizawa’s not sure what he’s assessing, but stays still and waits for the conclusion.

Reigen opens his mouth and closes it, looks down at his desk as if lost in thought, before meeting Serizawa’s eyes and speaking. “Would a massage help?” He clears his throat awkwardly, rushing to keep talking. “I know that might sound weird, but I promise it’s not. If you really feel like that will help you, I don’t mind. I do it to clients all the time.”

Oh. That type of massage. Reigen’s hands on him.

That stirs some unexpected sensations in his chest.

“Okay.” His voice sounds foreign and strangely confident in a way he didn’t realize he was capable of, and Reigen looks relieved when he hears the answer. Then, he even smiles.

“I’m always willing to help,” he offers, painfully generous as usual, at least where Serizawa’s concerned. “It’s not a big deal at all. Think of it as a job perk.”

They do it at the end of the day, when the office is closed and locked up.

Serizawa isn’t sure whether taking off his shirt will be embarrassing or not, but it’s really not at all. The truth is he’s always been relatively unconcerned about nudity, and much more self-conscious about his inability to move in a natural way around other people.

The embarrassing part of the massage is that he cries.

He gets through the shudders that Reigen’s hands inspire at the beginning, and he’s grateful that Reigen just lets him slowly get used to it without comment, doesn’t pelt him with questions, just waits until Serizawa says it’s okay for him to keep going. Then, once he gets used to the warmth of Reigen’s hands, everything settles.

But at around the fifteen minute mark, after Reigen’s found the knots under his shoulder blades and is working them out, tears start dripping down his face. He’s grateful he’s facedown, because that’s weird and abnormal.

He doesn’t even know why he’s crying. It’s as if his body has rebelled against his brain and decided to do what it wants without his permission. He’s not sobbing, and if anything, he feels relief and an unprecedented surge of endorphins.

“Serizawa,” Reigen’s voice is soft. He rarely says Serizawa's name like that, but he does sometimes, and Serizawa tries not to think about how much he likes it, how greedily he yearns for it.

Then, he's being nudged onto his side, and Reigen is crouching down so they’re at eye level, offering a tissue.

“Don’t cry,” he says gently, reaching out with his oil slick warm hands to rub Serizawa’s bicep. “What’s wrong?”

“I’m not crying,” Serizawa replies, feeling silly.

“You’re definitely crying.”

“No,” he says, and then a sniffle does make its way out, but it still doesn’t match up with his feelings, “I mean, I’m not. My body is.”

“Oh,” Reigen nods, a look of understanding washing over his face, “I guess… that’s what happens when you really are touch-starved.” His eyebrows crease for a moment, some emotion flickering across his face, and then he stands up again.

Serizawa assumes this means that this little experiment is over, that he failed to be a worthy candidate of Reigen’s help; but then he’s guided to lie facedown again on the massage table, and Reigen continues what he was doing.

“You can cry,” he says simply. “I get it.”

Serizawa’s not really sure he gets it, but it’s a relief not to have to feel embarrassment, that same sense of shame that snaps at his heels everywhere he goes. He’s getting better at kicking it off, but it’s worse than a poltergeist.

A few more tears drip down his cheeks and nose which he wipes away, but then he feels contentment flowing through him, absolutely relaxed for the first time in his life.

And the weight of Reigen’s hands are like two steadying points of gravity, firm and warm and confident, given freely.

This becomes a weekly ritual, and Serizawa stops thinking about paying someone to touch him.

*

His mother stopped holding him when he was four years old.

He had a tantrum over something four-year-olds have tantrums over—a hated food, maybe, Serizawa doesn’t totally remember—but he yelled and stomped his rather small, insubstantial foot.

What was not insubstantial was the crack in the wall that appeared, and then the shattering of all the windows in their front room.

And that ugly green glow. It was the first time he’d seen it, and as soon as it appeared, he’d run to his mother crying.

A ghost, a ghost! he’d sobbed, trying to push the green aura off of him. Kaachan, it’s a ghost.

She’d let him hug her, rocked him a little, but then she let out a small sound that Serizawa still has dreams about.

It was one of terror; it was the first time someone was afraid of him.

“It’s okay, Katsuya,” she’d said, pushing him away even as he grabbed for her desperately, “maybe it’s just a little ghost. Maybe it will go away.” She’d smiled through bright, watery eyes. “Why don’t you go to your room and try to color? You’ll feel better.”

They fixed the windows and the wall, but he started coming out of his room less, and no one hugged him after that.

*

Reigen is having a bad day.

His shoulders are tense and he’s been on the phone all day intermittently with what Serizawa has deduced is his mother in between fielding client cancellations.

The final time Serizawa hears Reigen talking heatedly, the phone abruptly slams down in its cradle.

Serizawa in the breakroom, trying not to make things awkward by overhearing, biding time with an hour to go until they leave.

He hears Reigen curse softly to himself, and makes two cups of tea instead.

When he comes out, he sees Reigen hunched over his laptop, scowling, clicking across the screen. Serizawa sets the tea down next to him, and then walks away without a word.

“What’s this for?” Reigen asks, straightening up and looking at Serizawa in surprise, the discomfort temporarily gone. He doesn’t look great, but he also doesn’t look upset at least.

“I…” Serizawa stammers, but then regroups, forcing himself to speak, “I thought you might like some tea.”

Reigen studies him for a moment, but then a smile curves his lips very slightly, and he nods in acceptance, taking a sip.

His eyes fall shut, and the smile grows; he leans back in his chair with a heavy sigh, taking another sip, before opening his eyes again to meet Serizawa’s.

“I’m sorry for all the drama today,” he says apologetically, slight color rising in his cheeks. “My mother is haranguing me to come home this weekend to introduce me to some girl from high school.” He shakes his head, frowning slightly, before his voice slides up several octaves, “‘Arataka, she’s only in town for the weekend, and she asked about you!’” He rolls his eyes with a long-suffering sigh. “She wants me to get married. How ridiculous is that?”

“Is it?” Serizawa asks in surprise, tilting his head to the side. “Marriage?”

“For me?” Reigen huffs, giving Serizawa an incredulous stare. “Of course!”

“Why?”

“Lots of reasons,” Reigen retorts.

“There don’t seem to be.”

“Well,” Reigen frowns, then continues in a cranky tone, “who made you the love expert, Serizawa?” He takes a greedy sip of tea, as if he knows he doesn’t deserve it because of his sour attitude; but Serizawa is more fascinated than offended. He’s never actually seen Reigen in a bad mood like this. Nothing catastrophic or brought on by life and death—just a regular guy having a rough day.

“No one,” Serizawa replies with a shrug, not a bit rattled by Reigen’s defensiveness. “I’m not a love expert, but you could definitely get married.”

Reigen just stares at him with that statement, cup halfway to his lips, and his eyes are wide.

“You seem like the type of person everyone wants to marry,” Serizawa continues objectively. “That’s what I’ve read, anyway. You’re smart, you’re handsome, you have your own business, you’re successful.” He shakes his head, now unsure of why Reigen’s staring at him like he has two heads.

“You could get married if you wanted to. Why not?”

“Because there’s no one I want to marry,” Reigen blurts out. “At least, none of the girls my mother is always trying to introduce me to. She thinks that just because someone’s sister or neighbor got married, I should, too.”

“Would you leave Spice City?” Serizawa hazards, staring down into his tea.

“Well, my mother would love me and my theoretical perfect bride to live in her house and have several thousand children. You know the drill,” he shrugs dismissively.

There’s a slight pause, and then Serizawa replies softly, “Sorry, I don’t.”

There’s more quietness, and then Reigen sounds awkwardly apologetic as he says, “Ah, right. Well, it’s not something worth knowing.”

Serizawa hums thoughtfully, not knowing why Reigen sounds apologetic, and rises to take his empty cup to the breakroom for washing, turning absentmindedly to grab Reigen’s also.

He carefully leans over Reigen, who still looks guilty for his offhand remark, and then he pauses for a moment as he notices how Reigen’s sitting.

He looks very tense—shoulders bunched up, neck tight, posture drooping—and Serizawa sets down the cups without thinking.

He rests his hands lightly on Reigen’s miserable shoulders, which earns a flinch of surprise. For once, though, Serizawa is swift on the uptake. “Your shoulders look like mine.” He tentatively gives a few awkward squeezes in some pathetic imitation of a massage, his hands hard, tight pockets of pressure, until Reigen laughs softly.

Serizawa immediately goes to pull away, feeling humiliated that his efforts are laugh-worthy, but Reigen grabs his hand before he can retreat. “I’m not laughing at you,” he says immediately, his voice more serious, “I was just surprised.”

“Tell me how to do it,” Serizawa says bluntly. “I’d like to…” he searches for the right phrase, and then conjures it up, “return the favor.”

Reigen doesn’t seem to be complaining, though, as he leans forward to shrug off his jacket and give Serizawa better access to his shoulders.

When Serizawa lays his hands again on Reigen’s shoulders, it’s much different without the heavy fabric of the suit jacket. He’s warm like this, cotton shirt a little wrinkled and lived in, and he looks so tired.

A hand reaches up to press against Serizawa’s, and Reigen guides it to his neck.

“Go slow,” he says, letting his head droop forward, as if just the touch is enough to make him want to fall asleep, “like I do. Feel out the knots and work at them, but don’t pinch or squeeze.”

“Okay,” Serizawa breathes. He keeps his motions very slow, rubbing his fingers against Reigen’s neck and shoulders. But then he remembers how much it hurts if he’s had a bad day, and someone squeezes too hard; so he softens his grip.

He gently works out the kinks he finds, sliding his fingers up to massage the base of Reigen’s skull, which earns a very appreciative sound.

“Serizawa,” he mumbles, sounding drugged, “you’re really good at this.”

Serizawa tamps down nervous laughter, not really knowing what to say, so he just keeps moving his hands. The truth is he does want to repay the favor—not as a debt, but a nice gesture in response to Reigen’s kindness.

Well, that, and he’s fascinated by the way Reigen feels under his hands. He’s a little skinny, and his shoulders are more narrow than his suits let on, even though they’re strong. Reigen comes off as a lot bigger than he actually is.

“At least the day’s almost over,” Serizawa offers, putting more pressure into his thumbs as he rubs small, careful circles against the back of Reigen’s neck.

“Ah, ah,” Reigen groans, but he sounds ecstatic, “right there. You got it, that’s exactly where the headache is.”

“Does it hurt?” Serizawa asks, suddenly feeling panic that he did something wrong. “Should I stop?”

“God, no,” Reigen exhales breathlessly. “That’s perfect.”

They end up moving to the couch so that they can sit down properly, and Reigen falls asleep with his head listing to the side and Serizawa’s hands still gently rubbing at his temples.

He positions Reigen on the couch to lie down in a proper position that won’t hurt his back, and lets him sleep for a while as he finishes the leftover work for the day.

*

Serizawa’s last day outside is when he’s twelve. He’s home from school early, and his mother is angry.

“Katsuya, go to your room.” Her voice is firm, but he shakes his head, lip wobbling.

“I don’t want to.”

She bristles, but keeps her calm. “You did something very bad,” she informs him, hands on her hips as Serizawa hangs his head.

It had been an accident. Two boys had been teasing a girl who’d always been nice to him, the one person he’d ever hazard to call a friend at school.

One moment, they’d all been standing there, and the next, half the schoolyard was destroyed. One boy was caught under some rubble—he’ll be in the hospital with a broken leg for at least a month; the other had barely escaped intact, a piece of thick wire protruding from the shattered concrete a mere inch from his head.

They had blamed it on her for supposedly egging on Katsuya, who was weird and never spoke to anyone, and sometimes broke things by accident.

“That poor girl is transferring schools,” his mother continues, her voice growing increasingly angry. “Why would you do such a thing?”

“I…” he sniffles, scrubbing at his eyes as the tears start to flow more steadily. “I’m sorry.”

At first, he’s expecting to be scolded further, until his mother suddenly screams and he jerks in shock.

“Put it down!” she cries, dropping to her knees and covering her head.

His school bag is hovering in the air along with all the supplies inside, including a few pens and a pair of safety scissors.

“I didn’t…” he says, shaking his head as he puts both hands over his face.

“Go to your room,” she yells, her voice shrill and terrified.

He doesn’t have a chance to go to do anything, because he curls into himself, sliding to the floor and making himself as small as possible. Regardless, the lamps shake and the lights flicker, and his mother stumbles back.

“Katsuya! Stop it!” Now she’s crying too, and her body makes an ugly sound as she hits the doorframe at a wrong angle.

“No!” he cries, reaching out for her through his tears.

“Don’t touch me!” she shrieks.

She slowly slides to the ground across from him, clutching her arm, staring at him in terror. When he finally meets her eyes, he expects to see hatred and rage reflected in her eyes, but all he sees is an overwhelming sadness.

She takes a few deep breaths, and sets her jaw.

“I’m sorry I yelled at you,” she says, a tremor still in her voice, but she’s calmer even as the floor rumbles. “It’s okay, Katsuya. Just calm down, all right?”

He tries to use the breathing exercises the family counselor taught him when he has panic attacks (or at least, that’s what they call them without ever seeing it in person), and it does help somewhat.

The lights flicker back on, the lamps stop shaking, and his mother stands up on shaky legs. He knows her arm is hurt, and he tries not to look at it as she lets out a sharp sound of pain.

The ambulance comes, but he doesn’t go with her. And then he does go to his room, and he doesn’t come back out, not when she returns from the hospital, not when she brings him dinner, not when she actually asks him to come back out.

A few days later, she invites a family counselor over—one of many who will visit their house over the next fifteen years—and it makes everything worse.

“I’m going to bring someone to talk to you,” she says.

“I don’t want to talk to anyone,” he mumbles, shifting back against the wall his futon is shoved up against and bringing his knees up to his chest. He hasn’t opened the curtains since the night he broke his mother’s arm. “What good will that do?” He rests his forehead on his knees and gives a quiet, shuddery sigh.

The door squeaks open as she pushes it and takes a step inside, and he lets out a sharp, distressed noise. “No,” he says, and she retreats as soon as a few bottles flare to life, encased in that green aura he hates so much. “Stay out there. I think this is how it’s going to have to be if I don’t want to hurt anyone.”

She doesn’t argue, but leaves the door ajar.

Within the hour, he hears someone pull up to the house, the front door open, his mother’s voice; he already knows they’re going to ask about her arm, and he doesn’t even know what to say except to tell the truth. No one ever believes him, but for some reason, they keep making him say it.

And there the new one is, a stern looking man with a mustache and a briefcase. Counselors, as Serizawa has learned, come in all different flavors—from stern no-nonsense psychologists to therapists trying to help him get in touch with his feelings—and he doesn’t particularly like this one.

“What’s bothering you, Katsuya?” The man stays in the doorway at his mother’s urging.

“I have powers,” he says quietly, “that hurt people.”

The voice now seems disembodied as he presses himself against the wall out of sight, making himself as small as possible.

“I think that’s a bit unreasonable,” says the voice, “don’t you?”

“Yes,” he agrees, trying not to sniffle.

“Your mother has suffered a broken arm,” he says, and then the door opens slightly as two eyes watch him carefully from across the room.

“I’m sorry.”

“Did you hit her?” he asks. “You’re too old to be hurting women.”

“It’s my powers,” he blurts out.

“Okay.” The answer is simple, followed by a bunch of scribbled notes that Serizawa knows very well. “Your powers. Fine.”

The pen stops scribbling, and the door is pushed open a little more, light from the hallway slicing through the dark bedroom.

“Why don’t you come out of there?”

“No.”

“Well,” there’s a condescending chuckle, and Serizawa bites his lip, trying to push his emotions down, “you have to come out sometime. It seems you had a psychotic episode if you don’t even remember attacking your mother.”

But the second part of the counselor’s statement doesn’t even register as Serizawa hangs onto the first.

You have to come out sometime.

The solution suddenly seems very simple, and it’s been staring him in the face this entire time.

“I don’t have to come out,” he replies, “so, I won’t.”

There’s a short silence, and then the counselor finally abandons their conversation with a sigh; he can hear the tone of disapproval as the man chats with his mother in the kitchen, but Serizawa is relieved when he hears the front door close finally.

His mother doesn’t come back right away, but when she does, she brings him dinner and sets it on the desk next to the door.

“I’m sorry,” he whispers.

“I know it wasn’t your fault,” his mother says finally, her voice soft, “but sometimes sorry isn’t enough.”

*

Reigen tells him rambling stories when he’s drunk and in a good mood, and it's silly and entertaining. He leans against Serizawa when they catch a cab or the train together after one of the occasional nights they have drinks, though it’s becoming increasingly frequent.

One night, Reigen is leaning his head against Serizawa’s shoulder, mumbling about the technique of watering down drinks and how he’s learned the tricks of the trade to limit his so-called alcohol liability, and he turns his face just so.

He keeps talking, laughing a little into Serizawa’s ear so the driver can’t hear them, his mouth nearly pressed there so he can whisper his little story, his voice full of mirth, until the words turn into soft kisses.

The noise that Serizawa makes is embarrassing, soft and breathless, as his head tilts to the side reflexively.

He expects Reigen to pull away, come to his senses; but instead, there are more kisses.

“Love your neck, Katsuya,” Reigen slurs, bringing his hand up to brush over Serizawa’s throat, then a thumb stroking his cheekbone.

“Ah,” Serizawa moans, a bit louder now as Reigen kisses and nips at his earlobe, his eyes closing as the name slips out, “Arataka…”

He’s breathing hard, knowing he should stop this because Reigen is drunk and being ridiculous, but he can’t help the way his body heats up, how he craves those touches so badly. It’s humiliating really, how much he wants this, how Reigen is only willing to give it when he’s inebriated, maybe just so desperate and horny for some human contact that he’s decided Serizawa is worth it this way in this single moment.

“Katsuya,” Reigen moans softly, his entire body turning to press against Serizawa’s side, “oh, oh god…”

The cab suddenly stops, and they’re at Reigen’s apartment, and Serizawa pulls away quickly, aroused and unsure of what just happened, his traitorous heart pounding.

Reigen blinks, his face flushed and his eyes glassy, and then his eyebrows raise in an emotional expression Serizawa isn’t expecting.

“Please don’t go home,” he says simply.

Serizawa doesn’t.

As Serizawa helps him stumble in, Reigen apologizes for being obscene in a taxi, for being lecherous and a host of other things, but he doesn’t apologize for the kisses.

And he says, laid out on his bed in his clothes, about to fall asleep as Serizawa stands in the doorway holding a glass of water, “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you the right way, with flowers or something.”

He falls asleep quickly, and Serizawa sits on the edge of the bed for a while, hand resting against Reigen’s hair as he snores softly.

*

Serizawa’s mother makes a special dinner every year for his birthday, and every year, he makes a notch in the wood just inside his closet to keep track of how long he’s been in the room.

He forgets the significance of notch number eight, though, until his mother knocks on his door gently.

“Katsuya, it’s your birthday. Did you remember?”

The room is a disaster area, as it normally is, but he’s taken to keeping the bedside light on so he can read. The one thing that keeps him sane are his books and the internet, and even then, he doesn’t like talking to people.

“I remembered,” he sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose. His mother always insists he at least come out to the kitchen, and every year, even going that far seems terrifying. But every day that he continues without an outburst or seeing that hideous green glow makes it all worth it. He’s learned to exist this way.

“It’s a special one,” his mother says, waiting hesitantly at his door, as if she thinks this will be the year he finally refuses to come out at all. “It’s your twentieth. Come out here, I want to talk to you.”

He feels his anxiety spike, and a few items in the bedroom shake; but he takes a deep breath and wills his mind into submission, keeps his emotions flat.

But what he’s not expecting, as he trudges miserably into the kitchen, squinting in the natural light, is another visitor sitting at the table. It’s the girl from his last memory of being around other people, the incident that had gotten him into trouble—one of his few friends who he’d never seen or heard from her again after she’d switched schools. But there she is, sitting at the table.

He doesn’t feel uneasy as she stares at him, and he just sits down. His mother ignores her completely, making an ordeal out of the dish she’s made.

“Omurice,” she says, smiling at him through tired eyes, “your favorite.”

“Thanks, okaasan,” he says softly, then looks over at their guest. He swallows and takes a deep breath, knowing that whatever conversation she’d mentioned before, when she’d said she wanted to ‘talk to him,’ is about to unfold.

They sit down and eat quietly, and finally, she starts. “I think you should come out of there,” she says bluntly.

“Why?” he shrugs a little, staring down into his dish.

“You’re twenty now,” she insists, her voice laced with frustration, though she’s obviously keeping it under wraps for both his benefit and her own personal safety. “Don’t you want to go on dates, meet someone, have fun? It’s been years since you had an… incident.”

Serizawa sighs and looks at the girl sitting next to his mother who’s silent.

His mother’s cheerful tone is forced as she takes another bite of her dinner. “What about that childhood friend you had? That girl? What was her name?”

“The one who transferred schools?” he asks.

“Yes, that’s the one,” his mother continues on, “imagine if you wanted to ask her on a date. You could even get married now.”

“She died,” he says simply, leaning forward to take a large bite of his food and angle his face down.

His mother does a double-take, and then she frowns. “Why are you so sure?”

“I don’t think you want to know.”

The girl’s spirit flutters a little, like she’s laughing; he’s not sure whether it’s cruel or not. Spirits are nothing new to him, but this is the first one of someone he once knew. She’s unmistakable in her appearance.

“No,” she agrees carefully, “I probably don’t.”

“I’m not coming out,” he says definitively. “I haven’t had an incident because I haven’t been out, and that’s how it will stay.”

“Katsuya…” she starts, standing to collect his empty dish and rest a hand on his shoulder, “I really think—”

He flinches and jerks away without thinking about it; it’s like being burned, the unfamiliar touch of another person against his body.

When his aura flares up the slightest amount as his emotions rise, just that familiar terrifying color is enough to stop her from asking more questions.

The spirit girl follows him into his room, and she sits next to his bed staring at him, until she unexpectedly says, “Happy birthday, Katsuya. Before I leave, I needed to say I’m sorry.”

“For what?” he asks, lying down on his futon and hoping his mother won’t follow up to question why he’s talking to himself.

“For never saying goodbye,” she says simply. “You were a good friend. I hope you have more friends.”

Before he can say anything, she dissipates into the air.

The spirits never stick around long enough to befriend or get to know, but sometimes Serizawa is convinced that the only thing keeping his human mind sane are ghosts.

*

“Wow,” Reigen says, staring at Serizawa in shock, “this is amazing.”

They’re in Reigen’s tiny kitchen. There are dishes stacked on the counter, close to falling off since there’s very little counter space to begin with, and Serizawa is blushing faintly as Reigen eats the omurice.

“Um,” he says awkwardly, taking a few steps back even though his dish is waiting on the table across from Reigen, “happy birthday.”

“Oh my god,” Reigen groans from where he’s sitting at the table as Serizawa stands by, waiting for the verdict, “why have you been hiding this talent?”

Serizawa smiles a little and shrugs shyly. “My mom used to make it for me on my birthday.”

That gives Reigen pause, and he turns around to look up at Serizawa with a more sober expression. “Thank you,” he says, much more seriously than Reigen ever says anything, and the sincerity in his eyes is almost too much to bear.

He stands up suddenly, the scrape of the chair making Serizawa jump.

He motions for Serizawa to come closer, and just as he’s wondering why Reigen’s face is bright red, he finds himself pulled forward until they’re standing face to face.

Reigen gives a nervous smile, searching his face; but Serizawa stays put, too surprised to do anything except stare back.

“You…” he says, his voice uncharacteristically hesitant, “you haven’t even had a bite. Here.” He dips his spoon into the omurice and holds it up to Serizawa’s mouth. “Taste it. Food always tastes better once you’re not cooking anymore, and can enjoy it.”

Serizawa feels like his face is going to burn off as he opens his mouth to taste the omelette rice—to his own credit, it is pretty good—and he swallows hard.

Reigen swallows, too, as he slowly reaches out to rest two hands on Serizawa’s shoulders, and then leans in to kiss him.

Serizawa makes a soft sound in his throat as he slides his fingers up into Reigen’s hair, moving his mouth as he presses close. It’s as natural as breathing, no alcohol, no nerves once they’re there together, just self-evident.

It’s as natural as seeing ghosts—a strange thing to anyone else, but Reigen is part of the fabric of that world and all its strangeness.

Reigen pulls away first, and he’s smiling a little now, reaching up to run his thumb over Serizawa’s bottom lip.

“That’s a better way to do it, I think,” he says softly.

“I’m sure you do much more exciting things for your birthday than omelette rice,” Serizawa says with a nervous little laugh and a shrug.

“No, not really,” Reigen replies, and he looks very honest. “Never, in fact. Not even close.”

“I’m… I’m glad you like the food,” Serizawa says, casting his eyes down bashfully, but he doesn’t pull away. “Um, this is me, confessing,” he says frankly. He coughs, then stammers, “I mean, confessing to you.”

“With omelette rice,” Reigen deadpans, but his voice is very warm. “The best way to a man’s heart. Better than drunkenly copping a feel in a taxi, I’d say.”

Serizawa takes the opportunity to kiss him again—kiss the words right out of his mouth that are always there, wanting suddenly to render him as senseless as Reigen always manages to do to him—and it seemingly works when they just stand there eventually, holding each other.

*

At twenty-three, Serizawa finds stories about love strange, even though everyone on television and in books and movies seems obsessed with it.

He reads everything from the classics to contemporary fiction, from Shakespearean love sonnets to romance novels. It’s all rather fascinating yet surreal to think that people actually live these stories out. That men and women—and sometimes, men and men, and sometimes other genders altogether, depending on what Serizawa’s requested from the library that day—do these things with each other.

That people want such things. It all seems to be stories of drama and heartbreak, or perfect situations where people meet at exactly the right time, and go on to live full, meaningful lives.

Serizawa’s mother still asks, sometimes, if he wants to date, that maybe he can meet someone on the internet; as if this is life’s greatest goal and desire. The truth is, he isn’t sure how he feels about any of it. Even when he was still in school, and was just about to hit puberty, he hadn’t had any crushes.

Nothing is ever easy or natural with other people, much less falling in love in all the ways that Serizawa knows he never will, if the books and stories are anything to go by.

It occurs to him a bit later, though, that maybe they weren’t.

*

Serizawa learns that his favorite place to be touched is the small of his back.

Reigen touches him lots of places—the press of his body as he reads something over Serizawa’s shoulder, the fall of his hand on a knee when they ride the train together, the absent brush of fingers over the back of his neck—all readily given.

And even after touching extends to Reigen’s bedroom—Serizawa naked, head tipped back and spine arched, Reigen’s head between his legs coaxing out whimpers and moans—he still likes the weight of Reigen’s hand at the small of his back best. He likes the way it rests there, like it’s a natural place for a hand to go on another human being, a constant tether. He likes it even more when Reigen’s fingers absently trace the dip of his spine and then caress small circles there.

Serizawa learns, too, how these touches aren’t just the interaction of Reigen’s hand with his body, but also a conversation that other people can overhear.

It happens when he and Reigen meet his school friends for drinks one night.

They stand at the bar together, watching his classmates play pool, until Serizawa works up the courage to summon the bartender by himself. Reigen’s hand lands on the small of his back like it always does, and it still astounds Serizawa that Reigen likes to touch him so much, that it feels natural, as it never has with anyone else.

He practically jumps as he hears his name.

“Serizawa!” greets an enthusiastic classmate, leaning over the bar to motion for a beer, before turning to face them with an open, friendly expression. “And your…” the question trails off as the classmate looks back and forth between Reigen and Serizawa.

Serizawa looks over at Reigen in panic, his mouth opening and closing; Reigen takes in his expression, and then sticks out his hand. “I’m Reigen Arataka, Serizawa's business partner.”

The classmate’s eyes widen, and he immediately looks embarrassed as he sticks his hand out for Reigen to shake. “I’m sorry, I thought—”

Serizawa glances over at Reigen, and then he gets an encouraging smile and slight shrug, a clear signal that he’s leaving the choice of what to say to Serizawa.

“Yes,” he continues, trying to sound normal, “um, Reigen and I are also together… romantically.”

“Oh!” his classmate says, looking relieved with a new smile. “Great to meet you! I’m glad you came, Serizawa. It’s good to see you.” He grins, motioning at the pool tables. “Come play a round. Your friend looks like he’d be good at it!”

The beer appears on the counter as the classmate turns with a cordial nod to return to his game, and Serizawa stares down at the bar, fully aware his face is burning. But curling sweetly right alongside it is the unexpected heat of happiness.

“Does this mean,” Reigen says suddenly, his voice that irritating brand of smarminess that Serizawa secretly loves, “that I can do this now?” He smooths his hand up Serizawa's back, fingers sliding over the soft cotton t-shirt he’s wearing, and stops to rest at his neck before leaning in to press a soft kiss against his temple.

“Romantically?” he murmurs into Serizawa’s ear. “Is that the technical term the kids are using these days?”

Serizawa laughs softly, and he leans into Reigen and that reassuring touch in return.

He suddenly spots his classmate looking at them, and he’s smiling a little, the way that Serizawa’s seen people smile at happy couples.

If Serizawa had to describe Reigen like one of the books or poems he’d read so many years ago, he’d say that Reigen is a galaxy, all stars and swirls of pink hydrogen clouds that Serizawa orbits happily.

But in reality, outside books and stories and fiction, he’s just Arataka—a regular, real person with whom Serizawa has fallen deeply in love.

*

At twenty-seven, Serizawa has stopped leaving his room altogether. He doesn’t come out for his birthday, he barely comes out to bathe, and he keeps the lights off. He sits in the dark, staring at the wall. Sometimes, he still reads. His mother has brought more family counselors over, and they’ve all diagnosed him with different problems and disorders, prescribed him different medications.

He doesn’t remember what it’s like to have another human being close, until Suzuki Touichirou arrives; but then, he doesn’t have to, because he has the umbrella.

After a few weeks, he knows its shape better than he knows his own body—the hard plastic grip of the handle that fits the curve of his palm so perfectly, the metal pole and spring that opens the skeleton of it like wings, a dark starless canopy he can stare up into whenever he feels frightened by the loud, colorful world.

Serizawa traces its contours when he feels nervous—hard and smooth and reassuring—and he thinks he might be in love with it. He’s never been so fascinated with the edges of an object or a person, so comfortable touching and looking and holding.

He’s terrified that somehow, it’ll be taken away from him, like every other thing that’s ever brought him joy.

*

Reigen likes to trace his body in the dark.

They lie naked together in bed, watching shadows on the ceiling created by light filtering in from the street, and Reigen drags fingers over every contour.

It always starts at his collar bones—a fingertip tracing each side separately—before following his sternum down to inventory each rib, then slides down to his belly, caressing over the jut of his hipbones and flat stomach.

He makes a contented sound against Reigen’s hair where he’s pressed his face, Reigen’s head resting comfortably in the crook of his shoulder.

“Tell me a story,” Reigen murmurs softly, sounding completely relaxed. “I don’t know any of your stories, and you know all of mine.”

Serizawa laughs a little, but catches Reigen’s hand and twines their fingers.

“I don’t have any funny stories,” Serizawa replies with a shrug.

The truth is that any memory that’s made him laugh has Reigen in it, and there’s no use in storytelling if the other person already knows what’s going to happen.

“It doesn’t have to be funny,” Reigen replies with a yawn. “I just want to hear you tell one.” He rubs their bare feet together, seeming to revel in the contact, and curls closer to Serizawa.

“Well,” Serizawa starts, stalling, “um…”

“Hm?” Reigen hums. Serizawa is secretly hoping maybe he’ll fall asleep and abandon his request, but he’s fully awake, waiting.

“I used to build models,” he blurts out. “Like, the mecha fighting robot ones.”

That earns a surprised sound from Reigen, and then a soft laugh. “Models, huh? Which type was your favorite?”

Serizawa immediately heats, but he knows Reigen isn’t laughing at him. “I liked the ones with wings,” he replies, and then starts laughing, too. It’s a foreign sound sometimes, to laugh like this with another person, easy and relaxed.

“And when I first joined Claw,” he continues, suddenly lost in a memory, “I met Shimazaki and Minegishi, and they asked me to tell a joke.”

He realizes suddenly how casually he’s talking about the past to his own surprise, but Reigen is just quietly listening.

“What’d you say?” he prompts.

“I didn’t say anything! Do you really think I knew any jokes?” he replies emphatically, letting out a little huff of laughter. “Afterward, Hatori told me he liked building models, too.”

It’s a little strange, to talk about his former Super Five this way, but for once, it’s not unpleasant. It actually feels okay.

“There you go,” Reigen replies softly, “a funny story.”

“Yeah,” Serizawa says, feeling a little surprised at himself.

“Katsuya?”

“Hm?” Serizawa replies, feeling tired himself now.

“All of my best stories have you in them.”

Serizawa’s throat tightens, and he brings his hand up to stroke through Reigen’s hair.

“Me too,” he whispers.

*

Serizawa hasn’t been around other people in fifteen years when he first meets the other four espers that Suzuki tells him he’ll be working with.

“Serizawa has joined us from less than favorable circumstances,” Touichirou tells all of them at the end of his welcome party. “Make him feel welcome and be sure not to sneak up on him. He’s the most powerful out of all of you.”

First, there’s Shimazaki, who seems relatively well adjusted except for his weird sense of humor.

“Don’t mind Minegishi,” Shimazaki says a few days after Serizawa’s welcome party, “they’re kind of a shit sometimes.”

“Uh,” Serizawa replies, “okay.”

“So, what’s up with you,” he asks bluntly, and Serizawa can suddenly feel an invasive aura investigating, and he gasps.

It feels like being burned, and he instinctually jerks back into his own psychic space hard with a panicked, sharp breath.

“Whoa,” Shimazaki says, his expression shocked, “most people can’t pull away from me that fast.”

“Sorry,” Serizawa says nervously, taking a few steps back, feeling himself break into a cold sweat. He clutches his umbrella compulsively. “I didn’t mean to offend you, uh…”

“No offense taken, man,” Shimazaki grins, facing Serizawa with a seemingly good-natured shrug. “Sorry for the aura groping. It’s just how I see.”

Serizawa feels another poke that makes him stiffen, and then Shimazaki starts laughing. “Never had your aura touched?” For a moment, he feels mortified, until he really looks at Shimazaki, his expression and the way his aura is hovering there, and realizes it’s friendly.

“I’d never met another esper until the president came and got me,” Serizawa says honestly.

Shimazaki looks surprised by this, eyebrows raising as he rubs the back of his head. “Wild,” he replies, then shrugs. “I’m Shimazaki Ryou, by the way.”

“Serizawa Katsuya,” Serizawa says, looking away self-consciously until he realizes that Shimazaki can’t see him.

“Go ahead, shove me in the aura. It’s fun, like arm wrestling.”

To his own surprise, Serizawa laughs a little. It’s a strange sound; it’s been a very long time since he laughed at anything.

He reassesses: Shimazaki is crazy, but he likes him very much.

Second is Shibata, whose primary power seems to be sprouting giant muscles he can control through will alone.

“So, you like working out?” Shibata asks one afternoon as he sits down next to Serizawa for lunch, eyeing him up and down curiously. “I’ve got a real nice set-up downstairs if you like lifting. Or are you more of a free weights guy?”

“Uh…” he stammers, practically knocking his bento box off the table, “I don’t know anything about weights or um, working out.”

“Great!” Shiabata says, apparently unfazed by Serizawa’s awkward demeanor, “I’ll spot you if you want to try.”

Serizawa agrees, figuring that new experiences now that he’s back in society are probably a good idea.

Shibata is very serious about the entire ordeal when Serizawa shows up to the organization’s extensive training gym.

It takes Serizawa exactly five minutes to decide that weight lifting is not for him. He nearly drops the barbell on his first try, even though he knows there’s not that much weight on it, and Shibata grabs it. Their fingers brush, but when Serizawa jerks in surprise at the contact, Shibata barely acknowledges it; it happens a few more times, but he still doesn’t say anything.

Finally, though, at the end of their session, he says, apropos of nothing, “I’m not a touchy-feely guy either. Messes up my muscles." He shrugs. "C’mon, I’ll start you on some protein shakes. You have to bulk up! They know me at the juice bar, so just drop my name if you don’t want to say who you are.”

Who I am?” Serizawa replies with wide eyes, confused at the idea that he’s someone.

“You’re part of the Super Five,” Shibata says rationally. “Everyone knows who we are in this place in theory, but I like to keep a low profile if I can. I just want to work out and be left alone, but you’re welcome to join me anytime.”

Serizawa follows him out, too stunned by the idea he may actually have something like a friend to reply.

He even tries a few protein shakes.

Hatori is the third, though he’s more quiet than the first two, as well as the youngest.

“So,” he says one morning from behind Serizawa, making him jump, “psychokinetic energy, huh?”

Serizawa is sitting on the roof a few weeks after his first day, curled up in his cardigan with his umbrella across his lap, when he turns sharply to see Hatori standing there. His face is unreadable behind his glasses, and Serizawa jumps up.

“I’m sorry, am I in your way?” he asks nervously, fully planning on leaving, until Hatori holds up his hand and shakes his head.

“No, it’s fine,” he replies, “don’t freak.”

“Oh, uh…”

“Why are you up here?” he asks curiously.

Serizawa isn’t sure whether to answer the first question at all, so he goes for both. “Um, yes, my power is psychokinetic—or at least that’s what the president called it—and I’m up here to see the sunrise.” Serizawa shrugs a little, tightening his grip on the umbrella. “He told me I should try to get used to the sky.”

“Get used to the sky?” Hatori asks, eyebrows raising.

“I hadn’t seen the sky in a long time,” Serizawa says simply with a shrug. “I’m still adjusting.”

“So, what can you do?” Hatori asks with interest, sitting down where Serizawa just had been, offering him to return as he pats the ground next to him.

“With my umbrella, I can aim at things,” he says. “Uh, I guess destroy them. I can also defend against attacks.”

“Cool,” Hatori says with a nod, and he seems completely fascinated and unafraid, which compels Serizawa to slowly sit down again. “I can’t destroy anything, but I can control electronics.”

“Control?” Serizawa asks, curiosity piqued despite himself.

“Yup,” Hatori gives a slight boyish grin as he leans back on his hands, “anything. Phones, TVs, computers, helicopters, you name it.”

“How does that work?”

He shrugs and laughs through his nose. “No idea. I guess I picked the right era to have this power, huh? Otherwise, I wouldn’t be of much use to the boss.”

“I’m not sure I should have been born into any era,” Serizawa blurts out, then thinks better of it. He’s still getting the hang of what are appropriate topics of conversation.

“Wow,” Hatori whistles, “that’s morbid. But why would you wish away your own existence?”

That throws Serizawa for a loop, especially at how calmly the words are delivered. “I… well, I hurt people.”

“Well, you don’t hurt people now,” he replies logically, adjusting his glasses.

“O-okay,” Serizawa stammers, but he takes a deep breath, and holds out his hand. Handshakes. That’s what people do. “I’m Serizawa.”

“Sorry, I don’t shake,” Hatori says, “but it’s nice to meet you properly.”

“You don’t shake?”

“Nah, I’m a germophobe. I only touch properly sanitized electronics.” He gives another grin that makes him look much younger. “Weirdly enough, I actually like fixing electronics by hand more than I do controlling them. Call it a tinkering hobby. Kept me busy enough as a kid to avoid throwing the entire country into chaos when someone pissed me off at school.”

“I like building models,” Serizawa blurts out, and then feels himself flush a little. “It’s a hobby, I guess, though it never really prevented any damage. I just did it when I was bored, which was always.”

“Where’d you do that?” Hatori asks curiously.

“My room.”

“All the time?”

“All the time,” Serizawa confirms with a nod. “For years. I haven’t really seen the sky since I was twelve.”

“Oh, wow,” Hatori says, his voice laced with something that Serizawa immediately thinks is pity, but then realizes is empathy. “Well,” he hazards, eyeing Serizawa as if assessing his trustworthiness, “I wasn’t allowed to be near computers or phones by court order until I… well, until the boss picked me up. Which basically meant I wasn't allowed to be around anyone my own age, go to school, or have any fun.”

“The president saved you, too,” Serizawa concludes with a little smile of gratefulness.

“I guess,” he replies with a shrug. “I think the sun is supposed to come up in about ten minutes.”

Serizawa stands, trying not to look over the edge of the building or too far into the horizon. “I don’t think I can wait,” he says bluntly. “I’ve had enough.”

“Too much sky?” Hatori guesses.

Serizawa nods. “It always looks a lot bigger once it starts to get lighter.”

Hatori gives him a little salute as Serizawa makes his way downstairs to his company apartment, and then his phone buzzes unexpectedly.

The screen turns on from sleep mode, and to his surprise, what looks like a television channel appears on it with the chatter of panicked voices in the background.

“The news chopper has been hijacked,” a female reporter is saying. “Please hold for technical difficulty, and we’ll continue our traffic report in a moment.”

Serizawa smiles a little as he realizes that the camera is pointed at the sunrise, and he watches the sky lighten from the safety of his own bedroom.

He spends a lot of mornings after that with Hatori on the roof.

The fourth, and last esper he meets, is Minegishi, who he finds absolutely terrifying.

Maybe it’s because his other introductions were pleasantly refreshing, that the others he’ll be working with are unexpectedly kind, more like him, possibly even friends, which is all he’s ever wanted.

But Minegishi doesn’t seem interested in being Serizawa’s friend. They watch Serizawa carefully with the eyes of a coldblooded creature—though, to be fair, Minegishi seems to watch everything carefully—with that flat gaze and unemotional expression.

“I don’t trust you,” they say bluntly to Serizawa in the hallway one day.

Serizawa does a double-take, given that he’s grown accustomed to cordiality, and his eyes widen, panic rushing through him.

“Um, I…” he stutters, staring at Minegishi who just stares through him. “Why?”

“Why?” Minegishi latches onto this, as if they’ve been waiting for the opportunity to answer. “Because you look like you’d turn tail and run the first moment things went to shit.”

“What do you mean?” Serizawa asks, having no idea what Minegishi is talking about.

That seems to throw them for a loop, and they blink at Serizawa with a slight frown. “You’d leave,” they say, “turn and run away, if we had a fight on our hands.”

Anger surges in Serizawa unexpectedly, and his aura puffs out around him; he doesn’t mean to let it out, but once it’s out, it’s cloying and dark. “I’m loyal to the president,” he says, trying to keep his voice from wavering with the emotion he’s feeling. “I’d die before I’d abandon him. I’d never run.”

Minegishi looks surprised, like they weren’t expecting this, eyes traveling from Serizawa’s visible aura up to his face, then over to the umbrella; something seems to click, and they take a step back.

“No one really knows how powerful you are, do they?” they inquire plainly. “I can feel it. My plants can feel it. Even the nettles are trembling.”

“Plants?” Serizawa asks, distracted by this, and slowly he calms down and doesn’t have to open the umbrella to control it. Instead, he redirects his energy, as he’s learned to do since arriving, and pokes around Minegishi’s aura.

“Get the hell out of there,” Minegishi hisses at him, but now they look more dryly amused than angry. “I didn’t say you could go poking around in my aura.”

“I’m sorry!” Serizawa exclaims, nervous again. “I… I’m still learning!”

Minegishi sighs, tilting their head, studying Serizawa; he just stares back, and then finally, a few vines curl up behind their shoulder like a friendly pet.

“Oh,” Serizawa says, his eyes wide as he looks at the vines, wanting to get closer. “Plants.”

“Plants,” Minegishi echoes, rolling their eyes a little. “Lots of plants. These ones are poisonous.”

“What other ones do you have?” Serizawa asks, excited despite himself. “Can you do dandelions? No, wait!” he says, enamored with this power. “Daffodils?”

“I’m not a magic show,” Minegishi replies tartly, but if anything, they look downright amused now, if not a little baffled.

“I know!” Serizawa says enthusiastically with a smile he knows looks stupid, but he likes plants and always has. It’s one of the few living entities he ever had near him when he was in his room, and the one reason he’d open the curtains to let little slivers of sunlight in.

Minegishi gives a long-suffering sigh and roll of their eyes—the most expressive gesture Serizawa has seen them make yet—and immediately a bundle of daffodils open near the vines they’d said were poisonous.

Serizawa just watches in awe. “Is it all right if I take one?” he asks, not wanting to intrude.

“You’re out there,” Minegishi replies, shaking their head in disbelief as they pluck a few daffodils and hand them to Serizawa. “You really are a nice guy, aren’t you, though? Why are you here?”

“I told you,” Serizawa replies, “the president rescued me, and this is how I’m working my way back into society without accidentally killing anyone. That’s why I have this umbrella.” He smells the daffodils and smiles. “Thank you.”

Minegishi studies him for a moment, squinting, and then their face relaxes. “Do you even know how to tell a joke?” they ask simply.

“Um, not really.”

Minegishi grabs his arm and pulls him toward the staff cafeteria with a huff of indignation. “If you want to be normal, let’s start there.”

“You like jokes, Minegishi?”

“Of course not. It’s just a necessary life skill.”

Three years later, Serizawa still likes to touch the flower petals of Minegishi’s plants; he becomes Serizawa's first close friend.

They all know Serizawa doesn’t fit in, even though he desperately wants to. Minegishi seems to know why, because they always say, you’re too kind, Katsuya.

And one night, Minegishi comes back from an assignment that gets them covered in blood. Serizawa’s lip trembles as he helps to dress their wound, asks if they’re all right, and Minegishi reaches out to catch his hand. “I’ll never let anything bad happen to you,” they murmur.

Serizawa isn't sure where the words come from, but he wants to tell them that the only bad things that ever happen aren’t to him, but to the people he touches.

He unrolls the bandages and dollops out antiseptic cream because most of Minegishi’s injuries are minor but ugly, tiny bits of debris from when the bomb hit the building, and he can pull out the fragments easily with his own power since they’re so shallow.

He’s almost sure Minegishi is delirious and is about to call the in-house medics even after the wounds are cleaned up, because they say, looking very sad, “Katsuya, don’t be afraid to betray people.”

He just smiles a little, shakes his head, and squeezes Minegishi’s hand.

“I don’t think I need to worry about that.”

*

Serizawa wakes up with a violent start, his aura hovering tensely and half the objects in the room floating as soft morning light pours in from the window.

“You’re safe, Katsuya,” says a soft voice, and then he registers two arms around him, fingers winding through his hair.

“Why didn’t you wake me up?” he says, his voice cracking as he realizes where he is.

“I couldn’t,” Reigen replies quietly. “I tried. You were having a nightmare.”

Serizawa bites his lip, and sighs heavily. He rarely has bad dreams anymore, but when he does, it never ends well.

“Did I break anything?”

“Only the mirror, which I break every morning when I look into it.” Reigen waits for a beat, then adds, “No, I’m lying. It’s because I’m so handsome that the mirror can’t handle it.”

Serizawa groans, but he’s relieved to hear the cheesy commentary, and rolls over to press his face into Reigen’s chest. His t-shirt smells good, distinctly Reigen and laundry detergent, emblazoned with that hideous face, and Serizawa feels a kiss on top of his head along with the fingers still stroking.

“Shitty way to start the morning,” Reigen remarks quietly. “You okay?”

Serizawa rubs his foot against Reigen’s shin and nods wordlessly, and he can feel Reigen smile at the motion.

“I’ll make your tea and my coffee.”

“We’re going to be late,” Serizawa says hesitantly, but makes absolutely no move to get up.

“We own the business,” Reigen replies, laughing softly.

“Still.” Serizawa smiles a little to himself. “I was late on my first day, and I don’t think my first boss will ever forgive me.”

“Fuck him,” Reigen says, a grin in his voice, “you have to eat breakfast. I’m not gonna let you starve.”

Serizawa closes his eyes with a soft sigh, inhaling deeply before settling against Reigen again.

“I know.”