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Serizawa’s first kiss is with one of his classmates.

It’s unexpected, but nice. It happens during a study group when they end up breaking off into pairs.

The guy jerks back after he brushes Serizawa’s lips lightly, looking horrified and already apologizing, until Serizawa just smiles and kisses back. It feels good, and he’s delighted that someone actually wants to kiss him, someone who seems nice and who he finds attractive insofar as he defines attraction.

They kiss for a little while behind a bookshelf, and the guy gets a little handsy, blushing and apologizing even as he slides his fingers up under Serizawa’s shirt shyly.

Serizawa blushes too but murmurs it’s okay, that he likes it, though they finally calm down after a librarian with a suspicious eye passes and they pretend they’re reading a very thick book in a language neither of them speaks.

They say goodnight. He texts Serizawa the next day, asking if he wants to go out some time.

They do go out, the conversation is terribly stilted, and they kiss goodnight with a few caresses that Serizawa enjoys.

This is how he learns that kissing and talking are not mutually exclusive attractions.

The next time he kisses someone, it’s at a bar. He goes with two friends from school, since he doesn’t “go out” much. But since the idea is exactly what he’s always wanted to do—socialize the way normal people do—he agrees, at least to try it.

He gets a little drunk without meaning to, and registers he probably should’ve learned a lesson from watching Reigen drink the few times they’ve gone out to a bar after work.

Someone kisses him whose name he doesn’t remember, and then they end up in the dark corridor that leads to the restrooms. There are two hands all over him—curving around his waist and sliding lower—quick and wanting.

Some part of him wants, too. Serizawa thinks he’d like sex if he was ever given the opportunity, but he’s also old enough to know what appeals or doesn’t appeal to him, and he knows almost immediately this isn’t for him.

He says no; there’s no hassle as he pulls away.

He learns later that people enjoy this sort of thing. In theory, he can see the thrill—has even read novels with such moments, so common they’re almost cliché—but goes with his gut in the long run.

He decides that kissing is something he’d prefer to do with someone he really knows, though he’s still not sure if the talking part even matters.

One of his favorite people to talk to is Reigen; or at least, listen to Reigen talk.

This listener/speaker relationship has evolved over the last year and a half he’s been at Spirits and Such. On his first day, he was awed by Reigen. Then, a very short time later, he was skeptical of the advice and claims that came pouring out of Reigen’s mouth. And then, eventually, when he got past the man, the myth, and the legend, he found that he likes the timbre of Reigen’s voice.

He likes how it sounds when Reigen exhales cigarette smoke and says something he’s been thinking about, something real he hasn’t planned, an exclamation straight off the hotplate of his brain into the world of words.

He likes when Reigen reassures him, even when he’s faking it and knows nothing about what Serizawa’s worried about, like tests and math and how to talk to people; because the reassurances aren’t intended for anything other than support.

And ironically, despite how much Reigen talks, and how much Serizawa listens, he’s keenly aware that Reigen often has no idea what to say.

So maybe he can kiss someone he doesn’t know well, but still listen to Reigen talk. Maybe he could be happy that way. Maybe that’s just how life is.

Yet in less lucid moments—half-dreaming in the early morning or the few times he’s been drunk—he imagines kissing Reigen between the words.

However, even though Serizawa knows that Reigen’s love life isn’t spectacular, what is true is that he’s popular with women, if clients are any indication. If Reigen wanted to get a date, it wouldn’t be a problem.

And eventually, he does.

He talks about it as if it’s not a big deal, but Serizawa can tell he’s excited. Probably nervous, as he fiddles with a cigarette at his desk, but excited.

“I got a date, Katsuya,” he marvels, shaking his head. “I filled out one of those stupid online profiles, and I got a date.”

“Good luck,” Serizawa says with a little awkward smile and a shrug.

He means it. He really does.

And when the office is a little dimmer since Reigen leaves early, asking Serizawa to close up half an hour later—Reigen trusts him that much now—Serizawa comes to a realization.

His stomach is churning, he feels like the blood has drained from his face, and he can’t swallow properly.

He’s jealous.

He forces himself to work normally for the remaining half hour, filing papers and shutting down their computers, answering emails. He’s faithful right until the last minute, right until he goes to lock the office door, ignoring the growing dread in his chest.

He looks at his phone as the elevator groans to retrieve him, and suddenly he realizes he has a missed call.

It’s from Reigen, and there’s no voicemail; when he calls back, Reigen doesn’t pick up.

That night, he can barely sleep, his phone clutched in his hand waiting for another vibration to alert him to an update on this status. But nothing comes.

And it occurs to him at two a.m. as he lies in bed playing a game on his phone, unable to sleep, that this is what talking and kissing together is like. This feeling—painful and frustrating though it is—is what it means to find someone. That the disparities between silence and kisses and words can be reconciled within a single person, but that love is fundamentally imperfect, dictated by the heart loudly and without niceties.

It’s a lot like how Reigen talks and moves.

It’s also an experience reserved for only a few lucky people. Unfortunately, Serizawa is exceedingly unlucky in the sense that he may have realized too late.

He still has no idea what the phone call was for.

It turns out it was for help, because the date was horrible and he needed an exit route. He’d called Mob instead, who just ended up being clueless, but having another human being at the end of the line had afforded Reigen a legitimate escape.

“Word of advice,” Reigen says the following Monday, “I’ve said before that men are simple creatures, but having a conversation that’s longer than one sentence isn’t bad either.” He snorts with a shrug. “Not even worth it for a kiss at the end.”

Serizawa recognizes the brash tone immediately, but he keeps his less tactful thoughts to himself. “You did kiss, though?” he asks with raised eyebrows. There’s a little twist in his gut, but he ignores it. “It wasn’t that bad then?”

Reigen mumbles something as he frowns and reaches for a cigarette that sounds like, “No, I was just making a point.”

Which means no. Or possibly yes, but it was too embarrassing to really talk about.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a bad date or a lonely drunk night at the bar.”

“I know what you mean,” Serizawa just shrugs without looking up. However, he’s wrenched out of his concentration as Reigen’s pen clatters to the floor and his chair squeaks sharply.

Serizawa looks up in surprise, tilting his head to the side to study Reigen who’s staring at him openly.

“It happened to me once,” he offers logically, raising an eyebrow. “He asked me if I wanted a drink, and then wanted to, uh…” He clears his throat, feeling a little self-conscious now with the way that Reigen’s abandoned whatever he was doing, his eyes fixed on Serizawa intently. “He wanted to do more,” he settles on.

“I didn’t know you were dating,” Reigen replies simply, studying Serizawa.

“No,” Serizawa replies, his voice easy, “I didn’t mean that way. I went out with classmates to a bar, and someone wanted to kiss me.” He’s still getting used to explaining things that seem to require more nuance than he first expects. “I went because it seemed like a good idea.”

“You like kissing strangers?” Reigen blurts out, and then immediately cringes, holding up his hands apologetically. “No, never mind, I’m sorry. That came out wrong.” He twirls the unsmoked cigarette absently between his fingers, a habit that Serizawa has learned means he’s nervous. Finally, he seems to finish thinking, and meets Serizawa’s eyes with an easy smile. “I meant, you said you’d never liked someone, so I was surprised.”

“Is it okay to… say something personal?” he asks haltingly.

There’s a short moment of silence, and then Reigen says quietly, settling back into his chair, “Sure.”

“I like kissing,” Serizawa immediately says, closing the folder he’s been working on, “and I like the other things, too.”

Reigen looks a little pale as he listens, but he swallows hard and nods.

“I was surprised,” Serizawa confesses after a moment. “I never thought someone would want to kiss me.”

Reigen just stares at him, until asking in a surprised voice, “Why?”

“Why would they?” he offers with a shrug, looking off to the side. This just seems like a simple fact. “I look better now, I know that. But I’m still learning how to be normal.”

“No one is normal.” There’s a little tension in Reigen’s tone that’s rare to hear, and Serizawa looks up in surprise.

“Um…” he says uncertainly, “aren’t you always saying that it’s possible to lead a normal life?”

“Of course, but that’s not what I meant.”

“What did you mean?”

Reigen sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose, seeming to ponder something Serizawa can’t even guess at. His eyes flick from Serizawa to the cigarette, which he rolls a few times across his fingers again, and then out the window.

“I don’t even know what I mean sometimes,” he replies, his voice hesitant. “Sure, it’s possible to lead a normal life. But being normal doesn’t get you a girlfriend. The truth is you can’t decide when or how—it just happens.”

“Oh,” Serizawa says, too riveted by the fact that Reigen just admitted for once that he doesn’t know something. He’s never actually said it out loud. “I don’t want a girlfriend,” he blurts out.

“Or a boyfriend?” Reigen replies on beat. To his credit, he doesn’t bat an eye.

“I don’t want a boyfriend either.”

This earns a genuinely confused look. Reigen tucks the cigarette behind his ear and stands up, clearly intending to put some space between them and smoke out the window.

“I’m sorry,” Serizawa apologizes, feeling foolish, “I said something too personal.”

“We’re past that,” Reigen spits out suddenly, sounding a little defensive. “Really, Katsuya, it’s okay.” He walks away and turns toward the window, pulling it open with a creak as he reaches for his lighter.

“Wait,” Serizawa blurts out. He surprises himself, but pushes his common sense to the side.

“Wait?” Reigen asks, looking confused as he glances over his shoulder. “Um, wait… to smoke?”

“Yes.” Serizawa stands up, trying not to make a fist and keep his jaw relaxed; he can feel his powers start to stir, but he forces them away.

Nonetheless, Reigen’s eyes widen slightly as he notices a pencil cup start to float.

“What’s wrong?” Reigen questions, sounding more concerned than anything else now.

Serizawa doesn’t answer, just crosses the short distance to where Reigen is standing and takes the cigarette from his hand, setting it carefully down on the window sill.

“Katsuya?” Reigen asks, sounding a little breathless as their faces get close.

“Why was the kiss bad?” he asks, his voice quiet. “You said the date wasn’t worth a kiss.”

“We didn’t kiss,” Reigen answers, sounding a little stunned, unable to look away as they stare into each other’s eyes. “The conversation was that bad.”

There’s a tense moment, until Serizawa finally moves to pull away; he doesn’t have the nerve to do what he wants to. Maybe that means he shouldn’t.

He’s not expecting to feel a hard tug on his tie, for Reigen to pull him close again, whisper in a breathless voice, “Follow through.”

Serizawa’s kiss isn’t gentle, not like the other times where it was tentative and exploratory, or maybe a little drunk and lustful.

It’s desperate and there are sounds that build up in his throat, a wellspring of longing that he didn’t fully know was even there, as he hungrily moves his mouth against Reigen’s.

And if there was any doubt that Reigen wanted it, even after the tie pulling, there isn’t in the way he kisses back—two hands sliding up into Serizawa’s hair, the tilt of his head as he lets himself be kissed, the little sigh he gives when they finally pull apart and their foreheads touch.

They’re both panting, trying to catch their breath. “How long?” Reigen whispers.

“I don’t know,” Serizawa answers honestly.

“A long time for me,” Reigen replies, a statement too blunt and quick and breathless to have been crafted or orchestrated, as Reigen is so good at doing.

“Arataka…” Serizawa murmurs, not knowing what else he was even going to say, just wanting to say Reigen’s name; and then kisses him again.

They kiss for a long time, an uncomfortably cool draft blowing in from the half-open window, Serizawa’s aura clinging to both of them in a dark inky green mist, a few cups floating. Neither of them even notice until they come up for air.

“Why, though?” Serizawa asks as they pull away from each other, and then realizes that Reigen is still holding tightly to one of his hands, as if he’s expecting Serizawa to disappear.

Reigen opens his mouth, then closes it; then opens it again. “I could say…” he says quietly, “you saved my life, you’re a good person, you’re really attractive…” he clears his throat and Serizawa can’t help but smile a little at the compliment. “But that’s not it.”

“What, then?” Serizawa prompts quietly. He hesitates, but then decides to use Reigen’s word. “What is ‘it?’”

He shrugs after a moment, and admits with a sigh, “It just happened.”

It’s the first time Serizawa’s ever seen Reigen give up on words altogether.

“I’ve talked to plenty of people now,” Serizawa starts, earning a surprised glance up. “I talk to people here at the office, on the phone, at school, even at the supermarket. Shigeo was right when he said I’d learn a lot here.”

Reigen smiles at him a little, unusually soft, almost affectionate if Serizawa is being really self-indulgent in his interpretation.

“But I learned, too,” he continues, his voice softer as he squeezes Reigen’s hand, “that I like talking to you the most. I like listening to you.”

“Even when I can’t actually help you with your math homework?” Reigen quips.

“I like the sound of your voice,” Serizawa admits self-consciously, feeling his face heat as he stares down at their clasped hands.

There’s a sharp little inhale of breath, as if this fact surprises Reigen more than Serizawa thought it would, and then his hand is being lifted and Reigen’s lips are pressed against the back of it.

“And when you’re not talking, I still like being near you,” Serizawa continues, deciding he might as well go for broke if he’s going to be this honest. So much for “is this too personal;” but then again, it was Reigen who said they were past that. “Now I know I like kissing you, too.”

“Do you know why I don’t date?” Reigen asks suddenly.

Serizawa just shakes his head, raising his eyes to listen.

“Because people let me talk too much.”

Serizawa raises an eyebrow; it makes Reigen laugh a little. “That’s a bad thing?” he asks.

Reigen sighs a little and shrugs, looking off to the side. There’s a short silence and his jaw tightens, and when he does talk, the words seem like he’s spitting nails. “I talk to dates like I talk to clients.”

He looks up at Serizawa, as if hoping that will explain everything; but for Serizawa, it does.

“You used to talk to me that way,” Serizawa observes astutely.

“I did,” Reigen agrees, seeming a little more at ease as his jaw relaxes. “Until you didn’t let me anymore.” He screws up his face in pseudo displeasure, shaking his head. “Contradicting my excellent advice about math homework, for example.”

That makes Serizawa laugh too, ducking his head as he smiles and squeezes Reigen’s hand again.

There’s a short interlude of quiet; the blinds rustle with the slight breeze, Reigen clears his throat softly, tinny music plays from the laptop, and they just stand there.

“I thought you stopped listening a long time ago.” Reigen’s words are very quiet now. “Not to the important stuff, or work stuff. I know you listen to that,” he says. “I thought you stopped listening to me.”

“I never stopped listening to you,” Serizawa whispers. “I just learned how to listen the right way.”

He hears Reigen take a deep breath and then exhale slowly.

“You play with your fingers when you’re nervous,” Serizawa continues, reaching out to pull their bodies close again. “And when we’re alone, you sometimes think out loud.” He wraps his arms around Reigen to embrace him, turning his head to kiss his temple softly, feeling a little more bold. “That’s the best part of my day.”

“Katsuya…” Reigen murmurs, clearly at a loss of what to even say.

“I didn’t really know what those feelings meant until recently,” Serizawa admits. “But now I do.”

“So,” Reigen says, “what do we do?”

“Do you want to go on more dates with women?” Serizawa asks logically, though the possibility of an answer that means this entire conversation will become a painful memory makes his stomach do that ugly twist again. “Do you, um…” he coughs awkwardly, “do you even like men?”

“I wouldn’t have gone on a date at all if I’d known any of this,” Reigen laughs nervously into Serizawa’s shoulder. “I like you. That’s it.”

Serizawa thinks back on his own experiences, how his classmate’s lips felt on his, the tentative touches, the sheer giddiness of another person being attracted to him; remembers seeing and experiencing lust, enjoying it for what it was for a few beats of life.

But Reigen’s mouth is more remarkable to Serizawa now than ever before—that he can speak and kiss and sigh in ways that make Serizawa’s heart speed up. It’s so different.

He smiles at Reigen a little, pulling back and cupping his face, studying his lips; and he bends forward after a moment to fit his mouth over Reigen’s, finds lips soft and pliant and wanting.

When they break apart again, those lips curve into a smile—a real smile, like the ones Reigen gives when he’s talking to Serizawa or friends without an audience—and Serizawa smiles back.

“It’s almost lunchtime,” Reigen says after a moment, clearing his throat and pulling away, but they’re still touching. “Let’s take a break and have some tea.”

Serizawa nods. They part ways so that Reigen can put the “Out to Lunch” sign on the door and Serizawa prepares some tea.

By the time they’ve reunited in front of the low table and couch with two cups of tea, they just look at each other, until Reigen sits down and tugs Serizawa along with him.

They’re mere inches apart, and when Reigen leans forward to retrieve his cup and takes a sip of his tea, Serizawa finds enough courage to close the gap so that they’re pressed up against each other.

Serizawa waits. Usually, this is Reigen’s cue to talk—tell him important things that have happened in the office, an outlandish story he heard, even talk about how Mob is doing.

But instead, he’s quiet, and after a few minutes, he simply takes Serizawa’s hand in his and links their fingers. Serizawa doesn’t say anything, just lets his head tilt to rest against Reigen’s shoulder.

And amidst the silence, Serizawa finds the quietest places in Reigen; and he listens to him breathe.