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Grow as we Go

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It wasn't the first time Teru had visited the Kageyama's house, and with any luck, it was far from the last. He came by everyday when he walked Mob home from school, but it had become somewhat of a routine that Mob invited him in to stay for dinner at least once a week. His parents were absolutely overjoyed to see Teru as often as they did. His mother fussed over him nearly as much as she fussed over Mob and Ritsu, and his father always looked so pleased when Teru said anything that managed to make Mob smile. Even his and Ritsu's bickering had grown into something almost friendly. It was nice.

The only real problem was that Teru had started to hate leaving. He dreaded it every single time he visited. When he went home he was all alone again, where it was boring and quiet and solitary. He could find things to pass time, but that didn't change the fact that he lived a pretty isolated life. And school wasn't much better. Teru thrived off the attention of other people, but he'd grown so picky about the people he wanted attention from that everybody else seemed to pale in comparison. Teru didn't care what his annoying classmates or teachers thought of him; it wasn't like they'd ever really liked him to begin with.

Being with the Kageyamas, while the best part of Teru's existence, was a reminder of that. It was a reminder that it took him pushing someone to their breaking point before he realized that he wasn't actually all that great, and all of his friends up to that point really only cared about the most superficial aspects of him. It was a reminder that he didn't have a single real connection with someone until he was fourteen, and it was a connection he'd formed with someone he had deeply wronged. In some ways, thinking about it made him angry, angry that he'd been so delusional in the first place, but in other ways he felt incredibly fortunate. He wasn't convinced anybody else in the world had the capacity for patience and forgiveness that Mob did, and Teru was lucky to have met him. Even if it made everything up to that point pretty hollow.

"Teruki, you're awfully quiet today," Mrs. Kageyama pointed out as she opened up a cabinet above the stove. Teruki . The only people who ever called him that were his parents, and they'd long gone away. She pulled a few plates out, stacked on top of each other, and handed them to him carefully. "Did something happen?"

He shook his head, turning towards the table. "No. I'm just... thinking," Teru said, setting a plate down in front of each chair. Mysteriously, a fifth one had appeared right next to Mob's one day, and it just never went away after that.

Mr. Kageyama laughed from the other room. "Well, try not to strain yourself too much, kiddo!" Teru could see him through the doorway, grinning proudly from where he sat on the couch. Kiddo . Teru furrowed his brow pensively.

Mrs. Kageyama huffed out an exasperated breath. "Leave the poor boy alone. He's a guest!"

"Oh, he knows I'm only kidding. Besides, he practically lives here." Mr. Kageyama laughed again.

By then, Teru had all but zoned out again when he felt Mob beside him, leaning over the table to place silverware beside all the plates. He stood up straight, close enough that his shoulder brushed against Teru's, and Teru had to suppress the urge to lean further into him. Mob leveled his gaze at him. He narrowed his eyes, lips pursed into an unspoken question. "Is something the matter?" It was such a small thing, ensuring that he was alright without making a scene, but he didn't take a single one of Mob's kind gestures for granted if he could help it. Teru's chest swelled at the worried look on Mob's face, and he smiled reassuringly. He hoped the fondness tugging at the corners of his mouth wasn't too obvious, but he supposed he didn't mind too much if it was.

Mob was evidently satisfied with that, choosing not to press the issue. He saw right through Teru's attempt to hold back his affections, however, if the way his expression softened ever so slightly into playful amusement was any indication. He smiled back, the way Teru always caught him when Mob thought he wasn't looking. The weight of his shoulder pressed into Teru's as he leaned in even closer. Teru held his breath, and Mob tipped his head up expectantly in a rare act of confidence. Teru stared for a moment, incredulous, before he found himself drifting forward to meet Mob in the middle. Maybe no one would notice if they just -

"Oh, and Shige!" Mrs. Kageyama exclaimed, as if in realization. Mob jolted, eyes wide, and put distance between himself and Teru at a breakneck speed. Mrs. Kageyama turned to face them, and if she saw anything suspicious about their behavior, she hid it incredibly well. "Can you go tell Ritsu that he needs to get off the phone with his friend and come eat?" she asked, stepping right past them to check on whatever she had cooking on the stovetop.

Mob, his face a deep shade of red, nodded stiffly. "Y-Yeah," he stammered, glancing at Teru before disappearing down the hall. After a moment, Teru heard the squeak of a door opening and Mob's distant voice. Teru, shaking off his disappointment, spun on his heels to face Mob's mother and offer his help to her.

She absolutely lit up at the idea. "I'd like that a lot, thank you," Mrs. Kageyama said pleasantly. She lifted up a hand, catching him off guard and ruffling his hair. Teru eyed her, bewildered, both at the strangely affectionate gesture and the way it made his insides flutter with something almost like hope before he reminded himself that she wasn't his mother. Besides, he was only giving her a hand because he knew it was the polite thing to do, not because it was something he wanted to do. Perhaps she had mistaken his sense of obligation for genuine kindness. Perhaps he'd tricked her into thinking he was a lot nicer than he actually was. "You think you can get glasses out for everyone?" Mrs. Kageyama pointed towards another cabinet over the sink before focusing back on making sure every plate had enough food on it.

Teru stood there, suddenly hyper-aware that the more he enjoyed being with Mob's family, the emptier he'd feel when he got home. "No problem," he responded as he opened up the cabinet, his throat dry. The cups were lined up neatly inside, and Teru grabbed a couple. The ones he couldn't pick up in one go, he just let levitate, floating idly behind him. He also pulled the kettle next to Mrs. Kageyama towards him with telekinesis, in an effort not to get in her way. She didn't so much as bat an eye as he put the cups on the table and opened up the fridge. The kettle poured tea into every glass but one all on its own, then went right back where it belonged, glowing a pale yellow. Mr. Kageyama stepped into the kitchen, also completely unphased. He just sat down in the same chair he always did and reached for the sugar absentmindedly. There was something so odd about the way his powers never seemed to impress them, but it was a refreshing change of pace as well. He never had to wonder if that was all they liked about him.

Ritsu and Mob came in right as Teru poured milk into the remaining glass. He handed it to Mob, who thanked him softly, and the carton drifted back towards the fridge. Ritsu shot them a knowing glare, but Teru beamed back at him in response. "What's wrong, little brother?" he cooed, dramatically draping an arm around Ritsu. "It's not very polite to stare, you know."

Teru reached with his other hand to obnoxiously pinch Ritsu's cheek, but he was swatted away. “How are you so annoying?" Ritsu questioned without any real edge to his voice.

Teru scoffed, perching a hand on his hip. "I dunno. Why don't you write about it in your diary?" Mob nearly choked on his drink at the comment, more so in surprise than anything, and his dad looked on in poorly concealed amusement.

Color flushed into Ritsu's face. "You better hope you wake up with hair in the morning!" he snapped indignantly, and Teru mentally tallied up his point. He feigned an offended expression, but before he could retort, Mrs. Kageyama placed a hand on each of their shoulders.

"Be nice, you two." She shook her head, brushing past them towards the chair next to her husband.

He nudged her side. "Leave them be, honey. I wanna see who wins," he remarked as Teru and Ritsu sat down quietly on either side of Mob, and Mrs. Kageyama pinched the bridge of her nose in exasperation.

"I'm outnumbered in my own home," she muttered, but her lips had curved up at the edges and betrayed her stern facade.

Mob looked up at Teru in a way that was difficult to place. "He's not kidding, you know," he said, a hint of mischief creeping into his quiet voice.

Teru's brow quirked upwards in curiosity. "Oh?"

Mob nodded, holding up two of his fingers in a snipping motion. "Mhm, I'd be careful if I were you," he went on, and behind him Teru could see Ritsu narrowing his eyes in smug satisfaction, and maybe even shock that Mob joined in at all.

"Whose side are you on?" he questioned, flinging a hand over his chest theatrically. Mob shook his head, and he couldn't even hide his endearment, peering up at Teru through his bangs. They were fortunate his parents were hopelessly unobservant, because a wave of warmth swept Teru up and he had difficulty biting back the adoration bubbling up to the surface. Sometimes he wished Mob hadn't become so open and forthcoming with his feelings, for one simple reason. The more he did, the more enamored with him Teru became. It really was inconvenient. All he wanted anymore was to kiss Mob's cheek, his nose, his hair, his hands, anything Mob would let him, and he couldn't just do that whenever the urge came over him.

So he held himself back, bantering a bit more with Ritsu, in a way that was probably rude, but never quite mean-spirited in nature. Mob chimed in only occasionally, but he mostly sat silently, sharing short, meaningful glances with Teru every now and then. His parents made small talk with the three of them as well, asking the usual questions about school and grades. Teru was comfortable enough with that, drinking up the attention and making a show of his responses as he ate. He pushed away any thought that didn't involve Mob and Ritsu and their unfairly welcoming, caring family. But it didn't last. After a while, Mr. Kageyama said, "What do your parents do? I don't think you've ever mentioned them before."

Teru's hand twitched. He felt Mob eyeing him out of his periphery, and his parents had turned every ounce of their attention on him. The bitter, angry person lying dormant inside of Teru wanted to tell them to mind their own damn business. It'd be easy to let that person out, the one who had left him with aggression as a knee-jerk reaction, an easy out. But he had distanced himself from such things. He bit his tongue to keep the words at bay, and the taste of metal filled his mouth. "They're on a business trip right now, actually," he replied after a beat of uncomfortable silence, trying not to let the rising frustration boil over.

Mr. Kageyama swallowed what he'd been chewing before he spoke again. "And they trusted you enough to stay home alone?" Teru felt his blood start to run cold. He could certainly see where Mob had gotten his room-reading skills. "Where are they at for their trip?"

Teru didn't know. He had barely spoken to them since he became a target of Claw, when they up and left him on his own under the guise of "working abroad." The last phone call he'd even gotten from them was on his birthday, and he ignored it. The thought turned the ice in his veins to blazing flames. "A few cities away from here," Teru lied sharply, his tone clipped and short. It wasn't like him to speak that way with them. The room went quiet. All eyes were on him, calculating, scrutinizing.

But Mob's eyes never regarded him with judgement or pity. Meeting them made Teru feel a little bit safer from the stares, until Mob focused his gaze towards his parents. Then he was exposed all over again. "Dad, it's not -"

Mrs. Kageyama hushed him before he could go on, sitting her spoon down on the table. "Teruki," she began, in a way that was both soothing and downright horrifying. Teru clasped his hands together in his lap to quell their trembling. "You know, if you ever... get bored, at home.. You're always welcome to stay here." She chose each word carefully, tiptoeing around Teru like a stray cat.

"You're here so often already, I don't see why not," Mr. Kageyama added amiably, shrugging his shoulders.

Teru blinked. "But, I -"

Mrs. Kageyama hummed in agreement, smiling. "In fact, you can stay here tonight if you'd like," she offered, and it was like Teru hadn't said anything at all. He didn't understand.

Mob turned towards him again, putting Teru much more at ease with the sudden burst of excitement crackling out of his aura. "Yeah, we could play video games or something," he said, his face lighting up.

That was tempting. Really, really tempting. Teru gave it some thought, then looked down at his school uniform. "Oh, but I don't have anything to sleep in," he finally pointed out, more disappointed than he liked to admit.

Mrs. Kageyama waved a hand dismissively. "That's no problem, I'm sure Shige has something that'll work for you," she decided, and Teru got the feeling she wouldn't accept any further protest on his end. But it wasn't like he had any more protests in the first place. Any excuse to stay with Mob and his family for longer was a good one.

After dinner, Teru found himself standing in front of Mob's closet, searching for anything he might be able to wear. Truthfully, he was far more likely to fit into one of Ritsu's outfits, but that didn't appeal nearly so much to him. There was something about it, the idea of sleeping in Mob's clothes that made Teru immeasurably happy in a way that didn't really make sense. He couldn't rationalize it, couldn't put it into words. He just knew it made him feel warm inside. "That's a lot of sweaters," he commented, running a hand along the plush fabric of a blue turtleneck. There were a lot more hung up neatly, all in various colors and occasionally featuring little graphics of shapes or animals on them. They were all so delightfully tacky; perfect for Teru.

Mob looked back at him from where he stood near his tv, fiddling with his Switch controllers. "I like them," he said plainly, sitting them down on a low table. "There's pajamas too, and some of them are kinda big on me. You'll probably have better luck with those." He began making his way across the room as Teru pulled a t-shirt with little red triangles patterned down the front off a hanger. He was focused on finding a decent pair of shorts as well when Mob's arms reached around from behind him, tugging him close. Teru looked down at hands pressing gently into his stomach, then at the shock of black hair splayed over the collar of his shirt.

"Hey, um, sorry about... earlier," Mob muttered into Teru's blazer. He sounded so guilty, and Teru couldn't help but feel a little bad about it. None of that was Mob's fault. Teru just had trouble handling confrontation about his family, and he typically had to force himself not to respond in anger on instinct. Old habits died hard, he knew that, but it still wasn't an excuse to snap at Mob's parents. Not when they were a couple of the only people who actually cared about him.

Teru placed his free hand over Mob's, and Mob held a little bit tighter. "It's not a big deal, honestly," he said quietly, lacing their fingers together. Mob's cheek rested against his shoulder, and Teru saw when he glanced down that his eyes were closed serenely. Teru decided that meant Mob had no plan to question him about anything. It was the perfect opportunity to change the subject, much to Teru's relief. "I've never actually slept over at someone's house before," he admitted, hooking the shirt in his hand at his elbow. He kept scanning through Mob's closet for something else to change into.

Mob shifted, pushing his chin up onto Teru's shoulder. "Wait, really?" he questioned, disbelieving.

That response made Teru suddenly a bit self conscious, but he shrugged it off easily. "Have you?" He reached towards a shelf jutting from the wall and grabbed a pair of athletic shorts that had been folded up in the corner. Not quite what he'd been searching for, but they were comfortable-looking enough.

Silence. Mob let go of Teru and took a small step back. Teru turned to face him. "Well - no," he mumbled, anxiously scratching his cheek with a finger. "I figured... I dunno, I just always thought you were so liked at school."

That made sense; most people would probably assume Teru's popularity had been earned instead of bought. He shook his head. "I guess you could call it that," Teru said thoughtfully, though he felt more bittersweet than anything. So much of his life seemed wrong when he thought back on it.

Mob held up his hands to touch Teru's face. He pulled downwards, and Teru complied without any resistance. Teru let his eyes fall shut as Mob kissed him, a feather-light pressure against his lips. It was quick and innocent, barely more than a peck, and it more than made up for their missed opportunity before dinner.

Sure, if he thought about it, his powers really were just a part of him, one piece of a much bigger whole. By that logic, Teru had always been well-liked, as long as people were impressed with what he could do. Never unconditionally.

Mob pressed his forehead up to Teru's. "Well, I like you, Hanazawa," he murmured, sincere. Teru couldn't help but smile.

Mob made him feel so much more than liked.