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Worth it

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Sunlight streamed in past your blinds, casting your bedroom in its morning glow, normally you would’ve been up way earlier, even without the threat of being fired from work. But today you wanted to be especially lazy and that meant staying curled up in large fleece blankets for as long as you could stand, or at least until you had to pee. You stretched and yawned happily in your bed, sleeping in on your day off was one of the best feelings in the world and no one could convince you otherwise. Sure, you liked your job well enough, the pay was decent and it was in a field you found interesting. But you were not a morning person, and after a long week of getting up at the ass crack of dawn, it was nice to simply not have to worry about anything.

Suddenly, the familiar tune of your ringtone began to fill the room much to your annoyance, somehow you are able to force enough energy in your arm to grab the phone off the nightstand and bring it to your face. You inwardly hope it’s just a random number so you can ignore it. Grimacing at the bright light you squint trying to make out who it is that would be calling...instantly your lazy day plan has been ruined by one name appearing in bright white letters. You debated whether or not you should just ignore him and come up with an excuse next time you had to meet up. That idea was pretty tempting, to say the least. However, on the off chance it was an emergency you reluctantly answered the phone.

“Oh, good, you’re awake,” Reigen Arataka, your part-time boss’s voice came from the speaker. Normally, you’d go as far as to say that you found it to be pleasant to the ear, attractive even. But at that moment it made you want to smother yourself with a pillow or smash your phone into a million pieces. “I was just about to hang up…..anyways, I need a favor from you. I know it’s your day off...but this case really needs your help.”

Just my luck You thought sarcastically before you sat up, running a hand through your messy hair; a merger attempt at flattening the few pieces that stuck straight up. You made no attempt at hiding the annoyance in your tone “Reigen, what did I tell you about calling on my day off, I swear it’s almost like you get some kind of sick pleasure out of making my life more difficult.”

You could practically hear his smug smile through the phone, your scolding didn’t seem to deter him any, “Hey, don’t be like that, if anything you should be flattered that I value you so much as an employee,” you rolled your eyes at this, swinging your legs over the side of your bed to continue stretching. There was no way you’d be able to fall back asleep anyway. He must have taken your silence as permission to continue telling you the details of this “favor”, clearing his throat he spoke again. “Alright, so...there's this client in Otaru that needs a spirit exorcized, I know what you’re thinking already ‘where the hell is that?’ right?”

You were thinking just that. Maybe he really was psychic.

Still not entirely awake at this point to thoughtfully add to the conversation you just give a half-hearted ‘mhm’ to show you were listening. Once your limbs were successfully stretched you shake them out a little before setting your phone down on the dresser, pressing the speakerphone icon. You grab your work attire off the hangers and set to work on dressing yourself. While groggily buttoning up your white dress shirt you try and convince yourself that you could turn down this offer any time, Reigen didn’t have that much of a hold over you. Even if you were, by chance, getting ready for the sole intent of driving out to the boonies with your boss of all people just so you could do him a “favor” it would be more for yourself than anyone else. Or for the money involved or the client, anything other than him really.

While having this mental war with yourself, he took your lack of a verbal response as a cue to continue, you hadn’t shut him down yet so that was a good sign. “Well, It’s a small village a couple of hours south of here, I’m not exactly sure on how he was able to get my contact info seeing as internet usage is sort of uncommon in that area. Either way, he was able to find my number somehow, gave me a rundown of the situation and it seems to be a relatively easy case, at least from what he’s told me. I’ve done some additional research on the pl-”

“If it’s so easy, why do you need my help in the first place? Shigeo should be plenty strong enough to deal with them on his own, right?” Okay, maybe you could’ve at least waited until he was finished before asking questions, but in your defense, he was the one who’s known for manipulating people into getting what he wanted if you gave an inch he’d take a mile for sure. Or in his case, keep talking until you had enough of it and would just agree with whatever his plan was.

You could hear him sigh irritably into the receiver and stand up, “I was getting to that, have some patience, would you? I was going to say this at the end so I could tell you the important information first but Mob will not be joining us.”

You paused in the middle of brushing your hair, baffled. Wait….what? What did he mean Shigeo wasn’t going to be there? He always came along, even if they were just small exorcisms. Why did Reigen seem uncomfortable telling you this information, or at least seem like he wanted to put it off for as long as possible? Not only that, but his voice sounded strained. You were thoroughly confused and even a little worried after hearing this.

Following another bout of awkward silence; you really needed to stop doing that, Reigen coughed, clearly trying his best to seem normal, “You have nothing to worry about when it comes to Mob’s absence if that’s what is bothering you. In fact, you should be happy, he’s finally had the chance to hang out with his….errr...friends. T-this won’t be a permanent thing though! So, you can rest easy, (y/n)”. You quirked an eyebrow at this, he sounded like he was trying to convince himself more than you but you were just relieved it wasn’t any bad news.

“Well, if you say so…this guy must be willing to pay you quite a sum if you’re going to give up a whole day’s work in Seasoning City just for one case.” You teased while pouring your coffee into a thermos, trying to make the tense feeling in the air go away.

This seemed to snap Reigen out of whatever mood he was in and revert back to his usual confident self “Now, you see, that’s the interesting bit. The job itself isn’t all that special, it’s the area.” It was easy to visualize him leaning back in his office chair, shoes up on the desk; which was something you were always on his case about. “Think about this for a second, first we do the exorcism the original client called us for, word moves fast in a small town like that, if we do a good enough job we might get more clients out of it. Plus, the workforce is different over there than in the city, a lot more physical labor results in lots of stiff muscles which means…” he trails off waiting for you to finish his thought, most likely a test to make sure you were still listening.

He really had done his research it seemed.

“Which means, more people to do those weird massages on?” You guess, throwing some clothes and the necessary toiletries in a small suitcase. Judging by how far away this town was, you made an educated guess that this would be a two-day trip. You had to give him credit where it was due, he took his job very seriously, even if it wasn’t all honest.

“Curse dispelling” He corrected, “Make sure not to call it a ‘massage’ around the customers, but essentially that’s the plan.” He seemed very proud of himself coming up with all of this after just one call from some random country bumpkin. The more you thought about it, however, it did make a lot of sense. You both could be looking at a lot of money in a short amount of time, something no one should ever complain about.

It had been well over an hour since Reigen first called you, in that time you had gotten dressed in your work attire, made coffee, and packed the things you needed for an overnight stay. “Well...I guess it couldn’t hurt to make some extra cash, count me in.” You wouldn’t admit it, but something about the way he spoke about Shigeo earlier had you curious, you had a sneaking suspicion he wasn’t telling the whole story. Say what you will about secrets but they can be a great motivator.

When he spoke next, he didn’t sound surprised by your choice at all, almost like he knew from the start you wouldn’t leave him hanging. “Great, I’ll make plans to pick you up within the next…” he trailed off, presumably checking the time, maybe he didn’t realize just how long you had been talking. After several beats of silence, his voice came back “...within the next hour or two, I have a couple of errands to run and then we can be on our way. We can discuss how to split up the payment once we actually talk to the clients.” and with that, he hung up, no goodbye or anything. You were used to this though, when Reigen went into ‘business’ mode it was hard to look for any kind of warmth, not that you really cared.

His estimated hour or two wait ended up being about double that. Great.

“This paycheck better be worth it,” you muttered looking down at your brown loafers while kicking little rocks off the concrete steps you sat on. It took a stupid amount of willpower not to just go back inside and pretend as if the phone call never happened.

During this time it dawned on you, that maybe he always asked you to do these jobs on such short notice because he had no one else to ask. I mean, sure he had people he spoke with at the bar he frequented, but you had never actually seen him with any of its patrons just hanging out in everyday life. In fact, you were willing to bet that the time he spent with Shigeo and yourself made up the majority of non-work related social interaction. You two weren’t exactly ‘besties’ either, though, you didn’t really mind hanging out when you were on a case, or when you all went out for food afterward. You did think it would be awkward to be around each other when work wasn’t involved. What else did he talk about, think about, etc? Of course, you found the paranormal interesting, you wouldn’t have taken the job otherwise, but you had other interests besides it. Normally, Shigeo was there too, so if you needed a change in topic, you would just ask him about school, crushes or literally anything not related to espers, spirits and the like. His answers almost always short but were highly appreciated in those situations. You wondered how you and Reigen being around each other for longer than normal was going to be. You’d be lying if you said you weren’t a little nervous.

Suddenly, you were pulled out of your deep thinking by honking. Jumping slightly from surprise you looked up to see Reigen’s familiar van pulled up right in front of your apartment steps, with him smiling and waving awkwardly at you. “Hey, welcome back to earth,” you squint at this, “I’ve been calling your name for about 5 minutes. Kinda rude to ignore your boss, don’t you think?”

Yeah, you were the rude one. Definitely, not him for leaving you waiting for hours to be picked up. Nope. You waved your hand dismissively at him “Yeah, yeah. Won’t happen again, boss” Grabbing the handle to your suitcase, you start making your way down the steps towards him. Once there, Reigen took your things and placed them in the back seat. How thoughtful, maybe he did feel remorse.

You slid into the passenger side, closing the door behind you. While turning to buckle yourself in you sigh and speak up again “you’re lucky the weather is decent, you know that? What took you so long anyway?” Wanting to scold him face to face you turn your head in his direction, immediately you regret your words. The expression on his face was one you hadn’t seen before; like he’d just seen a ghost. Well, not a literal one, but he was obviously freaked out by something. Just as you were about to say something his face quickly changed to normal.

“Yeah, sorry about that, it was just some work related stuff, nothing too exciting.” His voice seemed normal too, at least, apologetic even. Maybe you had just been imagining it after all. “I just got carried away with a client, she wasn’t too convinced with the….service I provided. It worked out in the end though.” With that out of the way, he pulled out of the parking lot.

You debated on whether or not to give him a hard time about it, he did have a cell phone on him after all, just how hard was it to send a quick text explaining his situation. After recalling his earlier expression you decided against it. “Hm, alright I guess I can let you off the hook this time, considering you had a good enough excuse.” You replied, a smug smile stretching over your face. He doesn’t say anything at this and looked to be deep in thought. This wasn’t unusual when it came to these long drives but you hadn’t even left Seasoning City yet. You rationalized, however, that now wasn’t the most convenient time to pry. One wrong thing said or asked could make the entire ride an awkward and uncomfortable experience for both of you.

Reaching over into your purse you pull out a small thermos, screwing off the lid, the scent of coffee fills the air as you pour out the dark liquid into it. The steam emitting from the top was a familiar and comforting feeling against your cheeks. After a few cooling blows, you take a sip, relishing the bitter taste with a hum of approval. You really needed this. After a few more delightful mouthfuls, you are suddenly aware that you are in fact, not alone in your own little world.

Remembering to be polite you look over at the man beside you, lifting the lid in his general direction. “You want some? I’ve got plenty.” you offer, shaking the canister lightly for emphasis.

He takes his eyes off the road in front of him, dark irises darting at the lid held out to him for a split second before looking back. He pursed his lips before answering somewhat awkwardly “Um, thanks, but I was just thinking…” he shifted a little in his seat, what appeared to be a light blush on his cheeks “Well...I sort of feel bad for taking so long, how about I buy you some actual food, my treat?”

You blinked at him. Was...was he embarrassed? All you had done was offer to share your coffee. Maybe he was more ashamed of his lateness than you originally thought. You weren’t about to turn down a free breakfast though, “Uh, sure, thanks” you nod, screwing the lid back on “I’m fine with wherever so long as they have breakfast sandwiches.”

“Sounds good, best to get fast food now, doubt they’ll be any around where we’re headed.”

You snort, “Oh Christ, I’m not sure how you will survive, you practically live off that crap. You know Arataka, aren’t you a bit too old to still be treating your body like that?”

“One more comment like that and it’s coming out of your pay.” He warns.

Maybe this wouldn’t be such a bad way to spend the weekend.