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The Way Through

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An alarm went off in Spirits and Such, breaking the silence. All three of the employees working there looked up from their various distractions.

“Oh, sorry, that’s me.” Serizawa got up and went to the source of the alarm, his phone. He turned it off with a swipe of his finger. “That’s to remind me I’ve got class.”

“Already?” Reigen tapped on his keyboard. “What time is it?”

“Almost 4:30. I’m going to get there a little early to check answers on this homework we had.”

“Ah.” Reigen nodded slowly.

Serizawa packed up his things as the clock ticked on monotonously. Mob watched from where he was seated at his “desk” as he put books and papers away. His large, black eyes tracked Serizawa’s movements impassively.

“Did you remember the stuff you had on the desk at home?” Reigen asked. He remembered there being some schoolwork left around the apartment.

“Yes, I’m pretty sure.”

“Okay, good. I meant to say something but forgot about it. Sorry.”

“Thanks anyway.”

With all of his things stored away, Serizawa went over to Reigen’s desk, leaned across, and kissed Reigen on the temple.

“See you at home,” he said.

Reigen pushed his chair out from under the desk. “Hey, give me a proper kiss.”

Serizawa laughed. “Was the last one insufficient?”

He came around to the other side of the desk and, gently tipping Reigen’s chin up with his hand, placed another short kiss on his lips. Afterward, Reigen smiled.

“Better,” he said. “See you later, Katsuya. Love you.”

“Love you too, Arataka,” Serizawa said. He was also smiling, with a light blush across his face. With a certain spring in his step, he headed for the door. On the way, he waved to Mob.

“Goodbye, Shigeo-kun,” he said.

“Goodbye,” Mob replied.

Meanwhile, Reigen sat back in his chair, still smiling like an idiot. He and Serizawa had been dating for almost a year already, had moved in together and everything, and the man still managed to make him feel like his heart would float up out of his mouth. He idly twirled a pen between his fingers, savoring his boyfriend’s words: love you too, Arataka. He loved how his first name sounded in Serizawa’s voice—

At that moment, he inadvertently made eye contact with Mob. Mob’s eyes widened and he looked away. Reigen slammed the pen down and feigned a cough, suddenly embarrassed. I can’t believe I did that in front of Mob! It wasn’t like Mob didn’t know, but still. Was it unprofessional to kiss his boyfriend-slash-employee in front of his student-slash-employee? It was a good thing that he ran his own company, otherwise he might have to fire himself. Wait, no, that didn’t make any sense—

“Um… shishou?”

Reigen sat up straight in his chair and resumed his typing, trying to make it look like he’d been working the whole time.

“Hm?” he said. “Yeah, Mob?”

“Can I ask you something?”

Reigen bit his lip. This couldn’t be good. Was it going to be something about him and Serizawa? He hoped it wasn’t too awkward of a question.

“Yes, go ahead,” he said, bracing himself.

“…where is Tome today?”

Reigen sighed. “She said she had a group project for school and had a lot of work to do. I let her off because I knew today would be slow. If she’s smart she’ll use the extra time to work on her homework.” But then again, knowing Tome… well, it wasn’t any of his business.

“Oh. Okay.”

Silence reigned again, but not for long.

“Can I ask another question?”

“Yeah, sure,” Reigen said. He reached for his tea, which Serizawa had made before he left. It was probably cooled down to just about the right temperature now, so he wasn’t afraid to take a sip—

“How did you know that you liked men?”

Reigen spit his tea out in surprise, splattering his laptop.

“Oh, shit—” He grabbed some tissues from the box on his desk. He furiously wiped at the screen and keyboard, hoping that nothing was permanently damaged.

“Are you okay?” Mob asked.

“What? Yes!” Reigen hastily threw the tissues into the trash. “I’m sorry about that— what did you ask, again?”

“Um. I asked how you knew that you liked men.”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” Reigen grumbled.

“What?”

“Nothing!” He closed his laptop with a resounding clap. “It’s just— it’s… not an easy question!”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Mob said. “You don’t have to answer it.”

Reigen was tempted to take him up on that offer, but another part of him resisted. Mob was at a weird age, an age that Reigen still remembered pretty well himself. Of course he had these types of questions, and Reigen didn’t want to make it seem like it was a bad thing to talk about. And in addition, what kind of teacher would Reigen be if he didn’t at least try to answer?

He rose from his desk chair with a sigh and went around to the front, where he leaned against the desk while standing. He folded his arms.

“Here’s the thing,” he said. “It wasn’t like a realization I had one day, you know. It was… it took time. It just made sense, looking back at my life and the feelings I’d always had. And there came a point when I thought, well, this is who I am. Does that make sense?”

“Um—“ Mob ducked his head a little bit, his awkwardness more than evident. He avoided looking at Reigen directly, and his face was slightly flushed with self-consciousness. “How, um, how old were you? When you… accepted it?”

“I didn’t give myself a label or anything until I was in high school,” Reigen said. “But the feelings were there before that. Like, when all the other boys started getting crushes on girls— I didn’t see what the big deal was. And when people started getting older and making confessions and dating, I wasn’t really a part of it. For the longest time I thought it was just because nobody interested me. But eventually, I realized that there were people who interested me— but they weren’t girls. I was probably… I don’t know, thirteen? That was when I started to get a grip on it.”

“Oh,” Mob said. He furrowed his brows, and seemed to be deep in thought. Meanwhile, Reigen tried to keep his cool.

Is he questioning his own sexuality? he wondered. That must be it. Why else would he ask? He wondered what brought it on. Reigen knew he’d had a significant crush on a girl for a long time— had that changed? Well, it didn’t really matter. He knew better than to try and guess what was going on in Mob’s head. Just try to be supportive, Arataka.

“You know, it’s not something that you have to declare,” he said carefully. “It can be confusing, trust me. Scary, even.”

“Were you scared?” Mob asked.

That nearly took the wind out of Reigen. Jesus, what a question! Now that Mob didn’t have so much trouble expressing himself, he could really hit hard. These were the types of questions that the old Mob never would’ve dared to speak aloud. The opening up was a good thing, but… whew.

“Yeah,” Reigen said. “For a long time, I was. And sometimes when I meet new people, I get scared again, because I don’t know how they’re going to react if they find out. But I’m happier knowing it and accepting it for what it is, you know? You’ve got to accept yourself.”

Mob nodded thoughtfully, and Reigen exhaled. He’d said something right, thank God. He just had to keep that up. He uncrossed his arms, opting instead to grip the edges of the desk, and leaned forward slightly.

“Is there something going on that you want to talk about?” he asked, as gently as he could. He couldn’t help having a note of teasing creep into his voice, though. “Or— someone, maybe?”

“Um.” Mob looked down. “I…”

“What about Tsubomi-chan? You still talk on the phone?”

“Yeah,” Mob said. “But it’s not… it’s really not like that. It’s… someone else.”

“Someone else?”

Mob nodded. “A boy… asked me on a date.”

“You got asked on a date? That’s a good thing!”

“I don’t know if I should go.”

“Why not? It’s the spring of your youth, Mob! I mean— do you like him?”

“I don’t know,” Mob said, sounding strained. “I thought I only liked girls because of Tsubomi-chan, but the more I think about it…”

“It’s okay to be unsure,” Reigen said helpfully. “And it’s okay if you like boys and girls. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. There’s so much more to it than just those two.”

He considered it, but decided not to get into a rant about the gender binary. Maybe another day.

“Really?” Mob considered Reigen’s words carefully.

“Yeah, of course,” Reigen said. “It doesn’t matter who you like. What’s important is that you like him— and that you stay safe, obviously.”

He definitely was not going to get into a different rant about “safety” and everything that entailed.

“I have one more question, shishou,” Mob said.

“Okay, shoot,” Reigen said. Nothing could catch him off guard now.

“How did you know you loved Serizawa?”

Reigen choked a little. It seemed he was wrong about not being caught off guard.

“Now, let’s not throw that word around,” he said quickly.

“You told him you loved him before he left,” Mob pointed out.

“Yeah, but it’s weird when you say it like that!” He sighed in exasperation. “Okay, yes. I love Serizawa. I don’t know…” 

Reigen thought back. He remembered their first “date”, or rather the first time that he and Serizawa had gotten drinks together after work. They’d been so stiff at first, almost like they were dancing around each other, seeing how close they could get without touching. Before then, they only really talked about work and school and other safe things. But that night, Serizawa had told him about his mother, how he was thinking about going back to see her after all this time, of how he hoped she would finally be proud of him. Reigen could relate to that. So they talked about it, and it was like peeling back the first of many layers that constituted the barrier between them.

A few times later, Serizawa had actually asked Reigen to go on a date, one that wasn’t just because they were coworkers. Reigen remembered feeling like he’d waited a million years for that moment. Instead of parting ways after a few drinks, as they usually did, they wandered to the park together and talked until long after the sun was gone. They ended up watching the stars all night, and spending the next day at work desperately trying to stay awake, shyly stealing glances and all together feeling like kids playing some kind of game.

The next date— Reigen didn’t remember how, or when, or who started it. It was the end of the night, and Serizawa was taking Reigen home (ever the gentleman as he was). They were laughing about something meaningless when suddenly he was kissing Serizawa, or Serizawa was kissing him, he wasn’t sure. It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered. They stumbled into Reigen’s apartment, and the rest of the night was a blur of anxiety and pleasure mixed in a way that he almost couldn’t understand. How could something so awkward and embarrassing be so right and good? He didn’t know, but it was.

But it wasn’t the drinks, or the dates, or the sex, that kept Reigen coming back. It was Serizawa. It didn’t matter where they were or what they were doing— if Serizawa was there, Reigen knew he was in the right place. Even if it was a crappy apartment at two in the morning, the both of them slightly hungover, all he had to do was smile sleepily in the moonlight and Reigen wouldn’t leave if the place was on fire. Life could throw anything at him and he knew he’d be okay. Even if it hurt, he would be okay. Sometimes he wondered if his relationship was just an escape from the world, but then he realized: It wasn’t that Serizawa was an escape— no, he was the way through.

“I love Serizawa because he makes the good things great and the bad things better,” Reigen said finally. “I knew I loved him when I realized that no matter what happened, I would be thankful for him. Even if we’re not together forever, the fact that we’re together now means everything to me.”

He fell silent. Mob looked up at the ceiling, his bangs almost in his eyes, like he was watching Reigen’s words in the air. For a moment, the office was quiet.

Finally, Mob spoke.

“I don’t really get it,” he said. “But I’m happy for you, shishou.”

Reigen sighed, releasing a breath that he hadn’t known he was holding.

“You’ll understand eventually,” he said. “Just find someone that you like to spend time with and start there. Don’t worry about all the other stuff yet. You’re still young.”

“Someone I like to spend time with…” Mob nodded. “Okay. I do get that.”

“Progress!” Reigen declared, putting his fist down on the desk. Mob smiled— a small smile, but a smile nonetheless.

Reigen smiled too. He couldn’t wait to see Serizawa again tonight.


 

About a week later, Mob had another question.

“Is it okay if I leave a little early today?” he asked near the end of his shift.

“For what?” Reigen asked.

“I, uh… I have that date I was telling you about.”

“Really?” Reigen smirked. “All right, all right. But just this once. How early are we talking?”

“Not too early. Fifteen minutes, maybe? He’s going to meet me here, if that’s okay.”

Reigen made a mental note to clean up a little, for Mob’s sake. “Sure, sure. He’s welcome to the office whenever we don’t have clients.”

“He already knows that, shishou.”

“He already… what?” Reigen looked up from his work. “Mob, do I know him?”

Mob nodded nonchalantly. “Yes, shishou.”

“Well— who is it?”

At that moment, the door opened. Reigen raised his eyebrows at Mob. Could it be the mystery guy…?

Teruki Hanazawa appeared around the corner, his school bag hung over his shoulder in his habitual way. His hair had gotten long enough that he was able to secure it back with a small ponytail, a look that probably would not have gone over well on anybody else but him. He waved to Reigen. “Hi, Reigen-san.”

Reigen nodded to him. Oh, it’s just Teru. He was hoping to catch a glimpse of Mob’s date. “Hey, Teru. You here to fill in for Mob? I appreciate it, but for fifteen minutes it’s really not necessary—“

“I’m actually here to pick Kageyama-kun up,” Teru said. “I’m a little early.”

Reigen blinked, putting the pieces together in his head. A boy that Reigen knew was coming to take Mob out… now, here was Teru…

Reigen looked at Mob. He was blushing.

“Um,” Mob said. “Hanazawa-kun is the one taking me out, shishou.”

What!? Reigen was in utter shock. He hadn’t thought that Mob and Teru had that kind of relationship— though he supposed it made sense, looking back… He couldn’t believe he hadn’t guessed.

“You didn’t tell him?” Teru asked.

“I forgot,” Mob said sheepishly. “Sorry, shishou. I didn’t mean to keep it a secret.”

“I— well!” Reigen cleared his throat. “No, this is great! I mean— I hope it’s great!”

Mob smiled gratefully at Reigen. Teru extended his hand to Mob.

“Shall we, then?” he asked.

“Mm-hm,” Mob said, taking Teru’s hand. Reigen couldn’t help but grin at the two of them. Two of his kids… Mob and Teru… well. He was happy for them.

About two minutes later, Serizawa returned to the office with two coffees.

“Hey, Arataka,” he said. “Did Shigeo and Teruki just leave? I saw them on my way up, and I could’ve sworn they were—“

“Holding hands?” Reigen shook his head. “Apparently they’re dating now.”

“Oh, finally,” Serizawa said. He set a coffee down for Reigen and took a sip of his own.

Reigen regarded both the coffee and Serizawa skeptically. “What do you mean, finally?”

“Well, it seemed to me like those two have been hovering around each other for a while now,” Serizawa said. “You haven’t noticed?”

“They’ve always been like that,” Reigen said. “I thought it was friendly.”

“With how often Teru compliments Shigeo? Or how much time they spend together?”

“Friends do that!”

Serizawa shook his head, smiling. “Greatest psychic of the twenty-first century, huh?”

“Oh, be quiet!”

“Can’t even predict when his student has an obvious crush.”

“Katsuya!”

Serizawa laughed. “I’m sorry, Taka. You know I can’t help but tease you.”

He leaned over the desk and tried to kiss Reigen’s forehead. Reigen intercepted him, guiding his kiss down to his lips. Serizawa hummed and complied.

“What do you say we take a page out of their book and close up early for a date?” Reigen murmured. “It’s Friday, nobody else is coming in at this time.”

“What, are you looking for an escape from work?” Serizawa asked teasingly.

Reigen smiled and kissed him again.

“No,” he said. “Just a way through.”