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under the sky of nowhere

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Mob is late to work.

Probably held back by some salesman again, Reigen thinks. It wouldn't be very surprising. He imagines Mob trying to gently turn down the salesman with all the backbone of a jellyfish and, wow, wouldn't you know, suddenly he feels a little more sorry for him. Still, sitting idly at his desk, sipping half-cold tea, he sort of wishes Mob would just hurry up and come already, even though they aren't in that much of a rush today. 

They have a two-day job out of the city, near the country side. Reigen got lucky — school holiday had just started and Mob's parents trust Mob enough to take care of himself away from home so long. It's a big case, and if his intuition is right, which, of course it is, there is a whole gang of spirits all around town just waiting to be exorcised. All they will be doing later is travelling, dinner, then checking into some cheap hotel. The real work starts tomorrow. Hopefully it won't drag on till the day after, but it's better to be safe than sorry and he'd told Mob to pack enough for two nights. 

Reigen sighs, reclining into his seat. It's getting boring waiting here, and maybe just the tiniest bit too lonesome for his taste, not that he will ever admit it. What sort of adult finds company in a fourteen year old kid? Not him, of course, that'd be sad

The clock's second-hand drags slowly across its face. Although the day isn't particularly a hot one — slightly chilly, even — perspiration is starting to build up under his suit. Hell, sitting in the same place for the whole day can start to get awfully stifling after a while. He just wants out of here as soon as possible. 

Just as he contemplates giving a call, the door creaks open. 

It's not Mob, unfortunately. 

"Welcome to Spirits and Such consultation! How may I help you today?" Reigen greets, standing up, giving the client a once-over. There's probably time for a short consult. 

He's tall, for starters. Well-built, too, wearing a cream turtleneck and jeans that lend nothing to the imagination. Reigen drops a sneaky gaze down to his biceps, feeling self-conscious all of a sudden. Seriously, is he an athlete? There's something about the face, though, that gives him pause. He looks familiar, and that hairstyle, where had he seen that before—

Their gazes meet. "Arataka," the man smiles. He looks relieved. 

Reigen startles. An acquaintance? Old classmate, perhaps, given the overwhelming sense of familiarity. There's something not quite right here, the way the name rolls so easily off his tongue — none of his classmates ever called him by name. Possibilities flip through his mind rapidly. He thinks deep down he already knows the answer, but the prospect of it is so ludicrous, ridiculous, it doesn't bear thinking about. 

The man is still standing at the door, waiting. "Uh..." Very professional! Good job! Reigen wants to slap himself. 

He has a duffel bag with him, it tugs violently at his memories too, even though Reigen had only seen that bag twice before. It looks like the exact same one that belongs to–

"Shishou," the man says, "It's me."

 


 

"Mind if I smoke?" Reigen asks, cigarette already between his fingers. He fumbles through his pockets for the lighter. It's not here, he probably misplaced it again. 

Mob (the adult Mob, Mob Vers. 2.0, way-too-tall-hunk-of-a-man Mob) digs in his own pocket and brings a lighter out. "Here," he lights the cigarette easily, flame puffing out with a small 'click'. The action looks practiced. 

Reigen draws a breath eagerly. He feels better already, much more composed. "Oi, Mob, don't tell me you've picked up smoking too?" 

A soft shake of head. "The smell still puts me off." What's with the lighter, then? Reigen wants to ask. 

A few more puffs of smoke. 

"So, I'm guessing it's time travel."

Mob nods. 

"And you're an adult now." 

Another nod. 

"What happened?" 

Mob frowns, looks away pensively. Reigen can't help but stare. He can barely recognise the plain-looking kid underneath all... all that. Mob really has no business being this handsome but puberty probably hit him like a freight train. It'd be a funny thought, except he looks like he fell right out of a magazine, and that's just plain unfair

"Let's sit down first." His voice is deep, smooth and soothing to the ear. Definitely unfair, Reigen decides. 

Settling down on the couches, he hears the sound of tea being made, a rare display of psychic powers that he doesn't recall ever seeing Mob being so comfortable about. Maybe it's different for this Mob, who begins talking, oblivious to his surprise. 

"The last I remember, I was still with you. We were exorcising a particularly troublesome spirit together. It wasn't very strong and I let down my guard. I dispelled it, but the next thing I know I'm standing in the streets leading here." 

Privately Reigen had always wondered whether he'll be outgrown one day. It's pleasing to know that they're still working together so far in the future. "Well, as I've always said," he begins, a bit smug, "just because a spirit doesn't seem threatening doesn't mean it isn't. In fact, it may even be hiding the extent of its malice to lure you into a false sense of security, the thought of which probably hasn't even crossed your mind before, you really should pay more attention to things like these, that's precisely why I'm the master and you're the student—" he glances at Mob, who isn't some impressionable kid anymore, who's both bigger and taller than him, who looks fairly amused and not one bit convinced, "—and anyways how old are you now?" 

"Twenty-eight," Mob laughs, then tries to pass it off as a cough, which is just downright insulting, by the way. Reigen fights the urge to put his head in his hands and curl up somewhere forever. He deserves a medal for this excellent display of tenancy. 

"Sheesh, that's old! But twenty-eight, huh... looks like you're faring way better than I am," he laughs when Mob ducks his head in embarrassment. 

"Don't be shy, it's a good thing! Girls appreciate a well-built man. Speaking of which, did you end up with that girl? Tsubomi, was it?"

"Ah, the tea's done," Mob says instead, setting down the floating cups in front of them both. It's a clumsy attempt at deflection but Reigen feels generous enough to let him off the hook this time. 

There are so many more things to ask about, anyways. Like how they've both been, how he is in the future, if he himself has settled down with someone, if he's famous, if he's rich. Oh. Oh! In fact, there's something he definitely needs to know right now. 

"Mob—"

"I don't keep track of the lottery," Mob interrupts, amused. 

"...Since when are you telepathic?" 

"Since never, you're just easy to read," he smiles serenely. Personally Reigen thinks he's rather hard to read. In fact, it's part of his very job description to be hard to read, being a sort-of con man and whatnot, but okayWhatever

"Stop sulking, Arataka." 

"I'm not!" Reigen sulks. Although... 

"Do I still call you Mob? Or is it Shigeo now?" 

"You use both, either is fine by me."

"Mob it is, then," Reigen settles. 

The idea that they won't always be teacher and student never really registered in his mind before. Adulthood seems like a distant destination for Mob — shy and awkward, still experiencing his first crush, not even high school yet. Looking at the man in front of him, Reigen marvels for the first time how it would be like, truly, to watch him grow and flourish. The heavy weight of responsibility had taken root in his heart without him realising. 

He coughs away the strange lump in his throat, "Will the other Mob be alright?" 

"Yes, I think so. I lost a couple days' worth of memories at fourteen too," Mob says. "You told me it was time travel after that. That's how I knew that this wasn't an illusion or anything of the sort."

He looks stricken suddenly. Alarmed, Reigen sets down his tea and puts out his cigarette. "What is it—"

"The clothes in my bag," Mob says, "I don't think they'll fit me anymore—" 

"Of course not, if they did that'd just be sad!" Sitting back, Reigen considers, "...We can drop by my place and pick up some new ones. Maybe they'll fit you." He eyes Mob critically, who looks doubtfully back. 

"I don't think—"

"Well, certainly do, and I think we should head off right now. Let's not waste anymore time here." 

 


 

"Told you it'll work out," Reigen says smugly. Out of all the things in his wardrobe, he'd found two the baggiest pieces that somehow hasn't been thrown away yet. Still, they can share clothes, which does wonders for Reigen's self-confidence and body image. Ego preserved, he sits cross-legged on the bed, sorting out a pile of clothes. 

Stepping out of the bathroom uncertainly, Mob asks, "Are you sure it's alright? I don't mind wearing jeans to sleep." 

"What— you're not wearing jeans to sleep!" Reigen turns around to him, "Are they uncomfortable?"

The shirt looks a little tight at the shoulders, but otherwise not too bad. His pants fit too, god bless elastic waistbands, even if they aren't the right length for his height. He knows for a fact that the fabric is comfortable and the cutting generous. The only real downside here is that there is absolutely no fashion sense involved and it shows on Mob's face. 

"Don't be so picky, it's only sleepwear. Oh, I've got another shirt that might fit, you should bring that too, in case your turtleneck gets dirty." 

After packing in all the extra clothes, they finally, finally set off to the station. The sun has almost disappeared beyond the horizon by then, bathing the world in a warm orange glow, the sky a slow-motion water colour painting. It's peaceful. Still as quiet as ever, Mob falls into a comfortable pace beside him, content just to walk together. 

It's — not weird, not quite. They're not talking much and it might have bothered Reigen, if it were anyone else, but this is his reserved and mild-mannered student, just double the age. Still, he can't help but shake the feeling that there's something he'd missed between their interactions. Like somebody made a reference he doesn't get, or when he's not in on a joke everyone else knows. Maybe he's being paranoid. Mob certainly doesn't seem to be keeping a secret, he's not even sure if he's capable of deception, even at this age, to be honest, but... 

"Arataka, are you okay?" 

Surprised, he stumbles a little. "I'm fine, just getting used to you being so... big," Reigen says. It's not entirely a lie. More importantly, it seems to satisfy Mob, whose stops looking at him all concerned and focuses back on the road. The station is in sight already, less crowded than he was expecting it to be. 

At the ticket station, Mob's stomach lets out a loud growl. He looks away, face red. "It's alright, I'm famished too!" Reigen laughs, clapping him on the back, tickets in hand. "C'mon, there's still a good half hour before our train comes." 

They find a ramen stall nearby, nestled between shops on a cosy little street, and Reigen leads them both to an empty table. Despite Mob's current age, he still let's him take the reins. It makes Reigen feel a little off-balanced. He wonders how Mob feels, deferring to someone of the same age so easily, even if it's his old (current...?) boss, but he's used to being passive so maybe it's not too disconcerting. And if there's one thing Reigen is good at, it's taking the lead. He's suddenly glad this Mob isn't older than him. It'd probably be weird for them both. 

"My treat today, is the usual good?" 

"Yes, thank you." 

"Do you drink? We'll get beer too." 

Mob levels him with an a stare so impressive he can practically hear the deadpan. 

"...What I meant was, we can share one? If you want?" Reigen tries again. He's not sure where the sudden impulse comes from. Maybe it's the thought of drinking with Mob — he hadn't even considered the possibility until today. 

Mob mulls it over, "You can only drink half a can." 

"Of course, of course. I know my limits," Reigen grins. He's not too surprised that Mob knows how much of a lightweight he is. It was bound to come up some day, especially if they still hung out together as adults. 

He places their orders at the counter and returns to the table. With the promise of food and alcohol in sight, his curiosity comes back full force, too. 

"Tell me, am I attached to someone in the future?" 

Mob groans softly. 

"You said I'm easy to read. Surely you expected the question," Reigen teased. 

"Yeah, I did... Just," he looks to the side, weighing his options, "I'm not sure how much I can tell you without messing with the timeline." 

"Ah, that's true," Reigen nods sagely. "What about you tell me whatever you think you can tell me. I'll ask, you answer. Just a little bit of information, any bit will do!" He protests under Mob's unimpressed gaze, "I can't help that I'm curious!" 

Mob surrenders with a sigh, "...You never change, Arataka. What do you want to know?" 

"Am I attached?" 

"Yeah." 

"Wait, seriously? No way..." Reigen hums, "I guess I would be, being, what, thirty-something?" 

"Forty-two," Mob corrects heartlessly. 

"Yikes, that's so old." 

"Not to me," he says, then freezes up. 

Reigen stares at him, surprised by both the words and his quiet panic. "...Thanks, you don't have to flatter me, you know," he says, not quite sure how to respond. 

Mob glances away, opens his mouth— 

"Food's here, sorry for the wait!" —and it looks like a weight had gone of his shoulders. "Let's hurry, the train won't wait," he says with an air of finality, stubborn the way he's always been, digging into the meal with a quiet 'ittadakimasu'. Reigen picks up his own chopsticks. There's fourteen years of history that he knows nothing of. He's curious but he won't push the matter. 

It turns out half a can of beer is enough to make Reigen more than tipsy. He laughs when Mob grumbles under his breath, as they stand under the night sky in wait of the train. 

"I told you not to get drunk." 

"No, you didn't say that. You told me I could share half a can with you." 

"You told me you know your own limits!" 

"I do," Reigen retorts, grinning, "but I never agreed to stop there — it was your own fault for misunderstanding."

And maybe it's just a trick of the light, but the way Mob looks at him is so helplessly fond, so full of affection, it makes his heart ache suddenly. The feeling crashes into him like tide, he's swept away, off his feet, off-kilter. Mob's holding on to his arm, an anchor in the rush, "Careful, don't stumble." 

"Yeah, I'm fine. I'll sober up in a bit, don't worry, Mob," he sighs into the steadying presence, "I ever told you how good you are? No? I'll tell you now, then. Mob... Mob, you're so good, there's so much good in you, you're the best," he's mumbling softly, head on his shoulders. He wonders what expression he has on now. "...What'd I ever do to deserve you?" 

Mob's pulling at him gently and, oh, it's a hug, he's got arms around him and he's so tall, so warm. It feels nice to be held, Reigen had forgotten how it felt like, it's been too long. 

"You're good too, Arataka," Mob mumbles into his hair, swaying a little with him. Reigen breathes in softly, unable to find his voice. If he were a little bit more sober he'd have realised how Mob smells — the same scent as his body wash, lemon-sharp, with none of the smoke that clings to him — but the night is warm and bright under the station lights and this thought drifts away from him as easy as it came. 

It's so comfortable that Reigen doesn't want to move, he's starting to feel tired but the train is coming into the station already, too fast, too soon. "Let's go," Mob says, picking up both their bags. They find seats in an empty cabin and Reigen slumps down, yawning. Mob is twenty-eight and stronger than him, he'll let him handle the luggage tonight, he just wants to rest for a bit. The train lurches to life, gaining speed. They're leaving the city now. 

Mob sits down beside him, "Sleep for a bit, I'll wake you when we reach." 

Reigen mumbles in agreement. He feels the exhaustion already seeping into him, getting between his bones, beneath his eyelids. He leans into the inviting warmth, feels Mob shift to accommodate him. Their breaths even out, synchronised, in and out. He's never felt this peaceful before. 

Under the sky of nowhere, the train continues to run, thudding gently over the tracks.